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Using the Kindle Fire as a Home Automation Touchscreen

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Using the Kindle Fire as a Home Automation Touchscreen
Author - Mark Anderson


Ever since I saw the first homes with wall-mounted touchscreens, I've yearned for an affordable alternative. Was the Kindle Fire, the answer to my dreams. I ordered one in an attempt to find out.

Like a kid waiting for Santa, I looked out the window every 15 minutes on Saturday morning for the UPS driver. After what seemed like an eternity (it was after 10:30 am after all), it arrived. I excitedly unboxed it and got to work. Within 10 minutes, I had the tablet up and running and controlling devices and events (albeit with a sample skin). A few hours later, I had my custom iPad screens adapted to the size of the Fire and deployed on the device. I now had my $199 Home Automation touchscreen. One in every important room was within my grasp and my budget.

Read the complete article at HomeToys.com
post #2 of 49
Most of the linked articles I find... wanting...

This one was flat-out fantastic and totally in tune with the kind of stuff I believe the AVS community is interested in. TYVM.

I totally want to see the follow up when the Kindles are framed and mounted. It might inspire me.
post #3 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogo View Post

Most of the linked articles I find... wanting...

This one was flat-out fantastic and totally in tune with the kind of stuff I believe the AVS community is interested in. TYVM.

I totally want to see the follow up when the Kindles are framed and mounted. It might inspire me.

Wow!

Thanks rogo. Will definitely post framed pix
post #4 of 49
I don't want to be rude when I say this, but how much did you spend on installing this in your home?

I'd love to be able to do some of this, but I have a hard time spending 50 bucks on an outlet. It seems like many of the receptacles and sensors are a lot of money. I guess I have a hard time believing that a 'whole home' solution, like the one in this article, could cost a few thousand. Hopefully I'm wrong.....but I'm just curious.
post #5 of 49
I like the idea of using a tablet as a 2 way info/automation device but from past experience with touch screens ...how many key presses are required to perform simple tasks ???
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by wiz561 View Post

I don't want to be rude when I say this, but how much did you spend on installing this in your home?

I'd love to be able to do some of this, but I have a hard time spending 50 bucks on an outlet. It seems like many of the receptacles and sensors are a lot of money. I guess I have a hard time believing that a 'whole home' solution, like the one in this article, could cost a few thousand. Hopefully I'm wrong.....but I'm just curious.

Hi Wiz561

It's a reasonable question, so here's a breakdown of the costs (assuming $0 for my time)
  • HomeSeer Pro software $599, but can be had on sale for $399 frequently and was $299 on black Friday.
  • Dedicated PC (I only had a work laptop, WMC and WHS, so wanted something dedicated). Inspiron Zino refurb: $300
  • USB z-wave interface: $60
  • Z-wave light switches can be had for about $30, but I went with Cooper Aspires (love the design) @ about $85 each. I have 9 or 10
  • iPhone and iPad were things I bought for their own use and use for work. The fact that they run HomeSeer (with $0 software cost) is a huge bonus
  • Kindles will be $199, compared to $500 for iPad or $1K+ for Crestron
  • Power monitoring (my next article) runs independant of HomeSeer, but also forwards data to HomeSeer: $170
  • Sump pump monitor $80 for RF receiver (X10, etc.) and $20 in X10 sensors. For me $100 for real-time monitoring of something that could trash my basement is real cheap insurance
  • USB-UIRT for integration of lights and HomeSeer (dims when playing movie and raises when paused or stopped) and many other integrations from simple IR remotes (biggest benefit for me): $50
  • Lamp/applicance modules: $30-50
  • Security system. Bought DSC with PIR, Panel, Case, Battery, Siren and Keypad with 16 wirelss zones: $180. Installed myself, and it runs standalone, but also hooked in HomeSeer, so when I arm the system, it kills certain lights, reduces AC or Temp in Summer, etc. Then 30 mins before I come home (or when I enter house and disarm the alarm), it increaes heat/AC and turns on certain lights before.
  • Z-Wave thermostat: $98

So, total for essentials (Software, PC, Z-Wave interface, 10 (good) switches, 1 Kindle Fire) is about $1800, but by far the best thing is that I was able to start with a few lamp modules and a USB z-wave interface. I could try the software on my laptop for 30 days and grow at a pace I was technically and financially comnfortable with (it is addictive).

Even at $1800 up front cost, I probably wouldn't have got started. It was the fact that I could try the software for 30 days (and if i really had to, put it on my wife's laptop for an additional 30 days testing) and a few hundred in USB interface and light modules (which I could sell for 70% of their value) that did it. So my total cash risk was about $50, if I canned it all and had to sell the stuff I'd bought on eBay.

The other big concern I had was choosing the right technology. Was very concerned about anything over power lines and z-wave was still fairly new. But that was the great thing about HomeSeer: I could add an interface for any technology I wanted in the future. With stuff like Control4, etc, you were stuck with ZigBee, which has very little installed base and then proprietory brands like Crestron, Lutron, et al. The latter all require dealer installation; although Lutron's new RadioRA2 system is designed more for DIY (but restricted in functionality)

If you look at stuff like Crestron, you're looking at $10K+ to get started. It must be installed by a custom installer and you're on the hook for every upgrade, every tweak, etc.

Obvously, I'm not including Sonos (about $500/zone) in the figures I quoted. There are cheaper ways with Airplay, etc. but at the time AirTunes was not that good and my wireless was too unreliable (and you had to have a PC on and iTunes running all the time).

Hope this clarifies things and shows that it really is cheap to get started and prove to yourself that it's what you want and that you can install it.
post #7 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by xfett View Post

I like the idea of using a tablet as a 2 way info/automation device but from past experience with touch screens ...how many key presses are required to perform simple tasks ???

1!

The only touchscreens I have used are ELO's (at work) - but with apps specifically designed for touchscreens (runnign regular Windows is just dreadful); iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and, now, Kindle Fire.

I wouldn't look at resistive screens. I also think a lot has to do with the UI design. In my kindle screens the buttons on the left are pretty big. That's intentional: if they're too small, you hit the wrong one, miss it, etc. On the right hand side, I have the 10 most commoin scenes or events that I use. In the center, i have a snapshot of the most common info I want. I can drill into any of it, but don't want to (for example) go through 3 screens to see the weather.

Again, that's one of the benefits of something like HomeSeer, it let's me design my own screens. This means I can build what I think I want today, and then when I find that I need to go through 3 screens to get to the "bedtime" button that I use everyday, I simply change the design and put that button on the the main screen. I'm also not stuck with VendorX's UI restrictions or what my custom installer thinks I want.

Regards

mark
post #8 of 49
I emailed that article to my fellow work friends here. This is something I'm going to do with my future house I will be buying in the coming year or so. Incredible automated DIY setup. Very affordable.
post #9 of 49
Thanks for the info Mark!

I was just curious about the costs for something like that. It seems like something really cool to do, but I can see it getting expensive. One of these days, I hope to do something just like what you did. I think it's absolutely awesome how everything integrates with itself, and great work making everything run smoothly.
post #10 of 49
I wonder if a Kindle Touch would work for this. It $100 less than the Fire and the battery lasts for a month or so.

(oh, and I agree with whoever said this is an excellent article. Real, usable information for us 99%'ers. Unlike many of the fluff pieces for rich folk that are normally seen on here.)
post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

I emailed that article to my fellow work friends here. This is something I'm going to do with my future house I will be buying in the coming year or so. Incredible automated DIY setup. Very affordable.

Glad to hear it Timothy. just need to spread the word
post #12 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_rangeBrew View Post

I wonder if a Kindle Touch would work for this. It $100 less than the Fire and the battery lasts for a month or so.

(oh, and I agree with whoever said this is an excellent article. Real, usable information for us 99%'ers. Unlike many of the fluff pieces for rich folk that are normally seen on here.)


Thanks S_rangebrew

I don't think touch would work. Not sure what OS is, but 90% sure it's not Android (or anything else stuff like HomeSeer runs on). Also, not sure about graphics side.

There are Velocity tablets out there that can be had for unser $100 refurbed that other HS users have got the software running on though. Check the HomeSeer forums: plenty of Android tablet posts
post #13 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by wiz561 View Post

Thanks for the info Mark!

I was just curious about the costs for something like that. It seems like something really cool to do, but I can see it getting expensive. One of these days, I hope to do something just like what you did. I think it's absolutely awesome how everything integrates with itself, and great work making everything run smoothly.

Thanks Wiz561.

The touchscreens will boost the WAF. Getting her to pickup and iPhone, swipe, start app and go to "lighting" is a non-starter. We'd be dining and watching movies under surgical lighting if it wasn't for me and I'm just too lazy to run around and turn 5 or 6 lights up/down. BUT, with a tablet right there next to the light switch with a button that says bedtime, movie, dining, etc. I think/hope she'll use more.
post #14 of 49
Mark,
I really like what you have done. Are you writing code with HomeSeer or is it some sort of graphical drag and drop software to build your screens? Are you buying the z-wave controllers off the internet or do you have a local source like a Lowes? Any recommended books to read up on how to automate or you just pulling information from different websites to figure it all out? I have never done anything like this so not even sure exactly where to start. Thanks.
post #15 of 49
I did something similar to this with rooted nook colors a year ago, but the main problem I ran into was that of running power to the units.

What's the best way to go about this? I don't want a cable hanging from my wall...
post #16 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by JFISHER View Post

Mark,
I really like what you have done. Are you writing code with HomeSeer or is it some sort of graphical drag and drop software to build your screens? Are you buying the z-wave controllers off the internet or do you have a local source like a Lowes? Any recommended books to read up on how to automate or you just pulling information from different websites to figure it all out? I have never done anything like this so not even sure exactly where to start. Thanks.


Hi Fisher

Writing very little code. A few scripts here and there, but that's it. You can do most of what you want without scripts. Most of it is drag and drop using the HSTouch Designer software (needs HSPro version). The designer is to design you layouts for iOS, Win Android. you can do everything without it thru web browser, but it would be a lot of clicks.

I bought a lot of my hardware from HomeSeer store (mostly because you can get dealer pricing on Cooper Aspire stuff with a coupon code they have). I bought the Aeon Labs z-stick USB controller which has worked well. I haven't seen any z-wave stuff at Lowes/HD.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any good books. There are quite a few tutorials (YouTube and Docs) on HomeSeer web site. If you have any specific questions just drop me a line. I'd recommend ordering the Z-Stick a few $20 lamp modules and downloading HomeSeer 30 day trial (when hardware arrives). This will let you play with the basics for very little outlay

Regards

Mark
post #17 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxical3 View Post

I did something similar to this with rooted nook colors a year ago, but the main problem I ran into was that of running power to the units.

What's the best way to go about this? I don't want a cable hanging from my wall...

Hi Paradoxical3

I ordered a long USB cable and USB to micro USB adapter. I can get to first floor with 6' cable from basement and 2nd floor with 6' cable from attic. So I plan to drop the USB cables in the walls and mount touchscreens at eye-level (about 6" above light swicth) in a picture-frame type mount that I will make (hopefully this weekend). You can probably find a 5v power supply to go in the wall and pwoer from light switch, but finding one rated for in-wall use may be the issue. As I recall the Nook has a specific power supply, wheres the fire just used USB, so lots of extensions/converters, etc.

I'll post pictures and dimensions once I've made it.

Regards

Mark
post #18 of 49
The nook used usb as well, though I sold it and will replace them with a couple of Kindle Fires. I want one in the living room, one in the HT, and one in the bedroom.

Can you link to any 5v in-wall supplies? I would be eternally grateful!

In your application, where are you plugging in the usb cables? Just to standard power outlets?
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxical3 View Post

The nook used usb as well, though I sold it and will replace them with a couple of Kindle Fires. I want one in the living room, one in the HT, and one in the bedroom.

Can you link to any 5v in-wall supplies? I would be eternally grateful!

In your application, where are you plugging in the usb cables? Just to standard power outlets?

You could use something like this. Just has to be 5v 1A AFAIK

I'm going to plug into USB power supplies (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...00_i00_details) in attic and basement and drop cables through walls.

I ordered these to go from charger to Fire:

10' USB extender: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...00_i00_details

USB-MicroUSB with right angle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...00_i00_details

I only need about 5 feet inside wall.

I will make a custom "picture frame" to mount Kindle and notch out 3/4" of right hadn side (on inside of frame) to recess the connector. I'll dirll a hole in wall large enough for USB cable behind where I'll mount the frame.

Here's a rough sketch of how the frame will be (measurements TDB):



Regards

Mark
post #20 of 49
Wow, this is fantastic!

Can you access iTunes or Pandora, and can you see security cameras on these?
post #21 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaydubb1 View Post

Wow, this is fantastic!

Can you access iTunes or Pandora, and can you see security cameras on these?

Hi Jaydubb1

I don't think there's a version of itunes for android. My sonso sytem works with my iTunes lib, pandora. etc. and I can control the sonos from HomeSeer or their native client on the Fire.

You can probably find other stuff on https://market.android.com or amazon apps

Regards

Mark
post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mark_anderson_u View Post

Hi Jaydubb1

I don't think there's a version of itunes for android. My sonso sytem works with my iTunes lib, pandora. etc. and I can control the sonos from HomeSeer or their native client on the Fire.

You can probably find other stuff on https://market.android.com or amazon apps

Regards

Mark

So, audio should be no more than 2 keypresses away from the homescreen with Homeseer on the Fire, correct?

Homescreen > Audio (Homeseer integration) > itunes?
post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mark_anderson_u View Post

Hi Wiz561

It's a reasonable question, so here's a breakdown of the costs (assuming $0 for my time)
  • HomeSeer Pro software $599, but can be had on sale for $399 frequently and was $299 on black Friday.
  • Dedicated PC (I only had a work laptop, WMC and WHS, so wanted something dedicated). Inspiron Zino refurb: $300
  • USB z-wave interface: $60
  • Z-wave light switches can be had for about $30, but I went with Cooper Aspires (love the design) @ about $85 each. I have 9 or 10
  • iPhone and iPad were things I bought for their own use and use for work. The fact that they run HomeSeer (with $0 software cost) is a huge bonus
  • Kindles will be $199, compared to $500 for iPad or $1K+ for Crestron
  • Power monitoring (my next article) runs independant of HomeSeer, but also forwards data to HomeSeer: $170
  • Sump pump monitor $80 for RF receiver (X10, etc.) and $20 in X10 sensors. For me $100 for real-time monitoring of something that could trash my basement is real cheap insurance
  • USB-UIRT for integration of lights and HomeSeer (dims when playing movie and raises when paused or stopped) and many other integrations from simple IR remotes (biggest benefit for me): $50
  • Lamp/applicance modules: $30-50
  • Security system. Bought DSC with PIR, Panel, Case, Battery, Siren and Keypad with 16 wirelss zones: $180. Installed myself, and it runs standalone, but also hooked in HomeSeer, so when I arm the system, it kills certain lights, reduces AC or Temp in Summer, etc. Then 30 mins before I come home (or when I enter house and disarm the alarm), it increaes heat/AC and turns on certain lights before.
  • Z-Wave thermostat: $98

So, total for essentials (Software, PC, Z-Wave interface, 10 (good) switches, 1 Kindle Fire) is about $1800, but by far the best thing is that I was able to start with a few lamp modules and a USB z-wave interface. I could try the software on my laptop for 30 days and grow at a pace I was technically and financially comnfortable with (it is addictive).

Even at $1800 up front cost, I probably wouldn't have got started. It was the fact that I could try the software for 30 days (and if i really had to, put it on my wife's laptop for an additional 30 days testing) and a few hundred in USB interface and light modules (which I could sell for 70% of their value) that did it. So my total cash risk was about $50, if I canned it all and had to sell the stuff I'd bought on eBay.

The other big concern I had was choosing the right technology. Was very concerned about anything over power lines and z-wave was still fairly new. But that was the great thing about HomeSeer: I could add an interface for any technology I wanted in the future. With stuff like Control4, etc, you were stuck with ZigBee, which has very little installed base and then proprietory brands like Crestron, Lutron, et al. The latter all require dealer installation; although Lutron's new RadioRA2 system is designed more for DIY (but restricted in functionality)

If you look at stuff like Crestron, you're looking at $10K+ to get started. It must be installed by a custom installer and you're on the hook for every upgrade, every tweak, etc.

Obvously, I'm not including Sonos (about $500/zone) in the figures I quoted. There are cheaper ways with Airplay, etc. but at the time AirTunes was not that good and my wireless was too unreliable (and you had to have a PC on and iTunes running all the time).

Hope this clarifies things and shows that it really is cheap to get started and prove to yourself that it's what you want and that you can install it.

Mark are you not using one of the Homeseer controllers. I am asking this because I am curious How you would control home theater equipment. Or are you just using it for lighting and such.
Thanks
post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaydubb1 View Post

So, audio should be no more than 2 keypresses away from the homescreen with Homeseer on the Fire, correct?

Homescreen > Audio (Homeseer integration) > itunes?

Its up to you, as you design your own screens with HSTouch Designer. If audio is important, you can put it on your home screen
post #25 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuraijones View Post

Mark are you not using one of the Homeseer controllers. I am asking this because I am curious How you would control home theater equipment. Or are you just using it for lighting and such.
Thanks

There's no such thing as a HomeSeer controller. They sell a Z-wave interface called troller or somethign like that and a server with software pre-installed (not sure if they call that a controller).

To control AV euipment you need a plug-in for that brand or some kind of IR blaster. I control basic Sonos stuff via HomeSeer (with a plug-in). For managing queues, linking zones and all that stuff, I just use the Sonos Apps. I tried an Onkyo plug-in, but never bought it, as I really don't have any need for it.

I much prefer Logitech harmony for HomeThearter and AV; otherwise, you have to replicate all the harmony logic about saving current state of devices so you can switch activities properly. Plus, I don't want to have to have an iPhone or tablet next to me to control AV. Nothing's worse that picking it, up having to swipe to unlock, waiting for network to reconnect, etc. I think Harmony's are brilliant at what they do. If you do use Harmony's and start using alternative methods to control devices, the Harmony gets out of sync, as it has no idea that a device's state has changes (e.g. you turned off the TV), so when you run next activity, it's assuming the state is how IT last set it. Until AV and HT gear all has bi-directional comms, this will always be the case.

I have an IR receiver linked into HomeSeer, so I know when the TV (for example) has been turned on/off, so I can raise/dim lights, open/close shades (when I buy motorized ones)

If you have a particular scenario in mind, let me know. Maybe I'm missing the point!

Regards

mark
post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mark_anderson_u View Post

There's no such thing as a HomeSeer controller. They sell a Z-wave interface called troller or somethign like that and a server with software pre-installed (not sure if they call that a controller).

To control AV euipment you need a plug-in for that brand or some kind of IR blaster. I control basic Sonos stuff via HomeSeer (with a plug-in). For managing queues, linking zones and all that stuff, I just use the Sonos Apps. I tried an Onkyo plug-in, but never bought it, as I really don't have any need for it.

I much prefer Logitech harmony for HomeThearter and AV; otherwise, you have to replicate all the harmony logic about saving current state of devices so you can switch activities properly. Plus, I don't want to have to have an iPhone or tablet next to me to control AV. Nothing's worse that picking it, up having to swipe to unlock, waiting for network to reconnect, etc. I think Harmony's are brilliant at what they do. If you do use Harmony's and start using alternative methods to control devices, the Harmony gets out of sync, as it has no idea that a device's state has changes (e.g. you turned off the TV), so when you run next activity, it's assuming the state is how IT last set it. Until AV and HT gear all has bi-directional comms, this will always be the case.

I have an IR receiver linked into HomeSeer, so I know when the TV (for example) has been turned on/off, so I can raise/dim lights, open/close shades (when I buy motorized ones)

If you have a particular scenario in mind, let me know. Maybe I'm missing the point!

Regards

mark

I currently use a Harmony one for all my A/V equipment. I have been wanting to add some home automation to my house for a while and I have not really liked what I have found. Most stuff is just to exspensive for me. I like to do everythign myself and when I came across your Kidle thread I got very excited. I caninstall all the electrical stuff my self. I am just curious how your whole set up works. I would love to be able to control lights and doors and stuff from a big touchscreen.
The only thing I dont like abou tthe harmony one is it will mess up once in a while. But i havent really fine tuned it either.
post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuraijones View Post

I currently use a Harmony one for all my A/V equipment. I have been wanting to add some home automation to my house for a while and I have not really liked what I have found. Most stuff is just to exspensive for me. I like to do everythign myself and when I came across your Kidle thread I got very excited. I caninstall all the electrical stuff my self. I am just curious how your whole set up works. I would love to be able to control lights and doors and stuff from a big touchscreen.
The only thing I dont like abou tthe harmony one is it will mess up once in a while. But i havent really fine tuned it either.


You're going to need some kind of central controller (z-wave, Upb, Insteon, etc.). MiCasaVerde has an inexpensive one, but I have no experience with it. I think HomeSeer is great for the price and you're not tied to 1 particular technology.

I have a USB-UIRT that recieves IR commands from the Harmony and triggers HomeSeer events based on these. Works great

Regards

Mark
post #28 of 49
I totally want to see the follow up when the Kindles are framed and mounted. It might inspire me.


post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mark_anderson_u View Post

You're going to need some kind of central controller (z-wave, Upb, Insteon, etc.). MiCasaVerde has an inexpensive one, but I have no experience with it. I think HomeSeer is great for the price and you're not tied to 1 particular technology.

I have a USB-UIRT that recieves IR commands from the Harmony and triggers HomeSeer events based on these. Works great

Regards

Mark

If you dont mind could you explain in a little more detail how you are doing this, I have a pretty good ideah but I just want to make sure.
I am definatly wanting to use home seer, I like how I can create my own stuff.
post #30 of 49
Any updates on the mounting brackets? Pictures or sources?
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