With this technology, you can control the lighting, the alarm system, the front gate, virtually anything on your property that is controlled serially, or needs no control beyond the application of power.

Extend your reach Serial-over-Ethernet

Bill Hubbard | ThermoSight, Inc.

SoE: Extend your reach with Serial-over-Ethernet
by Bill Hubbard, ThermoSight, Inc.

With this technology, you can control the lighting, the alarm system, the front gate, virtually anything on your property that is controlled serially, or needs no control beyond the application of power.


Recently, a client that we've worked with for several years now contacted us seeking a recommendation for software with which to control several new Sony cameras. In the past we had programmed his AXIS video servers to control similar cameras, but the client had purchased other servers this time; servers which did not lend themselves to programming, hence the need for control software.

Furthermore, these cameras were destined for their stables, some 300 to 500 meters from the home, so that Sony's own control software which operates through a hard-wire connection to the PC's serial port couldn't be used. Consequently, seeing the potential such a program might have for our other applications, we wrote our own software to the client's specifications. We recently finished that software, installed it, and it is currently undergoing evaluation by the client.

SoE, which has been in use by industry for quite some time, is just now finding a place in the home. In our immediate application it is used to control several clusters of surveillance cameras and associated pan-and-tilt mounts, but it could just as easily be used to control the lighting, the alarm system, and the access control system; indeed it can work with anything employing serial input or output, or with the aid of a serially-controlled power distribution panel, that doesn't require control beyond the application of AC power.

The system is simple and inexpensive, combining a serial server with control software. In our application, the heart of the system is the AXIS 2490 Serial Server (http://www.AXIS.com/products/cam_2490/) and (http://www2.AXIS.com/files/userguide/2490/2490gs.pdf).   While there are a number of other, less expensive serial servers in the marketplace, we chose the 2490 because of the manufacturer's reputation: it's an AXIS product so we knew that (a) it would work as advertised, and (b) it was rugged and reliable.  And frankly, the terrific technical support that AXIS provides for all of its products doesn't hurt either.

The AXIS 2490 serial server provides three outputs, one RS485/422 output and two 9-pin RS232 outputs. Our particular application uses the two RS232 outputs: one to control the camera, one to control the p&t mount. Server administration is easily performed via an industry-standard web browser whereby each of the three outputs may be enabled or disabled, and assigned to a specific connection 'port'.

We use a Linksys wireless Ethernet system to bridge the distance between the home and the stables, so the stable's surveillance cameras actually become a part of the home's LAN and accessible by any PC in the home, and in this particular case, any PC connected to the internet. With this feature, the owners can view the stables while away from home and the owners of those horses being boarded at the stables may do the same (for a small surcharge). Of course, viewing is password-protected and IP filtered for security.

The software that drives the AXIS 2490 is in some ways similar to that now-ubiquitous application, an "instant Messenger".

It is basically a client that connects to a server at the user-specified IP address and port and can communicate via "well-behaved" (i.e. relatively short) text or binary strings. The software may have zero, one, or two "protocols" (command sets) programmed in or read in from prepared command-set files.

For example, many Sony cameras use their proprietary VISCA command protocol, Sony's predefined command language. In our client's case, the entire VISCA protocol is programmed into the application … no support files are required. Commands are selected via the mouse and (perhaps) modified by mouse or keyboard and then sent on their way to the camera. Camera responses, if any, are displayed both in binary, and in decoded text format, by the program.

So, what does all this mean to you? Well, homes get smarter each day as more such systems enter the marketplace. This software or something like it, coupled with the appropriate hardware permit you to expand your reach via Serial over Ethernet.

With this technology, you can control the lighting, the alarm system, the front gate, virtually anything on your property that is controlled serially, or needs no control beyond the application of power.

If you would be interested in a demonstration of this technology, and have Microsoft .NET installed on your PC, then please visit http://www.thermosight.com/SoEdownload.htm to download a demonstration version of our client's program to use on your own machine. Indeed, you may even connect to our own 2490 and Sony IX45-A camera (while still available - no guarantee how long that'll be the case). This permits you to control our camera yourself (the program's pretty simple but there are suggested steps to a meaningful demonstration on that, and related pages).

Keep in mind that the program available for download is a demonstrator … it differs from the client's program in that it has only a subset of a single protocol -  it supports only the camera, and even that is limited (those familiar with the VISCA command set will see that this is indeed an abbreviated version of VISCA). Still, limited version or not, with only a little imagination, you may be able to see applications for this powerful technology in your own home. AXIS 2490.

May we configure a system for you?


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