Power Conditioners in Action
Mar 29, 2013 11:37 AM, By Patrick Barron
A look at two IP-addressable options.
In the research and evaluation of these power conditioners, I stumbled across an interesting company that provides answers for some of the limitations I discovered in both the WattBox and Panamax products. That company is called ihiji. Invision is a hosted-web solution from ihiji that provides a secure gateway for integrators to remotely monitor, service, and maintain all aspects of each client’s in-home electronic systems, including but not limited to, entertainment, network, HVAC, and lighting systems. According to the website, using ihiji’s invision, you can receive alerts for equipment malfunctions, diagnose issues, and repair problems remotely, making it easy to manage your customers’ installations and maintain the most reliable systems possible.
Ihiji has partnered with SnapAV to provide a portal that communicates to the WattBox IP+ power conditioners. They have created a module for Panamax and many other manufacturers. Invision works by providing a monitoring and support device that resides on the local customer network. This device provides the link to the invision web portal. To configure a new appliance, all an integrator must do is plug the device into the network, allow it to auto configure, and then log into the ihiji portal with no special setup required. A key feature of the invision solution is the ability to monitor a multitude of different devices in addition to the power conditioner itself. Examples of devices that can be monitored include projectors, control processors, Wi-Fi touchpanels, switches, wireless access points, routers, network-capable TV and Blu-ray, UPS, PDU, IP cameras, DVRs, video servers, and more.
Invision uses a web portal for each dealer to monitor all of the sites they have installed. The web portal shows a client map (Figure 8) that works much like the traditional type Google maps interface with the zoom tool. An alternate view of the same information without the map interface is called the status dashboard (Figure 9). At a glance, the screen shows all of the active sites with the colored icons that represent the status of the site. The zoom tool allows the user to look at a high-level map that shows the entire U.S. all the way down to a detailed zoom showing a single building. By clicking on an icon it will bring up the site date for that particular location. The site map (Figure 10) shows the status of every device at the location that can be monitored and represents the status with a colored dot. One of the items on this map would be the power conditioner itself such as the WattBox or Panamax. Clicking on the dot representing the WattBox unit would open a control page (Figure 11), which gives control over each outlet. This control is not exactly the same as provided by the direct web interface from WattBox, nor is it the same as the web portal provided by Panamax. But the control ability and ability to edit the custom names of the device connected to each outlet (Figure 12) is the same with the added benefit of providing a custom user interface regardless of the brand of equipment used. An integrator could use WattBox for some installations, Panamax for others, and the ihiji front end and operation would remain consistent.
One of the concerns with the WattBox product was the ability to access the unit outside of the client network. SnapAV chose to partner with a company that already provided this service rather than trying to create its own web portal. By choosing to use an established company to manage the web aspect of the remote access, many additional features are enabled. A potential problem with managing the Panamax was dealing with the email addresses and having to make change in a multitude of places. Invision provides a solution where all of the emails for various problem situations are sent to a custom defined email group. The members of this group can be edited at any point in time while the individual sites are not changed since they are sending emails to an email group comprised of a variable list of email addresses. For large integration companies with hundreds of installations to manage, the ability to have a single point of management for all systems is a significant time savings compared to using many different manufacturers’ proprietary systems.
Additional capabilities of the ihiji system can be harnessed by using a control system such as AMX, Crestron, or Control4. Ihiji has software modules written for all of these systems, which expand the monitoring capabilities outside of a device located on the network. Since AMX, Crestron, and Control4 are network-enabled systems, ihiji uses these controllers to act as a bridge in communicating with other devices that are normally operated through the control system. The integrator can monitor literally anything connected to the control system by writing control system code to send data back to the invision web portal. The process is something that any skilled programmer should be able to easily manage.
Using remote monitoring as a value-added tool for your service contracts can create an attractive solution for your customers. Power conditioners ensure that equipment is kept in top running condition by keeping components safe from surges and other anomalies. Combining IP-enabled power conditioners with the ihiji web portal brings a high-value service to integrators that allow them to approach new and existing clients with a groundbreaking system to accompany their service contracts.
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