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European Custom Installer

System Integration for the Connected Home

Home Automation

Xperinet’s media player

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Xperient

Xperinet’s Tarpon is a small form-factor media player which decodes a broad array of video formats in up to1080p resolution and can be integrated with the popular Sonos system.


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URC’s KP-900 Wireless Keypad Remote Control

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KP-900

The wireless keypad remote KP-900 controls all audio and video in a home, simplifying and automating operations. It can be mounted on a wall AND used as a handheld remote, making it ideal for retrofitting into homes with existing entertainment systems (as well as for new homes).

Four screws attach the KP-900's bracket to a wall, eliminating the expense and inconvenience of running new wires or opening up walls. The keypad mounts in any room (and anywhere in that room). It can be used on the wall in its bracket, independently as a handheld, or affixed to a metal surface (Think refrigerator.)

KP-900

The keypad is compatible with iPods and other portable music players, and comes in three decorator finishes - white, light almond and black.

The KP-900 is compatible with Universal's pioneering MSC-400 Master System Controller, providing installers with options like triggered macros, RS-232 / relay control, video and voltage sensors and other devices.

The KP-900 should be professionally programmed using software via a Windows PC equipped with a USB port. The software is available at no extra cost from www.universalremote.com. While a basic set-up only takes a few minutes, fully automating an A/V system requires a detailed knowledge of the equipment, the user's preferences, and how the system is connected.

KP-900

The KP-900 comes with 4 MBs of user-configurable flash memory to support 400 full pages of commands that can be distributed to as many as 255 devices. Additional features include a 255-color backlighting palette for the LCD display, one-touch blue backlighting for all the hard buttons, the ability to learn new IR commands, a small integrated speaker for audible feedback, a built-in sleep timer, and a USB cable.

Go BMB Has URC KP-900 in Stock

Home Automation Goes Mainstream

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A new study from ABI Research says that a technology shift now under way is opening up a new mainstream consumer market for Home Automation and creating a new opportunity for broadband and telephone service providers.

For 30 years, HA to control lights, blinds, access and heating/air-conditioning fell into two broad categories: custom-installed systems for luxury homes from companies such as AMX and Crestron that cost an average of $60-70,000; and low-end DIY products using technologies such as X10, aimed at tech-savvy enthusiasts. The expense of the former and the limitations and unreliability of the latter constrained the size of the market, says ABI.

Home AutomationRecently, however, a new breed of standards-based wireless technologies such as ZigBee and Z-Wave promise a middle ground. Says ABI senior analyst Sam Lucero, “The introduction of ZigBee, Z-Wave and similar standards-based technologies has led to new systems for mainstream consumers. There are two main categories: comprehensive but more economical systems for the consumer to own; and home automation and monitoring as a managed service offered by broadband and telco service providers.”

Systems resembling those $60,000 custom installations are now in the $10-15,000 range with prices falling fast. One leading player here is Control4. “ABI Research thinks this movement holds great promise,” says Lucero. “Big retailers such as Best Buy are getting involved and offering standard packages.”

The managed services approach enables telcos and broadband service providers to include remote home monitoring/automation as additions to their bundled packages. They use webcams and sensors to provide security and other monitoring; with time, more controls and features are being added.

Lucero comments: “Telcos and broadband service providers are uniquely positioned to roll managed home automation and monitoring services out on a large scale, to publicize them, and to educate consumers about their value.”

“Rather than trying to ‘reinvent the home automation wheel,’” advises Lucero, aspiring service providers should take advantage of the excellent turnkey solutions available from vendors such as 4HomeMedia, iControl Networks, Portus, uControl, Xanboo, and others.

Go Mainstream with ABI

Automatic Metering: “A Tale of Two Continents”

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Not so long ago the meter reader was a regular visitor to all homes with electricity. Until the late 1980s in North America, and more than a decade later in Europe, meter readers would write down the usage data for later entry in the utility company’s accounts.

These continents’ paths have diverged, however, with powerful implications for AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) and AMI (Automatic Metering Infrastructure).

“The smart metering market has developed along two tracks,” says ABI Research senior analyst Sam Lucero. “This historical dichotomy has had a significant impact. Europe is the largest market for smart metering; despite more rapid expected growth, the smaller bases from which North America and Asia-Pacific are starting will keep them ranked second and third among world regions.”

North American electric utilities sought ways to make the meter reading process more efficient, an evolution that led through plug-in readers, to drive-by meter reading, to a fixed wireless infrastructure. The result: a fragmented and heterogeneous mix of AMR technologies based on both CDMA and GSM networks, as well as other WAN technologies.

Europe did not start automating meter reading until a decade later, but then went much further right from the start, with AMI deployments. In 2001, Italian utility ENEL deployed more than 27 million smart meters, creating a homogeneous AMI model subsequently followed by most other European suppliers. While AMR is strictly a one-way process, AMI allows frequent bi-directional communication, enabling demand response programs, automatic turn on/shutoff, and remote meter fault detection.

Not surprisingly given the overwhelming prevalence of GSM in Europe, GPRS is the cellular technology used for backhaul. This may raise obsolescence concerns among some utilities concerned that GSM/GPRS will be phased out as 3G networks are deployed. According to Lucero, however, “ABI Research does believe GSM/GPRS networks will be widely available for at least the next ten years. At fifteen years, prospects become more uncertain. Utilities signing contracts with cellular operators can receive guarantees that GSM/GPRS network connectivity will be available for the necessary timeframe.”

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Cellphone Adds to Comfort Intelligent Home System

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The UCM/GSM provides a cellular phone connection to the Comfort Intelligent Home System, an integrated Intruder Alarm and Home Automation system with voicemail.

This gives Comfort the following abilities:

  • Acts as a backup for dial-out on alarm activation when the land line is faulty or cut. Or it can be used without a fixed telephone line, for installations where a telephone line is not available or not desired. Comfort's dialler can dial to 8 telephones ( mobile or landline), pagers or Central Monitoring Stations.
  • Allows the user to dial to the GSM number instead of the fixed telephone line to access Comfort Voice menus. There is no voicemail on this line.
  • Allows Comfort to report alarms to the user’s cellular phone via text message or SMS (SMS message will show the alarm type and Zone description as text).
  • Allows users to send commands to control home appliances and the security system via SMS, and receive acknowledgement of the command by return SMS.

In order for the UCM/GSM to be used, there must be a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) service in the area. GSM is currently widely available is Europe and Asia.

The UCM/GSM requires a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card to be inserted, just like with a cellular phone. This can be a prepaid card, or one billed monthly under any usage plan

Go UCM/GSM Specs

Go Comfort Intelligent Home System

Drivers for HA’s Growth Beyond Niche Markets

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High touch retail environments, home monitoring via a service provider, and turnkey systems in new homes are three approaches that will help home automation vendors penetrate what has until now proved a stubborn market, says ABI Research.

Using a combination of these, home automation vendors can expect to build revenues for wireless home automation nodes from a historical $1.1 million in 2005 to more than $58 million in 2011.

"For many years, home automation technology was available to consumers only in niche markets," says ABI Research senior analyst Sam Lucero. "At one end of the spectrum were technophile hobbyists; at the other were homeowners with custom home automation systems costing up to $100,000 or more. But home automation has largely been ignored by the vast majority of mainstream consumers."

Three new strategies may change that, according to ABI Research.

The first is a move by big-box retailers to add a new "high touch" environment within their massive stores: a store-within-a-store concept, in which knowledgeable staff can demonstrate home theater products and networks to customers. Customers who enjoy the advantages of networked entertainment are likely to see the benefits of automated control of lighting, climate and window coverings as well. "High touch consumer electronics retailers are ideally positioned to capitalize on this market dynamic," says Lucero.

Two US companies, iControl and Xanboo, have taken a different tack. They offer customers the ability—through service providers such as ISPs, cable companies and mobile operators—to monitor conditions in their homes remotely. Although home monitoring services are at a very early stage of deployment to mainstream consumers, ABI Research believes the service provider channel shows much promise.

Finally, says Lucero "There is growing interest among builders in offering home automation technology as a standard option. Builders are well-positioned to demonstrate new home automation technologies in model homes, and to educate potential buyers about their benefits." A new class of technology vendors is focusing on the use of standard technologies such as ZigBee and Z-Wave to create packaged solutions. These vendors include Control4, Cortexa Technology, Exceptional Innovation, and Nobu, and all are looking closely at new home builders as a key channel.

Go ABI Research

Smart Europeans Go for Smart Meters

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According to new research report from Berg Insight, the number of smart electricity meters will exceed 60 million in Europe by 2012. This will mean that one in four consumers will receive electricity bills based on their actual consumption and gain financial benefits from immediate energy savings.

The report identifies rising electricity prices, fears over global warming and energy market reforms as the main drivers behind the adoption of smart metering technology.

“People want control over surging energy costs, governments are obliged to promote energy conservation and competitive markets force the industry to become more efficient. Smart metering contributes to all of these things”, says Tobias Ryberg, senior analyst, Berg Insight.

Italy and Sweden lead the adoption of smart meters in Europe with full penetration expected by 2009. The technology is being introduced on a large scale in Denmark, Finland and Austria. New legislation is also expected to mandate smart metering in Ireland, Netherlands and Norway by the next decade. The UK government is considering whether to introduce similar requirements, but is presently leaning towards a less sophisticated solution where consumers will only receive more information about their power consumption.

Go Berg on Smart Meters