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Is this going to make Insteon obsolete


apostolakisl

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http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ube-w ... ght-dimmer

 

This is still prototype only as far as I can tell, but they are engaging in pre-production sales already. As best I can tell, it has a screen much like your smartphone that you use to control the lights, no physical movement, just a very basic touch screen. You use touch and slide motions to control it, just like a smartphone. It may be able to display text or graphics, I don't know, but it definitely can at least glow. It costs more, but not much more than Insteon, and is 100% wifi IP. Word is it only draws 5mw in standby (seems ridiculously low). But the obvious shortcoming of Insteon is the comm issues, which I would assume are completely put to rest with this IP infrastructure. I do wonder what happens when you try to join 100 of these to your home wifi router.

 

Would UD add this to its supported device list if it actually takes off? It supposedly has an open API.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Michael,

 

The ones I get will be production units. When I get them, I will let you know and you can decide.

 

Maybe they only get the money once they go into production. That would somewhat prevent people from just taking the money and having a big party.

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Hi Gary,

 

Thanks so very much for the offer but I prefer waiting for production units. The main question I have is why would they need kickstarter money if they got a $1 million prize?

 

With kind regards,

Michel

 

They actually addressed this somewhere (update/comments, not sure) but it was $1 million advertisement credit, not actual dollars.

 

I'm backing this along with another automation light switch, Luminode, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/787 ... rt-home-te Luminode made their funding goal last August and they are still trying to get through UL testing. Best case, I expect Ube to have product late this year.

 

It will be interesting to see if these startups can make a go of it.

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So met with Utz and his partner yesterday at SXSW. I was able to speak with them for a good 20 minutes about their switch, their software, and some stuff I am working on.

 

Here is a video of me playing with the switch.

 

 

Here are the take-home points from the conversation and inspection of the switch.

 

1) They are not really interested in being in the light switch business. They are software people. Their goal is to create an all encompassing connected home using IP as the mode of communication between all the devices. They intend on getting their software into the homes of millions of people, they don't view it as a niche market.

2) The main reason they created Ube switch is to have something for their software to control. They are not interested in being in the light switch business any longer than necessary. The idea is to sell the light switch business once it is cash flowing.

3) They aren't much interested in ISY or any other "dongle" as Utz's partner put it. As mentioned in point 1, they want their software to be IP connected directly to all devices. But then I also heard Utz say to someone else that they would interface their software with Crestron.

4) The API on the switches is going to be open source. So the fact that they aren't really interested in ISY doesn't stop UD from being interested in the switch.

5) They expect to ship the switch by June.

6) The switch is currently a hacked smartphone that worked to control the primary light every time I or anyone else used it while I was watching. It did not control the secondary light at least once when Utz demonstrated it to me. Some benefit of doubt should be given to them since they were working off a challenging wifi environment.

7) They do not yet have UL listing.

8) While the switch is a hacked smartphone at this time, the video display of a smartphone is not part of the final deal. Only the capacitive touch screen is to be part of the switch. They mentioned that perhaps in the future they would have switches that also have a screen where more complex tasks could be accomplished.

 

Now my opinions:

 

1) It's hard to say much about the switches. Seeing the hacked smartphone switch in person didn't really give me much more than seeing the video of it online. The main thing in my mind that it is no longer a switch. There is no physical movement of anything so the user has no tactile feedback that you did anything. This will be an issue for some people. Also if you are not in direct line of sight of whatever the end device is, you won't really know if you got it right.

2) I saw very little of their software (it was not actually being demonstrated officially). However, it solves the main problem I have always had with using a smartphone or any touch screen as a remote, and that is you have to look at the screen and can easily accidentally touch the wrong thing. Instead of using virtual buttons, they use gestures on the screen. Of course that also means the person who isn't familiar with the software will probably have no clue what to do.

3) I got the impression that any integration with Insteon, Zwave, Zigbee, and UPB is completely off the radar. I heard them mention that their switch are less expensive than un-named competing devices, so I don't think they consider any of the above as competition. I don't share that thought.

4) I got the impression that they think that most people will be going for their switch and that their switch is going to be so simple that anyone can install and use it. Personally, I think that most people would not be comfortable doing the physical install of a light switch. I also think that most people don't want automated light switches, or if they do they may only want a couple for special use, at least in part due to money. Even if most people wanted it, most people probably wouldn't care to dedicate the kind of money it would take to automate their lighting in any significant way. I think for the masses to consider using any significant number of this or any other HA switch, the prices would need to be down around $20/ea.

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Yes, thank you for the write up.

 

Your analysis, is spot on, in myho. Now if you could make a display switch that was a rocker with a true on and off, and not these momentary switches like Insteon, that would be pretty darn cool. You could use the gestures etc, get feedback instantly, have it show a sunny day by default, weather anything like that.

 

Integrate a motion sensor into the switch so it could "wake" up if people are around or report that there has been no motion, ala the concept of the Nest.

 

Integrate power usage tracking into the switch and have it display this month this load cost you $6.83.

 

Then you could charge more and have something very interesting indeed.

 

Although my cost per switch is probably closer to $30 than $20, I think $20 is still too high for the masses. Unless you can prove to them how much money you save them.

 

Watching the new people that come on the board, it seems most of them are migrating from something else, very few are totally new to home automation.

 

If more builders would integrate smart switches into the demo homes etc, then we may see more and more people come into the market. If I was looking for a new home and one builder had smart switches, a Greeneye monitor and a central Touch Panel like an Ipad mini or android, it would put some serious points on their side for consideration.

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Integrate a motion sensor into the switch so it could "wake" up if people are around or report that there has been no motion, ala the concept of the Nest.

 

 

Funny you say that, Utz said that he considers his switch to be the "nest" of switches. If he added an occupancy detector on it, he would be getting pretty close.

 

But at $70/ea times however many you might want in your house before you could really call it "automated", well that really is where things diverge. It's one thing to charge $250 for a thermostat that you need 1, maybe 2 of, and something all together different to charge $70 for something you might need 1 or 2 of . . .per room.

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Hello apostolakisl,

 

Thanks so very much indeed for the write up and your insights.

 

The main question I have is: what's the advantage of WiFi vs. Zigbee/IP (6lowPan) or Z-Wave/IP (ZIP)? They are all IP accessible ... furthermore, if they are indeed a software company, they MUST implement yet another HA spec (now on WiFi) that is very similar to INSTEON, Zigbee HA, Z-Wave, UPB, and a whole host of others. So, we are going to have a NEST and a NEST-Like switch and a NEST-like motion sensor. How will they communicate?

 

With kind regards,

Michel

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One thing I have never understood when discussing the idea of IP connected homes is how you would manage address space. I currently have around 80 network connected devices and around 200 Insteon devices. If I were to convert the Insteon devices to IP ones wouldn't I run out of IP addresses on a standard subnet?

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One thing I have never understood when discussing the idea of IP connected homes is how you would manage address space. I currently have around 80 network connected devices and around 200 Insteon devices. If I were to convert the Insteon devices to IP ones wouldn't I run out of IP addresses on a standard subnet?

 

The answer is NO. By your statement, you are using a Class-C net, starting with 192.168.0.0 which gives you 254 addresses.

 

You can move to a Class-B, 172.16.0.0, which will give you 65000 addresses or a Class-A, 10.0.0.0, which will give you 16,000,000 addesses.

 

All of these are private networks.

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One thing I have never understood when discussing the idea of IP connected homes is how you would manage address space. I currently have around 80 network connected devices and around 200 Insteon devices. If I were to convert the Insteon devices to IP ones wouldn't I run out of IP addresses on a standard subnet?

 

The bigger problem is not the addresses so much as the radio space. While you might have 256 possible addresses on a subnet, the radio is not capable of dividing up the spectrum. Also less capable routers will have trouble with the addresses radio or not.

 

I copied this from work2play over on cocoontech

 

I'll start off by saying this is an interesting project; In the past I've supported why people have avoided going TCP/IP for every single device in the home but if they're able to make it work cost effectively and find a market of people savvy enough to keep their light switches functioning after changing from UVerse to Comcast to FIOS - then hey, more power to everyone!!  Honestly, I'll consider the technology if we start seeing the integration possibilities.

That said, I want to add some technical info on Wifi - as that's an area that most people just don't seem to understand.  The problem about the number of client devices really has nothing to do with the Access Point or the devices - it comes down to a problem with the 802.11 protocol in that it's a Carrier Sense technology.  Here's a snippet regarding how it works:
Quote
Wifi is CSMA so every radio has to wait until it sees an opportunity to transmit (*Carrier*Sense*). The more radios, the more waiting. when you get past 30 radios, the wait time begins to take up most of the radio time. You might get 100 clients to connect, but as soon as one starts to transfer data, many of those radios are going to lose their connection. The radio doesn't matter, the combo of CSMA and the wifi standard adds up to this limitation.
With something like TDMA (many cell phones), each client device knows its timeslot and there's no collisions but with CSMA each device has to wait for an opening then try to jump in - think of it this way - in something like TDMA, everyone can line up in a circle and each one gets 1 second to transmit (example) - so everyone knows when their turn is and how much they'll get through; with CSMA everyone is trying to bum-rush at the same time leaving the radios and the clients to fight over who gets to make a connection and that overhead alone can end up taking down the radio keeping *anyone* from getting throguh.

It's not insurmountable - but the solution to this problem directly conflicts another common application - seamless roaming throughout your home.

The way you fix it so more clients can connect via wifi is by turning the power down making the coverage cell smaller and using more AP's - that in turn increases the density available.  However, there's no real roaming built into Wifi - so say you make the cells smaller - great - your stationary devices like light switches wii's and TV's will be happy... but say you then connect to your phone to watch a youtube video - as you walk from one end of your house to the other, it won't seamlessly jump to the strongest/closest AP just to keep a good signal; in fact it'll try to hold onto its connection to the weaker signal until it just can't hold it anymore (dropping speeds, causing excessive buffering, etc until it finally loses connection) then it'll finally jump to the stronger AP...  So fixing one problem will screw up the other.

This is the very core of enterprise wifi engineering and what we have to deal with on a day to day basis when covering a campus or venue that has to support dozens or hundreds of client devices in a given space.  There are of course some commercial options that have trickery to make this more seamless - which is very necessary for things like VOIP roaming between AP's while in the middle of a phone call - but those solutions aren't practical for 99% of the homes out there.

All that said, if I were designing a wireless infrastructure to combat these issues and provide support for my 75-ish light switches plus outlets plus Security Cameras, Media Players, and other devices around the home - I would do a hybrid solution.  I would probably put in a total of 5 AP's... I'd use 4 of them alternating between channels 1 and 11 in opposite corners of the home to provide complete coverage with minimal overlap (by turning the signal strength down) and use them for stationary devices - then I'd use one high-powered AP central to the home to provide access on Channel 6 for devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones that like to move around the house a lot and need to be able to roam as seamlessly as possible.  I can cover my entire 4000sq ft house on one strong AP if it's placed in the right location (as I do today).  With even a basic management solution like the Ubiquiti Unifi solution, you can also set up multiple SSID's so that the main Channel 6 AP also can cover the stationary devices in the middle of the home but through the management software you can set it so the devices prefer to stay on the outskirt AP's keeping radio time maximized for mobile devices in the center. To be clear, there'd be one SSID that's on all 5 radios for stationary devices - then a separate SSID on the main radio for roaming devices that should reach the whole property (note: adding SSID's in no way allows more radios to connect; it's just a way to control what they connect to in this scenario - in fact, it adds to the beacon transmits that the radio must do which is also why even the best radios are limited in how many SSID's they support).

Again - this is me - but this comes from the experience of engineering large scale Wifi solutions - and it's one of the reasons I've warned that going Wifi for everything would introduce yet more technical challenges that are just too much for the average homeowner.

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Hello apostolakisl,

 

Thanks so very much indeed for the write up and your insights.

 

The main question I have is: what's the advantage of WiFi vs. Zigbee/IP (6lowPan) or Z-Wave/IP (ZIP)? They are all IP accessible ... furthermore, if they are indeed a software company, they MUST implement yet another HA spec (now on WiFi) that is very similar to INSTEON, Zigbee HA, Z-Wave, UPB, and a whole host of others. So, we are going to have a NEST and a NEST-Like switch and a NEST-like motion sensor. How will they communicate?

 

With kind regards,

Michel

 

I think the main advantage pretty much is plug and play as well as much less issue with communication failure.

 

Their goal is to get more co's to put out hardware with open api's so their software can communicate directly with the end device.

 

I'm not saying that this is the best way, it's just what they are saying.

 

Frankly, I see the wifi spectrum as being a big problem for them, at least with the way that 99.9% of people have their home wifi configured.

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