by Gary Muhlestein –
My brother and I like to get together and go to CES at least every other year. It’s just a few hours’ drive away, and we both love gadgets, so we pay our own way, and we visit the booths that we want to see, which means that we log 7 miles on my brother’s pedometer for each of the two days that we are at the show. The Z-Wave Zone is usually first on our list of things to see, but this year it took second place to the BMW exhibit, where we got to test-drive the new i3 and take a long look at the beautiful i8.
The atmosphere at this year’s CES was more upbeat than it has been in quite awhile, and the Z-Wave Zone was swarming with enthusiastic buyers and sellers. We had skipped attending CES in 2013, so this year there was a lot of new Z-Wave stuff. At least it was new to me.
One of the new booths that we had missed by skipping the show in 2013 was Enerwave Home Automation:
I couldn’t tell from visiting the Enerwave site whether they are a manufacturer or a re-seller of Z-Wave products, but the brochure that I picked up at their booth showed a lot of new devices, such as a ceiling-mount PIR , curtain rail motor, and smoke detector that I hadn’t seen before. There was also a hint in the brochure that they are selling software and a service.
Enerwave had a series of smart modules on display, and there was one module in particular that doesn’t show up on their site or in their brochure that had me interested. The engineer at the booth said that it is a combination garage door sensor and garage door controller. He told me that the door control is a momentary contact (a Z-Wave device with a momentary contact has been at the top of my wish-list for a long time). They allowed me to take a photo of the module (it’s the module on the right). You can’t make out the model number from the photo, but I think it is “ZWN-MCM-DC-A,” which would be a variation of their curtain motor controller:
Leviton’s OmniTouch 7 that came out last September has me thinking that I need a wall-mount touch screen for my system:
Unfortunately I don’t have a HAI/Leviton Omni or Lumina controller. Leviton’s home automation product line continues to expand, and with their acquisition of HAI in 2012, they’ve now added system controllers to their lineup (I wish the HAI OmniStat2 had a Z-Wave option; it’s gorgeous).
I didn’t have a chance to talk to the Leviton rep. at the show, but we did bump into our old buddy Chris Walker, formerly of ControlThink and Leviton.
Fibaro’s website says that they’re “coming soon” to the U.S. They had the tiniest of door/window sensors on display in their kiosk, and according to their site it’s available in different colors, runs for two years on a single ER14250 battery, and has terminal connections for an external contact:
They’ve got a system controller/gateway, a “universal binary sensor” for connecting to existing wired systems, and they’ve got a cool-looking wall outlet with built-in USB charger and power consumption display. Their flood detector was interesting in that the metallic water probes serve as the device’s feet, and it just sits on the floor. What really has me excited though is their Z-Wave compatible RGB LED controller (I love LED lighting).
Philio Technology was showing the cutest little PIR (model PSM02):
From the curved lens you might guess that it’s a PIR, but then you look again and notice that it’s also a door-window sensor and an illumination and temperature sensor too! They claim 2 year’s life on a CR123A battery. They’re also cooking up a 6-in-1 sensor(PAT01) that has PIR, temperature, humidity, illumination, sound, and external binary input (the brochure also says it has a G-sensor). I should have asked the rep at the show whether “sound” means glass-break detection.
They’ve got a downloadable pdf on their site that details a “starter kit” that comes with a system controller/gateway, PAT01, PSM02, and a plug-in appliance module. That ought to jump-start a whole new generation of Z-Wavers.
NorthQ was showing their Z-Wave power and gas readers:
These are retrofit kits that can be installed on existing power and gas meters. I wasn’t exactly clear on what the rep was telling me, but apparently these devices might be something that is installed by the power or gas company themselves. But from the literature and photos I would guess that any DIY could install one and start monitoring his/her energy usage. If these are actually available, it would probably make sense to get permission from the local utility company before installing one.
MCO Home sure has some pretty light switches and thermostats. This photo from their site doesn’t do their products justice. In real life they’re shiny/glassy:
Especially interesting at the show were their Z-Wave enabled methane, CO2, CO, and fine-particulate (PM2.5) detectors. The naughty boy in me is busy thinking up all kinds of scenes that I could trigger from a strategically-placed “sniffer.”
MiCasaVerde is now Vera. I love my Vera, and I was looking forward to telling the rep at the Vera booth how over the holidays I had installed the Vera plug-in for my Sonos audio system, and now a female voice announces: “the back door is open.” But he was unimpressed. I still love my Vera though. There are lots of plug-ins to try, and I might try writing my own someday.
Black Sumac was showing their “piper,” which has a wide-angle camera for monitoring your home from their smart phone app. It’s got home security software functions, a built-in PIR, microphone, speaker, siren, temperature sensor, humidity sensor, light sensor, and Z-Wave controller. There is no monthly service fee or call center. That makes sense to me, since I believe that in most cases you can personally respond to a message from your home control system more quickly and effectively than could a contract security service.
I always enjoy visiting with the guys from Aeon Labs. Winston Cheng and Chris Cheng are real engineers, and they seem eager to talk to people about tech stuff. They are also very courteous and responsive when I have questions. This year I wanted to talk to them about the green screw terminals on their micro switches that don’t seem to work too well with the 12-gauge solid copper home wiring used in the U.S. Another engineer in their booth pointed out that the green screw terminals do work with 12-gauge stranded copper wiring.
After the show Chris followed up with an email to clarify that some of their micros will come with stranded leads instead of screw terminals, and that you would use a crimp connection to tie in with your existing wiring. But in my case, in which my micro came with screw terminals, I should create my own stranded leads with crimp connections. Chris reminded me that when using stranded wire with screw terminals it is best to tin the leads (tinning the leads prevents individual strands from breaking off when pressure is applied, and it also prevents loose strands from finding their way into adjacent terminals and shorting the unit out).
I’m also watching for their doorbell, garage door controller, and siren. I also want to try their new, recessed door sensor. Unfortunately, all my exterior doors are steel, set in steel frames. Maybe I’ll have to try the new sensor on one of my interior doors.
Aeon Labs has also developed a Z-Wave home control gateway, but it’s a “white-label” box, meaning that they are looking for other companies to put their brand on it and install their own applications.
SmartThings had a couple of interesting devices that can be paired with their “hub.” One is a “presence detector” that can cause a scene to be triggered or a notification to be sent when the presence detector comes within range of the hub:
They also have a relatively small motion detector, which measures 2.6″ x 2.6″ x .9″
The SmartThings hub has both Z-Wave and Zigbee interfaces, and it may be that the devices I’ve mentioned are actually Zigbee devices. Oh well…
TopGreener is an online electrical supply company that sells Vera and other Z-Wave devices. Their display at CES fooled me with a lineup of ceiling-mount and Decora-style PIRs. Of course these turned out to be wired devices and not Z-Wave at all. Bummer.
Yale was showing their Z-Wave enabled YRD240 key-free touch screen deadbolt, and Schlage was showing their “Camelot” touch screen deadbolt. Both were introduced in 2013. They both have durable screens that should resist wear-patterns.
We’ve had some bump-key break-ins in our area over the past couple of months, so I may be leaning toward the key-free Yale, but the Schlage features an anti-pick shield and tamper alert, so it should be a good choice as well. The Schlage matches my decor, while the Yale’s appearance is more streamlined. I’ll have to study some more. Sometimes I have a hard time convincing my wife that I need a new gadget, but in this case all I will have to do is show her a couple of YouTube bump-key videos.
I should have spent more time at the HomeSeer kiosk. They had on display their lineup of HomeTroller home automation controllers. When I think of HomeSeer I think of their well-stocked online store and frequent discounts on Z-Wave products, and I also think of their broad selection of automation controllers, software packages, and add-ons. They have so many controller and software options that it has been confusing to me. What I should have focused on at their kiosk was their new HomeTroller Zee:
It’s got a web interface and also Apple and Android mobile apps. From what I’ve learned from their web page, I like that the device focuses on Z-Wave, without all of the extra baggage and support for other device types that comes with their more expensive controllers. I like the simplicity of the Boolean logic event creation, and I like the extensive system logging. Looks like it might have a Raspberry Pi inside.
Current Cost was showing their Quel, which is a 7-inch touch-screen/gateway that accepts your choice of up to two communication protocols. There’s a removable cover on the back that hides two USB ports where you can plug in your Z-stick. Their focus appears to be home energy monitoring, and they appear to be courting utility companies, but there is also text (as of August 2013) on the site suggesting that they are also seeking early-adopter, end-users to try the Quel for £99.00.