Origin: Watchdog v4

2005 – Present

This is kind of the “Golden Era” of development for the Watchdog application.  My wife and I decided to have a second house custom-built to give us room for our growing family.  I took the opportunity to get serious about building an industrial-strength system based on my own research as well as all the modern technology I was exposed to at work.  I decided that since Watchdog was so heavily used, it was time to make a serious investment.  So, when the house was being constructed, I went to work and pulled out all the stops.  I ran miles of wire into every nook and cranny I could.  I’m told by my builder that the building inspector and his crew were stunned about some of the stuff I’d done.

In order to address the server heat problem, I terminated all wiring in the basement (cool year round) where I installed two racks (one 2-post, one 4-post).  I used professional cable management solutions, and terminating blocks to keep things organized.  I had dedicated power circuits put in to give me the power I needed for running all the equipment.  Years later when I finished the basement, I took care to maintain good airflow through the room and leave plenty of room around the racks for working.

At this time, I leveraged the help of my brother-in-law who had just taken over a home security installation and monitoring company.  He made me aware of some cool new technology like Russound whole-house audio systems so I could pipe music or computer audio to all the rooms in the house, Flush-mount ceiling speakers, Infrared repeaters, ChannelPlus Modulators so I could inject the closed-circuit TV signals into the Coax and be able to check the video feed from any TV in the house.  He also knew some clever tricks to quickly pulling security cable and how to efficiently route them through the walls.  Without his help, I never would have been able to pull all that wire in time.

New features initially included:

  • Plays sounds when doors, locks and windows open/close
  • Multiple motion detectors – Roconet iWise and LuNAR Dual Technology (really good – never had a false alarm)
  • Measurement Computing USB DIO modules (2) and Temp module
  • Russound CA6.4i multi-room amplifier.  Provides 4 sound sources and local control in each room of the house.
  • Citrix Access Gateway for secure remote access to the house so I can monitor/adjust when I’m traveling (which is often)
  • Roller-ball plunger contact switches for all the doors
  • Honeywell MPS-45WG sub-mini magnetic switches for the windows
  • Custom lock sensors for the deadbolts of the external doors
  • Seco-Larm Enforcer E-931-S35RR for detecting the presence of each car parked in the garage
  • Seco-Larm ODC-59A for detecting the garage door
  • Custom sensor inside the mailbox
  • ELK Doorbell & Telephone Ring Detector ELK-930
  • Weight sensors underneath the carpet on all the stairs
  • Integrated X10 via the PSC-05 two-way Powerline interface and some custom code.
  • 3 external CCTV cameras (a 4th was later added along with 5 internal IP cameras)

I re-wrote the Watchdog application in Visual Basic .NET 2005 (aka VB8) and SQL Server 2003.  I was able to leverage SQL Server Reporting Services to quickly create nice reports on the contents of the database.  Through a lot of careful planning and forward thinking, this became the foundation that I’ve built from over the past 7+ years.  I’ll spend some time in future posts going through the add-on projects I’ve done during this period since the initial build.

My advanced planning efforts have been successful.  Even today, I have no visible wiring throughout the house and the interaction with the house has become ubiquitous.  I admit that I have embraced some wireless technology over the years, but don’t use it for any “mission critical” features.  That said, I am starting to develop a wishlist for my next house 🙂  – things like a ceiling mounted microphone array would be very handy and would require more wiring than I’ve got right now.


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