One family house - so far, so normal. On the roof (soon) solar thermal - also quite normal. Digital home control - slowly becoming normal. But an industrial controller of the latest generation in the control cabinet? You usually don't see something like that in private houses. But in the house of a technical enthusiast the control is still in use. It's our sysWORXX CTR-700.
"If I build a house, then it should also get a complete house automation. I always had that in mind." Björn Unger, 41, computer scientist, works for a leasing company. Five years ago, he and his family began to turn their dream of their own home into reality. Right from the start, home automation was part of the overall project. Today numerous additional cables run through the house, several relays - a total of 70 in number - switch sockets and appliances. There are temperature sensors in every room. The blinds can also be controlled automatically. In addition, there is a digital electric meter and rain and humidity sensors.
But above all, the father of a family wants to automate the heating system: "My real goal was to heat as efficiently as possible." One forgets to turn off a heater every now and then or the temperature is not right and then one simply turns on the heater. This naturally drives up heating costs and is always a nuisance, explains Unger: "I actually didn't want to worry about the whole heating issue anymore. The house automation should do that.
That is why the heating system has found a connection to the house control: "Now I am able to query the heating system and also control it dynamically - depending on the need for heat in the house."
The way to the self-connected house was not easy. Initially, the computer scientist used microcomputers based on Raspberry Pi. Björn Unger experimented - quite successfully - with various derivatives of these single board computers. For example, he used the Odroid XU4, which promises a lot of computing power: "That was all right for me too - if it worked out." That was the crux of the matter. Unger counted at least two total failures in the memory cards used. The systems kept crashing. However, the map content could still be copied completely to a new map. Afterwards the board computer ran again - even if only until the next crash. Björn Unger couldn't get any further. He can't understand whether it was the cards themselves or whether the systems used damaged the cards: "That prompted me to look for other solutions. It is of course very critical if the heating fails."
Then the home builder gets random help. He complains his suffering to a good friend, describes problems, symptoms and goals of his home automation solution. Because the friend works for us as a development manager, the solution was quickly found: We offers a controller for the Internet of Things - the sysWORXX CTR-700, a communications specialist for industrial applications and professional building management, the Smart Buildings. Although the controller was not designed for the "Smart Home" scenario and is more suitable for business people and industry, it can also provide good service to homeowners.
The development manager is so excited about Björn Unger's plans that he hands him a pre-series device for testing. It is the perfect opportunity for the sysWORXX CTR-700 to prove itself in a non-critical scenario which comes very close in smart building applications. This early adopter test shows on a small scale what control can achieve in professional Smart Buildings.
The sysWORXX CTR-700 is a freely programmable controller with its own computing core and direct cloud connection. Unlike many other solutions, the sysWORXX CTR-700 allows measurement, control and regulation to be performed locally and does not necessarily have to be outsourced. This pre-processing enables the conversion of a wide variety of protocols and bus types in a minimum of space. In addition, the sysWORXX CTR-700 controller offers a wide variety of interfaces and, thanks to the NXP i.MX 7 dual-core processor with "Dual Cortex-A7" processor core, very good performance. The Control Gateway can be programmed in all common languages, a mono-library for programming in C# is pre-installed, as well as the possibility to integrate docker containers into the system. In addition, the sysWORXX CTR-700 also understands modern methods such as the MQTT communication protocol for inter-machine communication and the graphical IoT development tool NodeRED. OPC UA is also available for industrial applications, which we support with our own stack.
The sysWORXX CTR-700 supports not only classic machine control interfaces such as the CANopen and Modbus fieldbuses, but also new possibilities such as wireless networking via Bluetooth. This impresses Björn Unger, even though he does not (yet) use these interfaces in his project. Much more important to him are the integrated eight gigabyte eMMC memory. This permanently installed non-volatile memory is optimally matched to the device and so Unger hopes that the system will run more stable and that crashes and failures will be avoided.
The new sysWORXX CTR-700 in the hands of Björn Unger sets about integrating the controller gateway into his home network. The challenge is to integrate the device sensibly into the existing system.
The majority of sensors and devices are connected via a port expander and the I²C digital serial bus. Critical components are connected via KNX. The control component is a special home automation system called Loxone, which comes with ready-made function modules that the user basically only has to connect. Björn Unger explains: "This means that you no longer have to deal with the technical logic, but basically just configure the system."
The sysWORXX CTR-700 now feels at home in this heterogeneous environment. The controller gateway communicates with the house automation system via NodeRED and collects all the data that the house and control system can provide. Because according to Björn Unger, Loxone is not very good at that. In addition, the sysWORXX CTR-700 now controls the heating system. Unger measures the flow temperature, hot water temperature, the current flue gas temperature and the outside temperatures determined by the heating system itself: "The data generated in the heating system is recorded by the sysWORXX CTR-700. All other data, which accumulate in such a way, I transform it with the help of the sysWORXX CTR-700 and pass it on then." Björn Unger has planned to store the data in an Influx database and then evaluate it graphically.
In the near future a solar thermal system for hot water production will be added. Preparations are in progress. Temperature sensors are already installed in the buffer tank of the heating system, which stores the heat. Communication takes place via a 1wire bus. Once the system is installed, solenoid valves are controlled via sysWORXX CTR-700. Unger wants to regulate in future in which cases the solar heat from the buffer storage tank is to be used to heat the house. He wants to expand the heating control system so that he can control whether the burner should run or not: "I would like to ensure that the heating system works with forecasts depending on the weather forecast". Björn Unger goes into detail: "When the weather report says: 'Okay, in the next hour there is a probability of 80 percent sunshine.' Then I want to make sure that there is no heating for the time being. I wait for the sun and use its heat for the heating."
Nevertheless, this is a future scenario. The computer scientist still has to deal with data processing, because the data from external systems such as weather services have to be processed and interpreted: "The big goal would be to have a platform, so to speak, that really prepares raw data and then makes it usable. With the sysWORXX CTR-700, Björn Unger is sure that he already has the necessary hardware and basic software in-house.
With the sysWORXX CTR-700 Björn Unger achieved the stability he tried to achieve in vain with previous systems. Applied to industrial scenarios such as the control of smart buildings, the potential of the sysWORXX CTR-700 in terms of time savings and expansion of possibilities compared to other solutions is evident. For the perfect integration of the sysWORXX CTR-700 into industrial applications, we also cooperates with professional partners such as the IoT software manufacturer Bacsoft or the Fraunhofer Institute.