Archive for the ‘Home Automation’ Category

ZigBee Smart Energy Certified Products

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

As the industry leader, only ZigBee offers an established, competitive marketplace providing the core technology for monitoring, controlling, and automating the delivery and use of energy and water. ZigBee Smart Energy is the affordable and easy way to improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

The following ZigBee Smart Energy Certified Products were tested to ensure they meet all of the Alliance’s strict specifications and perform as promised. These products represent solutions across the entire efficiency ecosystem – energy services portals, meters, displays, thermostats and load controllers. Each product may wear the ZigBee Certified logo and the green ZigBee Smart Energy icon so that they may be easily identified in the marketplace.

Alektrona offers embedded communications engineering design services. Our specialization is in systems that leverage IP network and wireless ZigBee\ISM band connectivity. As a core member of the ZigBee Gateway group, Alektrona is an active participant in the design and specifications within the Alliance. Our team focuses on engineering high reliability solutions emphasizing system level design with a business level approach. Alektrona Engineering Expertise Includes: ” ZigBee networking and Gateway product design ” ISM band wireless ” Embedded Systems and Microcontroller Hardware ” Firmware and software design ” Sensor and control networks. ” NMS, SCADA and BMS integration ” Internet appliance design ” End to end embedded product design and manufacturing Please contact us at: solutions@alektrona.com 401-228-2962
Z-Aperture ZA07-200-ESP
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Alektrona’s Z-Aperture™ ZA07-200-ESP is the first broadband Energy Service Portal and Internet Gateway to receive ZigBee Smart Energy Golden Unit certification.
Aztech Associates, Inc.
In-Home Display
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Aztech’s In-Home Display communicates directly with smart meters.
Computime International Limited
CTW200
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CTW200 is a thermostat which monitors, controls and displays energy consumption and rate information for ZigBee-enabled residences.
CTW300
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CTW300 is an In Home Display with a large dot matrix screen for users to monitor energy rate and consumption information in residences supporting the ZigBee Smart Energy profile.
Comverge is a leading provider of clean energy solutions that improve grid reliability and supply electric capacity on a more cost effective basis than conventional alternatives by reducing base load and peak load energy consumption
DCU
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Comverge DCU offers a wide range of functionality – from individual addressing to adaptive algorithms
PowerPortal
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Comverge PowerPortal® IHD is an easy to use, AMI ready display that allows consumers to closely track their electricity consumption and receive messages or alerts from their utility provider.
SuperStat Pro
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Comverge’s SuperStat™ Pro is a state-of-the-art “smart” thermostat.
Control4
EC-100
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The EC-100 is an easy to use energy controller that empowers consumers and utilities to better manage energy use and costs.
Cooper Power Systems, Inc., with revenues of approximately $1 billion, is a division of Cooper Industries, Ltd. (NYSE: CBE). Cooper Power Systems is a global manufacturer of world-class power delivery and reliability solutions for the electrical and industrial markets. Cooper Power Systems manufactures distribution transformers, distribution switchgear, reclosers, capacitors, protective relays, voltage regulators, automated switches, cable accessories, surge arrestors, transformer components and dielectric fluids, fuses and tools and it provides engineering services for the electrical and industrial markets. Through its Energy Automations Solutions group, it is also a leading provider of software, communications and integration solutions that enable customers to increase productivity, improve system reliability, and reduce costs. For more information visit www.cooperpower.com or www.cooperpowereas.com.
UtilityPro ZigBee
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Cooper Power Systems – The ZigBee®-enabled UtilityPRO™ is a Honeywell touchscreen programmable thermostat designed for utility-sponsored demand response programs and is equipped with a Cooper demand response module.
Digi International is the leader in device networking for business. Drop-in Networking solutions include ZigBee/802.15.4 embedded modules, stand-alone adapters, extenders and environmental sensors, plus wireless mesh gateways that collect and transport data from the ZigBee network to an IP network via cellular, Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Reliably network-enable devices and sensors where no wired networking infrastructure exists, where network access is prohibited, or when laying cable is impractical or cost-prohibitive.
ConnectPort X2 ESP
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Digi’s ConnectPort X2 ESP enables energy service providers to deploy HAN devices that are completely managed by the Digi gateway over a broadband or cellular connection, allowing Smart Grid services to be deployed in areas not covered by Smart Metering networks.
Smart Energy Range Extender
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Digi’s XBee Range Extender is a certified ZigBee Smart Energy device.
ecobee�s mission is to help homeowners conserve energy, save money and reduce their environmental impact. Our green automation platform sits at the convergence of energy conservation, green technology, the networked home and consumer electronics. Our products automate energy conservation, making it easier to save on energy costs without sacrificing comfort. ecobee targets the large markets of heating, cooling and ventilation, utility demand response and green automation.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
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ecobee’s green automation platform sits at the convergence of energy conservation, green technology, the networked home and consumer electronics.
Energate Connecting Conservation with Comfort Energate lets you take your smart grid strategy beyond smart meters, to where demand is rooted — in the home. Energate’s home energy management solutions let consumers and utilities manage energy use and reduce peak demand without sacrificing comfort and convenience. Building upon over 25 years of HVAC industry experience, Energate smart thermostats offer industry-leading equipment interface technology and comfort control algorithms.
Pioneer Z100
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Energate Pioneer Z100 – Energate has expanded its Pioneer series of smart thermostats to support the Smart Energy Profile.
Pioneer Z107
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Energate Pioneer Z107 – Energate has expanded its Pioneer series of smart thermostats to support the Smart Energy Profile. Incorporating next generation technology beyond the features found on today’s most sophisticated thermostats, Energate’s Pioneer Series of smart thermostats provide unparalleled performance with an exceptional user interface to meet your current and future needs.
Founded in 2005, Energy Aware Technology is a Canadian company focused on demand side management products that increase awareness of resource consumption and help people save money. Energy Aware’s first product, the PowerTab, is an in-home energy display designed for deployment with smart metering infrastructure.
PowerTab / PowerPortal
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Energy Aware’s PowerTab is an in-home display that uses the Zigbee Smart Energy profile to allow consumers to closely track electricity consumption and costs. The PowerTab’s attractive design and user-friendly interface encourage energy conservation and facilitate increased data flow to end users. The PowerTab’s features include a 100 mW radio, a magnetic backing, and three colour LEDs to indicate tariff rates.
Itron Inc. is a leading technology provider to the global energy and water industries. Itron Inc. consists of Itron in North America and Actaris outside of North America. Our company is the world’s leading provider of metering, data collection and utility software solutions, with nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide relying on our technology to optimize the delivery and use of energy and water. Our products include electricity, gas and water meters, data collection and communication systems, including automated meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI); meter data management and related software applications; as well as project management, installation, and consulting services. To know more, start here: www.itron.com.
Open Way Gas Module
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Itron – OpenWay Gas Module accurately measures natural gas consumption and supports two-way communication with the Itron
OpenWay
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Itron® OpenWay™ is an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution built around OpenWay
In Chinese, Jetlun means literally “save energy”. Jetlun is building the last mile to the Smart Grid and providing an integrated energy network management solution for residential and commercial markets using standard-based network technologies that maximizes the use of a building’s existing wires and wireless networks for total coverage and connectivity. The Jetlun Intelligent Management solution (“JIM”) is a family of energy network management products that provides granular energy usage information– by whole-home, by phase, by circuit, and by appliance– enabling a homeowner or property manager to pinpoint areas that are consuming the most power.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75606
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The JetLun Gateway SE (model RD75606) is the world’s first integrated ZigBee and HomePlug® enabled gateway that collects.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75607
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The JetLun Gateway (model RD75607) is the world’s first integrated ZigBee and HomePlug® enabled gateway that collects, stores and displays real-time energy consumption information and helps you manage and control- both onsite and remotely- your energy usage through a simple user interface on any web browser or any web-enabled phone, such as the Blackberry® or iPhone®.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75609
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The JetLun Gateway Lite SE (model RD75609) is an ZigBee® to IP enabled gateway that collects, stores and displays real-time energy consumption
KDN is providing high-tech total electric power IT service in entire processes of electric power system, such as from power generation to transmission, distribution and sale. As such, KDN is largely contributing to achieving efficiency and advancement in electric power business by establishing IT system. Furthermore, KDN, by securing international competitiveness in international power IT market, will grow into a global specialist in power IT.
KDN Smart Meter
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KDN Smart Meter Single-Phase and Poly-Phase Smart Meters produced by Korea Electric Power Data Network Co.[KDN] are highly accurate, intelligent, and fully featured electricity meters with integrated communication modules. The Smart Meters have special features such as two-way communication via standard-based ZigBee and PLC(Power Line Communication) technologies, two-way measurement, Power Quality measurement(Sag and Swell), Tamper detection and Remote connect/disconnect. IEC standards (IEC 62052, IEC 62053, and IEC 62056) are applied to Smart Meter.
Landis+Gyr is the leading provider of advanced metering, energy efficiency, and infrastructure communication systems to electric, gas, and water utilities worldwide. Landis+Gyr’s proven record of customer satisfaction and value creation is supported by over 20 million customer advanced metering end points in production or under contract worldwide. Landis+Gyr supports its 500+ customers with a staff of over 700 professionals located in offices across the United States.
Landis + Gyr E35C-A
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Landis + Gyr E35C-A is a high performance 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver that is supplied loaded with ZigBee Smart Energy firmware. The unit is fully certified and works with Landis + Gyr E350 U-Series meters.
The EcoMeter Energy Monitor
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The ecoMeter energy monitor is a critical component in the final delivery of the benefits of the smart grid to its energy end-users; and an integral component in Landis Gyr’s Smart Grid solution – Gridstream. The ecoMeter P250 is the means for energy consumers to become fully informed and directly engaged to their energy consumption; and is the tool of choice to empower consumers to manage energy better.
The Landis Gyr Focus AX
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The Landis Gyr Focus AX endpoint is a ZigBee-enabled advanced metering endpoint that provides two-way communication with the utility, meter and home-area networks.
LS Industrial Systems has been leading the industrial electric controls and automation field in Korea with the advanced technology for decades. Providing top quality products, LS Industrial Systems set the long term goal as “Superiority over quality and product development”. To set the standard of digitalization which will drive the future of the industry, LS Industrial Systems provides Total Solution found on abundant industrial knowledge and technology in electric control, automation, tube & pipe and the new business area.
LK Meter
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The LK Series Single-Phase and Poly-Phase Electric Meters are intelligent, fully featured revenue-grade energy meters with integrated communication function. These solid-state meters feature two-way communication via plug-in type communication modules using standard-based ZigBee® and PLC (Power Line Communication) technology. Each meter complies with IEC 62052, 62053, and 62056 standards.
LS Research is a leading design firm specializing in providing turnkey RF and wireless design services. A perfect match for OEM customers looking to develop high performances low cost short range wireless solutions based on 802.15.4 radio and the Zigbee stack. A sister company, LS Compliance, is an FCC-certified and A2LA-approved EMC testing laboratory offering comprehensive EMC testing and consulting services. L.S. Research and L.S. Compliance W66 N220 Commerce Court Cedarburg, Wisconsin 53012 USA Phone: (262) 375-4400 Fax: (262) 375-4248 E-mail: sales@lsr.com www.lsr.com
RS-SE-24-01
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RS-SE-24-01 – The RATE$AVER is an In-Home-Display device capable of communicating with ZigBee Smart Energy Profile Compliant Energy Service Portals (ESP) withn Utility Meters displaying energy usage data.
OpenPeak Inc. creates, designs, and develops innovative systems and devices that enable simple control of home energy usage, VoIP telephony, digital media, Internet content, and consumer electronics on a single touch screen device. OpenPeak allows utilities to deliver service updates to users on demand today, and provides a platform for the deployment of future energy applications as they are developed. Through the OpenPeak App Shop, the same device can deliver a complete communications package including news, sports, weather, social networking, and instant messaging and is compatible with a variety of communication standards, including ZigBee and Wi-Fi. For more visit www.openpeak.com.
OpenFrame 7EZ
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OpenPeak’s OpenFrame 7E – touch screen device provides an engaging way for consumers to take an active role in managing their energy consumption. By integrating home energy management with on-board multi-media functions, the same device can deliver a complete information and communication experience including news, sports, weather, social networking, music, and family photos.
PRI Limited
Customer Information Panel
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Home Energy Controller (HEC) monitors and displays electricity and gas consumption and cost information on a customer friendly display. Using the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile, it can read any meter that meets the standard and display the data in tabular and/or graphical format to encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption through better information.
Horstmann S23 Meter Interface
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Single and Poly Phase Multi Rate Meters – ZigBee Smart Energy Certified meter interface can be fitted to PRI and Horstmann electricity meters to provide consumption data to other Smart Energy devices on a network. The meters conform to IEC 62052-11 and are available with optional load control switches, as well as a variety of power ratings to suit any market.
Rainforest Automation makes products that enable residential energy management, and allow utilities to rapidly deploy Smart Grids that are less expensive and more reliable. Our products include EMU™, a utility targeted in-home display (IHD) designed with simplicity and high-volume deployments in mind, and Orchid™, an energy services platform that serves as a low-cost gateway between the utility and the consumer.
Energy Monitoring Unit
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Rainforest Automation’s EMU™ – Energy Monitoring Unit is an In-Home Display designed specifically to meet the technical and budget requirements of utility deployments. The EMU™ has a simple user interface, runs on standard AA batteries, and displays real-time usage, accumulated statistics and provides a peak pricing “traffic-light”. With its 2-way link to the smart meter, EMU can support custom features such as pre-payment, opt-out, and messaging response.
Silver Spring Networks, the leader in IP networking, connects utilities with their customers over a two-way, IP based network, enabling innovation and change. Utilities can enhance the way they interact with customers. Customers are empowered to manage their energy more efficiently. Using this IP-based network, utilities can deploy a scalable, reliable infrastructure from the substation to the customer premise and implement advanced metering, demand response and other applications at a fraction of comparable costs. An open, IP -based network lowers not just capital costs, but total cost of ownership. When planning the network of tomorrow, it helps to partner with a company that makes it available today
Interactive Energy Management
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The Silver Spring CustomerIQ web portal by Greenbox delivers near real-time data on their energy efficiency programs, including consumption and pricing
Telegesis develops and manufactures advanced wireless products to provide low cost, high performance solutions. Telegesis ZigBee ready Module and Development Kit is based upon Ember Corporation’s meshing technology and is the first in a family of products, others of which are already at prototype testing stage. Our low cost Development Kit enables an out-of-the-box mesh network in less than half an hour. Telegesis range of ZigBee products will aid rapid development and integration into OEM products through the provision of complete ‘plug-in’ modules. Telegesis AT-style command line interface software further speeds and facilitates the building of total solutions.
ETRX2USB & ETRX2USB-PA ZSE IHD
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ETRX2USB ZSE-IHD In Home Display – The Telegesis ETRX2USB ZSE-IHD is a high performance 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver in USB stick form which is supplied loaded with ZigBee Smart Energy (ZSE) IHD firmware. The unit is a fully certified In Home Display and can be supplied with Certicom test or full certificates. An AT command layer on top of the ZSE IHD firmware allows a host application to easily control the stick.
Range Extender & Range Extender-PA
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Telegesis Smart Energy Range extender – The Telegesis Range Extender and Range Extender-PA are fully certified ZigBee Smart Energy (ZSE) units which enable increased distance between nodes in a ZigBee Smart Energy network. If the distance between nodes is too great for communication to be established. By adding one or more Routers in-between an extended ZSE mesh network can be formed.
Tendril focuses on network operations and deployment – the next big stage of the Wireless Sensor and Control Network industry. Our software allows companies to access, deploy, monitor, manage, and integrate networks into the real world. This approach allows Tendril to address the macro trends of energy efficiency, security and life expectancy.
Tendril Insight
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Tendril Insight is an in-home display that communicates with networked smart devices, such as thermostats, electricity meters and outlets, and displays information about consumption levels and energy rates. Empowered with real-time information, energy customers can potentially save money, while utilities can reduce customer service incidents and improve overall load balancing and demand response capabilities.
Tendril Relay
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Tendril Relay is a ZigBee device router that plugs into a standard household outlet. The Tendril Relay extends the range of a smart energy network, making it easier to access and connect devices in large homes and hard-to-reach places, like garages and sheds.
Tendril Transport
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Tendril Transport is an IP gateway that opens a new channel of interaction and collaboration between consumers and their utilities. The Tendril Transport delivers two-way information to consumers and utilities, providing insight into household energy footprints. With the Tendril Transport, customers gain more access to energy-related information and more control over energy consumption decisions. Utilities can better manage supply, demand response and load control scenarios, and costs.
Volt
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Tendril Outlet is a 3-prong, ZigBee Smart Energy electrical outlet that can be plugged into a standard home outlet to monitor and control the energy consumption of any electrical appliance or device. Multiple Tendril Outlets in the same home can be tracked individually or as a group over the Internet or from a local Tendril Display device. The Tendril Outlet gives the consumer unprecedented insight into and control over their household energy footprint, improving their overall energy efficiency.
Volt
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Tendril Volt is a three-prong, standards-based smart electrical outlet that can be plugged into a 110Volt/15A AC standard wall power outlet to turn off or on any connected electrical appliance or device. When used in conjunction with the Tendril Insight or the Tendril Vantage web portal, multiple outlets in the same home can be managed individually or as a group over the Internet, giving consumers unprecedented insight into and control over wasted energy and their household energy footprint.
Trilliant Networks, Inc. is the industry leader in open solutions for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), demand response, and grid management. The company is focused on delivering ANSI and IEEE standards-based AMI, without vendor lock-in, enabling choice of meter, network and IT infrastructures. Trilliant brings over 20 years’ experience solving AMI needs for utility customers through the legacy of its Nertec brand founded in 1985. Additionally Trilliant is the originator of the first ANSI tools for development, simulation and compliance now used by most meter manufacturers and AMI companies to develop and test ANSI meters as well as meter communication products. Trilliant has more than 100 utility customers including Baltimore Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, Hydro One, Hydro Quebec, Milton Hydro, Northeast Utilities, OneOK, Public Service Electric & Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric.
SecureMesh Micro Access Portal
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Trilliant SecureMesh™ Micro Access Portal is independent from the meter and can be embedded in any end-point device including thermostats, in-home displays, appliance controllers or meters. Trilliant’s SecureMesh AMI Network is based on the same IEEE 802.15.4 standard as ZigBee providing an end-to-end fully standards-based solution for energy applications.

Security: CCTV Cam Screensaver

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Surveillance Saver is software, not something to investigate. But it’s a functional product involving security cameras.

It’s a screensaver for Mac OS X which taps into the worldwide Axis security camera network. These cameras share their footage online and Surveillance Saver aggregates them on your desktop, allowing backseat snooping. Like any good software release these days, it’s still in alpha, and tends to flicker in and out on my MacBook, but the fascination of these real-time glimpses is undeniable.

Something for the future “must have” when the bugs are sorted out.

200711051216Images of axis network cameras can be simply found by searching for their unique url:
http://www.google.com/search?q=inurl:%22jpg/image.jpg%3Fr%3D%22

A short python script extracts the urls and checks if they are working or dead. the rest is done in Quartz Composer.

installation:
copy the file into your home folder’s “Library/Screen Savers” and activate it in “System Preferences/Desktop & Screen Saver”. please use it on your own risk: the screen saver is still alpha. SurveillanceSaver is under Creative Commons license..

Download SurveillanceSaver – http://code.google.com/p/surveillancesaver/downloads/list

Update:

Windows version now available

Home automation: Philips’ $1,836 Remote Control

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Philipsprontonx

If you’re in the market for a remote control of greater size, weight, complexity and cost than a high-end video player, Philips has the model for you. Hell, it probably has a better LCD display than the average portable a/v player. At $1,836, however, that’s hardly a surprise.

The Pronto NX PowerLite can send instructions into the ether via IR or WiFi, and comes with all the scary enthusiast peripheral hookups that the stupidly rich could ever want. Got a rackmounted home automation system to deal with? It even has an integrated music server.

Home automation: Control Your Universe

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Clear some space on your coffee table because here comes another universal remote. The Logitech Harmony 1000, however, may actually fulfill the concept of “universal.” Yes, it’ll control your plasma TV, stereo and video game console. But thanks to Z-Wave, the wireless home automation standard that lets you control household appliances, the Harmony 1000 will also let you lock your doors, lower your window shades and dim your lights. It has codes for 150,000 different devices — all accessible through its 3.5-inch touchscreen — truly making you king of your castle. No word on pricing.

CEDIA 2008: Home Installers Love iPhone Apps

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

P9040794_2

The iPhone 3G may be the new universal remote control real soon.

Custom installation companies are, offering custom applications for a variety of A/V systems. They include a Windows Media Center App, lighting fixture controls, and even a full security-monitoring app.

As a result, you’re now able to perform wondrous tricks, like leaving the house with the door unlocked, walk a block, then lock it through your iPhone. That will be perfect for childish shenanigans on Halloween.

Here are some of the new iPhone apps of the installers:

ILoveControl’s app works with Cestron systems and is available as a free download at the Apple App Store starting today. It controls up to 16 zones of A/V systems (like climate and shading), lighting and more. While you can’t customize your own system yet, Cestrom says it will add this feature to the iPhone app in the near future.

Ilovecontrol

Check out more iPhone A/V apps after the jump.

Savant_iphone_formal

Savant Systems – The control platform of the main Savant systems are based on Apple’s OS X Leopard and an iPhone app was only natural. Savant has created a colorful app that controls all of its main systems, and it is creating an ‘Excellence in AV’ program where Apple developers can use the guts of the systems and create new design applications.

Lagotek_iphone_sideshow

kanos Consulting’s Go Gadgets – Use your iPhone to go through Windows Sideshows for presentations.

Using Kanos as an in-between hardware installer with the iPhone as a remote seems like a good idea. Especially when you realize that it can work with Outlook, if that’s what you’re into.

Netlinc

SmartLabs’ NetLinc Insteon Central Controller – Insteon gadgets manage everything from the lighting of the gymnasium to the security of a house, which is why many installers seemed very excited about the possibilities with the iPhone.

One thing people weren’t that excited about? The fact you still need a receiver for every electrical plug in order for it to be placed under the iPhone’s control. Also, the UI of the app is not that well designed, as you can see from the picture. Mainly, it’s too small, simple, and ugly too look at.

Airremote

AirRemote – Uses a global cache adapter to control different A/V home systems, but apparently, is supposed to cost over $100 to manage from your iPhone. That doesn’t sounds like a great buy incentive.

At CEDIA, they announced an update to the App, taking into account the 36 card slots for customized A/V configurations of their new systems.

Commandfusion

Command Fusion’s iViewer – This third-party app works with Control4 and Crestron devices, and just like a few others, you can control the lights, and the temperature of one or many rooms.

SpeakerCraft’s MODE Multiroom App – The company known for crazy kooky rock speakers will include their iPhone app along when an installer buys its full in-wall speaker system.

Wl3iphone

HAI WL3 – HAI Control Systems can already be manipulated by most other PDAs, since it’s built on top of WL3 software.

My House UI for Control4 A/V Systems (see lead photo)– My House UI controls multi-room music, and the home theater, though it’s only supposed to work on the same WiFi network at the same Control4 system, disallowing the openness the device is meant to offer.

Electronic Enhancements for Outdoor Spaces

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Audio, video, lighting and more can enhance your home’s exterior almost as much as its interior.

As much as your spectacular home theatre might make you want to stay inside all day watching movie trilogy marathons or baseball from noon until midnight, it’s okay to venture outdoors once in awhile. If you install some entertainment components in your backyard, by the swimming pool, or on your patio, you’ll be spending more time out there, doing a lot more than just cutting the grass. You know that great multiroom audio system that allows you to pull a song from any source to any room inside your house? Your professional electronics installer can route it outdoors, too. It’s one of a variety of ways to spruce up the space for everyone’s enjoyment.

Awesome Audio
Because a distributed audio system involves delivering music (or audio from the television) to separate zones in your house—theater, kitchen, master bedroom, master bathroom, children’s rooms, family room and more—adding your yard or patio would be like assigning any other room or zone to the setup. If the kids want to listen to Justin Timberlake while they’re playing in the pool, but you and the other parents would rather have some 70’s rock with your grill burgers, you could separate your outdoor space into multiple zones.

Where’s the music coming from? Your electronics don’t have to go outside with you, fortunately. Trenched wiring can guide the signal from the multiroom audio system housed in the basement equipment closet to your outdoor loudspeakers and volume or source controls. The same AM/FM or satellite radio tuner, CD player or digitally stored content you blast in the family room can be accessed in an outdoor zone through a handheld touchpanel or maybe a waterproof remote control.

With such a wide range of music available, you’ll want good speakers so the tunes don’t sound distant or muffled as they did when you used to just put the boom box on the patio. Outdoor speakers come in many fashions, including some with chameleon-like camouflaging prowess. Weather-hardy rock speakers are available in several shapes and colours to blend in with your landscaping, and planter models can give a lift to your daily gardening. Other low-profile speakers can easily hide in the shrubbery, and some sub woofers can even be installed underground to really shake up the yard. Find out if the speakers that interest you are waterproof or weatherproof—resistant not only to precipitation, but to extreme temperature ranges, dust and more. If you’d rather keep the speaker covered, many models can be mounted under the eaves and other protected areas of your home’s exterior. These can usually be painted or finished to match the scheme of your residence, cabana or outdoor living room. Additionally, rather than cranking up one or two speakers, you can pepper them throughout your yard for smoother and more seamless audio that doesn’t strain from being overextended. Just make sure most of the speakers, and definitely those located on the perimeter, are pointed toward your home. That will help boost the overall sound and, hopefully, decrease the chances of a neighbour calling the police or the local council representative to have your party shut down.

Picture This
Video displays are becoming more common in outdoor installations, with more manufacturers producing all-weather televisions or screens. If it’s an outdoor bar or living room area that’s well protected from the elements and shaded from the sun, you can opt for one of the usual suspects and mount a plasma, LCD or even a boxy CRT television and slip a dust cover over it when it’s not being used. If solar glare or other weather conditions factor into your video placement, weatherproof LCDs will handle climate extremes and the images are not as susceptible to being washed out by the sun. There are even small wireless TVs that can be brought outside if you’re seeking a portable solution.

Projection-screen set-ups provide phenomenal video experiences in your controlled indoor theatre environment, but what about outside? Some projectors are lightweight, portable and even incorporate a DVD player, making it easy for you to throw an image onto the side of the house during an outdoor party. In a more permanent outdoor living room with a sturdy covering, you can have a projector installed in a protective enclosure. Just beware: Projectors are certainly not weatherproof, so take great precautions if you want to go this route. Motorized drop-down screens, glass screens and inflatable screens can be used in a projection set-up, but you’ll have to wait until sunset to start the movie, because light will drown out the image.

professional installer can add an outdoor display into a video distribution solution, so you can flip through choices from the cable or satellite TV receivers and DVRs stored inside the house, as well as pull content from your media server or DVD player. If your outdoor living room or patio has ample protection and space for its own equipment cabinet, video components can also be stored locally, making it convenient for when your buddy stops at Blockbuster on his way to the house for poker night.

Greater Control
An outdoor installation might be fun for the audio and video aspects, but it’s an absolute playground for fans of whole-home control. If there’s something in your outdoor space that can be electronically controlled, it has the potential to be tied into your robust home automation system. A popular choice in this realm is lighting. Decorative landscape lighting, pathway and driveway lighting, cabana lighting and more can be configured and commanded through entryway keypads and wireless touchpanels. You won’t just be controlling the amount of light flooding your yard, either, but coordinating it with events. An installer can program certain lights to turn on and off at certain times, whether it’s daily or in conjunction with an astronomical clock. Tied into your security system, exterior lighting can be triggered by motion sensors to greet you as you arrive home from work or to deter potential burglars.

With programmable scenes on your control touchpanel, lighting can work in concert with audio for an evening party. Pressing a welcome scene button might play some classical or jazz music and light a pathway for guests to travel from the front door to the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails table by the pool. An entertain button might raise the volume of the music, select a rock n’ roll playlist, dim the pathway lights, and activate some colour-changing LED lights as the party gets going.

The outdoor party doesn’t stop there, though. Your swimming pool and spa equipment might be automated, from cleaning filters, heating hot tubs, turning on underwater lights, and pulling back or putting on covers. Irrigation can be monitored and controlled, whether it’s an automatic sprinkler system or decorative water fountain. In the winter months, your driveway heating system might be conveniently triggered through your automation setup. Whatever the season or occasion, electronic enhancements can make your outdoor space a prime destination.

10 Key Features in a Home Automation System

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The ability to manage your home’s electronic systems from one main control system can make your household run smoother, feel better and save energy.

The trick is to find a system that will meet all the demands of your household, now and in the future. Most systems can be tailored by a custom electronics professional to provide all the benefits you desire, but there are some key features that will make his job easier and your interaction with your system more enjoyable.

In no order of importance, here’s our top 10 key features:-

1. Interoperability
The beauty of an automation system is its ability to tie diverse electronic devices together so they can perform as one unified system. Getting these devices to work cohesively can be simple or complex, depending on the “openness” of the automation system. The more open a system is, the easier it will be for the lights, thermostats, audio/video equipment, security devices, motorized shades and other electronics to communicate with each other. A good example of interoperability is having the lights turn off, the thermostats set back when you press a “goodbye” button on a keypad or when a motion sensor notices that you have exited a room.

To support interoperability between multiple electronic devices, manufacturers of home automation systems often form connectivity partnerships with other manufacturers. Automation products should be able to communicate seamlessly with a wide variety of other systems—from architectural lighting and irrigation, to multiroom audio.

Another way automation manufacturers are fostering interoperability is through adherence to technology standards. For example embedded Zigbee wireless control technology into automation products so those products can network easily with other Zigbee-enabled products.

The more connectivity of different devices that occurs between different partners and manufacturer components linking different communication standards has to be adopted, with more choices that need to be made.  “It allows designers/installers to select the best suite products for their clients.”

2. Remote Access
Automation is all about being able to control things in your home, and part of that is being able to change the settings quickly and easily if your plans change. More often than not, plans change when you’re not at home, so being able to communicate those changes with your home automation system remotely is one of the most revered features of an automation system. Remote access capabilities allow you to monitor your home’s environment and alter the settings of the lights, thermostats and other gear if necessary all from your laptop, mobile phone or iTouch. David Slade of Davmark believes that remote monitoring facility should be incorporated as part of the core offering and be provide free of charge from any service caharge. “Why should you pay to access your automation system when you’re already paying for broadband access?” Proive a gateway to link uo to the outside world!

Remote access also allows your installer to tweak your system without having to make a house call, which is always cheaper and more convenient.

3. Expandability
The way you live in your home five years from now will probably be much different than the way you live in your home today. Moreover, technology will continue to evolve, introducing a completely new generation of products to the marketplace. In the future, you may also want to add new rooms—like a recently finished basement or an addition off the back—to your automation network. Or, you may simply want to start out with just a few features when you first put in your system then add new capabilities later as you have the money. For these reasons, it’s important that a home automation system can be easily expanded both vertically to incorporate additional products and horizontally to support additional rooms.

Manufacturers can support vertical and horizontal expandability by designing their systems to speak a common network language, like IP (Internet Protocol), and by offering wireless retrofittable products that can communicate with a home’s existing network of wired products.

4. Upgradeability
Those touchscreens and black boxes may look impressive, but it’s what you don’t see that holds the true power of an automation system. Software is the driving force of an automation system. The more sophisticated that software is, the more the system can do. As technology changes, so must the software. Before you buy any system, be sure the manufacturer (or your installer) will be able to unlock and download software updates automatically.

5. Variety of Interfaces
There are a number of different ways you can control the electronic systems in your home: by pressing the buttons of a handheld remote or wall-mounted keypad, by touching colorful icons on a portable touchpanel or by sliding your finger across your iTouch. Depending on your family dynamic, budget and preferences, you might like to utilize a variety of different controllers (most people do, says David Slade), so make sure the automation manufacturer offers a wide selection of interfaces.

6. Time-Tested
No one, except for serious early-adopters, likes to be the guinea pig, so choose an automation system with a proven track record. Same goes for the person who installs the system into your home. Look for an installer who’s been installing the same systems for a number of years,” suggests David Slade. You should be able to gather some historical background about manufacturers and installers from their company websites.

7. Strong Dealer Network
“You can have great equipment, but you’ll need a highly trained and certified installer in order to get your money’s worth. It’s a no brainier real” says David Slade. Good home automation manufacturers go above and beyond to create a strong brand and support network, by offering continual education and training and by supporting multiple dealers in a single geographic area. For consumers, having more than one dealer to choose from is important. When more than one dealer carries a particular product in your area, pricing is more competitive and should one dealer go out of business, there’s someone else you can call to pick up the pieces.

8. Commitment to Energy-Savings
One of the hottest topics in the consumer media is energy conservation. Automation systems can help save energy by turning off electronics devices automatically, and some do this better than others. Be sure to check out the energy-saving features of a system before you buy.

9. Layer of Protection
Everyone always wonders what happens to an automated house when the power goes out. Does the system forget how to operate the lights when power is restored? If an automation system has the appropriate back-up protection, you won’t have to worry about that.

10. Can-do Attitude
This goes both for the designer, installer and the manufacturer. Automation is only beneficial and practical if it fits your lifestyle. Since everyone’s lifestyle is different, the manufacturer should provide its installers with the tools to customize the system to your specific needs. If there’s something that you want your system to do and your installer says it’s impossible, either he or the manufacturer has failed you. Keep looking.