Just in time for CEDIA 2017, URC is adding some new smart-home integrations to its Total Control home-automation system. Created by software developer Chowmain, these aren’t just your usual two-way drivers for controlling thermostats and A/V receivers. URC will be able to integrate with hundreds of IoT products and services through IFTTT, respond to IP commands from virtually any third-party system, and issue text and email messages based on any URC event.
Yeah, there’s some standard stuff, too, like integration with Belkin Wemo, Oppo Blu-ray players and IP power strips.
All of these new integrations include two-way communications for commands and feedback. They work with the custom-only Total Control platform and compatible controllers including the TRC-1080 remote, touchscreens, and mobile apps.
Chowmain is well known in the niche community of smart-home integration developers, working with major brands like Control4 and Elan, as well as URC.
Owner Alan Chow says the new two-way drivers will be available to URC developers on August 1 through Chowmain’s new distribution partner, driverCentral LLC (that press release follows).
Talk to any IoT geek and they’ll likely fawn over IFTTT, the popular online engine that lets users interconnect a wide range of IP-enabled products and services using simple if/then rules.
Despite IFTTT’s popularity among consumers and pros alike, however, you don’t see much support from custom home-automation providers. Chowmain built an IFTTT solution for Control4 last year. Crestron has IFTTT integration via developer Jay Basen (nice blog on how it works).
Of course, several DIY-friendly home automation systems like Homeseer embrace IFTTT.
In the case of URC, “The IFTTT module allows you to connect devices under URC's control with a large range of devices and services that would otherwise not be possible,” says Chowmain owner Alan Chow.
That includes such IFTTT parners Flic, Logitech Pop, Netatmo Weather Stations, Fitbit, geolocation services, Twitter, weather services and so much more.
Among his top integration suggestions: controlling devices from an Apple or Android watch, sending and receiving text messages and phone calls, or issuing voice commands through Google Home … in advance of URC's own native Google Home driver.
Unfortunately, all of URC's IFTTT integrations must be done via the integrator, so tinkerers won't be able to play. Programming has to be done in the programming within URC because IFTTT is not a native service within URC (or Crestron or Control4, for that matter). Native integration is pretty onerous via IFTTT's SDK. Even so, URC has made a deliberate decision not to enable consumers to meddle with (personalize) their own systems, leaving that work to thequalified integrator.
In any case, URC dealers can “pre-program some actions — like turning on lights off — and an end user can program events within IFTTT to fire those actions on URC,” Chow says. “This provides some level of end-user programming on URC, which URC did not have before.”
In other words, the IFTTT module gives customers at least a little opportunity to tinker with their URC toys.
Another big leap for Total Control is the ability to send and receive email and text messages via Chowmain’s new Notification Suite.
The suite comprises two modules: one for push notifications (inbound and outbound) and one for email (outbound only). In both cases, the system can send messages based on any event URC can generate.
Best of all, images can be attached to these messages, which would be especially useful for dispatching clips from surveillance cameras.
For text messaging, Chowmain uses Pushover, a popular push-notification platform for Android, IoS and desktop applications. In addition to sending real-time alerts from the Total Control system, the service can receive SMS messages, allowing remote users to text a command to turn off the kids’ TV.
Of course, other top control systems also enable notifications, but it's a first for URC.
Virtually any system or device that can issue a standard IP command can trigger a URC event with Chowmain’s IP Trigger Module. All those IP products and services that don’t natively integrate with URC can now join the ecosystem.
The driver provides an arbitrary HTTP or TCP connection, responding to incoming messages by matching triggers to events.
For example, a Monoprice IP-controllable A/V switch — which is not supported by URC — could issue a TCP command when a certain input is selected, allowing the home-control system to respond appropriately, say, by setting the movie night scene when the Blu-ray is selected.
Belkin Wemo’s cheap and popular Wi-Fi light switches and smart plugs (Insight) can now join the Total Control ecosystem, thanks to Chowmain’s new two-way driver.
It allows URC to auto-discover the devices, so integrators can incorporate them into their Total Control projects. In addition to on/off and standby (Insight only) controls, URC receives feedback from the devices, so it always knows their status.
TinyControl IP Power Strips
Although it might not be the most popular brand of IP power sockets in our channel, TinyControl makes a whole lot of them with some especially useful features like integrated temperature sensing.
Chowmain’s TinyControl PDU driver supports full control and feedback of each outlet. The home-control system can respond to a change in power status of any outlet, for example, text the integrator if power to the A/V rack is interrupted. Similarly, the system can react to temperature changes registered by connected sensors (up to four per PDU).
Users can specify events to trigger when a sensor is equal to, not equal to, greater than, greater than or equal to, less than, or less than or equal to any given value – great for protecting a stack of components in an entertainment center.
Oppo Digital Blu-ray
Oppo Digital provides some of the most popular Blu-ray players in the custom channel. Chowmain’s new Oppo Bluray module enables two-way integration with all RS-232 Oppo models, with control options that go way beyond the basics.
URC can respond to a wide range of Oppo states, including transport state, disc type, audio type and power state.
It can issue discrete commands adjust resolution, zoom, volume, track, chapter and more.
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