INTRODUCTION – The UK Home Automation community have been meeting annually since 2001. The “UKHA2004” event was held on the 15th and 16th May 2004, in Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Hatfield, near London. This is my review of the event.
This year we booked the three largest conference rooms in the Hotel. The Pioneer and Endeavour suites were used for exhibitor’s stands. We had 18 companies and individuals demonstrating their systems. The third room, the Comet suite, was used for presentations.
As last year we will have a video of the event…
The Barix Exstreamer, Exstreamer Gold and Instreamer products are already well known. However, their Barionet product is relatively new and seems purpose built for many home automation applications. For example, with its on board relays and I/Os, using it to create a central heating controller would be ideal.
Barix showed the new Barionet Extender product which will allow multiple units to be daisy chained together on the RS485 network, giving practically unlimited relays and I/Os.
Also on show was a prototype Input Module that’s currently being installed in the brand new purpose built automated home of the Barix CEO. Due to be completed in around 4 weeks’ time, it will be the first install of its kind any where in the world.
This multi purpose unit is designed to be low cost and ubiquitous. For example, it can be used behind every light switch and PIR in the home, sending messages to the Barionet. It can also be used for IR and with the Dallas 1-Wire temperature sensors.
Even though Barix is young company, their personnel have many years’ experience in their field. They are producing exciting new products and it’s obvious by the amount of other exhibitors using their systems at the show, that I’m not the only person that thinks so.
We were delighted to have the CEO of Barix, Johannes Rietschel, at UKHA2004, along with his Technical Manager, Silvan Sauter. Both men had flown in from Zurich, Switzerland and had cancelled other engagements to be with us. We appreciate their presence and especially the amount of time they spent with us.
It’s great to see a company like this bringing new ideas to the market quickly and at a reasonable cost. The fact that Barix are talking to members of the UKHA community and incorporating their ideas and protocols into the actual firmware of their products is another sign of how open and forward thinking they are.
Barix are a company on the up-and-up and one to keep a close eye on!
CBUS SHOP www.cbus-shop.com
Although the CBus Shop is relatively new, it’s part of the Laser group of companies which are already well established as home automation e-tailers with almost a decade’s presence on the web selling home automation products.
Featuring their Display board the CBus Shop, showed the beautiful Neo switch in action. Its scene lighting capabilities and the aesthetics of the configurable LEDs were very impressive. The Neo also incorporates an IR receiver.
Showing just how far you can take C-Bus, Kwong Li of the CBus Shop along with Paul Grahamsley of Integrated Technology and Control (www.itac.org.uk) demonstrated a system showing C-Bus lighting integrated with a Crestron controller all running from a gorgeous touch screen interface where a graphical layer to replicate the floor plan of a house was used to making control very intuitive. Control was demonstrated from various devices including a wall mounted touch panel, a C-Bus light switch, a button panel, an iPAQ, an XDAII and normal mobile device with SMS.
The system further integrated with a security panel, featuring a GSM Modem. One of the nice little touches of the system was the ability to send SMS from the touch screen by utilising the capabilities of the alarm panel. Other control options demonstrated included irrigation control.
According to Paul the purpose was to demonstrate… “how home automation and integration should be made up of building blocks rather than one total system. We have produced a package of equipment that whilst in its normal use is a self reliant off the shelf product with our system becomes part of a total integrated solution. Each block can itself run happily as intended but to provide the graphical interface and communication platform we use a central processor which manages the communication between blocks ensuring that the client can control the system from one user point and each block can communicate with the next. This way the central unit acts like cement holding the blocks together but if the cement was taken away the blocks would still stand but the wall would become weak and unusable. Each block represents common elements of a total system, Lighting, HVAC, Security, Audio Visual, GUI and connectivity. For example when the system is set for a holiday period the lighting can be controlled on a random bases giving the home a lived in look also the heating is set back to a level to provide fabric protection but not to a normal comfort level. Also when the user returns from holiday and enters a relevant code the system is returned to normal.”
CBS also demonstrated other aspects of integration where for example a C-Bus light switch was used to control different music devices.
Displays like this show how open the C-Bus system actually is. These days it’s quite simple to get the basic protocol document from Clipsal and more and more companies and individuals are developing links from their hardware to C-Bus (see www.cbus-enabled.com),
The CBus Shop are the only on-line source for CBus modules in the UK. They supply retail, trade and integrators.
It was great to see Cipsal return to our event after their first time last year. The UK General Manager of CIS (Guy Madgwick) and Area Sales Manager Geoff Chapman attended.
With the most professional display at the event, and the announcement of “4000 new parts” coming in the next year, the Clipsal stand was a busy place.
Probably one of the most exciting aspects of the show was the chance to see the new C-Bus Wireless. This is a an advance over the existing “Ulti” range and is a “2-Way” RF solution.
The C-Bus Wireless switch has been a massive design challenge for the boffins at Clipsal. The unit is a straight swap for your existing light switch, fitting in the same wall box and needing no additional wiring at all! This meant that Clipsal had to power the switch using the live feed only, as no neutral or earth is available inside a standard UK light switch back box. They also had to fit in the RF circuitry as well as the dimmer itself! Clipsal have many years’ experience in the dimmer business and use their “phase-cut” technology to produce an efficient and cool running device. The RF link is encrypted so there will be no issues with multiple installations where houses are in close proximity. Range was quoted as 20 to 40 metres and of course as it’s RF and not IR it will work without needing line of sight.
Many new products will be available in the wireless range including a wireless socket which is also retro fit. A Gateway product will also be available so that if, for example, you want to retro fit C-Bus Wireless to your existing property, then perhaps add a hard wired C-Bus network to a new extension, you can marry the 2 networks together.
The C-Touch Colour is the new 7 inch C-Bus touch screen. 11mm thick and available in Neo, Saturn Glass, Stainless Steel, and Brass options it has an immense array of connectivity and functionality including Ethernet, RS232, TV Out, Microphone, Light Sensor, IR and USB!
Another new innovation is the C-Bus DLT (Dynamic Labelling Technology). This is a solution to overcome the switch labelling issues that are often found in Home Automation applications.
Bitmaps can be used to produce the labels on the LCD panel so you have quite a bit of freedom in what they display. The units editable dynamic labels include options for bar-graphs and percentage etc too.
An interesting looking C-Bus Wireless version of the DLT switch is also planned. It removes from its docking stations in the wall (where it charges) so it can be carried around like a remote. There’s even a nice blue LED in the charger/docking station.
(Update Dec 2005 – Clipsal UK have asked us to point out this device has still not been developed yet. Also if it is developed it will be an IR remote on a hardwired C-Bus Switch, not wireless)
The Premise Gateway is a solid state machine, featuring a suite of embedded applications providing Internet connectivity and security with a web based user interface.
The Premise Gateway is designed to interface to the building’s electrical and electronic systems. For example Security and Alarm System (MinderPRO) with Remote arming, disarming, zone monitoring, alarm state and mains voltage and battery level. It also includes Lighting Controls (C-Bus), controlling levels – On/off/ramp, and monitoring their states. It controls a single network with up to 255 group addresses and will also support Ulti lighting and USB Video Cameras.
The Premise Gateway connects to the Internet and provides a connection to the Local Area Network. Devices such as PCs, Wireless Access Points and third party devices such as Video Web Servers may be connected through the Premise Gateway.
Finally, the new C-Bus Installation Software V3.0 is on its way too. It will provide simple commissioning and easy debugging. It’s “Internet Ready” and based on C-Gate V2. Key Features are the cleaner, simplified user interfaces that allow 95% of programming to be achieved without ever having to enter into the “advanced” tabs. Another new feature – Barcode Support – provides a easy way to commission C-Bus Networks, allowing the simple entry of devices into the software and the recording of their serial numbers by scanning the label on the box.
Many of the new items above are due to launch simultaneously in the UK and Australia, in July this year. It’s looking like a busy time ahead for Clipsal!
Although Comfort is one of the most well known automated security products in the UK, this was the first year they attended the UKHA event..
Directors (husband and wife) Andy and Caroline Roberts produced a great display showing the Comfort security and home automation panel, and the array of systems it can now attach to.
Comfort produce an array of serial connection devices (UCMs) and connectivity is currently available for C-Bus, Lutron, Honeywell, EIB, X10 and xAP.
Andy showed the Comfort Scene Switches, Bosch Covert Camera in PIR, smoke detector, magnetic contact and a water leak detector as well.
Also on display was the new LCD Colour Touch Companion Screen, which definitely drew the most attention at the stand. A very nice unit with superb graphic capabilities (I believe it uses Flash to design its screens).
One very nice feature is its ability to display a local analogue video CCTV feed (up to 5) on the unit as well as controlling your Comfort system, lighting, heating and even control your audio collection as MP3 using the Barix Exstreamer or Audiotron.
Comfort continues to grow and develop. Its feature set is ever expanding and with the introduction of new touch screen its reputation as a world class system is further strengthened.
| DYNALITE www.dimtek.co.uk
Australian company DynaLite had a very impressive stand at the show.
The marketing blurb says “As an industry leader, Dynalite is committed to creating superior home automation, lighting control and energy management systems, setting new benchmarks in performance and efficiency. From a stock exchange in Shanghai, to a luxury resort in Dubai, from a smart home in Sao Paulo to limestone caves in New Zealand, Dynalite’s innovative solutions deliver Intelligent Light.”
Rhys Quirk took me through their lighting system which has at its heart is a hard wired bus using RS485.
A variety of products where on show, mainly lighting. Although the demo did include a newly developed IR source control from DynaLite switches.
One of the scenarios shown was a wind speed sensor, linked to a relay control to bring down roller shutters in the even of a storm. An application perhaps more suited to a different climate than London, but the concept is of interest none the less.
A new DynaLite module for driving LED lighting was shown too. It got lots of “ooo’s” and “aaah’s” from the visitors. We’re all suckers for LED lights.
Dynalite appear to be rebuilding the brand in the UK after some recent restructuring.
Graham Howe demonstrated “Firm”, Frank McAlinden’s Zoned IR System as well as his new Probe system, interacting with HomeVision in the presentation room.
The demo showed zoned infrared control of X10 lighting and multiple network MP3 players (Dell Digital Audio Receivers) using FirM. The Probe system also provided status feed back to HomeVision from DIN mounted X10 modules.
Developed by Frank McAlinden following chats on the UK Home Automation mailing list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukha_d/) the FirM system provides zoned IR transmit and receive (up to 8 zones), and the Probe system provides zoned LED/Video detection of kit (up to 8 zones each with 6 probes).
Basically the FirM System is an 8 zone IR transmitter and receiver unit controlled by 4 Port A HomeVision outputs and 3 Port B HomeVision inputs connected via cat5 or a standalone IR repeater.
The Probe system requires 5 of Port A HomeVision outputs and 1 of Port B Homevision inputs . If both FirM and Probes systems used then the Probe only requires an additional 2 Port A Homevision outputs. The Probe system can also be controlled via the built in serial pc interface.
The demo also showed how the zoned IR system FirM could control the X10 DIN Rail dimmer modules LD11s and how the Probe system could reliably track the LD11s whether using HomeVision or manual control.
Idratek had a sort of a “soft launch” of their products at UKHA2003. This year they were back with new modules, new colours and new features in their Cortex software.
Idratek are not a lighting system. In fact they don’t even have a dimmer to show yet. However, their forte lies in creating a truly intelligent network of sensors on their “masterless networking infra-structure”.
Some interesting new developments to Cortex were also presented like the email and web server features. The team also demonstrated their recent inclusion of xPL support which allows Idratek module level functions as well as higher level Cortex logic to be accessible via the xPL protocol.
The comprehensive set of Idratek application modules allows a wide range of automation functions to be configured. An integrated audio network provides for vocal control, feedback and communication. Idratek’s Windows based ‘Cortex’ software provides a user friendly approach to the home automation tasks. Cortex also provides comprehensive access to higher level interface functions such as speech synthesis and recognition, telephony, imaging, e-mail and Web services.
Idratek listened to the comments from last year’s delegates and have produced several new versions of their faceplates including white, chrome plated and matt black coated. However, I still can’t help feeling that their modules are slightly strange looking, but I guess that’s down to personal taste. Certainly the team are currently concentrating on function over form. It’s also true that Idratek are trying to create affordable modules in the £35-£50 retail price range so in fairness they don’t have the same scope for design flair in their hardware.
Vivian Watts gave me a quick demonstration of the new web interface, including a very nice looking PocketPC version.
Apparently on arrival at the show he was able to whip put his PDA, type a sentence into it, and send it to his home, where the Idratek software did a text-to-speech conversion and “spoke” to his wife in the kitchen!
The Idratek website launched just last week and you can now buy modules! Pop over to www.idratek.com and read some more.
Scott Crowther was attending the UKHA event on behalf of Intamac for the third year running. Intamac have been with us since we were meeting in a room above a pub in London, Scott has watched the UKHA event grow, as we have watch Intamac grow too.
Fresh from exhibiting at IFSEC 2004, the UK’s largest security show, this year they were displaying the award-winning Home Manager, a web based alarm monitoring and messaging service. On the stand were the Axis 2100 and 205 IP Network Cameras. Intamac will soon be offering a camera monitoring system, enabling SMS text alert messages, or even photos via MMS to be sent to your mobile phone as well as emails and voice calls to be sent to friends or Group 4 guards when the cameras detect motion in your home!
Also on show was the BT Home Monitor, an inexpensive 24 hour monitored alarm system for your home. Fitted in under 1 hour, this wireless alarm system is monitored by Intamac.
In addition to security applications, Intamac are also now working in the field of Environmental Monitoring, monitoring server rooms and other technical equipment for power failure, temperature change, air flow, humidity, flood and more. Even though this system has just been introduced it has already saved a potential disaster where a system administrator was alerted in the middle of the night after the air-conditioning failed in his server room. The Intamac alert enabled him to have the system fixed quickly, thus saving the inevitable hardware failures.
As they expand I can see Intamac moving from simply alarm monitoring company to provider of sophisticated home automation solutions via the Internet.
Keith Doxey had big news at the show this year. The status of the KAT5 Switcher has now officially moved from “vapourware” to “heavy-mist ware”. The KAT5 Switcher mock-up we saw last year now has “stuff” inside it, and it works!
A modular design, it will have a maximum of 16 inputs and 16 outputs and will have the ability to connect any input to any number of outputs.
Keith demonstrated its ability to select Audio and Video from different inputs allowing you, for example, to have music from your CD player as the audio feed while watching the video from your CCTV system. Full Infrared routing is available to selected source equipment. The switcher itself is controllable using InfraRed commands or serial commands from a PC/HomeVision/Crestron/AMX etc. Keith hopes to support both the xPL and xAP protocols, indeed by the second day of the show the xPL team were already controlling the switcher from across the room (via the LAN)!!
Two types of input card will be available. Firstly the “Local Inputs” (4 per card) which will allow direct connection of source equipment located with the switcher
Secondly the “KAT5 Inputs” (4 per card) which will allow connection of remotely located source equipment by using a KAT5 transmitter.
The “Output Card” (4 KAT5 outputs per card) will allow connection to the output devices (TV/Plasmas/Projector etc) by using a KAT5 receiver. Keith was keen to point out that all existing KAT5 units are compatible with the switcher, but will need the IR upgrade for maximum usability (see below).
The IR KAT5 IRU (InfraRed Upgrade) adds Infrared repeater capability to existing KAT5 units. IR signals received by the KAT5 AVS-RX are transmitted to the KAT5 AVS-TX connected to the source equipment and a small stick on emitter sends the IR commands to the equipment. This system is compatible with most Xantech IR emitters. (Dual Blink not supported).
In addition to the IR function, the upgrade also adds SCART control relaying the SCART switching signals from source equipment to remotely located TV. This includes full support for widescreen switching! On top of this manual control of SCART switching is available using Sony IR codes so the user can force OFF/FULL/WIDE/AUTO switching.
As ever the question on everyone’s lips was WHEN? The good news is that the IR upgrades for existing KAT5 units AND the new Mk2 KAT5 units themselves with the built in IR and SCART control will be released shortly. The switcher development continues.
Kwong Li of Laser Business Systems has been attending the UKHA events since the very first get together four years ago. Well known in the UK Home Automation community, he has supported the event over the years.
This year Laser had Five New Custom Designed X10 Modules.
Also on show was the Add-a-Motor Curtain Controller. Designed to provide precise X10 control of the Add-a-Motor pull cord unit for most types of corded curtain systems. Features include…
A new X10 Dimmer Module was also being demonstrated and is design to provide advanced lighting dimming control of incandescent lights.
The Security Bellbox Interface is designed to interface most of the X10 security systems to activate a standard bellbox with strobe light.
The new Twin Relay Controller provides two dry contact change-over relays under X10 control.
A good draw to the stand was the iPronto. Currently the most expensive of the Philips Pronto range of remote controls at around £1,200, the device operates as a wireless tablet computer as well as an IR and RF remote control. The ability to view a web page wirelessly means the iPronto is perfect for controlling most of the new range of network MP3 players that now include web interfaces.
Phil Harris showed the Laser range of network MP3 players in conjunction with the iPronto.. The collection on show included the Barix Extreamer, Barix Wireless Exstreamers, the AudioTron and the Turtle Beach AudioTron and the SliMP3 Squeezebox
| LINITX www.linitx.com
Brothers Nick and Chris Shore had one of the easiest jobs of the weekend – trying to interest the Home Automation brigade in tiny, sexy little PCs! Needless to say it was like shooting fish in barrel!
Mini systems are all the rage currently. Whether you’re building a firewall to run off a CF card, or a PC for your living room, the tiny size, lack of noise, reduced running costs and cool styling are all points making tiny computers very cool.
The Lex Light systems are often used as firewalls, but they are a great system for use as a home automation controller, with up to 3 network interfaces and up to 4 com ports, they can run from Compact Flash or 2.5″ hard drive.
They had examples of the different VIA mainboards, these boards are 17cm square, and range from 533 MHz fanless up to 1.2 GHz. The top end boards include onboard graphics, S-Video TV-Out, 6 channel sound, SPDIF Out, Firewire, USB2.0, PCMCIA slot, Compact Flash slot and take up to a 1GB DDR DIMM. The MII boards with Duo-View can simultaneously display different images via the VGA and TV-out and can playback all DVD and DivX formats with ease.
Pre-production samples of the LC-02, LC-05, and LC-06 Silverstone Lascala case were on display, these high quality cases are designed to take mini-ITX mainboards, and are finished in a gorgeus silver or gloss black finish which will go very well in that AV stack. These cases are now in production and are expected in stock at LinITX in the middle of June.
The holy grail for a media playback system is a completely silent PC, and this can be achieved by the use of the E-Otonashi case, with its Heatlane technology, which allows you to build a completely fanless VIA EPIA M10000, MII 10000 or MII 12000 based system, this case can take a low-profile wireless LAN card, allowing the PC to be place anywhere rather than needing a wired network.
LinITX displayed several Rack Mount systems. The one that got the most reaction was undoubtedly the 1U Lex quad! This one unit high case holds four separate PCs inside! Each board runs a C3 at 800 MHz and has 3 Network interfaces making them ideal for high density firewalls or servers. The case supports 4 2.5″ hard drives.
Other cases were on show including the 1U 19″ Rackmount – 365mm deep – mini-ITX, the Travla C146 – 1U mini ITX case which can take 2 PCI cards and up to 4 hard drives and the Travla C147 – 1U dual mini-ITX case.
A recent new addition to the LinITX on-line catalogue are the range of Lilliput VGA touchscreen. Available in 7″ widescreen and 8″ 4:3 configurations they have a range of applications from in car MP3/SatNav systems to monitors in racks where space is at a premium.
Ian bird has produced some very nice “home-brew” hardware during his time in the UKHA community. But this little device is cooler than a polar bear’s toes!
Ian’s intention is to produce a generic Ethernet LCD Touch Screen which can be used to control a whole host of different systems.
This first prototype uses a standard LCD panel and a small 5-way joystick to control it. You can see the 5-way switch to the right of the LCD (the little clear plastic device). However, Ian has already obtained the touch screen version of this display and will be continuing development based on it.
The 128 x 64 display is relatively small, but its advantage is speed. An entire screen draw is only 1k. I was given a brief demonstration of the Siemens touch screen panel and it took what seemed like an age to navigate to a heating control menu to turn on the boiler. Personally I wouldn’t consider a touch screen that’s so slow, so speed is very important.
Other features include a software adjustable backlight, Ethernet interface, dynamically updateable menus over Ethernet, Real time clock, Additional EEPROM Atomic clock decoder (just the amplified pulse needed), Updateable firmware, PC software for menu, picture and message design
This little device was one of the most talked about at the show and Ian mentioned some other killer features he’s considering including in the production version. We’re watching its development with interest!
Dean Barrett of Rolec had his famous C-Bus display board, on his stand. This is the one viewed and controlled by thousands of people over the Internet.
Rolec are seasoned C-Bus Integrators, already having many installations under their belt and they showed the latest Clipsal Software – HomeGate V2.
Various touch screens were demonstrated controlling the system. The “Epods” Windows CE tablet was shown wirelessly controlling lighting. Even more impressive was the “Kiosk PC“.
Its speed and the responsiveness of its touch screen are particularly suited to the job, and setting lighting levels was a simple task of touching the virtual “sliders” and dragging them to the level you required.
The new Clipsal C-Bus Saturn Glass Switch was also on the stand. These are brand new and have just arrived on the UK, so this was one of the first times this new product was on show to the public.
Rolec are available for professional C-Bus installation projects in domestic and commercial setting.
Siemens has designed and recreated a typical home using a purpose built demonstration vehicle. Kitted out with the latest Smart Home Technology, the vehicle, which incorporates a lounge, bedroom and kitchen, allows the individual to get a real feel for the technology and it’s easy of use.
The Siemens Home Experience Vehicle was brought to the event by Timothy Edward Hawes who liaised with Siemens. The vehicle included 3 “rooms”. All areas featured scene lighting. The living room area also have electric blinds under the control of the system.
In the kitchen the appliances were also EIB enabled. I was told there are “thousands” of white goods appliances (fringes,, washing machines, cookers etc) available with built in EIB. Personally I’ve ever seen any at my local electrical retailing shed, but perhaps they’re on their way? Turning off/on the cooker while not at home doesn’t really appeal to me that much either to be honest, although control of the washing machine may appeal to some I suppose.
The bedroom scene was the third one, featuring a plasma above the headboard (strange place). Once again scene lighting was employed and controlled from various points around the room.
TELGEN www.telgen.co.uk www.telcanto.com
Malcolm Green from Telgen demonstrated the new “TelCanto” software
“TelCanto combines the convenience and portability of the Pocket PC with the power of Microsoft .NET to enable you to view your digital music collection from anywhere in your home, and play it on a variety of different hardware and software players. You can browse by artist, album, genre or composer, view album cover art, create lists of tracks to play using TelCanto’s unique PlayQueue facility, start, stop and pause playback and control the volume.”
I am currently a beta tester for Telcanto so have a good idea of its features. The system is in two parts. A server application that runs on a PC and the client software for the PocketPC (PPC2002 or PPC2003).
I currently use it to control my Barix Exstreamer on our bedroom system, and as part of the beta test I’ve used it to control WinAmp on a PC too. Currently there is support for Windows Media Player 9, Winamp V2 or V5, Slim Devices SlimServer V5 or above and the Barix Exstreamer or Exstreamer Wireless
Unlike many other systems I’ve tried, Telcanto copes well with large MP3 collections. Some users on the beta program report good speed on collections of 50,000 tracks for example!
Telgen hope to release TelCanto on general sale around the end of May 2004 at £35. There are plans for a PC client too which would be very useful. So, if you have a large collection of MP3s on your server and a PocketPC why not give it a try.
UKUSA Consulting showed three different products offering solutions for the integration of C-Bus, HomeVision and xAP in various combinations.
xAP to C-Bus Gateway – A small standalone embedded controller to connect Clipsals C-Bus Lighting system to Ethernet via xAP. Production hardware was shown bridging between C-Bus and xAP using both BSC (Basic status and Control) and an enhanced lighting schema. The hardware uses a Rabbit processor with 512K RAM and 512K Flash memory and additionally provides three serial ports and some parallel I/O. An on board FTP and Web server allow for monitoring and control of C-Bus loads. Direct X10 connectivity may be offered later as an option to provide an embedded bridging solution between the two systems. The controller attaches directly to your C-Bus network and Ethernet. This allows full timed control and logic scheduling to be added to your C-Bus system via xAP using a xAP capable application such as HomeSeer, or even visual front end software like xAP Desktop. As an embedded solution it runs 24/7 without requiring a PC.
C-Bus to HomeVision Macros – A new ROM was shown for HomeVision and HomeVision Pro that implements ‘Custom Lighting’. Along with a set of software macros this allows HomeVision to control C-Bus Lighting systems in much the same way as it currently supports X10. Named devices can be included in macros that control C-Bus groups and HomeVision will track event messages from C-Bus to maintain its state table in synch with C-Bus. C-Bus load change events can trigger a macro to provide logical sequencing of actions. HomeVision is attached directly to the C-Bus RS232 interface using one of HomeVisions serial ports. Availability will be coincident with the release from CSI of the HomeVision updated firmware ROMs which is any day now…
C-Bus to HomeVision Hardware Bridge – A device utilising the same hardware as the xAP gateway but different firmware and providing control of C-Bus via Homevision macros as above. This hardware bridge has added benefits in terms of speed and memory usage within HomeVision and additionally provides constant synchronisation of C-Bus and the HomeVisions state table. Further software personalities may become available to add for example xAP , Caller ID or other I/O devices using the 3 spare serial ports. This device is attached to HomeVision via a dedicated serial port and directly attaches to C-Bus using an onboard interface. No RS232 C-Bus module is required. As an embedded solution it runs 24/7 as a companion to HomeVision without the need for a PC. This product is scheduled for availability in approx 10 weeks.
Utilising the above alongside the newly announced xAP Desktop , xAP HomeSeer plugin and xAP Mapper application a time scheduler, logic scripting engine, web front end and innovative touchscreen environment was demonstrated integrating X10 , C-Bus, Barix, HomeVision, Phaedrus. mp3 and other hardware solutions.
Mark Harrison, Patrick Lidstone, James Traynor and Edward Pearson represented the xAP team at the event.
Mark’s presentation extolled the virtues of the xAP protocol as the “glue” between the various disparate home automation technologies we have in our homes. He said that the fact the xAP stand appeared to be a jumble of many technologies was actually the whole point! This reflects the situation in real life and xAP is what we’ve all been waiting for.
To prove the point the xAP team were also able to demonstrate control of each others equipment. For example Mark Harrison changed a flag on his HomeVision which caused C-Bus controlled lights on Kevin Hawkins stand to come on. Similarly he was able to control devices connect to the Barix Barionet of Edward Pearson.
Edward has been talking to Barix about development of the Barionet and xAP. His demo board showed the versatility of the Barionet unit and it was connected to various input and output devices including a PIR, doorbell, buzzer and lamp.
James Traynor gave me a demo of his “xAP Desktop” I think it’s fair to say that xAP Desktop was probably the biggest draw to the xAP stand. It looks pretty and It allows information to popup on screen, for example caller ID. The pop-ups are semi-transparent (a feature only available on Windows 2000 and XP as far as I am aware) so possibly less intrusive. Other xAP applications like xAP Weather feed information to the xAP Desktop too, so you can have a host of information right where you need it. The software can even dynamically create your Windows wallpaper allowing it to show information too (look at the cid info on the top of the wallpaper in the Desktop 2 screenshot below for example.
Although I liked the system I thought it would have been nice to see a common colour palette used across the many info popups and windows, which would give an even more professional look. Perhaps a skinable interface could be produced so as to allow the people with graphics talent to improve this part. However this is a minor gripe and overall xAP desktop was most impressive.
A related project is the xAP Intranet which allows users to run a database on their home server accessed from a web front end. This allows information on the xAP Desktop (like CID again for example) to be stored for retrieval later on. You might like to see a list of your last 20 calls, or when the last time your were called by a certain individual was.
The HomePod is an interesting device which the xAP guys are currently investigating. It’s wall mountable and has a decent 2.5″ blue-backlit LCD screen. It features an 802.11b wireless and Ethernet network interface, FM tuner, USB port, built-in stereo speakers, stereo audio outputs and headphone socket. Control is via a jog-shuttle rotating dial used to navigate its menu system. Purchasing the development kit has meant Patrick Lidstone has already created some of his own xAP menus on the device. With the in-built speakers, using the device for text to speech is a possibility that Patrick is working on also.
xAP has come a long way since last year. After months of toil on the seemingly fruitless background work, exciting applications are appearing. At last people can start to see what it’s all about. Hopefully the team will now work on their website and documentation, as well as producing a single downloadable install file to encourage more users.
Ian and Jenni Lowe, Tony Tofts and Steve Cooper represented the xPL team at the event.
They’ve made significant progress since we saw them 12 months ago and Ian’s presentation is testament to that. It included details of many new devices that xPL are supporting. These include…
xPL already feature support built into the Slim range of MP3 players as well as Rionet server (supporting Rio’s Extstreamers etc), 1-wire interface including temperature and iButtons, Quasar 3145 temp board interface, barcode database and scanner system and Frank’s TVOSD – TV overlay. All of which, added to the new announcements above bring together an impressive list for the team.
I got a brief look at the Cortex software from Idratek, and grabbed a photo of an xPL packet on their software.
The marriage of xPL and Idratek has great, (to quote a buzz word) synergy. In one fell swoop the xPL guys have got themselves access to some superb hardware sensors, while at the same time Idratek have instantly given themselves access to the array of Products that xPL can control.
The guys got their first look at Keiths latest version of the switcher on Saturday. They worked through Saturday night and by Sunday morning they were sending xPL messages round the LAN and controlling the switcher! This was very impressive to see.
For xPL to grow it needs to be accessible to the masses. As Ian mentioned in his presentation, documentation is usually the last item to appear in such a project.
So, If you have any talents in documenting install procedures or writing help files, why not join the team.
As last year, Paul Gale from Silicon Pixel recorded a professional video of the event.
Around 20 minutes long, the video is a great opportunity to get a real flavour of the show, and moving pictures always convey the look and feel of products far better than the still pictures in this review ever could.
Silicon Pixel is passionate about the use of multimedia technologies to engage, motivate and communicate. Our creativity, skills and experience in new media enable us to provide solutions that will deliver your messages in a memorable and inspirational way.
Our focus is on helping you identify and use the right medium to communicate with your audiences. Using CD, DVD, Web, streaming media or traditional video formats, we design, manage and deliver a total media solution expertly tailored to your needs.
Whether delivering a motivational conference opener to your key customers, training your staff with interactive web-based video or launching a new product via a high impact multimedia CD ROM, we’ll ensure the results are exceptional.
Our extensive knowledge of all multimedia technologies – new, current and emerging – keeps Silicon Pixel as leading edge as the media we use. It also means we have the skills to manage every stage of your multimedia project, from concept through to delivery.
Silicon Pixel – motivational multimedia that promotes – educates – entertains.
Silicon Pixel Ltd
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The UKHA2004 event was a roaring success. Attendance was up 40% on last year, and for the first time we had a significant proportion of our visitors coming from the mainstream “non-techie” world.
I met people from the UK Self Build mailing list and it was also great to talk to several visitors who’d flown in from Ireland. Judging by some of the cars our visitors arrived in we’re not all on X10 budgets either!
We gave away over £5,500 worth of prizes in our free draw over the two days. All prizes were kindly donated by our exhibitors, plus a couple from companies and individuals that couldn’t make it this year…
The UKHA events simply wouldn’t happen without the hard work and commitment of an awful lot of people. Everyone’s time and equipment was donated free of charge. I’ll avoid naming names as I don’t want to leave anyone out – you all know who you are anyway 😉
I’m proud to be a part of the UK Home Automation community and send my sincere thanks to everyone for their on-going kindness, generosity and support.