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The I.S.I. Demonstration Smart Home

A DISCRIPTION OF EQUIPMENT AND FUNCTIONS

 

The heart of our “Smart Home” is the system by AMXâ Corporation (formerly Panjaâ Corporation).  We have an older system called the PHAST Landmark system.  The newer system is the NetLinx system.  The major difference between the two systems is that the Landmark system can only be accessed remotely via telephone whereas the NetLinx  system “sits” on the internet and is accessible by any computer connected to the web (securely, of course, via a firewall, username and password).

The Landmark system in the I.S.I. home provides the overall control for all other systems on the property and directs the whole house audio/visual system.  The system consists of an IBM PC, a Card Frame (PLB-CF10) that contains the system main processing unit (MPU) and other system cards (IR Out, Relay, Contact, DTMF, etc.).  The system also includes a Hub Box (PLB-HUB) (which contains a Microphone Hub Card), a 16 channel Audio Switcher (PLB-AS16), (2) 8 channel Audio Amplifiers (PLB-AMP8) that provides 8 mono or 4 stereo channels of amplification.  For the “human interface” we use (8) “Direct Menu Select” Keypads (PLK-DMS) and 2 portable Viewpoint RF TouchPanels (VPT-CP) with a RF Receiver (PMB-RF) to control all house functions including fourteen Smart Dimmer (PLK-MLC) light switches and 5 Smart 3-Way (PLK-3WAY) switches (both now discontinued by AMX) to control house lighting, and two Communicating Thermostats (PCC-300) to control the HVAC (heating and cooling) system through the AMX Landmark system.  The system components are interconnected using category 5 (CAT5) wiring installed in the walls of the home as it was being constructed.

 

HOUSE COMPUTER SYSTEM

The computer system that supports the Landmark home automation system is not manufactured by AMX but is a standard IBMâ computer with a 166MHz Pentiumâ processor.  This computer is used primarily to do system programming.  Although the LANDMARK system can contain and run most of the program independently, the computer is also needed for the DTMF telephone functions and to supply “.wav” (sound) files for the system.  It is also very handy to have a computer for backup and to make quick changes in the system program.

 

CARD FRAME (PLB-CF10)

The Card Frame with a 10 card capacity is used in our system to house and power the following cards: 

¨A Master Control Unit (PLC-MCU4), which is the “computer” component of the system, and contains 4 Mb (Megabytes) of eeprom (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) to contain the programming and for system functions.

¨Two 4 output Infrared Out cards (PLC-IROUT) to transmit IR signals to control equipment such as television sets, stereo equipment, motorized drapes or skylights or any other equipment that is normally controlled by IR remotes or “clickers”. 

¨A Dual Tone, Multi-frequency card (PLC-DTMF) that allows the system to become a “telephone answering machine” and utilize computer “.wav” files for outgoing messages and to respond to telephone tone “commands” for communicating with the system from a remote location.

A two port Serial Interface Card (PLC-SER) which interfaces with house HVAC system via the two “smart” thermostats, and the entry/egress (door lock and control) system manufactured by IeI â.

¨2 Relay Cards (PLC-RL8) which provides 8 relays (each) to control anything that can be controlled by a relay such as the heated floor in the master bathroom, the pump and lights on the outdoor fishpond, the garage door open/close function and the solenoid locks on the front and back doors.

¨2 Contact Cards (PLC-IN7) which provides 7 inputs (each) for sensing contact closures for sensing such things as whether the garage door is open or closed, doors or windows are open or closed, and provide a voice announcement of motion detected outside or a vehicle entering the driveway (detected by the CARTELLâ driveway sensor).

Although not specifically in the Card Frame, I should mention that a “PHASTVerter” is used to interface with the APEX ADEMCOâ security system.

 

MICROPHONE HUB (PLB-HUB2)

The AMX Microphone Hub Card (PLH-MIC) is contained in the PLB-HUB2 Hub Box.  The card accepts the inputs from all of the (8) Keypads in the home.  Each Keypad contains a microphone which is the pickup for the intercom system in the room that the Keypad is in.  The output for the intercom system is any one of (or any combination of) 16 pair of stereo speakers, a pair of which can be found in most rooms in the home and on three outside porches.  From any Keypad you may pick a room, a group of rooms or the whole home (all page) speak to the audio zones of the home that you have selected.  If there is music playing in an audio zone at the time, the music will be muted and the speakers will switch to intercom mode.

 

16 CHANNEL AUDIO SWITCH (PLB-AS16)

This unit is a 16 stereo channel audio pre-amplifier and audio switcher used to distribute stereo program and intercom audio for whole-house audio integration.  The unit responds to Keypad or TouchPanel input or system programming to route any audio input to any audio zone (room or rooms) in the home.  Each channel has automated pre-amp processing for volume level, bass, treble and muting functions and interactive feedback for these parameters plus signal routing and signal sensing.  The signal sensing capability allows program events to be triggered by an input signal state.

 

8 CHANNEL AUDIO AMPLIFIERS (PLB-AMP8)

The three 8 channel power amplifiers in the system provide 8 mono channels or 4 stereo channels of amplification each.  The amplifiers are fed signals by the 16 channel Audio Switch and connected to and controlled by the Card Frame and Microphone Hub by the PHASTLink bus.  Combined they provide 12 stereo channels of amplification for the signals from each switch channel under control of the system.

Note that since we have 16 pairs of stereo speakers we have combined some channels where feasible (such as the kitchen and dining room, master bedroom and master bath, and all three outside porches) to come up with a total of 12 audio zones.

 

TOUCH PANEL (VPT-CP) AND RECEIVER (PMB-RF)

The touch panel is the “jewel” of the system.  The touch panel is programmed consists of a number of “pages” of graphic “buttons”.  Pages are organized by function.  Each page may have one or more sub-pages for further control.  The touch panel can control every function of the home that is programmed into the LANDMARK system but is particularly useful for audio-video (A/V) control.  Since all IR functions of all A/V equipment are programmed into the system the touch panel replaces every IR remote control in the home.  No more searching under the couch cushions for the lost “clicker”!

In our home, when the touch panel is activated (awakened by touching anywhere on its screen) it displays first a picture (.bmp image) of the home with the time and date.  Another touch displays the main menu.  A sub-menu can then be selected to take you to the part of the system you wish to control (music, lighting, temperature control, alarm system, door locks, motorized drapes and skylights, pump and lights for the outdoor fishpond, etc.)  The touch panel is also used to request the status of any home “sensor” such as; garage door open/closed, master bathroom floor heat on/off, outside temperature, fishpond lights/pump on or off, etc.

When a “button” is pressed on the TouchPanel a radio frequency (RF) signal is sent to the receiver which is connected to the system.  The system “interprets” the signal and performs the appropriate function.

The TouchPanel weighs less than two pounds and can be conveniently carried from room to room for whole house control.  One of our TouchPanels is on the nightstand in the master bedroom and the other lives on the deck of the home during the summer months nearly as much as it does in the greatroom.

The TouchPanel program “look and feel” can be completely customized to look however you would like (background graphics, button sizes shapes and colors, etc.) and to perform all functions for your specific needs.

 

KEYPADS (PLK-DMS)

There are currently eight Keypads installed throughout the home and office in each of the following rooms:  Downstairs in the greatroom, kitchen/dining area, master bedroom, two guest bedrooms and upstairs in the library, and the two offices of Intelligent Structures (mine and my wife’s).

The “direct menu select” (DMS) Keypad has a built-in temperature sensor to display the room temperature and a microphone for use with the home intercom system and the telephone answering system.  The keypad is the size of a normal home light switch and has a large backlit LCD display and six buttons to allow selection of displayed menu items.  In addition there are page up and page down buttons for paging through additional menus and a “bar” button at the bottom which is normally used for the intercom talk function, but can be programmed for other functions.

Actually, all nine buttons are fully programmable in three modes – press, release and hold (the amount of time recognized as a “hold” function is programmable).  This makes the Keypad extremely versatile since any button can be programmed to do any number of functions.

When you walk up to a keypad you normally see displayed the time, day and date, and indoor and outdoor temperature.  If the system is used for telephone functions you will also see the number of phone calls received since you last erased the list.  Pressing the button beside the number of calls will produce a list of caller “ID’s”.  Press the button beside any of these callers and if a message was left it will announce in the room (audio zone) that you are in.

All lines in any number of menus for the keypad are totally programmable so that you may add commands and functions as the system expands.

 

“SMART” LIGHT DIMMER SWITCHES (PLK-MLC) AND 3-WAY SWITCHES (PLK-3WAY)

The I.S.I. demonstration home currently has fourteen solid-state “Smart” Dimmer switches and 5 Smart 3-Way dimmer switches installed.  These switches can control a variety of loads including incandescent, florescent and dimmable florescent lights.  The switches can also be controlled through the system from the Keypad or TouchPanel to provide even more functionality.  One of my favorite Keypad/TouchPanel functions is the “goodnight” command which not only turns off all lights in the home but also checks to see if the garage door is closed and closes it if it is open, turns off any outside lights that may be on including the lighting and the pump on the fishpond, and sets the furnace/air conditioner to the pre-determined night-time temperature.

Note: These parts were originally manufactured by AMX but have since been discontinued.  The reason being that there are so many good automated lighting systems manufactured by others on the market and any AMX system can directly communicate with and control almost all of these systems.  All functions listed above can still be performed by control of virtually all “third party” lighting systems through any AMX system.

 

DTMF (TELEPHONE) FUNCTIONS (PLC-DTMF)

The system DTMF card resides in the cardframe and provides the following features to the system:

¨ Automatic telephone answering.  Caller ID (displayed in all house keypads) and call screening.  Custom messages can be programmed for specific callers (triggered by incoming caller ID information).  In our system all blocked caller ID’s get the automatic message: Please unblock your caller ID and call again followed by a “hang up”.

¨ Telephone control of the home.  Up to 99 programmed system events (commands) may be activated over any touch-tone telephone (including cell phones).  This provides control from virtually any location in the world with touch-tone phone service that utilizes a standard DTMF signal.

¨ Automatic recording control.  Allows you to record custom messages for telephone answering, remote control menu items, password/command status and control event messages and status.

 

OTHER SYSTEMS

Other systems in the home include an APEX ADEMCO home security system, a HVAC system, an IeIâ entry system, an EXXISâ video surveillance system, a Cartellâ driveway alert system and various X-10 devices.  These systems are all, in one way or another, interconnected with and controlled by the LANDMARK hardware.

 

APEX ADEMCO SECURITY SYSTEM

The APEX ADEMCOâ security system is basically a stand-alone security system with one major exception – it has a PHASTVerter connected between it and the Landmark system to allow the two systems to communicate.  This allows you to communicate with the security system through a system Keypad or TouchPanel or via touch-tone telephone to arm or disarm the system, lock or unlock the front and/or back doors (through the IeI system), check the status of the system or any other alarm system functions.

The security system has 16 zones (expandable to 32) which watch such devices as glass break detectors, motion sensors, smoke and fire sensors and door open/close status.  Normally the security system will announce any event through the two installed security keypads or through an outdoor speaker but only if the security system is armed.

One of the advantages of the AMX system is that the security system does not need to be armed to get feedback from it.  Since the AMX system is “watching” the security system, the system can be programmed to announce any of these events verbally through any or all of the house audio zones even if the security system is disarmed.  For example;  a motion sensor in the basement reports “motion detected in basement” between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:30 am to the master bedroom audio zone.  If a door opens downstairs it is reported as “front or back door open” in the office audio zone.

Another advantage of having the security system “overseen” by the AMX system is that if a smoke or fire sensor trips the AMX system announces “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE, PLEASE REMAIN CALM AND EXIT IMMEADIATELY! through all home audio zones and lights a path from all sleeping areas to the nearest exit.

 

X-10 DEVICES

Several X-10 devices are in use around the home.  These devices (manufactured by X-10 USAâ and other) are known as PLC (Power Line Control) devices and send and receive signals through the household electrical wiring.

There is a saying in the home automation industry that X-10 is to be used only when you want “something relatively unimportant to happen very slowly most of the time”.  I have found that properly installed, although slow to react, X-10 devices can be reasonably dependable for low-level tasks.

In the I.S.I. demonstration home we have installed three motion sensing floodlights.  In apparent function, these are identical to the motion sensing flood lights that may be purchased at any hardware store but these have one more function – when tripped by motion, they can send up to four X-10 commands.  Although AMX doesn’t support X-10 directly in the Landmark system, I have found ways to utilize these signals to trigger events in the Landmark system.

For example; when an outside motion sensor is tripped one lamp in the greatroom and one light in the master bedroom comes on and, if enabled, the Landmark system can announce “outside motion detected” in one or more audio zones.

HEATING AND COOLING (HVAC) SYSTEM

The house contains two heating zones (one upstairs and one downstairs), each comprised of a gas furnace and an air conditioning unit.  Each zone is controlled by its own “smart” thermostat.  The thermostats, in turn, are connected to and controlled by the Landmark system.  A program is currently running to set both thermostats to 68° at 5:30 am and set them back to 62° at 10:30 pm.  Of course, the temperature can be changed either at the thermostat itself or at any Keypad at any time.  The program can also be completely overridden at the keypad, and returned to operation at any time.

A vacation setting is programmed into the system so that when away for an extended period, the home is kept no warmer than 80° in summer or colder than 50° in winter.

An outdoor temperature sensor is mounted under the eaves upstairs just outside the office window to detect and report the outside temperature and display it in all room Keypads.  An identical sensor is mounted in the garage and the garage temperature can be read by pressing a button on the upstairs thermostat.  This sensor is also monitored to give an alarm if the temperature inside the garage approaches freezing.

 

IeI DOORLOCK SYSTEM

The front and back doors each have solenoid door strikes (latches) installed so that, on command from the Landmark system, a pin actuated by the solenoid is pulled from the latch and the door can be pushed open (even though the door remains locked).  As mentioned under the security system description, the lock system can be controlled by telephone command (password protected, of course) and also by a pocket remote transmitter (similar to the automotive models which come with most modern vehicles).  Arms full of groceries?  Simply click the remote and push the door open.  A five-digit code entered into a keypad outside the front door will also unlock the front door in case you forgot your “clicker”.  The Landmark system may also be programmed to lock and unlock the doors at any preset time or automatically lock and unlock them when the security system is armed/disarmed.

 

EXXIS VIDEO SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM

This is a low-end black and white camera system that was purchased at Sam’s Club.  The system is comprised of a black and white monitor, two black and white cameras (with provision for two more), and a call box on the back porch and a motion sensor on the front porch.  I added a security VCR for recording.  The system seemed to do the job at the time, but the signal from the cameras quickly deteriorated and both cameras had to be replaced.  I replaced them with color cameras that have a ring of red LEDs around the lens.  In the daytime the camera is color (though I still only have a B&W monitor on them, I can still record them to VCR in color).  At night, the picture changes to black and white, the red LEDs illuminate and the camera can “see in the dark”.  This works fairly well for what it is but will one day need to be upgraded to a more professional surveillance system and the VCR replaced with a DVR (Digital Video Recorder).

The Exxis system did, however, come with a very excellent motion sensor.  I have it mounted so that when motion is detected in the driveway area the system switches to that camera and starts the VCR running.  If the button on the call box is pressed, the system switches to that camera and starts the VCR.

The addition of another call box on the front porch and another motion sensor on the back porch would round out the system nicely, but I haven’t installed them since I intend to replace the whole system in the future.

I am using the contact closures of the call box and motion sensor to let the Landmark system know (through one of the contacts on the PLC-IN7 card) when an event occurs and announce it in the I.S.I. office. 

I also have strain sensors (by Sure Action, Inc.) to let me know if someone is on either porch or the outside deck.  I use these mostly when I am away to announce to a visitor (through the porch audio zones) that they need to press the button on the call box and leave me a message.

THE CARTELLâ DRIVEWAY ALERT SYSTEM

Near the bottom of the driveway is a sensing device (which detects moving metal objects).  When this sensor is activated by a vehicle entering the driveway the spotlight at the bottom of the driveway is turned on (if it is dark – in the daytime it is held off by a photocell) and a sonoalert (buzzer) sounds.  This device is also interfaced with the Landmark system through a system contact so that at the same time the house system announces “vehicle detected in driveway” in selected audio zones and triggers the security camera to record the vehicle.

I find this very handy since my office is upstairs.  Now when a visitor arrives or UPS brings a package, I look at the security monitor to see who it is and be at the door to meet them.  The only downside of the system is that it drives my wife crazy when I mow the lawn, and since the dogs know the sound it gets them wound up thinking that someone is here!

 

DSS SATELLITE AND TELEVISION SYSTEM

The house has a dual LNB DSS satellite dish, two DSS receivers (one of which is a PVR) and a standard “off air” TV antenna.  The price of cable is silly here and I liked the idea of getting my entertainment out of the air instead of through a wire anyway.

Since television is not a priority with my wife and I (no kids – two dogs instead, and they don’t watch TV much either), the video system in the home is rather “undeveloped” but wiring is in place to pipe video (as well as audio) signals to any room in the house.  The Landmark system is only minimally involved in the video process though it does a great job of control of the audio portion and has the ability to do video just as well.  As described earlier, the Landmark system does control all functions of all television sets in the home via IR functions.  I frequently use one DSS receiver to pipe music throughout the rest of the home while my wife watches a DVD movie on the Plasma monitor in the greatroom.

 

OTHER FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES

¨ As mentioned previously the Landmark system Keypads each have a built-in microphone.  This microphone is utilized by the system in conjunction with the room audio zones to create a whole-house intercom system.  Any room or group of rooms is accessible from any other room for “hands free” intercom communication.

¨ The electrically heated tile floor in the master bathroom is programmed into the Landmark system.  There is a 12-volt relay tucked in the electrical box behind the floor heat controller.  This relay is actuated by a relay on the relay card of the Landmark system and is programmed to turn on at 5:30 am.  This gives the floor ample time to warm up by 6:30 am when the house system “alarm clock” wakes us gently by first ramping up the lights to 20% brightness and announcing “it’s time to wake up” in the master bedroom audio zone, then turning on the music and ramping it up to 20% volume.  In a few minutes the lights and music gradually come up to a normal level.  The bathroom floor heat stays on until 7:30 (which keeps the floor warm until at least 8:30) saving an appreciable amount of electricity over leaving the heat on all of the time.

¨ Lighting “scenes” are easily programmed for any room, group of rooms or the whole house at the press of one button on a Keypad or TouchPanel.  For example: when I press the TV “button” on the greatroom TouchPanel, if it is daylight, the skylight shades and the motorized drapes close and the TV comes on.  If it is dark the room lights gradually dim to a pre-determined light level.

¨ There is a panel on the wall near the back door the size of a double switch box with a switch, a red button and three LEDs mounted on it.  When the switch is on, the open, closed or “in between” status of the garage door is displayed by the LEDs.  If the garage door is open, pressing the red button will close it – if it is closed, pressing the button will open it.  The garage door can also be opened and closed or its status checked at any Landmark system Keypad.  I seem to have a bad habit of leaving the garage door open in summer, so I now have the Landmark system look at it at 10:00 pm and if it is open, close it and announce in the office audio zone that I forgot to close it again!

 

¨ The skylights in the greatroom and master bedroom are also controlled by the Landmark system.  In winter the shades over the skylights open in the morning one hour after sunrise (to take advantage of some winter sunlight) and close at sunset (to keep in a little more heat).  The Landmark system is able to accomplish this since its software contains an astronomical clock so it always knows what time the sun rises and sets and even knows to change the time in the Keypads automatically for daylight savings time.

In summer the procedure is reversed and the skylight shades close in the morning one hour after sunrise and open at dusk.  On warm sunny spring and fall days when there is no need for heating or air conditioning, I like to open the house doors and skylights to circulate fresh spring/fall air.  The system always checks to see if it is raining before allowing the skylights to open.  For the Landmark system to know if it is raining, I have installed a rain sensor on the roof.  When it starts to rain, the system announces “I think it’s raining” in case I left the sunroof or the windows open on my car.

¨ As mentioned earlier, we have a small fishpond outside just off the rear deck.  I put a pump in the bottom disguised by some rocks and ran a hose up under the ivy to create a small waterfall.  For night use I hid a light and used an aluminum tube to direct the light into the water so that at night the pond seems to glow.  I put another light above the pond that illuminates the general area.  I wired the “underwater” light through a photo-cell (so that it could only come on at night) and put it on the same circuit as the pump.  The “overall” light is on a second circuit.  Both circuits are fed by relays which are controlled by the Landmark system (through the relay card).  In this way I can use the system to program when the pump and light come on and go off and I have full control from any house Keypad or TouchPanel.

¨ A few years ago I.S.I. became a dealer for BTXâ motorized drape systems.  As part of the agreement I.S.I. purchased two demo drape systems which I installed in the home’s master bedroom.  Now in the summer, as part of the morning alarm, the curtains automatically open.  If I wish I can leave them open all day since they are set up on a schedule to close again at night.

¨ Another “cute” (and in some cases, very useful) feature of the Landmark system is the ability to have other events occur when a light switch is pressed (in addition to simply turning on the light).  Utilizing this function allows me to have the computer play “welcome to the offices of Intelligent Structures, Inc.” every time the light is turned on.  When the light is turned off the computer plays the classic line spoken by R2D2 in the movie Star Wars: “Sir, if you’ll not be needing me, I’ll close down for awhile”.

 

Other useful things that the Landmark system can do which I have either not implemented or have no need for are things like automated sprinkler systems, fill the stock water trough when it reaches a minimum level, hot tub and swimming pool control, and in short – virtually anything electrical or electro-mechanical that you can get a wire to!

 

I am continually thinking to try to find other useful functions for the Landmark system and although the possibilities are nearly endless, the usefulness and practicality of some of the functions (like the .wav file example above) may be questionable.  If you think of any more let me know!

 

 

Allen B. Judy, President

Intelligent Structures, Inc.

98 Rockley Road,

Morgantown, West Virginia  26508-2946

Phone: (304) 594-2515

HTTP://www.IntelligentStructures.com

Email: Info@ IntelligentStructures.com