Web Enabled Time/Temp/Humidity and I/O Controller

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There no doubt that houses are getting "smarter" all the time. More and more new homes are coming with goodies like alarm systems, intelligent controls for HVAC, pools and sprinklers and even devices to monitor power consumption in real time.
I've seen a lot of very expensive and complex systems to manage the functions of "smart homes" but I've never come across something as small, powerful and inexpensive as this unit:
http://www.cainetworks.com/products/webcontrol /
I've cross-posted this in comp.home.automation and alt.home.repair because I've seen a lot of posts about monitoring house conditions like temperature remotely in both groups. I was first alerted to the product in a thread about USB home control in CHA. In that thread:
_USB module for monitoring multiple on/off switches_
http://groups.google.com/group/comp.home.automation/browse_thread/thread/c2b9c0f65d305acf/1544156821a9bff?q=USB+module+for+monitoring+multiple+on/off+switches
Marc Hult recommended this device instead as a much more practical way to "communicate" with your house remotely than USB devices connected to a PC.
It took me a while to find the secret URL and I don't give cainetworks an A+ for website design - this product doesn't even show up on their "Product List." They seem to be a server load balancing company and I would guess they built this thing for themselves as a service tool and then began to realize it had other applications.
I have no interest in the company, other than as a customer and it's too early to tell whether I am a happy customer or not!
WebControl interests me for a number of reasons: it can automagically send emails to a PC or a cell phone when a looked-for condition occurs, assuming you've got a constant internet connection. This condition could be a furnace failure, an out-of-bounds temperature, water on the floor or any number of other events that can sensed electronically.
It's got plenty of inputs - it can accommodate a Honeywell humidity sensor, up to eight Maxim DS1822 /DS18B20 12bit 1 wire temperature sensors, eight digital inputs, three analog inputs and 20 different timers. It seems from my Google searches that these are popular with cigar lovers (to keep their treasures at constant temps and humidity) and in-home horticulturists growing various "herbs."
My first project will be a sensing project, too: I'm hoping to use it to continually monitor how much power the whole house uses in real-time. I've read about a number of test projects using "smart meters" and they all pretty much say the same thing: People who know how much power they are using at any one moment will end up reducing their average monthly consumption.
I've got some tiny current sensors that I will attach to the main power feeds to the circuit panel, hopefully so artfully that an inspector might never notice they're there. (Yes, I know the evils of mixing high and low voltage gear and I don't recommend anyone but an insane person with total contempt for life and the law even contemplate copying my actions!)
These tiny (1/4" sq.) Hall-Effect (HE) sensors generate a small electric current proportional (well, proportional enough for me) to the current flowing into the house from the main feeders. This unit should enable me to see the current current use from any PC on the home network. I should even be able to rig up an LED bargraph display that shows the real-time power consumption of the house with another $2 worth of parts.
The unit has three 3 1023 bit analog inputs (0-10v) that should be able to accurately measure the HE sensor voltage level and take an action (light a bargraph LED, ring a chime, etc) when the voltage becomes greater than a pre-determined level. Perhaps the hardest part is going to be accurately matching the output level of the sensor to the actual home electrical power consumed. If I can't get a helper with a walkie talkie, I can temporarily mount a wireless CCTV cam outside pointing at the electric meter so I can tabulate meter readings and how they correspond to the sensor output as I add more and more loads. I will start with all the breakers off, but with lights, etc. left on so that as I flip each breaker on, the load increases. That way I should have a scale that gives me a pretty good idea of the juice flowing through the circuit panel.
I'm going to make notes as I go along, paying particular attention to the level of technical skill required to implement it. I'm afraid it's going to be high enough to make it a techie-only solution. But looking through the manual
http://www.cainetworks.com/manuals/webcontrol/WebControlUserGuide2-03-00.pdf
gives me at least a little hope that this unit may be simple enough that with a little advice, a fairly low-tech user could implement a simple system that could, for example, send them an email if their freezer or refrigerator temperature rises out of the food safety zone. Ironically, that's why I ordered the board (my fridge tripped the GFCI) but once I read the manual and the specs, I realized it would probably make a good and cheap whole house power monitor.
Previously, devices like this cost close to $200, so to my mind it's a great bargain.
The part that I haven't quite figured out about whole house power monitoring is this: What's the best way to notify residents that the house is burning kilowatts without being so intrusive that they'll just shut it off? There has to be some sort of override, too, because there will be some days in the dead of a very cold winter that the consumption will peak.
-- Bobby G.
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http://groups.google.com/group/comp.home.automation/browse_thread/thread/c2b9c0f65d305acf/1544156821a9bff?q=USB+module+for+monitoring+multiple+on/off+switches
Wow, it does look really good - for lots of things. You never did say the price nor does their web siet. What is the single unit price?
Jim
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http://cgi.ebay.com/WebControl-timer-temperature-humidity-I-O-controller_W0QQitemZ270285035585QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3eee3e5841 They want $49.84 plus about $10 for UPS in US.
Interesting.
Now to convince the wife that we need one...
Jim
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It's $35 on Amazon. See (Amazon.com product link shortened)56934741&sr=8-1
Best, Christopher
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I just placed an order through Amazon and have recieved an email that it has shipped. Looking forward to playing with this device.
Best, Christopher
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has
Me too! At $35 apiece, it's quite a deal. Especially considering the cost and complexity of other web-smart home control devices out there that run in the multi-hundred dollar range.
So far, I've got three different projects in mind for the two units I have:
1) Whole house power use tracking, 2) home monitoring and remote reporting (i.e. emailing my cellphone if the the fridge blows a fuse or if the GFCI trips) and 3) a way to help my hard-of-hearing friend hear smoke alarms and doorbells and phones ringing since my first attempt at a solution didn't work as well as I had hoped.
As some in AHR might recall, after discovering my elderly friend couldn't hear the typical high-pitched smoke alarm, I got him a one of the few low frequency smoke alarms out on the market. What I didn't discover until recently was that he spends most of his time wearing full cup, noise cancelling headphones because he has such a hard time hearing the TV if there's any background noise!!!!
With the web-control unit I am hoping to tie into the alarm sounder so that if it goes off, the device will send me and others an email and will also activate a "bass shaker" or some other sort of vibrational alert that I'll put under his easy chair, where he spends most of his time recovering from two TKRs (total knee replacements). I may also investigate creating a little box to plug in between the headphones and his TV headphone jack that will switch off the program sound track and switch in an alarm sound when the device detects the smoke alarm, the doorbell or the phone has sounded.
I didn't order the chassis, partly because it costs almost half of what the unit does! So I've been looking around for something to mount the board in. I've found it fits perfectly in the clear plastic flip-top cases I've been storing 3.5" floppies in, thus saving $15 for the case they sell (but *don't* list on the Amazon site for some odd reason). As an added bonus, I've cleaned out all the old floppies in my collection like Windows 3.1 and Microsoft flight simulator. (-" Out with the old junk, in with the new!
I also discovered that the 16 pin IDC (insulation displacement connector) the unit uses to access its analog and other ports is exactly the same size as that long forgotten connector used to connect joystick ports to PC motherboards (long before USB came along). It's so nice when my junk bin yields up just what I need! It validates my packrat way of life. I suggested to the vendor that they might want to make such additional parts (and a suitable power supply) available for purchase directly from them, rather then sending them off to Digikey or Mouser for the missing puzzle piece.
I've unfortunately had to postpone my futzing around with the unit until the leaves covering the front and back lawns disappear. (-: More to come! - Eventually.
-- Bobby G.
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On Sat, 31 Oct 2009 10:38:53 -0400, "Robert Green"

Time permitting, I'll post a picture of the WebControl (80mm x 85mm x18mm) in its native steel case (100mm x 100mm x 35mm) stacked on a comparably sized Netgear GS-105 hub (95 x 100mm x 25mm) and Comtrol Device-Master AIR (92mm x 87mm x 48mm) which provides WI-FI and RS-xxx in a 100mm x 100mm footprint. This combo allows you to communicate with to a computer, two WebControls and a serial device such as Peter Anderson's data acquisition modules www.PHAnderson.com) via WI-FI.
(This matches almost exactly the footprint of a Pico-ITX (100mm x 72mm) with the inevitable I/O connectors. These PC's are still too pricey, http://www.logicsupply.com/products/px5000eg but they'll get 'there' eventually. )
... Marc Marc_F_Hult www.ECOntrol.org
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(Amazon.com product link shortened)56934741&sr=8-1
Thanks, Chris. I edited and re-edited the message so many times that I somehow lost the Amazon URL. D'oh!
-- Bobby G.
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the
http://cgi.ebay.com/WebControl-timer-temperature-humidity-I-O-controller_W0QQitemZ270285035585QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3eee3e5841
Here's a reason, they're only $34.95 at Amazon and if you select supersaver shipping, the shipping is FREE (although Amazon somehow got me by charging $6 shipping on a $.99 cable - still not sure how that happened). I wouldn't even mention it to the wife. Mine said: "The only device I will gladly approve purchase of is a device that prevents you from buying any more devices!"
There has to be *some* problem around your home, Jim, that you can be automate using one of these. I noticed on their website some guy has already figured out how to use his Iphone to communicate with his house. While I have a number of other microcontrollers, this one's the only one that's web-aware out of the box and that's a big plus in this day and age. It's hard to believe how much the net has changed in 10 years. Twenty years ago "net surfing" meant 2400/9600BPS modems, multi-line phone BBB's, DOS, SysOps and FidoNet.
(I *still* can't believe I left the Amazon URL out of the first post.)
<(Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ dp/B001H4JXLU>
-- Bobby G.
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asleyprince had written this in response to http://forums.cabling-design.com/homeautomation/Re-Web-Enabled-Time-Temp-Humidity-and-I-O-Controller-18649-.htm :
Jim Hewitt wrote:

http://cgi.ebay.com/WebControl-timer-temperature-humidity-I-O-controller_W0QQitemZ270285035585QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3eee3e5841
Thanks for that much informations regarding this topics if u need any kind of assistance regarding wenbsite designing plese let me know i'll definetly help you my level best
------------------------------------- [url=\"http://www.wensil.com /\"]Web designing companies[/url] [url=\"http://www.wensil.com/services.php \"]Web Design Company[/url]
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asleyprince had written this in response to http://forums.cabling-design.com/homeautomation/Re-Web-Enabled-Time-Temp-Humidity-and-I-O-Controller-18649-.htm :
Jim Hewitt wrote:

http://cgi.ebay.com/WebControl-timer-temperature-humidity-I-O-controller_W0QQitemZ270285035585QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3eee3e5841
Thanks for that much informations regarding this topics if u need any kind of assistance regarding wenbsite designing plese let me know i'll definetly help you my level best
------------------------------------- [url=\"http://www.wensil.com /\"]Web designing companies[/url] [url=\"http://www.wensil.com/services.php \"]Web Design Company[/url]
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+----------------------------------------------------------------+
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asley.prince_at_gmail_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (asleyprince) wrote in

Spammer. Plonk.
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asleyprince had written this in response to http://forums.cabling-design.com/homeautomation/Re-Web-Enabled-Time-Temp-Humidity-and-I-O-Controller-18649-.htm :
Jim Hewitt wrote:

http://cgi.ebay.com/WebControl-timer-temperature-humidity-I-O-controller_W0QQitemZ270285035585QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3eee3e5841
Thanks for that much informations regarding this topics if u need any kind of assistance regarding wenbsite designing plese let me know i'll definetly help you my level best
------------------------------------- [url=\"http://www.wensil.com /\"]Web designing companies[/url] [url=\"http://www.wensil.com/services.php \"]Web Design Company[/url]
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Anyway I can use it to monitor a vacation home 1200 miles away? I'm not sure what this unit does.
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Yes, if the home is connected to the internet you could monitor it from a browser virtually anywhere. However, you will need some hardware and software experience. If you are not quite sure what this unit does based on the posted description, then this may not be a good project for you.
Best, Christopher
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on
Agreed. Thanks for fielding that question for me, Christopher. It's not for someone who's not comfortable with soldering or circuit diagrams. As you point out, you'd need some way to get to the internet to use it to monitor your house remotely. An alternative I'm exploring is using an old laptop PC and a modem or a electronic phone dialer to have the machine dial-out using a plain old telephone line, which many second or vacation homes have. Probably more of those kinds of homes have "always on" telephone lines than "always" on internet connections.
But I'm not keen on a monitoring system that's got to establish a link v. one that's got an internet link always available. I think reliability would be too low. Another consideration is backup power. The device draws very little standby current, and could easily be solar powered, but to be effective, all other devices in the access chain have to be battery-backed.
The unit is best-suited for a tinkerer with some internet smarts, some electronic smarts and a monitoring need. If you're not that kind of person, I believe devices like the Sensaphone are a better fit:
http://www.sensaphone.com/sensaphone_400.php
Of course, when you find out what they sell for (or similar systems) you'll realize why at least some of the gadgeteers among us are so thrilled to find the "platform" for building your own version of the Sensaphone for $34.95. Well, at least this gadgethead is.
The best way to think about the unit is as a tiny webserver that keeps track of different conditions in the house and can take actions when those conditions change or when a certain time has been reached or when a set period of time has expired. The fact that it's network-enabled means that you can buy incredibly cheap network hubs and connect the units to the outside world or your home PCs without have to run busloads of sensor cables all over the place.
I believe with the right (fairly cheap) gear, it will even run on a wireless network and could be used to monitor an outbuilding's vitals without running cable. One simple PC, netbook or smartphone could then use a browser and a set of bookmarks to monitor each device on the net.
If my plans work out, I'll be able to access my network remotely and see the current temps, humidity, alarm status, current power readings for the whole house whenever I chose and have the unit send my phone an email when some critical condition goes out of bounds.
For example, in the laundry room I want to monitor whether something's fallen in the sink and had blocked the drain which would cause it to overflow from running the clothes washer. I'd also want to measure the air temperature in the dryer vent duct to make sure it wasn't too hot - an indication of a blocked vent (we've got birds that are *determined* to nest in there every spring. They've even pecked away wire screening to get in.
I'm even thinking of monitoring the washer so that clothes can presoak in warm water for as long as the water is hotter than the ambient air. That way, I wouldn't be tossing hot water down the drain until I'd squeezed some of the BTUs it took to heat it back into the laundry room. I can also monitor the floor drain to make sure it's not backing up, keep track of the level in the sump pump and maybe even monitor the furnace and water heater temperatures, too, to make sure they stay within bounds.
I think there's potential if a broad enough user community develops to reach a broader audience as "pioneers" develop applications they are willing to document well enough for less-capable readers to follow. As it stands, there aren't many examples (one, I think) on their site to make it anything but geek accessible. There's also the possibility of solderheads using this board as the basis for project they could "kit out" and sell with all the components pre-assembled and the steps carefully documented.
With that in mind, I am going to proceed slowly and write up and photograph my projects as I create them since it's bound to make it easier for the next person attempting to do something similar.
-- Bobby G.
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I ordered one to do remote power-up / boot-up of other computers in the home. Computers that I occasionally need to get to over the Internet (to copy files from work etc) but dont want to leave running all day (for network and power reasons).
Still unsure about how to do this, will probably have to wire a relay to the actual on/off switch on the computer and have this little guy trigger a remote boot by paralleling said relay across the existing power button. Once the remoter computer is powered and booted, I can use Windows remote desktop services to do a normal shutown when I'm done.
I dont mind leaving this little guy "online" all the time but dont want to leave my large home computers online all the time.
Keyboard/Video/Mouse (KVM) switches with built in remote IP boot capabilities run about $2000, so this might be a great solution if it works.
Might also use it to remotely power up/down a NAS hard drive array I have plugged into my net switch at home.
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On Mon, 02 Nov 2009 14:32:17 -0800, RickH wrote:

Hmm, I used to ssh to my router/firewall and from there send a wake-on-LAN command to whatever it was I was powering up (I possibly could have got the router/firewall to forward the necessary voodoo for me and just issue the wake-up from whatever remote machine I was on, but I never quite got around to seeing if that would work).
For shutdown I'd just ssh into whatever machine I had on and issue a normal poweroff, same as normal (analogous to your mention of using Windows' remote desktop to do this).
These days my main server's just left on all the time, so for other "home monitoring" tasks I'm just looking for some form of digital I/O board that I can hook sensors to...
cheers
Jules
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<stuff snipped>

I've had a dual CPU, dual power supply RAID'ed server and decided it had to go once I put a power meter on it and realized it was drawing nearly 200 watts. I found some used laptops on Ebay, some hi-capacity USB drives and have dropped the overall consumption to less than 20 watts without sacrificing too much performance. The laptops paid for themselves in short order with the way electric rates have been climbing in the DC area.
It's no longer RAID'ed, although I could have gone that way, but that's not too much of an issue with good backup procedures in place. It's not like I'm supporting some huge SQL database that needs to serve hundreds of users. As long as it can support full motion HD video, I'm a happy camper, especially at one tenth the cost of the previous solution. Best part is that I no longer need a UPS since the laptop will run for 2 hours on its own battery if the power dies. The next jump in power savings will be switch to a NAS device where I might be able to achieve a savings of the same magnitude as switching from a tower PC to a laptop.
I've just ordered some Honeywell humidity sensors for the "WebCon" project. The lowest price I found was a Canadian seller on Ebay for $14 each. Now I am going to look for the One-wire temperature sensors, since that's one of the unit's most appealing feature (to me, anyway): the support of eight temp sensors. An Ebay vendor in Hong Kong has them for 10 for $20.59 with free shipping. Also bought a packet of diodes and some 6 volt relays to investigate the unit's ability to switch high-voltage devices. I may want to opto-isolate those connections. I must admit, this feels like the grown-up version of Tinkertoys! (-:
-- Bobby G.
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news:8577550c-ac5e-
<stuff snipped>
<<I ordered one to do remote power-up / boot-up of other computers in the home. Computers that I occasionally need to get to over the Internet (to copy files from work etc) but dont want to leave running all day (for network and power reasons).>>
Since the company that makes these is a server farm "balancer" I suspect that you're doing just what they designed this to do for themselves: monitoring and controlling computers. Given how much power today's superhot CPU's can draw, I think the question of "leave them running" or "shut them off" has finally been settled in favor of shutting them off, if only for power saving reasons. It's kind of funny that 20 years ago the conservation side of that ON/OFF debate was hardly a factor. Certainly not the emissions part of things.
<<Still unsure about how to do this, will probably have to wire a relay to the actual on/off switch on the computer and have this little guy trigger a remote boot by paralleling said relay across the existing power button. Once the remoter computer is powered and booted, I can use Windows remote desktop services to do a normal shutown when I'm done.>>
I'd try to figure out how to use wake on LAN or Modem Ring. Even the old 2001 PC's I've got have that capability. When I used to use a similar wakeup method (anyone remember remote modem programs like "Reachout" and "PCAnywhere"?) I used an X-10 phone responder and an appliance module to start and stop the computer and set the BIOS to reboot on power blips. Cost under $50 IIRC. I hooked up the PC to the module, plugged the responder in and when I dialed my home phone, after 10 rings, it would pick up, beep three times and then I entered a secure code and then I could touch tone 1* to turn on the PC and 1# to turn it off and so on for up to 16 different devices.
In your scenario you'd replace the X-10 module with a relay - I'd probably wire up a 2 gang plastic box with a line cord, a relay on one side (with a fuse on the relay line that would blow if 110VAC ever got cross-connected) and an outlet on the other. I'll bet there are code-compliant components for this, so I leave it to other to chastize me for running LV and line voltage into the same box.
<<I dont mind leaving this little guy "online" all the time but dont want to leave my large home computers online all the time.>>
I can't blame you, but in your case, I'd probably still use X-10 and a phone responder if I still had a phone line simply because I'm still not sure how secure this is all going to be over the internet. The house sending out warnings and information to me or the entire world isn't so bad, it's the whole world activating my PC's remotely that I would worry about. Maybe I'll feel differently after seeing it an action.
So far, I've been busy ordering parts for it, like the Honeywell Humidistat, the One-wire temp sensors and a solar panel + rechargeable battery to run it on. I want my unit to run completely free-standing in a worst case scenario. I figure in about two years, when they discover this recession was a tremor preceding the "big one" the house may need to fend for itself off the grid. It's probably time to start a covert ops defense program and put a SCIF
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensitive_Compartmented_Information_Facility
in the basement where I can build my own version of the this:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/12/israeli-auto-ki /
The "pan, tilt, zoom and boom" ultimate security system. (-: Twenty years ago it was a deleted scene in the movie "Aliens" and now it's a reality.
-- Bobby G.
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