What is automation?
Automation is the use of a Control System to achieve a desired result whilst reducing human intervention. Automation is everywhere and we donít even realise that we are using it. Years ago, telephone operators would manually connect callers, now the exchanges are automated.
Automation allows people to complete tasks that they donít really understand. Could you work out which lines to choose to talk to someone in another country? Of course you can, you just dial the number! Automation does the work.
Automation that we are talking about in this website is about creating a remote control that will choose the correct inputs on your AV system so you can watch Foxtel or host a Video Conference without instructions! If you canít use it, we havenít done our job.
Audio Visual (AV) systems are becoming better and more complex every year. HD, SPDIF, HDMI, HDCP, who can keep up and who can operate it? Even simple, relatively normal TVís setups need multiple remote controls these days. Most systems have multiple devices such as a DVD/Bluray player, Foxtel/Austar you need multiple remote controls and instructions to watch TV. Only the kids or the IT staff can safely operate these systems. Just like the automated exchange and telephone calls, a control system can put you back in control of your AV system.
OK, so now everyone needs automation to watch TV. I know I do! The simplest system is a Universal remote. You can set these remotes up to do many simple tasks. These tasks are called macros. You press a button and the remote will send out a series of commands that will do what is needed to watch Foxtel. The more money you spend the better the result.
As your AV system gets more advanced the systems needed to operate them also needs to be more advanced. The systems that we program are provided by the industry leaders. Out of the box, they do nothing! It is the software (programming) that makes these systems work exactly as you need and to your specifications. Every aspect of these systems is customisable. The only limitation is vision and budget.
With so many AV solutions on the market how do you choose? We recommend AMX, Crestron, Kramer, Extron, Autopatch as high end solutions. It is important to have your AV system properly designed and documented to ensure ongoing reliability and ease of maintenance and fault finding. Your system designer should talk to you about quality, your expectations and budget.
Levels of AV distribution:
1 Modulated RF (basic)
2 Stereo audio & Composite video
3 Stereo audio & SV Video
4 Stereo audio & Component Video
5 Digital audio & Component Video
6 HDMI - Digital audio & Video (Best)
If your AV company does not provide schematic diagrams it will restrict who can service and maintain the system. Automation systems generally grow over time and not having documentation will cause problems.
Control (1-way or 2-way)
Control of your AV system can be achieved using many different devices. A 1-way device sends messages to the control system whereas a 2-way device gets messages back. 2-way devices have the ability to show feedback such as volume and lighting levels, but probably the best feature is a 2-way remote will always show the correct page. This is important when a secondary device controls a system, a 1-way device will show the incorrect page.
If you are watching TV, maybe a simple 1-way RF remote would be a good solution. If you want to operate a 2-way device like an Ipod, you will need a 2-way solution. I would not recommend a large touch panel for watching TV (although the markup is really good) because they are easily dropped and have battery life problems.
I have seen people that have bought a big touch panel buy a small remote like a RTI T3 for couch use.
For most of our home systems we recommend using at least one large 2-way touch panel for global control and system setup. This panel could be in the kitchen and double as a TV monitor.
Most automation systems do not do anything out of the box. Like a computer you have to install software. Software for most systems is custom written for your application. It will probably be based on a template or recent project and adapted to suit your needs.
The way your automation system operates and looks is determined by the programmer. Budget brands do not allow as much customisation, so this statement is really about C-Bus, AMX, Crestron and Dynalite. Software is the program that runs on your system.
Control Gadgets specialises in writing automation software, it is basically all that we do. Many industry programmers are not full time programmers, don't have tertiary qualifications and don't live with automation. As a result they may not provide you with the best solution.
Software can be replaced but it is an expensive exercise. Rewriting software for a system is made more difficult if the documentation is poor.
Automation is good
A properly designed and implemented automation system will put you back in control of your system. Imagine being able to control the TV, Air-conditioning and lighting without getting off the couch. Once you have had a good automation system it will be very hard to go back.