Friday, 19 of January of 2018

Category » Technical Tips

Hands On with Russound’s DMS-3.1 and iPad App

 

Preparing for last week’s Worthington University class, I had my first opportunity to spend time with the Russound DMS-3.1.  I had read the specifications and knew what it could do but I had not had the time to sit down and get a feel for the user experience.  Wow!  The concept of listening to what you want locally, or from the ‘cloud,’ takes on a whole new meaning with the DMS-3.1.

 

Setup:

Setup was a snap and will be even easier for customers with brand new MCA-C5’s or MCA-C3’s.  Because the 2 MCA-C5’s in the training room are from the original shipments, the controllers and keypads needed a firmware update.  Now that firmware updates can be executed from the SCS-C5 software, all you need is a serial connection and a little time.  The software allows you to flash the controller and keypad firmware easily.  One note, if you look on the back of the DMS-3.1 you will see the shipping firmware number, you can compare that number to the file downloaded in the SCS-C5 software.  In my case, no update was necessary.  After that, it was just 4 patch cables, an antenna, and an Ethernet connection.  Configuration was also easy, choose the server as the source type and name in the SCS-C5 software.  To name Apple AirPlay streams requires a quick browser connection to the DMS-3.1.  The DMS-3.1 manual shows how you find the DMS-3.1 IP address using the Safari Browser Bonjour feature.  Just an FYI, there is a Bonjour plug in for Firefox.  As well, if you know the DMS-3.1 IP address from your router, you can type it into any web browser bar.  While the Safari browser is nice, there is no need to download it just to setup a DMS-3.1

 

Built In Features:

The DMS-3.1 has 3 stream outputs as well as a RDS compatible tuner.  Each of the streams gives you the opportunity to access content locally and in the ‘cloud.’  Now, instead of ordering a Sirius or XM tuner, mounting a satellite antenna, and adding another tuner to the customer’s account, you can simply add streaming SiriusXM via the web.  The customer will need an account per each stream; however, streaming accounts are only $3.50/month; far less then adding tuners.  The TS3, MDK-C5 and iPad App (more on this later) all allow you to choose stations by category.  As well you can move up and down channel numbers and the user sees complete metadata.  The next streaming option is Internet radio.  Unlike the SMS3 where the user had to find content, the DMS-3.1 places it all at your fingertips in a layout that makes sense even to novice users.  The root menu starts with very broad options like choosing a station based on location or genera and then becomes more specific.  Finding a particular station has been made very easy.  Once you find a station, you can add it as a favorite or retrieve it in the last played option.  Both work great.  During University we chose a station from South Africa and we were all amazed at how quickly we found the station and how good it sounded.  The last major source option in DMS-3.1 is the ability to play MP3’s from the built in USB port or off your local network.  Both give you the ability to browse the directory structure of your music and to easily play tracks from any folder.

 

Apple AirPlay:

While the DMS-3.1’s built in features are awesome (and they are), the icing on the cake is Apple AirPlay.  In case you have not seen this technology in action (I had not), it is everything Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) was supposed to be but with out any of the complication or cryptic ID’s.  Now I would not call myself an Apple advocate, they have really been doing a number of things right lately.  Add AirPlay to the list!  If you have not updated your iPhone, iPad, iTouch to 5.0.1, you are going to need to so to gain access to AirPlay.  What AirPlay does is take anything destine for your iPhone, iPad or iTouch’s speakers and sends it to an AirPlay receiver.  In our case the receiver is one of the streams on the DMS 3.1.  So now your customer says, “I want Rhapsody support” or “I want Pandora” or “I want….” it no longer matters!  Simply grab your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch and click on the AirPlay icon and choose the stream.  Notice I did not mention configuration?  Because there is none!  If there is an AirPlay receiver on your LAN, the icon shows up, if not, it doesn’t.  The only thing that you really need to know is that not all apps have been updated for AirPlay support.  The one that I was playing with is Pandora.  No big deal.  If you double click the Home Button on the unit, a bar will pop up at the bottom of the screen.  Flip to the left to where volume and brightness are adjusted and the AirPlay icon will appear.  That tip makes every app AirPlay compatible. 

 

So that explains playing content from an iPhone, iPad or iTouch, what about larger MP3 collections?  This is where things get interesting (and cool).  While I know not everyone loves iTunes because it has become the 800 pound gorilla, I have found that the price is right (free), it is a clean interface, and it handles large databases very well.  All said, it is actually a pretty nice media player.  In addition, there is a free app called Remote.  Think of it as a remote desktop from the iPad (and iPhone/iTouch) for any Apple or PC installation of iTunes.  If you have not tried it, you need to.  Every time I use it, I can’t believe it is free.  It handles enormous MP3 libraries with album art like a rocket sled.  This is where it gets even better.  Take the PC (or MAC) and leave iTunes on.  The AirPlay icon will pop up.  Point the Desktop at one of the streams on the DMS-3.1.  Launch the remote app and bingo, you have very fast access to you entire collection.    Outstanding, and no new wires required!

 

Russound App:

So if AirPlay is the icing on the cake, the iPad app is the cherry (iPhone is coming early in 2012).  First of all, the app is GREAT looking.  There are nice touches like the ability to change backgrounds.  When you use it, you quickly will realize that Russound put a great deal of time and care into this project. It feels polished and works well.  Installation once again is a cakewalk.  Enter the IP address of the MCA-C5 (or C3) and you are off to the races.  The DMS-3.1 is fully supported with full metadata and album art.  You can control all of the source gear and zones.  You even have access to features like party mode.  For dealers there is a great demo mode that allows you to run the app without being connected to a controller.  At $9.99 the app is a steal.

 

The MCA-C5, MCA-C3 and DMS-3.1 are all in stock and shipping..  Be certain to ask us about the new low prices on the MCA-C3!  Thank you for your business and be certain to give the DMS-3.1 a try.


Technical Tip: Approaches to Temperature Control with HAI

The time is upon us where many of us north of Route 80 start to fear our upcoming heating bills. Like many other HAI enthusiasts I am reviewing my programs to figure out how to squeak every ounce of efficiency out of my system. As I started reading my program from last year, I started thinking about the sheer number of programming approaches you can use to set temperatures with an HAI controller. I thought it would be helpful if I explain several of them and the benefits associated with each one.

Use the schedule in the thermostat:
Omnistats have a built in time schedule. Typically this is disabled when connected to a controller; however, if you want to use an Omnistat stand-alone or if your customer is used to the schedule being in the thermostat, it is an option. This is probably the least efficient approach because you are not taking advantage of the HAI controller. When setting the schedules remember that, “Whatever happens last wins” so if you send a command from the controller, and a time schedule comes up in the thermostat, the thermostat is going to follow the time schedule. It is my recommendation to turn off the Omnistat internal scheduler when using an Omni or Lumina controller.

Use the Occupancy mode in the thermostat:
Starting in the RC1000 and RC2000 HAI added a great alternative to the time schedule. Instead of using a time scheduler in the Omnistat, you can store the setpoints for the arming levels (or modes in a Lumina). Now the setpoints stay in the thermostat and the correct setting is chosen each time the system is armed. This new feature is called Occupancy Mode. We have many dealers that love this approach because it keeps the temperatures in the thermostat which is a logical place. It is easy to teach and understand. There are a couple drawbacks to consider. First, the settings can’t be read or stored in a PC Access file so a customer can make changes that can only be modified at the thermostat. Secondly, Occupancy Mode is only going to be effective if the system is armed on a regular basis. Personally, I really like this approach because it places the settings in a logical place for the homeowner. It is especially effective if a customer regularly arms their system. Just remember, like the thermostat scheduler, “Whatever happens last wins” so it is not good to mix controller programming with Occupancy Mode. It is best to choose one way or the other.

Send setpoints to the thermostats based on time or arming status:
The most traditional approach to energy management is to use the automation programming in the controller to send setpoints based on time and/or arming status. This by far is the most flexible and powerful approach to controlling thermostats. The thing to remember is that you should turn off the scheduler and Occupancy Mode in the thermostat. When you don’t, troubleshooting can be confusing because you will not find the answers in your program. Again, “Whatever happens last wins” so the scheduler can often cause temperature settings to inexplicably change. In reality, it is just the schedule running, so we always recommend turning the schedule and Occupancy Mode off.

Use user variables to adjust temperature setting:
As of 3.0 firmware, HAI cured the biggest hurdle in temperature control. Back in the old days (2.16 and earlier) all of the temperature settings were stored in the system programming. That is fine if you know how to program and HAI, but for non-programmers, it was a challenge. Now things are MUCH better. If you don’t use user settings, it is time to give them a try. Simply put, User Settings move values that are often changed from the system program to the top level interfaces like touch screens and Snap Link. This is the way I control my house. Instead of saying “WHEN 6:00 AM Upstairs Thermostat HEAT 68 DEGREES” it is better to use User Settings. Now the program looks like “WHEN Wake-up Time Upstairs Thermostat HEAT Wake-up Heat”. “Wake-up Time” would be created as a User Setting ‘time’ and “Wake-up Heat” would be a ‘temperature.’ It does add a couple steps the first time the program is written but there is a huge advantage. I can change the settings from my iPhone, iPad, PC, or Touchscreen in a second! You can also review all of the settings on one screen. Better yet, so can your customers. If you have not used User Settings, you should check them out. Once you use them, you will not place hard values in any of your HAI programs anymore.

Temperature Setback:
While writing this article, I spoke with some of my colleagues to learn how they approach temperature control and the one that I have not played with in my own home is temperature setback. It certainly is worth consideration and may be the best approach for heat pumps and radiant heat. The way it works is that you manually control the thermostat when you are home. You then use programming the set the thermostat back based on arming or a late night time. For systems that should remain a steady temperature, consider small setbacks like 2 or 3 degrees. You then push the setting forward on disarm and a morning time. One of the big advantages of this approach is that it is based on the user’s perceived comfortable temperature which can vary throughout the year.

One thing is for certain, HAI offers installers and users more approaches towards temperature control then any other system on the market. By knowing each one of these approaches you can better serve your customers to determine an approach that works with their lifestyle. With that said, I have got some more programming to do…..the snow has started flying in the Pocono’s (I’m not kidding!).


HAI: HTX2 – A Sequel to Get Excited About

In case you missed it, last week HAI announced they will be releasing an HTX2 later this month. The original HTX worked with Automation Studio and provided A/V device control from the 5.7e and 10p/e. It made the most sense with the 10p/e because most 5.7e’s are typically mounted on the wall and the 10p/e was portable. That being stated, the 10 p/e’s are no longer available and the portable solution has become the iPad and iPhone. So how are you going to tie in A/V control? The answer – HTX2.

To set the stage, let’s look at the customizable remote market. It nearly disappeared overnight approximately a year ago. The release of the iPad at $499 left customers asking why a high end remote is $1,000+ (installed) when the iPad is only $499. Good question and the results were several product lines disappearing including Nevo and Pronto. Customer’s wanted a solution for control from their existing portable devices. The HTX did not address that change in the market; however, the HTX2 will!

Unlike the movies, product sequels are often much better. It is a chance to reevaluate the market and improve the product solution. Expect HTX2 to do just that. Step one is a major hardware change. The HTX2 experience is targeted to the iPad/iPhone user. While the Automation Studio features will still work, we expect the main interest with the HTX2 will be the integration with the forthcoming HAI iPad app along with an update to the iPhone app. These new software applications feature a new room architecture that allows the installer to assign system hardware to rooms. The user will be able to choose a room and then control only the hardware appropriate to that room. In addition, a new button will be available that will launch to HTX2 rendered customer interfaces. Typically, this will be control of A/V interfaces; however, in reality, these pages could control any device connected to the HTX2! I start to think about that level of integration and things start getting real exciting in a hurry. As well, the HTX2 page design will be done in a free HAI utility. This will make A/V programming and interface development a streamlined process with a number of benefits that makes building interfaces easier.

If the HTX2 sounds a great deal like a Bitwise BC4, it should. It is not a big secret that HAI’s HTX was a modified version of the Bitware BC4 before the Pro version was released with iPhone/iPad integration. The HTX2 is based on the current Pro version of the BC4 and has all of the features that have made Bitwise one of the fastest growing companies in our industry. So why not just buy a BC4? The answer is the HAI iPhone/iPad App integration. Since the release of the HAI iPhone App we have been receiving requests from dealers to integrate with Bitwise. The HTX2 hardware and custom HAI software will contain custom code that will allow integration directly with the HAI iPhone and iPad Apps. This will greatly simplify installation and make full home control easier.

So what about the Bitwise TC4? In many ways, nothing changes. The BC4 remains an excellent theater controller. In addition, nothing prevents Bitwise from writing a driver to control HAI. The big difference between the BC4 and the new HTX2 is that the HTX2 will have all of the capabilities of the BC4 AND integration with the HAI iPhone/iPad Apps.

As I look at the HAI strategy and the current product landscape, the HTX2 makes a ton of sense. Without question, the iPad/iPhone are the hardware of choice for the consumer. This new product provides dealers a plug-and-play solution for control of the home, theater and IP camera viewing when home and away. This should be a sequel we all enjoy.


Technical Tips: HAI’s New iDock

Last week we completed the finishing touches on our CEDIA both.  One of the new additions that I am very excited about is the new HAI iDock.  First and foremost, it is available in two versions, a hardwired Ethernet (HAI96A00-1) and a Wi-Fi (HAI96A00-2) version. 

 

Setup:

For the booth, we used the Wi-Fi version.  Installation is a snap.  Connect power and an Ethernet connection to get things started.  Next you run an HAI utility that finds the iDock based on the MAC address.  At this point you can setup the IP address and wireless configuration.  One thing I really like is how it switches between Ethernet and Wi-Fi;.if the unit is booted with an Ethernet connection it uses Ethernet, otherwise it uses Wi-Fi.

 

Connections:

The audio connection is an1/8” stereo mini-jack (HAI95A14-1) that can plug into a Hi-Fi2 Remote Input Module or into the Hi-Fi2 motherboard.  When using another distributed audio system like Russound you just use a 1/8” stereo mini-jack to RCA stereo cable (HAI95A13-1).

 

Automation Studio:

Integrating the interface with a distributed audio system is really easy.  All it takes is Automation Studio and a current project.  If the project is older you may have to import a screen (easy and well documented).  You just add the iDock as a media device and assign a couple page jumps.  The interface is really clean and interfaces with any distributed audio system supported by the HAI controller.

 

Customization:

One of the ongoing changes in Automation Studio is that newer interfaces are built using the Automation Studio editor.  The benefit of this is that you can grab portions of the interface and use them in other screens.  You can see that in my screen shots from or CEDIA booth interface.

 

About Tom’s Tips:

Tom Morgan is a 19 year industry veteran that has worked for HAI, and Ademco. He manages Worthington University an award winning training division of Worthington Distribution (800-282-8864). In Tom’s Tips he likes to share his real world experience obtained through product testing and working with dealers on their integration projects.


Technical Tips: Save Time and Money with HAI’s New Wireless Zigbee Products

HAI’s New ZigBee Prodcuts:
HAI’s Zigbee thermostats, plug in’s, and load interfaces have arrived and the reaction has been outstanding. The real test of a product is how well it sells and how many technical support calls are generated. At our last Worthington Technical Support meeting I polled the staff about the troubleshooting question they have received on HAI’s ZigBee products and the answer was ZERO, NIP, NADA! Other than general questions like, ‘how does it work?” and “what parts do I need?” our staff had not had a single technical support questions related to getting the Zigbee products working; very impressive. Personally, I did have a customer question that was related to custom messages, but that is it. The reason the reaction has been so positive is that these new modules are using great technology and implemented in a way that an installer can have things up and running in literally minutes.

ZigBee Technology:
Let’s start with the technology. The HAI ZigBee modules use the Automation Profile, a generic standardized protocol that marks the future of ZigBee. The Automation Profile is ZigBee’s answer for interoperability between manufacturers. As more Automation Profile ZigBee products hit the market you will see HAI’s compatibility ZigBee with 3rd parties expand. Each HAI ZigBee product uses the ZigBee high power radio option which yields excellent range. In addition, because ZigBee is a mesh network, all of the modules extend the overall communication range. We already have installations with 7 and 9 thermostats that installed without a hitch.

ZigBee Installation:
The installation process is amazingly simply. Start with a ZIM Coordinator (HAI81A00-3WHZB). Set your serial port jumper the RS-485 and the mode to ZigBee. The devices are named and enrolled from PCAccess. The process is similar to enrolling HLC UPB module but even easier. If you have not given the ZigBee thermostats and plug – in modules a try, the time is now. They work and they offer a huge savings of time and materials; especially in retrofit applications.

HAI ZigBee Products for the Omni and Lumina Family of Controllers:
HAI81A00-3WHZB: Serial Zigbee RF coordinator interface HAI73A00-3ZB: 30 AMP Zigbee RF control module HAI73A00-4ZB: 5A AMP Zigbee RF control module HAI89A00-1ZB : 15 AMP Plug-in Zigbee RF control module HAIRC1000*ZB: Thermostat with Zigbee RF Transceiver: conventional single stage, heat pump and dual fuel systems HAIRC2000*ZB: Thermostat with Zigbee RF Transceiver: conventional 2 stage, 3 stage heat pump, dual fuel systems, humidity and dehumidification *-BL-Black, SL-Silver, WH-White When an HAI controller is not installed, HAI now has a the HAI81A00-2WHZB, a tabletop ZIM coordinator that provides stand alone scheduling for the thermostats, plug ins, and load control modules

About Tom’s Tips:
Tom Morgan is a 19 year industry veteran that has worked for HAI, and Ademco. He manages Worthington University an award winning training division of Worthington Distribution (800-282-8864). In Tom’s Tips he likes to share his real world experience obtained through product testing and working with dealers on their integration projects.


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