Apple Adds Juice to AV Controls

THE IPOD AND ITOUCH DEVICES STORM CEDIA EXPO Each year that I travel to CEDIA EXPO I’m always looking for trends in our industry that help to s
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Each year that I travel to CEDIA EXPO I’m always looking for trends in our industry that help to shape our business strategy. When Steve Jobs released the software development kit for the Apple 3G iPhone and iPod Touch earlier this year I expected that this handheld product with the intuitive touch interface, beautiful graphics, and elegant design could be deployed as a universal remote controller for our client’s AV and automation needs. As I walked the CEDIA show floor this year my prediction became a reality; I was amazed by the number of media and home automation companies that were showing prototypes of their software that run on the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch interface, with most companies either shipping software upgrade kits now or by the end of this year.

There is no question that Apple is a key player in our market, from the iTunes library, to the Apple TV and now the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch universal remote controller. Every custom electronics integrator should own and understand these products because they are now an integral part of the total home electronic solution that we integrate for our customer’s homes. The following sections give an overview of the control manufacturer’s iPhone and iPod Touch products that I saw or read about at CEDIA Expo this year.

SpeakerCraft
One of the first companies to recognize the iPhone control potential was SpeakerCraft when they released their iPhone interface for their MODE multiroom A/V system earlier this summer. SpeakerCraft president Jeremy Burkhardt has basically declared the end of keypads, thanks to devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch. “I hate to say it, but this is the beginning of the end for keypads,” he said. “Soon any keypad that isn’t emulated on a device like the iPhone will be obsolete.”

Control4
Control4 was showing their graphical user interface for the iPhone in its booth. The application has been written by a third-party Control4 partner, Control UI (www.controlui.com), and is expected to be released by the end of the year. Tilting the phone into the landscape mode it had the exact same look and feel as the graphical interface they show on their TV and touch-panel displays. For Control4 dealers I envision that a very powerful sales tool would be to have an Apple iPhone or iTouch on the conference room table displaying the Control4 interface. When a prospective Control4 client walks in the door with their floor plans ready to discuss media management and home control solutions and the husband and wife see the familiar iPhone product on the conference table showing a Control4 interface, the probability of closing the sale is significantly improved.

Exceptional Innovation’s Life-ware
EI was also showing their version of the iPhone interface for their home management software. In their first release, due out by the end of the year with their next updated software revision, the graphical interface was more text based and the information displayed in portrait mode instead of landscape mode on the phone. EI recognizes that the ultimate goal is to have a graphical interface that emulates the Media Center interface they now embrace and expect to have completed that software update sometime next year.

Crestron
Crestron announced at CEDIA its control application for the Apple iPhone. The Crestron control app will be available as a free download from the iTunes Application Store and will provide seamless control of the home and office. Crestron clients will be able to launch the Crestron application from the iPhone for complete control and management of their home entertainment, AV presentation and environmental systems such as climate, lighting, and shades. The iPhone will be able to control multiple locations from a single, intuitive graphical interface that provides real-time status of room temperature, lighting levels, shade position and digital media metadata such as volume, title, and artist.

This new Crestron Control Application for iPhone is fully integrated with Crestron programming software including SystemBuilder, VT Pro-e, and SIMPL. The application appears as a symbol in the Crestron data library, which can be dragged-and-dropped into the control program and uploaded to a Crestron 2-Series control system.

HAI
Home Automation Inc.’s WL3 is an iPhone-optimized interface for accessing and controlling HAI systems. This Windows Home Server Add-in, which has been shipping since this summer, allows for the controlling of multi-room audio (Russound and Nuvo), changing of temperatures, lights, Web cameras, and security. H@me(Home), formally known as HAI.app, is a native iPhone application that is now available as a free download from the Apple Application store.

Savant
It’s not surprising that Savant, a relatively new entry into the residential home control market, would support Apple’s iPhone product. Savant’s entire product line strategy is based on providing whole house media management and home automation solutions based on Macintosh platforms, so extending their solutions in the Apple iPhone space is a very logical direction for the company. At the CEDIA show, Savant Systems announced the development of the iPhone or iPod touch application that will allow remote control over its ROSIE home automation system. The software offers the same graphic user interface found in the home controls. The user can 'pinch' to zoom in or out and double tap on elements to bring them into the foreground. Full control over the Savant home systems is enabled with the mobile application, including home theater, climate controls, security systems, and lighting. The Savant iPhone/iPod touch application will be available soon on iTunes for $200.

AMX
The AirRemote, developed by London-based integrator Steve Moore, transforms the iPhone into a universal remote control. Using a Global Cache adapter, the AirRemote can control an AMX system and supports metadata from Kaleidescape media servers. The application, which can be programmed onscreen, is expected to cost $99.

If you didn’t see your preferred media management and home control platform mentioned in this column, don’t despair. Either I missed them at the show or they are most likely working on an interface for the iPhone and have not made any public statements to date. Rest assured, by CEDIA Expo 2009 I would expect the Apple iPhone or iTouch to be as ubiquitous in the show floor booths of home media and control companies as the iPod docking stations were evident in the booths of every whole-house audio manufacturer a couple of years ago. Apple has a way of making its presence felt in our industry and we all benefit by finding ways to embrace and extend its products into our clients’ homes.

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