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The need for a better user interface for ISY. Does it exist?


madcodger

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Well, here's a potential conversation starter...

In my humble opinion, basically all mobile user interfaces for ISY are either only partially capable, (Agave doesn't work for several products I own, for example, and Mobilinc X can't many handle many types of Z wave sensors, for example) or these interfaces are rather cludgy (earlier Mobilinc products prior to X, for example) or they require the user to posses somewhat rare skills (e.g., Linux programming, as appears to be the case for Home Assistant based on comments I've read elsewhere in the forums). 

UDI is never going to address this, as they don't see the "average" user as their market. And, many diehard ISY fans see a better user interface as little more than a frivolity. Fair enough. But it would be great if someone with the necessary skills would build a robust front end for the ISY that didn't require the user to be, say, a Linux programmer and that "just worked". I wonder what it would cost to get there, in terms of a subscription fee? Or, could a group of users front the cost of developing a better user interface, and then share in the subscription fees to recoup their cost? I've wondered this, many times.

I'm not proposing sny sort of specific action here, and I am the farthest thing from having the skills necessary to solve this problem. But I absolutely love the rock-solid performance and reliability of the ISY, while not particularly enjoying interacting with my ISYs using my phone, which I do several times on most days. And for those who say that this interaction is not necessary because they have "automated everything", that's great, but you're not me. Just because you don't need or want a solution doesn't mean that others don't. And finally, this is not even meant to criticize current offerings as much as it is to wish they were more robust and to note that there might be a market for continued development. There are many things I like about Agave, for example, and I find Mobilinc X to have promise but built around Insteon rather thsn Z wave, which I and many others use.

So, I'm just wondering what the level of interest is, in a better user interface? The UDI forum may not be the best place to ask this question given that it is used primarily by diehard fans of the current system. But what the heck... I've been thinking about this for years and figured I may as well put it out there to get a conversation started.

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Go to your room!

:):) 

 

Kidding aside I agree with you. There is a huge market missing that may clobber ISY in the end, from the new "user market" that want plug'n go fancy apps. Somebody should pay for my hobby and I prefer it to be the crowd with all the loose change these days.

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Well, here's a potential conversation starter...
In my humble opinion, basically all mobile user interfaces for ISY are either only partially capable, (Agave doesn't work for several products I own, for example, and Mobilinc X can't many handle many types of Z wave sensors, for example) or these interfaces are rather cludgy (earlier Mobilinc products prior to X, for example) or they require the user to posses somewhat rare skills (e.g., Linux programming, as appears to be the case for Home Assistant based on comments I've read elsewhere in the forums). 

UDI is never going to address this, as they don't see the "average" user as their market. And, many diehard ISY fans see a better user interface as little more than a frivolity. Fair enough. But it would be great if someone with the necessary skills would build a robust front end for the ISY that didn't require the user to be, say, a Linux programmer and that "just worked". I wonder what it would cost to get there, in terms of a subscription fee? Or, could a group of users front the cost of developing a better user interface, and then share in the subscription fees to recoup their cost? I've wondered this, many times.

I'm not proposing sny sort of specific action here, and I am the farthest thing from having the skills necessary to solve this problem. But I absolutely love the rock-solid performance and reliability of the ISY, while not particularly enjoying interacting with my ISYs using my phone, which I do several times on most days. And for those who say that this interaction is not necessary because they have "automated everything", that's great, but you're not me. Just because you don't need or want a solution doesn't mean that others don't. And finally, this is not even meant to criticize current offerings as much as it is to wish they were more robust and to note that there might be a market for continued development. There are many things I like about Agave, for example, and I find Mobilinc X to have promise but built around Insteon rather thsn Z wave, which I and many others use.

So, I'm just wondering what the level of interest is, in a better user interface? The UDI forum may not be the best place to ask this question given that it is used primarily by diehard fans of the current system. But what the heck... I've been thinking about this for years and figured I may as well put it out there to get a conversation started.



As I have noted in the past a crowdsourced project should be started for this endeavour. Having chatted with Michel in the past this is one thing they have seriously considered but haven’t had the time to invest.

I believe once the Polyisy gets buttoned down to be the next generation controller perhaps this can be the next great push?!?


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10 minutes ago, Teken said:

As I have noted in the past a crowdsourced project should be started for this endeavour. Having chatted with Michel in the past this is one thing they have seriously considered but haven’t had the time to invest.

I believe once the Polyisy gets buttoned down to be the next generation controller perhaps this can be the next great push?!? emoji106.png

As Teken said, this subject has been discussed here many times before.

An example of how the current setup environment looks to the non-techie was my wife watching while I was setting up our 'living room lamp' after ANOTHER 2557D2 went bad the other day. Yesterday, she was sitting in my office discussing the Covid-19 problems (after hearing it all day, all I heard was bla-bla-bla). I went through adding a new module, "What are you doing, the lamp is in the living room." Explained... "OK"! Then I changed out the old module for the new module in the ISY program. Explaining is getting a little more difficult here. I manually tested the module with a lamp in my office, A-OK. "So is it ready to plug the Living Room lamp into it now?" Not yet. Why, (sounds like our 3 year old twins, why, why.... but I love giving answers). I need to make sure that the module (pointed to the module) is going to come on and off automatically and your mini-remote. Updated the scenes. Said now to make sure that the new module is in the actual program that turns the light on and off. Here is where the "Dear in the headlights" comes into play, it was like she was looking right through everything. Then she asked "Are you done now?" NO, I still have to make changes to the Portal so that Alexa understands and responds to your commands. Next response....

"You do know that if you kick the bucket first, ALL of this CRAP will be ripped out!"

Can't really blame her.

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Here we go again....UDI (as well as others) have made this request many times before.... Yet no one has stepped up to the plate. Even without having coding skills, not a single user who desires such an interface has stepped up to the plate to even go through setting  up a Kickstarter campaign so a developer can be compensated. 

In the end, it's easy to complain but when it comes to stepping up to the plate, no one wants to put their time it money into making it happen

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31 minutes ago, Mustang65 said:

As Teken said, this subject has been discussed here many times before.

An example of how the current setup environment looks to the non-techie was my wife watching while I was setting up our 'living room lamp' after ANOTHER 2557D2 went bad the other day. Yesterday, she was sitting in my office discussing the Covid-19 problems (after hearing it all day, all I heard was bla-bla-bla). I went through adding a new module, "What are you doing, the lamp is in the living room." Explained... "OK"! Then I changed out the old module for the new module in the ISY program. Explaining is getting a little more difficult here. I manually tested the module with a lamp in my office, A-OK. "So is it ready to plug the Living Room lamp into it now?" Not yet. Why, (sounds like our 3 year old twins, why, why.... but I love giving answers). I need to make sure that the module (pointed to the module) is going to come on and off automatically and your mini-remote. Updated the scenes. Said now to make sure that the new module is in the actual program that turns the light on and off. Here is where the "Dear in the headlights" comes into play, it was like she was looking right through everything. Then she asked "Are you done now?" NO, I still have to make changes to the Portal so that Alexa understands and responds to your commands. Next response....

"You do know that if you kick the bucket first, ALL of this CRAP will be ripped out!"

Can't really blame her.

I'm not sure how an interface fixes all that you're saying. For a non techie most things will illicit the same response. Systems such as the insteon hub and smartthings are still too much for most people though much simpler than the isy. I've seen people complain about the difficulties of using Alexa directly with stuff so that says something right there 

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49 minutes ago, lilyoyo1 said:

I'm not sure how an interface fixes all that you're saying. For a non techie most things will illicit the same response. Systems such as the insteon hub and smartthings are still too much for most people though much simpler than the isy. I've seen people complain about the difficulties of using Alexa directly with stuff so that says something right there 

The one thing that is for sure, is that this entire market will not get to the desired point in my lifetime:-(

Just look how far I came from 1980ish. Programmng a Sinclair 1000 using 4k of memory and in assembler language to control my hot water heating water pump in the frigid northern  Illinois winter so the pipes would not freeze.

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1 minute ago, Mustang65 said:

The one thing that is for sure, is that this entire market will not get to the desired point in my lifetime:-(

 

Unless something comes pre installed I doubt it ever would. As time passes, some things could be made simpler but more features would also come about which should continuously push the scale of what automation can do. The end result is the avg user not being able to comprehend what's happening

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1 hour ago, lilyoyo1 said:

Unless something comes pre installed I doubt it ever would. As time passes, some things could be made simpler but more features would also come about which should continuously push the scale of what automation can do. The end result is the avg user not being able to comprehend what's happening

Pre installed... but there are like 20 different suppliers that eventually will bite the dust and head south. I know that we have been down this road before, but would UDI do better if they came up with their hardware interfaces modules, sensors....). Start with an on/off module, wall switch...

UDI could be the SimpliSafe of the Home Control market. Use their marketing plan as a guide for a complete UDI package (hardware/software). Create a small start up package (Polisy + 3 UDI On/Off modules + 1 UDI motion sensor + UDI 1Leak Sensor) and new customer can add to the basic package as they go along. It would be much easier building a system to your own standards (no real industry standards) while catering to the other module mfrs. Based on the past UDI and its user base when working together (just look at the interaction on the Polisy roll out) could come up with a GREAT product/UI. Use the SmartHome marketing/business plan as the one for how not to do it (for the most part).

Just my thoughts

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My two cents is, first you have to define the objective. In this thread there are different requirements being expressed. I’ll just use myself as an example.

I’d love a better UI. I want a UI written in a better language (more robust feature wise and security), such as .NET, and have it be based entirely out of the host computer. The UI would upload the “compiled” results of programs, NR’s, scene edits, vars, etc., and do it entirely in the background with great fault detection and automatic re-threading of failed uploads/downloads from the ISY. A lot more automation could be implemented to facilitate the chain requirements, as illustrated by @Mustang65 above. Once a core set of ISY UI objects was implemented, then the UI itself could allow user extensions, similar to the VS editor, and even support an open source library such as the Poly’s already here at UDI. A user, or developer/reseller could customize the presentation layer to allow whatever they felt was most beneficial to the intended target users (customers or their wives, etc). I could go on, but I’m sure many people on the Forum have had similar or better ideas already.

However, I also would like a better mobile UI, especially for folks who will never be able to understand how to navigate through folders or tabs, etc. For myself (for lack of a better product), I just use the UDI supplied portal. I realized long ago that for customers, even Mobilinc-style remotes will not be universally acceptable. What I have always wanted was a shell app with native capabilities, but completely configurable. In that way if I’m targeting my wife, I can make an extremely simple implementation of the home page, and have many “guide rail” type implements to help her make choices. Whereas another client may need a more direct, or powerful console, etc. There is no single answer, but an app that gave you the easy to deploy tools may come closest.

I think UDI is on the right track developing Polisy with the intent of migrating all of the ISY functionality into that platform and giving the core processing element more power, and if I were in their positions, that would be my present focus. So I don’t think a new super-powerful UI will come soon, unless there is already an effort underway with a 3rd-party somehow. Perhaps @Teken (Edit: Sorry wrong attribution), has the right idea of a crowdsource type of development, but unless it has a tight integration with UDI objectives, it could just end up being another add-on with a limited lifetime.

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10 hours ago, madcodger said:

 or they require the user to posses somewhat rare skills (e.g., Linux programming, as appears to be the case for Home Assistant based on comments I've read elsewhere in the forums). 

I find this statement curious.  I'm certainly no Linux programmer, but I've been loving the Home Assistant product for awhile now.  The last few updates have significantly improved the ability of average geeks like myself to create some really great "dashboards".

I really don't want to offend anyone, but it seems to me the desire here is to "reinvent the wheel".  The wheel has already been invented, and it is Home Assistant.  (IMHO) 

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9 hours ago, Mustang65 said:

"You do know that if you kick the bucket first, ALL of this CRAP will be ripped out!"

This is exactly my concern.....Not so much that it will be taken out,  but more that none in my family would know that I have a ISY and a Polisy, where they are, and how to  stop the lights and the music to go ON or OFF at times they may not like.. I actually (not a joke) have posted Michel's name and UDI's phone nr and email on the kitchen wall for my post mortem.

I love my ISY, its reliability and all I can do with it, but it is  a hobby for techies or a tool for professional installers. I would pay a nice fee for  someone to come up with an interface that would be easy to use for your and my wife.

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So you guys have touched on topics here that are really close to me.  I believe UDI expanding with Polisy is in their best interest for their target customers.  That target however may not be the average HA hobbyist.  I feel UDI is a cut above others and moving into a more commercial market away from HA.

In my mind, the ISY994 has reached it’s EOL.  I will be surprised if there are any more “serious” updates.  My ISY is the most solid piece of electronic I own and it doesn’t rely on the Cloud (yea!).  UDI should be proud.  It has served me well but I think it’s programming limits vs overall bandwidth has been reached.  To keep it updated and squish new device functionality, within it’s hardware constraints, is probably an almost impossible task for UDI.  Enough said here.

As for a User Interface (UI), not to be confused with Admin Console; I would like to have something that is configurable.  Easy to setup icons, web pages, insert pictures, etc.  I would like for it to be multithreading able to communicate with the ISY as well as other devices.  Running the UI on a computer would give it plenty of resources.  Gee, it could run on Polisy!  Wouldn’t that be nice.  Policy talking to ZWave nodes, programming similar to ISY, talking to other external nodes, and a UI like Home Assistant!  I like it and would gladly buy.

As for Agave; excellent product, light weight, runs well on my Androids, gives me a simple node presentation and simple control.  However, Agave was not designed to be the UI that Home Assistant, Lovelace or Homeseer is, to name a few.

With all said there is a couple of things that I find most important along with my general needs; ability to operate without the Cloud and age of the current product.  How long will the makers be here before they get tired or decide it is not economically prudent to produce/support any more.  I would have no problem paying $100 or so for a quality supported UI.

Thanks all for “listening”.

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1 hour ago, carealtor said:

I really don't want to offend anyone, but it seems to me the desire here is to "reinvent the wheel".  The wheel has already been invented, and it is Home Assistant.  (IMHO) 

Neither do I want to offend you, but I suspect most of the folks here are happy with their ISY-994 and are not really interested in throwing that investment of time and money away, moving to Home Assistant.  Besides, there is no user interface that would satisfy everyone and I have no doubt some would complain about the interface of Home Assistant.

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1 minute ago, oberkc said:

Neither do I want to offend you, but I suspect most of the folks here are happy with their ISY-994 and are not really interested in throwing that investment of time and money away, moving to Home Assistant.  Besides, there is no user interface that would satisfy everyone and I have no doubt some would complain about the interface of Home Assistant.

I agree and will use mine until it runs out of electrons or there is something that fits ALL my needs perfectly.

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@oberkc  I should have rambled on a bit more. :)  I too am very happy with my ISY and Polisy.  No plans to move away from it.  The thread is about user interfaces and that is what I was commenting on.  I only use Home Assistant for a pretty interface to all my "stuff", including the ISY.  I (personally) don't do any automations with HA.  I use ISY and Polisy for that exclusively.

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36 minutes ago, gviliunas said:

What have we come to with all of our technology???

..... As my wife reads over my Will, she discovers the line, "When our house ceases to function, contact Michel Kohanim."     Who is Michel Kohanim?

?

@gviliunasI know it sounds morbid and off the original topic but I have actually written a document "How Things Work In My House".  It has written detail explanations, diagrams, and where things are located.  It include the LANs, backups, sensors, server, NAS, electrical, etc.  The last chapter says how to get rid of the automation.  My wife won't understand it but my millennial daughter will.  It took me about a month to write.

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38 minutes ago, KSchex said:

@gviliunasI know it sounds morbid and off the original topic but I have actually written a document "How Things Work In My House".  It has written detail explanations, diagrams, and where things are located.  It include the LANs, backups, sensors, server, NAS, electrical, etc.  The last chapter says how to get rid of the automation.  My wife won't understand it but my millennial daughter will.  It took me about a month to write.

I also have done a 3" binder that has 15 sections to it and a summary for my son. It also includes all the items that have monthly fees (Alarm, GoDaddy...) with account numbers and phone numbers. Remote login information, ID's and Passwords. I keep thinking of things to add each month. He is not a happy camper about this as he knows he has inherited the household "Complaint Department" along with it. 

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2 hours ago, carealtor said:

  I should have rambled on a bit more. :)  I too am very happy with my ISY and Polisy.  No plans to move away from it.  The thread is about user interfaces and that is what I was commenting on.  I only use Home Assistant for a pretty interface to all my "stuff", including the ISY.  I (personally) don't do any automations with HA.  I use ISY and Polisy for that exclusively.

In the back of my mind, I was wondering.  Unfortunately, all I know about it is from reading the web page.  I am definitely intrigued by using HA as an interface, but I just don't have enough of a use case to justify the effort in my mind.

Still, to suggest that, since there is home assistant, everyone else should quit trying to develop better interfaces seems almost un-American.  

Speaking of interfaces, it seems we also forget that Google Home and Alexa can act as an interface, should one have the necessary devices.  While I currently am mostly satisfied with Mobilinc Pro, I understand it may not remain compatible with Android as newer versions keep coming out and Mobilinc Pro remains static.  Given this, I am beginning to go through different options and may just live with a combination of the portal and Alexa.

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1 hour ago, KSchex said:

I know it sounds morbid and off the original topic but I have actually written a document "How Things Work In My House"

I think I have been careful enough that the only thing my next-of-kin need to know is simply to unplug all those silly little boxes and the house reverts back to a dumb house where lights only come on via switch.  Yes, I have a couple of gadgets that cannot be turned on via switch, but those are easy to fix: get rid of them (they are more mood and access stuff in which my wife places very little value.)

But, as soon as I wrote this, I realize that I may have crossed to the dark side when I brought some z-wave into the house.

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As I've mentioned previously, as my Insteon devices fail, I'm consolidating the survivors into a few rooms and replacing them with z-wave -- or nothing.  With each failure, I have an opportunity to revisit that specific automation: does it serve any purpose other than making me smile?  I'm shocked at the number of switches and especially the number of Insteon LED bulbs where the answer is that they serve no useful purpose as automation points -- and those revert to old dumb switches and bulbs.  For the z-wave replacements, I'm opting for the GE Occupancy sensor and the slave switches.  These handle most of the cases where I used to have an Insteon motion sensor and multiple Insteon switches.  Sure, I can't program the ramp rate, and stuff like that -- but neither do I need worry about the infamous "All-ON" problem, and the slave switch approach means that my three-way and four-way switches all work without any programming at all.

I've actually reduced the total number of "smart" devices in the past year, but more telling, I've dramatically reduced the number of scenes the ISY along with the number of programs.

I'm still going to need the binder some of you have mentioned -- but I'm hoping by the time I go, it won't have to be three inches thick!

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