Control & Automation

Integrating Slack and Crestron for Digital Signage, Home Automation, Remote Support

Software developer Ultamation uses Slack API to integrate “conversations” and messaging with Crestron home-automation, ideal for broadcasting over digital signage, triggering events, providing remote system monitoring and support.

Integrating Slack and Crestron for Digital Signage, Home Automation, Remote Support
Ultamation imagines using its Slack Integration software to provide more efficient remote support via Crestron home automation and Domotz remote-monitoring.

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Many companies use Slack collaboration software to organize communications across teams and projects, but few may know the platform has a rich API for integration. Ultamation, a UK-based home-technology integrator and software developer, is tapping that API for a new application that melds Slack with Crestron home automation systems.

Crestron dealers can use the new Slack Integration software to enhance company-wide communications; control audio, video and automation systems; provide customer support; and create “more cool use cases than we can think of,” says Ultamation managing director Oliver Hall.

For its part, Ultamation uses the software to display Slack channel conversations through digital signage, “posting messages to inform other users of interesting updates,” Hall says.

He can imagine how a company might use the tool in a sales, tech-support or project-management operation to display real-time updates from team members – often a more efficient way to broadcast messages than email, text or computer-based alerts.

In day-to-day use, Ultamation uses Slack to enable project managers to get instant updates on developments, “both the good news stories and nasty surprises,” Hall says. “Engineers can get clarification on questions instantly from the design team back in the office, and it’s great for the less formal broadcasts, such as the date for the next company barbecue.”

In these scenarios, the user simply drops a “Slack Bot” into a channel that is assigned to a particular digital display, ensuring only the appropriate messages appear on-screen.

Taken a step further, Slack-based messages can be used to control the environment through Crestron. Want some tunes? Enter !music to begin and !off to end.

A team “member” called something like Cresbot will reply, “Music is now on” or “Switching AV off.”

Some Practical Uses: Remote Monitoring and Support

A customer could press the help button on a Crestron touchscreen or app, and the appropriate team members would be notified immediately.

“It’s true, it’s not a game changer in automation, but it does open up interesting options,” Hall says. “Slack does a much better job of notifications than any of the native automation apps so it’s great for letting you know when an alarm’s been triggered or someone’s pressed the help button on a touch panel. There are lots of ways to cover those scenarios, but Slack is a really convenient option.”

Hall says Slack’s speedy delivery could be particularly handy when users are not on the local network. Using the native Crestron service, they would first need to VPN into the remote network, and then launch the app, which is “just a bit faffy,” Hall says.

For regular Slack users, it might be more convenient to simply send a message through that platform. The communications is nearly instantaneous, from the initial message to the Cresbot response.

“Obviously, switching A/V on and off might not make sense remotely anyway,” Hall explains, “but there are tons of other things you might want to do – trigger an irrigation system perhaps. Slack has a load of integrations too, so I’m sure people could come up with novel ways of linking those to triggering events in the control system.”

Now imagine using Slack integration for remote system monitoring and support.

A customer could press the help button on a Crestron touchscreen or app, and the appropriate team members would be notified immediately.

“In this case,” says Hall, “we’d create a Slack channel for the property, the home-automation processor would join the channel, and then support engineers would subscribe to that channel to get notifications.”

Likewise, the Crestron system itself could notify the integrator’s tech-support team if something on the network goes awry.

Hall explains, “It could fit in nicely with the other thing we’re very keen on at the moment –proactive remote monitoring.”

Using Ultamation’s preferred remote-monitoring platform Domotz, the Crestron system might report to Slack when any connected device goes offline or something wonky happens on the network.

Keeping all the communications within the Slack environment saves integrators from juggling multiple apps to support their clients.

Slack for network monitoring is already being contemplated by the IT industry. IT support site ipswitch notes:

Incoming Webhooks provide an easy way to post messages from external sources to Slack channels using HTTP requests with a JSON payload. By posting network monitoring notifications and data into Slack, not only can relevant team members see and track them easily, they can collaborate instantly from anywhere through a Slack chat room and make quick decisions on how to respond. ...

The number of tools listed in the [Slack] service catalog is quite large and includes several categories. You won’t necessarily find any of the of the market leading network monitoring names listed there, but you’ll find some application, cloud and infrastructure tools under the Analytics and Security and Compliance categories including New RelicSysdigAtatusSmart WebMonitor, and Pulseway. Click on one of the services listed and Slack shows you a description of what the tool and its integration can do.

Slack Integration software for Crestron (3-Series) is now available from Ultamation for £100 ($114).



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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Comments

Posted by Bruno Napoli on July 8, 2017

“A customer could press the help button on a Crestron touchscreen or app, and the appropriate team members would be notified immediately.”

This sounds familiar to me grin

Posted by Bruno Napoli on July 8, 2017

“A customer could press the help button on a Crestron touchscreen or app, and the appropriate team members would be notified immediately.”

This sounds familiar to me grin