Readers Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup with Photos

Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup
Automated Home reader Kevin Warner has been building a comprehensive home automation system based on a HomeSeer backend controlled from touch screens using Cinemars MainLobby system.  Check out the photos of his beautiful installation along with his opinions on what works best and his thoughts on future additions.

Submission by Kevin Warner – Over the past few years I’ve been building a Home Automation system based on two commercial applications, Homeseer and Mainlobby.  Homeseer provides the majority of the interfaces and the backend processing. Mainlobby provides a flash based front end that I display on touchscreens around the house.  This allows for complex events to be easily controlled trough a graphic rich front end.

It also allows for the consolidation of various bits of information into a single source. An example of this is the main front page that’s usually displayed on each touchscreen, this shows todays and tomorrows weather, the current electrical usage in the house, the last caller (with date and time) as well as a calendar and the current time.

All the information is updated in real time. The front page also provides a menu bar along the bottom which links to other screens that provide more control and information. These are grouped into ‘Media’, ‘Weather’, ‘Lights’, ‘Energy’, ‘Internet’, ‘Enviro’ and ‘Security’.

Description of Scenes:

  • ‘Media’ is a popup menu that links to either ‘Music’, ‘Radio’, ‘TV’ or ‘Mixer’.
  • ‘Music’ provides a Jukebox like interface to select from a large library of ripped MP3’s using ‘Musiclobby’ which is  a plugin for ‘Mainlobby’
  • ‘Radio’ provides a similar ‘Jukebox’ like interface to allow selection of various radio channels. The source for the radio channels is a dedicated Sky digibox located in Node 0, controlled by Infa red through Homeseer.
  • ‘TV’ allows any of the audio/video sources to be sent to any of the rooms in the house using a Matrix switcher controlled by Homeseer. The video sources are currently Sky HD, Sky digital (Multiroom), Blu-ray player, a Popcorn hour media player and the video output from the main automation server showing a cut down version of the main home screen as well as the MP3 audio.
  • ‘Matrix’ allows full control of all the function of the Russound whole house audio controller.
  • ‘Weather’ Uses a combination of the ‘Weatherlobby’ Mainlobby plugin and the weather station I have located in the back garden. This provides current information as a 5 day forecast.
  • ‘Lights’ gives control of many lights throughout the house which are X-10 controlled through Homeseer.
  • ‘Energy’ displays current and previous electrical usage for the house. The data arrives in Homeseer through a Current cost unit giving near real time usage as well as historical data.’
  • ‘Internet’ Launches Internet Explorer on the Airpanels.
  • ‘Enviro’ Gives current temperature of each room as well as the whole house Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation system. The data is from a 1-wire network of temperature sensors feeding into Homeseer. The next stage is to integrate heating control and information which will be through the Comfort alarm/Homeyell Smartfit system (in development).
  • ‘Security’ will also give details on the alarm system and CCTV cameras, at the moment it’s very much a work in progress so nothing to see yet!
Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup

Description of Hardware – The majority of the hardware is housed in a central location (Node 0) where all the cabling termintates.  In Node 0 is are the patch panels, the

Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup

Alarm panel and a 22U 19″ rack housing 2 Sky digiboxes, 1 Sky HD box, the Russound whole house audio controller, the whole house Video Matrix, the Blu ray player and Popcorn hour media player as well as the Automation server, a CCTV server and  a Remote Desktop (RDP) server which hosts the displays for the Airpanel touchscreens.

Cabling – During extensive renovation and extension works I was able to install a LOT of cable. The final result is that the house is ‘flood wired’ with Cat5e cable, with at least 2 ports per room. The Cat5 has multiple uses and as well as the normal computer network connections, is also used for phone points, distributing audio and HD Video (using Baluns), Russound keypads, ABUS audio zones†and some power over CAT5.

Day to Day Usage – The “always on” availability of the touchscreens makes it hugely convenient to access common functions such as Weather forecast, current temperatures throughout the house and selection of music or radio to listen to.  One of the most popular uses is this ability to listen to music, radio or TV feed in most of the rooms with a single button push, great when you’re moving from room to room. Using the Musiclobby plugin a large centrally located MP3 library is instantly available to select and build playlists etc with a simple, elegant front end that matches the look and feel of the other scenes.

The energy monitor showing current electrical usage has possibly had the greatest impact and has proved to be a big behaviour modifier.  It gives a constant reminder how much power we’re using and encourages the turning out of lights and other electrical equipment. Of course the irony of the power used to display the information is not lost and I’m actively looking for ways to reduce the power consumption of all the home automation equipment without compromising too much on the response time. One of the ways I’ve been thinking is by using the alarm status (which feeds into HomeSeer) to switch off some of the equipment. i.e. “Night” or “Away” mode turns of all the unnecessary kit.

The whole system is always growing and changing as new developments come along. Currently I’m working on integrating heating control using the Honeywell Smartfit system which talks to the Alarm system which in turn talks to Homseer. The plan is to add controls onto the Mainlobby scene which displays room temperatures. I have most of the backend for this working now and I’m finishing off the scene.

Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup

The possibilities are virtually endless but I’ve always tried to focus on genuinely useful features, rather than running lots of additions simply because it can be done.  Although I will admit to creating something just for the sake of it ! ?

Kevin Warner’s Setup  :  Our Node Zero Gallery  :  HomeSeer  :  MainLobby

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9 Comments on "Readers Touchscreen Controlled Home Automation Setup with Photos"

  1. Kevin –

    thanks for posting, looks good, impressive … have you found the baluns approach to putting the various things over the Cat-5 has been pretty-much hassle-free ? … and how about the WAF (or whatever), has it improved with time ?


  2. go on then… give us an idea of the cost of a set-up like this 😉

  3. Chris, Baluns are finr as long as you stay clear from the really cheap ones. I’m using Muxlabs 500050 and matching stereo audio (i.e. 2 runs of CAT 5 for Comp video, digital and stereo audio)without any problems. I was keen to stay away from active baluns if possible – one less transformer to worry about 🙂
    WAF is high, she loves the music selection and control and the weather forcast as well as the caller ID (both on the airpanels an the Russounds keypads). I’ve actaully had compliments on how well it works which is an improvement on ‘what is all this stuff supposed to do ?’ 🙂

  4. Cost ? Probably not as much as you may think. As it’s ‘Homebrew’ a lot of the hardware is ebay sourced – including the Kramer matrix which was a steal at about £120 for an HD capable 8X8 Component video/stereo & digital audio matrix.

    Ballpark something like £2.5k , bearing in mind it’s been built up over several years. Bigest single item was the Russound Cav6.6 which cost me $1200 in the US. Probably also the best buy I’ve made – love it 🙂

  5. Hi mate. Very impressive. I am a mechanical engineer so all this is completely meaningless to me. The problem is I want to install a multi room AV system in a new house build project. I dont suppose you have a bill of materials for all of this? What I need is a shopping list if you/anyone can help. Basically I am looking for touch panel control for AV in 6 zones plus remote capability and would have audio only in a further 2 zones which would operate via the remote. I would intend to have a central hub for housing all the kit as your installation. Also, why the 2 SKY boxes?

    Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated and a very interesting article in any case. Well done.

  6. Hi Kevin, nice setup.
    I am working on something very similar, but still have some hurdles to leap.
    How is homeseer interfacing with your CAV6.6 ?
    I use a front end called XLobby (also touch screen capable)on my control server, and it’s controlling my Speakercraft MZC66 multiroom controller using IR. I would prefer to use serial control, but I’m having trouble getting the interface setup.
    What Honeywell heating controller do you have?
    I happen to know that there will be a new CMZone controller coming out soon that will have over 8 zone capability with IP control software. (benefit of living near Honeywell factory in Scotland… :-)). I think that would make things easier, but can you explain what kit is required in the Comfort system to talk to Honeywell Smartfit system? I’m in market for a new Alarm panel at the moment.

  7. Callum,

    Afraid I can’t help with a BOM – as I said it’s been build up piecemeal over the years and includes quite a bit of second hand kit. If you’ve got the budget have a lok at some of the commercial systems liek Crestron or AMX etc. The trade organisation Cedia might be a place to start (

    I’d certainly go for a centralised hub for all the kit. You missed a Sky box as well – There’s actually 3 🙂 1 X Sky HD, 1 X SKY Digital for Multiroom and 1 X Sky Digital which is dedicated to providing Radio stations for the whole house audio. All 3 are available on any TV in the house through the Kramer Matrix switcher.


  8. Rab,

    There’s an interface diagram on my website ( which shows the various hardware connects. For the Russound this is a serial (RS232) connection to the Mainlobby Server CAV6.6 plugin. There’s also a Homeseer plugin which I haven’t used – the ML server plugin came first.

    The heating control is Honeywell’s Smartfit, there’s a hardware interface for the Comfort alarm panel which I use – these are called UCM’s and are available for other types of hardware such as C-Bus and Dynalite lighting etc.
    I’d highly recommend Comfort as an Alarm panel – it can be used as a HA controller in its own right and has lots of interface options. I’m using serial control with a Homeseer plugin.

    Interesting to hear of the CMZONE controller but I just hope that Honeywell release the protocol this time (unlike the Smartfit control) and open it up to 3rd party interfaces.

  9. Colin Glover | February 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm |

    Kevin, how do you control your heating?

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