"I haven't had much luck convincing my better half that home automation systems are easy to use but when I asked her to look at the touchscreen operation of the Cardio, she was enthusiastic and understood immediately what was required to operate the system. That fact alone is enough to convince many that the system is worth the effort."
- Feb98 -
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Cardio arrives c/w a control panel (to be mounted in your HA closet, telephone or electrical room ... wherever cabling is to be terminated) and a nicely crafted touchscreen (pictured above) which measures approximately 5" by 8". This system is designed to handle security (hard wired), HVAC and lighting / appliance (X-10) systems. No PC interface is provided yet (due later this spring) so all programming and operation is carried out via the touch screen. While somewhat limited to simple timed or triggered schedules or scenes this unit will appeal to those who just need a simple to operate security based system. Programming is slow and tedious as can be expected but once the system is set up, the operation is straight forward and user friendly (icons and menus on the touch screen). I had a chance to preview Secant's soon to be released PC interface. This software makes programming and set-up much simpler.
The panel is powered by an external transformer (not supplied with the unit) and it is recommended that it be connected to a dedicated circuit. In addition, backup is provided by a 12V battery (not included).
The touchscreen is connected via twisted pair to the panel. Security (16 Zones) and HVAC (1 thermostat) devices can be hard wired to the panel as well as 3 external relays, a key reader, a siren and a doorbell (supplied with the unit). X-10 equipment communicates via a TW523 (not supplied) which plugs into the panel using a special cord. Other inputs include RJ-45 plugs for telephone, PC and ACC. The PC interface will be used to connect your PC to cardio using one RS232 compatible port. The ACC. interface can be used to connect RS232 compatible thermostats like Enerzone and RCS. Cardio will control 4 Enerzone stats and 1 RCS.
Once I found the power transformer (available at security or fire alarm dealers for around $20) and got a bit of wiring installed I plugged in the unit and ... it just worked ... no glitches or reboots required. I think the installation instructions could be a bit better organized and maybe more extensive but if you're experienced at reading a wiring diagram you shouldn't have a problem.
SCHEDULING AND PROGRAMMING
Using a touchscreen for programming is a tedious process at best. To get around this, Secant will be releasing a PC interface later this spring. I had a preview and it looks like it will do the trick. You'll be able to carry out all or most of the scheduling and set-up functions with a PC and download to the Cardio unit. In the meantime though, here's how you use the touch screen to set up the system. The basic technique is that you call up the programming menu from the main screen. You punch in your access code (2 levels of access ... user or installer) and the screen below appears.
Each icon takes you to appropriate programming menus and screens where you plug in the values required to set up the various schedules. As an example ... let's schedule our thermostat for night setback. Touch the temperature icon and up pops this screen. You use the cursor pad to select the time and day ... touch the thermometer icon to bring up the next screen where you scroll to set the heating and cooling temperatures for that time and so on for each day of the week. Scheduling of lighting, security, outlets (or appliance modules) follow the same procedure. I addition you can schedule reminders (type in with a keyboard layout on the screen) and set up deterrents (lighting scenes to simulate occupancy when the security system is armed). Times are increments of 10 minutes which can mean a lot of screen touching to get from noon to midnight if you use the cursor keys however, you can touch the screen anywhere on the schedule and from there use the cursor to zero in on the exact time.
The Configuration icon takes you to a set of tools to set-up basic system attributes and functions. Only the installer has access to all configuring data. Nevertheless, Cardio enables the user to adjust and modify some data regarding lights, outlets, telephone, security and electronic keys. This is where naming and configuring device codes etc. takes place.
"Scenes" or macros that carry out series of commands in response to input are also configured at this level.
A scene can be activated automatically according to 4 variables (either a or b or c or d) and 2 conditions (e and f).
Variable a (X-10 codes): X-10 codes sent by an external transmitter (other than Cardio).
Variable b (key): digital keys (1 to 16) or ALL.
Variable c (in): Choose from 16 security inputs, phone ring (PH) and door (DO).
Variable d (time): to activate the scene on a schedule, sunrise or sunset.
While setting up this system is a tedious and time consuming task ... once that's done, operation via the touchscreen is user friendly and intuitive. I haven't had much luck convincing my better half that home automation systems are easy to use but when I asked her to look at the touchscreen operation of the Cardio, she was enthusiastic and understood immediately what was required to operate the system. That fact alone is enough to convince many that the system is worth the effort.
Each of the main features has a series of icons and menus allowing touch control. For example, lets look at lighting control. Touch the lighting icon on the main screen and up comes the following screen:
Just touch the light you want to adjust and hit the dim control at whatever level you want. Works like a charm.
Now let's look at the thermostat. Easy and simple ... no explanation required.
How about security:
Just punch in your access code to arm / disarm the system or if you're into digital keys ... you can wire a Key Reader into the Cardio panel and use that..
Similar screens allow you to activate scenes, control appliances and a handy one will phone the fire department or police in case of an emergency (labeled SOS on the main menu).
Cardio can also be controlled by a simple telephone call from either inside or outside the home (touch-tone and can be cordless ). In either case, control by telephone allows access to direct commands (alarm system, temperature, lighting, outlets, scenes). While I didn't get a chance to try this feature, the system gives you status of some of the devices (ie it will tell you the current temperature) and allows you to control others by entering numbers on the touch tone phone. A digitized voice walks you through the process.
LIST OF FEATURES
· 16 programmable security inputs ( fire, auxiliary, temper etc. )
· HVAC zoning (x 5) : electric baseboard heaters, central heating, HVAC
|LIGHTING/ ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
· control of up to 40 X-10 lights and 10 X-10 appliances
CONTROL BY TELEPHONE
· a digitized human voice guides through the different functions and
· up to 10 reminders ( with beep and on-screen messages ) programmable
over a 7-day period
I must admit I'm in a quandary over this unit. Firstly, I think the PC interface will be a must for a dealer / installer. Having to hand program these systems on a daily basis would be too time consuming. Once set-up however, this is an easy system to operate and with the reliability of the hard wired security system it definitely has some benefits. On the one hand, I like a more open and flexible system allowing all kinds of control options. On the other ... I like the ease of operation and simplicity offered by Cardio and the touchscreen interface is good for hackers and end users alike. This system is designed for a definite purpose (Security + Automation) and therefore keeps those tasks in focus and doesn't overwhelm with complexity. Just like everything BPC (Before Personal Computers), the designers used their expertise to decide what is important and produced an interface to do the job.
The content & opinions in this article are the authorâ€™s and do not necessarily represent the views of HomeToys
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