It also allows for the consolidation of various bits of information into a single source. An example of this is the main front page that’s usually displayed on each touchscreen, this shows todays and tomorrows weather, the current electrical usage in the house, the last caller (with date and time) as well as a calendar and the current time.
All the information is updated in real time. The front page also provides a menu bar along the bottom which links to other screens that provide more control and information. These are grouped into ‘Media’, ‘Weather’, ‘Lights’, ‘Energy’, ‘Internet’, ‘Enviro’ and ‘Security’.
Description of Scenes:
- ‘Media’ is a popup menu that links to either ‘Music’, ‘Radio’, ‘TV’ or ‘Mixer’.
- ‘Music’ provides a Jukebox like interface to select from a large library of ripped MP3’s using ‘Musiclobby’ which is a plugin for ‘Mainlobby’
- ‘Radio’ provides a similar ‘Jukebox’ like interface to allow selection of various radio channels. The source for the radio channels is a dedicated Sky digibox located in Node 0, controlled by Infa red through Homeseer.
- ‘TV’ allows any of the audio/video sources to be sent to any of the rooms in the house using a Matrix switcher controlled by Homeseer. The video sources are currently Sky HD, Sky digital (Multiroom), Blu-ray player, a Popcorn hour media player and the video output from the main automation server showing a cut down version of the main home screen as well as the MP3 audio.
- ‘Matrix’ allows full control of all the function of the Russound whole house audio controller.
- ‘Weather’ Uses a combination of the ‘Weatherlobby’ Mainlobby plugin and the weather station I have located in the back garden. This provides current information as a 5 day forecast.
- ‘Lights’ gives control of many lights throughout the house which are X-10 controlled through Homeseer.
- ‘Energy’ displays current and previous electrical usage for the house. The data arrives in Homeseer through a Current cost unit giving near real time usage as well as historical data.’
- ‘Internet’ Launches Internet Explorer on the Airpanels.
- ‘Enviro’ Gives current temperature of each room as well as the whole house Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation system. The data is from a 1-wire network of temperature sensors feeding into Homeseer. The next stage is to integrate heating control and information which will be through the Comfort alarm/Homeyell Smartfit system (in development).
- ‘Security’ will also give details on the alarm system and CCTV cameras, at the moment it’s very much a work in progress so nothing to see yet!
Description of Hardware – The majority of the hardware is housed in a central location (Node 0) where all the cabling termintates. In Node 0 is are the patch panels, the
Alarm panel and a 22U 19″ rack housing 2 Sky digiboxes, 1 Sky HD box, the Russound whole house audio controller, the whole house Video Matrix, the Blu ray player and Popcorn hour media player as well as the Automation server, a CCTV server and a Remote Desktop (RDP) server which hosts the displays for the Airpanel touchscreens.
Cabling – During extensive renovation and extension works I was able to install a LOT of cable. The final result is that the house is ‘flood wired’ with Cat5e cable, with at least 2 ports per room. The Cat5 has multiple uses and as well as the normal computer network connections, is also used for phone points, distributing audio and HD Video (using Baluns), Russound keypads, ABUS audio zones†and some power over CAT5.
Day to Day Usage – The “always on” availability of the touchscreens makes it hugely convenient to access common functions such as Weather forecast, current temperatures throughout the house and selection of music or radio to listen to. One of the most popular uses is this ability to listen to music, radio or TV feed in most of the rooms with a single button push, great when you’re moving from room to room. Using the Musiclobby plugin a large centrally located MP3 library is instantly available to select and build playlists etc with a simple, elegant front end that matches the look and feel of the other scenes.
The energy monitor showing current electrical usage has possibly had the greatest impact and has proved to be a big behaviour modifier. It gives a constant reminder how much power we’re using and encourages the turning out of lights and other electrical equipment. Of course the irony of the power used to display the information is not lost and I’m actively looking for ways to reduce the power consumption of all the home automation equipment without compromising too much on the response time. One of the ways I’ve been thinking is by using the alarm status (which feeds into HomeSeer) to switch off some of the equipment. i.e. “Night” or “Away” mode turns of all the unnecessary kit.
The whole system is always growing and changing as new developments come along. Currently I’m working on integrating heating control using the Honeywell Smartfit system which talks to the Alarm system which in turn talks to Homseer. The plan is to add controls onto the Mainlobby scene which displays room temperatures. I have most of the backend for this working now and I’m finishing off the scene.
The possibilities are virtually endless but I’ve always tried to focus on genuinely useful features, rather than running lots of additions simply because it can be done. Although I will admit to creating something just for the sake of it ! ?