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Mega-Size installation and I'm fried from info-overload

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  • Sean S
    Guest replied
    Thanks Gordon for your reply...interesting...

    In my opinion, the only thing time critical is sync'd audio. As I mentioned above, you could set the server audio back (or not use it at all). By nature, digital audio doesn't need traditional sync stratagies as it is embedded in the audio itself (meaning you probably wouldn't have to maintain any timeclock, workclock or time code as long as you could assure that the start time of the playback or joining of the playback was referenced to the source. It shouldn't really matter if your audio starts 300ms later or joins 300ms...or even a full few seconds after you push the button as long as it is in time once started.
    The buffering is working with faster than real-time data transmission, so again...the delay shouldn't matter as long as the "join point" is the same. Simply put... if you had 4 people start the same digital song at precisely the same time in 4 different countries, it would sync if you could listen to them all at once. The buffer takes care of the collisions assuming the data rate is fast enough to keep the buffer full. The trick is really to get the 4 computers to start or join at exactly the right time and a reference would be needed for this.

    For Telephony and intercom...It really doesn't matter if there are delays. Compared to the stampede of internet phones, the delay over LAN should be a marked improvement.
    I've had people talk to me over the internet on the PC speakerphone (using PC mic and speakers) and it was acceptable...and that was hundreds of miles away. Again...over the LAN should show quite an improvement. Add a USB phone, or even figure out how to use the modem of the client as the handset connection and we then eliminate the annoying speakerphone-ness as well.
    More than 10 years ago I was using voice modems and even then you could use the handset connected to the modem to record your outgoing wave files, so this must not be new tech'.

    Further evidence is all the little shareware programs that are already sending audio over LAN (IP). There already are IP intercoms and I tried a couple...they work great.
    As I mentioned above...that "tonecast" app sends really super quality audio over my LAN. I checked and the shareware price is $49. While sync may be an issue...less demanding tasks such as intercom and telephony over IP should be pretty easy and high quality.

    Of course I'm expressing my humble opinon here. I don't mean to be the guy with 5 posts who thinks he knows everything, but being that this stuff is available on the low-end shareware sites, you would think it could be integrated.

    Thoughts? (besides "Sean S is a jerk")


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  • huggy591
    I think one of the problems developers struggle with in voice applications is the way audio is done on the PC and the traditional Ethernet network. All streaming technologies have buffering to some extent, which adds delays to the actual signal path, or at least to the playback end.

    In addition, the fact that the Ethernet network is a collision-based domain with packets that may be transmitted and retransmitted (due to collisions) in non-sequential order, obviates the need to reassemble them in the proper order before they can be played, adding delay.

    Historically, voice systems have been basically audio switches with dedicated lines to/from the handset (PBX), thereby avoiding all these problems as it is not a shared medium. The handset wasn't a directional device - the mic and the earpiece were part of the same circuit and there wasn't a distinct transmit channel and receive channel. It was all done on one pair of wires, eliminating feedback and echo problems.

    That factor is the lack of handset at each machine. An open-air mic and speaker will cause some sort of feedback loop based on delay factors of the transmitted and received signals, and echo cancellation causes more delay. We're talking about the kind of stuff you run into during video teleconferencing sessions.

    Finally, if you have Cat5 into a room, and you are only using 2 pair of the 4 pair available (for 10 or 100baseT), why not just hook a normal analog phone to the third pair and run that back to your central PBX? Then you have a phone right by the computer, and integration can occur at the server end, between the PBX system and your main HA or other control systems. This also makes the majority of the parts easily replaceable and relatively cheap...

    It's hard to beat straight wire-speed audio switching vs. networking with all the delays in conversions and reassembly.

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  • Sean S
    Guest replied
    Well I know this is going to sound the wrong way but...(and I really am a nice guy)...

    I find it hard to believe that these basic features aren't "stock" in any modern HA solution.

    I've looked at that Extreamer before...200 bux.

    Have a look at "ToneCast" on this page...

    Free download and I think it's ultra-cheap.
    I've already been streaming uncompressed 16 bit stereo audio from PC to PC across the LAN with this and it works great. There is latency between the server and the clients, but I'm not sure how much there would be (if any) between clients. Since it plays what is playing on the server sound card, it has the delay of having to encode and then transmit the data through the network. It seems like if you didn't listen to the server's sound card that the clients would be darned close to sync'd as they would all experience a similar latency.

    This same tech should be able (with some mod's) to do "answer over ethernet" much the same way that there are "Speakerphone" apps for the PC that broadcast the modem speaker through the soundcard.

    Intercoms via this tech' should easily follow.

    A little more fiddling and you could control the volume of any "tonecast-like" plugin on any client from any client without changing the master output volume of that computer (which is doing things like ATT voices or other HA audio).

    I guess I should point the developer of Tonecast this way or the developers of Homeseer and MainLobby that way. (maybe someone from Homeseer is actually even lurking on this thread?).

    Thanks for listening

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  • tobad78
    VoIp has been brought up several times. Way2Call does support this But currently Homeseer Phone don't take advantage of this (Feature Request?). It has been discussed several times but nothing ever came of it. Lack of request I assume. I think everyone is headed that way so it would be a good feature. There should be a way of doing this But I'm not aware of anything. Way2Call is very powerful but its features are hardly used with Homeseer.

    Intercoms I really know nothing about it but if a request is posted on Mainlobby site someone might be willing to write a plugin. I know Mario does write custom stuff (of course for a fee).

    In syncronized streaming audio, I'm really not sure what you are planning on but check this link out. It may be what your looking for.

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  • Sean S
    Guest replied
    Thanks Brian,

    One thing that seems to be lacking in the HA scene (so far in my research) is audio over IP (including telephony or VoIp).

    Playing voicemail over IP is neat, but not that amazing...I mean it's just playing a wave file that the voice modem saved.
    It seems that if using PC's in "kiosk" mode, that it would be nice to be able to answer the phone at them. Ironically, it appears there are caller ID plugins for most HA. There are USB phones, and IP phones up the yang, but it seems there is no software to remotely transmit signal to and from a modem in real time. The codec should be similar to any "internet phone"...just internal to the network. This is one of thos "I wish I were a programmer" things.

    The next in line is intercoms. There are hardware IP intercoms for use over ethenet, and software intercoms that do the same...but no plugins that I've found for say...MainLobby. Seems a natural.

    And lastly, syncronized streaming audio. If you have a soundcard at every station, it seems a waste to not use it and run physical wire throughout a building from a hardware solution. I don't think syncing the audio is as tricky as people think. Short of timecode or digital resolving, I think it could be done by delaying the source by at least the amount of latency that the slowest station has, and then programing the delay of the slave station to match up with the source. If you don't use the source (server's) audio directly, then most of the slaves should be experiencing very similar latency and should be easy to sync together I did pro-audio for music and film for over a decade so I'm very curious about this and why it's not being done.

    As I said...looking around, there are already software solutions for most of this, but maybe they haven't made it to HA yet.
    Phones, intercoms, and "joining" the whole house audio stream really seem like they would be priority tasks...over things like checking the weather anyway.


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  • tobad78
    Mainlobby does work on networked machines. MainLobby with Krumpy's plugin is very powerfull. I have been playing around with it for a couple of weeks.

    X10 to USB
    I would go with the ACT TI103 OR what I use the Ocelot w/psco5 but its serial
    PowerLinc is the USB suggestion

    Homeseer Version
    I always use the latest I find them very stable
    on a standalone server

    I check voicemails with Homeseer plugin PHoneWeb the modem I use is WAY2call more expensive but better. You can ckeck voice mails anywhere but I'm not sure about "answer over a network"?

    Mianlobby can intergrate all this and there is not alot patched together. Its pretty awesome, check out the MainLobby plugin forum for some screenshots.

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  • Sean S
    Guest replied
    Thanks Everyone, this is really encouraging.

    I'm sure this will all make sense to me at some point and that I can then help others.

    I'll be a bit more specific about some of the things addressed in your responses...

    Power: Lots Man...1200 amp 3 phase main running to several 200 amp subs...125v subs..etc etc.
    Likely tons of noise. As mentioned, the gym is running sodium, or halide or ???.
    The Gym alone is pulling near 16,000 watts.
    Yes, it is a switched relay...and weird old tranformers and mercury filled tubes in panels...Frankenstein's Lab' kinda stuff.
    I actually have some of the street lights on my system.
    In 1905 the school was a 5500sqft "little house on the prairie" two story colonial (with basement) The 6000ish Gym is also of this vintage. In the '60's it was added onto with a more modern "wing".
    Because of this, I have about every type of lighting you can think of. I'm probably going to be doing more relays than wall switches (no Z-wave relays yet?)
    This was one of those places where wiring went on top of wiring, next to wiring..etc.
    The heating system alone...I have wood burners, electric baseboard, forced air...all different systems.
    I've got disconnected intercom systems, "central set" clocks (not working), eithernet, goes on and on.

    Anyway...I don't know if you guys have looked at the "Premise" software, but their browser is similar to the product "Main Lobby".
    That is basically what I'm trying to have...a nice non-windows looking GUI, but one that can be hidden to reveal a regular desktop so I can check my email from the "far side" of the place.

    I guess that's not unique at all, but it's really rough for the super-newbie to figure out all these platforms and plugins...and hardware.

    For the capability of:
    10 stations each having...
    un-PC looking GUI (switchable to desktop)
    streaming audio from server
    streaming security (not entertainment) video
    web browsing (and normal windows apps)
    alarm monitoring and virtual keypad (wired via hardware panel)
    Fire monitoring and virtual keypad (wired via hardware panel)
    Lighting control

    Should I start with:
    Homeseer (version?)
    Main Lobby (does this work on networked PC's?)
    10 industrial touchscreen computers
    (I'll start just using my few regular PC's to test)
    Some Z wave switches
    Some X10 relays
    Elk or Caddx alarm panel
    Z wave to USB
    X10 to USB (which?)
    Some IP cameras
    Voice modem (can you answer the phone through a single modem over a network...check voicemail..etc? Via Main Lobby?)

    Another problem I have is understanding if there is a nice touchpanel style GUI (like Home lobby) that can integrate all this? The object of course is to have it look and perform as integrated...not patched together from umpteen windows apps. I'm guessing you can write your own integration.

    At the moment, the list above is my shopping list. Would that be a good start?

    Every few pages of browsing I end up with a different solution. I do like products with good message boards and so far this one is the best.

    P.S. Yes, I'll put together some photos probably isn't what you are picturing in your heads!

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  • JLehnert
    30,000 sq.ft. Wow. And my Mom thought I was nuts to have a home 4000 - 6000 sq. ft. (depending on how you measure). Sounds like a bunch of fun.

    In a building that size, it's a good bet that you are dealing with a 3 phase commercial type electrical panel. Still 120 VAC at the switch/receptacle, but the panel itself will not be something that you could pickup at HS or Lowes. It also complicates hooking up equipment at the panel. For instance, in the post above pointing to repeaters, you would need the Model #4822AC unit, instead of the 4821. Depending on how the building is wired, you might even have to get multiple repeater units that can be connected together.

    If I were in your circumstances, I would probably go with the Z-wave option to avoid all these hassles. It doesn't have a large range of devices yet, but that should change as time progresses. Using Z-wave, you can avoid messing with the electrical panels completely, and don't have to worry about interference on the lines.

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> I see products like HAI and cannot figure out if *that* is controlling the place, or if the Homeseer should be controlling the place, or what order things go in...etc <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    This is very much a design/philosophy decision. Take a look at this thread to see a very lively discussion of the various thoughts on the process.

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  • huggy591
    Sean S, a few thoughts. First, I'd love to be doing what you are doing! This is exactly the kind of thing I've been looking at doing for a few years now, but financially I am not able to make that move yet. I wish you well in making your dreama reality. ;-)

    Now, any CAT5 run can be used for multiple PCs or ethernet devices in a room, if you place a hub/switch at the room end and plug in multiple PCs. You would be using the CAT5 run form the central data center as a spoke betwen switches. If you decide to go with PC-enabled I/O and control, all the things you want to do can be done with either custom programmed clients and server(s), or with a web browser on the remote client PC. You could also hook up an IP phone, and possibly use that as a control device as well.

    BTW, keeping the system based on standard PCs means it would be fairly cheap and easy to replace them in the future. Unless you have a really good reason for going with proprietary equipment (which usually means single source and $$$), stick with the standard stuff.

    Streaming video can easily be done with a server farm, depending on the number of cameras and video feeds you wish to serve up. You would home-run the video feeds to the nearest server that could sit on the network - it doesn't have to be in the data center/wiring closet, but that would be best. The remote viewing PC can use a network-based protocol with a client (could even be java in a web browser, such as the iVista streaming video system or similar), so the only problem becomes selection of the digitizing software/hardware and programming the feature set, along with how many PCs will be used at the end of a specific CAT5 run (= a possible bandwidth issue if you approach the max 100mbps network throughput the single down/uplink could handle at high video rates with multiple feeds simultaneously). Heck, you could even run Linux in there!

    However, PC-based control will have slight delays no matter how you hook it up, just because of the latency of the network and the software control system that sits between the control point, information source, and the playback point.

    As for the high-amperage light switches: if this was a school, a place like a gym would probably have a set of switches that actually control a relay (or series of them) in a central control panel which actually turn the lights on. They probably have a control circuit that you could tie into, and that may actually control several lighting circuits. At least that's how it was done in the schools I attended.

    I'm biased (used to work for GE), but the Caddx Networx NX-8E alarm system (with add-ons) can handle 192 zones including fire zones, stands alone and can use phone line monitoring like your existing system, can be plugged into Homeseer for zones transitions and control (etc.), and has many other devices that can be added through it's NX buss and related interfacing boards and modules. The entire system was designed to make it extremely expandable and most of GE's various lines have modules that can plug into it. You may want to seek a local Caddx dealer/installer, however, to insure the system is hooked up and programmed right given the complexity of your arrangement.

    Then again, an entire digital video security premise system right down to access control can be installed by a GE dealer, if that's what you want.

    If I think of anything else, I'll post. Or feel free to contact me via email in my profile. BTW, where are you?

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  • pkoslow

    Congradulations on an interesing purchase & project. First thing that came to my mind after reading the recommendations for light switches above hasn't been addressed and may be difficult for you to overcome.

    SWITCH RATINGS (Wattage)

    Most residencial switches only offer capacity from 300w (x-10 & Zwave) up to 1000w (Switchlinc, Leviton, etc) for the dimming switches... I'm not certain on the specs so others please chime in. In a school building, I expect that many of your lights are flourescent or even metal halide, etc. and are non dimming. This may help as they can be controlled by a relay type switch, but many or most of your lighting circuits probably still exceed the capacity of most available consumer type automated switches?

    Please... others with more expertise in this area provide your opinions.


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  • GenevaDude
    Guest replied
    You have a daunting task ahead of you but with time, I think you will succeed. You need to list all the tasks that need to be done then prioritize them The core rasks that need to be completed first, those that can be done at any time, and estimated time, cost (equipment, labor, etc) will help you manage the project.

    Another thing to check would be to see if there is a HomeSeer club in your area. If not, perhaps there are other HomeSeer owners.
    If you update your profile, it might help others contact you.

    If you can, post some pictures, as this appears to be very interesting. If you have a website, let u know. And anytime you have a question, pleae feel free to post it here.

    Good Luck Sean!

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  • Sean S
    Guest replied
    Thanks guys.

    I've been afraid to count the lighting switches.
    Cost is an issue. I'm not saying I plan on designing the system with cost as the foundation, but when you have at least 100 light's a consideration.

    Z-wave looks promising. The length of the place is about 150' max. Before I commit to the switched lighting though, I need to see what doesn't produce ill line noise or RF as both the CNC machines and the (unmentioned) recording studio will have equipment which doesn't like noise. For this, I'll probably have to get one switch type to test at a time.

    The IP cameras look like the ticket...I'm a little confused as to their operation. I'm assuming you just patch these into the same hub/router that your LAN is on and go?

    I'm still a bit lost on the GUI station/Kiosk/touchpanel ordeal. Is there a touchpanel that communicates back to the server via ethernet that has audio/video capability?

    Here's the goal...
    I'm in the back part of floor 3 and someone rings the door bell (or trips a sensor that chimes). I would like the "station" to play the chime, allow me to see video at that door, and communicate via intercom to that door.
    At the same time, I would like to be able to see the weather (web)...control home audio...and all other HA tasks from that "station". Before I forget, answering the telephone and checking messages from any "station" would be a huge plus.
    Now with individual computers working in "browser" mode with the server on the LAN, this all seems perfectly doable. I'm not sure if you can get traditional touchscreens to do this sort of I/0 through ethernet?

    For the rest of the I/0, am I missing a product which serves as a "remote" I/0 station via ethernet? I'll blurt out my imagination and see if it rings any bells...
    You have a box plugged into your router with the rest of the computers on your LAN...
    This box is at the end of 200' of cat5 and has I/0 for audio/32 motion detectors/microphones/svga/and switch output for hardwire relays (to control floods and door locks...etc). This magic box sends data back to the server on sensor status, passes audio/video bi-directionally, and will set relays based on commands from HA software.
    Basically this is indirectly a hardwired system even though a single Cat5 is the "hardwire" and data is being translated into action.

    Another way to look at this is to imagine that you have 3 separate buildings...each building is 100' from the next in a triangle. Each building has 10 rooms.
    You really don't want to run 10 pair of speaker wires from building C back to building A, you really don't want to run 3 video camera coax runs each back to building A from B and C, you really don't want to run 10 motion sensors back to building A (assuming building A has your ElkM1 and your dedicated HA computer).
    ...and you really don't feel comfortable controlling a separate building 100' away totally via wireless (although wireless using a transmitter in the *same* building as the receiver may be acceptable).

    This leaves a couple different thoughts on approach...
    First, computers in A,B,C already do work on the LAN that runs between them. You have a main router in A and hubs in A,B,C.
    Of course, any one of those computers can do HA on it's own...including A/V. By the nature of the LAN, any of those computers can already video conference (cameras), act as a file server (media), and have USB(etc) I/0 for HA products.
    Downside is that even if there were a home automation system that would incorporate/control the I/0 of any of the computers on that LAN, you run into the problem of having all these computers running all the time...maybe an issue...maybe not, but that's multiple points for potential crash.

    This makes you want to run the computers only as "browsers" for control and have the I/0 done with hardware (the magic box on a string again).

    Anyway, instead of blurting my ever-changing thoughts on this...let me ask all of you what your approach would be to that setup.

    The setup being...
    3 buildings in a triangle 100' apart. Each building has rooms/doors/windows/sound systems/security/cameras...etc.

    1 Cat5 to all 3 (which must also be used for standard LAN traffic)

    You can run as much Cat5 as you like within the buildings as long as it is patched through the LAN (meaning not just used as regular "wire").

    Goal being...

    Control of any building from any building...with syncronized A/V and streaming security video between them.

    Not to have to run 100 security sensors back to building A from B and C. (running *within* each building is fine)

    Not to have to run (S)VGA at all (for control stations/touchscreens) Any interface/screen that uses only power and the LAN is fine though.

    Minimize the use of wireless, and minimize the distance to wireless devices when they are the only option.

    Note: In asking for a theoretical approach, I should also mention that the critical security hard-wiring is already done and physically spans the imaginary 3 buildings. Additional security and fire would be less mission critical (outdoor floodlights, video...gate sensors..etc). Basically I'm saying that you don't have to consider a router crash taking down the principal fire/security since that is already a true hardwire.

    Sounds hard, but is probably a lot more simple than it looks if you consider what each computer already on a LAN can do regarding I/0 and HA.

    P.S. I am actually going to rig this place up and I will be sure to feedback on the results. I really appreciate your advice.

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  • tobad78
    Just another lead try checking out the M1-Gold by elk for alarm panel. I'm supposed to do a training next week if I can manage heading their. But I'm sure others here no more about it. This looks very promising and has alot of benifits. Elk makes alot of good products.

    How many Lighting switches are you planning on?

    Another thought would be possibly Leviton or another manufactor that offers more industrial products. If you like the leviton products I'm also a reseller and can get alot more information industrial wise about it to you. I'm in contact with the leviton rep often.

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  • smoothtlk
    Guest replied
    Check into this repeater/ coupler. I use it in my house and it works great. One of the features that I am not using is the ability to connect two couplers together via LAN cable. Might be useful to send that X10 signal to the other side of the building, even cross power panels.

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  • Rupp
    If you do not have a lot of 3 way switches then a ZWave installation may work for this very large project. The beauty of ZWave is it's entirely RF and each installed switch/plug/etc acts as a repeater. So you could start close to the Automation PC and start adding modules as you go. If one doesn't work add another in between until they all "see" each other.

    As far as the video feeds. There are several manufactures of Networked cameras and knowing you have cat5 throughout these may be what you are looking for. DLink has a good quality Network cameras for right around $100.

    For most other things a web browser should work for control via HS.

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