Home Tool Pro is the software used by installers (and presumably users) of the SmartOne CEBus automation system. This review will give you an idea of the capabilities of the system as well as a short tour of the software. As I don’t have any of the hardware installed (yet) and haven’t had a chance to try any CEBus equipment to date, this review is based on what the software says it can do.
First, let’s have a look at some of the equipment and devices available with the SmartOne System.
sysman.GIF (5987 bytes)System Manager(s)
Mounted on the wall in a convenient location, this is what controls the system. The user can initiate scenes and macros etc. using the keypad.
Presently there a 3 controllers available. These beige controllers are used to integrate other (non powerline & non CEBus) devices into the system.
hompro.GIF (5216 bytes) engman.GIF (5586 bytes) sec.GIF (5602 bytes)
– 4 analog inputs (sensors)
– 8 Binary Inputs (On/Off)
– 8 Outputs (On/Off or Momentary relays).
30 Amp Load Controller
light.GIF (5775 bytes) Smart Switches
Replace existing light switches with these decora styled units to integrate lighting control. Available with dimmer or on/off relay only.
Coming Soon – Audio Video Controller – Integrated IR commands with power sensing.
I often find the best way to learn about a system is to look at the software that configures or controls it. Home Tool Pro comes on 2 floppy disks (a very good sign … windows programs are getting toooooo huge these days). The first thing you must do is define a project (don’t forget this is configuration software for the installer). This is a nice feature as it lets the installer have several systems available on his PC and call them up as needed. Project info required includes name, location, preferences (12 or 24 hour clock, degF or C, etc.), a list of rooms and notes (a handy feature that lets you keep a running tab on what you’ve done or need to do etc.).
hometo1.jpg (69631 bytes)
Once we’ve defined the project and saved the info, the next step is to start defining devices and controllers etc. For example, lets see what a “SmartSwitch” setup looks like:
wpe85.jpg (46938 bytes)
As we start to get into this system the first thing to notice is that, unlike X-10, each device must be defined by entering it’s serial number and we don’t get a choice of the device code (or Unit Address). That’s because the CEBus system takes care of addressing for you. The serial number identifies the device and the system finds it and assigns the address. All the other tabs (“Light Scenes” etc.) give you information on which programs etc. that this light is included in and lets you go and edit the program or macro. You can also assign other lights over which this switch will be the master. Of course you can also have “Direct Control” of the light if the PC is connected to the system. The control allows On / Off / Snap / Fade. Snap will take the light directly to a Dim level and Fade will gradually rise or fall to the dim level at a user adjustable rate of change. I think we’ve finally seen the last of “Full ON Dim to Level” light control. I’m not sure why this was the only way X-10 could do it originally but I’m glad those days are fading.
Using similar screens and tabs, you set up the controllers and system managers by filling in the blanks. Pretty straight forward process here.
Now the guts of the matter. How can we control this stuff … what can we make it do … what can’t we do. Basically there are 3 programming tools (another to come = IR control). We have Lighting Scenes, House Macros and Events.
Lighting scenes are just what it says … scenes using lights :-). You can define a lighting scene by selecting the various lights and setting their positions (On/Off/Dim) as well as their rates of change (fade). When the scene is activated, all the lights do their thing.
wpe87.jpg (46956 bytes)
You can also define a “Lighting Group” which is a group of lights which you want controlled by one command. This would be like sending an X10 ALL UNITS ON command to a house code with only the group of lights in question on it.
House Macros are similar except you can include all the other stuff in the house in the macro. For example you can set up a House Macro to prepare your Home Theater … Dim the lights, turn on the equipment, Arm the security system, turn on the sprinklers etc. The commands available are basic and device specific (i.e. if you’re controlling a sprinkler you can’t try to dim it).
Last but not least is Event programming. Events are the familiar IF THEN scenarios that determine what, when and how devices are controlled in your home system. Programming these events in Home Tool Pro is simple. Point and click to build the statements.
wpe88.jpg (42634 bytes)
And that’s about it. Oh … two more things to do. First, you set up the menus which display on the System Manager. The manager has LCD menus down the left hand side which allow you to control all of the functions that you program into the system. The menus can be edited to suit (although you can only change the order of the displays and not add or remove functions). The ManagerPlus is smart enough to know what you have in the system and won’t display menus if you don’t have the related equipment.
DIY Home Automation at SmartHomeUSA
Lastly … the system must be initialized (i.e. send all this programming to the devices etc so that they actually work). This is a simple push button operation whereby you either initialize the whole system or add new devices one at a time. I was unable to test this function but in a discussion with the manufacturer I was told that this may take from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the size of the database to be downloaded. It was also pointed out to me that the SmartOne system is a distributed control network. In other words, each device is programmed with enough information to carry on operating even if the System Manager is disabled.
From the look of this software, there is still lots of stuff to come for the SmartOne system. IR control will be an important one along with appliance control and HVAC etc. A few more comments:
* The Help files are clear and seem sufficient to cover most questions.
* Only one print function is available and it prints out the entire system configuration. This could be a bit tedious for the installer since he probably only has a mini printer at best. It would be nice to be able to pick and choose what you wanted to print for troubleshooting and histrionic purposes.
Overall the system software is easy to learn and use. This is the first CEBus system to market that I know of and it looks to be good for most basic home automation functions. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the hardware soon so stay tuned.