Let Your iPhone Take Full Control
Many manufacturers are developing apps that make Apple's ubiquitous mobile device a touchpanel controller for automation, lighting, distributed audio and more.
iphone control
Apple’s iPhone is doubling as a new type of touchpanel controller these days.
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December 31, 2008 by Lisa Montgomery

Apple has already sold more than 6 million iPhones, and many home control companies are capitalizing on that trend by engineering their systems to communicate directly with the ubiquitous mobile device, as well as with Apple’s iPod and iPod touch products.

“People depend on their mobile devices for communication and entertainment. Now those same devices can be used to control the home,” says Chuck Hudson, co-founder of Control UI, a software development firm that collaborated with home control systems manufacturer Control4 to develop a software application for the iPhone and iPod touch.

A Partner or Competitor?
Most home control companies expect Apple’s mobile devices to be used primarily as a means of monitoring and controlling a home’s lights, thermostats and other equipment remotely from the office or the road. However, it’s feasible that the iPhone could also function as a main command center within the home.

Savant’s betting on it, and as a first step toward the migration of these portables into the home space, the company has developed an in-wall Media Dock that allows music and video on an iPhone or iPod Touch to be distributed throughout the house.

SpeakerCraft is particularly bullish about using an iPhone as a wireless remote control. The company’s MODE multiroom audio/video distribution system was designed to be controlled from an unlimited number of iPhone or iPod touch devices. Right from the screen of an iPhone, a user can access audio and video sources, select a song to play, and direct the tune to the appropriate listening zones. “I hate to say it, but this is the beginning of the end for keypads,” says Jeremy Burkhardt, SpreakerCraft president. “Soon any keypad that isn’t emulated on a device like the iPhone will be obsolete.” 

Although it remains to be seen whether the iPhone will in fact replace keypads, touchscreens and other home control devices, special iPhone-centric software applications created by home control companies sure make it look as if that could happen. The software mimics the menu layout displayed on the control system’s touchscreens and other interfaces and reshapes it to fit perfectly on the screen of the iPhone, making navigation simple and familiar.

Savant’s application even takes advantage of the gesture controls and tilt sensors found on both the iPhone and iPod touch for the operation of its Rosie line of home control systems. As Craig Spinner, director of marketing, explains, “Instead of having to scroll through items in a control menu, a user could hold the SELECT button on the iPhone and simply move his hand left or right to move the onscreen cursor.”

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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