Netiom-xAP – review

submission by David Pullen – Some of you will know that I am a big fan of the VIOM from Phaedrus. I use 4 VIOMs to control my heating, some windows and blinds, led lights, electromagnetic locks and also to take inputs from motion detectors and a variety of other devices.

Some of the VIOMs are connected directly by means of the serial port and some over ethernet by means of MSS100s from Lantronix. It is rather valuable being able to connect the VIOMs over the network and so I was pleased to hear that Phaedrus was producing the Netiom. When I contacted Roy Schofield (at Phaedrus) I was even a lot more interested to hear that he was planning to work on a xAP-enabled Netiom… Being an enthusiastic VIOM user I used to help out with the beta testing and back in the middle of March received my first Netiom-xAP. The unit worked well straight out of the box with only a small number of issues. a lot of of the time during testing was really spent on identifying enhancements.

The current product really has a incredible amount of functionality, specifically:

16 digital and 4 analogue inputs (10 bit resolution)

16 virtuals that can be used to hold a state

16 digital outputs with 10 pin headers for connection to relay, opto-isolator and display modules

counters (16 bit) and high/low latches for each input

serie Port

HTTP server

email generation in action to specified events.

10Mbps ethernet interface

embedded xAP.

The board is roughly 11cm square with the serial port at one end and the ethernet interface at the other end.  The Netiom slots straight into a xAP network using the basic status and control (BSC) schema and has some additional Netiom certain commands and responses.

The Netiom is initially configured by means of the serial port using a small interface application supplied by Phaedrus. The Netiom can request the IP address from a DHCP server but I like to allocate fixed IP to devices like this. The inputs and outputs are all given default names (eg output.1) but can be renamed to something a lot more valuable such as office.pir. All these changes are made through the interface application. As soon as the programming link is removed the device leaps into life and starts issuing xAP heartbeats and status information.

The digital inputs can be directly interfaced to TTL and CMOS outputs but the voltage must not exceed 5 volts. I find a lot of of the inputs I use are simply clean contacts that pull the input down to 0 volts, eg PIRs, pressure mats, door and window sensors, etc. The analogue inputs cover the range 0 to 5 volts (and need to not exceed 5 volts).

Measurements are referenced to the internal 5 volt supply rail that, I understand, has an accuracy of 5%. The reported values are in the range of 0 to 1023. You can set the hysteresis and “on state” levels for the analogue inputs and counters (driven by the change of state of the digital inputs) to make sure that xAP messages are not issued too frequently (see the screenshot below). You can also set the frequency of the xAP BSC info messages by setting the update period on the same screen. It is also possible to set the Netiom to send all the BSC info message at the same time rather than one at a time. considering that there are 102 nodes it will normally take 102 * update period to complete all the info messages.

It is also possible to set anti-bounce values for each individual input must it be necessary. All the settings can be saved to a file so that they can be restored if required.

The digital outputs are open collector and can be used to drive relays (with back emf suppression), leds etc. I tend to use the relay modules (8 relays per module) also supplied by Phaedrus to drive my devices. The relay modules simply plug into the 10 way headers. I observed that Phaedrus have also released an opto-isolator module that could be very beneficial for lots of HA applications.

I am using the Netiom with Homeseer (as with the VIOMs) and as soon as it starts sending out xAP messages, they are picked up by the xAP conduit in Homeseer as new devices on the network. With a few mouse clicks for each device (rather a lot, in total, for the Netiom as there are 102 nodes!) the Netiom becomes fully controllable by Homeseer with immediate status feedback.
You can also control the Netiom directly by means of its inbuilt web server through the default web pages or even develop your own pages. rather helpful if your controller is down or you don’t want to depend upon some central intelligence. The web pages need to be downloaded by means of the interface program over the serial port (see below).

New pages can be created and added to the list or substituted for existing pages. The following commands and dynamic identifies are available:


Turn all or single outputs on or off

Clear all or single counters

Turn all or single virtuals on or off

Clear all or single high or low latches

Send a message to the serial portToggle all or single outputs

Toggle all or single virtuals

Dynamic Tags
%00 Last serial message received.
%01 to %04 Analogue input 1 to 4 value (0 to 1024)
%05 state of digital inputs 1 to 8
%06 state of digital inputs 9 to 16
%07 state of outputs 1 to 8
%08 state of outputs 9 to 16
%09 state of virtuals 1 to 8
%10 state of virtuals 9 to 16
%11 to %26 Input 1 to 16 counter value (0 to 32767)
%27 state of inputs 1 to 8 low latch
%28 state of inputs 9 to 16 low latch
%29 state of inputs 1 to 8 high latch
%30 state of inputs 9 to 16 high latch
%31 Insert device name
%41 to %56 Input 1 to 16 status
%61 to %76 Output 1 to 16 status
%81 to %96 virtual 1 to 16 status
%99 add a carriage return/line feed pair

The performance of the Netiom xAP is quite amazing. I was unable to provoke any untoward behaviour during the testing and I believe Kevin Hawkins saw message rates of over 3000 per minute when anxiety testing. action to messages is essentially immediate and commands issued to control multiple outputs at a time result in nearly perfectly synchronised clunks in the relays.

I can see the counters being beneficial for monitoring energy consumption. The analogue inputs can of course be used with lots of different input devices and I am planning to use some of them for light sensors.

The serial port can act as a gateway allowing serial commands to be issued across the network to a locally connected device using xAP. The Netiom can be set up to prepend and/or append certain characters (eg STX, ETX). xAP allows messages to be sent to the serial port in text or hex format.

The following BSC message would send the “PON” command out of the serial port (Power on for a Panasonic plasma)
The email functionality appears to work very well although the email message is not dependent upon the trigger. emails can be generated according to a variety of different scenarios, specifically:

low or high input

analogue input above or below preset amounts

a serial port message

but the email is always the same format so you have to check the message in detail to figure out what triggered it. However, you can configure the subject and message to be whatever you want by modifying and downloading to the Netiom the files esub.cgi and email.cgi as for the web pages (see above). All the same dynamic identifies are available as for the web pages. The carriage return/line feed pair are specifically aimed at the email format. I don’t foresee using the email activate very much but I am sure that there are some people who will find it very useful.

I understand from Roy that he does have plans to add additionally VIOM functionality to the Netiom is later releases, eg the ability to activate outputs from combinations of inputs, but at the moment the inputs and outputs are independent.

Overall I think the Netiom xAP is a wonderful device at an very affordable price (currently £69 plus VAT). It doesn’t have the state engine of a web brick (another exceptional HA enabling product) but it packs in an incredible amount of functionality and slots effortlessly into a xAP network. It is certainly a terrific addition to a growing range of products that will make diy HA that much easier. I am always running out of IO and this works out at about £2 per IO unit! If you are already using xAP then just get one! If you are not using xAP then I think this device is a terrific reason to get started.

I must state that I have no connection to Phaedrus other than as a delighted customer and beta tester.

Netiom-Xap   :

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