For 25 years, Home Automation, Inc. (HAI) has provided innovative, quality home automation products to professionals in the low-voltage market. These products offer security along with luxury and convenience, making HAI’s system a good bet for anyone who wants both security and energy management.

Case Study: Omni Commercial Controller Powers Full Integration at Penal Institution

Allan B. Colombo | HAI

Case Study: Omni Commercial Controller Powers Full Integration at Penal Institution

Author: Allan B. Colombo for HAI

For 25 years, Home Automation, Inc. (HAI) has provided innovative, quality home automation products to professionals in the low-voltage market. These products offer security along with luxury and convenience, making HAI’s system a good bet for anyone who wants both security and energy management. HAI does this by integrating all the various subsystems together using a centralized, computerized head-end.

Over those years, HAI integrators diversified, expanding their reach to include the building management system (BMS). Because of demand and the natural progression of technology, HAI engineers have done likewise, expanding the HAI automation platform to include commercial and institutional applications.

“The HAI Omni Pro II is available in a commercial version, the Omni Commercial Controller (HAI part number 20A00-5).  This controller is UL Listed for commercial burglary,” says HAI President & CEO Jay McLellan. The Omni Commercial Controller includes all of the advanced features of the Omni Pro II, but with the added benefit of an attack-proof enclosure. The OmniPro II in its commercial form can be expanded up to a total of 176 zone inputs and 136 voltage outputs.”

Louis Katona, President of VidCorp Security Systems, Inc., of Houston, Texas, is one of those HAI dealers that gradually expanded his company’s reach into the commercial realm. Today he uses the Omni Pro II to provide his clients with BMS, access control, video surveillance, and a host of other services.

Katona, like other systems integrators around the world, have made a valuable discovery: HAI products are not limited to home control—they are also are perfect for many commercial and institutional applications. This is by virtue of the many advanced integration features that HAI has added to its commercial Omni that support vital functions found in commercial and institutional settings.

“HAI products are the foundation on which we've built our business over the past 15 years,” says Katona. “HAI's automation technology allows us to design systems that can control lighting, HVAC, security, access control, video surveillance, and more. When HAI is added to the design plan, we have the tools necessary to create a powerful BMS.”

Because HAI’s Omni Commercial Controller bears a UL Commercial Burglary listing, Katona is able to satisfy insurance companies and others that require it. The listing itself is an indication of how resilient HAI’s alarm panel is to attack.

Penal Facility Puts HAI to the Test

In 2003, Katona sat down with officials at a mid-size prison facility to discuss their need for integration among dissimilar subsystems within their complex. There were four areas where integration was lacking and problems continued to persist. They were BMS, which included sump pumps, lighting, and temperature control; along with basic facility security, access control, and the control of motorized vehicles using a special radio system.

“We sat down with them to talk about their problems and what VidCorp could do for them. Their needs were extensive but I knew the HAI platform would enable us to accomplish what they wanted,” says Katona. “Besides the basics, they needed to automatically start and stop a number of motor vehicles on queue, something that my local competitors were not able to do.”

There are specialized motor vehicles in a Sally port that often sit for extended periods without use. During winter months this can become a problem when the batteries in these vehicles fail.

“They were assigning people to go out there to start these vehicles and sit with them. They had to open the garage doors and put the fans on in order to remove the exhaust,” says Katona. “This is in a secured area under the control of their security personnel. I asked them what would be the difference if we automated the process.  They could watch the area on camera to assure security and proper shutdown of all systems, including the closing of the garage doors and the shutdown of the ventilation fans.”

Prison officials decided that Katona’s idea was worth exploring. After some debate it was decided VidCorp would install automation in one bay to see how it worked.

“First we installed a prototype. We equipped the vehicle in the middle bay to start on queue. A camera in the vicinity allows guards to monitor the process,” says Katona. “The lights come on and the [garage] door open automatically. The vehicle starts and the fans come on. Fifteen minutes later the vehicle shuts off and the garage doors close. Thirty minutes afterward the exhaust fans shut down.”
Prison officials liked what they saw so much that Katona’s company installed the same system in two other secure bays.

Also included in the mix is a sophisticated camera system, electronic security, lighting and HVAC control, and electronic access. Each one of these subsystems are controlled in some fashion by Katona’s HAI OmniPro II control panel. The result is a more secure, energy efficient facility that prison officials are well satisfied with.

“The perimeter security is controlled by several layers of devices. When an intrusion is detected the entire perimeter area if flooded with powerful spotlights. The surveillance system tracks movement and relays all information to mobile units as well as in-house security personnel,” says Katona. The Omni Commercial Controller controls all of this and a lot more.

The Technology Behind Katona’s Success

One of the secrets behind the high-level of integration that Katona installed at the prison involves the use of RS485 and RS232 by way of three ports built into the OmniPro II’s motherboard. A combination of HAI’s automation software and a robust RS485 data bus allows dealers to extend control up to 4,000 feet, 50 to 150 feet using RS232. 

“On the DC project we extended the keypad bus (RS485) to connect the control panel to a number of expansion enclosures. The 485 bus is what links all the accessory devices to the [head-end], along with thermostats, keypads, expansion panels, and other devices,” says Katona. “The 485 gives us more operating distance than 232, and it allows us to daisy chain these devices all around a facility. We usually homerun these devices anyway so we can more easily isolate problems when they come up.”

For example, an 8-relay module (HAI part number 19A00-1), in conjunction with the Omni Commercial Controller, allows HAI dealers to control subsystems, such as lighting, cell doors, and motorized gates--within and without the prison. “We support two PLC protocols: UPB (Universal Power Bus) and X-10 (Standard, Extended, and Compose),” says McLellan. “We implemented standard protocols for both so that it is interoperable with all brands.”
A 16-zone input/16-zone voltage output module (HAI part number 17A00-1) offers even more expansion capability. According to McLellan, “You can connect up to four 4-relay modules or two 8-relay modules to convert these 12VDC outputs to Form C relay outputs. However, these modules work only with the OmniPro II panel.”

Because these outputs are programmable using HAI’s elaborate software, Katona’s company can control other aspects of the facility, such as cameras. When someone activates a card reader, security personnel can see who it is by programming a nearly camera to pan/tilt until it can “see” the door in question. This is accomplished by triggering presets in a matrix camera controller using programmable relay outputs in an HAI relay module.

Another means of control at Katona’s penal facility is video guard tours, invoked by schedules contained in the OmniPro II’s firmare. “When there’s no one in the security room after a certain hour we can preset the system to move cameras anywhere prison officials want,” says Katona. “For example, at six o’clock in the evening when staff has left [the security room] we can divert cameras from their usual routine. This is done automatically at a certain time of day or by manual means.”

The access control portion of the HAI system integrates with environmental and people sensors. Integration includes outdoor temperature and lighting sensors as well as water level and a variety of security sensors, such as motion detectors. The HAI main controller also allows management to assign employees to specific doors on certain days, between certain hours of the day. The OmniPro II Commercial controller can also regulate the order by which doors are released or opened, something that is extremely important in prison facilities.

“The facility has roll-up doors with an interlocking system that requires that they be opened in a given sequence. All of this is controlled by card readers combined with the HAI OmniPro II,” says Katona. “We added an intercom system at key doors so those who approach outside their regular access day/time, or at a door they are not authorized to enter by, can get help from security personnel inside the facility.”

The level of integration afforded by HAI’s commercial platform has made it possible for Katona’s clients to realize a higher level of integration at a price point that they would normally not be able to afford. As a bonus, the electronic security portion of the system provides the eyes and ears necessary to operate a successful BMS component while all the while providing excellent security against breakouts and break-ins. Because the HAI line offers so much, dealers need stock only a limited number of control panels and expansion devices.

Home Automation, Inc. (HAI)


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