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Discussion Starter #1
Rant begin:
As more hi tech hardware is becoming self install, why does this industry seem to stonewall the DIYer? If I were to hazard a guess it would appear many of the HA devices out today started life as a security system or extension of one. Not one is open source but instead would prefer to nickel and dime every possible option. Worse yet is some designs appear to have been designed in the 1980s with no incentive to bring modern parts into the mix. Paying for someone to ship me physical ROM IC upgrades is really old school, opening the box and prying out ICs to install an updated OS is so 1980s.

I believe an open source collective effort could result in a very powerful HA system that doesn't need expensive custom vendors specific control panels (iPads) and a team of technicians to do even the most basic functions.

A typical connected family probably has 75% of the gear they need already in their home. A WiFi router, some computers with a web browser. It's figured Apple will have sold 12 Million iPads by the end of 2010, this is an incredible device that could easily be used as a HA / HVAC remote.

I would simply like to see some of the electrical items in the house to be connected, I don't see the need to spend $50k to do it for a typical home. I'm not talking about the monster homes where $50k is a drop in the bucket but for a typical working family home.

I'm an embedded engineer who specializes in microcontrollers so I can build such a device if the demand exists. I'm not a marketer so if I'm wrong I'd like to hear why.
Rant pause:
 

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This already exists with Insteon, UBP, old school x10 etc then of course just a DIY interface/controller such as ELK, homeseer, Indigo, vera etc

People just need to think upfront and install the controllers or wiring if building from scratch or just retrofit the controls in place. It does not cost a huge fortune to convert to UBP or insteon control for lighting and plugs. Add a $150 IP controllable thermostat to replace the existing thermostat then just add your desired control interface be it hardware or software and you have full lighting and hvac controlled home or office.

My office runs an $500 Elk M1gold panel and I have complete programing control over the entire system with the free supplied software. Everything from 4 zone multizone HVAC, electronic Door locks with rf access, security, cameras, occupancy sensors for some light control(adding full office light control the next couple of months with just replacing two pre planned light switches )

Everything is controllable from any browser anywhere in the world, even on my cell phone if I get an app.

Such a system for a home with a single zone furnace would likley cost a DIY'er less than $2000
I do plan on automating my home in the next few years using the same system.

So It is totally doable NOW, most all the diy HA systems have a relativly inexpensive if not free apple or android app.
 

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In rethinking your post, are you looking specifically for a FREE Open source software interface to control existing hardware devices? or creating the hardware devices, im a tad confused now. There is open source software out there I dont think I can post the link but if you google "home automation software free" the top link is a good source
 

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Yeah, it sounds to me like you may just be looking in the wrong places. What systems are you talking about that require you to swap ICs to do upgrades? I don't doubt they exist but there are plenty of alternatives out there.

I'm also not sure what open source vs proprietary has to do with anything. There are many proprietary systems out there that also have a thriving user community who openly share plugins, customizations, tweaks, etc, etc. There is also already a major trend towards commodity devices like the iPad, smartphones, etc. moving across the entire industry. Creston, AMX, Control4, etc. all have iPad and smartphone apps. Savant recently announced they were going to stop manufacturing their own touchscreens and instead use the iPad/iPhone/iTouch exclusively.

Don't get me wrong - I'm always up for having more choices available and open source does have its benefits so I would certainly welcome any such effort. However, as ctown pointed out there are already many options out there at all price points.
 

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Feel free to post links to open source software or recommend commercial software. We just don't want blatant sales pitches by newcomers or commercial representatives.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
IMO The closed black box controller has got to go. I'm trying to take the mystery out of the HA / HVAC world. That said some folks want it all and are willing to pay for it, that's fine, but wouldn't it be nice to have an HA / HVAC controller for the rest of us. I'm not talking about distributed audio and home theater but basic control of a typical home. ie: lights, thermostat for starters.

What I propose is:

Open source hardware. This is something I can design (of course the more suggestions / feedback I get the better the initial design) and would make the schematics and documentation available to anyone. I've already begun the groundwork and am reviewing a MIPs core MPU with Ethernet, OTG USB, Six serial ports and more on a single inexpensive IC. Throw in a handful of relays and some inputs and you have the heart of an HA / HVAC controller. I'm going to try to keep the target price around $200.

The hardware as of today are a 32bit MIPs microcontroller with
1 10/100 Ethernet
1 USB
6 relays
4 general purpose or opto-isolated inputs
2 RS485 ports
2 RS232 ports expandable to 4 (may include onboard XBee Pro or ZigBee)
1 IR blaster port
1 onboard temperature sensor (freeze sensor)

Open source firmware. Take Linux for example, look what the community can do if source code is available. There are a lot of really smart people out there with ideas far outreaching anything I've envisioned. You want a feature or have a better way to do something now's your chance. The IDE is free and the C compiler has a free academic version available to anyone. The programming hardware is cheap $50 and a bootloader will be part of the programming so the device can be user updated either via Ethernet or USB.

Just like your PC this device can be customized for the application. Firmware could be upgraded, customized or completely rewritten. It's possible even for user programs to be added or a simple interpreter onboard to run inline code.

What it must be is inexpensive, reliable and low power. What I don't want is something chewing through current like a full blown PC, you just don't need that sort of horsepower to turn lights on and off or run the furnace. What's the point in turning off the light when you've got a 300W PC running 24/7
 

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For the record, I would love to see this come to something tangible. Having it be capable of electrical consumption would be nice as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Having it be capable of electrical consumption would be nice as well.
Please clarify? Do you mean reading your Hydro meter or low power consumption?

Use Arduinos, networked with Zigbee radios.
Actually I'm looking at using a Ethernet enabled PIC32MX695F512H with a small PIC alongside for the timing sensitive things like IR & iButtons. ZigBee is popular in HA and it's pretty easy to find RS232 to ZigBee bridges.
 

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I have an Arduino reading my power meter here in Ontario. It is not that hard.

Mine is a super low-tech solution -- the Ontario Hydro smart meters all have an infrared port on the front that generates a 5ms pulse every watt-hour of consumption. All you have to do is count them.

The Black and Decker power monitor thingies that you can buy in H-D work exactly this way. I have one of those and wound up frustrated that I could not get the data that it obviously had into Excel.
 

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FYI, the Landis and Gyr FOCUS meters used by HydroOne do not have an infrared output, and they won't work with the Black and Decker/Blueline Innovations products.
 

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Interesting. Here in the Ottawa area all I've seen is Elsters and they all seem to have the IR port.

In theory you should be able to talk to them with their wireless Zigbee interface, but that's a little trickier than I am ready for. Presumably the Landis+Gyr units have interoperable networking in them.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I've been working all weekend to get a hardware design that's practical and doable. Based on PIC expert opinions I've dropped the 32MX in favor of the more popular 18F87J60 with a smaller PIC acting as the IR & 1wire encoder plus tertiary serial port.
Also ZigBee has been added as a built in device.

In a nutshell the device will have:

1 Ethernet
1 RS232/422/485 full flow control
1 RS232 full flow control
1 ZigBee ($20 XBee S2 & S2P are now ZigBee compliant)
1 128k SPI EEPROM
3 Relays
3 IR blaster outputs
1 38kHz IR sensor
4 GPIO
1 temperature sensor (simply for freezing pipes)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
After pouring through all your comments here and in several other forums I'm getting very near to the final specification before I begin drawing the schematic.
I've settled on a main MPU (PIC32MX695F512H) and most of the I/O options.

1 Ethernet
1 XBee S2 (ZigBee)
2 DE9 serial ports DTE (1 RS485,422,232. programmable to 5 ports by double duty, the CTS/RTS & DTR/DSR pins can be made RX/TX pins!)
3 Relays (1 NO/NC, 2 NO)
1 RTCC with trickle charger (DS1388)

Suggestions needed on

SD card or micro SD mounted internally or 256kB of SPI EEPROM?

Four 1/8" stereo jacks with various I/O from IR out, IR in, GPIO, analog, 1wire. Making it versatile as it's technically eight I/O lines (two per jack) all under control of a secondary PIC. I'm trying to keep it from getting jumper happy so I'd appreciate your comments on what you'd like to see with four 1/8" phone jacks. If I left something out do tell.

PS name suggestions also appreciated. Magnus One? DUCK?
 

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What is the SD card for? If it is for firmware, scripting, or logging, I would choose SD card likely. It would be cheaper to go with full SD card. You can get smaller sizes cheap I think.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Based on advice from this and other forums it's shaping up like this.

Product description.

32MX695F512L (80MHz, 512k, 128k)
10/100 Ethernet
Two DE9 RS232/422/485 serial ports can be split for up to four RS232 ports
(CD pins are capture inputs and can be used for IR in via TSOPxxxx)
(DTR & DSR are TTL level compatible)
Socket for ZigBee (XBee S2 or S2P)
Three relays
Three IR blaster jacks
(can be internally jumpered to control external small signal relays)
Four GPIO
I2C expansion connector (internal & RJ6)
SPI RTCC (DS139x) with supercap & trickle charger
SPI SD card slot
8 position DIP switch (address (4), serial mode(4))
JTAG & PICKit3 headers
9V-37V power connector, Power over Ethernet (Sparkfun variation)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Just an update on the project if anyone is still interested, I've begun work on the schematics for the yet unnamed I/O extender / controller.

The 10/100 PNY IC has been dropped as it uses the same pins as two of the UARTs, an ENC28J60 10Mb(SPI) will fill its shoes. Also 315/433 TX/RX sockets will probably be added.

Product description.

32MX575F512L (80MHz, 512k, 128k)
10Mb Ethernet using the ENC28J60
Two DE9 RS232/422/485 serial ports can be split for up to four RS232 ports
USB OTG port (mostly for Flash drives)
(CD pins are capture inputs and can be used for IR in via TSOPxxxx)
(DTR & DSR are TTL level compatible)
Socket for ZigBee (XBee S2 or S2P)
Three relays
Three IR blaster jacks
(can be internally jumpered to control external small signal relays)
Four GPIO
I2C expansion connector (internal & RJ6)
SPI RTCC (DS139x) with supercap & trickle charger
SPI SD card slot or 2x 25AA1024 EEPROM
8 position DIP switch (address (4), serial mode(4))
JTAG & PICKit3 headers
Possible 315/433MHz RX/TX sockets
9V-37V power connector, Power over Ethernet (Sparkfun variation)
 

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Hi blueroomelectro,
I'm hoping to learn from your experience. I've only started digging deep into the home automation subject recently and am having a hard time find an open source solution. My immediate goal is to have security monitoring (contacts, motion detectors, maybe video), HVAC, some lighting integrated. My house is currently under construction, so I can wire anyway which is $ practical.

Regarding software, I'm wanted to base any hardware solution around LinuxMCE. It seems to be well developed, and is also available as a commercial product with hardware (www.plutohome.com). I watched a flash presentation on that site and it opened my eyes to the possibilities for HA- though I've been unable to find any prices.

KNX is an open standard and is my preference for filtering the hardware possibilities.

Then again, my needs are pretty simple (for now), so I'd probably go with the cheapest hardware that does the job with opensource software.
 
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