Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Losing Connection in a Connected World

I know our industry loves IP control, and the vast majority of time it is terrific. But it is also a bit of a two-edged sword.


I was on vacation last week, but even before returning home I knew something drastic had happened at my house. About the middle of the week I started getting a barrage of emails and notifications from various devices letting me know that something wicked this way had come.

“BlueBOLT Connection State Alert device ‘Theater’ now offline…”

“ALERT – Offline – John Sciacca – 1U Server is offline and cannot connect to Kaleidescape…”

“Honeywell’s My Total Connect Comfort – Communication Alert. The thermostat is not communicating…”

I tried logging into my ihiji appliance to see if there was something that I could reboot, but all I could see was that there was indeed no internet access at my house. I figured it was just some glitch or power outage and that our guinea pig could survive without WiFi for a few more days until we returned. Honestly my biggest concern was that if power was out, how many TV shows would my DISH Hopper not be recording?! Clearly a #FirstWorldProblem if ever there was one.

My first taste of a potentially major “Ruh-roh!” happened when we pulled into our driveway. My wife had given a friend our garage door opener to access our house, so I tried using my Chamberlain MyQ app to open the garage door. But it said, “The gateway or hub is offline.”

Had we not given her the physical controller and instead just thought, “I’ll just let her in remotely!” our guinea pig could have starved. Thank goodness the Crestron smart doorlock at the front door worked or we could have been in for some real trouble.

Once inside the house, I immediately started digging into the issue. My first check was our router which had no activity lights on it. “Ah! Well here’s the problem…” I power cycled it and waited for it to come on.

After it returned, I still didn’t have internet access. Digging upstream a bit I found my Motorola modem was completely dead. No lights, no nothing. I tried different power supplies and outlets, but it was no use. “She’s dead, Jim.”

Meanwhile, my daughter grabbed the Control4 remote and hit “Watch TV,” and when the TV clicked on but nothing else happened, I got a holler of, “Dad! The TV is broken!”

I could see the usual cityscape of lights in my rack, but my pre-amp and the DISH Hopper didn’t respond. Turns out my 8-port Gigabit switch was also completely dead. And because my pre-amp and Hopper were controlled via IP, they were down.

I had scheduled a visit with the CEO of Prima Cinema to come to my house for the day after we returned home, so I needed to have my network up and working to allow him to install his system. The next morning I drove into my store and grabbed an arsenal of new networking components. To Time Warner’s credit, they got my new modem commissioned—on a Sunday! —in about 5 minutes and a new Luxul switch and some rebooting brought my AV system back online.

As I walked around checking and testing, I noticed that my WiFi and certain wireless devices were still acting hinky. My bedroom’s Control4 controller had all the right lights but wasn’t connected, and one of my Crestron Pyng shades was just blinking. (Thanks to fellow Resi blogger, Todd Anthony Puma, for some Sunday Twitter tech support to resolve my Crestron issues!) I could see my network, but things kept randomly dropping on and off.

I checked my WAP, and it showed power, wireless, and Ethernet status lights and was broadcasting the correct SSID. I gave it an old-fashioned reboot, and noticed that while it was rebooting, the WiFi devices started working. Turns out that the WAP was not actually connecting to the network, and every time a device jumped to it, it would crash. I removed it from the system and things sorted back out.

I know our industry loves IP control, and the vast majority of time it is terrific. But it is also a bit of a two-edged sword. The more we rely on it, the more things can fail. My TV controlled by my Control4 system via serial RS-232 was still there, turning on and off like a champ, but all of the components relying on IP control—my pre-amp, my satellite, my Kaleidescape, my CasaTunes, my garage door opener—were down. Had I been one of my customers I would have been without TV until we could get a tech out…or potentially worse in the case of my garage door opener. There’s definitely something to be said for the old-school, always-works reliability of IR and serial control