The past few months for Texas-based control systems manufacturer, AMX, have been some of its strongest months to date. Not only has the company retooled and narrowed its business trajectory (changes congruent with new executive leadership), but it has implemented a new shipping policy and launched several product lines. Additionally, AMX’s robust Design XPress software tool won big at CEDIA EXPO 2002, taking home the show’s Best Networking Product Award.
Design Xpress (DXP) was launched this year as the flagship in AMX’s policy of public product introductions 90 days before shipping. AMX established this plan to ensure that all new products would come to market and ship reliably, eliminating concerns about products missing target launch dates or vanishing all together (a.k.a. vapor ware). DXP’s proprietary menu-driven wizard interface was designed to streamline inconsistencies of residential automation programming. It succeeds in shrinking programming time by providing pre-configured code, which is created dynamically after filling out a series of menu prompts. It is also able to automatically generate program source code and touchpanel screens for AMX’s NetLinx control system. The software supports a residential application multi-zone audio distribution with lighting, HVAC and intercom features. The genesis of DXP came directly from dealer counsels and discussions between AMX engineers, distributors and programmers.
“We discovered that people wanted to install our NetLinx controllers into residences without having to know how to do everything,” stated AMX vice president of marketing, Rashid Skaf. “People wanted to integrate NetLinx without having to learn every new detail or do new touchpanel pages. That was the beginning of the DXP idea.”
AMX then asked their designers if there was a way to provide a drop-down, wizard-like menu that could tell how many rooms you have, how many audio zones, how many HVAC zones, how many lighting zones you want, and then drop it all intuitively. “We then confronted all of these issues and created DXP,” Skaf added. “And it perfectly matches our theme this year, ‘How do we make it easier to do business with AMX?’ DXP makes it as easy as it can possibly be.”
Before releasing DXP, AMX (www.amx.com, 469.624.8000) conducted a pilot program during which dealers from all over the world used the software in beta for actual installations. The results of the beta testing revealed increased system flexibility and a significant decrease in system programming and integration time.
“This product broke the paradigm of how to program a residential system,” Skaf said. “Even in a drag-and-drop environment or a software solution environment, users can’t experience what we’re offering. The wizard-style interface that DXP gives you takes care of everything from A to Z. It provides everything from source code to wiring instructions to touchpanel pages to final setup instructions.” The new tool is focused specifically on simplifying programming of the hallmark NetLinx control systems. However, AMX says it is committed to growing its Landmark system and other solutions. The current version of Design Xpress, 1.1, comes equipped with all source code for the NetLinx system, touchpanel files, DMS keypad files, project report files as well as device-configuration files. Improving on the first-generation product, DXP version 1.0, the current incarnation has expanded its zones to 30 audio, 16 touchpanels, 32 DMS keypads, 32 SB keypads, 32 HVAC and 32 lighting scenes.
Additional product support includes control for ViewStat, MP3 players, i!-Weather (AMX’s new “Internet Inside” application) and CD/DVD management utilities.
In terms of the potential impact on hardware development, Skaf noted that the success of DXPis beginning to influence firmware product possibilities. “We’re already improving the capabilities and functionality of our NetLinx systems because DXP is so successful,” he said. “We are strengthening NetLinx by adding more integration choices. We also introduced another feature, DXP Home Theater.” DXP Home Theater was built around Design Xpress 1.1 and is a menu-driven wizard for creating a completely integrated and automated home theater environment.
While it was honored as “Best Networking Product,” Skaf believes that the CEDIA award recognizes the innovation and benefits of streamlining programming for the industry. According to Skaf, the accolade rewards AMX for their vision of where the market needs to go. “We are creating simpler solutions that are easier to install,” Skaf said. “This approach will benefit the entire industry in the immediate and in long run. We’re creating a better support structure for people to install their residential solutions.”
Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems magazine.