Innotech iComm and SSH port forwarding
A bit of a blast from the past, this one.
Back in 2011, we replaced all the heating at the church. Sadly this was just before the era of off the shelf heating controllers which did multiple zones and could be controlled from a web page or an app. So instead, we have a more old-fashioned HVAC controller made by Innotech. It cost (from memory) a couple of grand to source and install, and it's less capable (in my opinion) than a Raspberry Pi with a few relays wired to it.
It was designed to be controlled over serial, so the installer attached an Ethernet to serial module to it, we ran Ethernet to the basement, and bam - we can use their clunky but servicable suite of Windows apps to program the temperatures and seven day calendars controlling the heating and hot water.
The installer claimed this could be done remotely by forwarding the port the software uses (20000) from our ADSL router to the controller, then connecting to our IP address remotely. This never worked at the time (we suspected the latency on our ADSL upset it), but now we have a Virgin Media link it was time to try again.
This stuff may be arcane, but exposing it unprotected to the Internet felt like asking for trouble. However! A quick port forward in PuTTY (connecting to the Raspberry Pi sitting in our comms cabinet), and it actually manages to talk to localhost and works.
Now that it's finally possible to work with this stuff from the comfort of my own home, I am tempted to see if I can reverse engineer enough of its communications to write a web front end and ditch the elderly Windows apps.