I Touch, I phone Home automation control

I'm not an Apple fan, but the I Phone and I Touch are nice pieces of tech kit.  Other brands are catching up, but hardware wise the Ipod ITouch or Iphone is my choice for home control.  It's not as easy as plugging everything in and watching it turn your lights on and off but depending on your server software choice it can be easier than you think if someone points you in the right direction.

ipod_itouch_remote_control

My Ipod Touch running AirMouse.

Good value wireless home control

When i first starting researching and building my teched up house I struggled to find a good cost effective method of control.  I wanted touch screen and looked at those lovely expensive screens that sit in every room of your house nicely located on the wall.  I had the chance to install them but decided they were a luxury.  It would have added thousands of pounds to my install and I guessed I'd be using a remote device most of time, so thought, what's the point?  I'm sure they are nice, but from experience I'm mainly sitting down or walking around when controlling anything.  The wife didn't want them on the wall either because she thought they looked to flash - so if you want to show of your system, install them!

As I was setting up my multiroom and automated system the ITouch was released.  I'd been looking at everything from Nevo's to Samsung touch tablets at £999(remember this was 2005-6), so Apple's offering of a wireless touch screen for £149 sounded amazing.  Especially when the touch screen out performs nearly everything on the market(at the moment) and it fits in your pocket.  Because the the ipod Touch and Iphone has wireless and has a web browser, it makes both of them a perfect choice for a home automation remote control.

The Downside

The downside is you need an Apple computer to write Apple apps and you have to have Itunes installed on PC or Mac to transfer any files(unless you jailbreak it).  You might like that, but I don't.  It just needs to be like any USB storage device, but sadly it isn't.  I even thought about buying an Apple computer so i can write apps, but I'm not giving in!

Another major downside of the Itouch and Iphone is the fact it can't run flash.  If it could run Flash i could make a lovely app which i could use on any platform which would be perfect, but I can't - I wonder why!

Oh, and no Java app support either.  It does support Javascript though.

How to avoid the downside without Jailbreaking

Web App - if you're running a web app all your coding and control is done on the server so as long as you have a browser you can use any device and you don't need an Apple computer!  Obviously, still can't use Flash or Java apps, and a web app is never as shiny as proper iphone app but it does a very good job and looks good if you get your styling right.

If you've never built a web app Mainlobby server already comes with an example you'll be able to hack around.  Or you can use HSTouch from Homeseer.

Example using a custom design with MainLobby:

MainLobby_lights MainLobby_browser_home

Example using custom design with Homeseers HSTouch:

HSTouch_sonos_style_home HSTouch_sonos_style_lights

The Upside

Ok, so every Apple device has it's restrictions to apparently make it more user friendly and I really have tried to hate it, but over the last few years of owning 2 I have to admit, I've actually enjoyed using them.  One of them even went through the washing machine.  I left it to dry out for a few days, gave it a blast with a hair dryer and was amazed when the little critter booted up.  I think that one survived because it was turned off when it made contact with water.  They are fairly durable though despite their thin fragile appearance..

Safari does a good job of displaying your HTML - there are a few quirks but support on the Apple site is pretty good.  They seem to document the 'special features' for iphone/itouch specific functions which is handy.

A really good web browser for when you want to google something on the move.  Until recently it has always been the easiest to use and the screen is clear making small text easy to read.

It's a good MP3 player and podcasts are good.

The wife loves it!

Home Control Apps I use

SONOS Control

This is a major upside if you are using Sonos as your multiroom audio system.  An Itouch is cheaper than a Sonos controller and you can use it for other things such as a portable MP3 player or browser.  The Sonos Itouch/Iphone app is very good and free to download.  I can however control Sonos through my web app rather than switch to another app.  More details here.

Air Mouse

I use this app to control my server which i also use as a multimedia PC for playing video's.  Air Mouse lets me use the Itouch as mouse pad and has lots of different functions such as keyboard, media player control and various settings.  Obviously it's not as good as a proper keyboard or mouse but it's amazingly good for what it is.  The app costs a few quid but it's worth it.

HSTouch

HSTouch from Homeseer is a great way to build your own app which can be used on your IPhone or ITouch. I copied the Sonos app for mine.  Click here for more on my HSTouch app.

HSTouch_sonos_style_partyhut HSTouch_sonos_style_tv_page

Whats next?

As I write this there's lots of hype about all the new touch screen Ipad type tablets coming onto the market so for someone like me it seems Android is the next step.  It would be nice to have a giant ipod device(ipad) on the coffee table but I really don't think Apple will be my next choice because of the restrictions always applied.  Android will most probably become the mobile king and for developers like me, I hope it does because it will make life easy.

Conclusion

I will always have my Itouch in my pocket as I'll always need a small remote control.  The benefits do out weigh the downsides and restrictions quite simply because they are nice to use and reliable.  However, other tech manufacturers are catching up.  There once was nothing like an Apple ITouch or IPhone, nothing could compare, but times are changing and that makes me feel better that I didn't ever get round to writing an IPhone App!!

To conclude, it does the job well.  I can control anything from it using MainLobby server and Homeseer.  If you aren't going for full home automation the sonos and airmouse apps make this an easy option to control multiroom audio and a multimedia PC.

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