automating, building and graphing the world


Firstly a little bit of background just to get you in the mood... I recently received Homevision as a Christmas present. Most people know what Homevision can do and it was one of these features that I was particularly interested in.. IR... Like most people into Home Automation I have a large(ish) number of IR controllable devices, amps, vcrs etc..

Recently I received a package all the way from Australia. This was no ordinary package, this was the long awaited FirM kit that Frank had been building. FirM is an add on controller for Homevision, allowing both zoned IR input and Zoned IR output. I had personally had a go at this sort of thing and quite frankly it was dire. FirM however is far from dire...

The package contained a number of boxes, the FirM Controller, the IR receiver/transmitter boxes and the IR splitters, these can be seen in figures 1,2 and 3.

The version of FirM I received was not quite a pre-production example, but it was one of the first (if not the first) to roll out of Frank's shed. As a result I don't have the engraved labelling that is now standard on the boxes. As suggested in the fly sheet that came with FirM I plugged it in to see if it had survived the trip. After a short startup with lots of flashing lights FirM informed me that it was alive via it's heart beat LED.

Connection is simplicity itself, once I got over my initial fears of opening Homevision (I have an uncanny knack of being able to make things go bang) . Now was the time for a quick test. Since I'd known FirM was on it's way I had already started teaching Homevision the IR commands for some of my equipment. Plugging in the splitters/transmitters/receivers is a piece of cake, shown in figure 4. A single CAT5 cable handles everything.

Zoned IR Output AND INPUT: Get this, even the Homevision IR board doesn't give you zoned input. This means you could actually use the same remote in different rooms to control different equipment. for example pressing play on the IR remote when in the livingroom may cause the VCR to play, but when in the bedroom it may cause a DDAR to play. What this means is that your IR system can be intelligent, with the use of some simple Homevision programming.

A single cat5 cable is required: We all know how precious CAT5 cabling is so it's good to see that only one connection is needed to both transmit and receive IR.

Simple emitters: Using the splitters means an emitter consists of very few components, an emitter, 2 wires and a 3.5mm connector jack, simple wiring very cheap indeed, less than 1/10th the price of commercial offerings.

No local power supply is required. No local power is required at the IR receiver/transmitter/splitter end, so no ugly wall worts in each room. The only PSU required is for the controller.

Ease of connection: If I can do it then a blind monkey with no legs can.

Various splitter combinations: The splitters are available with various numbers of outputs.Integrated splitter/transmitter/receiver combinations are also available

Extremely low cost when compared to competition: When you look at the competition or even Homevisions own IR zone board the price is very attractive.

FirM really comes into it's own when used in an environment where the same equipment is used. For example all amps are the same make and model, all vcrs the same make and model. This is useful as Homevision has limited memory for IR commands. If each zone uses the same amp then only one set of codes needs to be learned by Homevision.

Since I'm also part of the development team for HomeAutomator it seemed sensible to add support for FirM. Setting and retrieving the current zone is now fully supported, meaning that I can use either a web or DCOM interface to control equipment. The fully configurable remote control moves ever closer! :D ... Homevision now controls a DDAR via FirM to give me a MP3 alarm clock that works really well and even SWMBO likes it. I currently have 3 DDARs in my node 0, each in a separate zone and each individually controllable using FirM but only using one set of learned codes.

I've been running FirM for a few months now with absolutely no glitches, it's definately something that will stay in my setup. Although this has been produced in Frank's 'shed' it has a seriously professional feel to it, dare to open the case and you will see a very professionally done circuit board. I have to say that FirM has become one of those must have add-ons for Homevision, I'm beginning to wonder how I actually coped without it before. What's more I can now control the DDAR that feeds the bathroom while lounging in the tub... If you have Homevision and want to expand on its IR capabilities then get FirM, get it now...

I'm just waiting for Frank to turn his hand to a Home Automation controller, now that would be good!! c'mon Frank, you know you want to :D... Pricing

FirM Controller.................275.00 Aus Dollars(approx 100 gbp)
Zone Rx Unit......................60.00 Aus Dollars(approx 22 gbp)
Rx Splitter Combo............70.00 Aus Dollars(approx 25 gbp)
4 way Splitter.....................34.00 Aus Dollars(approx 12 gbp)
8 way Splitter....................47.00 Aus Dollars(approx 17 gbp)

Frank's website