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Zigbee server channel number in overlapping installs?


yellowdog

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I was wondering what the consensus is on setting the zigbee server channels in installations where there are multiple HTCs (or MCs I guess) running zigbee server and mutiple handheld remotes in a house where the HTC zones may overlap. That is, say four HTCs each with a handheld remote in different areas of the house where those areas may overlap in zigbee coverage. Should you stagger the channels as in WIFI WAP channels to non-ajacent channels or should they all run the same channel? How does a remote decide what channel to use? Is that determined by the channel of the remotes "gateway" or is it dynamically assigned? Is the gateway dynamically assigned like a cellular system? Does anyone know?

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I may but wrong, but I think the Zigbee channel is set when they make the devices. That was my understanding, because my first shipment of dimmers back in July were on the wrong channel and I had to send them back to Control4. As far as over lap is concerned, that is actually what you want with Zigbee, it increases the overall strength of the network.

Blake

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There are 14 dynamically assignable ZigBee channels on Control4 products. The channel is not hard coded in any way, other than they ship with a factory default of 14.

I am not sure I get the installation. I'll take a stab and answer the two possible alternatives as I see them.

If it is four HTCs in one job, then don't change channels. If it is four HTC for four different jobs that happen to be within close proximity to each the answer is "depends".

four HTCs in one job: You definately want each HTC to re-inforce the signals. Because you will make one HTC the master and the others the slave, everything should get taken care of automatically - in terms of Director, Z-server and the like.

four HTC for four different jobs: This depends on your paranoia level. If you keep a tin foil hat under the bed, then change the ZigBee channels because that will give an increase in security (albeit very small). Only do this if the ZigBee signal coverage is 100% in the four different installations. You never know, by piggybacking on the same network, you could be increasing coverage for all installations.

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You never know, by piggybacking on the same network, you could be increasing coverage for all installations.

Samer Shami - I think you have got a good point there... Even though the houses may be completely different installations, theoretically speaking each of the systems are sending out Zigbee signals - If they mesh within their own network, who's to say that they don't join that signal and increase the overall size of the network. I have a couple of houses for the same contractor in the same subdivision several hundred feet apart. Out of curiosity when I was programming one system I identified a dimmer in the other house onto the system I was programming. It picked it up! Who knows maybe in the long run it makes the whole system stronger... maybe not.

Blake

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Exactly. The only real risk of a conflict between nearby systems (theoreticly) is when you are identifying. If it's all one job then the more devices the merrier. It makes no difference which controller "sees" the transmitted remote signal because it will just be passed to the master controller.

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Well, it is one installation that was so large that zigbee wouldn't work further than a few rooms away from the MC. By starting the zigbee server apps on the HTCs, it allowed the handheld remotes to work in those far flung rooms. However, I played with the channels that the servers are set to to try and get the remotes more reliable. I assumed it was interference with wifi or phones or something and tried to find a channel where they worked best. SO I set some htcs at one channel and others on different channels according to what worked best. Everything works, for the most part, except that the reliability just isn't there. A handheld remote 15 feet from an HTC in that same room (clear, line of sight, no obstructions) will work one day and the next not work at all in that spot. Moving to a spot 15 feet away in the same room and the remote will work. The customer wants to be able to leave his easy chair in one spot and have the remote work every time - can you blame him?

The remotes act like they are slow or are not getting reliable data transmission. They bring up the first two lines of a nine line display, and quit. They go to access media lists and timeout showing "Please Wait...." Again, this happens one day, and then another day they work fine.

I was trying to clarify the zigbee functionality since I understood the mesh networking concepts and assumed that all devices would act on one channel. However, if each "server" has to act like a master and remotes associated with it have to communicate via that server "gateway", then it may be necessary to create multiple meshes that coexist at the edges in other spectra. Devices on the same mesh would reinforce each other, pass messages on to each other, etc.. But devices on one mesh wouldn't see devices on the other mesh. The servers would handle routing traffic between servers and other IP networked devices. But that is conjecture. I just don't know what the "zigbee server" in the HTC is actually doing and how it relates to the other servers. Someone mentioned master and slave releltionships - are multiple servers acting as multiple conflicting masters? That seems bad. On the other hand, if the servers aren't masters and just act as repeaters or something, then which device is the master? How do you configure it?

Subsequently, I got a copy of netstumbler and checked out the channels for wifi, and the 2.4ghz seems unmolested for the most part. Trying to operate the handheld remote right next to a wifi connected laptop is not good for either network, but they don't seem to be interfering across the rooms. Nor is the 2.4Ghz phone an issue. I took down the phone system and the wifi and demonstrated the same symptoms.

I have reset all the HTCs to the same channel and not noticed an improvement. Perhaps I have a couple bad remotes?

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Yellowdog,

What we found that Wifi interferes with Zigbee Tremendously. Make sure your Wifi Antennas are not close or in line of the Zigbee Device. Have you considered putting in a Switch or Dimmer to help the reception in that room? When the Outlets ship it will be alot easier to increase the range by just plugging one of those units into the wall.

We have found very good distance off zigbee, even in New York City with tons of Wireless activity we can stand across the street from the loft and still control the lights. Although when it was raining it didn't work.

Anyways I would try adding a switch or Dimmer in that room, it should definately help.

Dan

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I was trying to clarify the zigbee functionality since I understood the mesh networking concepts and assumed that all devices would act on one channel. However, if each "server" has to act like a master and remotes associated with it have to communicate via that server "gateway", then it may be necessary to create multiple meshes that coexist at the edges in other spectra.

Devices on the same mesh would reinforce each other, pass messages on to each other, etc.. But devices on one mesh wouldn't see devices on the other mesh. The servers would handle routing traffic between servers and other IP networked devices. But that is conjecture. I just don't know what the "zigbee server" in the HTC is actually doing and how it relates to the other servers. Someone mentioned master and slave releltionships - are multiple servers acting as multiple conflicting masters? That seems bad. On the other hand, if the servers aren't masters and just act as repeaters or something, then which device is the master? How do you configure it?

When you are setting up the system all you have to do in order for them not to see each other in terms of master and slave is just set up each htc as seperate projects, which you probably already know. As was said by someone else by throwing a switch or dimmer into the room you can extend your mesh. But 15 feet is ridiculous. I walked down the road with mine to see how far down I could go and still turn off the lights on my house. I know I was well over 350 feet before I gave up and said that was good enough. Maybe like you say, your remote may have issues. Does this happen with all remotes? What are the conditions of the install? Is this an existing home or was it new construction. Is there a lot of metal or steel in the structure? That might affect the signals. It's amazing how much each install can vary.

Blake

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I don't think you can have zigbee server activated on multiple controllers on the same network no matter the channel.

Also, on a side note, did you change the channel on the remote also? I know there is a way to do that.

I have 5 zigbee servers active simultaneously - 4 HTCs and 1 audio switch. So it can be done. It works fine except for the one room with the range/deadspot issue. I did not change the channels on the remotes. After a few button presses in the vicinity of an htc on a new channel, the remote seems to change automatically.

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Yellowdog,

What we found that Wifi interferes with Zigbee Tremendously. Make sure your Wifi Antennas are not close or in line of the Zigbee Device. Have you considered putting in a Switch or Dimmer to help the reception in that room? When the Outlets ship it will be alot easier to increase the range by just plugging one of those units into the wall.

We have found very good distance off zigbee, even in New York City with tons of Wireless activity we can stand across the street from the loft and still control the lights. Although when it was raining it didn't work.

Anyways I would try adding a switch or Dimmer in that room, it should definately help.

Dan

No, I haven't added a switch or dimmer. I mean, the mesh won't extend line of sight for 15 feet with no wireless in that room? That seems ridiculous to me. It doesn't help that the customer has 64 Lutron RadioRAs and 9 Grafikeyes installed, which are non-negotiable.

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All Wired Up! is correct from my point of view. So far my experience has shown that you cannot have different projects that operate over the same ZigBee channel within the same transmission range. It has caused many issues regarding ZigBee responsiveness, and all seem to be intermittent - dare I say - of the sort you are currently experiencing.

yellowdog, the phrase "By starting the zigbee server apps on the HTCs" you made greatly worries me.

I will elaborate a little on the master/slave setup. The master server will have Director and Z-Server enabled. Each subsequent slave controller will have both Director and Z-Sever disabled. This ensures that the system works correctly because placing multiple servers on the same segment causes each server to compete for who should act as the server. You'll get all sorts of conflicting messages from each server. Based on what you described, you should not have separate projects defined on each HTC. You should put them all into the one project. The controller that you identify first will become the master. All others will resort to slave status. If you require a good overview on this go to the "recorded events" section on http://control4.raindance.com, and check out the Drivers_Multiple_Controllers_AMP.itm seminar. This will explain the technical steps involved in setting it up.

Through System Manager, you should see that Z-server and Director have been disabled on all but one of the HTCs. If you have manually started up the Z-server, that's bad! Please disable them immediately, and proceed to put all devices on the same channel. See if this clears up the issues.

(fixed up grammatical mistakes)

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I'm not sure I understand all of what you wrote. I am not using multiple projects. They are all in one project. Someone mentioned multiple projects as a way to segregate devices on different meshes. I attempted to use different channels to improve performance, and conjectured that this resulted in multiple meshes that overlap on the edges and are in different spectra.

The problem with stopping the Zigbee servers is that then the remotes don't work at all. They are too far from the master and cannot get any signal. OF couse, the network SHOULD work by backhauling traffic that won't go via Zigbee over the existing 802.3u network, but it doesn't. I couldn't get the HTCs to route the zigbee traffic over the IP network when the zigbee failed. By starting the servers, they do.

I appreciate the pointer to the presentation, but the java applet didn't work on my machine - perhaps I have something mis configured.

So there is some discussion somewhere about these reliability issues with remotes? Where?

I will try disabling the zigbee servers on the HTCs again - though I am pretty sure then none of the remotes will work.

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I can see why you enabled the z-server on each HTC. Let me just categorically say that I think this is the source of the instability you are experiencing.

I ran a test to replicate your situation by placing a slaved HTC within the fringes of ZigBee range of the master server. It did not extend my reception.

This is starting to test my limits of ZigBee. I would have to gracefully bow to the support guys in the US - who would have more knowledge about this than I would. If you want, I can get in contact with them to determine some possible alternatives.

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All that needs to be done is to make the Zigbee servers on the slave controllers function as access points only, just like when you cascade wireless routers. Now, how do we get Control4 to do this?

The only problem with that is that it might cut back on dimmer/switch/keypad sales!

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the zserver needs to be turned off on all the htc except the one that is the master. To extend the range so the remotes work you will need to install a few dimmers/switches. This is the only way to make it reliable!

I have already beat my head into the ground trying to get multiple zservers working in the same project becuase I had your exact problem and it was not reliable. Installed a few dimmers and works flawlessly.

Its like setting up multiple DHCP servers on the same network, they are all trying to be master.

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I have already beat my head into the ground trying to get multiple zservers working in the same project becuase I had your exact problem and it was not reliable. Installed a few dimmers and works flawlessly.

Its like setting up multiple DHCP servers on the same network, they are all trying to be master.

That's an interesting point. I have never done a job without dimmers or switches, so I had never encountered a place where the Zigbee was flakey. It's nice being able to exchange experiences with so many different dealers/users to see what their take is on different aspects of Control4. Nice job!

Blake

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I can't install switches or dimmers - like I said - there are 64 zones of RadioRA already installed. What I have done since this discussion started is put all the HTCs with their zservers on the same channel and I am having much more success. So it does work, but perhaps we need more information from C4 inorder to understand completely. THanks for everyone's comments.

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With the last version of the Composer / Bios updates - C4 enabled an option to turn on the Ziggbee Server on the slave units. I was told by support - it has no effect if other zigbee devices are in range, but because the unit is ethernet (HTC or MC) it could work as a receiver when you're at the very edge of a Zigbee network. So if your HTC isn't near any switches / dimmers and the signal just isn't getting there - they instruct to turn it on. Outside of that, there is no point of turning it on. FYI.

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That is great to know slemay. I wish C4 would have told us that. We have a project with 1 MC and 3 HTC's. Originally only the MC had z server running and we had z server turned off on the HTC's. After turning on z server on the HTC's, we have not noticed an immediate improvement, but we'll give it some time and see what happens.

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