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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Looking at a whole house system of crestron. I'm not happy with the wire needed for the system, rs232 with serial connectors (old school).


Is there any competitive products that work with current technology, like cat5 wire?


Thank you

Jim
 

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If you are wanting something that runs on ethernet protocol you could try something like Premise Systems. Crestron uses a wire called cresnet. One of the reps told me that you can use cat5 in place of it though. This network then runs to an interface box of some sort depending on the device to be controlled. I'm sure if one of the dealers sees this they will jump in also. But out of all control systems Crestron is hardly "old school".
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I would love for some dealers to jump in. This is a big project for us and I don't have a lot of time to investigate all the alternatives.


I guess you could say I'm trying to cheat :D


Please keep the input coming.
 

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Cat5 can be used for the control wiring to the touchpanels and keypads. RS232 is used to control the components. The components all have RS232 connections on the back. They do not have RJ45 connections. Old school or not, RS232 is the choice. Yes, I'm a dealer. ;)
 

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Compared to systems like CQC , I think it's fair to say that Crestron, which is based on centralized, proprietary hardware, is a bit old school. Newer systems are more likely to be PC based and use commodity hardware for the most part, and in CQC's case be network based and distributed.


But it's being based on serial control is hardly old school since almost everything controllable via anything besides IR is based on serial connections. Some sockets over ethernet stuff is starting to come along, but serial is still king for better or worse (probably for worse.)


Though wireless systems might seem more whiz bang, and they are in a way, they are not no-brainers. They'll never be as reliable and as secure as hard wired systems.
 

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1. Every Crestron processor either comes with an Ethernet connection or has one available as an option. In fact it (Ethernet) is the preferred method of linking multiple Crestron processors (whether throughout a house or across town) and we do it ALL the time.


2. Almost all of the standalone Crestron modules (relay, analog input/output etc.) also feature full Ethernet connectivity. Want to control a bunch of equipment on the other side of the house without running numerous cables for IR and serial control of each component? No problem, just drop one of these http://www.crestron.com/products/sho...ubcat=36&id=69 near the components you want to control and connect via Ethernet. This is just one module. There are many, many others.


3. Of course Crestron also allows serial control, IR control and many other interfaces. 99% of the professional products on the market use RS-232 and any system worth its salt is going to use RS-232. Ditto for IR.


4. The higher end Crestron touchscreens do have an Ethernet connection but the lower end touchscreens do not. I'm not sure that's a bad thing and in fact I'm not aware of a SINGLE other manufacturer on the market that does have Ethernet on their touchscreens or touchpenels (keep in mind that just because a keypad wires with Cat 5 does NOT = Ethernet). Since the touchscreens are communicating with a processor that does have an Ethernet connection, there is little to no reason to have an Ethernet conection in the touchscreen in most instances. If you want to play it safe, have a Cat 5 homerun to every touchscreen location for future use in addition to the Cresnet shielded 2 pr. cable.


5. Crestron can be controlled (with some programming) from any number of ethernet devices from a Pocket PC to laptop to an Internet PC. They are also working to make it easier for third party hardware to interface with their system. For instance, the new Philips Pronto "tablet" (not yet released) or whatever it is called will be able to interface with a Crestron system and operate like it was a Crestron touchscreen (but I'm not promising anything since it's not out yet).


6. Crestron is not based on centralized hardware unless you want it to be. We link multiple Crestron systems throughout homes all the time. One system to control the theater, another to control the multi-room system etc., all connected via Ethernet. This type if distributed layout allows for a high level of redundancy (if one system goes down the other system continues to operate) but the two systems can still communicate in a seamless fashion. Crestron's new lighting system is the first residential lighting system to allow for a backup processor, if the first fails, the second takes over.


Crestron isn't for everyone but for the lucky souls that can afford it there is nothing else like it. It is the best of the best (but MAKE SURE your dealer knows what they are doing). It is one of those very few instances in which a company truly dominates their market. There only real competition is AMX and I would only suggest you take a look at their stock price to decide if you want to do business with them.


I should note that I am a dealer.
 

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Ok, so they are a bit more network aware that I thought. Of course, the argument for PC based systems is that:


1. They do a lot of other things as well, so multi-function vs. dedicated

2. They are commodity so price competition keeps them very affordable. So you can get in relatively inexpensively, and scale up as your plans grow. Even a pretty high end dual CPU machine, with lots of memory and RAID drives, and lots of ports, can be had these days for a few thousand dollars. And a complete control system can be hosted on a $600 or $700 machine plus a hundred bucks for the extra ports and whatever you get XP Home for, it just won't be as redundant and robust as a more serious machine with ECC memory and RAID drives.

3. Many people are going go have them anyway, so why buy an expensive proprietary hardware system and control it with the computer when you can just the computers you already have to do the work to begin with.

4. The computer is already a well understood interface, so in many applications, why add another (again expensive) client interface such as a touch screen when you already have a powerful and flexible interface in front of you. Of course in many other applications the touch screen or pad is better, but computer based systems can use touch pads and touch screens as well.

5. Computer based systems can control anything, at least those like CQC that are driver based. If the device is USB, then it can be controlled. If it Firewire, it can be controlled. If its available on a PCI plug in board, it can be controlled. Any interface that is available under the Windows OS (or whatever you happen to be using) can be controlled from the PC based systems. They don't require the addition of new architcture to proprietary hardware to support them.
 

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Jim


A list of your equipment or things you would like to have happen would help here.


Kind of like walking into a car lot and saying I want a car but not a Ford.


Needing some details here!


Crestron is the way to go. Has my vote over the other guys. Solid track record, but I not going to waste time trying to change your mind. You will find out in the end. Very confident of that.


Dave

(dealer)
 

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Dean:


All that is fine and dandy except for one thing. "Normal" people DON'T want to control their home from a PC type interface. I'm about as much of a computer geek as a person can be but the last thing I want to do when I want to adjust the lights or music in a room is walk over to a PC to do it. Nor do I want to use a pocket PC (though both options are nice and possible with Creston). Even Microsoft has completely given up on this model! Why do you think Bill Gates is pushing so hard for "Media Centers" and trying to expand beyind the PC. When you used to visit CES, Microsoft would have laptops set up all over a home "vignette". Go to see them at next CEDIA expo and see their demos now. They are moving away from that model because it's not what people want. That's why Bill Gates keeps emphasizing again and again how computing needs to be made easier for the average person and that the PC will become just one of many interfaces.


As far as using a PC as the server and using cheap hardware etc. that may well be the future but it is a myth right now if a person wants a powerful reliable system with good interfaces. It doesn't exist. When I talk to Premise Systems, or any similar vendor and start to ask "can I do this" and "can I do this", they immediately start to stammer and tell me how "well, this is the future and as soon as the web tablets come out you will be able to do this" and "in the next few years you will be able to do this" etc. But they can't do it now!


Don't get me wrong. You can do some incredible things with PC based systems and I am not opposed to them and I believe they can offer very good value for the money for many people. But SO FAR, they just can't do the same types of things that Crestron can do. With Crestron I can have my cake and eat it too. And I don't lose any ability.


And lets not confuse the issue of "propietary". Microsft Windows, Oracle 9i and just about every other piece of PC software is propietary (as you know). Crestron is more propietary than a Dell computer. It doesn't use an off the shelf CD ROM or audio card but otherwise it's pretty good. Their entire existence is based on being able to interface with other components. About the only exception is their keypads, because you can't replace a Crestron touchscreen with an AMX toucscreen, but you CAN use an AMX touchscreen if you interfaced an AMX system with a Crestron system. And you can use the Crestron Ethernet interface to add any touchscreen in the world (pocket PC, web tablet etc.) if it can talk over Ethernet.


p.s. Crestron doesn't crash :).
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jimbjr
I would love for some dealers to jump in. This is a big project for us and I don't have a lot of time to investigate all the alternatives.


I guess you could say I'm trying to cheat :D


Please keep the input coming.
Jim, are you building a new house? The urgency makes me think that you are. If so, if you follow some basic pre-wire principles you don't have to decide on a particular system now. With a proper pre-wire you can use just about any system later.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by AJF
Jim, are you building a new house? The urgency makes me think that you are. If so, if you follow some basic pre-wire principles you don't have to decide on a particular system now. With a proper pre-wire you can use just about any system later.
This is true to some extent but if Jim is not a do-it-yourselfer this can be a tough road to travel. Most higher end successful designers/installers are not interested in complicated prewires (which SHOULD involve CAD blueprints etc.) without a commitment from the client on a system. And it's not because we are greedy or arrogant. I simply do not have the time to invest in a complicated system design and prewire on the promise of a "maybe" because we are not making our money on the pre-wire. Labor is somewhat of a loss leader for many businesses of our type and is offset by the profit involved in the equipment sale.
 

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I certainly don't begin to claim CQC can do all that a Crestron system can do. I would say that, if they are sitting in front of the computer, they want to control the system with the computer. If they are in front of the touch screen, they want to control it with the touch screen. If they are using their PPC, they want to control it with the PPC.


It's true that Crestron has been around for a long time, and has a very worked out architcture. Of course, that's both a good and a bad thing. Obviously if you need to do a lot of stuff right now, you will be more interested in a well established system. But, before too long, their proprietary architecture could well begin to disavantage them against faster moving software based systems, who have other companies doing all of their hardware development for them for free basically.


Basically, Crestron is the Apple model, and systems like CQC are the PC model. Everyone always thought the Apple was better technically, but it lost nonetheless because it was more proprietary and therefore more expensive. Eventually, because of the huge number of vendors creating hardware for the PC architecture, and the ability for software based systems to take advantage of that vast pool of components, they will win in the same way that the PC pushed out the Apple.


They may never be able to claim to be 'better' or more 'elegant', but they'll do 90% as good for %25 the cost, and that's an advantage that cannot be beaten. It will slowly squeeze vendors like Crestron up into only the very top of the top of the control system customer demographic.
 

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Dean:


I agree with a lot of your points but not all of them :). For one thing, the issue of plug and play and the "cheap PC model" is somewhat of a myth. The PC model is cheap if you go to Best Buy and pay $600.00 for a desktop. Now start to network 10 of those cheap PC's, run SQL Server, Exchange or your application of choice on the network server and host a web site and what do you have? Likely over 10K in sofware and God knows what type of consulting bill if you don't have an internal IT person you pay a hefty salary to maintain the system. Now add a hundred cheap PC's (let's assum you're a business) and your probably spending several hundred thousand dollars a year to maintain your "cheap PC's".


And the point is that this is closer to what a complicated home network that controls lighting and audio/video and HVAC etc. is like. Years away from truly being cheap or "plug and play" and from the "average person" being able to install it.


As for Crestron, the Apple comparison is not correct. http://www.ehonline.com/archives/CEP0902Control.htm

BTW, many PC companies and highly technical companies use Crestron systems! I believe I've even seen pictures of Microsoft offices using them.
 

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A common home network would be something like a server in the closet and a PC in each bedroom probably. And you have to distribute the cost of the PCs because they are bought for multi-purpose uses, not just for the control system. Many homes will already have these computers in place before they even get the control system, because they have them for other purposes. A business is clearly going to already have the computers, so its a non-cost for control system purposes, unless they want to get a dedicated server for the backend.


You don't need a PC everywhere there are things to control. Just put an ethernet based box there and control it from any computer you want to have controlling it. There are boxes from RocketPort, Quatech, and Global Cache that will provide serial, contact and IR that are all ethernet based.


CQC at least (though I can't speak for other systems) doesn't require anything like SQL server or any other expensive back end apps. It is a completely standalone system that doesn't depend on any third party software other than XP or W2K. It can easily run on a $700 PC running XP Home. But, it can also run on a 4 way PIV system and it will completely utilize that extra firepower since it scales very well, if you want that kind of firepower. But the control functionality of CQC doesn't require much power at all. It uses less than a percent of the CPU and network on my 700Mhz laptop when I'm using it to control all the devices in my home theater and X-10 stuff (8 devices) and running the client interface which is displaying all of the available information from those devices. So clearly there's lots of room there to scale up even on that pretty woefully performant laptop.


I'm planning on selling the core CQC package for around $200, which will be a pretty darned capable platform. I'll obviously allow for some amount of accessorization over time with optional services for those folks who want them. And that's a 'network license', which licenses you to install one 'master server' backend, and you can then run as many controllers and clients as you want and the system can tolerate. That's not going to be a huge expense to turn your network into a control system.


But, regardless, if both system require an installer, the installer costs cancel out and it still comes down to the cost of the systems involved.
 

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Dean:


Like I said, PC control may be fine for some people but it's hardly how I want to control my surround sound system from my bed.
Quote:
Originally posted by Dean Roddey
CQC at least (though I can't speak for other systems) doesn't require anything like SQL server or any other expensive back end apps.


I wasn't suggesting any did. I was just pointing out the myth of the "cheap PC model" as soon as you start to add real networked applications to them.
Quote:
But, regardless, if both system require an installer, the installer costs cancel out and it still comes down to the cost of the systems involved.
NOT necessarily! The amount of time we spend maintaining a Crestron type system pales in comparison to the amount of time that is required to maintain and take support calls on a "similar" PC network. Also, the last thing I want is to have my clients running their critical home automation systems from a PC that is also used for gaming, downloading Internet viruses etc. :).


I don't know if this applies to you Dean but I often find that programmers, engineers and other technical types are out of touch with just how "user unfriendly" the PC is to the "average person". Most people that use a PC use it the way I use my Microsoft oven - I put the food in and press the "60 second button" 3 times :D. Keep in mind that 90% of the public probably doesn't understand the difference between the Internet and AOL, don't understand how to protect their PC's from viruses etc. "Average" people DON'T want to run their home from PCs throughout the home.
 

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You keep confusing a PC based system with everything being done vai the PC interface. It's quite possible that the PC will never even be seen by the user if that's how they want to do it. CQC allows you to control it via IR remote, and will soon start support key pads, and I'm just about done with an XML gateway that will allow some of the PPC guys to support it. Anyway, the basic point is that a PC based system can be controlled from as many different types of input mechanisms as a Crestron system is, it just allows for a Windows interface as one of the options.


CQC is a secure system with user roles, so its not like every person can just sit down at the computer and change anything about the system they want. Only system administrators can change important things. Power users have a few rights more than normal users so that they can help with some maintenance chores, normal users are what most family members would be and they can't do anything that hasn't been set up for them, and limited users are guests and they can just run a single drawn interface and can therefore only access what is available to them from that interface.


If a particular client PC in the kid's bedroom get's abused a lot, it makes no difference to the backend server in the closet. It isn't going to destablize the control system.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Dean Roddey
You keep confusing a PC based system with everything being done vai the PC interface.


No I'm not. See my next comment.
Quote:
It's quite possible that the PC will never even be seen by the user if that's how they want to do it. CQC allows you to control it via IR remote, and will soon start to support key pads...
And I agree that's great and as soon as some of the PC based systems start to offer some really good and flexible touchscreen and keypad interfaces along with enhanced software I think the potential is there.


I have to download your software and play with it. The last time I was going to you told me to wait until the next version in a week or two and I never followed up on it.
 

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0.8.0 is the current official version available for open download. Send me your direct e-mail and I'll send you the user name and password to get the current 0.8.1 preview version which is just about to come out. My long term users are validating it, but it looks very good and you might as well get that if are going to get it. If you haven't done it by the weekend, 0.8.1 will probably have been posted for general download as well.
 

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After reading through this whole thread, it ends up with crestron basically being the standard for control systems.


It seems like CQS would be sufficient for a 1 or 2 room limited control system. Home theater, etc. But I don't see it scaling to a whole house system that can encompass a complete lighting system, home audio/video switching and control, security, and hvac. It definitely is possible, but it would have to end up as the second option for controlling everything. The lighting systems control pads would need to be installed in every room, audio controls in every room, etc. It's just not practical to put a computer in say the master bathroom. You would have to have a computer in every room. Add in the cost of say a $1100 computer (You really don't want CRT monitors and big towers everywhere), a donation of $200+ per computer to Micro$oft, etc. Plus servers which requires a big donation of $1000+ to Microsoft. And then the realization that your whole life is in the hands of Microsoft would make me run and hide.


With crestron though, they provide most of the hardware you need to make anything you want, work. And it's been tested, and guaranteed to work together. In places like bathrooms, you can put a small touchpad, or a cheaper keypad which can control any aspect of the system. You can easily make a button on the keypad adjust the lighting controls, play audio, or adjust the hvac system. This just isn't possible with computers right now though. And if you want to control something through a computer, using e-control you can.


But I'm not saying computers are out of the arena for home control. It's just going to require a lot more work to push it into the masses. Most of this is going to be impossible for a small software company to do, but with some work and dedication a company can make a pretty big presence.


The first step would be to make your own hardware. I would suggest using a custom linux distribution as your operating system to eliminate the licensing fee's to Microsoft, and increase stability. User's don't need a blue screen of death, and their whole house going dark when they preform an illegal instruction. An all in one computer, close to the tablet computers and the Apple iMac.


Ethernet is a must I would say. You just need to develop modules that provide IR, Serial Support. Even use another company to make them, and then resell them. Maybe ethernet capable keypads?


I see offering a complete solution very important. You start to loose the ease of use when you start to tell people to look to using other companies products for fundamental support of IR and serial control.


It still has a long way to come to be at the same level as crestron. For now I would recommend people to look at crestron.
 

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Once again, don't confuse a computer based system with having to do everything through a computer. This was discussed above. A computer based system can be controlled in as many ways as any other, it just provides the option of being controlled via the very rich and powerful computer GUI. The bulk of the system is the back end, not the cliients. Though it is very nice nice to have a standard PC interface to do system configuration, even if you don't use as much on a daily basis.


Also, the old tales of Windows as being unstable is a long since dispelled myth. XP Pro on quality hardware is rock solid. I know because I and many other beat them very hard every single day and they never even blink, doing heavily multi-tasking and multi-threading operations. If you want to just throw any old random el-cheapo components into a box, yes you can have troubles, as would be the case with any system. But get a box from Dell, for instance, with a well tested configuration running XP Pro, and it will solid as a rock. I have never, ever had XP glitch on me on my three systems, which I use for very hard core development (which is far more abusive than running a control system.) And I had a 4th, XP based HTPC for a good while and it was solid as a rock also.


As to asking people to look to other companies for parts of the solution, that's as much a benefit as an issue. But, the other way around, trying to do it all yourself, is impossible to sustain against the massive economies of scale of the whole computer and electronics industry. No one can compete against the combined engineering prowess of all of the companies out there.


If the software solution is what it is supposed to be, it will providing the integration of those components into a coherent whole, and present a consistent view of them all. And, let's face it, a lot of the devices that must be controlled will never be made by Crestron, and they are required to be well controlled in order to be successful (e.g. HVAC, security, A/V, etc...) Given that, saying that using a third party IR blaster or serial card diminishes the ease of use is kind of questionable.


And, I believe that as more and more homes *are* networked, and more and more high end homes are, then the ability to monitor and control the home from the laptop or workstation that you happen to be working on will be an increasingly important aspect of the 'home platform'. And, if you have kids, the ability to have a user based, secure system in which you can give them control over only what they should have control over is nice as well. For some folks, limiting the control of very sensitive systems to only the computer interface might be justified by such security concerns.
 
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