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Tablets, Dedicated Controllers Compete In Home Automation

9/05/2012 08:00:00 PM Eastern

INDIANAPOLIS — Tablets and smartphones are raising their profile in the home-automation market here at the CEDIA Expo, but dedicated in-wall and tabletop control systems are not going away.

Companies such as Key Digital Systems, Clare Controls, and Elan Home Systems are showing tablet and smartphone apps to control home systems, but brands such as URC, Vantage, RTI and RTI’s Pro Control brand will show new dedicated controls ranging from in-wall touchscreens to handheld RF remotes.

A few years ago, said AVAD VP/GM Jim Annes, “it was normal to buy dedicated, expensive handheld remotes and $4,000 touchpanels,” but now consumers are looking for “more user-friendly, less-complicated solutions that make them feel like they got a good return on their investment.” Those solutions include tablet and smartphone apps that controls multi-room-audio systems, lighting, thermostats and other home systems, he said.

Advanced technologies that make solutions simpler and more affordable, combined with growth in the home-remodeling business, are the two biggest factors helping lift sales in the custom channel, added Dave Workman, CEO of ProSource and president/COO of the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group).

Here are some of the new home-automation products that dealers will find at the show:

Clare Controls is adding a new Linux-based controller and wireless Z-Wave support to its ClareHome line of home-automation system to reach more aggressive price points and expand the selection of controllable home systems.

The addition of Z-Wave support enables Clare’s systems to control such Z-Wave-enabled products as Schlage door locks and Z-Wave thermostats/humidistats.

The new Linux-based Clare- Home controller is said to offer the same operating software and functionality as the company’Apple Mac Mini-based controller with control from Apple iDevices, but the company said it will continue to offer its Apple Mac mini-based controller for customers who want an Apple/Mac solution and require more IP cameras or iDevices.

Initial Linux-controller shipments start in September. ZWave support will be available in the fourth quarter.

Also at the show, the supplier of residential and commercial control systems will show its new ClareHome app for iPads and iPhones. It’s due in the fourth quarter to enable consumers to customize an interface based on favorite activities. Dealers will continue to configure their installs using Clare’s Cloud-based configuration tool, but configuration time will be reduced by putting the design of the user interface into the consumer’s hands, the company said.

Individual dashboards can be configured for different users on the Apple devices, and each person’s dashboard can be synced among multiple Apple devices.

Elan Home Systems has added four new features to its Elan g! Entertainment and Control system, including an Android app, more than 30 new drivers for third-party systems, full door-lock integration, and a new user-interface architecture said to allow for the easy addition of new features, enhancements, and integration with future platforms.

The Android app complements the company’s Apple iOS app to provide full system control. A new app architecture makes it easier and faster to upgrade the GUI on all devices with a single update, the company said.

With door-lock integration, the G! system lets consumers control all door locks from within the home or while away. Individual pass codes can be set for different users and temporary codes set for repairmen and visiting relatives. The g! system also provides a history that includes time of entry, door opened, and passcode used.

With more than 30 third-party drivers, the g! system supports more systems that provide HDMI video switching, security camera control and viewing, climate and lighting systems, security systems, audio receivers and sources, and other devices. Brands supported by the new drivers include 2Gig, Altona, Baldwin, Denon, Gefen, Honeywell, Panasonic, Panamax/Furman, Pioneer, KwikSet, Rako Snap, Trane, Vantage, Vivitek, Xantech, Yale, Yamaha and others.

Gefen configured its GAVA (Gefen A/V Automation) system to control commercial systems in bars, restaurants, conference rooms and retail spaces, not just residential systems.

GAVA uses IP connectivity to control all devices in a system, including AV receivers, matrix switchers, Bluray players, Apple TV, iTunes, set-top boxes and one or more displays. It also controls lights and window shades through trigger outputs.

All connected devices can be controlled through an HTML5 interface that works with most web browsers and is optimized for Android and Apple iOS devices.

Key Digital Systems will show its first home-control system, said to be the first homecontrol system built from the ground up to be controlled from Apple’s iOS5 mobile devices.

The Compass Control system controls devices via RS-232, IR and TCP/ IP for compatibility with a maximum number of home systems. Compass Control also provides control via relays and sensors.

The system controls systems from Aprilaire, Boston Acoustics, ClearOne, Denon, Furman, ICRealtime Security, iPort, Key Digital, LG, Lutron, Luxul, Marantz, Mecho- Systems, Onkyo, Panamax, PremeView, Russound, SurgeX and Wolfvision.

Pro Control from RTI is showing multiple products to provide control over small-scale systems, including A/V components, lighting and HVAC systems.

The ProLink.r control processor, for example, delivers one-way 433MHz control of room systems via a Pro 24.r handheld remote with programmable hard buttons and 2.4-inch TFT LCD touchscreen. The controller features an Ethernet port for one-way network control of devices through PCs, iOS and Android devices; four IR routing ports; and two voltage-sensing inputs.

A two-way control system consists of the ProLink.z control processor and Pro24.z handheld remote with 2.4-inch TFT LCD touchscreen, programmable five-way joy stick, backlit hard buttons and two-way ZigBee RF technology. The processor features six routable IR ports, two RS-232 ports, two voltage-sensing inputs, and Ethernet port for control from networked PCs, and Android and iOS mobile devices.

RTI is unveiling its new KX7 in-wall 7-inch color-LCD touchpanel, 3.5-inch KX2 in-wall keypad controller with LCD display, and SURFiR RF companion remote for home-control functions.

Savant will launch its first lighting-control system, which integrates with its existing home-control and multiroom- audio systems. The new lighting-control system is targeted for a wide range of installation sizes and price ranges. Savant’s systems will continue to support the control of third-party lighting systems.

URC’s new products include the MRX-4IR in-room base station, MRX-20 Advanced Onscreen Network System Controller with overlaid onscreen user interface for TVs, the company’s first two gyroscopic remote controls and an in-wall touchscreen.

Vantage Controls is unveiling three new Equinox LCD touchscreens and an Equinox app for tablets.

The basic single-gang $500 Equinox4 will be available this month. It will be followed by the $1,500 7-UX in December and single-gang $1,000 4-UX in the second quarter of 2013. They connect to the company’s Infusion control system, which integrates multiple home systems and is targeted to new construction and remodeling jobs.

The Equinox4 features three swipable pages to control the room’s music playback via a central multiroom-audio system, control the room’s lighting system, and deliver climate control.

The Equinox4-UX delivers a higher level of system control in one room, including multizone-video control, security controls, security-camera video, and energy management.

The Equinox 7-UX delivers control over systems throughout the house, adds home theater control, and displays three widgets, or control pages, simultaneously.

Xantech’s XtraNet is the brand’s latest series of wired and wireless products designed to make different IR-, RS-232-, and network-connected A/V products work together as a system. XtraNet devices enable native IR, Wi- Fi and serial control of A/V devices using any IR remote or any wireless web-enabled iOS or Android device, the company said.