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iPad: Ultimate Home Automation Controller? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter   
Thursday, 29 December 2011 00:00

iPad Front

Updated 2012: Having used the iPad for home automation for well over a year now, the pros and cons have become more clear.  The increased real estate can be put to very effective use over other controllers, and having an integrated dynamic display is useful for webcams or context sensitive information where the function of the button may change.  A negative aspect I've experienced is the additional time of unlocking the iPad and waiting for a network connection (just a few seconds but still can cause you to pause).  I've considered putting the iPad into 'never sleep' mode and leaving the device in a permanent state of readiness, as would be the case with a wall-controller, however or a home theater, bedroom or other location where light sensitivity would be an issue this wouldn't be an ideal solution - there may also be the issue of screen longevity, however my preliminary searches indicate it should hold up for 10 years without issue.  Still, for these situations a hard-buttoned approach may seem to be a better fit.  With prices coming down for used iPads, the opportunity to place dynamic whole home controllers is increasingly achievable by the day. 

Original Article:

With the recent announcement from Steve Jobs that Apple will be releasing the iPad in the next 60 days, many people (including myself) were asking "What's the point of the iPad?"  After doing a search for this exact phrase and finding numerous discussions, it appears that people such as myself with both a MacBook and an iPhone aren't the target market, as those two devices pretty much cover off any computing I need to do.  No, the target market appears to be families with schedules to coordinate (calendar app) and notes to leave (using it as an electronic whiteboard) as well as people who may travel a lot and would prefer to pull out the über-thin iPad to read the paper or email vs a full-fledged laptop. 

Looking at it from this perspective, I began to see an opportunity that I'm sure I'm not the first to think of: Could the iPad be the ultimate home automation controller interface?  Let's consider the following: With a claimed battery life of 10 hours active use, presumably weeks of standby the iPad could sit on a coffee table and act as the central controller interface, webcam/security camera display and have enough resolution to support instant display of the entire house's status at a glance.  That's something that the iPhone or iPod touch currently can't say.  There's also a dock with keyboard which can continuously charge the iPad making it more of a permanent fixture in the house.  You could also embed the iPad in the wall of the house, running the power feed in a more permanent fashion and using the onscreen keyboard whenever input is needed.  iPad Home AutomationMulti point touchscreen, one of the highest density pixel displays and a built in speaker to listen to audio-equipped camera feeds put it on par with the best home automation interfaces, and the $499 price tag is a fraction of the usual $1500-2000 prices associated with such a device. 

Troubleshooting and remote control could be accomplished via remote desktop, and the plethora of existing iPhone apps out there can run without modification as an interface to your home automation system.  One of the ones I'm more familiar with, HomeSeer has an interface designer which can be used to control Insteon, Z-Wave, X10 and the like and is specifically tailored to custom devices such as this.  Simply select a new screen in the designer with the correct resolution (1024x768 for the iPad) then drag and drop the buttons for your kitchen, living room etc until you've created a custom iPad home automation interface.  Include weather, security cameras and lighting status/controls to your at-a-glance screen and save the profile.  Launch HSTouch on the iPad and configure it to use the new profile - Done.

While technically you can use any existing iPhone home automation app on the iPad, you have to use the "2x" button to fill the screen with the interface, and it's really kind of wasting the best part of the iPad: the large screen.  The beauty of the HomeSeer setup is that you can actually use the screen, although I'm sure it won't be long before other manufacturers realize the potential and start adapting (Myro seems to "get it" - pity they only work with HAI for now).

I haven't touched upon web-interfaces yet, but that's another avenue that could show promise for quick gains once the iPad is released.  Without the ability to go "full screen" with the browser, the top URL bar constantly being present will be a deal-breaker for any permanent installation however.  

iPad ThicknessBeing only half an inch thick can be a real benefit in this situation as well since you can essentially place a frame around it and mount it on the wall without a specialized drywall cutout.  All things considered, I'm actually looking forward to the iPad launch now and I'll seriously consider getting one for this purpose down the road.

What are your thoughts on the iPad as a home automation controller?



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MadMike  - Too big?   |February-02 10:34:02
I'm not sure how big it is, but most in-wall displays are only 4x6" so it
might be kind of big for a wall controller...
Peter   |February-02 10:39:23
From the apple site:

9.56 inches (242.8 mm)
 7.47 inches (189.7 mm)

So yea, it's a big bigger than the typical display - still I'd rather
have an easy to read display than one that's too small, and the
$499 means you could buy 3 for the same price as the other
Brotha Tech  - Beat me to the puch   |February-04 01:00:27
This is one of the reasons why i will buy the iPad - to see how it can be
integrated with home automation. I am not a HA pro, but I plan on building a
house within the next couple of years, and it will be wired for home automation.
The iPad just may be the main OSD for my tech home.
Manuel  - Nothing to put inside IPad   |April-07 20:41:39
If your HA system is TCP/IP native, nothing (soft) to put in your IPad because
Safari & WiFi are enough.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h7v39avUF k
Regards from sunny Spain ;-)
Peter   |June-24 05:08:28
I did end up getting an iPad and have found it quite useful for monitoring
webcams and controlling our home automation setup. We haven't created a
wall-mount setup yet, but now that I've had hands-on time with the technology
I'm leaning towards leaving the iPad out on the counter & coffee table as a
portable controller and viewer, then putting iPod touches in the wall.

ipod touch will fit (barely) into a standard decora switch cover, but the screen
is somewhat hidden. I can use the router and widen the opening, but first I'm
going to check home depot for an oversized opening switch cover.

I'm also
experimenting with a solution for multi-room audio called Airfoil which allows
you to install the airfoil speakers client on any ipod touch/iphone/airport
express/computer/whatever and stream audio to it. I'll write up an article on
the install using the ipod touches as distributed audio controllers and home
automation devices once I get them in. Anyone with multi-room audio experience
is welcome to chime in here.

3.23 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2012 17:03