Interesting site. Z-Wave has been around for about 3 years and the link
cited says it's just getting started in 2006. It repeats the same steamy
pie-in-sky claims that have been around for about 3 years about all the
companies that are _planning_ Z-Wave products. 3 years seems a long time to
be in the planning stage. I wonder where all the many millions of dollars in
venture capital raised by Zensys in multiple rounds of financing has gone if
they're just getting started with the planning in 2006?
I was wrong! I just googled and found the first mention of Z-Wave in c.h.a.
was by me in November 2002. So they've been "just getting started" and
burning multiple rounds of financing for at least 4 years and 20 or so days.
My, my, how time flies (while Z-Wave can't get off the ground). ;-)
I think that the thing limiting Z-Wave is their choice for a very low speed
network. It's going to be hard to achieve ubiquity when your system cannot
ever be used to even transmit media metadata, much less media data. No
powerline technology really could even be used for either of those things
either I don't think. Zigbee seems to be the only one that could really have
a chance at being a fairly ubiquitious wireless control technology that
could move up out of the trivial amounts of data involved in turning some
lights on and off. It could not transmit media data, but it could transmit
metadata and some other small stuff.
But, in the end, media is going to be the single biggest driver of
acceptance of home automation technologies. Actually, it may already be.
Therefore the system will have to use a backbone that supports media data,
which pretty much means the ethernet network in any practical sense at this
point. There are some other technical possibilities, but no one seems to be
really in a position to push them (such as Firewire.)
If you've already got an ethernet based automation/media backbone, it seems
to me that anyone who can build on that backbone, providing just the small
amount of extra stuff required, would have the best chance. For instance,
something like Zigbee but very localized, so that you can hang several
transmitter/receiver devices off of the ethernet network around the home to
get very good coverage and good speed. So you can provide retrofit friendly
support for lighting and a few other things that would benefit from being
wirelessly controlled, but not have the data speed downside and coverage
problems and limits on modules that come with existing wireless/powerline
Wireless IP would be optimum in that scenario, but it doesn't seem like
anyone has managed to get close to providing the small, cheap wireless IP
package that would be required.
The downside of course is that IP networks for the home have to get a lot
smarter and self managing. As the vendor of a networked automation product,
we have a fair amount of problems that are not related to our product but to
the network itself. It's too easy to get two machines on the same address,
or to mess up network settings or DHCP settings, or firewall settings and so
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
Z-Wave is not a media distribution medium. It is intended to control lights and appliances. For that it doesn't need a high speed
network. A few bytes of data are enough to operate almost anything targeted by Z-Wave.
Hmm. The only control technology that comes close to ubiquity is X10 and it does so without so much as a nod to media distribution.
There's a reason for that. While entertainment distribution and HA have overlapping markets they are not congruent. In fact, most
HA projects do not control entertainment hardware.
It's nice when a control medium can support both and for that Zigbee does have an edge. But that doesn't mean that Zigbee will
become the dominant medium. It doesn't even guaranty its survival. IMO, the strongest indication of a product or technology's long
term prognosis for survival is support from major industry players. In that regard Z-Wave is way ahead of Insteon, Zigbee and
That's an opinion. You've built a platform which supports media and HA functionality so it stands to reason you'd believe that. I
disagree. IMO, the most important consideration in choosing an HA system is security. Next is lighting control. Then comes
entertainment and HVAC. It's difficult to tell which is last though. I base this on the features that my clients request.
Virtually all of the callers ask for some subset of the above and better than 90% ask in that order.
Numerous CAT5 (Ethernet and non-Ethernet based) systems do a fine job of distributing and controlling AV systems. Several of these
are starting to play nice with popular HA platforms. I mentioned in a recent thread, for example, that ELK's M1G will soon be able
to control Russound entertainment systems. Once that's done, I'll probably ask them to do a Xantech interface to work with our
MRC44 and MRC88 systems.
But the point is, why have two backbones when one will do? Given the heavy
requirement for media these days, and its continued growth moving forward,
which Z-Wave could never handle, and the ubiquity of ethernet, there's a
good argument that having a separate backbone is just adding complexity when
there's already something there that could provide a better solution. If you
have a large house, Z-Wave just wouldn't be a good option. A message would
have to take many hops to get to its destination. You really want multiple
broadcast points all of which have a fast wired connection back to the
automation system, which the network would provide.
It's not just my opinion that media will be the biggest driver of
automation. It's a pretty widely held opinion in the automation world these
days. And we didn't build a system that has good media support just for fun,
we did it because we get many times over more interest by having that media
support. It's absolutely essential for a company of our sort to be strong in
media management these days, and you can see that by all the moves made by
all the automation companies to get their media support in shape.
Once you get out of our group here of hard core geeks, it's hard to talk
someone into why they need to have an automation system for lighting, but
tell them that they can surf their media on a touch screen in each room and
whatnot, and drive their home theater from a touch screen, and they get the
point of that. I think that the bulk of our customers are implementing media
management of some sort, either theater control or multi-zone audio/video,
whereas few of them have security.
I dunno. I think your position is out of date now, though I'm sure it was
correct even a few years ago. But if you read our forums or AVS' automation
forum, there is a lot of discussion of media management. I think we'd cut
our sales in half if we weren't strong in this area. And the fact that we
provide both the automation system and the media management system in one
integrated package is helping us a lot. There's no need to integrate
multiple systems together and the two are intimately tied together.
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
If a particular app requires a backbone like Zigbee, use it. If not, choose whatever works best for the required services. In most
cases Z-Wave or UPB will do just fine.
Again, from what I've been hearing from numerous customers not just now but for years, entertainment media is *not* the primary
requirement. In most cases it isn't even a consideration. Just today I sold two more HA systems. Neither client had any interest
at all in multi-room audio/video. One has a home theater system but isn't interested in connecting it or any of his source
equipment to the HA system. The other bought speakers and volume controls for several rooms but was also not interested in
integrating them with the HA system.
I just counted last week's new system sales. I count as a new system sale any order which includes at least a control panel. There
were several commercial fire alarms, over twenty burglar alarm systems and five home automation systems. None of them asked to
integrate A/V. One guy also bought an intercom system with background music expansion capability but he did not order the required
Not necessarily. If you're sharing your Ethernet with Internet, HA and media distribution, you may find it being overworked,
especially as more advanced media servers, CCTV cameras, etc., start gobbling up bandwidth.
Depends on your idea of large. Several clients of mine are using Z-Wave in homes exceeding 6,000 sf. My home has only 3,800 sf
under air plus garage, covered entryway and a mid-size (2,200 sf) lanai. As soon as I get some of my strength back I plan to
install my ELK M1G system. With it I will replace most of my light switches, dimmers and (probably) the thermostats using Z-Wave
enabled hardware. I'll test the range before comitting but I know others whose homes are larger and they've had good results so
far. I'll let you know how thing work out.
Side note: As soon as I can spare the time to learn your system I'm also interested in CQC. If I do and it works as well as I
expect it will, I might want to talk with you about configuring an ELK/CQC package. Let me know if that's an interest.
My home is C-shaped. Though you can walk a considerable distance from end to end, all the lanai facing walls are no more than 40'
from those on the opposite side. I'll let you know how well the signal propogates but I suspect it will be OK.
It is an idea which has been strongly advanced by companies marketing media connectivity products and services. I try to find out
what my customers actually want. Once I have an idea what's important to them, I discuss a few options such as ELK, HAI, HomeSeer
and CQC. Though I don't sell either of the last two, if one seems appropriate to the job I refer the client to their (or your)
website. As mentioned earlier though, most end users I talk to every day express little to no interest in integrating AV with HA.
I haven't delved deeply into CQC but my initial impression is it's one really powerful system. From reading your posts (how you
hold yourself and your products forth) I get a very positive impression of you and your business. However, we seem to be seeing
very divergent clients. I wonder if that isn't due to your product's particular features. People describe it as being highly
configurable and extremely strong in media control. If that is the "press" it's getting and especially if you are doing any PPC
ads, I expect you'd tend to see a highly concentrated subset of the population -- specifically those with an interest in a
media-rich HA system.
With a few exceptions, I rather like our little geek community. :^)
I approach things differently. I rarely try to talk anyone into HA. I ask what they want their *system* to do for them. From the
response I know right away whether they need an HA system, an alarm or perhaps just a multi-zone entertainment system.
BTW, speaking of entertainment systems, that area is a significant portion of our sales. We sell more Russound, Proficient Audio
and Xantech systems than almost any independent retail outlet in our region. Yet only a few customer even ask about integration
with HA. I usually ask if it's an interest but most say no. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to ELK's new Russound integration
for their touch screens.
Don't let that buffoon from ASA fool you about me. I stay on top of what's happening in my industry.
We'll see what happens in this area. I have no idea how many systems you sell in a month. I hope it's in the hundreds. We're in
that range and growing but that includes CCTV systems, intercom systems, etc., as well.
I'm sure that there is still a strong 'traditional', for lack of a better
word, automation market out there. But if you read the various fora, media
management, paritcularly multi-zone audio, is just all over the place. It
may be that you don't get those customers because you are catering more to
that traditional crowd. But I can definitely say that once you get out into
the wider crowd of people (the ones we really need to bring in in order to
grow the market), media is very much on their minds. If nothing else they
have to deal with the WAF, and convicing the better half to spend money on
multi-zone audio is probably a lot easier than on lighting (though once the
automation system is in place, then you do that upsell on the lighting and
HVAC and whatnot.)
I'm not in any real position to say what the numbers are out there overall.
But for us, so many of our customers are looking for media management, and
except for places like this (or Cocoontech) where very automation oriented
people hang out, media seems to be playing a big part in getting folks into
this world who wouldn't have really been interested before.
We, as a company, have absolutely no position on what's best. We are
software people and all we really care about is making money by creating
really good software. So we are really driven by what people want. And we've
been pushed to provide stronger and stronger support for media management
stuff. And I would differentiate that from 'home theater control', which is
really just pretty traditional type automation of a pariticular type of
hardware. So I'm talking media server, metadata browsing, CD ripping, and
multi-zone audio and that kind of thing. It's made a huge difference for us.
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
Again, from what I've been hearing from numerous customers not just now but
for years, entertainment media is *not* the primary requirement. In most
cases it isn't even a consideration. Just today I sold two more HA systems.
Neither client had any interest at all in multi-room audio/video. One has a
home theater system but isn't interested in connecting it or any of his
source equipment to the HA system. The other bought speakers and volume
controls for several rooms but was also not interested in integrating them
with the HA system.
I suspect that's true for both of us, Dean. Your product is advertised as media friendly. I would expect the vast majority of
people coming to you to be looking for a media friendly product. Likewise, I advertise specific products with specific, well-known
capabilities. As such, the universe I see is actually a subset of the true universe. The same is true for you.
Another factor contributing to our diverse experiences is manufacturer and industry group promotion. We both see lots of ads in
trade rags (or at least I do) promoting media servers as the be-all and end-all of HA. For those who build such systems and for
those who sell them, perhaps it is. However, for a very significant portion of the HA market (neither of us can be certain what
percentage it is) media control and distribution is irrelevant.
Perhaps because they see that market as being far more lucrative. Being
able to gouge $900 for software alone, or provide utterly no way for
end-users to program the systems, makes them much more money. And in the
process fails to build the momentum for enconomy of scale price reductions.
But if they can make beaucoup dinero by gouging a small audience... PROFIT!
There's also the usability factor. I think that since the HA market has
been so fragmented (for all manner of reasons) there's been little in the
way of 'guarantees' for successful implementations. Successful in the "not
annoy the crap out of the users" perspective. Far too few of the offerings
on the market really get anywhere near decent usability. All too often
they're relegated to being solely a gadget lover's (masochistic) dream. So
integrated them all together has been nigh on impossible.
So it's a market of extremes. Either low-end, drive the wife crazy, or
high-end empty-your-wallet pricey. With little in-between that actually
works in ways anyone would dare torment the spouse into using.
I couldn't agree more, Bill. However, there are a few bright lights in the field. One is Dean's CQC product. He has built a very
configurable system with the capability of high WAF ratings. The catch is that the buyer must do considerable configuration.
There's a longer learning curve for CQC than most of the "packaged" solutions. For the true geek, that's like a red flag to a
bull -- a challenge that must be met. For the average homeowner, I suspect it may be *appear* to be too much.
None of the above is meant as a slight to CQC or Dean. I expect his product to continue to grow in popularity among true HA
aficionados. To make it a major financial success he might need to add some easy to use wizards. Idiot-proofing has its benefits,
As companies like ELK Products merge media with solid HA platforms we'll likely see more end user acceptance. The decision to
integrate the M1G with Russound's multi-room entertainment systems is a step in the right direction. As soon as that's done I plan
to ask them to add Xantech to the mix. Unfortunately, very few of the HA manufacturers seem to be as willing to accommodate dealer
and end-user wishes as ELK is.
the field. One is Dean's CQC product.
You missed the $900 gouge part, eh?
Yes, but at least the end-user CAN do this. It's a tough call, crappy
featureset, complicated to configure or held hostage solely by an
"installer". Not really customer-friendly choices but such is the HA
Doubling the price seems more likely to scare them off. This is probably a
"good thing" from the perspective of unit costs and baiting "dealers" or
"professional installers" to get into the mix. But ya gotta pay the
mortgate somehow, right?
I've worked for almost five years now for almost nothing (average of less
than $10K a year, while spending over $40K of my own money, which was all I
had, and another $40K of Mark's money.) It will probably be another four
before I could even begin to consider buying a house so that I could even
have a mortage to pay, and moving out of this tiny, one bedroom apartment
and stop having to work 7x12x365. So I find your statements a little
insulting, as if you somehow think we are doing this so that we can buy a
second summer home or something.
This is a low volume business, and if we don't get into the professional
market, it will have been a waste of time because we cannot possibly
surivive otherwise. And that means we have to meet the most important needs
of the professional market, and that includes not having a huge disparity
between the DIY and pro prices.
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
I hope this isn't taken the wrong way, but the way it usually works is that
if you're good enough, eventually one of the big boys will either buy your
company or steal your product and use their enormous corporate treasure
chest to give away enough of their product to eventually capture meaningful
market share. If you're not good enough, you'll keep doing what you're
doing until you burn out and then you'll get a day job! (-:
The problem is you have to have a *lot* of users to support the true cost of
programming (your efforts). Raise the price to more equitably compensate
yourself and a lot of people who might have taken a look at $450 would think
a long time about spending twice that. I don't know where the magic price
point is, but I've seen custom programs for several very different
industries, priced in the $1-3K, eventually sputter and fail because they
had just enough users to make every incompatibility unique, but not enough
to gain any economies of scale for all the troubleshooting time. The
enviroment is also getting more and more complicated with so many versions
of Windows to support. IIRC, each one of those failed companies died
shortly after a major new OS was introduced. A specialized program like
yours takes all the incompatibility hits, deserved or not, and you end up
troubleshooting a lot of problems that aren't yours.
We are primarily targeting the professional market. In that market, our
product is quite competitive price-wise, though the benefits tend to only
kick in once you get the system up out of the very small sized system. The
reason being that we can't scale our product down really low price-wise, but
you can scale it up for a very reasonable cost due to the very high power of
very reasonably priced hardware these days.
In this we are actually in a very good position. We use very few system
services. We have now over 700,000 lines of proprietary code and we do as
much as possible ourselves. This is why if you read our forum we have very
little of the stuff you see on many fora, where people complain that they
installed something and the product stopped working. Of the couple of high
level features we use, a media player wrapper is one, and we had a little
growing pains with that initial implementation. But mostly we just aren't
too troubled with this kind of thing. We'll certainly have to do a little
tweaking for Vista, due to their changed security implementation, but it
shouldn't be a huge deal. The product currently runs on XP, XP Home, W2K
Server, and W3K Server unchanged.
We have a couple of 'virtual kernel' modules and all system services are
encapsulated inside them (a core one, a windowing one, and a couple for some
specialized bits like ODBC.) Everything else is completely built on top of
that virtual kernel, and not even any system or language runtime headers are
visible outside of them. This provides us with a lot of flexibility to deal
with changes in the OS.
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
I dunno. I'm watching a vidcast of a briefing called "Improving the
Reliability of Commodity Operating Systems" and it talks about how much of
Windows resides outside of MS's control in device drivers. If the lecturer
is to be believed, 85% of Windows crashes are device driver related. He's
discussing an OS helper called NOOKS
that seeks to protect the kernel of Linux from errant drivers usings a
variety of techniques like isolation, object monitoring and shadow drivers
(that try to restart failed drivers and replay inputs to recover what was
lost by the driver crash). He notes that the problem drivers that escape
into the real world often suffer from transient faults that are difficult to
find. If merely restarting the driver overcomes the problem that often
means the driver crashes are occuring when interrupts come at precisely the
But you still have to deal with device drivers, don't you? That's where the
failures are located. IIRC, in the Linux study, the most failures were
caused by sound card drivers at 40+, then network drivers, then IDE drivers,
with only eight reported. That's what I would expect. Your driver wouldn't
last long if it corrupted data, but if a certain slider on a volume control
was twitchy, a driver might still survive without being fixed.
Maybe you're doing a lot of what NOOKS does already in Charmed Quark. It's
a lot of coding work to provide the sort of encapsulation and error recovery
that NOOKS does. It also costs CPU cycles - sometimes twice the normal
I dunno. I think that you are maybe stressing out over something that's not
nearly as big an issue as you are thinking. Yes, there are crappy devcie
drivers out there. And if you configure a machine with a fairly random set
of hardware, you can have problems. OTOH, there are quality products out
there that work, and they become known well enough. A machine that is set up
with good quality hardware and drivers, which isn't used as a daily use
machine (i.e. it's configuration is not changed and web surfing isn't done
on it and things that aren't needed are turned off in the OS, i.e. a
standard kiosk style touch screen client or a server in the closet) can be
stable for years without problems.
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd
That's a lotta futzing and "kid gloving." It likely means no one will be
plugging IP cams and ethernet switches into that same network which could
limit usefulness in a big way, at least in terms of HA.
I don't understand why you would say this. One could kill a network in a variety
of less esoteric ways -- for instance shorting two wires in the CAT5. What does
this have to do with the stability of an HA server? If (eg) an IP camera breaks
a newtork, the problem is with the camera.
It is conventional IP Best Practice to allocate servers on an at-least-
one-per-function basis. Why should HA servers deviate from what are established
best practices? An HA server is a discrete function. It is sound practice to
allocate at least one CPU to it -- not "kid gloving".
One can over-tax any machine ever built, whether by throughput, CPU cycles or
complexity of simultaneously running software. I can say from practical
experience with several different mini-ITX machines (which you have expressed an
affinity for) that they can run out of CPU cycles with only a few HA tasks --
trying to also simultaneously run general purpose computing or networking chores
can bring them to their knees long before software interactions become a major
It's got to do with why HA programs like CQ are slow to gain acceptance. I
just bought a Panasonic Netcam from Smarthome. I want to plug it into my
system and email pictures to my cellphone. Wouldn't the natural place to
install such a beast be the HA server? If a net cam has a *really* bad
driver, it's going to blow up CQ. For CQ to be attractive to me, it would
have to implement some of the features that I referred to in the NOOKS
citation. Many people cite the decline of Homeseer reliability as
coinciding with the heavy reliance on "plug ins" - really another form of
device drivers. Something I saw today said that 6/7ths of the existing
Linux codebase now consists of device driver code.
If we are to follow best practices, it now sounds as if we're talking a
client to go along with that server. The costs of the dedicated HW alone
are now starting to exit the home market price range. But Dean says he's
not targeting that market, so maybe it's no problem for anyone needing CQ's
features. If X-10 has taught me anything, it's that price matters. A lot.
Business practice, sure. Home network practice, not so sure.
Server farms have a very low SAF. :-) So, IMHO, does more than one PC per
room. Compromises are far more likely to occur in home installations where
people aren't likely to be IT pros.
I dunno. I have plenty of machines that serve more than dual purposes.
Were I to strictly devote one PC per application, I would be running a
server farm. While it may certainly be best practices for a business, size
and money constraints often dictate that more than one application is going
to live on a server, especially on a home network. It's been my contention
that while it should be possible, it's usually only achievable by a PC guru
that can configure a server the way Perlman can strum a violin. Good
software is able to interact with other good software without bringing down
the house. The more a program has to rely on isolation to function
properly, the less appeal it will have to people.
"Can bring" is correct but should such chores choke a 1GHz CPU or is the
software bloated, inefficient and buggy? Dean says, and rightly so, that
you can find the perfect mix of peripherals, PC, apps and OS. The questions
I have are who's finding it, how do they recognize unless they are PC
experts and what is the bottom line cost?
One certainly can overtax any machine ever built but the high end standard
today is 2 cores and 2GB of memory at 2GHz clock speeds. That should be
able to handle some pretty serious applications - concurrently. From what
I've been reading, 4, 8 and 16 multicore chips are in the pipeline although
the MS OS's are woefully ill-equipped to handle true parallel
multiprocessing. But that's beside the point.
My concern is that an HA server that has to be sequestered to operate
properly is by the very nature of isolation, going to be that much hard to
connect to plug in Ethernet appliances, IP cameras, daily on-line weather,
traffic and email data and all the other devices that are in the pipeline
now. Lots and lots of "appliances" are coming with RJ-45 jacks and
embedded servers to allow PC configuration. If I'm running an HA server and
new HA products come on line, it seems the HA server is the place they
should go. If there server is only going to stay stable through careful
selection of HW and SW additions, how does the end user evaluate the quality
of their drivers? What are the security implications? This all rapidly
gets so esoteric that all but the faithful roll their eyes and sit back and
wait for something simpler and cheaper from Microsoft.
Let me ask you this. Best IP practices dictate grandfather, father, son
rotating backups, some of which should be stored off site, all of which
should be tested to insure accurate data restoration. How many businesses
do you think do it? How many home network administrators? There's the
ideal and theoretical world and then there's the jungle of the real world.
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.