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Author Topic: Almond+ and security systems (split from Will the Almond+ work with Vera)  (Read 9687 times)

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Offline Pestus

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Lars,

Again, thank you for a great reply. 

I suppose I should explain my business approach regarding HA.  In Canada, Rogers is advertising their smart home monitoring product quite heavily.  It is taking up a sizable piece of the pie.  It's essentially a DSC system with a custom designed touchscreen keypad that has a Z-wave controller.  As a result of this, I decided a couple years ago that I would build an answer to Rogers, except through open technology.   After looking around, Micasaverde appeared to be the best fit as it was open, well developed, and affordable.  It truly does do wonders, despite the clunky software design.  What I'm concerned about is that I have no plan B.  All the other HA systems out there are either too expensive, or rely on the consumer's hardware, (bad mojo there) or doesn't have the alarm integration done. 

The other consideration is that the approach I am suggesting does not have this keypad.  Other more traditional high end HA systems typically have -some- form of keypad controller.  I look at systems like Control4 or HAI for example.  As such, we've been working on putting together a Nexus7 as a wall mountable keypad.  It would have widgets for alarm arming/disarming, lighting, climate, music, weather, camera feed, etc.  We would lock it down to attempt to make it reliable, and it would indeed be attractive.  The failure here is it is very expensive to the client to go this route.

The Almond+, if drivers existed for alarm systems, would solve both problems.  The keypad, although small, would give us the important features we were looking for, perhaps without some of the bells and whistles.  Disarming would have to be handled carefully here as well.  You don't want someone being able to hit one button to disarm a security device.  Secondly, it would give me a plan B.  A different system insulates us against anything going wrong with Micasaverde.

If you are serious about going this route, send me an email.  There's more to discuss, including distributorship.  I have the ear of a few large security wholesalers who are always on the hunt for new solutions.

Thanks again,
Pestus
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 09:25:13 am by Lars »

LGNilsson

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2014, 10:46:58 pm »
Wow, Rogers are really charging an arm and a leg for their "service" and you also have to pay for their very expensive sensors and devices on top of that...
We won't be charging for our cloud based service and we'll have a "cloud free" option too, albeit with slightly more limited functionality, as there are some things that simply can't be done on the router itself.

The "keypad" as you put it should be easy enough for us to do if all you want is a means of arming and disarming an alarm. I can't say how easy or not it'll be to integrate the alarm stuff, but it's something we'll take a look at once we've shipped our Kickstarter units. We will be offering an SDK, so if you have some programming know how in C++ you should be able to add your own features too.
Some additional work would require to make the Almond+ more secure than it currently is with regards to accessing the touch screen, but it's something we already have plans to do.

We're always happy to discuss things, but I'm not sure I'm the right point of contact and either which way, I think it's a little bit too early to kick this off now, since you haven't even had a chance to test our hardware yet.

Offline Pestus

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2014, 11:59:15 pm »
Rogers is pretty smart actually.  Their hardware is good, because they didn't do most of it.  This proprietary keypad that they overlay onto a DSC panel actually houses a DSC keypad board, and a wireless transceiver as well as the z-wave controller.  This means they can use the proper supervised and hyper-reliable DSC wireless devices for the security, as well as the super cheap and reliable wired ones, from the main board in the basement.  These are cheaper, and better than Z-wave by a very wide margin. (To the business, not necessarily the end user  :'( ) The Z-wave they use solely for thermostats, locks, and floor lamp dimmers.  (They won't touch electrical, for good reasons)  Also, they use a GSM communicator in this keypad, adding a bit of cost to the monthly service.  Their monthly fee is thus abhorrent, but they DO give a full package.  In all, it is a very expensive and closed system, but it should be very rock solid.  In truth, Honeywell, DSC, Alarm.com, TotalConnect, 2Gig technologies....  there are many players in this "Security + cloud based automation" business.  They figured that most security techs like me were too flat footed to get on with learning IP networks, scripting and such.  So, they offload that workload to their cloud service, and charge the dealer a hefty monthly fee.  This means the dealer must pay for the monitoring center, but ALSO this other data center to boot.  This is why those services tend to be exorbitant to the end user after guys like me take their cut.  It's also why that approach isn't selling well in these lean times.  Rogers is the only game in that niche that seems to be succeeding up here.  Their advertising machine, and their massive client base almost assured their success in penetrating this market.  Everyone else seems to be facing the cheapening of the telecom industry instead, in that everyone is dropping their expensive land lines in favour of VoIP systems.  In an environment where people want to minimize their monthly fees, trying to sell them on bells and whistles is difficult at best.  I'd rather give the fine touch of a custom design, and a personalized service that can do the security, but also automation, LAN support, telephony, internet access, etc.  Hence my interest in you folks.  Anything to set oneself apart, right?

Integrating these alarms should be easy.  All the manufacturers have published very easy API documents that detail how they work.  Whoever actually goes to the trouble of writing the drivers based on this shouldn't have a hard time at all because half the work is done for them.  These alarm systems work exactly as they are supposed to, and their bus communications are simple.  The difficulty might be to get the alarm entry delay to cause your nifty touchscreen to react properly.  In that situation, one would want it to wake up and present the user with a number pad to put in their alarm code.  That in turn gets passed to the alarm, similar to how the actual alarm keypad would disarm the system.  Important states that the Almond+ would want to monitor, would be stuff like;  Armed, StayArmed, Disarmed, Alarm, Entry Delay, Exit Delay, Zone Open, Zone Closed, Police/Medical/Fire Panic Activation, Relay Output Activation, etc.  I've only seen the online press demonstrations of your product in action, so I'd have a hard time guessing how best to fit it into your UI, but it stands to reason it would be a subsection of the security button.  Along side the locks and the z-wave/zigbee door sensors, etc.  The other annoyance will be that most of these security systems are very old school in their approach.  As such most of them use RS232, and must be converted to USB.  Yet one more wire to fish up the wall to reach the wall mounted Almond+.  The Envisalink is the only IP integration module I know of.  Probably because it's aftermarket.  When the time comes, and there's opportunity to write these drivers, I'll have a go at it if no one else does.  I know many of the alarms, and I've got a few coder friends who might help.  It will get done quickly, I'm sure.

If you think this ought to go in a different thread, feel free to move it.

« Last Edit: January 28, 2014, 09:17:27 am by Pestus »

LGNilsson

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2014, 12:03:42 am »
Thanks for the interesting information.

What would be fairly easy to do would be to add support for either a Z-Wave or a ZigBee keypad if all you need is something for arming and disarming the alarm system. I don't think we've added support for this as yet, but it's something we'll surely have support for.

Something like an RS-232 to ZigBee bridge might solve the connection issue, such as this for example http://www.fasttech.com/product/1265502-drf2617a-rs232-to-zigbee-wireless-module

I'm sure we can find ways to solve this, but it's all things we're going to have to look at once we've finalized everything we're working on right now.

Offline Pestus

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2014, 01:11:06 am »
Lars,

This Zigbee bridge could definitely solve some ugliness.  It can even be powered by the alarm system itself, which is a bonus.  Thank you for that, it's helpful!

I'll be on the hunt for Z-wave or Zigbee keypads, as well.  May alleviate some of my other wishes.

Something that Micasaverde did do very well is a streamlining of the alarm plugin implementations. It will be important that the various alarm drivers expose the same hooks for the sake of any scene or logic engine in your system.   If that is obvious to software people, forgive my stating it.  As such, I recommend that when the time comes, a list of common alarm makes and their integration methods be catalogued.  I can help with this if requested.  Let me know if and when I may become useful to you folks.

We'll be in touch.  I Look forward to your baby hatching and growing :)

Offline eldaria

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2014, 06:55:32 am »
Thanks for the interesting information.

What would be fairly easy to do would be to add support for either a Z-Wave or a ZigBee keypad if all you need is something for arming and disarming the alarm system. I don't think we've added support for this as yet, but it's something we'll surely have support for.

Something like an RS-232 to ZigBee bridge might solve the connection issue, such as this for example http://www.fasttech.com/product/1265502-drf2617a-rs232-to-zigbee-wireless-module

I'm sure we can find ways to solve this, but it's all things we're going to have to look at once we've finalized everything we're working on right now.

What is your experince/relation with this company?
I was about to hit the buy button, when I saw the shipping estimate in April. I suppose I will have received the Almond+ Developer unit by then, but that is a very long time to ship something.

Offline Automate

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2014, 07:41:03 am »
Something like an RS-232 to ZigBee bridge might solve the connection issue, such as this for example http://www.fasttech.com/product/1265502-drf2617a-rs232-to-zigbee-wireless-module
Is there a protocol document for this bridge device?  I don't see how the protocol of any current alarm systems is going to match up with the protocol of this ZigBee bridge.  Both of them have fixed protocols and you would need a smart device between them to convert the protocols.

Offline eldaria

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2014, 08:23:25 am »
Both of them have fixed protocols and you would need a smart device between them to convert the protocols.

Although I have not tested ot even digged deeper into it.
I suppose this is where the Almond+ comes in.
I have an Alarm system that i'm planning on connecting to the Almond+, (see the seprate thread about alarm system integration) This alarm has a RS232 connection, and I found a link to a thread where people have documented the communication codes. So I suppose I should be able to write some kind of "interface" for the Almond+ to be able to communicate with the Alarm.
This module is a lot cheaper than any other adaptor I found, first I was thinking about using a RS232 to LAN connection, but all I found were so expensive, it would be cheaper to just buy Z-Wave sensors to replace all the Alarm sensors.
But this Zigbee module could work so i'm thinking about ordering one, even if the ETA for shipping is in April.

Offline Pestus

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2014, 09:02:07 am »
I'm thinking there would be no need to convert the protocols.  Correct me if I'm wrong, though please.  Once the Zigbee module is provisioned into the Almond+, it should just 1:1 repeat anything coming or going from or to the alarm system.  There'd just be a little bit of Zigbee header traffic that this unit should know how to filter properly. The conversion would have to occur in the driver that one would have to write, in the Almond+.   In that sense, it would be similar to just converting RS232 to USB, and plugging it into the Almond+. 

This poses one complication that warrants at least mentioning.  If this was a hardwired connection, security wouldn't be an issue.  With Zigbee, does the platform allow for easy encryption similar to how the locks work?  It doesn't need to be very strong..  just strong enough to discourage that remote possibility of war driving.  Most of the time this issue is so remote in my thinking as to not bother with, but if we're thinking of going to a lot of trouble to do this, we may as well do it right.  After all, once integration methods are established, many hundreds (or thousands) of people will be following these footsteps.

Offline eldaria

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2014, 09:10:00 am »
ZigBee is by default encrypted as far as I know.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee#Security_services

So listening in should not be an issue, however I suppose it is susceptible to interference and signal blocking just like other Wireless alarm systems are.
I suppose using a device such as the Almond+ in a security system could actually help counteract this, mixing security sensors between ZigBee and Z-Wave, they would operate on different frequencies so it would be more difficult to Jam the signal. Also both ZigBee and Z-Wave supports mesh networking, so if one path is not available, I think it will try another route.

Not sure if this would work in reality, but I suppose in Theory it could work.

-edit-
I just realized we are discussing ZigBee, and Alarm system integration in a thread about integrating with Vera Controllers.
Maybe we should continue this discussion in the Alarm System thread. ;-)
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 09:12:18 am by eldaria »

LGNilsson

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2014, 09:12:28 am »
What is your experince/relation with this company?
I was about to hit the buy button, when I saw the shipping estimate in April. I suppose I will have received the Almond+ Developer unit by then, but that is a very long time to ship something.

Nonewhatsoever, there are multiple companies that sells that same adapter, it was just something that came up in Google.
DX has the same product, but at a much higher price point http://dx.com/p/drf2617a-rs232-to-zigbee-wireless-module-black-silver-162226

Offline Pestus

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2014, 09:16:23 am »
I have extensive experience with Z-wave, so if Zigbee works the same way regarding mesh, then I'm not concerned about that so much, so long as the Almond+ antenna is high enough gain.

If Zigbee is encrypted by default, then it's superior to Z-wave, and this makes life easy.

In terms of jamming, one could have the Almond+ issue notifications if it loses connection to the alarm.   The alarm wouldn't care, as it does it's own thing and won't need the automation system anyways.  Alarms have encrypted, supervised wireless equipment with their own anti-Jam strategies built in.

LGNilsson

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2014, 09:20:26 am »
This poses one complication that warrants at least mentioning.  If this was a hardwired connection, security wouldn't be an issue.  With Zigbee, does the platform allow for easy encryption similar to how the locks work?  It doesn't need to be very strong..  just strong enough to discourage that remote possibility of war driving.  Most of the time this issue is so remote in my thinking as to not bother with, but if we're thinking of going to a lot of trouble to do this, we may as well do it right.  After all, once integration methods are established, many hundreds (or thousands) of people will be following these footsteps.

Please see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee#Security_services
Quote
As one of its defining features, ZigBee provides facilities for carrying out secure communications, protecting establishment and transport of cryptographic keys, cyphering frames and controlling devices. It builds on the basic security framework defined in IEEE 802.15.4. This part of the architecture relies on the correct management of symmetric keys and the correct implementation of methods and security policies. ZigBee uses 128-bit keys to implement its security mechanisms.
Due to the push button association it's also quite tricky to just "hack" into a ZigBee network, as once a device has been associated, it'll only talk to that gateway/controller. So unless you can spoof the gateway/controller and make the sensor connect to the spoofed gateway/controller, you're going to have a hard time knowing what anything is.

Ha, looks like I should've read the entire thread before I replied  ;D

Offline Pestus

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Re: Re: Will the Almond+ work with Vera Z-wave controllers?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 09:23:24 am »
Wow, okay.  So win for Zigbee!

Maybe we ought to move these threads?  Blame me, I kind of hijacked the discussion.

LGNilsson

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« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 09:27:11 am by Lars »

 

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