Lots of new hardware!

After what has been quite a long wait since the original announcement, there is now finally a lot of new Texecom hardware and software released to go with the recent v4 firmware release.

The first of these is the ‘Texecom Connect’ app, which promises a significantly improved user experience over the former apps, which from my experience didn’t work well and were quite basic. The main problem with the app from my point of view is that it is for iOS only… and I don’t have any iOS devices at all. So until an Android version comes out I’m not going to be able to get any further with this.

TexecomConnect

There is more info about the app (and the rest of the range) here

The other and more interesting products from my perspective are the Texecom Connect hardware interfaces. The most important is the Texecom Connect SmartCom:

smartcom

I’ve not quite got my head around this yet, but it appears to be provide quite a wide range of capabilities including an ethernet interface (so the same as the COMIP) but also provides an interface with an upcoming range of home automation products. I’m not sure if it interfaces with any other standards (ZWave etc) but it is using Ricochet protocols to communicate with the ‘SmartPlug’ (see below). I’ve been quite impressed with Ricochet for the sensors etc, and this is quite an ambitious move to take hold of the burgeoning home automation market.

smartplug

The ‘SmartPlug’ as seen above is exactly as the name implies. This is a good start although from my own experiences of HA you really want something which can be ‘stealth’ installed and not lose the manual control. So for a table light it’s all very well switching it through the Texecom app but you also want to be able to switch it by hand. However, the idea of integrating HA with alarm sensors hasn’t been done very much and especially not by mainstream security companies.

What is also good news is that the pricing is a lot more sensible than before, with the SmartCom available for about £75 (from Alert Electrical among others):

smartcomsale

Overall I think these are very interesting developments and it’s great to see Texecom developing their products and expanding their functionality. I’m still really interested in being able to use the whole range as part of a bigger HA system and I would love to be able to surface the sensor data into Fhem. I am sure this is possible and I have got some documentation but I will need brush up my programming skills quite significantly first!

I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes out, and maybe at some point I will get some of it in to play with.

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Finally… v4.00 is here!

After over a year of waiting the day has finally come, and Texecom have released v4.00 of their firmware for all Premier Elite panels.

The highlights listed on the main website include a number of interesting items, being a new API for integration with other systems, support for the home automation products which Texecom themselves are going to produce and some more technical changes including improved network speed. There is also support for the ‘SmartCOM’ combination device which is not out yet but will apparently combine an expander with wifi and ethernet interface.

One specific item which is interesting is that all new panels will have a unique ID generated in the factory, and anyone with an older panel who upgrades will have an ID generated and written to the panel by Wintex after upgrading.

There is a detailed guide to the changes available here.

I now need to dust off the firmware upgrade board and get cracking! I will post my experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing the new hardware range which will go with this and also to see what can be done with the new API and integration capabilities.

Texecom Connect – still waiting…

It’s been a little whilst since the last post, but I have been waiting for there to be some devleopments with Texecom to write about. My system is working pretty well now and so I’m looking forward to more developments.

However looking back I’ve realised that it’s nearly a year since Texecom made their big announcement of ‘Texecom Connect’ with promise of integration with home automation and various other goodies. However since then things have largely gone quiet and there hasn’t been a firmware update for almost a year as well.

There is some evidence of stuff going on behind the scenes including the wireless firmware upgrade, and I’ve just heard of another one which is intended to support a wireless keypad. This sounds like an interesting development as there hasn’t been a new keypad for quite some time.

So I’m keeping fingers crossed that we will hear something soon. In the meantime I am working on my home automation gear with quite a few interesting things to talk about so will post about these soon.

Integrating Home Automation & Alarm

I have been thinking lately about improving my approach to home automation, and particularly in making better use of the various technologies I’ve got. I think one of the mistakes made in home automation generally is neglecting the ‘automation’ part. I’ve seen plenty of approaches which really just substitute one set of switches for another (albeit electronic). I can’t see much point in in switching lights on and off using a phone or remote when it’s much easier to do so using the light switch! So really what you want is a largely automatic system which anticipates your needs and does what you want without user intervention.

So far as I have written about before I already have a mixture of systems with MAX for heating (currently controlled using FHEM) and Z-Wave for which I have been using a Vera Lite. I have been using a 3rd party plugin which provided an interface between the Texecom panel and the Vera, but in spite of this I’ve never been that happy with it as a controller. The interface is rather old fashioned, the newer updates (so called UI7) have had a decidedly mixed reception and I’ve never really felt I understood how to program it properly. Whilst the UI looks pretty it was also rather clunky when you tried to use it.

I’ve written before about FHEM and whilst I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea I have really got to like it because although it looks unappealing it gives you a huge amount of information and lets you do pretty much anything you want with a few command lines. I also think that it helps you understand a lot more about the devices you are using. So the obvious thing to do was to bring all my Z-Wave devices into FHEM and try to integrate heating and lighting and also build integration with the Texecom panel.

The key to all this is a USB Z-Wave adapter for my main server. These don’t come cheap and there is some choice. I eventually bought an Aeotec Z-Stick Gen5, which came recommended but pretty expensive at about £40.

aeotec-z-wave-usb-z-stick-526

 

There are others available, including the Z-Wave.Me UZB which seems rather cheaper. This should also work with FHEM and other software although the Aeotec seems slightly better established. The other and much cheaper option is to use an experimental method whereby CULFW devices can be set up as Z-Wave controllers. However this lacks some of the benefits of the proper controllers (including battery back up etc) and probably is not for ‘production’ systems just yet.

So far all has gone well. FHEM recognised the controller and configured it correctly. I had to ‘exclude’ all the devices from the Vera to reset them and then ‘include’ to the Z-Stick. You can do this either by physically taking the stick to the device and pressing the button on the stick, or else simply setting the Z-Stick into ‘inclusion mode’ from FHEM and then doing whatever is needed on the device.

I would recommend doing the latter, as then FHEM will automatically pick up and configure the devices for you. I now have a variety of Fibaro devices and a Minimote which are all available as devices in FHEM with a lot of detail about them. I have recreated a few scenes which I was using before (such as one which turns on a few table lamps in the front room).

Now I need to find a better way of integrating with the alarm. I am using an Arduino with one of the outputs from the panel to report whether the alarm is set or unset and therefore whether the house is occupied or not. I’m using this at the moment to trigger a ‘notify’ event in FHEM which sets the heating into low power mode and now sends Z-Wave events which turns off all the lights. What I would really like is to get FHEM to interface directly with the panel to read out the status of the sensors etc directly. I have been able to get some information about this so I am going to see if I can learn how to do this.

As always I’d be very interested to hear from anyone else who is exploring this kind of thing.

Ricochet Firmware Update

I’ve just had a product bulletin from Texecom which has left me scratching my head a bit:

new firmware

This is obviously something to do with the forthcoming v4.0 firmware version for the Elite panels, and Texecom have already announced that they are releasing a range of other home automation devices which will form part of the Ricochet network. However this suggests that you won’t be able to use at least some of them unless you have the latest version of the Ricochet firmware.

The bulletin then says ominously “wireless expanders are not field-programmable” and so this would suggest that you will need a new expander if you are going to use the new gear. This is a pain, as they are quite expensive and presumably the hardware is exactly the same.

What isn’t clear is what happens if you have the panels which have the built in Ricochet (Premier Elite 48-W etc) – perhaps the wireless upgrade will be rolled in to the panel firmware?

It’s a pain for me as I have the 8XP-W expander and I don’t really fancy buying a new one. However I am hoping that this announcement means that we will see the v4 panel firmware released soon.

UPDATE

I’ve now got clarity on this – the expander firmware is not upgradeable and the -W panels with the integrated expander are the same. So unfortunately this will mean replacing either the expander or the whole panel if you want the new version. It appears that some of the new devices may still work with the older expanders but that remains to be seen.

Rounding up a few updates

There have been loads of interesting comments and I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed. A couple of things to highlight:

You can get cheap and compatible tags on ebay which are much cheaper than the genuine proximity ones.

capture

I’m reliably informed that these ones and I imagine others like them work fine with the panel. They are pretty cheap too so well worth a look. I’ve not tried them before but I’ll get some in to play with. I’ve always been a little unsure about them though, someone said to me once “well you wouldn’t write your alarm code on your keys” and this is a similar idea. However I think there is value for example if you want to give a tradesmen access for a few days and don’t want to have to set up a new code etc.

You can get much better voltage regulators than the one I bought. There’s been a lot of discussion in the comments but this one has been popular:

capture

It is very hard to argue with the price, and it’s much smaller and neater than the one I  used. I still find it incredible that you can get anything delivered direct from China for less than a dollar all in.

Thanks again for all your contributions, please keep them coming!

Texecom ComWifi – DIY

As outlined in previous posts I’m very interested in coming up with DIY or low-cost alternatives to the various Texecom communicators and accessories. I’ve been quite happy with my ComIP solution and my panel is connected to the wired network in the house. Since I bought mine Texecom have brought out a Wifi module, unsurprisingly named ‘ComWifi’:

comwifi

This is sold significantly cheaper than the ComIP for some reason (about £50) even though it looks rather more complicated. Also, I do wonder slightly about the wisdom of mountinga Wifi module inside a metal box. Some enterprising ebayers have picked up on this as well and are selling custom enclosures:

comwifibox

I have heard from someone who has succeeded in building their own version of this, taking a big hint from the labelling on the official product – ‘USR-WIFI232-G2 UART to WiFi’. Sure enough this part can be obtained from the usual sources (Chinese sellers via eBay or other places) for little cost (about £7 although there do seem to be different versions out there).

schematic

The schematic above shows the G2 variant although there are others (including S and T) but I’m not quite sure what the differences are.

My correspondent has made this up into a board and installed it in the housing:

There is a certain amount of work needed to configure the module, which is done via a web interface:

Overall a very nice job!

There are similar such interfaces for wired ethernet as well, so you could do the ComIP DIY interface using one of these if you didn’t have a computer to hand to run ser2net on.

I’d be interested to hear of any other experiences.