Over the past three years, Apple and its iOS have completely disrupted the home automation business, bringing affordable, multipurpose machines to an industry built on higher-priced, single-purpose touchscreens.
This week at CEDIA Expo 2010, the big event for custom electronics professionals, home systems integrators will be scouring the show floor for new iOS controls apps; iPad mounts, docks and smart sleeves; competitive products that stack up to the iPad in terms of price, performance and aesthetics; and business models for this enigmatic platform.
Sling Founder Brings Android to Automation
For the past 18 months, Blake Krikorian, founder of Sling Media, has been working on an Android-centric home-control interface as part of an extensive home remodel project, he told CE Pro in an exclusive interview.
Specifically, Krikorian has developed an Android app for Crestron, the home control system that powers his own house. Codenamed R2, the solution will be demonstrated at the Crestron booth at CEDIA Expo.
Already the Krikorian household has numerous iPads and iPod touches for remote control of lights, shades, security, audio/video, thermostats and other Crestron-enabled smart systems.
But that’s not enough for the perpetual tinkerer and problem solver who always wants more – like the ability to watch the San Francisco Giants while traveling, which was the genesis of the Slingbox.
For example, he says, “I just wanted the iPad to let me bypass the slide-to-unlock bar so I could immediately control things with one button. Apple doesn’t give you the flexibility to do that.”
An Open Platform
Krikorian thinks the iPad and iPhone are “fantastic mass market products,” but the locked-down iOS limits their use as home-control devices.
Ideally, a home-automation screen should always be at the ready – in “supervisory” mode, as we say – so it can respond automatically to various triggers such as the press of a doorbell or the tripping of security sensor. In either case, you might want the screen to light up automatically with images from one or multiple surveillance cameras.
You can do that with an Android device.
“If someone rings the doorbell, I want all of these displays to pop up,” Krikorian says. “I couldn’t do that unless I had an app running in the background all the time.” Which you can do with Android.
And that brings us to multitasking, a feature famously supported by Android.
While Apple is making strides in this area, the multitasking functionality of the new iOS 4.1 is “limited at best,” Krikorian says. For example, he notes, “In most cases, you basically have to close one app to get to the control app. And then you have to close down that app to launch another. The additional friction caused by those unnecessary steps detracts from the convenience I am trying to provide.”
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.
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