What Will iPad’s Role Be in Home Automation?
Is Apple's new hit a match made in heaven or a really bad combo?
March 25, 2010 by Lisa Montgomery

Just a couple of more weeks until the coveted Apple iPad will be in the hands of the tech-hungry. Right out of the box, there’s a lot you’ll be able to do with the device.

So what about using it to control electronic devices in your home?

You can already do this by downloading one of the scads of control applications available onto an iPhone or iPod touch and most should work for the iPad when it arrives (automation giant Crestron has already touted its iPad app version), so is there hope for a multifunctional, portable 9.7-inch screen as a home control device? Along with Crestron, we know Apple-based automation provider Savant thinks the answer is a big “yes.”

We decided to ask a few seasoned custom electronics professionals (CE pros) for their take on the technology and how they think it’ll impact the way we manage our household electronics.

The Good

Big Screen
The almost 10-inch screen provides plenty of real estate for displaying information about and controls for electronic devices. “The more space you have on a screen, the less you’ll have to scroll or flip to get to what you want,” says Derek Cowburn of DistinctAV, McCordsville, Ind. “This will make it a great interface for managing large collections of media, and for browsing information. For example, with the iPad you’d be able to browse on-demand listings without having to turn on the TV.”

Priced starting at $499 for its April 3 intro, the iPad may be a little pricey, but it’s still less expensive than most home control touchpanels of similar size. “It’s poised to open up opportunities for people interested in home control but who can’t afford a large-size touchpanel from a home control manufacturer,” says Joe Calderaro of Audio Video Interiors, Medina, Ohio.

Apple Backing
Almost every manufacturer of home control system already offers an app for the iPhone and iPod touch. You can bet they’ll be doing the same (if they haven’t already) for the iPad. “Once the control manufacturers are on board, the iPad will be a real game changer,” says Ryan Herd of One Sound Choice, Pompton Plains, N.J.

The Bad

Tough to Operate
Apps may help leverage the iPad as a home control device, but at a potential risk to its usability. “People aren’t going to want to have to constantly switch between different apps to control different things,” Cowburn explains. “If all the controls can tie back to a single app, then the iPad becomes a very powerful device.” Currently, Savant is one of the only Apple-based home control systems on the market, and has recently developed an app for the iPad.

Easy to Misplace
Unlike an iPhone that’s usually in your pocket, the iPad will likely be carted around the house by everyone in the family. This may sound super convenient, but just wait until someone leaves it where you can’t find it.

Too Much Stuff
A jack of all trades, a master of none is how some CE pros describe multifunctional products like the iPad. Calderaro compares it to his BlackBerry. “My BlackBerry takes pictures, and I’ll occasionally use it to take a quick snapshot, but if I want good pictures I’ll use my camera.” Similarly, he thinks the iPad will be used occasionally as to operate electronic devices, but for serious control consumer will continue to rely on interfaces designed explicitly for the task.

Tell us: Would you like to use your new iPad to control the lights, thermostats, A/V equipment and other devices in your house?


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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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