home automation - home theater - pc integration 

EHX Fall 2007 Show Report

Posted 11/07/2007
Day 1 Report

This was my first trip to California and EHX - my first day was a blast.  I spent much of my time meeting with a few guys that I've known only by voice or on the forums.  It was good to finally meet some of these people, and put a face to the names.

I spent some time talking with Michel from Universal Devices - what a great guy.  What I like most about Michel is his passion for the industry.  It's great to see someone behind an awesome product who truly enjoys what he's doing.  Michel gave me a sneak peak at the upcoming ISY 99.9, pictured to the right.  This is only a prototype, so it lacks the professional black finish that the final shipping version will have - but it's what's on the inside that counts.  The inside is an ISY-26, streamlined a bit, with more memory and an IR interface.  I think the IR interface will be huge for Insteon users.  For anyone not familiar with the ISY-26, it's an IP-based controller for Insteon.  Allows full programming of Insteon devices, sophisticated scheduling and triggers, remote access, etc.  I already asked to be put first in line to purchase a 99.9 - hopefully we'll be seeing them soon.  Michel has some big plans, and I can't wait to see what else UDI has cooking.

I also spent some time talking with Harold from IES, the manufacturer of the upcoming Insteon touchscreen.  Another great guy who's truly excited about his new product.  SmartHome had a few of IES's touchscreens on display in their room, one with the tabletop enclosure, and the response seemed real good.  I think they will be a great seller.

The SmartHome room seemed hopping for most of the day.  Steve Lee was running Insteon training sessions, and the classes seemed very full.  I sat in on one of them - Steve really knows his stuff, and was able to offer a bunch of tips that I think I can really put to good use.  The classes covered Insteon programming in general, and also a bit on the ISY-26.  I also finally met my sales rep, Stephen Young - as nice a guy in person as on the phone.  I plan on stopping by the SmartHome store on Friday.

South Coast Logic introduced their Artemis system, which is another IP-based Insteon controller.  This system, however, is custom software running on an AMX processor.  It allows easy integration with Crestron, RTI, etc..  They were showing their product running on a very professional looking AMX touchscreen interface.  This controller supports IR, RS-232, timers, events, etc.  Some photos of their table and product in action are on the right.  Definitely impressive looking.

Entering the show floor, you can't help but notice the Godzilla-like LifeWare "booth".  LifeWare seems to have a very impressive product, and definitely knows how to show it.  I know many pro HA installers are very much against the whole concept of their system, but I think (like it or not, LifeWare or not) Microsoft might be the future of home automation.  Or at least the face of it. 

I stopped by the Automated Outlet booth, which seemed to be getting a lot of traffic.  Spoke with Martin for a bit - another nice guy to match with his forum posts.  They had CQC on display, some Elk products, etc.  Martin talked to me about UPB quite a bit, he's definitely a huge fan.  I hope to do more with AO in the future.

Universal Remote Control had their full line of remotes on display.  I especially liked the upcoming MX-980 color remote, pictured to the right.  I believe this will be shipping soon.  Very easy to handle, lightweight, and the display looked very sharp.  This might be my next remote control.

Lastly, I spent some time at the Elk booth.  I really liked the look of their new keypads.  I thought the blue LCD might have been a bit "loud" from pictures I had seen, but in person it looks real sharp and professional.

I'm hoping to spend more time on the show floor tomorrow.  I'll do my best to post up anything I find worthwhile.


Posted 11/08/2007
Day 2 Report

I started off my day at a Russound "what's new" event.  They showed some great new products, including their enhanced A-BUS line, inexpensive and easy to install speakers, and their new E-Series line of products. They also showed a device called the iBridge Bay that basically turns a Mac Mini into a media server, fully integrated with Russound's other RNET products, touchscreens, etc. They also briefly spoke of a product being developed with LifeWare, basically a Vista Media Center by Russound.

The coolest product I saw from them was their new Avenue system.  No pricing available yet, but this could be the perfect retrofit wholehouse audio system.  Instead of having to homerun all your speaker and control cabling to the basement (or some other central location), you install remote boxes in each room.  Speakers and control pads are wired to this remote box, and the remote box communicates to a main "hub" located with the matrix switcher (CAV6.6) over the powerlines in your home.  The Avenue system isn't out yet, but they are saying no interference to or from X10, Insteon, UPB, etc.  Also no phase bridging required.  They're saying sound quality will be the same as a typical hardwired setup, and I thought the unit on display sounded fine.  You can also mix and match (say, 1st floor is all powerline, 2nd floor is hardwired).  They're expecting to release this system March 2008.

I spent more time over at the Automated Outlet booth (picture to the right).  Chatted for a while with Martin, Steve, IVB, and Dean from Charmed Quark - all great guys.  Hats off to Martin and AO - I was the winner of a UPB starter kit raffle!  I'm looking forward to installing it in my office to get some real-world UPB experience.  I think Martin is intent on converting me.

Speaking of lighting technologies - I spent a bunch of time checking some out.  My first stop was at the Leviton booth to see Vizia RF.  These seem to be very popular with everyone on the forums, but I have to say I was not won over.  I really don't like the switches.  There is no toggle action at all - all presses must be on the bottom half of the switch.  If the light is on, it will go off when pressed.  If already off, it will go on if pressed.  Basically, at first glance, all switches appear to be "on".  These might be the "best" Z-Wave switches out there, but aesthetically I think they are bad - not intuitive at all.  I could see having a non-toggle option available, but I'm surprised that this is all they sell for a Z-Wave switch. This also limits the amount of flexibility and control you have when creating triggers - forget about FAST ONs and FAST OFFs that you can do with Insteon.

I also stopped by Intermatic to check out their Z-Wave offerings.  I definitely prefer the look and operation of Intermatic switches over Leviton.  These switches have a true on/off rocker action.  I also liked the look of their remote and scene controllers, but I was disappointed to find out their in-wall scene controllers have no labeling or custom button options - they are simply numbered 1 through 6.  I don't think I could possibly remember what they all did, especially if I had 5 or 6 of these in my house.  I think custom labels are a must for scene controllers/keypads.

I'm not sure if it was because these were display models, or what, but I also found it difficult to get some of their switches to acknowledge a button press.  I had to press with considerable strength to get a couple to turn on (can't say I tried them all).  If this is normal for Intermatic, I think these switches should be designed to respond to a much softer press. 

The Intermatic people were also having a real hard time getting their remote and switches to link.  I'm assuming this was because of the show environment (all the other RF stuff going on).  The Intermatic guy trying to demo the linking finally had to give up.  Now, the show may have been a very hostile environment, but it certainly brings up the question - what if I have a home with a bad RF environment?  What if my neighbor has a lot of RF activity going on?  What could I do to keep it out of my home?  I like the concept of Z-Wave, I like the variety of devices available, but at first glance I'm not impressed with the actual products.

I was also able to check out an uninstalled Intermatic switch - definitely seemed considerably larger than the Insteon switches I have installed.  I think I would have problems getting them to fit in some of my multi-gang switch locations.

I checked out UPB, and spent some time at the PCS booth.  I was definitely more impressed with the look and feel of UPB switches.  They have a very solid feel, and the true rocker action is definitely preferable to me.  I did notice the delay in turning devices on or off, but it's hard to quantify at a show where you don't know exactly how everything is wired, exactly what is linked to where, and how things are configured.  I believe these were generation 2 switches.  Insteon switches are definitely quicker to respond than these were.  The dimmers I saw did not give any indication of what level they were currently at - they only had a single LED.  I personally prefer some kind of dimmer level indicator.  I'm definitely interested in checking out UPB more, and look forward to receiving my starter kit.  I may attend a training class back in my home state next week.

I also spent more time at the SmartHome room, where things still seemed busy.  More pictures on the right.


Posted 11/12/2007
Day 3 Report

My third day at the show was very light.  I spent most of my morning at SmartHome (thanks for the tour John!) before heading back to EHX. 

The EHX crowds were definitely quite a bit lighter, and it was clear the show was winding down.  I spent a bit more time at the LifeWare booth, where I checked out a Sony UMPC.  Seemed like a cool device, but a bit thicker and heavier than I expected.  The touchscreen seemed to work well, but I couldn't do much since it was "stuck" in the LifeWare interface.  I like the idea of this form factor, but I have a feeling it won't take off until the devices slim down a bit.

I spent a bit of time at the Logitech booth, where I was able to check out a Harmony 1000 remote in person for the first time.  I liked the look and feel of it, and it seems like a nice, easy to configure touchscreen remote.  I haven't programmed a Harmony remote recently, but the Logitech rep claims a lot of improvements have been made to the web software, and many of the past limitations I found are no longer there.  I hope that's the case.

I also took a look at the Leviton Vizia RF scene and zone controllers.  The Leviton rep couldn't really tell me the difference between them - he claimed they were the same, but with a different name (I doubt that's the case).  The zone controller is a rocker switch (left is on, right is off), but the scene controller is a single-press toggle switch.  Leviton tells me they offer custom-etched buttons for the scene controller (very cool), but not the zone controller (??).  I believe they both offer an IR input (also very cool).

I was surprised to not find any Cooper Z-Wave switches at the show, especially since their switches seem to have finally started shipping a couple days ago.  Maybe they were kicking around somewhere, but I didn't see any.

Overall I thought the show was a great time, but it definitely wore on me by the third day.  Almost everyone I talked to said the crowds were very light this year, and that the Florida show is typically larger.  But, this being my first EHX, I had nothing to compare it to.

Thanks for reading!





ISY-99.9 Prototype





Automated Outlet

Leviton Vizia RF

Intermatic InTouch

PCS PulseWorx


Insteon OutletLinc


Leviton Vizia RF