One of the new recurring themes in the CEDIA channel involves the development of software to remotely diagnose and monitor residential AV systems. Some have been more successful than others. The most recent of these to come to my attention is from eServices in Hollywood, Florida.
The Black Box
A spin off of control systems programming firm Digital Automation, Stephen Harrington’s company first developed its software package to track the status of client systems in two large MDU towers on Miami Beach, and is now selling its Black Box product to the rest of the CEDIA channel.
Harrington, who owns and operates both Digital Automation and eServices, spoke to me last week about his company’s Black Box product, which he hopes can provide custom integrators worldwide with a reliable remote monitoring services that automatically detects and monitors any IP-based or Crestron Cresnet device in a system.
Harrington’s original MDU monitoring software was designed two years ago to manage the Trump Royale on North Miami and later the Continuum Two on South Beach.
In the Trump building Digital Automation has provided programming for 400 Crestron touchpanels and 10 Crestron processors. In the other building “a bunch of” 300-watt Crestron power supplies are running CresNet.
“We were looking for a way that we could monitor the status of all devices on the network so we could know proactively when something goes offline,” Harrington told me. “We can receive a notification and contact the homeowner or building management, get it remedied.”
How the Black Box monitors IP
Harrington said that while having software that allows one to look at all of the IP technology on a network isn’t all that uncommon in the IT world, combining that LAN monitoring feature with the proprietary side of the Crestron bus network (Cresnet) would mean taking the concept to the next level.
“We ended up writing a server platform that automatically scans the network, categorizes IP devices, allows you to decide if you want to monitor them or not as well as bringing in all the information from a Crestron processor,” Harrington explained. “Then you can start monitoring all of their proprietary devices, radio switches, audio switches, and touchpanels and proactively notify the techs that support the job the programmers.
From an off-site location, users can access the rack-mountable BlackBox through a secure user interface to quickly determine the source of any potential or actual interruptions in the system, saving time on service calls and system maintenance, and improving the customer support process.
“Having the ability to know that a system has failed before our clients do is an amazing tool,” said Robin Bogle, president of Advanced Home Theater and integrator of eServices’ BlackBox. “Customer service leads to customer satisfaction, which is the best sales tool you can have. Not to mention knowing exactly what is broken before we send out a technician leads to immediate cost savings. The BlackBox monitor gives us a huge advantage not available till now.”
The Black Box monitoring Cresnet
Given the uneasiness of the market and the often short life-span of outside remote monitoring services, eServices does not force integrators to commit to permanent service agreements. Instead offering the functionality of the BlackBox for a one-time unlimited device licensing fee.