Last year, we reviewed the WallBotz 500, a superb physical conditions monitor for data centres and server rooms. Since then, the manufacturers have been beavering away developing add-ons to the WallBotz that provide further monitoring capabilities. This week a box full of them arrived at our front door. A quick recap
The WallBotz is a little black box that has in-built temperature, humidity and airflow sensors, plus a camera that can be left attached to the unit, or detached and mounted remotely. Among the features of the unit, though, are four sockets into which you can connect the various additional gadgets. It's into these sockets that most of the new bits plug. Fluid detector
The FD-100 is designed for those of us who worry about the air-con springing a leak (something that’s happened to me, in fact, and which only became apparent once it had hit the under-floor mains sockets and gone "zap"). It's a small black unit that you screw or stick in a position where the water's likely to go should something nasty happen, and which tells the WallBotz when it detects fluid of some sort. External temperature sensor
The TS-100 is a tiny black device, about the size of a thumbnail, on the end of several feet of black electronic string, which you can use to measure temperatures away from the NetBotz unit. It's useful if you have adjacent racks whose temperature you wish to monitor from a single WallBotz but it's also a handy inclusion for measuring conditions outside the machine room, or even outside the entire building. CCTV connector
Although the WallBotz comes with a built-in camera, it's likely that some people will want to connect their own cameras to the unit using standard interfaces such as composite video or S-VHS. After all, if you already have a CCTV installation, it makes sense to connect the same cameras into the remote monitoring system instead of going out and buying proprietary NetBotz ones. The CCTV adaptor is a small black box with both S-VHS and composite video connections, plus audio in/out and a door switch sensor jack (which you can connect to any type of on/off sensor in order to prompt the system to start taking notice of what's happening only in the event of the sensor being activated). Incidentally, if you don't use a door sensor, you can configure the WallBotz to react to any motion that's seen in the camera's field of vision. Unlike the rest of the devices we looked at, this unit connects into one of the WallBotz's four USB ports (or via a USB hub if you insist on having loads of devices). This, presumably, is because the proprietary interconnect used by other devices simply doesn't have the throughput capability to support the camera prod's promised 30fps at 640x480 resolution with 24-bit colour. Power detector
Although many Internet hosting centres provide an ammeter on each of their customers' racks, this isn't a great deal of use if you're based a number of miles away. The rather oddly named "Amp Detector" module solves this problem by monitoring the current being drawn by the devices in your rack, or server room. The unit is an in-line device - there's a three-pin plug hanging from one side and a three-pin socket from the other - so you simply place it in the circuit with the systems you wish to monitor. The data signal travels over the usual interconnecting cable into one of the four extension sockets on the WallBotz. There are a number of models for various countries - unsurprisingly, we had the UK model 6-13G, which is fused at 13A and which has a UK-style 3-pin plug and socket. Particle detector
Although one would hope that the temperature sensor of the WallBotz would let you know if something had caught fire, there's more to particle detection than just spotting smoke rising from combusting kit. Any kind of dusty environment can lead to computer problems and the particle detector deals with measuring levels of any particulates - the general gunk you get in your office, for example, or builders' dust - and notifying the base station of the ongoing levels. As with the Amp Detector, the data signal goes along the usual black cable into the WallBotz's expansion ports. Setting up
Because the external sensors connect into the WallBotz's sensor pod (which, like the included camera, is detachable) you choose the sensor pod entry in the configuration screen and hit the "External ports" button. You're given a list of ports, each of which has a pull-down menu (from which you select the type of device that's connected) and a text box (into which you can type a human-readable description of the unit). In the case of our PS-100 particle detector, the precise model number wasn't in the list but we picked the only particle detector entry that it did have (PS-300) and it seemed to work okay. Although each sensor pod is limited to four external devices, you can add further sensor pods via the USB ports, up to a total of 17 pods (i.e. up to 68 individual devices). Summary
The range of external sensors and adaptors for the WallBotz range is impressive (and in fact there are some others that weren't in our test kit, such as a remote relay unit, that you can use to remotely power systems on and off, and an external humidity sensor). It's very easy to add sensors to the WallBotz unit and configure the usual things, such as alert thresholds, via the Java-based console application. Aside from a couple of trivial niggles (it would be nice if the add-ons were auto-detected, for instance, and a power-on light on the particle sensor wouldn't go amiss) we could find nothing major to gripe about. It can't be denied that the units we looked at make the usefulness of an already excellent product even better.

OUR VERDICT

Make sure when buying the WallBotz that you get a unit that supports the add-ons you need (some add-ons only work with the newest device, the WallBotz 500) and that if you're buying more than four add-on devices, you get enough extra sensor pods to support that many connections.