Using Apple’s iPad for Automation
Tablet computers are altering how control systems are implemented and operated, and the iPad is leading the charge.
The popular tablet is changing the face of control.
By D. Craig MacCormack

Many people are singing the praises of Apple’s iPad, but most stop short of declaring the device a go-to automation solution.

While it’s true that the iPad has made its mark on the industry, and will continue to do so, that doesn’t mean the industry leaders are nervous about the competition. Quite the contrary, it seems.

“The popularity of the iPhone and the iPad [is] great for us,” says Jeff Singer, marketing communications director at Crestron, which is an Apple Development Partner.

“We’ve put that type of capability in everybody’s hands, so we don’t have to sell them on it. It’s created awareness, driven demand, really sped up the sales cycle and expanded the marketplace tremendously,” he says.

“I think Apple has done what they set out to do. Their win is our win. They’ve been a real catalyst to expanding our industry,” says Singer.

The iPad “has opened people’s eyes on what they can do to control their environments,” says Joseph Andrulis, vice president of marketing at AMX. “[Automation] used to be a specialty capability, so people didn’t give it a lot of thought.”

Extron declined comment for this story, but Savant — a well-known manufacturer in the residential market that’s shifting more heavily into the commercial side — also likes what the iPad has done for commercial automation.

“It’s really opened people’s eyes to what’s possible,” says J.C. Murphy, general manager of Savant’s commercial business unit.

“It offers the ability to really personalize users’ experiences and the ease-of-use quotient is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s becoming the default standard for what touchpanel technology should be.”

iPad Isn’t Perfect

“The iPad wasn’t specifically built for control, so it shows some compromise, but I think people may be able to live with those,” says Andrulis.

“We’re keeping our eye on it. Sometimes you see something that gets a lot of enthusiasm out of the gate but eventually you see people go back to doing what they were doing before,” he says. “This isn’t an issue of beating the tablets, because we don’t have the volume or resources to even think about trying to do that. It’s not like anything else is going over a cliff, so time will tell.”

AMX launched its Modero X series of wall-mounted and tabletop touchpanel devices at InfoComm 2011.

Murphy has seen slow adoption of the iPad as an automation device among some who are used to the legacy touchscreens, many of which cost well into the thousands of dollars, compared to the iPad’s price range in the hundreds.

Another issue with the iPad, says Andrulis, is the fact it wasn’t designed to be mounted. He also hears talk about the fact it isn’t ideal to be continually connected and its orientation that makes it more suitable to be read as a page rather than in a boardroom.

“Some of the classic integrators haven’t fully adopted the new wave of technology,” Murphy says. “It’s just a matter of getting them to understand the possibilities.”

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