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Tablets as GUI

Jul 24, 2013 5:28 PM, By Patrick Barron

Consumer technology revolutionizes pro AV control systems.

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Crestron Mobile Pro

Crestron Mobile Pro

For an AMX system, any VNC client will work to connect with a Modero G4 touchpanel because each panel has a built-in VNC server. This VNC server is included at no additional cost and no additional license fees are needed. A VNC application running on a tablet will be able to connect to the G4 touchpanel to provide a mirrored control interface on the tablet. Some VNC applications such as iTeleport have been optimized to operate as an AMX touchscreen interface. The iTeleport application is around $20. If an AMX touchpanel is not part of a system, and a dedicated iPad control interface is needed, other options exist to enable this control with AMX. A NXV-300 will provide a hardware interface to allow the VNC connection on the iPad. The NXV-300 is a virtual touchpanel that has the same capabilities as a touchpanel minus a built-in screen. The only interface to the NXV-300 is through a network connection. MSRP cost of the NXV-300 is $990.

The TPControl application from Touch Panel Control enables Apple mobile devices and tablets to transform into fully functional touchpanels for controlling AMX systems, and it has a MSRP of close to $1,300 for a single license. The process for using TPControl requires an application called TPTransfer for realtime license authentication and transferring of the TPDesign4 files to the mobile device. The process of license authentication requires a live Internet connection, which is not always feasible outside of a development or test environment. Compared to using the NXV-300, which can be loaded while on a jobsite that has no Internet connection, the TPControl solution can be almost impossible to implement if an Internet connection is not present. If using TPControl, it would be best to have the iPad or tablet that will be used in advance so the license could be authenticated while in the programmer’s office.

In my personal experience, around 90 percent of the jobs where I have worked did not have Internet access. Because in most cases, it was a construction site where the network was not installed. In other cases, it was a school, law firm, hospital, or secure government facility where network access was highly restricted to authorized personnel. Because the iPad is a personal device that has many other functions, the client is typically using the tablet on a regular basis. The occasion has been nonexistent when I had access to the client’s iPad in advance of being onsite to load the final code. Without possession of the client’s tablet device in advance while in an environment such as the programmer’s office, the ability of the TPControl application to validate the license would not function, thus rendering the file unable to load to the iPad at a jobsite.

While the TPControl application costs more than the NXV-300, it does have many features such as VoiceControl using speech-to-text and text-to-speech functionality, AppControl to launch installed applications directly from TPControl, and Intercom to have a conversation from TPControl to devices such as AMX Intercom-enabled touchpanels. If cost is not a factor and the difficulty of initially loading the file with a validated license could be overcome, the TPControl solution can not only replace a touchpanel, it can enable additional functions that are unique to the iPad and are not available in a touchpanel.


All three of the solutions discussed—Crestron Mobile Pro, AMX NXV-300, and Touch Panel Control TPControl application—are all able to transform an ordinary iPad or tablet into an easy-to-use interface providing realtime, touch control of AV systems, lighting, shades, room temperatures, and more. There are strengths and weaknesses to each solution.

Crestron’s Mobile Pro provides a formidable replacement for a traditional touchpanel at a price point that dramatically lowers a control system’s cost of ownership. If multiple touchpanels are used in a system, this cost difference could be a factor not only in whether to use a tablet versus touchpanel, but it could also influence the user’s decision to use Crestron as a solution or take a different approach.

AMX’s VNC server, available in all of the company’s Modero G4 panels, allows the use of an iPad as a touchpanel if the customer already has an iPad and a Modero panel is already part of the system. This can provide a simple and inexpensive way for the customer to have a duplicate user interface through an existing Modero touchpanel. The drawback is that some types of panels or hardware devices, such as the NXV-300, must exist to facilitate the VNC connection.

Finally, TPContol is able to provide many features not available in a traditional touchpanel. But the limitations imposed by the method of validating the license raise questions as to how viable this solution would be in a traditional jobsite environment where Internet access is not readily available. The cost difference in the TPControl application compared to Mobile Pro is a factor to consider when deciding what type of iPad interface to implement. In any case, the user can have a fully functioning, powerful, and capable control system interface at a fraction of the cost of a touchpanel using any of these solutions.

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