Elan ‘Completely Reimagines’ Long-Lived Home Automation System with v. 8.0

Former integrator and rep Tom Walker explains the significant and nuanced changes to the Elan v. 8.0 home automation platform introduced at CEDIA 2016.

Tom Walker, The CI Guys

Visiting the Core Brands booth at CEDIA 2016, we saw a lot of the usual suspects – Speakercraft showing the world’s first Dolby Atmos in-wall height channel speakers, Panamax with their vertical rack-mount IP-enabled power strip, and Niles showcasing the recently launched Auriel 2.0 software, the company’s first foray beyond distributed audio and into home automation.

With all that, though, the buzz at the booth was noticeably focused on Elan Home Systems, one of the original home automation providers, founded in 1989.

This year’s show marked a nearly complete reimagining of Elan's core products with updated versions of their gMV HDMI matrix lineup, new HDMI distribution products, an all-new 12-inch in-wall touchscreen, and last, but certainly not least, a complete revamping of the g! control software platform – version 8.0 – slated for launch by November of this year.

Elan v. 8.0

Despite the software overhaul, Elan’s version 8.0 should look familiar to Elan dealers and customers; no one is going to mistake this as not being Elan. And that’s important, as Elan’s unique niche in home automation has always been the consistency of experience for the end user across any UI. Beyond that, however, this is no longer your father’s HomeLogic system, or at least not your earlier one.

Noticeably missing from the new GUI is the g! logo – Elan is quietly rebranding their control system to be Elan, focusing on the long recognized brand of Elan rather than a vague letter with a punctuation mark.

Elan 8.0 will feature multiple graphical schemes, many of which will be the same or similar to ones currently available on all SC controllers.

The main GUI showcased, though, featured a throwback to its earliest roots with a vertical subsystem column to the left, and a large subsystem overview area to the right. Nowhere to be found was the familiar g!, but dead center, large and in charge, was the Elan logo.

Most of the subsystem icons have been updated or changed altogether, with a newer more consistent feel. For many of the subsystems, the biggest change will be a vertically oriented zone list, with zone status overview, which previously was an option but typically didn’t suit the overall flow of the interface. Now, you can’t imagine it being done any other way. For other subsystems, like security and intercom, any changes are minimal.

Elan splash page: Vertical menu and no more g! branding.

New Media Features and UIs

Under the MEDIA tab, though, we see some major changes. The overview page features the previously mentioned vertical zone overview, with a separate ALL ZONES OFF button. The overview shows zone status with current active source and a volume status bar with volume and mute controls.

Elan has enlisted a third party service to now offer a dynamic electronic programming guide (epg) for most TV providers, showing a full, now-showing snapshot with show synopsis and a go-to-channel button.

Also added are dynamic channel favorites groups that the end user can create and modify.

Another long-requested feature is an embedded sleep timer for all zones.

Elan also demonstrated at CEDIA its new two-way driver for Dish Network.

Elan now integrates two-way with Dish.

With all that, however, the biggest change to the UI is in the media streaming page.

While similar looking to previous versions, the new layout has a few new options that have been at the top of dealers’ wish lists. First is the much larger cover-art view which has graduated from a thumbnail size to a gigantic see-it-from-across-the-room size. Current artist, album and song metadata remains; added are active source and active stream feedback.

The other major change is the addition of shortcuts to the other chosen streaming services, saving a few steps of button mashing to jump from one service to another.

Speaking of streaming services, 8.0 also promises the addition of Heos to the family of supported streaming products.

Some of the other new additions to 8.0 Include:

  • Amazon Echo support. The theme of CEDIA 2016 was Amazon Alexa, and Elan was no different launching their own version of “Alexa Do This” functionality.
  • Dealer customizable subsystem tabs. Previously certain subsystems were tied to other subsystems. For example, shades were part of the LIGHTING tab and door locks were part of the SECURITY tab. Now the dealer has the flexibility to split these out into their own customized tab.
  • Dynamic video transcoding. This will expand compatibility to a larger range of cameras and improving full motion video on touchscreens. Also, this feature will allow for the return of a former flagship feature from the “olden days” of Elan – with the use of an IP encoder, a stream from video media sources can be viewed onscreen, and, with a wave of the hand activating the touchscreen’s motion sensor, overlay control buttons will be called up allowing navigation and control of the media source while viewing its video output.
  • Fully functional calendar. Previous calendar functionality was only within the actual g! system and was not exported to any other devices. Now 8.0 integrates with popular calendar platforms like Google, Outlook and iCal. Users will be able to view individual calendars as well as a combined calendar view.
  • Updated slider controls. The new sliders can now show a numeric readout of the dimming level.
  • Hayward Omnilogic pool and spa support
  • Third-party driver API. While quietly operating in beta for a few months, it’s anticipated that 8.0 may also feature the official launch of two-way drivers created by third parties. The current beta program has already seen two-way IP or RS-232 drivers created for Honeywell wireless thermostats, DirecTV Genie and clients, Anthem AVRs, Autonomic’s multizone audio systems, QMotion shades, Sonos (as a zone with volume control) and a plethora of HDMI matrix products.
  • Intercom enhancement. Users can initiate housewide pages from outside the home. Previously, you could issue a page through the speakers or through intercom zones only from within the home. Now users can use their mobile devices to speak over the home system from a remote location.
  • New door control node. This is a security node to actuate garage door and get status without creating a custom page.

Elan media zones.

New Elan Hardware

New HDMI hardware on display from Elan included new 4K versions of the existing gMV 8×8 and gMV 16×16 Ultramatrix products. These 4K HDMI/audio switchers support Dolby 5.1 down-mixing, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Atmos pass-through, as well as HDMI audio-to-digital and analog outputs.

Elan also displayed a line of 4K UHD switchers, extenders and receivers, and video-over-IP solutions, putting Elan back in video distribution in a big way, with anticipated delivery in early 2017.

Also featured was the all new XP12 touchscreen. The 12-inch screen is the largest form factor ever offered by Elan. The 1920×1080 resolution panel features a 5MP camera and mic for the integrated intercom function. The surface-mount panel sits atop a two-gang box that houses all the electronics, powered over PoE or a 24v connection.

Congratulations to Elan and Core Brands for possibly the most exciting product roll-out at this year’s show.

Tom Walker is principal of The CI Guys, a third-party programming firm serving Elan dealers. Walker previously spent more than 20 years as an integrator, manufacturers' rep and Elan trainer.