Have you ever wondered what companies like Crestron and Clipsal actually do? To make things simpler, we’ve put together a who’s who of the home automation space, covering home control systems, lighting, multi-room entertainment and powerline networking.
If you missed Part One of this feature you can find it here. Otherwise read on…
Home Control Systems
Sitting at the top-end of home automation, AMX special installers provide totally integrated systems to control many functions in your home. Using custom-designed software and touchscreens, you can get easy control of the devices in your home – for a cost!
Crestron, like AMX specialises in this top-end complete integration of all elements in your home – including music and video distribution, security, irrigation, you name it. Again, not a solution for those counting their dollars.
Sitting on the more affordable side of the fence is Calypso controls, which is an AV company branching out into the open source automation of home theatre products such as screens, sound systems and lighting.
Another more affordable option is Control4, which uses a combination of wired and wireless technologies to link and control the elements of your home. It is modular too – so you can start with lighting and grow from there as needs arise.
Digital Homeware software sits on top of your whole system to provide you a simple-to-use interface for controlling everything from your lighting to your audio and video content. Best of all – it’s based on open source technology so you can use just about anything – PDA, PC as your control pad.
HAI makes home control systems, lighting control products, distributed audio products which can be installed in new or retrofitted into existing homes. There are also a range of HAI interfaces including touchscreens, consoles and software that let you control your home via the Internet or media centre PC.
HAL has a product range including AV distribution, (central amplifier with AV control, keypads etc) lighting control and automation (processors, touchscreens, control modules). You can have AV distribution or lighting on its own or have the processor controlling HAL devices or any other third party products.
This company uses the open standard KNX home control system to reduce the retrofit rewiring headache. It also has a range of stylish keypads and touchscreens to control the system too.
The iQhome Comfort II Comfort II gives you a smart security system which can be used as a platform for other home automation functions. You can even use your mobile phone to perform any of the automation functions programmed into the system.
This system allows you to manage your distributed music and video, automate your lighting and get you up and running with VoIP and home networking.
Smart Company was one of the pioneers in the home control space, when it launched an affordable home controller named Jeeves. Designed to give you efficient and easy access to your home’s many electronic components – the way a butler might – Jeeves has now been combined with communication, home entertainment and internet browsing functions for PC and non-PC literate world. This new product is called the Smart Solution.
On the budget end of the spectrum is this DIY approach to home automation. Selling starter kits such as a lighting kit, and energy saving kit, WinPlus offers automation of certain devices around the home for only a couple of hundred dollars per kit. The range is available through Bunnings.
Click on the next page for information on multi-room entertainment specialists
The A-Bus platform is a patented technology for distributing audio throughout the home, and is used by various hardware manufacturers including those who make Harman Kardon’s AB1 amplified in-wall module and ABH4 multiroom hub, which is distributed by Sydney-based Convoy International.
A-Bus uses a single Category 5 (Cat-5) cable to carry audio signals, system power, data and status signals from an audio source in one location to amplifiers and speakers in other rooms in the house, allowing users to control the volume from each outlet.
Sonos claims it was the first brand to manufacture a product that lets you play all your digital music files in as many locations around the house as you choose, without the need for a PC in every room, a music server or a wireless network.
The Sonos ZonePlayer is controlled by a single remote which is sold separately and users can purchase up to 32 hubs for different zones, the first of which plugs directly into a computer which stores the user’s digital music files, each hub sporting a built-in amplifier which pumps-out music to a connected pair of speakers.
The Matrix brand offers a range of custom installed distributed audio, multi-room audio control systems, speakers and audio accessories through AMX Australia – its local distributor. Matrix is also one of the only brands that manufactures a complete retrofit solution, including flush-mount LCD control keypads, speakers and wiring. The Matrix range’s ‘music hub’ is in the form of a CD player/receiver, offering users the choice between playing CDs or digital music from an attached USB-compatible digital music player such as an iPod.
Vantage manufactures a series of custom installed integrated entertainment and automation products, including three distributed audio units – a C-Box hub which connects to a PC by which users program the system and sends music information around the house; a device controller which can be programmed to control a user’s CD player, AV receiver or radio; and a remote which commands the device controller. Users must supply their own speakers and computer and will need a qualified custom installation expert to set-up their system.
Russound offers a complete range of custom installed multi-room audio-video systems, multichannel amplifiers and loudspeakers. Their products include the CAM6.6 multi-room receiver which distributes six audio sources into six zones, while multiple receivers can link together for additional zones. There are also two wall-mounted touchscreen control panels with high resolution LCDs which display song, track, volume and zone information, and two smaller wall-mounted key pads available.
Originally entering the loudspeaker market in 1988, Niles’ audio products have since branched out to include automation solutions for audio and video, including the GXR2 – a multizone receiver that can configure any combination of six sources in up to 30 zones around the house with the addition of more GXR2 receivers.
This receiver will integrate your AM/FM tuners, iPods and any audio products including CD and DVD players. The Niles range is designed for whole house distribution and includes various in-ceiling and in-wall speakers, touchscreens, speaker selectors, remotes and in-wall volume controls.
ELAN offers a complete home automation range, including audio, video, lighting and security products, such as the VIASC4 four-port system controller which acts as the hub of the system. You’ll need to hook up a PC to configure it, which would be better done by a custom installer – this is not the sort of system you’d buy for straight multi-room audio, but rather for a solution to control your entire home theatre system including curtains and drapes. ELAN also makes its own in-wall and floor-standing speakers along with structured wiring.
The Logitech Squeezebox (previously known as the Slim Devices Squeezebox) transmits digital music stored on a PC to a stereo, through Wi-Fi or cables. It features built-in 802.11g and an Ethernet port for this. The device will also provide access to thousands of internet radio stations, and it even works when the PC is switched off via the SqueezeNetwork.
PixelMagic Media Box MB100
PixelMagic’s HD MediaBox is an innovative and flexible solution to this dilemma. It is a high-definition hardware media player with its own scaler/deinterlacer, that, when combined with a hard disk drive, can store and play video or DVD content, standard- and high-definition video files, digital images and digital music. It can also act as a network player – the device uses the SMB protocol and will detect shared folders on your PC.
Skunkworks Automated Trak Kit
The Skunkworks Trak kit mounting system comprises of a length of track around a room upon which a flat screen TV can be mounted and moved along the track. It comes in both manual and robotic models – the robotic model operates via a customised touch screen remote control. It can be pre-programmed to precise set-ups and positions.
Read on for info on automated lighting…
Known for its C-Bus lighting control, Clipsal allows a user to integrate their security system, automatic sprinklers, air-conditioners and multi-room audio to its lighting control system. Clipsal also offers a C-Bus range of low profile speakers, which can be ceiling or wall mounted, as well as a universal hand held remote controller.
Dynalite considers its lighting control systems as the backbone on which to connect other sub-systems such as security, audiovisual, or air conditioning. Dynalite also offers a range of user interfaces such as keypads, LCD screens, remote controls, motion detectors, and other integration devices.
Lutron has products ranging from simple wall controls that dim room lights to complex systems that can control an entire home. Besides home lighting controls, the company also offers shading solutions, IR remote controls, multi-scene preset lighting controls, wallplates and accessories, and also provides commercial lighting solutions.
HPM is a manufacturer and supplier of electrical and lighting products servicing both the residential and commercial sectors. Besides lighting dimmer controls, various lighting accessories and outdoor lights are also offered and can be readily found at electrical wholesale branches and hardware stores.
And what about powerline networking…what’s that all about? Read on for the products available at the moment…
Power-line Ethernet adapters aim to create a home network without those messy LAN wires just by using existing electrical wiring. Most of these products simply require users to plug these adapters into a power outlet anywhere in the home. This turns the outlet into an Ethernet connection into which you can plug in any networkable device.
Netgear’s Powerline HD Ethernet Adapter (HDX101)
The HDX101 ensures high quality and fast connections, especially during HD movie downloads and online gaming. The company promises up to 200 Mbps large file transfers, all encrypted to ensure security.
RRP: Individual: $229 Kit: $429
Panasonic’s HD-PLC Ethernet Adapter (BL-PA100)
Panasonic’s HD-PLC adaptor has a claimed transmission rate of up to 190 Mbps, advanced error correction, and an AES 128-bit encryption. Up to 16 adaptors are allowed per network, with up to eight devices connected to each adaptor, making it a great unit for homes with a lot of computers.
D-Link’s Powerline HD Ethernet Adapter (DHP-300)
Featuring plug-and-play installation, the D-Link adaptors are the cheapest on the market at the moment and can be attached to any device equipped with an Ethernet interface.
Corinex’s Powerline Ethernet Adapter
The Corinex AV200 Powerline Ethernet Wall Mount enables users to connect individual PCs or other devices with Ethernet communication, allows PC file and application sharing, peripheral and printer sharing, and shared broadband Internet access.