Replace Control4

Hello, all! We have a Control4 box that controls our overhead projector, in-ceiling wireless speakers, DVD player, and an HDMI switch that allows us to switch back and forth between the devices that output to the projector.

The Control4 means that we can't program our system ourselves, but must rely on a dealer to come out when he has time.

I am interested in making my own system. Is this something I can do with Arduino, some programming skills, imagination and some gusto? If it's possible, from scratch, how long might it take to replace my Control4?

This is all terribly new to me, so I hope someone can help me.

How does the dealer communicate with the Control4 box? InfraRed, cable, wireless, WiFi??? Or does he open it up and select different switches? Google "Control4".

He hooks up his laptop to our LAN network. He uses the control4 (I think) to record IR pulses.

The Control4 manages the projector via ethernet converted into HDMI. It manages the sound system via wireless network, and the lights via IR (I think).

He sets the Control4 and its remote-control to send the IR commands (I think - he won’t tell me much how it works), and sends IR commands to the HDMI switch to change between the devices that will output to the projector (via HDMI over ethernet - there are balin converters at either end of the ethernet cable that change the ethernet into HDMI to be read by the switch on one end and the Control 4 on the other).

I’ve already googled (thanks for suggesting that, by the way). I wouldn’t post a question without having googled - that would be dumb. I posted here because I wanted a person’s direct thoughts.

It always helps to volunteer that you have Googled (in your original post). No offence, but a lot of people don't.

From Wikipedia:

The Control4 system uses TCP/IP over Ethernet as its primary and preferred method of communication between appliances. Secondarily, it natively supports Zigbee, which is a wireless mesh networking protocol for appliances based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Zigbee communication is the primary form of communication for products which are typically not installed near an Ethernet connection (light switches, thermostats, and handheld remote controls). Notably, due to the mesh design, Zigbee devices with a constant power source may serve as repeaters for messages between devices that are otherwise too far apart to communicate directly. Each Home Controller includes a Zigbee radio which can serve as a master node or coordinator for the wireless mesh.

Further, the system natively supports RS-232 serial communication, and it comprehensively supports learning and emitting infrared signals for automatically controlling home theater equipment.

I don't know any more than what I just read, but it seems to me that something that uses IR signals and Zigbee ought to be able to be reverse-engineered somewhat.

Well, the reason I came here is because I've read that Arduino can be used with IR transmitters and receivers. I figure I would have to buy some equipment, but that's okay - the stuff doesn't look all that expensive. I also figure that I wouldn't be able to use any of the Control4 components that receive the wireless transmissions that control the speakers and the lightswitch (maybe?).

I've seen this interesting post about using Arduino with IR and a stereo - and there are many other posts like that, too.

I'm not sure what you mean by "reverse engineer", however.

I was actually hoping that someone had already attempted to overcome the same problem - swapping Control4 for a custom system.

BGMcoder: I'm not sure what you mean by "reverse engineer", however.

Let's assume they won't tell you their protocol. So set up something that listens in on the Zigbee network (that must be possible, although I haven't tried it, they are just radio waves). Do something like turn a light on and see what commands are sent.

Using the IRremote library with and Arduino and IR receiver should get you a long way. Its really good. There is another one also IRlib. (google for these).
Another, excellent site to search is “sb-projects IR”.

However, you will also need to be able record the signals so that you can replay them, from the Arduino. If only the dealer has the unit which sends the IR, then you may have a real problem, uncless you can get access to one to clone the dignals).

Once you have all the bits and pieces, it only a medium level of difficulty as an Arduino project to do what you want.

Once, you get that far and if you are still having problems, look at our own AnalysIR (see signature).

With regards to recording the IR signals, I saw him do that once and always thought I could do that, too. The Control4 is what sends the IR now, so if I scrap the Control4, I'll have send my own IR. Can the Arduino do that, or do I need an IR transmitter?

The other problem I saw was a problem with location. The control4 and the Marantz stereo box and the dvd player are in the server closet along with a wireless router (and other stuff). That means that in order to use the stereo system, I have to be able to get the sound input into it. The Control4 is acting like a central-computer, receiving all the sound and display input and sending it where its supposed to go. I would have to build a new box to do that. So I would need to output the stereo to the Marantz...

Now, is it possible that I can project the IR into the main conference room, even though my "box" will be in the server closet? (that's how it works with the Control4 right now, anyway).

Anything's possible (well, almost anything). Google for Arduino IR projects, there are lots of them, and some including "learning" codes and playing them back.

For the long range stuff you could probably either run wires, or set up some sort of radio communication.

Control4 seems to be a range of systems, one of which is an IR extender. So I am not 00% sure about your particular setup.

If all you want to do is to control the different devices yourself using IR, then this is very achievable with Arduino.

You will need an IR led (TSAL6x00 from Vishay) are really good. Vishay IR receivers are also good. For more than a few feet you will have to build a simple transistor circuit to drive 100->200mA thru the IR LED. (The Arduino can only drive less than 40mA I think which will only get you a very short range without a transistor)

There are 'blaster' cables you can buy to pass the IR thru a cabinet, although just putting the IR LED on the end of a cable is fine. (depends on the finish you want). Also do a search on other IR extenders, if you can't drill a hole thru the cabinet.

Just get an Arduino, IR LED and IR receiver and play around with your TV devices and remotes first, using the IRremote library. Once you have your first sketch running you will be much better placed to decide on your options.

If you need to control over RF then it may be more difficult to achieve, although it is relatively easy to use Zigbee with Arduino, the interface in your installation may be proprietary. There are many simple Arduino RF projects to search for which are much cheaper than a ZIgbee based solution, although Zigbee quality is very good.

Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to help you with your other questions, but it all sounds very 'do-able' provided you can get access to the signals to clone them onto the Arduino.

Thanks for your answers, fellows. I think I'm going to do a little shopping, and then try to convince my boss to buy me some parts.

So which Arduino card should I begin with, and what will I need to get started?

I see I'll need some IR leds (asAnalysIR points out). I don't know anything about transistors. I'll need an IR receiver, and some sort of IR recorder or something.

I have a Windows computer I can put the card in.