The new Android-powered TiO home automation system from Automated Control Technology Partners, Inc. (ACTP) borrows little from its predecessor Colorado vNet. In fact, TiO’s brand new multizone wireless audio system is now the star of the show, The ZigBee wireless protocol has been replaced by an all-IP communications infrastructure for lighting and thermostat control, and Android now rules the system.
We visited with ACTP founder and CEO Mike Anderson last month to get the first look at the new product, which pretty much sheds the legacy of the original Colorado vNet, its successor Colorado vNet by Russound, and the third-time’s-not a charm 3vNet, which Anderson established when he bought the assets of vNet in April 2012.
He retired the vNet brand and business one year later, launching ACTP in its place.
The new system is entirely distributed, centered around one little control hub, the Master Coordinator (MC1, $500 MSRP), which doubles as a “smart” 802.11n wireless access point. You only need one of these palm-sized boxes regardless of what kinds of home automation and entertainment goodies you attach to it.
Currently, the only things you can attach to it are TiO’s own lights, thermostats and wireless multiroom audio system, but the company promises to release more devices in the future, as well as drivers for third-party security, surveillance, entertainment and other subsystems.
What really stands out about TiO is its wireless (or wired) digital audio system, which puts all of the smarts into each zone. There is no risk of overbuilding an audio system; simply add individual zones as needed.
Each zone is anchored by a little StealthStream 1 zone player (AZSS1, $600), featuring a 100-watt amplifier (2x50), built-in streamer and Bluetooth receiver.
The streamers include optical and analog audio outputs with sensing and auto-switch capabilities.
The tiny thing, including its Wi-Fi radio, is small enough to install behind a wall in a single-gang wallplate. It can be powered via PoE or 16/4 speaker wire.
“We see it as a volume control replacement,” says Anderson.
The unit has a cool-looking blue on/off button on the front and is controlled with the TiOHome mobile app.
Alternatively, there are versions of the amps with 4- and 7-inch dedicated Android-enabled touchscreens affixed to them – the TouchStream 4 (AZTS4, $800) and TouchStream 7 (AZTS7, $900) — which can be used for audio control as well as whole-house control of other supported subsystems.
The only thing about TiO that really resembles the old Colorado vNet, aside from the distributed architecture, is the capacitive keypads for lighting controls. They look like the self-labeled versions of yore, but the similarity ends there.
Custom electronics professionals can configure and label these new TouchLite 4 (TL4, $250) Universal Switch-Dimmers as one, two- or four-button controllers.
The buttons can be used to dim loads or control virtually any function of the TiO system, launching scenes, setting back the thermostat, jumping audio tracks ….
The universal controllers “sense the load type to control any type of light,” says Anderson.
All major lighting types including incandescent, MLV, ELV, LED and fluorescent bulbs. “It’s all just one SKU, no matter how you use the buttons,” Anderson says.
The biggest difference between these switches and their vNet counterparts is that the new ones communicate via Wi-Fi, not ZigBee.
“We do not use any ZigBee anymore,” Anderson says. “It’s all Wi-Fi.”
As for thermostats, they are essentially dedicated Android-based touchscreens with temperature sensors built in. The ThermaTouch 1 (TT1, $300) provides full energy management controls, as well as local weather information.
Certain control “scenes” can even be set up by the homeowner. Physically set your temperature, lights and audio to preferred states and “capture” the settings as a “mood.” Group the moods together to create a whole-house “experience.”
TiO naturally offers remote management and control via computer or smart device.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.