A New Approach to 802.15.4

Among the products that will flood the exhibition halls of CEDIA EXPO next month in Denver, Crestron is confident that its new crop of touchpanels will grab the spotlight.
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The TPS-6X, which is now shipping, is the first of many in the new line of FocalPoint based products.Among the products that will flood the exhibition halls of CEDIA EXPO next month in Denver, Crestron is confident that its new crop of touchpanels will grab the spotlight because of some radical advancements in design and engineering. Fred Bargetzi, Crestron's VP of technology, shared some of the key features of the flagship TPS-6X panel which he says resulted from Crestron's mission to improve the 802.15.4 transmission standard and offer a genuine aesthetic breakthrough.

The story of the TPS-6X starts in Crestron's busy Rockleigh, New Jersey, headquarters. "We have more than 1,000 products at Crestron and numerous RF technologies, including five or six wireless gateways for handheld products," Bargetzi explained. He wanted to explore a way to simplify these various gateways for more intuitive applications-oriented products.

"We took a step back...to standardize the numerous gateways and RF frequencies," he said.

When thinking of the next-generation touchpanel, Crestron put its dealers' needs first. "Feedback from our dealers is key," Bargetzi pointed out. "We listen to what they say in the field and how environmental factors influence [installations]."

WiFi is a popular standard for residential control because it is "open" and offers a high data rate of output, making it ideal for streaming video and audio applications such as VoIP, two-way metadata access, security cameras on a network, and ilk. It has limitations, however, including range and the complexity of whole home coverage with a WiFi backbone.

Voila! The result is Crestron's Infinet. The solution was introduced a little over two years ago using 802.15.4 technology to improve range, performance, and whole-house reliability through a mesh network topology. The 802.15.4 wireless standard specifies the physical layer and medium access control for personal area networks. It is maintained by the IEEE 802.15 group and is the basis of ZigBee platforms. Crestrons InfiNet mesh network technology provides reliable communication without the complexity of WiFi and has been incredibly successful for sales of Crestron s wireless dimmers, switches, and thermostats, according to Bargetzi. But while 802.15.4 mesh networks provide great whole-home coverage, they dont provide enough bandwidth for meta-data-intensive applications that are common today from devices like XM, Sirius, Apple iPod docks, audio servers, etc.

Building on its experience with 802.15.4, Crestron created a point-to-point implementation, called called FocalPoint, which is an addition to the InfiNet mesh network. The first technology to use FocalPoint is the recently introduced TPS-6X touchpanel. FocalPoint technology is designed to provide more than 1,000 feet of range, combined with the bandwidth required for fast meta-data exchange, along with rock-solid reliability. Bargetzi said that he believes this will provide for a better user experience, expedite set up, and save dealers valuable time in the field.

The TPS-6X, which is already shipping, is the first of many in the new line of FocalPoint-based products. Crestron placed a high value on the "look and feel" of the product because it wanted to created a compelling solution -- something that truly stood apart from competitors.

"The TPS-6X is visually striking on and off the dock," Bargetzi concluded. "Because there are so many devices now in the home like blackberries and iPhones, we wanted to offer new aesthetics and styling that would become a centerpiece."


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