CyberHouse Version

REVIEWS
Home Automation Software

CyberHouse Version 2.02 by Savoy Automation

Demo Software available at Savoy Software or the HTI Shareware Library.

CyberHouse's open, extensible architecture allows you to use inexpensive, off-the-shelf subsystems and components such as standard security panels, thermostats, IR devices, and lighting.

CyberHouse is a Home Automation system that allows control many devices using serial port add on controllers readily available from varied manufacturers. This concept gives you the option of choosing controllers and devices and operating all of your systems using a common interface namely CyberHouse. Plus CyberHouse integrates PC based applications such as electronic mail, fax, telephony, and paging. This hybrid combination of home automation and PC applications is referred to as the HouseHold Web. A variety of communication techniques can be used together to build your HouseHold Web. These include X-10, Radio Frequency (RF), CEBus, LonWorks, Ethernet, Token Ring, and direct connections to the PC's serial ports.Currently the following devices and controllers are supported:

- Napco Gemini, Ademco Vista 50, and Silent Knight security panels.
- JDS Time Commander Plus and Home Base Deluxe
- JDS IR Xpander - IR signals
- Marrick's Lynxport - digital IO
- X-10's CM-11A - X10 signals
- X-10's CP290 - X10 signals
- Microsoft Exchange - the electronic mail package that comes free with Windows95
- Microsoft Video and Audio for Windows95
- Enerzone and RCS Thermostats

Therefore with the correct combination of components you can control all of the systems in your "Home Network" with CyberHouse.

Installing CyberHouse is a breeze. I'm not usually a fan of tutorials etc. but the "CyberHouse Guide" that pops up when you first start up is very well implemented and leads you through the main features of the program to quickly familiarize you with the system.

The first thing you do is tell cyberhouse about your network and what components are attached to it. To do this you open "House Manager". The House Manager is CyberHouse’s server application. It provides the drivers and rule processing software that your PC uses to communicate with your automation devices. Most of House Manager’s operation is behind-the-scenes processing and communications. It works in conjunction with the Viewer, accepting instructions from you via the Viewer’s graphical user interface.

The House Manager normally runs continuously as a minimized server application on a Windows For Workgroups or Windows 95 computer or in a more dedicated machine in a networked environment, managing the devices local to the facility and executing the rule processor to automate the activity of these devices.

During the installation of your CyberHouse system, you need to set a few parameters for House Manager operation. After the initial configuration, you will rarely need to access House Manager. The application must run continuously to control your automation devices, but you can leave its icon minimized at the bottom of your PC screen. which is the server application.

House Manager Screen

 

To add components or "Type Managers" ... just use the dialog box to select the controller and tell CyberHouse which port it's connected to.

You also set up your Sunrise Sunset data and Network Server information using House Manager.

CyberHouse Viewer - Your CyberHouse Viewer is an independent application—a client application—that can run on any PC. The Viewer allows you to:
- design layouts for displaying your CyberHouse system
- register new devices
- write rules to manage your devices
- connect to remote House Managers and to off-line files
- review the activities of your CyberHouse system over time

CyberHouse Viewer

You can load in a background drawing to represent your house layout and then start adding the various devices that are installed. CyberHouse steps you through this process with dialog boxes which allow you to select the type of device and its properties. An icon representing the device is added to your layout and you drag it to the location you want. The icons can be customized with animation etc. and provide monitoring as well as manual control of each device from the layout screen.

Once the devices are all defined you write the "Rules". A rule is a specific instruction you write to control your automation devices. You write rules to instruct CyberHouse about how you like to live. In CyberHouse, rules follow a specific format which allows for great flexibility and creativity on your part. CyberHouse rules are based on the understanding that a cause generates an effect. This simple understanding is all that’s required to create a set of rules to automate the operation of the House Manager. The structure of the rule language takes the form cause then effect which you can interpret as when the cause occurs, perform the effect.

You create a rule by specifying a cause and what happens (effect) when the cause is true of false. Since you may eventually write many rules for your automation system, CyberHouse allows you to create “rule sets” that organize your rules so that you can locate or edit them easily.

Rule builders walk you through the process so you don't need to know any scripts or programming language.

 That's it ... now sit back and watch your house live and breath.

CyberHouse has other features including The Event Graph which displays events as they occur, listing devices in order of first occurrence to allow rapid analysis of situations and The Event Log which helps you to troubleshoot problems by chronologically listing the date, time, and devices associated with House Manager events. By examining this log of events, you can see where and when a device operated according to the rules you wrote.

CyberHouse's client-server architecture enables remote and mobile users to dial into their home PCs either directly or via the Internet. Once connected, you can check the status of and control all subsystems and devices on your HouseHold Web. The server portion of CyberHouse can run on a small, low cost 386 based embedded controller in addition to a standard Windows based PC.

If you don't mind leaving your PC on or using a dedicated PC to control the house then this system should serve you well. The ability to use off the shelf plug in controllers has a lot of appeal and the flexibility of the system is unparalleled. In the past, the only way to achieve whole house automation required high end, closed, proprietary systems costing many thousands of dollars. CyberHouse's base price is $199. Software add-ons to support specific subsystems such as security panels and thermostats are under $100 each. An off-the-shelf security panel is typically less than $200. A suitable thermostat is between $200 and $300.


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