Home Control Assistant Newsletter for Sep 8

Have you looked over the version 15 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 message from past weeks? Here you go.
Back to work!

Now that the “August recess” is over – not like I get much time off, but I try and reduce what I do in August – it’s time to return to my weekly thoughts on HCA.

And this is a good time to consider what HCA is all about these days. Let me give you two examples. In my own home I have an Ecobee thermostat and it is smart. Smart enough that I just let it do its thing. There isn’t any automation I need to build on top of what it already does. I also have some LIFX lights that I can control directly from Alexa and not use HCA.

So, if lots more devices are “smart” and lots more can be directly controlled via their own apps and voice interfaces, is there a role for HCA these days, and if so, what is it?

The last four weeks let me ponder that and here are my thoughts. HCA is best thought of as a “super smart hub” to control and respond to events and environmental considerations that just can’t be done by the limited facilities available in other apps and voice assistants. Sure, I can use some of the facilities in Alexa to do simple scheduling. Or in SmartThings I can connect a door sensor to a light. But in no place other than HCA can I integrate disparate technologies – e.g. control Sonos from an Insteon keypad – or consider environmental conditions – e.g. change the color balance of LIFX lights if it is a cloudy day.

And all that means one thing: Programs. While HCA has a nice – and getting better – mobile application, what I really want to do is not just control, but have my devices respond in ways that are smarter than the devices themselves. I want to build intelligence on top of the devices I have in my home to make them smarter than they are. And that means programs to both respond to events, and to act as an intermediary between me (or a voice assistant) and the device to add “smarts” in how it responds.

To that end, in the next version of HCA while you will see lots of new hardware support, there will also be a major increase in the tools for working with programs. Since that is the role for HCA, we will always continue to provide you the tools to build the smarts you want into your devices.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave / when we design our automation

OK, I admit I copied the first line of the poem from the 17th century. But it is indeed the case that automation designs can become a bit tangled. A program starts another program which references a group, which contains a program which controls a device, and on and on. It can be a bit like Excel where a cell contains a formula that references other cells which contain other formulas that reference cells with data. Change one cell and many others can change as well.

In HCA it can be tricky to see what the connections are between parts of your design. HCA has two tools that really help. When you open the properties of an object, the “Referenced By” tab is one tool. For programs you also get a “References” tab as a second tool.

The “Referenced By” tab tells you where in HCA that object is used. Consider the possibilities for just a device: A device could be referenced in a program, be a group member, be controlled by an on-display keypad, used in a program trigger, used as a filter for the log, and in the configuration of an Alert. No way I can keep that in my head! The “Referenced By” tab shows you all the places your device is used and if you want to change it, what effects that could have.

For a program, the “References” tab goes the opposite direction and tells you all the objects that the program references. As an example, suppose you are creating a program to control all the devices in a room. The “References” tab shows you if you have included all those devices in what the program does.

Both are excellent tools that you should be making use of.

HCA Server Computers
Several users have taken advantage of our special deal on small footprint, fanless, no-moving-parts computers that are really good for running the HCA Server 24/7. If you want to learn more take a look at the server page we have for that.

We got a super price on them and if you are interested please let me know. One nice thing is that before they ship, we do all the Windows setup and updating – to the latest Windows (1903) – and install the HCA Server and make sure it is all ready to go. And we have done something else to help you get started with the new Backup Assistant. All the details are in tech note 105 Moving HCA to a new computer.

If you have any questions about these machines and their use as an HCA Server, please just drop me an email.
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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