Invitation To Enthusiasts
Update January 31, 2009
Vera is now available through over hundreds of local installers, as well as online retailers, so we have stopped the beta program.
Update November 1, 2008
Mi Casa Verde provided hundreds of subsidized units to beta testers between October 15 and 31. There remain some outstanding issues we will be resolving over the next couple weeks before we offer the release version available to dealers. Until then, we will be offering Vera for $199, a 33% discount. Vera's hardware is finalized and the software will self-update when the final release is out.
Beta test program through October 31, 2008
This page is intended for developers and home automation techies or enthusiasts.
On November 15, 2008 Vera will be available at retail, at which time we will not be allowed to sell direct, unless at full retail price. Until then, we want to quickly get some techie home automation enthusiasts to be beta testers, so we will be subsidizing the cost of the hardware, donating accessories, and actively courting the community. Details follow. Product info, screen shots, and demo video are available at http://micasaverde.com
Short sales pitch
Vera's strengths are affordability, a unique focus on energy savings, simplified setup and operation for total novices, and automatic, secure remote control.
Traditionally it has been hard to justify a home automation solution for energy conservation because the cost of the solution exceeds the potential energy savings, and most full-featured smarthome solutions use more electricity than they save. Vera changes the rules. Vera uses only 6 watts of electricity, or about 2% of the electricity that a PC based home automation solution uses. And Vera polls lights, thermostats and other devices in the home to keep a 1 year history of your energy usage. Vera presents this with clear charts and graphics, breaking your electric consumption by device, type of device, room in the home, day of week, and so on. Vera also offers unique energy saving benefits. For example, for California users Vera is the only solution to listen for Flex Alerts and automatically reduce your power usage when the electric grid is being overloaded and a brown-out is imminent. This focus on energy savings means Vera often pays for itself within a few months.
Vera also bucks the tradition that smarthome systems are complicated and limited to geeks and enthusiasts. Vera has a very simple and intuitive web-based setup targeting a non-technical user. Setup typically takes only a few minutes, and Vera's setup pages includes embedded video windows that explain all the concepts.
Vera eliminates the need to configure any network settings. Vera has a built-in, secure wireless network that is fully self-configuring and works right out of the box. So users get the added bonus of a wi-fi wireless network without the complication of setting up an access point. Mi Casa Verde's networked accessories, like wireless cameras, also work right out of the box with absolutely no configuration or software to install.
Vera is a good platform for techies and enthusiasts
Out of the box Vera is straightforward and simple to use, targeting the non-technical consumer. It has all the advanced home control functions you'd expect, like Scenes, Timers, Events, and Notifications, plus some extra features for energy savings not seen in other home control systems, such as graphs that show your energy usage over time broken by device, type of device, room, day of week, and so on. If you're a developer who wants to hack in and expand Vera's functionality you'll find Vera is a good choice because:
Built on open source with open API's
Vera is built on a Linux open source platform, and we include documentation on how to login to Vera and get under the hood. Our developers will be regularly monitoring the forums and answering any technical questions daily. Info for developers.
Easy to add functionality to Vera
Vera's architecture is very extensible and can do almost anything. The functionality in Vera is provided by plug-ins and stand-alone devices, all communicating over sockets. It's relatively easy to add your own modules, using any language you want, to extend the functionality. For example, we include a Z-Wave module for home control. If you wanted Vera to talk to another type of home control system, say X10, or Insteon, or Lutron, it would not be much effort to add another module to provide that interface. All the module needs to do is receive the basic commands from Vera (on/off/dim/etc.) and send them to the home control system. The web interface, iPhone interface, Java app for mobile phones, etc., wouldn't need any changing at all because everything talks over sockets using a standardized protocol. Vera also has a spare USB port that you can connect a USB->RS232 adapter to and control devices like alarm panels, TV's, and so on.
Easy for other devices to talk to and control Vera
It's also easy to add other front ends to Vera. For example, if you have a set top box, like a TiVo or Roku, or a Windows/Linux/Mac PC, and you want to talk to Vera, you just send a broadcast packet (UPnP) so Vera identifies herself, and then you can very easily send her commands with simple http requests. For example, call: http://192.168.81.1:3451/data_request?id=alldata and Vera will give you a list of all the devices and scenes in the house. If Device #13 is a lamp and you want to turn it on, call: http://192.168.81.1:3451/messagesend?from=1&to=13&type=1&id=192. Viewing cameras and so forth is just as easy.
Inexpensive to operate
If you're currently using a home control system that runs on your PC, and you have to leave it on the time for automation and remote access, you can spend a lot of money on electricity. In California, for example, a PC + Monitor can cost between $20-$92/month (see: Energy_Savings). Vera runs inside an access point that uses 6 watts ($1.50/month at peak rates)
Free use of our secure remote control gateway for remote access
We're giving the beta testers free use of our secure gateway to remotely access their system and archive videos and energy logs for 1 year (normally costs $8/month). Sure, with any home control system you can give it a routable IP or port forward and control it from outside your home. But that's not a secure connection and leaves you exposed. Our secure gateway at findvera.com uses https, so Vera is never exposed on the outside network. And it's just as easy. Take that command above to turn on the light. If you're away from the home and want to remotely send the command to Vera, just change the IP to findvera.com and put your username/password on the URL: https://ra1.findvera.com/myusername/mypassword/3451/messagesend?from=1&to=13&type=1&id=192 details
Free use of our build server with a pre-configured build environment
The platform is stable, easy to use, and scores high on the WAF, and we provide access to a virtual machine on our build server for any developers that want to build their own firmware or add their own custom modules, so you can do it without the complication of setting up your own OpenWRT build environment and installing all the software needed. Add your code, run one script, and you get a new firmware image. And we'll be there to help out. Or build it yourself. The source code is here: Source_Code
What Mi Casa Verde is offering beta testers/techies
Vera below cost
To quickly get beta testers before our retail launch we'll be subsidizing the cost of Vera until October 31, 2008.
We'll also monitor the forums and bug reporting system and provide an answer to any technical questions within 1 business day, and provide regular software updates. We'll also keep the Roadmap page current so everyone knows what we're working on.
$300/month giveaway to active community members
And, once a month, for the next several months, we'll post a poll in the forum to nominate the most active and helpful member of the community, and give that person a $300 certificate to our online web shop so he or she can get the Z-Wave accessories, security cams, and so on to complete his home solution. Our definition of "helpful" means reporting any problems or Z-Wave incompatibilities or bugs, and any suggestions for how to make it simpler or better for a mainstream consumer.
What Mi Casa Verde would like to get in return
Preface: Our target audience and business plan
To date home control products have never reached a mass market because the benefits they are notoriously complicated to setup and use, are generally quite expensive, and the features they offer are usually targeted more at the gadget-lover or enthusiast than a mainstream consumer. We hope to change all that with Mi Casa Verde. First, we've tried to make Vera plug and play as possible, and very simple to operate (ie high WAF). Vera is pretty affordable, and by using only 6 watts of power, or ZERO watts if you want a wi-fi access point anyway since Vera has one built in, Vera is much cheaper to operate. Running a PC-based home control solution can cost up to $20-$92/month in electricity vs. $1.50 for Vera (see: Energy Savings. Lastly, rather than trying to make Vera do anything and everything we focused on two things that appeal to everyone, particularly when the economy is bad: 1) Saving money on energy and 2) Protecting the home and family. The iPhone as a universal remote and infrared gateway is coming soon as frosting.
Mi Casa Verde has a signed deal in place to do limited trials with a well-known retail store. If those trials are successful, this will result in a nationwide rollout. This will be the first time such a home control solution is truly offered at a mainstream audience. We are excited about the opportunity. But, it's essential that when the trials begin the product must be absolutely bullet proof, unbreakable, and simple, simple, simple. In this mainstream channel if a product has any rough edges or is perceived as being complex it just gets returned to the store for a refund and the store will not carry it.
Vocal, tech-saavy users to report any issues before the trials begin
We have very little time before the trials begin and it benefits us to get as many Vera units as possible in the hands of the techie/enthusiast community before the trials begin. We know if these techie users run into issues they are more likely to talk about them in the forum and report them accurately. This will help us flush out any incompatibilities with the hundreds of different Z-Wave devices on the market, as well as iron out any rough edges and fix any bugs.
We know the needs of the techie community are not the same as the mainstream consumer. You guys may consider it a defect that the "time of day" input on the Timer setup page does not accept regular expressions, whereas a mainstream consumer is more concerned that the concept of a timer is clearly explained. Of course, to get the support of the community, our developers will monitor the forums and help you figure out how to get regular expressions on the Timer setup page. But, what we're most interested in is how your spouse likes it. Is there anything we can do to make it easier to use? Any bugs? Any incompatibilities with other Z-Wave stuff? Is there anything that's not fully documented or could be clearer? And, any new feature requests that are of interest to the mainstream user?
How to get a subsidized Vera & cost analysis
Our web shop lists Vera at the retail price of $299. To get the subsidized price for developers/techies, first visit this link: https://shop.micasaverde.com/special_discount.php Enter the email address you will use to register on the shop. Next, click the Login link at the top of our shop: https://shop.micasaverde.com Create your account with the same email you registered for the discount. Now when you go to purchase Vera the price will be 50% off ($149 instead of $299), and use of the secure gateway is free for 1 year. Vera includes an 802.11g access point with dual USB ports running OpenWRT + our own software and licensed 3rd party software for Z-Wave control, a custom-made USB->Z-Wave interface that has a built-in inclusion controller and battery, and, all the usual accessories (Quick Start Guide, power supply, network cable). As a point of reference, the lowest price for a comparable access point with USB ports is $90, plus $65 for a Z-Wave USB interface plus inclusion controller, and the minimum software license fee for a home control platform in quantities of 1,000 units is $25, not including our own software. The subsidized price is below actual cost and our way of saying "Thanks for being a guinea pig". Of course, Vera will upgrade to the final release of the software at no charge. This offer is valid until October 31, 2008 only so we can quickly build a community of beta testers before starting in-home trials. After that time Vera will be available on our web shop and at retail for $299, which is still much less than any comparable home control solution currently on the market.