Inside an iPad-Controlled Home
The Lifeware system can be controlled via two iPads for lighting, security, entertainment and more.
April 12, 2010 by Steve Crowe

Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads on launch day, and reports say more than 600,000 have been sold in the first six days.

But how many iPads are being used as the primary interface in a fully automated home?

Paul Hughes, president and founder of Lincroft, N.J.-based HomeBase Systems, has one of the first “fully deployed, working” iPad-controlled home automation system. (See video and photos of the system below.) It’s not the first time that HomeBase has shown us how it is ahead of the curve, as evident from the energy-efficient installation of theirs we previously visited.

The residence in Ringwood, N.J., employs a Lifeware automation system that can be controlled via two iPads and one iPhone. The devices can command lighting (individual lights or lighting scenes), security, HVAC, cameras, the pool, two iPod docks, two tuners, three media servers and a Russound audio system.

Hughes says that after the control system was functioning properly, it took only three hours to get basic functionality working on the iPads. He finished the iPad programming by 11:30 on Monday morning, only about 48 hours after Apple’s product launch. “We’re going to go back, of course, and tweak the [iPads] since it’s the first time out of the gate,” says Hughes.

Hughes says the client doesn’t see the value in a dedicated touchscreen. Cost, multitasking and aesthetics were the main reasons for going with the iPad.

“Why buy something for $5,000 that has one purpose, when you can buy something that has an infinite purpose for $500,” Hughes says. “It’s a no-brainer. And who wants an in-wall touchscreen that’s outdated the day you put it in? The iPad doesn’t need to go in-wall and won’t hurt the aesthetics of your home.”

Count Hughes as one installer who doesn’t think iPads should be installed in the wall. “If something bumps the iPad, we now have an iPad broken on the ground or a docking port that’s mis-shaped and could potentially cause damage,” says Hughes. “The iPad functions well enough on its own, I’m not sure it needs to be wall-mounted. But if there’s a secure way to do that, we’d be open to looking into it.”

Hughes says the client has already asked him to program two more iPads. “The client is looking at is this way: if two iPads cost $1,000 and one of them breaks or falls in the pool, it would be nice to have an additional one that would be cheaper than buying a touchpanel,” says Hughes. “If I had $5,000, I could buy 10 iPads instead of one touchpanel. Kind of makes touchpanels obsolete.”

So how does Hughes think the iPad will affect the home automation industry?

“My plan is to sell many more automation systems,” he says. “The stumbling block for clients in the past hasn’t been the control system, it’s always been the cost of the user interface. With the iPad, this problem has been completely removed. This is a tremendous victory for the future of my business. I don’t have to sell expensive products that don’t multitask. And I get to charge each time I program an iPad or add one to the system.”

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