Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

Posted on
Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:59 pm
berkinet offline
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Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

I have finally succeeded in getting my Vista (aka Ademco, First-Alert, Honeywell, and probably other names) alarm system integrated with Indigo. The hardest part was determining the interface to use. I found 3 available data interfaces for my Vista alarm panel.
  • The first, called the BAT required a subscription to a monitoring service and if any local connection was possible, it was not obvious.
  • The second, called the AD2USB was priced right (~$80) but it was USB based and it was not obvious how to have more than one process talking it at a time (like a virtual keypad and a fault monitoring program, and Indigo triggers.) Also, this unit is not available at the moment, and the response on their support forums seems non-existant.
  • The final option is the VistaICM, from Honeywell. This unit is widely available and sells for around $250. Being IP based, it is no problem to have multiple processes access it and USB wiring limitations are not an issue.
I ended up choosing the VistaICM.

After a little research and trial-and-error I succeeded in getting a Perl script to talk to the VistaICM and monitor the alarm panel's messages. The Vista keypad message line is pretty chatty and it took a little work to sort out the noise and develop a state table to track the state of the various zones. Although I did the development of the script on my Indigo server, I have now moved the Perl script to my gateway FreeBSD box where it runs as a daemon. Once the basic interface coding was done, I created virtual devices in Indigo for each alarm zone and added RESTful API calls to Indigo in the Perl script to update the Indigo devices whenever a zone's state changed. (see picture 1, below).

With this part working, I then set out to add alarm control into Indigo. This was simple since the VistaICM can be controlled by http. I created Action groups to arm and disarm the system. All I had to do was perform a series of http requests in an embedded AppleScript to simulate key presses like:
Code: Select all
do shell script "/usr/bin/curl \"http://192.168.1.16/cmd_list?cmd=(0.1.1)5\""
do shell script "/usr/bin/curl \"http://192.168.1.16/cmd_list?cmd=(0.1.1)1\""
do shell script "/usr/bin/curl \"http://192.168.1.16/cmd_list?cmd=(0.1.1)8\""
do shell script "/usr/bin/curl \"http://192.168.1.16/cmd_list?cmd=(0.1.1)7\""
do shell script "/usr/bin/curl \"http://192.168.1.16/cmd_list?cmd=(0.1.1)3\""
The final part was to create a Control Page with a keypad. This also turned out to be easy: I simply laid out the buttons and attached appropriate AppleScripts to each one (see picture 2, below).

At this point, while still a little crude, it all works. I still need to display the system state (Disarmed, Armed-Stay, Armed-Away) in the control page and improve the looks of the buttons.

If there is interest, I can package this up and put it in the User Contributions Library.
Attachments
picture-1.png
The Indigo device display
picture-1.png (68.77 KiB) Viewed 9596 times
picture-2.png
The iTouch keypad display
picture-2.png (121.62 KiB) Viewed 9596 times

Posted on
Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:42 am
eme jota ce offline
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Location: SW Florida

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

Nice job!
Thanks for sharing.

Have you been using this security system? How long?
Is it stable and dependable?
Any ability to link it to an offsite monitoring company?

Posted on
Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:30 am
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

eme jota ce wrote:
Have you been using this security system? How long?
Is it stable and dependable?
Any ability to link it to an offsite monitoring company?

My current home had a Vista-15 alarm in it when we bought the house three years ago. I upgraded to the Vista-20P to get more zones and to have support for external interfaces. (Note: some of the commercial high end Vista alarms include or have factory serial port options). I also stayed with the Vista series since my local alarm company supports that equipment and is supportive of me doing my own work. The alarm is fairly easy to install and program. But, it is not intended for the DIYer. The ELK gear might be a better fit for the clever home consumer.

As for the VistaICM. This is a part of a series of IP/Home control interfaces (see http://www.in2myhome.com). They run a micro-Linux kernel and are fairly easy to work with. There are ICMs for various functions and they can all inter-operate. I only have the VistaICM. Prior to installing the VistaICM last week, I used the alarm panel's X10 interface to talk to Indigo. That actually worked amazing well, and the Vista-20 panel support 16X10 device codes.

The current IP interface seems solid and stable. The only downside I see at the moment is that there seems to me a little more latency (maybe 1 second) from fault occurance to Indigo response than with the X10 signaling. This is probably do to the way I have the current interface setup. I wanted to get going quickly and used "curl" to update Indigo. I need to go back and do a native call.

And, yes. There are options to have monitoring via the Internet. I think it adds about $7-$10 a month to whatever your current monitoring fee is. I did not choose this service, but, in2myhome also offers a Prism like remote interface that seems to work, though my iTouch implementation is actually nicer :)

Posted on
Wed Jan 27, 2010 6:55 pm
asw24b offline
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Joined: Dec 30, 2007
Location: Los Altos Hills, CA

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

berkinet wrote:

If there is interest, I can package this up and put it in the User Contributions Library.



Yes please !

Posted on
Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:12 pm
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

To anyone interested in trying the VistaICM interface:

The code is written in Perl. It is best classified as IWFMware (it works for me). To use it you need to be familiar with the shell (terminal.app) and know how to add Perl modules (IO::Socket::INET, IO::Select & WWW::Curl::Easy). I will eventually get this packaged as a complete package, but that may take a while. Also, you will need to manually edit the script to add the names of your zones, IP Address of the ICM, etc.. But, no logic changes are required.

You will also need to create pseudo devices in Indigo for each zone you wish to monitor or use as a trigger (device state change).

Performance note: I have noticed that the VistaICM broadcasts zone state changes later than the X10 interface does. For example. on a motion detector, the X10 broadcasts when the detector shorts, but the VistaICM sends the message when the detector zone returns to open.

If the preceding mostly made sense to you and the caveats did not scare you off, please PM me with your email address and I will send you a copy of the code. Otherwise, please be patient until I can get this together as a complete package.
Last edited by berkinet on Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

Posted on
Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:29 pm
TheSnow offline
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Joined: Feb 04, 2010

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

I have ICM and would be very interested in the script or how this could be done.
I'm tired in depending on 2myhom.com every 2 months the emails stop coming in.
thanks

Posted on
Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:12 am
wannalearn offline
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Joined: Feb 10, 2010

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

Wow !! Sounds very interesting. I am also very in depending on 2myhom.com and their poor service. I am really interested in this script.
Oh and by the way did you find how to change the HTTP port on which the ICM is listening ? I know that it listens on the standard
port 80 however I think that it would be more secure to have it listen on a other port.

Posted on
Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:30 am
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

wannalearn wrote:
I am really interested in this script. Oh and by the way did you find how to change the HTTP port... ...I think that it would be more secure to have it listen on a other port.

If you are interested in a copy of the VistaICM script, make sure you have read the disclaimer in the previous post in this topic. The one that starts with To anyone interested in trying the VistaICM interface:. Then PM me with your request and make sure to include your email address.

I did not try to change the default ports. I am not sure there is any reason to do so. Security through obscurity is pretty useless as a protective measure. Any person with serious intent to get into a network will easily find any ports you have open. If you really want secure connectivity to something on your network, you should open a firewall port to allow ssh access to an inside server, like your Mac. Then, run all other connections as ssh tunnels.

Posted on
Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:09 pm
rafsel offline
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Joined: Feb 24, 2009

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

I have a Vista 15P and according to my alarm guy the Vista ICM is supposed to work with my panel. Is your experience different?

Thanks,
Martin

Posted on
Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:00 pm
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

Martin: I have a 20P. I believe that all "P" models will work with the ICM.

Posted on
Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:12 pm
rafsel offline
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Joined: Feb 24, 2009

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

Thanks. I think I will order the Vista ICM and give all this a try.

Martin

PS - I'll PM you for the code.

Posted on
Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:19 pm
rafsel offline
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Joined: Feb 24, 2009

Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

When trying to ensure that the Vista ICM would work with my panel I visited the Honeywell product page and found that it has been discontinued!

http://www.security.honeywell.com/hsc/products/wiring/ic/92291.html

Wow! Does anyone have any further information on this?

Martin

Posted on
Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:29 pm
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

rafsel wrote:
When trying to ensure that the Vista ICM would work with my panel I visited the Honeywell product page and found that it has been discontinued!

I bought mine from "Home Security Store" about three weeks ago.

Posted on
Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:17 pm
berkinet offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

rafsel wrote:
When trying to ensure that the Vista ICM would work with my panel I visited the Honeywell product page and found that it has been discontinued! http://www.security.honeywell.com/hsc/products/wiring/ic/92291.html

Wow! Does anyone have any further information on this?

That page has since been updated and now contains a link to the following letter explaining (sort of) why the ICM was discontinued.
In their letter, Honeywell wrote:
Discontinuation of VISTA ICM product – effective immediately
This notice supersedes the notice on the VISTA ICM e-mail alert messaging sent out in December, 2009.


Dear Honeywell Dealers,
Effective January 18, 2010, Honeywell has determined to obsolete the VistaICM product and will be unable to provide e-mail alert messaging functionality support for the VistaICM after January 31, 2010. We recognize that this may cause inconvenience and hope that you understand that this was done to minimize future product challenges. Unfortunately, Honeywell is forced to take this action in light of recent concerns regarding our third-party supplier’s ability to continue to provide long-term support of the VistaICM units and email messaging.
Please forward the attached letter to your customers that use VISTA ICM units immediately. If you have any questions regarding this notification, please call Honeywell customer support at 800-573-0154, reference “VISTA ICM Support” for prompt service.
Thank You

Reading between the lines, it looks like Honeywell has a spat with the folks at In2 Networks. The net effect is that the VistaICM will continue to interface with the Alarm just fine. But, email notifications have ceased. It is not clear if use of the VistaICM for remote alarm monitoring is also affected.

FWIW: The email service was an odd duck anyway. It used an http connection to in2myHome to forward the contents of the message. Then, the in2myHome service created an actual email and sent it. It should be possible to hack this service, either by changing the url used for sending the "email" on the IC or by redirecting requests to that url on a gateway router - I am looking into both options.

In the meantime, the NuTech AD2USB serial interface is now available again.

Posted on
Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:41 pm
kalisphoenix offline
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Re: Interface to an Alarm (Ademco, Vista, First Alert, etc)

berkinet wrote:
Reading between the lines, it looks like Honeywell has a spat with the folks at In2 Networks. The net effect is that the VistaICM will continue to interface with the Alarm just fine. But, email notifications have ceased. It is not clear if use of the VistaICM for remote alarm monitoring is also affected.

FWIW: The email service was an odd duck anyway. It used an http connection to in2myHome to forward the contents of the message. Then, the in2myHome service created an actual email and sent it. It should be possible to hack this service, either by changing the url used for sending the "email" on the IC or by redirecting requests to that url on a gateway router - I am looking into both options.


Aggravating.

There's a similar issue with the Visonic PowerLink security system webserver thingy -- it apparently sends emails through some company in Israel. That appears to be the cause of many or most of its poor reviews... it's irritating to be forced to depend on some third party for something as mundane as email delivery.

If they'd just put a little flag in the config system and some options for a normal SMTP server, there wouldn't be any issues...

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