Chowmain: Driven to succeed

Pg40aOften an afterthought, drivers can make or break a control system. Driver developer Alan Chow speaks to Paul Skelton about HVAC control, ELAN and the Jewish calendar.

Most integrators, at least most Control4 dealers, will be very familiar with the name Chowmain Software & Apps. The company, headed by software developer Alan Chow, is responsible for many of the leading drivers available to Control4 installers.

In fact, the company boasts a dealer base of around 950 integrators worldwide. An estimated 40% of global Control4 dealers have used a Chowmain driver with roughly 20% of those using one in their showroom.

Now, the company is expanding beyond Control4 to develop a library of drivers for ELAN and URC dealers too.

“It simply makes sense for us to use our expertise on multiple control systems,” Alan says.

“Plus, ELAN actually uses the same programming language as Control4, which will allow us to port some of our existing Control4 drivers across to the ELAN platform.”

Interestingly, the first Chowmain driver available for both the ELAN and URC control systems was for the integration of Belkin WeMo.

“The WeMo driver really is our ‘Hello World’ for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It’s a simple device that really works well with control systems,” Alan says.

“Next will come an If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) driver, which will allow us to easily integrate a lot of third-party IoT products and web-based services into these control systems effortlessly.”

Of course, while the ELAN, URC and Control4 systems all use a similar programming language, there are differences.

“Some of the things we can do on one system can’t be done on the other; but, a good portion of our Control4 drivers will soon be available on ELAN and URC.”

It has been a hectic few months for Chowmain, Alan says. Aside from foraying into other control systems, the developer has also been releasing a number of drivers for the Control4 platform, including one that is the result of 10 years of hard work to crack the Australian HVAC market.

“HVAC integration is extremely hard to achieve. Every manufacturer in this region has a proprietary bus-based system and if you install a third-party product, some manufacturers won’t honour the warranty,” Alan says.

“And it’s not a new problem; I remember 10 years ago not being able to offer HVAC as part of a solution. It really became a passion of mine to find a solution for the Australian and New Zealand markets.”

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Intesis

Unlike the US, where most thermostats use a universal standard and so can be replaced easily, Australian HVAC systems are very complex to automate.

Now, Intesis has released a range of IntesisBox WiFi gateways that allow you to easily integrate HVAC systems into Control4 by retrofitting the IntesisBox gateway into the existing indoor unit.

Chowmain’s IntesisBox driver for Control4 will work with all models of IntesisBox and will provide full two way control/feedback.

Hebcal

Many Jewish people strictly observe the Sabbath, refraining from turning electricity on or off during this period. The Chowmain Hebcal driver for Control4 allows these users to live their lives at home while still adhering to the rules of their religion.

“There are a lot of Jewish people who adhere to strict rules during the Sabbath where they’re not allowed to turn on electronic devices – from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. There are also holidays where they have to adhere to these rules, but the dates change every year,” Alan says.

“To avoid having programmers change dates every year, the Chowmain Hebcal driver essentially makes it easier by making the whole process automated.”

The Chowmain Hebcal driver for Control4 imports data from Hebcal.com. It automatically detects Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, and will alert users when it is time for candle lighting (18 minutes before sundown) and Havdalah (after the appearance of three stars in the sky).

PJLink

PJLink is a new unified standard designed to make communication interfaces and protocols uniform between projector manufacturers.

With the PJLink driver for Control4 you can control multiple projectors via IP with two-way feedback. Supported manufacturers include BenQ, Mitsubishi Electric, InFocus, NEC, Casio, Canon, Sharp, Epson, Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi and Ricoh.

Foxtel Channel Updater

In March, Chowmain released a free Foxtel channel updater that automatically updates Foxtel channels in the Control4 media list. This will ensure that your customers are always up-to-date on the Control4 navigator.

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Reference: Connected Home