There is a somewhat large market for tablet universal remotes. These things have been out for a few years and generally found in the homes of the rich and famous. They can control everything from entertainment rigs to the HVAC system to a coffee pot. But the iPad will destroy the entire market for $1000+ universal remotes when it launches tomorrow while at the same time forcing home automation companies away from supporting expensive hardware and into the possibly-lucrative iPad app and accessory business.
There might be some casualities here. These companies are notiously slow to adapt to new technologies, instead forcing installers and dealers to sell old, outdated and expensive hardware. But Control4, along with some others, seem to get it and are already showing off their iPad business plans. The true winner however is consumers.
The heart of home automation systems are control units that are often stuffed in a AV closets, but control every piece of electronic throughout the whole house. Customers rarely interact with these boxes. The system is generally controlled by a series of remotes, tablets, and/or wall controllers. The iPad and iPod touch can now replace every single one of these expensive controls.
The tablet remotes themselves were actually one of the first consumer touchscreen devices and people have been using them for years. They range in size from 5 to 11-inches and run software developed by the home automation companies. The killer is their price, however, as most start over $1,000, with 10-inch models often reaching $2,500 or more.
There isn’t a single thing that iPad can do with the right combination of accessories and software that these controllers can do better. Plus, the iPad has a longer battery life, a sleeker look, and offers its nearly limitless feature set via apps where universal remotes that can display only local weather and sports scores are often considered top-tier. There’s no competition really.
Look at the Control4 iPad app release by Control UI. (iTunes link) It brings all the functions to the iPad that’s found in the official remotes: lighting controls, an AV interface, live webcam streaming, everything. It’s all there in a free app that can run on a device that costs thousands less than the other options.
Other companies are on the iPad bandwagon, too. AMX has a PDF white paper detailing how the iPad — along with other Wi-Fi-enabled devices — can work with its systems right now. Creston already has an iPod app and interface hardware, which should run fine on the iPad, although there will likely be a new app released soon to take advantage of the larger screen. Savant will be debuting off its app, ROSIE (think The Jetsons), sometime next week.
These apps are just the beginning, though. We’ll likely start seeing iPad tabletop cradles, wall mounts, and other accessories meant directly for the home automation market as companies try to find other revenue streams other than from overpriced remotes.
The iPad might also drive down the overall cost of home automation systems as the companies no longer have to support dozens of proprietary remotes. Instead they can focus their efforts on adding capabilities and functions to an app running on one platform.
Can’t you see it now? It’s Steve Jobs’ dream. An iPad or iPod in every room in every home across the globe controlling everything. Although they would probably still be too much for Ozzy.