Home Control Assistant Newsletter for Dec 8

Have you looked over the version 16 release notes? Lots of changes that you can incorporate into your designs right away.

And if you are looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Want to read messages from past weeks? Here you go.

Version 16

In case you missed it, HCA version 16 was released in October. There are two big reasons to upgrade to this new version. First there are a lot of new features and a lot of stability improvements that make things go better and faster even if you make no changes in your design. Take a look at the release notes and you can see all the changes. Let me highlight two reasons to upgrade.

First, over the years we have had a lot of requests for ZWave and Zigbee device support. These wireless devices have their pluses and minuses and some people really like them. If this is what you are looking for, then you should look into Samsung SmartThings and Hubitat Elevation. Both offer hubs that provide the interface that HCA needs to talk to these kinds of devices.

The second big reason to upgrade is that you have a lot of time invested in HCA and by upgrading, at a nominal cost, you support the company that keeps this software going year after year. A few weeks back the HCA Cloud got caught up in a bit of a squall when our hosting company came under attack. While it was nothing to do with HCA, our team was there over the weekend and sorted it out within a day. Upgrade now to keep this level of support going.
I’ve been in this “automation” business for quite a while now and I have seen products come and go. But one thing I have learned is that there are users who think “If it works and isn’t broken, why replace it even if it is out of date”. Other HCA users always want the latest gear to mess about with. I can understand both approaches! Today I’m going to discuss the two ends of the automation lifespan: the old alpha and the new omega.

Yes, Virginia, there are still people who believe in X10! (link)

One of the many nice features of HCA is that nothing ever goes away. Some features move to ”legacy” support but we rarely outright remove something. After all, a lot of development time went into a feature and if it doesn’t cause any problems, we leave it in place. Some of those features are used quite a bit, and one is X10. Sure, there are problems with X10 we all know about, but some users still use a lot of it. (I still have a few X10 motion sensors and an X10 Chime module in my own home surrounded by all the latest gear. Don’t tell anyone…)

One issue is not the availability of devices but the availability of a computer interface. Long ago there was the CM11 and that got replaced by the CM15. The CM15, being a USB device, used a device driver and we had to write our own which was ok up until Windows 10 when unsigned drivers became a problem. We elected to not go through the certification process for our driver as a business decision – not enough users and too much cost. Because of this we moved CM15 support to “Legacy” and some users, not on Windows 10, still use it. But for Windows 10 users I recommend they get the SmartHome 2413 PowerLinc because it supports both Insteon and X10. The problem was its X10 support wasn’t as good as the CM11 or CM15.

Recently I found a small shop that makes an exceptionally good replacement for the CM11. Much better reliability. Much better signals. And it works great with HCA when identified as a CM11. 

If you are using X10 with the CM11, CM15, or the 2413, I urge you to purchase this interface. It’s a great product and with X10 drifting out to sea every day it is a great time to make sure you are not stranded. Remember that HCA can use multiple interfaces simultaneously, so if you have some Insteon you can keep the PowerLinc for Insteon and then direct X10 to this CM11 replacement. Here is a link.

They used to offer kits, but it is all pre-assembled now. You will need the same cable that the CM11 used, and if you don’t have one, ask and they will point you toward where to get one. 

Disclaimer: We don’t get anything from a purchase. I’m just happy to support another small business and this really is a great product. Tell them HCA Support sent you.

My god, it’s full of SmartThings (link)

In HCA 16 we added support for Samsung SmartThings. This is a protocol integrator that allows you to control and receive inputs from a variety of devices and sensors. Because this is really a 21st century product, the sensors handle a lot of multiple duties. The contact closure for doors and windows reports not only open and close but vibration – did someone knock but not open the door? – and temperature. That’s because of the level of integration in today’s electronics. It is cloud based but the control time seems excellent and the reception time for event reports good.

Here is an interesting application that couldn't be done with another technology. One of the early adopters of SmartThings and HCA attached a "presence sensor" to his garbage can. A "presence sensor" is small widget that tells the SmartThings hub when it loses contact and when reestablished. The sort of thing you attach to your key ring so the system knows when you are home or away. Anyway, what he did was to set up HCA to send himself a reminder if he has forgotten to put the garbage out for collection on the day before garbage days. (I wonder if used the HCA Calendar to designate garbage days as that would be a great use of it). A program is scheduled to run late in the day on the day before garbage pickup day. The program checks to see if the presence sensor is in range or not and sends the "You forgot to put out the garbage" message if it is. Geeky? Sure, but a great idea. And that's the sort of things possible with SmartThings.

Of course, it’s not quite as quick to setup SmartThings as older technology, but with an app and many devices with a 2D Bar Code to scan, it goes quickly. The breadth of support for different protocols is reasonable but don’t expect it to have everything as, by its very nature, it’s all wireless control. The SmartThings app does have some simple scheduling an event handling but, of course, nothing like what HCA can do. 

As we move into 2020 and beyond, HCA is no longer an Island. It becomes part of a whole ecosystem of devices that interconnect to create the solution you want using the powerful programming and access features in HCA.

If you want to find out more about SmartThings I recommend getting one of the starter kits with a hub and some sensors and devices – check Amazon – and also review the SmartThings technical note.
Want to watch instead of read?

If you are interested in watching some videos about how HCA and Insteon can work together, George De Luca, a HCA users of a few years and technology video creator, has started to add HCA videos to his channel. He has a good knowledge of HCA and its ins-and-outs.
His channel can be reached at: While I’ve offered him some thoughts on the videos, his opinions and advice on using HCA are his own. If you have questions about something you see, ask them in the video comment section and you may see a video with an answer.

User-to-User forum

An HCA User who wanted to set up a forum for user-to-user communication. I'm passing this on, but please know that this is not a HCA company project and I will not be spending much time there so I don't know how this will work out. Here is a link to what he set up.

Want to take the next step in automation? Want to get started with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and control HCA by voice commands? Even if you are a long-time user of HCA, the Getting Started guides have all the info you need on client-server, mobile applications, DDNS, and voice assistants.

All of the Getting Started Guides are available on the support website.
Copyright © 2019 Advanced Quonset Technology, Inc, All rights reserved.

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