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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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For many years, user interfaces for control systems have consisted of keypads and touchpanels that are made by manufacturers of control system hardware. Keypads come in many shapes, sizes, and have various colors and buttons available. Touchpanels are available in a wide variety of sizes, aspect ratios, and can be found in full color, grayscale, and monochrome. Touchpanels available from control manufacturers are proprietary in their design and architecture. Special software that is only available from the control system companies is required to develop and program the system. Due to the proprietary nature of the hardware needed and expenses of materials used in creating the panels, the final touchpanel product is expensive when compared to other mass-manufactured touchscreens available to consumers.

When Apple introduced the iPad several years ago, a new kind of touchscreen became affordable to the general consumer market, and by extension to most business markets, as well. This product started a trend of small, affordable touchscreens from other manufacturers. These particular touchscreens were designed with consumers in mind and not specifically designed for control system applications. Affordability of these screens caused control system manufacturers to evaluate potential applications where these types of panels might be used as a graphical user interface (GUI) for a control system. The cost of iPads and Android tablets is significantly less than a typical touchpanel of an equivalent size. Never before has a 10in. full-color touchscreen been so affordable. Control system manufacturers, such as AMX and Crestron, have been able to develop applications to run on iPads and tablets. These applications communicate with the control master processors, effectively creating a touchpanel out of an iPad. There are several effective options for an iPad to interface with a control system. The number of control system companies that offer solutions using an iPad could never be covered within the confines of a single article, so no slight is intended to companies that are not mentioned by name. Some control system companies—such as Crestron, AMX, ELAN, Savant, Control4, HRS Control, Global Cache, URC, and RTI—have created proven and reliable applications that interface an iPad to their control system processor. Pricing for system solutions vary from inexpensive to as high as you want to spend depending on which vendor is used.

We will focus on iPads and Android tablets interfaces offered by two of the largest control system manufacturers: Crestron and AMX. For purposes of this discussion, the terms “iPad” and “tablet” will be used interchangeably to represent the same concept.

CRESTRON AND AMX APPS

Crestron has written a family of applications called Crestron Mobile, which are targeted for iPad and tablet uses. Mobile Pro is a control app for the iPhone and iPod touch, while Mobile PRO-G is specifically a control app for the iPad.

AMX’s Authorized Product Partner Touch Panel Control wrote the company’s native application, TPControl. A version of TPControl is available for iOS products and another version is available for Android tablets. An alternative option for AMX control is to use a VNC application (several are available including iTeleport) to interface to a G4 touchpanel or a virtual touchpanel called NXV-300. AMX’s NXV-300 is a hardware device that works with an iPad/tablet VNC application to provide three simultaneous users the ability to operate a set of touchpanel pages that have been loaded.



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