Home Control Assistant Newsletter for March 21 2021

Have you looked over the version 17 release notes? Lots of changes that you can incorporate into your designs right away. Easy upgrade.

Looking for answers to the most common questions about HCA? Check out our
Frequently Asked Questions page.
Zone Manager, part 2
Recently I wrote about a package I placed in the library that lets you assign devices into zones. These zones are completely independent of rooms and folders. Why was this package created? Several reasons.

First, after the installation of several Hue lights into my home, I was faced with a difficulty. The circuits these lights were installed on must always be powered. While there was a switch for the circuit, it was always left in the ON position so that the Hue bulbs could receive commands. The circuit may be powered on but the lights may be off as they last received a Hue message to go off.  Having that switch ON made HCA think the room was on and that really wasn’t the case.

Second, I wanted to better control lights in different areas of my home. Since the home is very “open floorplan” I wanted to establish zones that I could control as a unit. Some of this I could do with programs and groups, but it just wasn’t a good fit for those facilities.

Third, I’ve been working with a lot of the “higher end” automation systems the last few months. The systems from Control4, URC, and RTI. These are nice in many ways as their integration of A/V and their hardware is top notch. Problem is they are all professionally installed (read: expensive). If one wanted integration of whole house audio, intercoms, cameras, lighting control, and cool (again read: expensive) touch panels mounted everywhere, then these systems deliver. As an aside, their event processing and decision making isn’t all that great. They are super at control, but HCA is better at processing events and implementing complex algorithms for handling those events. 

Anyway, what all these systems have are great UI builders. That is what most of the brain work of the installer is focused upon. What I want for my own home is a wall mounted touchscreen that is my home control center showing me all the data about my devices, schedules, internal sensors, and control for the limited audio I have (via Sonos). Could I build that with just the features of HCA? I got a nice
wall mountable touchscreen and I’m working on that UI. The first piece was to create a page to show the state of my rooms organized the way I wanted it. I can’t include a picture here in this email as scaling it down makes it unreadable. If you want to see, I put a full-size image on the website here.

I will continue to build this over the next months and if I find anything that is perhaps “generally useful” I’ll try and build it as a library package. The zone manager, with some fixes and improvements plus a way to connect those zones to a tiled display, is now in version 2 in the library.

Worthwhile stuff on the HCA Cloud web site
For most users, the HCA cloud is something that makes Alexa and Google Assistant work, and as long as that happens it isn’t much thought of. However, if you want to “see behind the curtain” there is much information available. After you log into your account, select “Instances” from the menu. 

If you then click on the name it expands to show more.

This shows useful information like the IP address of your home, what version of HCA you are using, when the server last updated the cloud about its state (it does this every 24 hours or so), and if you are using the “Cloud connect” feature. 
Other helpful functions here are the icons at the top. The “checklist” and the “cloud” ones are used to have the HCA Cloud attempt to connect to your server. Use the first if you want to check connection using the port forward method and the other if you are “cloud connected”. 

If you want to really go down the rabbit hole, the graph icon shows all sorts of internal stuff. In there are a few interesting things.

The first section is for how long a key piece of the HCA cloud has been running and available. If this restarts, as it does when it is updated or it encounters a problem, then all HCA servers have to reconnect.

The second and third sections are information about the two connections that the HCA server makes to the HCA Cloud if you are using the “Cloud Connect” feature. You should always have exactly two.

The next section shows some performance indicators and tells you how well the connections are working. For me it shows my internet connection speed is terrible – like I didn’t know that – but hopefully yours are good. This is followed by internal logs. Yikes!

Really you can ignore all of this and sleep better knowing that someone – the intrepid cloud developer – understands it all and uses it to make the system more reliable.


When was the last time you made a backup of your HCA design? Not a month goes by without at least one tale of woe from a HCA user. Please use the "Design Backup Assistant" on the Tools ribbon category. The work you save will be your own.

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.
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