March 28, 2009
| by Julie Jacobson
Finally, Wayne Dalton’s Houseport home-automation for the Apple Mac is nearing prime time.
A limited number of upgradeable pre-production units are available today for $79, with the “real” version set to launch on June 1 for $87.
Wayne Dalton previewed Houseport at CES 2008, but the product apparently was tied up in an exclusive limited distribution agreement with Fry’s.
Now the unimaginably inexpensive but powerful Houseport is ready for the masses.
The system, which enables the control and monitoring of products via the Z-Wave home-control protocol, comprises a Mac USB-to-Z-Wave adapter (with USB stand) and the Houseport software.
Users can configure the software to operate – and respond to—any of the hundreds of wireless Z-Wave products now on the market, including thermostats, dimmers, sensors, garage-door openers, motorized shades and more.
Configuring a Houseport system is a breeze – simply drag-and-drop Z-Wave products onto the floorplan for device registration and control.
From the elegant Apple interface, you can easily alter the size of the floorplan graphic – expand it for system configuration, shrink it to keep it in the background. Thanks in part to the Mac OS, you can adjust colors and transparency for backgrounds and images – something you can’t do with most low-cost automation software on the market.
More Home Automation for the Mac
With the surge in popularity of iPhone, AppleTV and Mac computers, we’re seeing growing interest in Mac-based automation solutions.
On the professional-integration side, Savant is beginning to capitalize on the Apple craze with its extensive array of Mac OS-based controllers, entertainment products and user interfaces. (Beyond that, Apple-based solutions are scant in the custom-integration realm, except for the requisite and ubiquitous iPhone home-control interface.)
On the consumer front, Perceptive Automation’s Indigo system is not unlike Wayne-Dalton’s Houseport, except that Indigo communicates via Insteon and X10 powerline technology (through a PowerLinc adapter), rather than Z-Wave wireless. In fact, Wayne Dalton appears to have the only Z-Wave-based automation system for the Mac.
Indigo retails for $200, sans the required PC/Insteon adapter ($70).
Similarly, the Thinking Home software from Always Thinking controls Insteon and X10 devices via the Mac. It costs $79 (excluding PowerLinc or other supported computer/powerline interface) but lacks the graphical richness of Houseport and Indigo.
Old-timer Sand Hill Engineering offers XTension, which again cannot match Houseport or Indigo. It supports a variety of Insteon, X10 and RF devices and retails for $150 (without hardware adapter) for the Apple OS X version. But the real value of XTension is that there is also a version for Apple’s older operating system ($90), which no one else seems to support any more.
The downfall of all of these products, including Houseport (but not the high-end Savant), is that they require the Mac to be always-on in order to implement the automation functions. Still, when you take your Apple with you in the case of Houseport, at least the USB/Z-Wave stick continues to serve as a repeater for the home’s Z-Wave mesh network.
Wayne Dalton Stands a Good Chance
I’m banking on Wayne Dalton versus any of the other mass-market automation providers.
Wayne Dalton, a leading provider of garage-door openers, is a giant in its field with extensive access to the mass market—unlike the smaller providers of Insteon/X10 hobbyist solutions for the Mac.
The company also has been the top purveyor of Z-Wave, implementing the technology in its own garage-door openers as well as its leading line of Z-Wave thermostats.
Wayne-Dalton has grandiose plans for Z-Wave-based home automation. Houseport is just one of them, and by no means a flagship product.