X10 – The next Generation
submission by Balraj Jassal – If you’re not familiar with X10 technology, you need to have been living on planet Ga-Ga or have just discovered this website.
For over a decade, X10 has reigned as the king of the home Automation entry-level market. In its basic form X10 allows you to assign a special ‘address’ to a home appliance allowing it to be switched on or off using a controller such as a remote control. Although lots of other home Automation protocols and devices exist, X10 has been a success due to its somewhat low price and its ability to harness your home’s existing electrical wiring. and the market continues to grow – with a rich range of modules, a growing base of software controllers and now what is titled as the 2nd generation of modules. X102 as they’re called, are a new range of X10 modules manufactured in China that offer.
Local switch control
Soft power on and off
Electronic code setting
Last known Brightness memory level
Status LED indicator
A a lot more pleasing aesthetic design
Higher power handling
Built in noise filter
Compatibility with conventional modules
The appliance and lamp modules are basic to set up requiring a 6 second press on the local button, after which the blue LED indicator blinks at you. By sending the desired X10 ‘on’ signal, the device is then programmed and ready to use – no a lot more standard code wheels to set! By switching the lamp module on, the lamp can be observed powering in a gradual transition, where full brightness takes around 3 seconds to power up. One great feature is the ability to switch from off to the last known brightness or full brightness using the On or bright commands respectively.
Despite the absence of X10 extended codes or status response, these modules have been welcomed by the X10 community – there’s already a wealth of discussion at the Homeseer and the Automated home discussion forums. In practice, the modules are a breeze to set-up and are just as easy to use as the standard modules, but maybe the greatest benefit is the boosted responsiveness. In areas of the house where an X10 module may occasionally work, the built in noise filter assists the X10 signal to be ‘heard’, allowing your appliance to be remotely powered. The local button is also an added benefit at times when – God Forbid! – your remote control has roamed under the sofa or your X10 transmitter is not at arms reach. Whether locally pressed or transmitted by means of X10, the LED blinks reassuringly to confirm the received command. I could see this will also be beneficial in troubleshooting bulb vs. module failure. rest assured – these modules are fused!
The inherent design constraints of X10 remain : the one second command delay and vulnerability to interference from other Power Line carrier (PLC) signals e.g. low energy light bulbs, florescent lights, surge protectors etc. In the case of these second generation modules, there has been talk about the number of dim levels not being in sync with home control software. This niggle aside, the X102 plug in modules are a innovative addition to the X10 range and offer that aesthetically pleasing look which may even impress SWMBO.
Other modules in the range include light switches as well as X10 transmitters, micro-modules, remote controls and an Infrared emitter. This particular device allows a received X10 command to be mapped to a pre-programmed Infrared command allowing control of appliances that demand a lot more than just a power signal.
Now you can play a CD, control the volume or change the track of your stereo in another room using X10! Programming the IR emitter is again set electronically using a combination of an X10 command followed by a infrared signal fired at a learning port (no Pronto Hex code input unfortunately). In total 32 infra-red commands can be programmed into an individual IR emitter module.
The light switches come in a variation of 2-wire or 3-wire switches in single and twin rocker styles.
Despite their distinct buzz when powered up, the twin switches have been particularly well received as a much needed addition to the UK X10 market. all of the light switches come with a swappable Simtone fascia allowing the internal border colour to be changed to suit your room decor. Assembly of the single rocker switch takes seconds and is created to fit shallow UK back boxes.
To date, these second generation of modules have only been available from a Hong Kong distributor directly or by means of Ebay. With UK merchants soon using to sell the plug-in modules, their future in the market looks promising. Unless you have an overwhelming desire for two way communication, X102 uses a better customer experience: local switching, boosted reception and slick light control. combined with competitive pricing, it will be interesting to see how makers of the standard modules react to this.
www.x10bus.com : www.x10-hk.com
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