Luup Press Release

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Mi Casa Verde is donating cash and hardware to developers who use our new Luup engine for smarthome and digital lifestyle applications

What is Luup?

Luup (Lua-UPnP) is Mi Casa Verde’s new software engine which incorporates Lua, a popular scripting language, and UPnP, the industry standard way to control devices.

Mi Casa Verde's core product, Vera, is a complete home automation solution with a focus on energy conservation, which has received rave reviews for being very simple and user-friendly, yet powerful and flexible for the smarthome enthusiast. Vera is built with Luup, running on a modified wi-fi access point. Watch the demo video at http://www.micasaverde.com to learn what you can do with Vera.

Since October, 2008, Vera has been using an earlier version of our software engine. Now, with the new Luup engine, a no-charge automatic firmware upgrade for existing Vera users, Vera is just as simple and powerful as ever for the novice user, but it's easier for hobbyists to add new, innovative features, or even change core functionality, without advanced programming skills. We'll be putting these user-contributed add-ons in the "Luup Gallery", which is similar in concept to Apple's AppStore. It's easy for novice end-user to browse the Luup add-ons and add them to his/her Vera system to use and rate them.

Luup's key features are:

UPnP translation & protocol agnostic

UPnP (aka Universal Plug and Play) is the defacto industry standard protocol for controlling all sorts of devices. Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Cisco, Panasonic, Samsung, General Electric and virtually every major consumer electronics (CE) company worldwide is a member of the UPnP Forum which creates free, open standards for controlling devices (see: upnp.org).

There already exist many UPnP control points, which are basically remote controls for UPnP devices, and they run on web pads, PDA’s, set top boxes, cell phones, media center PC’s, etc., and they can control UPnP devices. There are already industry standard UPnP protocols for home automation devices too, such as UPnP light switches, thermostats, etc. These standards have been ratified by all the major CE companies, and they allow those devices to be controlled by any of the UPnP control points on the market. Despite this, there are virtually no home automation devices available which conform to the UPnP standard because all the current manufacturers instead use various proprietary standards, like Z-Wave, Zigbee, Insteon, X10, etc., mainly because UPnP only runs on TCP/IP networks (aka Ethernet, LAN, Internet), making it impractical for home automation.

Luup translates all the various protocols into standard UPnP: Z-Wave, Zigbee, Insteon, KNX/EIB and other home protocols, infrared remote control (ie TV’s, Stereos, cable boxes, etc.), serial devices (ie alarm panels, high-end a/v gear, etc.), Ethernet devices (IP cameras, GC100, etc.), as well as your own custom devices and applications, are translated by Luup into industry standard UPnP, and can be controlled by any UPnP Control Point.

Whenever a developer adds a new plugin, like a Luup plugin for an alarm panel, then, without the developer having to know anything about UPNP, all the sensors on the alarm panel become standard UPNP devices that the homeowner can control with any UPNP control point. The new Vera release supports infrared learning, and when you learn, for example, the infrared code from your remote control to turn on the TV, then, automatically your TV turns into a UPNP device too so you can control it from any remote control. The 'Go To Bed' scene button on your handheld remote can turn the TV off when it turns the lights off.

A developer can create a custom application on a Z-Wave network, knowing that his application will run just fine for a user with Insteon devices. For end users this means you can mix and match home automation standards without any technical skills, such as having one dashboard that shows your old X10 devices, a new Z-Wave doorlock, and your Zigbee power meter, and being able to add any type of device to a scene.

Lots of control points: iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, web pads, PDA's, etc. with secure, remote access

A “UPnP Control Point” is industry jargon for a remote control software application that talks to UPnP Devices.

We’re changing course with our remote control options. We will be abandoning our existing Java mobile phone, iPhone, etc. remote control applications which were built on our previous API. Instead we’ll be putting our resources into improving industry-standard UPnP Control Point applications that run on these devices. Since these new remote control applications are no longer proprietary to Vera, but rather built on UPnP, you can use the same remote control for not only Vera, but all other UPnP devices in your home.

Further, there are already many free and low-cost UPnP Control Point applications on the market and open source projects, like OpenRemote. They are generally not user-friendly for home automation simply because there are so few UPnP home automation devices that home automation hasn't been a priority. Now that Luup has changed that, we’ve pledged cash, free hardware, and development resources to the makers of these products to enhance to make them the simplest, most comfortable home automation remote controls. This means a lot more choices for users.

UPNP aggregation & secure remote control

Chances are many of you already have UPNP devices in your home. Many Wi-Fi access points, for example, support UPNP. Some media players, PC's, DVR's and so on do as well. One of the limitations of UPNP control points, or remote controls, is that due to the technical nature of UPNP, you can only control them when you are in your home, connected to your home network. There is no practical way to securely control your UPNP devices when you're away from home. This is one of the limitations that has held back the use of mobile phones as UPNP control points, particularly in the world of home automation where remote control on the go is mandatory.

Luup extends the UPnP standard to allow secure, encrypted remote access over the Internet. This allows users to remotely control the devices in their home using UPnP control points running on Internet-enabled cell phones and web portals. It requires only a trivial modification to the control point application. And it uses the same encryption and security as online banking to prevent unauthorized access.

With the next version of Vera, for example, let's say you have an existing UPNP device, like a DVR, and you want to control it remotely, like browsing the TV listings on your iPhone and scheduling your recordings while you're on the subway to work. Vera detects the DVR and automatically relays the UPnP control to your iPhone through a secure gateway.

Fill-in the blank serial device interface

Many users already have devices in their home which can be controlled using simple serial interfaces. Many of the alarm panels on the market, for example, have serial ports for control, as do high-end pool controls, TV's, Stereo receivers, even some sprinkler systems, etc. Until now, if you wanted to control them, you needed one of the very expensive home automation systems, and a programmer to set everything up, or you needed to be a software coder and develop a plug-in for computer based home automation software.

Luup provides a point and click way to copy and paste the data for the serial interface. It requires a degree of technical skill, of course, to get the user's manual and figure out how the serial communication works. But it doesn't require any programming skills and is a lot easier than writing software plugins, and much cheaper than buying a high-end system. If the creator allows this to be shared on the Luup Gallery, then any novice end-user will be able to add this Luup add-on and control his serial device. Naturally Luup turns every one of these simple serial devices into standard UPnP so you can control them from your remote controls and in your scenes.

Engine for job handling, multi-threading, etc.

Our Luup engine embeds Lua. Lua is an easy to use, fast, lightweight language commonly used for scripting and macros. It's quite popular in video games to allow gamers to write custom scripts to expand the game's functionality.

Our Luup engine handles all the complexities of the smarthome system. All the difficult things like the UPNP interface, socket handling, job queuing and prioritization, multi-threading, serial I/O, etc., are provided by the Luup engine. If you want to create a specific smarthome application, you simply define the actions your device implements using a web-based tool, and the web tool gives you fill-in-the-blanks to add Lua script to provide the functionality. The Luup engine provides hooks and API calls for your Lua scripts to handle all the complex parts so you can develop sophisticated smarthome applications very quickly.

Separate user interface

Luup provides a simple, standard API to talk to a front-end user interface. Our Vera product includes our own interface, which is web based (html and javascript). But you can replace the user interface with your own, based on flash or any other UI design tool. And, the next Vera release makes it easy for developers of Luup plugins to add their own elements to Vera’s UI, such as custom scenes and events.

Cross platform for OEM use

Mi Casa Verde’s core business is actually providing custom smarthome and digital lifestyle solutions based on Luup to third parties as an OEM. We designed Luup to use very little memory and CPU resources and to run on all the major processors, such as MIPS, ARM and x86. Luup applications can be embedded in very low cost devices like DSL/cable modems, routers, access points, and so on. Luup is great for open, collaborative projects with hobbyists and techies. Or it can easily be locked down and used to deploy secure, robust applications on a larger scale, such as with telephone companies, utility providers, etc.

How is the new Luup engine different from the existing one?

The Z-Wave driver and the web-based user interface are the same. However, the guts, the central engine, have change. Internally Luup is treating everything as standard UPnP, whereas the previous engine used a proprietary protocol.

As with the previous engine you can still develop add-ons for Luup in the C programming language, but Luup’s new Lua scripting language makes it much faster, and it’s relatively easy for technically-skilled non-programmers to create plug-ins with Luup.

We’re pledging over $100,000 in cash, hardware, subsidies and services to Luup developers

Now that Luup allows everyone to have industry standard UPnP home automation devices we want to encourage the makers of UPnP Control Points to support home automation devices. This is a win-win since it expands the market for their UPnP Control Points, and also gives our users a lot more options.

Additionally the Luup engine allows developers to create all sorts of interesting, innovative applications. No doubt there are many uses we haven't thought of yet. This will, of course, require hooks into the Luup engine that we may not have implemented yet. And, when a developer needs some functionality that is likely to be useful for other developers too, we want to add it directly into the Luup API so it's available for everyone. We also would like feedback on tweaks from real-world developers to make the Luup engine better and make it easier to create custom add-ons.

So rather than working in isolation, we think we'll have a better result when we release it now and collaborate with our users to extend Luup based on their feedback. We would also like a variety of open-source Luup plug-ins to be available in our Luup Gallery because it’s much easier for new developers when there are samples to start from. Naturally it also makes Vera more interesting to novice end-users when there's a variety of Luup plugins they can play with in the Luup Gallery.

Over the next few weeks we’re also re-writing in Lua, and releasing the source code for, the functionality that’s currently in Vera’s C-language plugins, such as SMS text message notifications, energy usage calculation, etc. This makes it easier for hobbyists to tweak the functionality to suit their needs. Whenever possible 3rd party device interfaces and protocols will also be released with source code as Lua plugins.

Our goal is to have a stable, polished free firmware upgrade available for our Vera users by August 31, based on the new Luup engine, which includes a variety of useful Luup plug-ins, and a rock-solid, fully documented API for developers. To get the ball rolling we've committed over $100,000 in cash, hardware and services, plus special tech support for developers as follows:

Free hardware dev kits for UPnP Control Point makers

We’re offering complimentary dev kits to makers of free or low cost UPnP Control Points if they agree to add support for UPnP home automation devices, including remote access on mobile devices. The kit consists of a free Vera system including the Z-Wave dongle plus a free Z-Wave module, and the login information to a full test home that has all the various types of home automation devices so they can test against it. We’re particularly interested in UPnP Control Points that run on mobile phones and wireless touch-screen devices, like the iPod Touch. Naturally we’ll help with the development effort and promote these Control Points to our own customer base. We’ve pledged 10 kits. See: http://wiki.micasaverde.com/index.php/Luup_Priority_Projects for details.

$20,000 cash for high value Luup plugins & flash UI

We're offering cash bonuses to developers who make free, open source Luup plugins that we feel will be of high value to our Vera customers.

We're also offering bonuses to developers of free or low-cost UPNP control points, like iPhone apps, web pads, Windows mobile, etc., to encourage them to add support for UPNP home automation devices, like light switches, and the secure UPNP gateway. This is a win-win since our Vera customers can be there customers, and Vera users will have a wide variety of nice control options.

This cash bounty can be combined with the free dev kits and the subsidized hardware described below.

See: Luup_Priority_Projects for a list of the bonuses and projects.

$40,000 in subsidized hardware for any type of Luup plugin

Even if your idea for a plugin doesn’t have enough mass appeal to be on our high value list, we want as many beta testers as possible for the new Luup engine, and we’d like to get as many Luup plugins as possible over the next couple months since having a wide variety of sample plugins to copy/paste from makes it easier for new developers to get on board.

If you're interested in developing a cool smarthome plugin with Luup, here's your chance to get a Vera unit well below cost. During the month of June, email your idea to luup@micasaverde.com. We'll give you a $200 cash-back rebate for Vera, so your net cost is $99, instead of $299. It doesn't matter what your idea is as long it's serious (not just 'hello world') and you agree to offer your plugin as open source so other developers can benefit from it. We obviously can't be undercutting our dealers and offering our product below cost to the public, so this is only for new developers, not end users. We'll send you a signed contract confirming that as long as you provide a Luup plugin by August 31 that is essentially what you described, we'll send you the $200 by check or paypal. We'll be providing 200 subsidized Vera's.

$10,000 cash for referrals

See the section below “How do you compare to the Nokia home control product”.

$40,000 in lifetime FindVera service subscriptions

The first 200 developers to provide a free Luup plugin receive a free lifetime subscription to our FindVera service, which we normally sell at $199.

Dedicated tech support and access to developers

We’re setting up a special forum for Luup developers. Our programmers will be responding to those forum posts daily. We will also be expanding the API and fixing bugs based on Luup developer feedback and posting new firmware upgrades every couple days with the changes. So if you’re a developer and you’re stuck because you need a new feature or a bug fix, chances are you’ll have it within a few days.

What can I do with Luup?

Almost anything. Naturally since the API includes drivers for Z-Wave, Insteon, etc., and talks to infrared and serial devices, home automation is the first thing that comes to mind. However Lua is a full-featured language and not limited just to scripting. Also, you can write modules in C/C++ that run on Vera, which the main Luup engine will also aggregate and control. So, theoretically you could do almost anything with it.

How do you compare to the Nokia home control product?

In December, 2008 Nokia announced a home control gateway with nearly identical features to our Vera product which was already on the market. Nokia announced they would offer it to 3rd parties for deploying custom smarthome solutions, which has always been our business model as well. Naturally a huge company like Nokia was able to get a lot of interest in their product and several big providers committed to use it. However it proved more difficult than Nokia anticipated and they abandoned it this week, which has left a lot of their customers hanging who planned on deploying solutions this summer. We propose that Luup does everything the Nokia platform promised to and has some key advantages. And, because big providers like utility companies might prefer to contract with a company larger than Mi Casa Verde, we’ve partered up with a couple very large, global manufacturers of hardware and ported our Vera and Luup software to their platforms. These partners have the qualifications, clout and financial resources to support deployments of millions of units worldwide to big players, like utility companies.

We've also successfully deployed our software in a variety of existing devices: PVR's and set top boxes, DSL/cable modems, access points, etc., providing an extremely low-cost way to add to those existing products compelling new features, like energy conservation, home security, remote home management, etc. We just need to get the word out to those customers who planned on deploying solutions based on Nokia’s offering that there's no need to scrap or delay plans. We have a very compelling alternative. We're offering cash referral fees for introductions to credible companies that had planned on deploying a smarthome solution or a pilot. Contact us for details.

Here are the advantages our platform offers over what Nokia promised:

Our hardware platform is open and available through a variety of world-class manufacturer partners rather than a single source

Like Nokia planned to do, we offer our platform for use in 3rd party applications, like utility companies. The difference is Nokia's solution would have only run on Nokia's home control box. In our case, we develop the software only and we designed it run on a wide variety of hardware, including MIPS, ARM and x86 processors, Broadcom chips, and many others, on Linux, Windows and other operating systems as well, including embedded systems.

Through one of our hardware partners, we can provide a complete hardware+software solution, like Nokia. But our customers have a choice of hardware. We run on simple network appliances as well as specialty devices. For example, we have an agreement with Marvell to provide Luup on their PlugComputers, where it's all built into a wall plug. So our customers have a choice of hardware manufacturers at various price points.

Customers can also run our software in their own existing hardware. Our software is already running inside media player set top boxes and PVR's, NAS storage devices, Linux and Windows PC's, and is light enough to run on low-cost devices like cable/DSL modems. This means if a company has an existing product and wants to add energy management, UPNP remote control, home automation, etc., they can add this functionality to their product for a very small cost without having to add another piece of hardware as was the case with Nokia’s solution.

Our software platform is based on industry-standard UPnP and can be controlled by any UPnP control point

If our customer wants a closed, locked-down system, we simply add an encryption layer on top of the UPnP protocol so only devices in their closed eco-system can interoperate. Or, they can leave the UPnP interface open so the customer can control it from their media center PC, cell phone, and any other standard UPnP control point. While Nokia never finalized the details of how their platform would work, it appeared that you needed to use their proprietary software on your Symbian mobile phone to control it. Nokia’s user interface on their cell phones was top notch, for sure.

We support multiple protocols

Nokia's solution was Z-Wave only. This means, for example, it couldn't talk to the smart power meters now in use, because they use Zigbee. We separated the automation protocol so any application developed on Luup can talk to Z-Wave, Insteon, X10, Zigbee, KNX and other protocols we'll add support for in the future.

Our platform is available

Products based on our platform have been on the market since October, 2008. The platform works well and has received rave reviews. This is our core business, so we won't be abandoning it. Although we're a small company, we have partnered with some very large manufacturing companies who already sell systems to service providers and utilities and who can execute the contracts to deploy a complete hardware+software solution on a large scale.

How do I get started and where's the documentation?

See: Luup_Intro

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