Over the course of the last year my company has received an increasing number of requests from our clients to add remote control capabilities for home lighting, audio/video systems and climate control to their infrared and/or 802.11b-enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs). The higher screen resolutions, slimmer profiles and increased horsepower of the current line of PDAs make them more and more useful as a remote control device.
Fortunately, many hardware and software manufacturers are recognizing this trend and developing control interfaces to work on PDAs. In this column I’ll review several different products to provide an overview on how different companies are currently deploying PDA based home control software.
Universal Electronics NEVO Software. This new software product from Universal Electronics (www.mynevo.com) has been written for use on HP’s iPAQ Pocket PC line. With UE’s extensive online A/V control IR code library, this software can turn an HP iPAQ into an IR emitting remote control with an elegant, intuitive, touch-screen graphic software interface. Of course, the inherent limitation of this product is that it requires line of sight with an IR receiver to control these A/V products, a limitation that the 802.11b-based PDA software solutions do not have.
Vinyl 1.0 Software. This free software easily transforms a Pocket PC PDA into a remote control for your home computer’s MP3 songs. There are two components to this software, one that loads onto your computer where the MP3 files are stored (the server) and the other on the PDA which acts as the thin graphic client that displays the musical play-list and even the cover art of the album that is being played. If you connect the Audio Out jacks of the computer with the MP3 content to a whole-house audio system, then the Pocket PC PDA remote can be used to control the songs in any room of the home.
The Pocket PC sends its control sequence over the wireless 802.11b connection to the MP3 source computer that governs the input the whole-house music system will play. If one has two computers with music content then the Vinyl PDA remote will control the music from this secondary source as well and treat it as an alternative source of music for the whole house audio system. For more details on the Vinyl product, visit www.pocketwerks.com.
Meda Systems Bravo Family Music Server. Combining the multi-source, multi-zone switcher, amplifier and computer products described above into one sleek new server product is the new Bravo Family Music Server line from Meda Systems. This product can serve up to 24 sources to 24 zones, all controllable from their Media Manager Software that can reside on the Pocket PC PDA. From this PDA the homeowner can search and select songs by artist, album, track, genre, filename, play-list and keyword. They also can select from several different sound sources, choosing from CDs, Internet radio, satellite radio or AM/FM tuners. For more details on the Meda line of music servers, visit www.medainc.com.
Premise Systems 2.0 Home Control Software. For the ultimate home control experience from a PDA device you can use Premise’s new PDA release of their home control SYS 2.0 software. The same browser-based control software screen that gives full control of a home’s audio/video, lighting and climate controls on web tablets and smart displays has now been ported to work on Pocket PC PDAs, as well. Simply add a /ppc extension to your Premise Systems server address, and you will launch the Pocket PC compatible control window. With Pocket PC’s wireless 802.11b and virtual private network capabilities, the homeowner can even control their home’s lighting, climate control or A/V systems anywhere in the world they can get wireless internet access. As soon as the browser window is launched on their PDA it can be programmed to immediately connect to their home network over the VPN connection and launch the SYS control screen for their home. Now that’s the ultimate solution for residential remote control! For more information on Premise System’s line of home control software products, visit www.premisesystems.com.
It’s clear that the PDA has become a lot more useful than just a contact organizer, day planner or e-mail client. Manufacturers are increasingly recognizing the market demand for adding home automation and control to these powerful touchscreen, handheld computers. Today’s PDAs represent a significant opportunity to enhance the usability, functionality and versatility of the complex electronic environments that custom electronic integrators design and install for our clients. If you have only thought that Pocket PC PDAs were for business applications, then it’s time to get re-acquainted with these devices to better understand how they can complement the touchscreen control solutions that you currently offer your clients.