Honing in on Home Automation

Recently I had a chance to visit one of my favorite techie parallel universes: the world of home/SMB automation, the smart house and home entertainment. On my tour I had a chance to meet with many vendors showing their latest wares. I think I have found a few diamonds in the rough and thought I would share what caught my attention.

As you probably already know, the dividing line between security and home/building automation is blurring. Your customers are becoming more tech savvy and expect the intelligent home of today to provide electronic security as an integral part of their new home automation systems. How many of you are currently offering a higher end security/home automation panel with these features when selling to your security prospects?

Following is an overview of several suppliers, technologies, products and training resources worth closer scrutiny.

Global Cache Inc. I have mentioned this company before and it is still taking the lead at connecting, controlling and automating almost any common device over a network. As the number of homes and businesses with broadband Internet and networking capability has skyrocketed, so has the number of people who want to take advantage of their connected environments.

Beyond access to information and services, the networked home and business can be so much more. Using network-based automation and control software, you can be safer, more energy efficient, and have more convenience and fun.

Check out Global Caché‘s GC-100 network adapter, where the most commonly used devices can easily be managed and accessed via network-based software. The unique modular mix-and-match design allows integrators, installers and OEMs to control diverse systems such as entertainment, security, lighting and irrigation in a cost-effective manner.

ELK Products Inc. — Another old favorite of mine is still going strong with the established ELK M1 Gold system and, especially, the new ELK-TS071 7-inch color touchscreen. The M1 system is commonly referred to as a cross-platform control due to the fact it can be networked with other industry standard systems.

A 500+ word vocabulary pleasantly announces system status, configurable in any sequence, to alleviate user intimidation. The built-in voice dialer can call up to eight phone numbers and alert owners of status changes such as critical temperature levels, water leaks, children arriving home from school, etc. Built-in telephone remote control allows you to control temperature settings, water heater, garage door, lighting and sprinklers, plus arming/disarming the system and more by simply picking up any phone.

B.E.S. Manufacturing — Another favorite of mine and home of the Wire Python magnetic wire snake. If you have never caught this company’s wire fishing contest at tradeshows make sure you do next time. B.E.S. has a few new tools that have drawn my attention.

One is the Laserline, which accurately shoots a pull line 120 feet. WOW. And you guessed it, the device uses a laser beam to sight your target above the ceiling. So be on the lookout the next time you have your head in the ceiling and hear, “Incoming!”

Another exciting new tool is the Quattro auger flex bit. This amazing drill bit features four fluted cutting edges. This allows for rapid cutting and makes drilling an effortless task.

ihiji Inc. — Here is a company that originally slipped under my radar as its cloud-based remote monitoring solution invision was named winner of the 2010 CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) Manufacturers’ Excellence Award for Best New Product. 

The ihiji remote monitoring appliance reports any data from the end user’s equipment to the central management and monitoring backend server. The Web interface allows the dealer to monitor this data, configure notification parameters and run historical reports. The reports can help dealers identify trends or problems with specific equipment across a single or multiple installations. A dealer can also analyze data to help determine time of day or intermittent problems.

Remote, in-the-cloud, two-way monitoring communications provide real-time remote system restart, reboot and repair. Just think of the time and money saved on a service call in which you do not have to fire up the service truck. The invision system can monitor most information that is supplied by a manufacturer’s device. Customer modules for legacy systems (RS-232) that can easily pass data between the control system and ihiji server have also been developed. Get real-time alerts to tech staff via E-mail or SMS messaging.

ESPA Certified EST Review — The home/SMB automation and security industries have a common concern, the availability of skilled technicians. One program addressing this issue is the Electronic Systems Technician (EST) certification program. Two organizations, the Electronic Security Professionals Alliance (ESPA) and CEDIA, have joined forces to train and prepare candidates for EST certification. The EST program is also supported and used by many vocational technical schools around the country.

Transformative Engineering Inc. — It is a good thing any time you can reduce and consolidate your truck inventory. TE has the Omni-Balun, which converts analog video into Cat-5/6 and allows 1,080i resolution up to 300 feet. It also includes 2x IR-pass connections.

Intelix — One hot area for both security and SMB automation is digital signs. They are popping up everywhere and used for such things as advertising and emergency evacuation. Intelix makes a variety of modules that allow for HDMI extended over Cat-5/6 (see photo) and HD over existing coax. The latter caught my attention in that you could use these modules to upgrade existing coax to HD monitors. The DIGI-HD-COAX Series can easily daisy chain to multiple monitors. It also uses a process called HDshak to control bandwidth for reliable HD transmission over Category cabling.

Bob Dolph has served in various technical management and advisory positions in the security industry for 30+ years. Check out his Tech Shack blog.

[IMAGE]12123[/IMAGE]Tech Talk Tool Tip

You remember our introduction of the EZ-RJ45 from Platinum Tools way back in 2002? Well now there is the EZ-SnapJack. You may never need a punchdown tool again for wall jacks.

This device will allow you to repair damaged jacks on the spot. They are reusable, and save time and money. Now your tool bag will be lighter with no punchdown tool in it.

The Emergence of HDBaseT

The 10/100 Base-T standard has a new brother and it is called HDBaseT. The HDBaseT Alliance recently announced 23 new members including the likes of Crestron and Tyco. The alliance, which was founded by LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Pictures Entertainment, has been growing steadily since June 2010.

HDBaseT delivers all-in-one, HD multimedia connectivity using an existing cable and connector. Using a 1,000-meter/328-foot, Cat-5e/6 LAN cable with standard RJ-45 connectors that are already installed in many homes, HDBaseT simultaneously s
ends the 5Play feature set – full HD video, audio, Internet, power (100W) and controls — throughout the home or commercial setting.

Experts say this technology is useful, but presently is not considered an “HDMI killer.” However, I would keep an eye out for future equipment coming with an HDBaseT jack.




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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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