In-depth: control panel trends and technologies for 2017

posted on Wednesday, 22nd February 2017 by Geny Caloisi

Crestron  RTI  Legrand  URC 

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Improvements to control panels are making home automation and the connection within and outside the home seamless. Manufacturers are including new features such as video conferencing, web browsing and integration with popular devices such as SONOS and Amazon Echo, onto their new controls which places them at the heart of the smart home. We had a chance to look at what’s coming during ISE 2017.

We liked Crestron’s aesthetics for its new 10.1-inch touch panels, they are very ‘Apple-like’. The TSW-1060 touch screen (pictured above) has a clean, contemporary design with an edge-to-edge glass front and white frame that show to their best the stunning HD color graphics with Crestron Smart Graphics. Its PoE connectivity and a range of mounting options make installation easier for both new and retrofit applications.

Additional advanced features include the abilities to control any function using voice commands, view security cameras and other video sources, communicate using built-in intercom and phone capabilities, and browse the Internet.

Crestron Smart Graphics offers more customisation for customers with the option of creating graphical buttons, sliders, knobs, and gauges that are intuitive and fun to use

Kinetic effects to enhance the feeling of realism, with lists and toolbars that scroll with momentum at the flick of a fingertip.

The TSW-1060 also includes five backlit, soft-touch capacitive buttons for quick access to commonly used functions. The buttons are pre-labeled with icons for “Power”, “Home”, “Lights”, “Up”, and “Down” functions. Each button is programmable via the control system for custom functionality. The buttons’ backlights automatically adjust to the optimal brightness according to the ambient light in the room.  

The backlight brightness is also customizable through programming. When the backlight is turned off, the buttons disappear completely. Since the buttons’ backlighting is controlled on a per-button basis, the five buttons can be hidden or shown in any combination.

With built-in voice recognition, the TSW-1060 provides the ability to use spoken commands to control virtually anything. Voice recognition can be used to quickly turn devices on or off, select and play a specific media title or playlist, change the channel, choose a lighting scene, lock the doors, arm the security system, or enter a password.

UCR TKP-7600

URC’s new TDC-7100 tabletop controller (pictured) and TKP-7600 in-wall touchscreen had a smart but robust feel to them. They feature a seven inch colour touchscreen, built-in camera, microphone and AV intercom. They don’t have web browsing, but according to VP of sales Lars Granoe, this is a way to ensure the controls will not disappear onto the children’s bedroom .

The tabletop controller had a triangular back that fits comfortably on one’s hands and on its base, which is an inductive charging base with sensor-based wake-up function.

With network cameras, the TDC-7100 and TKP-7600 can display live video for surveillance. Both offer visual status feedback from URC devices and third party products. And of course they can control entertainment, lighting, thermostats, blinds, security and more, the two new products deliver faster-than-ever speed, and enhanced graphics.

UCR was also introducing its MX HomePro solution, which it announce in September during the CEDIA Show. The cloud-based smart home control system  is a great starting point for customers looking for single room AV control. The URC MX HomePro, which incorporates a smart hub, remote control and mobile app, is extremely quick and easy to install and programme. Not a DIY product, nor a high end system, this new range fills a gap in the market for an affordable professionally installed solution.

The URC MX HomePro offers users one-touch control of home entertainment and IoT devices, including lighting, thermostats, security cameras and Z-Wave products. The compact H500 smart hub and remote control, which features a two inch colour LCD screen, connect via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The free to download MX HomePro App offers on-touch system control at home or on the go, and can control multiple locations from a single smart device.

The MX HomePro offers dealers simple, web-based programming via PC, Mac or mobile, and allows for servicing to be managed remotely. Limited training is required for the URC HomePro system, which means the installers can spend more time out on the road, selling and installing products.

RTI Hand Held Remotes

RTI was celebrating its 25th anniversary at ISE 2017, and for the occasion it as exhibiting custom made hand held remotes that will retail for US$999 (pictured). Apparently the red and white ones were proving quite popular said RTI director of communications Brett Stokke.

RTI will spotlight Integration Designer APEX's range of capabilities. Integrators will see how the software speeds up programming and installation while maintaining the ease of customization that RTI is known for. The software's feature set includes automatic generation of the graphical user interface and programming, a new IR library, multi-room programming, advanced graphic resizing, making system design more efficient than ever before.

RTI new range includes the KX10 in-wall shipping now) and the CX10 countertop/under-cabinet user interfaces (to come on the first half of 2017). Both feature a large fully customizable 10-inch LCD touchscreen, along with direct control options and HD video capabilities. The new CX10 is designed with flexibility in mind, enabling it to be set on a countertop or inverted and mounted under a cabinet with a wide tilt range to provide the best viewing angle. Both touchscreens double as high-resolution displays where users can watch HD video via the HDBaseT video input, and also support video intercom functionality.

RTI Range

The same as URC, RTI is using Z-Wave. The ZW-9 Z-Wave interface enables simple and cost-effective monitoring and control of Z-Wave-enabled systems and devices via an RTI control system.

RTI has also included new video intercom capability for use with many of its user interfaces and third-party door stations.

RTI's control and automation ecosystem has a two-way driver integration, enabling it to  integrates with a variety of third-party electronic systems, including recently released drivers for Bose, Bluesound, MuxLab, QMotion, and more.

Legrand was also showing integration with blinds control specialist QMotion on its Vantage controls, which makes sense since QMotion is one of Legrand’s brands.

Legrand Vantage

With a design not as swish as some of its competitors, Legrand’s Nuvo P30 touch screen system controller, is nonetheless a good alternative for entertainment control. The seven-inch Android tablet is housed in a custom enclosure that runs the existing Player Portfolio app. It gives users the choice between handheld control via the apps for android & iOS or in-wall use to suit all music listening experiences.

In addition to being the access point for system control, the touch screen (NV-P30-BK) will run popular streaming services and apps, including Spotify, Pandora and more. You can also access and play music stored on networked devices in the home through the Player Portfolio system.

Control panels are becoming the the eyes and ears of the home not only because of the trend to having intercom capabilities but also because of their integration with voice command devices such as Amazon Eco.

Adopting Z-Wave and more open platforms such as Android, makes control panels easier to integrate. Today Z-Wave has over 1700 certified interoperable products worldwide.

Finally, with designs becomes sleeker and more refined, control panels are a great addition to any smart home - and the antidote for wall acne.

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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