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Controlling Your AV System Through Mobile Devices

Crestron control systems let you control audiovisual (AV) systems using mobile devices. While the flexibility is great, the practicality may be a different matter. Here’s what you need to know.

Let’s first talk about commercial systems. If you have a residential AV system, you can skip ahead.

Using Mobile Devices to Control Commercial AV Systems

Not all mobile devices are created equal, so we need to address tablets and smartphones separately.

Tablets: A tablet is a viable option for controlling commercial AV environments. Typically, the screen size is big enough to accommodate user interfaces of complex devices like video conference codecs, multilayered audio systems or even sophisticated video windowing systems.

The challenges are practical ones:

Power – Make sure the tablet stays charged.

Legs – Be careful people don’t walk out of the room with it. Sometimes it’s on accident. A lot of times it’s not.

Smartphones: Compared to a tablet, the smartphone’s most obvious drawback is screen size. It can cause the interfaces to get downright clunky. As an example, a tablet’s typical four-page interface to operate a video teleconference will likely be 10 or more pages on a smartphone. Plus, you still need navigation and basic controls like volume.

Can you imagine trying to use it for a multilayered audio system? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Using Mobile Devices to Control Residential AV Systems

“I can control my whole house with my smartphone (or tablet).” Sure it sounds cool. But, but do you really want to?

Whether smartphone or tablet, the major drawback is these devices typically serve multiple uses in the home. Check out this scenario: The phone rings while you’re scrolling through your social feeds and the TV is going full blast. You have to stop your social media app, launch the AV control system app, wait for it to synchronize (and assuming it is still on the page to control the TV) hit mute. In the meantime, the phone call has rolled over to voicemail. Or you opted to answer the phone first, but now can’t get to the AV control system app which sends you on a frantic search for the remote or other mobile device to silence the TV.

And then there’s the matter of battery life. While pretty good on most tablets and phones, do you really want to leave your TV running all night because you need to charge your tablet to get it back online to shut the system down? Also, does everyone in the house have AV control over the living room system? Siblings usually squabble enough to begin with. Should they also be going into a passive, quiet war over which channel is being displayed in the living room?

Lastly, putting this kind of interface together takes about four to five times longer to build than other panel types due to all the extra pages required. That can be a pretty hefty bill in the end for something you’re not likely to appreciate once it is actually finished and operational.

Tablets: For the home, tablets can be a great interface. They typically have large enough screen real estate to provide all the controls you need in one screen along with navigation. However, the scenario described above applies as well; if you’re not in the app when you need it, it will take time to get into the app and wait for it to synchronize with the AV system. Granted, it’s not a long time. But as Data from Star Trek might say, “For an android, it is an eternity.”

Smartphones: A smartphone’s small-screen real estate forces the user interface to be spread out over multiple pages for simple things. For example, on a tablet one page can control a cable box. On a smartphone, the same functions take three or four pages. Smartphones are best used for remote connections to the house to control basic functionality such as turning the lights on and off, adjusting the climate control, setting door locks or the security system.

While we love options and flexibility, in the end, the best touch interfaces to control AV systems are, and always will be, built-in Crestron touch screens. They are dedicated to their purpose. They are fixed to the wall and always at the ready to instantly operate the AV system.

For residential systems, Crestron offers the coolest remote controls (TR series and the less expensive but very useful HR series) available to modern-day TV watchers and audio listeners. Without thinking about it, you can answer your phone as you’re hitting mute – and not miss a beat.


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