Probe Zone Hub & Monitor – Review

Submission by: Mark Goodwin

Introduction – This project is to address a major problem faced by many Home Automators, who are looking for a more intelligent way to monitor the status of their equipment throughout the home. In the past, I have struggled with monitoring Audio Visual Equipment status in various zones of the home.

I used Smartlink probes hardwired into HomeVision, but when I added multi zone IR distribution via FirM, the system could not work within a multi zone environment. I experimented with tracking A/V status’ via Flags which proved to work well if equipment was turned on using a remote. However if I or any other users switched on equipment manually Homevision would receive incorrect flag status’. I discussed my problem and potential ways of overcoming them with Frank McAlinden; who suggested building a multi zone system consisting of 8 zones.

The Concept – To have Homevision obtain the exact status of A/V Equipment in Multiple Zones (1-8) and perform selected actions and tasks depending on status. This would occur by HomeVision informing the Probe Zone Hub via Port A outputs which Zone & Probe it wishes to read the Status of. Connecting up to 8 Probe Zone Monitors connected to the Probe Zone Hub via CAT5 cable + video and/or led probes attached to each piece of A/V Equipment.

Prone Zone Hardware

Picture 1: Probe Zone Hub

Picture 2: Probe Zone Monitor


Picture 3: Probe


Putting it All Together: The Complete Solution


The Probe Zone Installation

Pre Installation Hardware

  • HomeVision
  • FirM Controller & Rx Units
  • Phone/ Serial Board
  • TW523

Probe Zone Hardware Components

  • Zone Probe Hub
  • Zone Probe Monitor
  • CAT5 Cables
  • Video Probes (Franks Custom Probes)
  • LED Probes (Franks Custom Probes)
  • 12v Power Supply

Setting Up/Configuration – 1. I disconnected the power to Home Vision before making the port connections which were must checked again before powering up Home Vision for correct pin outs. By using FirM, only 2 additional port outputs are required.

2.Once all connections were made to Home Vision, I inserted the db9 connector into the Probe Zone Hub and applied power to both HomeVision and the Probe Zone Hub.

3.On initial power up of the Probe Zone Hub the Zone LED’s lit up sequentially followed by the Probe LED’s and the Status LED’s. The next stage was connecting the Probe Zone Monitors to the Probe Zone Hub via CAT5.

4.The final stage involved making connections between the Probes and the A/V Equipment that required monitoring.

Problems: Conflict in Wiring – My Home Cinema system focuses on achieving optimal performance in Audio and Visual. Like other A/V enthusiasts’ I have opted to use S-VHS over composite as it offers superior picture definition. Some equipment allowed me to use the probes to get a reading, while some other equipment allowed for composite signal only, the ensuing conflict meant that while some equipment worked well outputting both composite and S-VHS, some other equipment would only provide a reading via either S-VHS or composite never both. The result was there were no probe readings on some equipment while other equipment read well. I needed a solution which would allow the Video Probes to be read while allowing me to route the video signals via S-VHS. The solution was to use Phono (RCA) plug to 2 x phono (RCA) sockets and Bi-Directional RCA to S-VHS Adapters. It was a difficult installation, but I got there in the end.

Additional Components:


Phono (RCA) plug to 2 x phono (RCA) sockets


Bi-Directional RCA to S-Video Adapters

UP & Running – The Probe Zone Hub/Monitor system has been up and running for over 4 weeks without any glitches. I expected a long lag time prior to actions being processed. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the speed and accuracy of the Hub/monitor which far exceeded my initial expectations. The system is fast, accurate and reliable, a far cry from using the Smartlink probes, the Video/LED probes responded very well. Once implemented, the Hub/Monitor required little checking or additional configuration. SWIMBO’s feedback has been a clear vote of confidence and she took to it instantly as it allowed for all of her macros to run smoothly instantly.

System in Operation – Prior to installing the Probe Zone Hardware I was using learning remotes; one in each zone with HomeVision & FirM. Each zone had an Rx unit which enabled individual zoning. Now that the Probe Zone Hardware has been integrated into the existing setup, modifications have been made to the original Schedule, the operation of my system changed for the better.

How some functions work:

Scheduled Event @ 6.30am: Zone 2 (Bedroom) Equipment is scanned for A/V Status. If equipment is ON then the system does nothing, however, if equipment is OFF it is turned ON & morning mode is run.

Go to Bed
Manual or Scheduled Event: Scan of all Zones for A/V status, if any equipment is ON then it is turned OFF, however, if OFF the system does nothing.

Leave Home
Manual or Scheduled Event: Scans all Zones for A/V status, if any equipment is ON then it is turned OFF, however, if OFF the system does nothing. If anyone is at home then the system turns OFF any unoccupied zones.

Extending the Probe Zone Functionality
I was looking for a low cost way to boost the efficiency of FirM and the Probe Zone Hardware at very little cost. I found a solution which allowed me to:

1. Control any of the 8 zones independently or all together, regardless of which Zone I was in.

2. Fit into the Current HA system which allowed the least technical users instant access.

The Solution:

An RF remote with one house code (M = Macro) and 16 key codes with ON/Off functions. I use this to roam through the house and control any Zone Mode or Zone ON/Off status with the help of FirM & the Probe Hardware.


RF—->X-10—->HV—->Probe Zone—->FirM (Tx)

“SWIMBO” loves this Method as she can be in any room & control equipment/settings for that room or other rooms.

A long awaited solution to a familiar problem. I have intelligent and accurate control over all A/V equipment in all Zones with no monitoring or configuration required after installation. The learning curve is limited, regardless of the user’s depth of technical knowledge. The integration is so seamless; I wonder how I ever lived without it?

Congratulations and well done to Frank on another fantastic Home Automation Hardware Solution. I look forward to implement the newly enabled Serial Interface into my existing system. Keep up the good work.

To find out more on the Probe Zone Hardware Solution, visit

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