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Old 11-14-2008, 09:08 PM   #29
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Don,

Like you I have 30+ years in factory automation and startup. I've often thought about ways to improve the systems on our motorhome(s) and always end up returning to KISS as Lewster suggested. I think there is a market for what you're attempting to do, whether its going to be found inside Airstream travel trailers is another matter.

The specific areas you can make splash would be systems monitoring and load shedding, done in such a way that its cost effective and easy to maintain. If its difficult to maintain, the first time it fails its going to stay that way due to lact of expertise to repair or lack of dollars or both.

I wish you well in your endeavors and hope that can come up with a system that I'd buy .

Brad
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Old 11-15-2008, 04:45 AM   #30
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Interesting thread... though many out there are looking for automation and modernization and the latest greatest technology, I am looking for the direct opposite. I think your thoughts are great for some, but for me all this is getting further from the simplicity I desire. Yes, I have my head in the sand, but I like it simple. I also find that as we advance technologically, we often recede from many of the gains we have have made in the past. Not many out there can do anything for themselves anymore, simple tasks like unclogging a drain require the visit from Joe the plumber. I hope that you get these systems up and running and they are a big success. I think that you will find your market to be the big diesel pushers and the huge RV's where the owners are already in need of such monitoring and alerting and automating. For a guy like me, there is no need at all.
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Old 11-15-2008, 10:06 AM   #31
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Vaughan,

On the MAC, there is software that emulates windows on the Mac, thus you can run windows applications. With the type of diagnostic systems we need to go USB to CAN or USB into a device (cheaper) which then goes out CAN. The software, called a driver, to talk to USB will be the issue in a MAC, although I have access to Mac OS8, Mac OS9 and MAC OSX drivers, but don't know if the windows emulator works directly with the driver. When we get there we will have to take a look. We support the PC today, actually with two different USB/CAN devices, one our own and one from another vendor. So I guess it's possible.

...
Hi Don,

I am aware of the emulators. My point is that according to the poll, forum members seem to be unusually high in the number of Mac owners, at least in the ones that responded to the poll. (Yes, I know that the percentages total to over 105% , but the raw numbers are there, so you could compute the real percentages)

I don't blame you for concentrating on Windows first. That's what I would do too. Just a heads up, that's all. Given the acceptance of USB, that seems like a good idea too; although Ethernet, Wifi, and Bluetooth might be worth consideration down the line. It appears the FireWire (IEEE 1394) is slipping away.

If you look at my interior photos at http://www.airforums.com/photos/brow...d=17830&page=2, you will see that I sit 90 degrees to the built in speakers in my recliner. One thing I would be interested in is alternate speaker systems that would allow me to switch between the ones at each end (better when working in the kitchen or when guest are over) and ones that focus surround sound around my chair. Flexibility would be a big plus. iPhone support would be good too.

Another topic that would be good is home security, as I'm sure you know. As homes have become more integrated, the borders between AV, automation, and security systems have become increasingly blurred. Often the same people do it all.

Also, I know that I have wireless in my trailer, but I would like a plethora of minimum CAT 5e ports throughout the place. Old school I guess.

I will be watching this thread with great interest. You've given me some new ideas and prodded me to get back to work on things I have already planned. If you're ever in the Arkansas area, be sure to get in touch.

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... At maglite all I found was flashlights.

...

Regards,
Don
That's what I meant when I said that the display wasn't pretty. I take a flashlight and look down the toilet when I really want to know what the level is. Just a joke, sort of. It works every time, though.
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Old 11-15-2008, 11:12 AM   #32
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. . . That's what I meant when I said that the display wasn't pretty. I take a flashlight and look down the toilet when I really want to know what the level is. Just a joke, sort of. It works every time, though.
And although the visuals may make you want to boot , lets hope you never have to reboot after checking your black tank level.
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:06 PM   #33
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Vaughan,

The maglight slipping right by me, guess I have been working too hard lately. Relative to CAT5E I see nothing wrong with that, in fact use it in my lab all the time. There are some VERY nice solutions in the wiring area, but I am collecting some information on the "manufactured cost" before I make that decision. When I get ready for some Beta sites will probably be the first time I reveal the wiring approach, or two alternatives.

I did a lot of what is known as "EthernetIP" while at Rockwell, but I am not taking that route due to cost, which is why everyone goes with CAN. Since I am a "real time control" kind of guy, you have to use UDP/IP to do anything good versus TCP/IP for one primary reason; the timeouts on TCP/IP are just too long. Although some of the control problems in a trailer could use ethernet and the lousy timeouts, it's just too expensive. In my line of work, if it takes too long to detect a network fault you kill people or damage equipment, and no on like that. I can go through all those debate, and have many times, but the core devices shall be CAN. Use of an Ethernet to CAN interface would be fine, and those exist, you just would not like the price. Additionally to do "good ethernet" you have to use "good transformers" and not the crap that is in you PC and such, thus again, not for me. But as far as a PC interface it would be OK. And those out there that love ethernet in factory automation I can provide horror story after horror story. It's not when it is implimented properly, but when it is done improperly. People want ethernet because they really want "cheap", so they put in non industrial routers and such, and one power glitch, bad ground and so on any systems go do. In fact, when I identify a "real industrial router" I will let you know. Today you put a label on it and call it industrial and people believe you! Well, off my soap box, but I guess that is what forums are for anyway.

KISS comments of all;

Again, I agree with KISS. When you see "some of the automation stuff" my guess is some of the benefits will move most of you to some "islands of automation", although guess I won't tip my hat just yet. The reason is most of you have some significant problems you don't even know you have, although some have provided some references to the problem. I can't say a lot more as I have a customer whom has a pending solution and thus have to stay silent for now.

Despite trimming bushes, fixing the snow blower and cleaning some gutters of leaves (3 stories up) I was able to update a system spec for your market, which is coming together nicely and is where I am going to start asking some questions. I will post them in single messages to makes answers easier and avoid having some read my soap box commnetaries.
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:41 PM   #34
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Load Shedding:

Defintion: Disconnect the primary power consuming load of a device to reduce total current drain on the battery or "current limited" device.

If you draw a schematic, my guess is most of you have a trailer connector that when driving "down to road" receives charge power from the vehicle to the trailer battery. Assume the trailer battery is dead (not unusual). Assume you plug trailer into vehicle sitting in your driveway.

Question 1: Do you want the vehicle battery current to start flowing to the trailer battery or do you want to prevent this flow until the vehicle is started?

Queston 2: Do you want Q1 to be configurable, meaning you can set up the system to only charge when vehicle is running or draw current independent of state of vehicle? (Remember, this takes you one step from KISS).

Question 3: Would you only want the trailer battery to charge when say the supply voltage from vehicle is above 13VDC (normal running vehicle is usually a bit above this level).

Question 4: Would you like the "charge path" to be regulated, meaning operate similar to a battery charger; trickly, cycle, as fast as possible?

Question 5: If the charger system in trailer sees "battery boil off" (I think that is what SAE calls it) where the voltage spikes start getting "real high", do you want the trailer charge path to open? (Probably not seen very often, but the SAE specified voltage transients cost money to protect against.)

END OF CHARGING ISSUES
START OF LOAD SHEDDING

Question 6) How many amps do you want to switch ON and OFF? (7.5A, 10 Amps, ...?

Question 7) Do you prefer "high side" or "low side" switching? This means do you want to turn 12VDC on/off or would you accept "turning ground path on/off"? In general terms, turning ground on/off is cheaper and some consider more robust, but kind of against the US mind set, as we gerally turn power on/off.

Question 8) Do you want to know how much current is flowing to everything all the time, at that point in time, or do you just want to know "about" how much each device usually draws and use that "prior knowledge" to determine what remains on? (Knowing all currents at all times cost a bit more as it requires electronics to perform this task.)

Question 9) For sake of KISS, how would you want to "configure" what turns off when current exceeds threshold;
a) priority of each device where highest prioirity always runs if turned on, then next lower, and so forth until max current draw is reachd, or

b) similar to 9a, except priorities are set based upon time of day,

c) similar to 9a, except priorities are set by selecting "trailer mode" like "cooking", or "sleeping", or "driking" or "....."

d) other?

Question 10) It is assumed that below a certain supply voltage certain things "just won't work" and thus if the voltage is below this level it just would not be able to be turned on. Is this true and is this a desired feature?

Question 11) I would guess you would want to know "time remaining" with the present current draw rate?

Question 12) I would assume a configurable "beep" would occur when you were within a cretain period of time from "lights out", but perhaps not. Would a configurable "beep threshold" be desired?

Question 13) My guess is you would want the user interface to have an "enable/disable" device view to instantly override an previously configured priorities or entired turn off load shedding to easily determine if things are working or if not working due to load shedding?

Queston 14) Although it may be obvious, my guess is such a system would cycle transient loads to keep the current draw at a low level at all times, or stated differently, if things like furnaces, refrigerators and such cycle on/off the system may only allow one to run at a time, where the refrigerator would run for say 5 minues, then the furnace, the refrigerator and so on if max load is exceeded but both devices "want to run"?

Anything I am missing, please advise, as I am looking for "requirements' of such a system.

Regards,
Don
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:46 PM   #35
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How about refrigerators, cupboards and drawers that the male of the species could find things in.

Now that would be a real help!!
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Old 11-17-2008, 08:49 AM   #36
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Additional questions continued;

I probably need to find/purchase a trailer service manual to get more details, but it appears trailers have a common power distribution system, similar to a home, containing both AC distribution and DC distribution. This is good as it makes monitoring and control much easier. Thus the following questions;

Question 15) Load Shedding: For "load shedding" a device could individually monitor the current to each controlled circuit at all times, which means it nearly becomes an electronic fuse, which means it can "shut off" power much faster than a slow blow fuse in series with the control circuit. To monitor each circuit, assume it costs you, the end user from $3.00 to $6.00 per controlled circuit for this individual ciruit monitor feature, and for sake of this discussion assume different size systems are possible, but lets say this circuitry is contained on an 8 circuit device, which means around $32 to $48 for "this option" added to the base device to be able to "see the current" to every load at all times", to help in diagnostics and such. The alternative is "one" current monitor that estimates the current draw from each circuit based upon "prior current" draw when only that circuit is turned on. As an end user, would you be willing to pay an additional $3-6 per circuit to see each individual current?

Question 16) Tank guage: I am trying to determine if the tank level problem is a sensor problem or a problem with the monitoring electronics, as it would probably be preferred to just replace the interface device versus the sensors should it be a problem with the electonics. Does anyone know what "type of sensor technology" is currently used to monitor the black water tank level, as well as the other tanks? Is it pressure, probe, ultrasonic or other?
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Old 11-17-2008, 11:46 AM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C5Don View Post
Additional questions continued;

I probably need to find/purchase a trailer service manual to get more details, but it appears trailers have a common power distribution system, similar to a home, containing both AC distribution and DC distribution. This is good as it makes monitoring and control much easier. Thus the following questions;
Good idea. That would help answer a lot of your questions.
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Question 16) Tank guage: I am trying to determine if the tank level problem is a sensor problem or a problem with the monitoring electronics, as it would probably be preferred to just replace the interface device versus the sensors should it be a problem with the electronics. Does anyone know what "type of sensor technology" is currently used to monitor the black water tank level, as well as the other tanks? Is it pressure, probe, ultrasonic or other?
The sensor system is pretty crude and prone to getting dirty leading to false readings. Mine reads 3/4 full almost all the time. Hence the MagLight system.

When I get home this evening, I will get you the information from my service manual. If there are drawings, I can shoot a photo and include it.
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Old 11-17-2008, 08:45 PM   #38
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Rivet Tank Sensor Information and Drawing

Hi Don,

I photographed the (single) page with information about the sensors and shot a macro of the diagram. Not up to copy stand quality (Illuminated by the Thin-Lite in the galley), but good enough for you to get an idea.

Hope this helps.


P.S. Out of consideration for everyone, there are no photos of the MagLite system display.
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:57 AM   #39
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Vaughan,

Obviously the current system, or at least the one you have, uses continuity probes, which is the least expensive way to go, but if "clean" should always work. By all the complaints, they must "coat up" and then don't work. There are some approaches that could "improve" their operation even when coated if the preferred approach is to use the existing sensors and wiring and then replace the measuring electronics. It sounds like there are 4 probes plus the common probe (brown wire).

If I was the user and to solution was to replace the control panel with an improved unit, I would want it to be a direct replacement with the existing device, same size, screw holes and so forth. Since I have not purchased a service manual yet, exactly what does this "control panel" look like, where is it mounted, how are the probe wires connected and is there one control panel for all tanks or one control panel for each tank?

I will have to check the replacement cost of the control panel to determine the target price of a replacement, assuming an application specific device (packaging) was used versus a generic device. Botom line is this problem can be solved and I am wondering is this unique to a certain vintage of Airstream trailers, or all Airstream trailers?

Thanks for the info.
Regards,
Don
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Old 11-18-2008, 10:14 AM   #40
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...
If I was the user and to solution was to replace the control panel with an improved unit, I would want it to be a direct replacement with the existing device, same size, screw holes and so forth. Since I have not purchased a service manual yet, exactly what does this "control panel" look like, where is it mounted, how are the probe wires connected and is there one control panel for all tanks or one control panel for each tank?

I will have to check the replacement cost of the control panel to determine the target price of a replacement, assuming an application specific device (packaging) was used versus a generic device. Botom line is this problem can be solved and I am wondering is this unique to a certain vintage of Airstream trailers, or all Airstream trailers?

Thanks for the info.
Regards,
Don
Hi Don,

That's going to be your biggest problem. The design and location of control panels varies wildly from model to model and by year. If you look at the top of this photo http://airforums.com/photos/showimag...0&userid=17830. the black device with the red LED clock is the control panel in my ’83 Excella. When you press a rocker switch Empty, ¼, ½, ¾, and/or Full are light from behind. In my ’67 Trade Wind the Control Panel is located over the refrigerator on the street side across from the door. Analog with surface mount lights.

I will get you photos later, but this is going to be a huge problem. One size is not going to fit all.

If you could find a rally, it would really be worth your while to go look at a variety of trailers and motorhomes to get an idea what you are up against.
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:12 PM   #41
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Vaugh,

Hmmmm, that will be a problem. Tonight I did some quick research on OEM costs of various alternatives to do reliable level sensing and believe a competitive method exists. It would reqiure relpacing one of the probes with a different sensor. To be cost effective I would have to pay for some tooling to make the sensor for this type of application.

In a "networked trailer" I would envision, at the high end, a single small color display, whose size is similar to your traditional cell phone. With that you could interact with almost everything on the network, one thing at a time. This display could either "plug in" similar to a phone jack, or be wall/panel mounted like a thermostat in your house. This would solve the "control problem" leaving the "purist problem" where a market decision would be required.

Sure, I coud make a "retrofit unit" but I highly doubt the volume justify the engineering/tooling expenses. I could also do one approach where you would use the existing user interface, and a second approach, where the "new user interface" would be kind of redundant with the old interface. When only the "old interface" is used you would just not have use of all the bells and whistles. Do you think that would be acceptable to users?

Does anyone out there know about what the "compoent replacement cost" would have to be for the market to consider correcting the black water level monitoring problem? A price range is fine, where "low price" would effectively make use of the existing user interface panel and the "high price" would include a wall/panel mount small color display/keypad.

Regards,
Don
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:57 PM   #42
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I'd vote for the KISS principle. I've never even put up the TV antenna since we don't take a TV with us. I was about to wish for an MP3 interface, except that we bought a Bose ipod player just to take camping (battery or plug-in power version), so that's covered and sounds much better than the standard speakers. Bigger tanks would be nice, but that's not an electrical issue. I don't want any more complexity to deal with when I'm in the enforced relaxation mode that the Airstream brings to us. The minor shortcomings that exist in my A/S are not a big deal, and don't require a big fix, IMHO.
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