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In many ways it is, but now that the app has become the de facto control interface in the industry, it’s time to consider where tablets and apps fall short. “They can do anything,” says The Source Home Theater founder and CEO Todd Anthony Puma about iPads. However, in addition to iPads, Puma emphasises that each project should include dedicated touchpanels, remotes and in-wall keypads. One of the key benefits of a comprehensive home automation system is its ability to integrate many tasks into fast and simple processes. While convenient for some things, smart tablets can actually hinder that main benefit. “Just to get an iPad to wake up takes a couple of steps,” says Puma. The main feature that mobile devices have over dedicated interfaces is, of course, that they’re mobile. You can take your phone and tablet with you wherever you go, and in effect take your home automation system with you. If a client needs to access their system when they’re away from home, a smart phone or tablet is the perfect solution for checking lights, temperature or security status. In the house, the mobile device can run into problems. Aside from the fact that controlling anything from a smart phone requires multiple steps before you even get to the control app, mobile devices can suffer from connection issues. “When you’re roaming in a home, access point hand-offs can lock it up,” says Puma. When you want to turn down the audio system or activate a lighting scene, you don’t want to wait for your tablet to grab onto the Wi-Fi network. You want it to work immediately. Another problem with mobile devices is that they’re multifunction devices. An iPad’s ability to check emails, play streaming videos and display ebooks is why they’re so popular, but that’s not always a good thing for home automation. Any iPad user knows that when you load it up with apps, after a

while, performance starts to degrade. An installer can advise the client not to do that, but human nature often prevails. “When we do sell iPads [for a control system] we tell the client not to use it as an iPad. They never listen, they download apps, and the iPad slows down,” says Puma. Puma says that often new clients will say they want only iPads for their control system, “but they always call us back to add touchpanels and keypads”. Tablets and smart phones have also become popular for home cinema or media room control. A well-designed app can make turning on a complex system easy, and can be great for navigating a large media library. They’re not so great for common tasks, such as adjusting the volume or changing a channel. For a home cinema system, a dedicated remote is a must-have. Remotes allow instant and easy control of a system with one hand. “You’re never in a comfortable position when you’re using an iPad or iPhone,” says Puma. A tablet turns the simple task of pausing a movie into a two-handed, multi-step process. With dedicated interfaces, especially installed touchpanels or keypads, the controls are always in the same location, are always reliably connected and require the least steps to operate. Dedicated interfaces should be installed at several key areas of the home, including the main entry way, the kitchen, the main living area and the master bedroom. Apps on mobile devices can be wonderful supplementary tools. Explaining to new clients the benefits of dedicated controls over mobile apps can be a challenge. Puma uses a demonstration kit and shows the potential user how many steps it takes to perform a task with an app vs the instant results with a touchpanel or remote. That’s a powerful demo that works every time. FOLLOW GRANT: @geclauser


CEDIA Communicates Summer 2015  
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