New Technology Helps Colorado ESC Manage Client Vacation Homes Remotely
Editor’s Note: After last month’s special supplement on power management products, Residential Systems offers this case study on how one specific technology helped Aspen-based Paragon Technology Group better serve the winter resort market in the Colorado mountains.
In this age of increasing power costs and environmental concerns, the ability to remotely monitor how much power is being consumed by household systems offers a number of exciting possibilities. Fold into the equation the ability to temporarily or permanently turn off targeted devices via the internet and also to remotely reboot systems that have been disabled by a power interruption, and we begin to appreciate the cost savings and peace of mind that such functionality might offer.
At winter resort towns high in the Colorado mountains, homes are often unoccupied for several months of the year. And it might happen that an owner leaves without turning off energy-sapping devices or discovers that a modem-based monitoring system has failed because of a temporary brownout. Reacting to such needs, Paragon Technology Group, an Aspen-based electronic systems integrator, has installed a number of systems using the new cloud-based Furman BlueBOLT power-management and monitoring system.
Located off the kitchen and breakfast area, the living room is where the homeowners hang out and watch television while they share a meal together or catch the morning news before heading out for a fun day in the Rocky Mountains. Inset: Reacting to the needs of clients in winter resort towns where vacation homes are often unoccupied for several months of the year, Paragon Technology Group has installed a number of systems using the new cloud-based Furman BlueBOLT power-management and monitoring system.
“One of the main reasons we needed a solution like BlueBOLT is because houses here are often vacant for extended periods of time,” said Paragon CTO Evan Marty. “We want to allow our clients to easily turn off non-essential loads in their houses while they are away. Using BlueBOLT in conjunction with a control processor, we enable clients to shut down systems from within the house, as well as from an iPhone or via the web. Turning off equipment for long periods of time can save on both equipment and electricity.”
Marty said that Paragon chose BlueBOLT because its web hosting is handled off-site, which allows his firm or the client to interact with the devices without punching holes in firewalls or worrying about their network security. “All connections via The Cloud are protected, and we can develop lower-tier access for customers that want to cloak or restrict certain functions, for example, from guests. The ability to interface these devices via IP or RS-232 connections is a definite advantage.”
In addition to its Aspen showroom, Paragon operates regional offices in Denver and three other Colorado locations, as well as Nashville, so it knows first-hand about remote communication needs.
The First Test was a Retrofit
After testing out the systems at his offices, Marty say that Paragon’s first installation using BlueBOLT was for a retrofit project. “Our client had been requesting this type of functionality for awhile,” he recalled. “The customer was an industry partner that knows hardware manufacturing and capabilities very well; if we could satisfy him, we knew that BlueBOLT would be a great product offering.”
Marty especially appreciated a feature of the system that allowed his company to gather long-term data via The Cloud that lets it track power usage at the power receptacle level and recommends how systems might be optimized for maximum efficiency. “For example, we saw a problem where a homeowner had to reboot his system several times a week, which for him was unacceptable, since startup and shut-downs can be hard on electronics,” Marty explained. “We were able to recommend a fix-it solution using BlueBOLT.”
Rebooting via The Cloud
Paragon’s clients wanted a dedicated space for family and friends to fully enjoy watching films after a day of skiing, hiking or biking. Inset right: Device control screen for Panamax M4315- PRO (below), showing real-time meters with individual outlet control.
Home entertainment systems are more sophisticated and connected than ever before and with this complexity comes a higher chance for electronic lockups, freezes, and crashes. All too often, the only fix is to unplug the unit from the wall and plug it back in (aka the “hard reboot.”) “Electronics plugged into a BlueBOLT-enabled component can easily be rebooted through its Cloud-based user interface from any web-enabled device located anywhere in the world,” Marty noted.
The BlueBOLT system offers not only energy monitoring and management, but also full system control, explained Marshall Currier, Panamax/ Furman’s national trainer and a self-professed BlueBOLT guru. “Whereas competitive solutions require the user to access IP-based hardware running in the customer’s home, BlueBOLT operates on our secure server via The Cloud. We do not need to break through complex firewalls into a customer’s home network, with all the security issues and computer-access problems,” he said.
If the power goes out in a home, the client’s server is usually out of action, too. Because the BlueBOLT server is always up and running, however, Currier pointed out that his company’s system can reach out via the internet to the targeted home system, accessing power-use data and initiating on/off commands at the receptacle level. “We can also set up both administrator and customer privileges, providing full or restricted access to all of the BlueBOLT functionality,” he said.
Currier emphasized BlueBOLT’s simple installation process, which he calls a “true plug-andplay” operation. Users connect any BlueBOLTcapable unit to their internet connection, and the device automatically locates its home server and is ready for use with a brief one-time configuration process. There are no static IP addresses to obtain or configure, and no port numbers to remember. Monitoring and control is all handled from www. MyBlueBOLT.com or through a third-party control system. Installers can also set up an “autoreboot function.” If power is interrupted to a DSL modem and/or router, for example, the BlueBOLT-connected device will automatically reboot the client’s network, effectively self-healing the internet connection.
Current BlueBOLT-enabled power management systems from Panamax include the M4315 and M4320 PRO Power Controllers, 1U rackmount units rated at, respectively, 15A/1.8 kW and 20A/2.4 kW operation, each with eight outlets programmable via BlueBOLT IP or optional serial RS-232C ports; other features include a pair of front-panel programmable reboot buttons, volt/amp meter, outlet status and warning LEDs. Both units feature Panamax’ AVM (Automatic Voltage Monitoring) circuits and Linear Filtering Technology (LiFT).
“Our first clients are very happy with their BlueBOLT systems,” said Paragon Technology Group’s Marty. “We are able to monitor and power down equipment when their home is unoccupied. Utility-bill savings will realize a return on investment, along with prolonged equipment life. It’s a win-win situation all round.”
Mel Lambert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is principal of Media&Marketing, in L.A.