Garden Railways and the Internet of Things (IOT)

stockers

stockers

Trains, aircraft, models, walking, beer, travel
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Chair, beer , run trains.:)
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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Well, the Loco-Fi system has some real holes in it's assumptions/assertions.

Again, over-simplification of the tasks/functions is the issue.

Can you make a barebones system cheaply, SURE.

Can I have something as sophisticated as the $200 controllers give me, NO. Some of the statements on the site show fundamental disconnects in understanding (I'm using polite terminology)

To wit: here's the key features per the site:
  • Polyphonic sounds via premium on-board micro speaker
polyphonic sounds applies to sound cards that have separate streams and the ability to mix / play them at the same time. The speaker has nothing to do with it.
  • Play custom sounds via on-board microSD card. Enact a new story on your layout every day
sure you have a mp3 player, playing a prerecorded sound file is nothing like the sounds following the speed, load of the loco
  • Realistic locomotive behavior, without the need to configure BEMF
almost all decoders have BEMF now for better operation, and few people change the default settings, so how is this different, unless there is no BEMF?
  • Reliable: Capacitor provides on-board assist to tackle dirty track issues
nice, but keep alive caps have been around for what, 10 years?

  • Secure: Only you run your trains and not your neighbors
gee, my Zimo system is secure, and I've never had a neighbor try to run mine... just like no one is using my bluetooth headset but me. wi-fi has had this for decades.


So, an inexpensive system using low cost wi-fi with basic motor and light control and really no sound systems, just remote speakers, although you can play Led Zeppelin from each loco!


My point is not to denigrate the system, but let's compare apples to apples... you want a simple control system, buy a RC car for $10 and gut it and put it in your loco.

You can pay more and get lights.

You can pay more and get noise, and a remote speaker for your mp3 player in your phone.

You can pay more and get a real decoder with chuff inputs, lighting outputs that understand direction and light states from neutral to forward, etc.

And you can keep going to pay more and get more features.


But you cannot pay $20 and get the same as a $200 decoder

So, I take exception with a web site that says HEY THIS HAS EVERYTHING YOUR EXPENSIVE SYSTEM HAS, IT'S EVEN POLYPHONIC!

Greg
 
M

Michael

Registered
26 Jan 2010
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Thanks for your comments Greg and for taking the time to view the link to the locofi website. There is a review of it in the March 2019 Model Railroader.


They appear to have taken the clean sheet appproach and come up with a system using, dare I say, IOT technology.

From the article:

"LocoFi doesn’t require additional layout components such as command stations, boosters, or conventional throttles."

"This early release shows the potential that LocoFi holds for becoming an alternative to DCC. I look forward to further refinements to this technology from WiFi Model Railroad."

They are brave to take on DCC, I wish them well. I am brave to quote the above :). (runs for cover)
 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
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"LocoFi doesn’t require additional layout components such as command stations, boosters, or conventional throttles."
No, it requires it's own command stations (EPS-thinigies), boosters (power from somewhere/thing), and 'something' as a throttle..

You still need all the same 'bits'. - It is just where you divide the 'whole' up, and what you call them.

I guess it might (having a greater command range, and being more technical fiddler) end up being more popular than(say) BlueRail?


Personally, anything which uses commands/messages in both directions, with error correction, gets my vote. - Over DCC anyway..
 
Firemangrumpy

Firemangrumpy

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Are you saying we have moved on cassettes and VHS, next you will be saying 5 1/4 in floppies are out of date ;)
My missus still uses my 5 inch floppy...
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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Yeah, I get a negative flavor in my mouth, when a new product promotes itself by denigrating it's competition.

Don't get me wrong, when you have a better feature than the competition that is definitely an advantage and should be mentioned.

But when you say "I'm better because I don't have a command station", when in reality the function is encompassed elsewhere AND there is an accompanying negative to the distributed system... if you understand DCC, the command station is a central repository for information and control.

Aristo-Craft came out with it's "revolution" system and immediately started attacking DCC in the same manner. Then it was discovered that an "all stop" command could take an entire minute to work as opposed to the immediate command to ALL locos from the command station in DCC.

So, this system is just wi-fi in the loco with the throttle smarts in the cell phone app. It is not much of a system... it could be eventually, but making a system with a distributed database is tough...

So, again, for a system pointed to be inexpensive so you use your cell phone, that is accomplished (although it can get expensive if you don't have a number of older cell phones around)...

But, it's going to be tough for it to hand off trains to other throttles, preserving the speed for example. Then if you want to get sophisticated, handing off a consist of multiple locos and having some of them running in reverse, well I hope you can see that without a central "database" this gets tough.

So, for an inexpensive system, mostly designed to use your cell phone and have pretty much one phone, one train, no handoffs, no consists, etc. It can do the job.

I'd say it will never be an alternative to DCC until it's feature set gets MUCH larger.

But, can it be an alternative to lower end R/C systems, sure, you don't have to pay for throttle hardware, and wi-fi is a great choice, much better than bluetooth for this use.

Greg
 
stockers

stockers

Trains, aircraft, models, walking, beer, travel
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WiFi still has range problems. A lot better than Bluetooth true.
 
L

LocoFi

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21 Mar 2019
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We would like to clarify some of the points made in some of the previous posts:

LocoFi™ is capable of producing and mixing 3 simultaneous sounds. All this is played through one speaker (for HO) and the speaker comes pre-wired with baffle with each module. And it is a premium speaker :) On-board is also stressed upon to differentiate with some other systems that produce sound from the smartphone instead of the locomotive itself.

LocoFi™ does not play mp3. The sound file format is .wav. You only store short clips of the sounds and the software takes care of producing all the sound efects like acceleration, deceleration, length of the horn, etc. And they are editable and user configurable. Sound editing guide is provided on the website.

There is no BEMF. You run the locomotive like you would run a real prototype.

On board assist is a tiny (and expensive) tantalum capacitor with a relatively high capacity but not as much as a supercap but then you trade off size with supercaps. We are coming out with a battery (deadrail) alternative to supercaps with much longer run times. And they will make sense this time that commands will still work.

There is still misinformation out there about using WiFi to control your devices. There are myths (you can see some earlier posts within this thread alone) that WiFi is not secure and anyone can take control of your trains. In fact, on the same layout, once you claim your locomotive, no one else can claim it unless you release it explicitly. This is unlike DCC where anyone can run any locomotive.

And, certainly you can transfer control to another engineer mid session. :)

LocoFi™ is currently optimized for HO scale only. G scale versions are certainly on our roadmap though some customers claim to have it installed in their low amperage G scale units.

Please feel free to ask any more questions you may have and we will be glad to answer them.
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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This information is helpful... perhaps some fine tuning of the web site will eliminate confusion in the future.

Nice that you can mix 3 sounds, and that does make it polyphonic. Not to brag, but to give a calibration of what is out there, the decoders I am using have a 32 channel mixer with faders to each of the 2 independent amplifiers. In a steam loco, you might have to "dance around" a bit to get all the sounds you want if you were going for an ultimate solution.

Nice to hear that the software is doing the accelerations, and you standardized on wave, smart in my opinion.

BEMF is NOT existing for "cruise control" even though people do use it for that, the PID parameters sort of bastardized in my opinion. No, BEMF is helpful to be MORE PROTOTYPICAL in that our little models don't have the inherent smoothness of a real motor, BEMF is there to overcome flaws in the drivetrain, stiction, etc. I would not try to attack BEMF as "not prototypical" you will lose that argument and respect for your product. It's really something you might consider for the future. (notice ALL modern decoders have BEMF, speed trims, momentum adjustments, etc. all to achieve more PROTOTYPE behavior)

I completely agree with you on Wi-Fi. People who think Bluetooth is superior or safer should be reading about the recent hacks to the bluetooth stacks on equipment. Now that Wi-Fi chips are coming down close in price to BT, it's just a matter of time, since EVERYONE has Wi-Fi in their house already.

You make a very controversial statement about "Unlike DCC where anyone can run any locomotive", true, if someone hooked another command station to the rails, they could possibly take control, although 2 command stations sending unsynchronized commands on the same rail most likely would result in nothing working... also most "better" DCC systems, since all throttles go through a command station, have features that can control who has the rights to "take" a locomotive... Digitrax has always had the procedure where you have to give up a loco before someone can take it, NCE has even more granular control of rights per throttle, and there are systems way beyond this.

I would suggest saying that "hacking" the wi-fi commands would be very difficult, and not try to put down DCC for being less secure... If it was me, and you were my neighbor and "threw down that gauntlet" I'm sure it would be easier to hack your system wirelessly from next door then jump over the fence to hook wires to your layout... and clearly less obvious!

A promising system overall and I wish you luck...

Greg
 
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L

LocoFi

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21 Mar 2019
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Dublin, CA
Hello Greg,

Thank you for your valuable inputs. I will be the first to admit that we certainly need to work on our website quite a bit as it seems to fail to convey what LocoFi™ is all about.

I will also admit that I know very little to nothing about DCC since LocoFi™ was a completely ground up approach without realizing what is offered by other systems out there. To that effect, I have only known to see model railroaders plug in throttle and punch in loco numbers and start running it. It's good to know that there is security in DCC too.

Best regards,
LocoFi™ Team
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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I won't say "plenty" as I agree that Wi-Fi has "industrial strength" of course, but in this particular area, it's not a huge concern, it's not a malicious or hostile takover of locomotives we are concerned with ha ha!

The ability to limit or block "takeover" of a locomotive though is a good feature in my opinion. Helps when you have guests and they either are not too careful, or kids pushing the envelope.

One thing to consider is handling "broadcast" type commands, the most obvious one is an "all stop". Another thing since you control the sound units is maybe something like a master volume to help be more harmonious with neighbors.

Best,

Greg
 
L

LocoFi

Registered
21 Mar 2019
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Dublin, CA
One thing to consider is handling "broadcast" type commands, the most obvious one is an "all stop". Another thing since you control the sound units is maybe something like a master volume to help be more harmonious with neighbors.
Sure. Once again we appreciate your input.

Best regards,
LocoFi™ Team