Systemless Home Automation run with iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 02-23-2013, 03:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I am building a vacation house. I am wondering why I need a centralized system to acheive Home Automation in the age of the iOS. Doesn't the centralized home automation system just put an extra layer of programming and interfaces between me and the individual best of breed subsystems?

Here's what I am thinking of trying: choosing systems that each have quality iPad/iPhone apps that are created and maintained by the subsystems. Isn't an iPad with the following apps running on it enough integration to put together a very good system? We'd put iPads/iPhones in each of the rooms for controlling our system. Each iPad or iPhone would have the following apps installed.

  1. Audio: Sonos - I am a long-time Sonos user and amazed by the way that they update their software regularly. It requires no help from an installer everytime that they add a new feature. The Sonos app is great.
  2. HVAC - We're putting in a the Bryant Evolution Connex system. It comes with its own iPad and iPhone apps. https://www.myevolutionconnex.bryant.com/Evolution/Downloads
  3. Security - Honeywell Total Connect. http://www.mytotalconnect.com/applications.php
  4. Lighting - Lutron RadioRA. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lutron-home-control/id415374545?mt=8


For video, I can live with some Harmony remotes in the rooms with TVs. I am not sure what Savant, Elan, or Crestron will add to my current Harmony experience. The television experience doesn't need to be integrated with the iPad/iPhones. I have tried the DirecTV iPad/iPhone app and found it to be fairly useless.

-Tommy
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post #2 of 26 Old 02-23-2013, 04:16 PM
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1) Have fun switching apps all the time, and for that matter, switching out defective Harmony remotes all the time.
2) You can't call it integration if you don't integrate anything.
3) True integration would allow you to, for example, turn on certain Lutron lights, adjust your t-stats, and start your favorite music playlist/cable channel playing when you open the garage door/disarm your security system.
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post #3 of 26 Old 02-23-2013, 07:44 PM
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Tommy

A few points regarding your question:

- As mentioned previously, it really sucks to switch from app to app

- A centralized control system (such as a AMX or Crestron) will allow you to tie all of the systems under one control point be it an ipad app or touch panel / remote. I love the ipad and Crestron's app has proven to be a wonderful setup if the integration company is worth anything

- With a central system your alarm, hvac, Lurton can now interact together which an app won't do, take for instance you leave the vacation house for the season, a simple button press on the ipad app and all lights are off, HVAC set to auto temp, alarm armed, and light timers a set to away mode while your gone. When you get back in residence, one button push "opens" the house back up for you. I agree with the other poster, its not integration if your not integrating anything smile.gif

- Harmony: First off (in my opinion) the build quality stinks on these remotes. I loved, for the most part, how easy it is to program, but within a year I had to replace 2/3 in my house. If you have the option at least consider RTI or similar. RTI or URC have some nice basic RF to IR control system with the ability to do some light weight macros etc on them to make your tv experience a little nicer. Also rumor has it Logitech is looking to ditch Harmony and squeezebox from their lines soon so take that for what it is.

The biggest issue I see here however is maintainability and reliability. I love the IPAD and use mine religiously as well as a control point for my home. But for many companies and app is still a novelty and support for that app isn't always a strong worry of the manufacture. Companies producing central systems have working partnerships with theses companies that help garner a bit more reliability in control between firmware and hardware changes. The IPAD is also at the mercy of Apple and I've seen IOS6 break control apps including video feeds in the Crestron App. Least when that happen I could go to my touch panel or PC app for the same system and continue using the system till they find a fix.

I'm a crestron programmer professionally, I am in no way pushing you into a crestron system or any other "big" system. Personally for vacation home RTI / Control4 offer nice options with a IPAD app and I don't sell either of those haha.. Either way I just wanted to pitch in my 2 cents. smile.gif
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post #4 of 26 Old 02-24-2013, 12:43 AM
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If there is no centralized system that can monitor and control all the other subsystems then it isn't home automation. It's just remote control. But there's nothing wrong with that if it fits your needs. You may want to at least choose equipment that is capable of being integrated. So if you decide you want a one app experience such as as iRule or roomie, you can do so. Or if you start saying "why can't the system do that for me" then you can get a central controller.
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post #5 of 26 Old 02-25-2013, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tahoetommy View Post

Doesn't the centralized home automation system just put an extra layer of programming and interfaces between me and the individual best of breed subsystems?

-Tommy

No - it puts a SINGLE interface between you and all of the sub-systems. Basically a good automation system ties all the subsystems into a single controllable system. As noted, you can control a lot of your sub-systems via remote apps, but you have to change apps to control a different sub-system, and your sub-systems cannot talk to each other.

Having the ability for the different sub systems to work together is a HUGE advantage of a true automation system. For example, I use CQC as my centralized automation system. It controls a lot of different sub-systems in my house such as security, CCTV, lighting, HVAC, audio and video distribution (including music, DVDs, and my SageTV DVR system), etc, etc, etc. So when I arm my house to "Away" mode via the alarm panel's keypad, CQC will set the thermostats back to a temp that I have pre-selected (and can change via my touchscreens rather than having to mess with thermostat programming), make sure all the A/V equipment is turned off, make sure all the lights are turned off during the day, turns certain lights on at dusk and turns on even more lights when the garage door goes up after dusk and the house is armed in away mode. All of this is accomplished simply because I set my alarm to "armed away" mode without any additional interaction between the user and the system.

I also have a single interface that I can control just about anything in my house. I have access to audio and video distribution, HVAC, lighting, security, viewing CCTV cameras, check the weather and radar, view my DVR recording schedule and even set shows to record, etc, etc, etc - all from a single app/interface. I can view this interface using touchscreens, computers, tablets (both iPad and Android) and phones around my house and around the world.

Another real world use of the system is with hard button IR remotes I have in all of the main TV viewing areas. Normally you would use a universal remote to control all the different components in the room. But that requires the remote to send out long macros to power the system on and tune everything to the correct channel/input. Sometimes these macros can run 15-25 seconds depending on how long it takes for some of the equipment to warm up. For example, I use LGTVs and they require about 12 seconds to turn on before they will accept any further commands. So to turn on the TV and set it to a particular input would require someone to point the remote control at the TV for at least 12 seconds.

By using CQC instead, I have programmed all of my remotes to send out a single IR command that gets routed through CQC. In other words, my "Play DVD" command is only a single IR command long which takes a fraction of a second to transmit. CQC reads that command and handles all of the equipment needs. It turns on the TV, receiver, DVD player, etc and sets everything to the proper settings. It doesn't matter how long this process takes because the remote isn't sending out any of the commands. That means my remotes are not sending out a long set of IR commands that must all work in perfect unison for everything to turn on properly. My equipment is serial controllable (TV, DVD player, receiver, etc, etc) so the commands are much more reliable than IR signals. If the command is picked up by CQC, then it will always have a 100% success rate. If the IR command isn't picked up (due to distance or dying batteries, etc), the user will immediately know this because nothing happens and they can simply press the IR remote button again. There is never a situation where a portion of the macro is executed, but a portion is not because the user turned the remote away or something like that.

So you can see that while it is possible to do everything with independent sub systems, by adding a automation system you can tie all of those sub systems together into a single powerful system that controls everything.

- Brian

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post #6 of 26 Old 02-25-2013, 01:53 PM
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Tommy,

Have you considered using an automation controller like the Omni Pro2 for this application.
1-It has security built in with an ethernet port for remote access. No Monthly fees associated with remote access
2-the controller supports Radio Ra2 and the Bryant Evolution systems seemlessly.
3-Sonos, well you'll need to keep that seperate as you desire.

This will allow you to have one controller that coordinates everything (other than sonos) for your application. Plus, the programming and functionality is waaaaaay better that the other way. Stick with the remotes you like...however, there are inexpensive options from URC or RTI that integrate with HAI for macro's, etc. when viewing movies.

good luck
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post #7 of 26 Old 02-25-2013, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tahoetommy View Post

I am wondering why I need a centralized system to acheive Home Automation in the age of the iOS.

You don't need a centralized system, you're describing a "multi app approach".
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post #8 of 26 Old 02-26-2013, 02:03 PM
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"Have fun switching between apps. . . " LOL

Just for reference, I used to be an installer. Having said that, I realize not everyone desires to roll up their sleeves and DIY on a home automation system.
However, I believe that Crestron and AMX, or any other "high-end" "central controller systems for that matter, are not only ridiculously overpriced, but you are locking yourself into a proprietary system.
Proprietary meaning that you will not be allowed to do any programming changes yourself, because you have to be a "licensed" installer. Which is why companies charge $1.5k to program an audio system after charging $2k for "installing" it (Maybe it's just me, but isn't programming part of installing?). Keep in mind, wiring is one fee, be it retro-fit or rough-in. Equipment is another; then installation, and lastly programming.

If you have some spare time and know how to use google, then you could easily construct an automation system yourself that avoids the supposed pitfalls eluded to by the other posters. Once it is all done, you don't need to touch it again.
I use more than one app, true. But, I'm not "switching between them" all the time. One app on the phone while I'm away from the house or anywhere in the house other than the theater, where I use another app to control everything that the phone app does but provides more screen area and the iPad just stays in the theater.

The controller is a Veralite. With it, I am able to reliably control lighting, cameras, security, projectors, receivers, door locks, scenes, schedules, triggers, media streamers, guest access. . .basically everything the "high-end" systems can do and more.

Top that off with the fact that if I decide to add some devices to achieve something, only to find out that AMX or Crestron does not provide such hardware, then I need to buy yet more hardware from them so the equipment can communicate with the new device(s).

The so called high-end systems are partly labeled such because of the very high price tags, most of which is labor padded into the equipment prices. Yet much of their actual equipment is ancient, ugly, less functional than many of the modern new-comers to automation and they are slower to evolve.

Can you say "Pronto"? rolleyes.gif
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post #9 of 26 Old 02-26-2013, 03:02 PM
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We don't do lots of customization ourself, but once in while we do because it's good to eat your own dogfood sometimes. But I can tell you that setting up an actually customized solution is a LOT of work, because it has to work when you are gone else you get the call on Saturday and end up working on that system instead of doing something fun. $1500 would be uber-cheap for any serious customization.

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post #10 of 26 Old 02-26-2013, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

$1500 would be uber-cheap for any serious customization.

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Originally Posted by awake33 View Post

companies charge $1.5k to program an audio system after charging $2k for "installing" it..


I agree $1500 is inexpensive but awake did note an "audio system". Perhaps an entire system including video and home control would bring the price up to $10k which is about right for an average system.


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Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

"Have fun switching between apps. . . " LOL



In my opinion, most of the electronics in our home will eventually live on our home network. Each mfg will provide an app to control the electronic device. That is the direction we are headed. And besides most who own smart devices are used to switching between apps all day long...text...email...phone call...radio...internet...map...calender...and that was all before 8am this morning.
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post #11 of 26 Old 02-26-2013, 06:03 PM
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I didn't actually post that last thing, though of course the point is that a bunch of apps have no value as integration. It's fine if you want to do it, but it's not integration, no matter how you paint it. It's no different than the coffee table full of remotes except they are virtual.

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post #12 of 26 Old 02-26-2013, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

And besides most who own smart devices are used to switching between apps all day long...text...email...phone call...radio...internet...map...calender...and that was all before 8am this morning.

I think lots of people are probably willing to switch apps in order to: control HVAC, lights, security, etc. Its the workflow they're probably used to on a smart-phone. Where it really breaks down, for the average consumer, is when you're flipping channels on the Sat box and you need to adjust volume cause Larry the local car salesman is screaming at you in a commercial. A couple of seconds to jump to the AVR or TV app, let it reconnect, adjust volume, then switch back to the other app, etc, and you've listened to 20 seconds of Crazy Larry screaming and then missed another 20 seconds of audio on the TV show you were actually watching.

Most people won't be familiar with features like having a single command to arm security, set HVAC away, adjust lights, turn off any active A/V, etc.
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post #13 of 26 Old 02-27-2013, 07:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

I didn't actually post that last thing, though of course the point is that a bunch of apps have no value as integration. It's fine if you want to do it, but it's not integration, no matter how you paint it. It's no different than the coffee table full of remotes except they are virtual.

That is a great way of explaining it.

- Brian

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post #14 of 26 Old 02-27-2013, 10:25 AM
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I have great disdain for those with a coffee table full of remotes. biggrin.gif
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post #15 of 26 Old 02-27-2013, 04:14 PM
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The integrated user interface is only a small part of the VALUE of an integrated home automation system. The bigger value is in the automated interaction between the system. I user the touch panel or phone app a few times a week, the automatic macros run many times a day. One Example: My GE Alarm Panel "Arm to stay" button also also locks the zwave door locks, turns off the UPB light switches, sets back the thermostats, mutes the home phones, and close the garage door if left open. This is just one of my many macros can also be triggered automatically OR manually from my mobile devices. I have only had it all working together for a few months, but its amazing all the possibilities...

I was lucky that most of my systems were already compatible with one home automation system (homeseer). Most people end up having to swap a lot of equipment out if it wasn't built with an HA solution already in mind.
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post #16 of 26 Old 02-27-2013, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

I didn't actually post that last thing, though of course the point is that a bunch of apps have no value as integration. It's fine if you want to do it, but it's not integration, no matter how you paint it. It's no different than the coffee table full of remotes except they are virtual.

Hey I'd love every homeowner to install an integrated system as long as it's done right. A huge problem in our business is the fact that so many systems were installed and programmed by untrained, underqualified companies. Now integrated systems have a poor reputation and rightly so, 25% of our business (I work for an integrator) is revising and rebuilding other integrators old work.

You're right a "multi app approach" isn't integration but it is a starting point for some and for me I am able to sell a Lutron lighting system with motorized shades, Sonos, Apple TV's with distributed video and generate an income.

My favorite system is Crestron! When done correctly it's wonderful and fun to use and design.
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post #17 of 26 Old 02-28-2013, 02:35 AM
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Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

When done correctly it's wonderful and fun to use and design.
But a lot of the time the homeowner ends up paying through the nose to teach some junior programmer how to set it up, and it still falls short. I've know too many people with exactly that story. They become gun shy about doing anything new with systems because of that experience. There's certainly a balance to be struck between DIY and anti-enduser programming, it's just not been done yet. Lots of stuff has gotten 'less worse' but it's still far from what the general population would consider reasonable. Trouble is there's not enough money to be made at that price point, so the situation hasn't changed much. Fact of the matter is automation is just not as easy or inexpensive as people would like.
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post #18 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 12:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the all of the input. I am meeting with the integrators next week. I understand that I will not have the power of multi-subsystem macros, but I think that I am OK with that. For some of you I guess that's shocking, but for me it works.

I've had such a great experience with Sonos in my home over the years. Every single Sonos device I've purchased still works, even those that have been discontinued. As long as the subsystem companies continue to prioritize iOS and Android apps as a priority for remote control of their systems, then my system will continue to work well. I am not sure if all of the subsystem companies will be as strong as Sonos in terms of programming and keeping their installed base of software up to date, but with installed bases of iOS and Android devices dwarfing custom home automation systems by an order of magnitude something tells me I'll be OK.

Some will say that my vision isn't home automation -- that's fine with me, but I think you're myopic. There is no integration other than the individual apps showing up on iOS or Android phones or tablets Again, this is fine with me. I have looked at Crestron, Elan, and Savant and I don't see added functionality that I need that's worth the price or the aggravation of having to call a custom programmer if I want to swap some components out.

In my view, I think home automation without a centralized custom software interface may be one way that home automation makes it to the mass market. It's just my opinion, but paying an installer to write customized software isn't within the reach of most consumers.

-Tommy
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post #19 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 05:44 PM
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Some will say that my vision isn't home automation -- that's fine with me, but I think you're myopic. There is no integration other than the individual apps showing up on iOS or Android phones or tablets Again, this is fine with me. I have looked at Crestron, Elan, and Savant and I don't see added functionality that I need that's worth the price or the aggravation of having to call a custom programmer if I want to swap some components out.

In my view, I think home automation without a centralized custom software interface may be one way that home automation makes it to the mass market. It's just my opinion, but paying an installer to write customized software isn't within the reach of most consumers.

-Tommy

Well said, and good choice. The automation dinosaurs will die off soon enough and with it the mindset that it is easy $ to be made off of rich people, rather than $$$ to be made of the masses without having to have such ridiculous price tags.
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post #20 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 06:11 PM
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No one is going to make any real money selling small applets to the masses for controlling a single vendor's hardware. Those programs will be created by the hardware vendors themselves to make it a bit easier to sell the hardware. You won't be able to compete in that market because the hardware vendor is eating money on the development of the software, not making money, most likely, and giving it away with the hardware. So there's not really any money to be made unless you add value. And where's the added value? Well, by controlling more than one vendor's hardware in some integrated way, and you are back at the start of the circle again.

And of course his premise is wrong from the start. It won't allow *automation* to hit the market, because there's no automation in a bunch of individual apps to control disjoint pieces of hardware. As already pointed out, it'll just be a move of the remotes from the coffee table to the hand held, only there'll be a lot more of them and they'll therefore be that much more annoying to use, because you can't just pick up another one and use it immediately. And it's nothing that wasn't available 20 years ago with the individual remote controls on the table.

Obviously some people will be happy enough with that. But I think it's way off base to believe anyone is going to actually make any real money doing that.

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post #21 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 06:44 PM
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Companies already are making money off the hardware, who said anything about making money off the apps?
I'm talking about cutting the overpriced install companies out of the equation. Most are hacks anyway. I worked in the business many years and saw it up close and personal.
The average owner of these small shops are just a touch above car salesmen.
Now, if the prices reflected the reliability, design, sophistication and hardware specs, then sure go ahead and charge an arm and a leg. I probably saw that in 10 or 15 homes tops, Bill Gates being one of them and Microsoft employees being several others.

Pronto went the way of the Dodo and more will follow. Do they have to follow? No, of course not, but I have little faith that the majority of them will evolve in the ways that they need to. They are not selling super sophisticated stuff anymore. You still have companies charging $2k for pathetic little tablets that get devastated by the iPad in functionality, touch screen quality, screen resolution, and computing power. Installers want to get paid $80, $180, or $280 an hour. The range is all over the place. Well I'm sorry, but it's not $80 an hour work anymore. It's not rocket science.

I'm sorry that you do not have the ability to see the cohesion of multiple systems without juggling virtual remotes. It is exactly the attitude I think of in relation to businesses going the way of Pronto; they failed to see the writing on the wall and perhaps even lack vision.

I have one app on my iPhone, one app on my iPad. Setup and done. The iPhone works the same away from home as it does while physically at home, nothing changes other than the connection type which is automatic.
My iPad is dedicated to my dedicated theater. Not only is it one app, it is one screen to control the lights, media streamer, receiver, projector, security, cameras, heating, etc. Were I to see the need, I'd mount some more iDevice around the house, but I don't.
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post #22 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 07:09 PM
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Well, unless only hardware manufactures are going to be involved, then you sort of HAVE to make money of applications if you are a software company. The Pronto of course was basically doing what a hand held can do now, so it would obviously be more of a target for that sort of scheme. But if you think you are going to create a real automation system just an iPad you can't really understand how they work. It could only work in a world of purely IP based products, and that world doesn't exist, and won't for a long time. Otherwise, there has to be something that can talk to the various bits of hardware. And alot of what automation systems do requires an ongoing, constant conversation with the devices under control, which a wireless device isn't very good at providing, particularly given the spotty performance of the wireless network in the average house.

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post #23 of 26 Old 03-03-2013, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

. . . But if you think you are going to create a real automation system just an iPad you can't really understand how they work.
Um. . . I use a Veralite, the point(s) of control is what the iDevices are for. I mentioned that already, but you have a point to make are are not paying attention.
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It could only work in a world of purely IP based products, and that world doesn't exist, and won't for a long time.
And every device in my system is IP based save the locks and lighting/power related control. So I would have to wholeheartedly disagree that the IP based will not exist for a long time. Obviously the controller is multi-talented and able to handle IP commands. Did you hear the one about the Dodo? cool.gif
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Otherwise, there has to be something that can talk to the various bits of hardware. And alot of what automation systems do requires an ongoing, constant conversation with the devices under control,
Now you are really giving me the impression that you don't pay attention very well. I clearly stated that I used to be an installer. I designed, installed and programmed by own house's system. If you paid even 20% attention to what I've stated in this thread so far you wouldn't be stating such an obvious fact to me as if I'm a dolt. rolleyes.gif
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which a wireless device isn't very good at providing, particularly given the spotty performance of the wireless network in the average house.
I don't know what type of wireless networks you've been dealing with, but I have zero issues with a multitude of wired and wireless devices. If you know what you are doing you not have an issue with latency, bandwidth, or otherwise (Besides, only cameras need a good chunk of bandwidth anyway). The response time from commands sent from my iDevices ranges from instant to human perception (which is obviously not true, at least a few ms have passed), to less than a second for something like the door locks.

With all due respect, I am already doing what you say can't be done. Water sensors for the aquarium in case of a sump overflow, sprinklers, lighting, media, security, instant notifications to my phone wherever I am for whatever scenario around the house I see fit to create, notification that the garage door is open, the possibilities are endless. There is no magic going on here, you just want to believe there is because you company partially depends on maintaining that illusion. CQS did not reinvent the wheel, sorry.

The voice control with natural language from CastleOS is really cool; I just added it the other night. It's really nice to be able to say "Computer, create and start a timer for 10 minutes." And have it reply back that is has done so, and in a much more human sounding voice than Siri. And having the system tell you when the timer is up rather than seting a timer on a device, or the microwave or whatever only to not hear it. You can ask it "How much time is left?", what the weather is or will be, if the garage door is open (because you don't feel like using a device to check), running any manner of scene you might use a wall panel/button to do the same.

So go ahead, continue to believe what you want. But I highly recommend you open your eyes and mind and evolve with the tech, or CQS will at best remain a minor player. Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying what you say can't be done.
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post #24 of 26 Old 03-04-2013, 10:50 AM
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Wait a minute. TahoeTommy made a post indicating that non-centralized controller based systems, composed of just apps running on a wireless device was the future of automation. You apparently agreed with him. I responded to that. If you are using a centralized controller, then clearly that's not relevant to what I was responding to, and belies the very point that he made and that you agreed with. Try recreating the system you have with just some apps running on an iPad.

As to everything being IP based, it's a not even close. If you can afford to buy everything from scratch, you can probably do OK. But there are beaucoup devices out there that are not IP based, and they aren't going to go away any time soon, and if your product can't control them, then it's irrelevent to the people who own those devices. Therefore you require some sort of controller that can speak USB, Firewire, Z-Wave, Serial, UPB, etc...

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Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd

www.charmedquark.com

 

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post #25 of 26 Old 03-04-2013, 05:59 PM
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I guess it's a point of view or semantics. And although I labeled it a controller, I do not equate a $150 Vera with the bloated AMX or Crestron types, even though it can do what they can.

From the OP:
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Here's what I am thinking of trying: choosing systems that each have quality iPad/iPhone apps that are created and maintained by the subsystems. Isn't an iPad with the following apps running on it enough integration to put together a very good system? We'd put iPads/iPhones in each of the rooms for controlling our system. Each iPad or iPhone would have the following apps installed.
He is only wanting to have four systems. A fifth app for the iOS could bring them altogether and alleviate the switching of apps, for those that care. As mentioned before, many people are already used to switching apps.
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If you can afford to buy everything from scratch, you can probably do OK.
Seems like that is exactly what he plans on doing, so what's the problem.
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But there are beaucoup devices out there that are not IP based, and they aren't going to go away any time soon
Time will tell.
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post #26 of 26 Old 03-07-2013, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

But a lot of the time the homeowner ends up paying through the nose to teach some junior programmer how to set it up.

Probably in most cases that's true. I am only able to speak from my experience, I haven't worked for a poorly ran, trunk slammer. But I see them out in the field bidding work and installing systems. Fortunately all of the builders in my area have my biz card and will circle back when they get the call in 2 years from their unhappy client, like I said a percentage of our business is the other guys old system.


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Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

Fact of the matter is automation is just not as easy or inexpensive as people would like.

Agreed.
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