When I was growing up, decades ago, we would pile in the family car and head to my uncles beach house for the weekend. We wouldn’t be more than a few miles from the house, when my mother would ask, “Did I turn off the lights?” A little further down the road, she would say, “I don’t remember turning off the television,” and so it went down the road.
I’m sure mothers haven’t changed that much; only now mom can pull up an App on her smart phone and check the status of the house lights, home sound system, security, surveillance cameras, house thermostat and appliances, giving her peace of mind. Of course, the house would need to be automated with systems like Control4, Crestron, ELK, HAI, HomeSeer, Insteon, Lifeware, Z-Wave, and others.
With a Smart phone, such as Android, Blackberry, and iPhone, you can check your home automation system with a touch, check the status of a system or make changes, such as the house temperature from anywhere.
Most of the Apps available are designed for the iPhone, but more are being developed for the Android and Blackberry. Apple’s integrated App Store offers users the easiest to use largest app store in the world with over 300,000 apps.
By the end of 2011, smart phones will consist of half of all mobile phones sold and two-thirds of these will be owned by individual users. iPhone users download the most apps with an average of 37 per user (according to The Nielson Company App Playbook). Let’s look at some of the home automation apps for smart phones.
The world’s leader in home control automation solutions is Crestron. With a Crestron system you can take control of your home with just one button press from a Crestron touchpanel; and now you can have the same control from your iPhone no matter where you are. Once the App is initialized between the iPhone and the Crestron control system, you just name the house, enter the IP address of the controller and establish a password for security. If you are lucky enough to own more than one house, multiple locations can be entered. Once the connections page is closed, 2-way communications is instantly established. The iPhone then controls all integrated systems, as if the iPhone is a Crestron touchpanel.
Updates to the control program are automatically sent to the iPhone when the Crestron App is launched. You now have complete control of the home from the home entertainment system to the environmental system, such as climate, lighting and shades.
Whether you are headed home after work and want to set the thermostat to a cooler temperature, or lying on the beach and decide to close the drapes on the south side of your house, you can do it all effortlessly on your iPhone. The Crestron Mobile™ controls lights, climate, security and drapes with just a touch. The Crestron Mobile Pro™ also controls your audio and video system, enabling you to view device Metadata (content), such as song, artist and movie title.
The apps are very user friendly. Control4 has a whole house app that is easy to read and use. The screenshot shows all segments of the house as a symbol, and the name of a location within the house. The light screen allows you to adjust the brightness in each room from off to full brightness. While you are away, the lights can be controlled to appear as though people were in the house moving from room to room.
Forgot to set your DVR? If you have Direct TV, you can open their app and browse by channel, date & time, and movie. You can search for any television show up to fourteen days in advance; then access the program’s information instantly. Once you locate the show, press “Record this Episode.” You do not need to have the receivers to be phone or internet connected to schedule recordings. As you enjoy your day, your favorite program will be waiting for you at home.
If you installed the Lutron HomeWorks system, you can control your lighting from your iPhone over Wi-Fi, Edge or 3G network. The key feature of this app is that it automatically configures itself using the information stored in HomeWorks. The lighting controls respond quickly and reliably. If you are into energy savings, Lutron has the Energi Savr app that can be used with their Energi Savr Node.
Command Fusion’s CF iViewer allows you to customize your interface with guiDesigner at no charge. You can control as many systems as required using TCP/UDP. This is an ideal app for integration professionals. Any hardware can be controlled with iViewer. You create custom commands and macros to send to the devices via TCP or UDP; and then let your imagination take over. You have full control over how each page looks and interacts.
Another Command Fusion app, iControl, is designed for the professional systems integrator. The iKommand software works in conjunction with Knoll Systems Kommand Center Controllers, as well as those by AMX, Control4, Crestron, Vantage, etc.
DMX has been known primarily for stage and concert lighting, but it is being used more frequently in architectural lighting, primarily outdoor home accent lighting, due to the popularity of LED based lighting fixtures. Luminair has the most advanced DMX lighting controller for iPhone and is the ultimate remote for advanced architectural/landscape lighting.
The next app is not exactly a home automation control app but some people consider their vehicle a second home, especially salespeople. If you own a Mercedes-Benz and forgot to lock your car or locked your keys in the car, the mbrace app is perfect for you. Enter your mbrace account number and secure PIN, and press the lock or unlock button to open or lock your vehicle. If you forgot where you parked, press the location button and a map will appear with the location. How many times could you use this feature? Need roadside assistance? Mbrace will handle that for you as well. This is an app that we surely will see available on other car manufacturers.
Apple’s ios 5 is coming and so is iCloud. If you download a lot of apps iCloud is a must have feature. You can see all of your apps in one convenient place, the Apple App Store. Since you already purchased these apps, you can download them again to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch should something happen. As you buy new apps, iCloud will automatically send them to all of your devices. Your content and information is available and up to date, no matter which device you are using.
The power is now in your pocket or purse with the iPhone. Save energy by controlling your home’s temperature while traveling. Check the video feed from your security cameras. Turn off the security system for a neighbor to enter and feed the cat without giving out a security code. Turn the lights on and off in different rooms to make potential burglars think that someone is home, or activate the TV at night like you would if you were home. Or mom, you can relax, knowing all of your home’s appliances are under your control, giving you time to referee the war of words between the kids.