Posts Tagged ‘Smarthome’

Here is a quick breakdown of a  Insteon TriggerLinc I use for notifying me upon mail arrival using a external ‘normally open’ contact.

Components needed;

Insteon TriggerLinc goes for $34
Normal Open contact (These come in all shapes and sizes) i chose a minuature one which I spray panted black to match the color of the box.
Here is a link to a few, they run for around $2-3.   See here
Small screwdriver.
Double sided tape
Can of spray paint.

And finally the insteon device you wish to link it to (In my case I linked it to my PLM so I can then act accordingly such as notify via flash lights, email, etc.)
You really dont need a fancy Pc system for notification since you can attach this to any insteon device using the tap/tap method if you like but be aware the light will go off when it closes.  But you do need a access point to capture the signal.  In my case the closest access point is a good 100 feet!!!

As seen in the picture, The TriggerLinc comes with its own contact/magnet but you have the limitation that you need to have the base unit near by.  Good news is that the device allows you to attach external contacts like I did here.  The box opens very easily.

You can see the wires coming out from the bottom right hand side. (No special order needed)
Note: I used a rechargeable ‘Solar’ battery which hasn’t failed me yet. You can find this
at places like Home Depot under lighting section.  They run for around $7 for 4 double ‘A”s.

First I spray painted the contact to match the color of the mailbox (Flat Black)

Finished product.  🙂

Connected and ready to go. (I used double side ‘3M-picture frame’  tape which you can find at any
Walgreens or Homedepot store)

For my mailbox the device sits comfortably underneath but you can also use Velcro to hid the device if needed.

The cables I pass thru one of the small holes on the left hand side. I used glue to tape secure the cables on the side of the mailbox
then another quick spray of black paint.  🙂

Finished product.

What you will get on your side will be the traditional ON/OFF insteon commands.
In my case I have a notification sent to a PC console as well as emails sent to myself.

Ok, Ive got switches turning on and off, but I want more!. More googling and browsing around the sites I found that there is even devices to talk and read what the insteon network is doing. This is also available for X10 but what really interested me was the ability to get the status of the device, for example when you turned it on, you can get a confirmation that it really was received and really ‘on’.? After saving up a little I ended up purchasing the serial interface. They come also in USB and even modem versions. But what interested me was I like to be able to get the direct connection with the device and bypass all the usb stuff plus I had the ability to download ‘timers’ if the PC wasn’t going to be used all the time. Below is a picture of the unit. It includes all the necessary hardware. including the rj45 to serial cable.

The best part is you can download the PC software (referred to as SDM) , and all is done thru COM objects. The way COM objects work is that you can reference the device by any programming language it and it automatically sorts strings back to you (In a sort of way). A very good site which has even examples that got me started can be found here. I’ve even posted some of the code below which I expanded for VB 2005 so I’ll put some example referencing the object. It you look at any of the switch and even the external ones you’ll see the 3 Hex characters, each unique to each device. So once you start see the data flow you will see these addresses inside of them, some as responding and some as replying. Once you plug in the code you will see what I mean, I have found using a excel sheet to keep all these addresses makes like much easier.

1st you Google “Smarthome SDM” and you’ll find direct downloads to it. Its a regular windows install package

2nd Reference the object in your program, its called ‘Smarthome Device Manager’

3rd Add to your code to reference it as well as to be able to catch the events, example

Class MainMenu
Friend WithEvents Sm As SDM3Server.SDM3

When I load my mainmenu even I have the following
Public Sub MainMenu_Load(...... )
  Sm =New SDM3Server.SDM3
 End Try

Now you can catch events from the device, the main event to catch and look for is.

Public Sub sm_OnText(ByVal strInsteonStatus As String) Handles Sm.OnText

var = Split(strInsteonStatus, "=")
Select Case LCase(var(0))

	Case "setonleveltext"
		data = Split(var(1), ",")
		device = data(0)
		value = data(1)

	Case "receiveinsteonraw"
		data = var(1)
		bytes = Split(data," ")
		If LBound(bytes) = 0 And UBound(bytes) = 9 Then
			AddrFrom = bytes(1) & bytes(2) & bytes(3)
			AddrTo = bytes(4) & bytes(5) & bytes(6)
			Flags = bytes(7)
			Command1 = bytes(8)
			Command2 = bytes(9)

			If AddrFrom="05BBAF" And AddrTo="05FB8E" And Command1="11" Then
				MsgBox "Received Button 4 On"

			ElseIf AddrFrom="05BBAF" And AddrTo="05FB8E" And Command1="13" Then
				MsgBox "Received Button 4 Off"

			End If
		End If
	Case Else

End Select

This will bring back all the sent,received strings, you later then have to sort them out.

I used some of the previous mentioned wepage’s code and expanded from that.

Best way is to watch the strings go by.Here is a pic of mine installed and ready to go.

* Note that you do need to ‘link’ the switches to your PLC or computer interface, even though you aren’t really turning it on but its the only way I was able to get it to see the commands.

Here are some examples (Lets say a switch has the id AA.BB.CC and my PLC (Computer interface is ) “11.22.33”

#receiveinsteonraw=02 AA BB CC 11 22 33 45 11 01  —- device acknowledging its been turned on (Notice 11 for on)

#receiveinsteonraw=02 AA BB CC 11 22 33 45 12 01  —- device acknowledging its been turned on double pressed up(Notice 12 for FAST on)

#receiveinsteonraw=04 AA BB CC 11 22 33 25 13 00 – device acknowledging its been turned off (notice the #13)

#receiveinsteonraw=04 AA BB CC 11 22 33 25 14 00 – device acknowledging its been turned off  with double tap down (notice the #14)

2nd Part here. MORE HERE

So after much thought I’ve decided to put down what i’ve been working on for the last couple of months. One thing we (wife and myself) have always been interested in home automation. Now that we are proud home in owners now is my chance.

After poking around and reading about X10, (which has been out for over 20 years), I was a bit sad to see that it not 100% reliazble, and I didn’t want to run into the many problems.

Even after to many years out. X10 works, basically by using the existing power lines to send messages, sounds simple right but here is the catch. And many devices you can find on ebay extremely cheap!. But as usual there is a small little detail, many home have 2-110v legs going into the home , so MANY,MANY times it wont reach its destination and eventually work sporadically.

Sure, there are fixes and other ‘patches’ but at the end it sounds like 1000 gadgets to have a simple switch working, and when you have many components like that something is bound to fail sometime. With the couple of X10 devices I have troubleshooting that is a nightmare. Not to complain but many x10 switches arent really a compelment to a room, and I was not looking to worsen the look of the switch. Which is what I wanted to avoid, but don’t be fooled its not that x10 is bad and I have used it for a couple of good things which you’ll see here.

So in comes Smarthome, and I was reading how their technology called Insteon, uses the PowerLine and “RF” to talk to devices, and better yet, each device acts as a repeater, so in theory the more you have installed the better your network gets! (This has proven true in my case) . But since it’s around 3 years old, new products are still being made, but as mentioned before its still compatible with the older x10 technology so you can get great gadgets such as remotes for like $4 on ebay!.

So lets start.

My first starter kit was a outdoor lighting set I purchased called FreeWire which was Black and decker’s take on x10 for less than $40, which contained a couple of lamp dimmers and a simple table remote.


The way you configure “x10 devices” is you have a “House” code which run from A-P and a unit code from “1-16.” And you assign your devices on one of those two. Neat, and simple! Inmediatly I found that plugging in the base into one ‘leg’ of the house it wasn’t able to power up one of the modules. (Damn.. just what was reading about…) oh well it still gives anyone a good start. At least I got some good outdoor modules which are rain proof.

So on to Insteon! (The grand daddy)

There were different starter kits out there, I went for the cheapest one, $99. which is shown in the picture below,

Kits comes with the desk remote, two lamp dimmers and two couplers. Installation was a breeze, no how codes, no #1-16. Basically you tap/tap to configure them, each devices has its own memory and mind. You keep one pressed until it flashes and walk to the one you want to control and wait for it flash and presto!! Better yet once you install the two included couplers I had no problems installing the devices and reaching them anywhere in the house!! This was so easy I first did our bedroom, no more need to jump off the bed to turn off the light.! I even got an additional controller off ebay for $25. New at this time of writing go for $34. Worth each penny.

Ok I’m now hooked! Once of the nice features of these little devices is that you can control what they call the ramp rate., so you can slowly fade the light on and off intervals from .1 second to minutes!!!. Note: This doesn’t apply to CFL bulbs (Unless they are the dimmable types)

So I’ve little by little i’ve gone ahead and changed the switches of the house and hopefully make life a little easier. Right now there are two types of switches out there, what I call the expensive (Smarthome ) and the not so expensive ones (Icons). I love both of them and both come in Dimmer and on/off format. Below you can see from left to right, the first is the Icon On/Off switch followed by the dimmer, a regular on/off and another Dimmer.

Reading and experimenting more, which will talk about, Insteon like x10 can do ‘groups’ where a single button can control more than one device! (But we will get to that later)

A couple of weeks go by and its very cool to be able to turn off a light switch from a remote. But I wanted more!

Here’s the specs off of the Smarthome site on how to install them. Basically you replace the existing one and included the neautral as well.

I’ll include pics of my next install so you can see how it looks in the real world. Once you get used to it, you can install them in no time!

Here is a pic of the back of the dimmer

Here is a ‘external’ dimmer device which can dim / turn on /off any device on it. Your lamp would connect on the bottom. And the devices even has a pass thru non-controled plug so you dontloose your outlet. Im stocking up on these for the chirstmas decorations this year!

Keep posted part #2 coming up. Now that we got the basic’s lets dig in deeper!