Last year at CEDIA EXPO, ReQuest Inc. expanded from its music server roots into a full-fledged whole-house audio control company, with tabletop and in-wall touch screen solutions. This year, the company has enhanced its feature set with fun widgets, the ability to control legacy devices, Ethernet connectivity for a 15-inch touch screen, and a new application software instantly converts any Nokia N800 “Internet Tablet” to a handheld controller with full command over a multiroom iQ system.
In a pre-CEDIA phone briefing yesterday with ReQuest’s VP of sales and marketing, Bill McKiegan, I learned about these new products that give ReQuest an even stronger foothold in the affordable (for me) whole-house audio control category. Though their system is purposely not a full integration offering, it provides a price point and feature set that is hard to beat.
I’ll run down the list of new stuff, and let their press releases do most of the “talking.”
The new Network Touchscreen Client (NTC) works with ReQuest’s TS.15 full-size color touchscreen controller from any location on a home Ethernet network, without long cables and/or VGA/USB extenders. The NTC is a slim hardware solution designed to be mounted to the back of a free-standing TS.15 touchscreen, or it can be tucked away in a nearby cabinet or shelving unit. It connects to the touchscreen via USB and VGA cables, while its RJ-45 connector accepts conventional, Ethernet cable linking it to the home network. Alternately, a wireless home network can be utilized via a “gaming bridge,” a wireless adapter widely available from manufacturers such as dLink, Linksys, and Netgear, to deliver full TS.15 functionality via WiFi 802.11b/g wireless connection. As many as eight TS.15/Network Touchscreen Client combos, communicating to the home system via wired or wireless/bridge connections, can be used on a single ReQuest iQ System, Audio or Video ReQuest. The NTC is available to dealers in September 2007.
At CEDIA EXPO next week in Denver, Colorado, ReQuest also will introduce Freedom for the iQ Intelligent Music System. The ReQuest Freedom application software instantly converts any Nokia N800 “Internet Tablet” to a handheld controller with full command over a multiroom iQ system, using the familiar commands, graphics, and icons of the ReQuest TS35 in-wall touch panel controller.
The ReQuest Freedom solution transforms an N800, a handheld tablet roughly 6x3x0.5 inches and equipped with a full-color, 800×480-pixel touchscreen into a full WiFi controller for iQ. The user simply inserts the Freedom SD card into the N800’s slot, runs the included installer, and is immediately ready to enjoy a pocketable, portable, full-function iQ System touchscreen commander. The Freedom/N800 communicates via 802.11b/g WiFi in a home network, and then to the iQ Intelligent Music System, delivering full control in every way. And since Freedom utilizes precisely the same software and graphics underpinnings as ReQuest’s own TS.35 three-inch in-wall touchpanel controller, new owners will find themselves already familiar with its simple and intuitive user interface.
Freedom delivers full control of rooms, internal and external sources, volume, and media-selection, via the interface identical to the iQ.TS35 in-wall panel-no stylus required. Up to four Freedom/N800 clients can access an iQ System: for example, there might be a Freedom controller in the master bedroom, another in the family room, one by the pool, etc. (These four can coexist with up to 8 TS35 in-wall touchpanel controllers.)
The ReQuest Freedom software is automatically updated whenever it successfully connected to an iQ System, so users always have the latest software. What’s more, Freedom automatically re-connects to the iQ whenever users depart the local WiFi network: take the Nokia N800 to the local Starbucks to browse the web or read email, return home and Freedom auto-finds the iQ System and automatically re-connects, ready to control. It is also available in September 2007, with a suggested retail price of $500 (customers supply the Nokia N800-retail price is $399). The total solution is $899.00 for a high-resolution, widescreen-display touchpanel wireless remote that can also be used as a pocket-sized tablet computer, wireless web-browser, email client, game console, Skype phone, and dozens of more possible uses.
And what about that ability to control legacy devices through ReQuest’s iQ Intelligent Music System that I mentioned? Well, the server-based iQ multiroom solution, which can play music to as many as eight different rooms, now enjoys flexible integration and full control over such devices as cable boxes and CD players through ReQuest’s new Network IR Extender. Also, terrestrial and satellite tuners from Polk Audio and NuVo, can now be integrated into an iQ system with fully “two-way” remote control and display.
ReQuest’s iQ.RCK Radio Connection Kit integrates Polk’s XM (XRt12) satellite radio tuner, NuVo’s Dual AM/FM (NVT2DFG) tuner, or NuVo’s Dual AM/FM and XM (NVT2XFG) tuners into an iQ Intelligent Music System. The iQ.RCK kit includes USB-serial and data cabling to interface one or more NuVO or Polk units with the iQ Intelligent Music System. Simply plug a tuner into the iQ.RCK, click on Detect in the iQ configuration utility, and the radio controls, station and RDS data is instantly available on all iQ touchscreens-no custom programming is required. The iQ.RCK supports full two-way communications of station/stream selection commands, and or track/artist. Users can configure up to 30 favorite presets simply by holding down a Preset icon on the touchscreen.
Another new ReQuest option, the iQ.NIRE Network IR Extender brings iQ Intelligent Music System retroactive access to older components that rely on non-networked infrared (IR) protocols. For IR control of conventional components such as cable boxes or CD players, the ReQuest Network IR Extender provides three IR “blaster” outputs that deliver IR commands to multiple components. Commands originate from the iQ server and travel in IP format over the home network cabling to the ReQuest IR Extender. Consequently, this can reside physically in any room or location on the local net, simplifying the solution of even the most challenging wiring obstacles. Programming IR commands is easy and intuitive, using pre-built templates and commands, with the result that even classic older components can participate smoothly and intelligently in an iQ system. Both the Radio Connection Kit and Network IR Extender are available immediately.
Last but not least are those fun software widgets I mentioned before. Much like the widgets on an OSX Macintosh computer or a new Vista PC, ReQuest’s iQ system, which delivers audiophile quality music to as many as eight rooms or zones from its internal hard disk-based music server and associated sources, now offers four new built-in widgets that automatically access the network and Internet to provide information throughout the home. These free programs deliver stock, weather, webcam, and calendar information to the iQ’s touchscreen system-controllers, including the freestanding 15-inch TS.15 and the in-wall, 3.5-inch TS.35.
Widgets are small, interactive software programs that run on the iQ Intelligent Media Server and can be viewed and controlled from any room or zone equipped with a ReQuest touchscreen, tabletop touchscreen controller, and computer.
Stock Ticker allows users to view and monitor their selected equities, funds, or other investments, with automatically updated information. On the larger TS.15 Touchscreen Controller, the user may also chart performance over time-frames, choosing day, month, year, or five-year displays.
WebCam (available via the 15-inch TS.15 Touchscreen only) lets iQ owners add up to six individually named webcams, monitoring locations around their property or around the world. For example, the WebCam widget might offer visual access to the front door at home, the boat-dock at the lake house, the warehouse floor at the plant, and a child’s room. What’s more, any publicly available webcam can be integrated into the display, providing up-to-the-minute views of weather at your favorite ski resort, or the traffic on your work commute and more. (Webcams are assigned simply by entering each one’s unique URL.) Users can set the size and refresh intervals, monitoring activities live as they happen.
Weather displays live/updated two-day weather forecast for any U.S. city or town, or any location in the world with graphical conditions, high/low temperature display.
Calendar display browseable calendar by month while showing images from user-selected screen-saver file in slideshow format.
Users select a widget from the icon strip visible along the bottom of either screen. Any of the four different widgets can run simultaneously on different screens, and of course have no impact on music streaming. Essential iQ server and system functions always remain instantly available via the Touchscreens’ always-on volume, mute, and navigation soft keys, and of course the iQ home page is never farther away than the touch of a finger.
ReQuest’s software Widgets for its iQ Intelligent Music System are available immediately and are automatically installed on iQ systems connected to the Internet.
Pricing on all of this was also available, but I’ll leave that between you and ReQuest at Booth 514. Have a good time at EXPO.