Home Entertainment


iPhone Home Automation Control Apps - Power in your Pocket

April 1, 2009 By Brent Butterworth

Click the images below for bigger versions:
Crestron iPhone app
AMX iPhone app
Control4 iPhone app
Lutron iPhone app
Melloware iPhone app
Savant iPhone app
Speakercraft iPhone app
Sooloos iPhone app
HomeLogic Mobile Control

Your iPhone now controls everything those big home automation touchscreens can — from anywhere in the world.

A recent innovation is going to make your life a whole lot better — or a whole lot worse.

It all depends on how you feel about the iPhone.

Everyone who owns an iPhone loves it. The lovers like the intuitive interface, the sleek design and the ability to connect to anything anywhere. But everyone who doesn’t own an iPhone hates it. The haters are annoyed when iPhone enthusiasts spend every waking hour playing with their phones and when they go on and on about how great the iPhone is.

For the iPhone haters, life is about to get even more miserable.

Crestron iPhone appWhen the iPhone launched in 2007, some home automation engineers noticed that it’s not much different from the touchscreens and web tablets that companies like AMX and Crestron use to control lighting, audio/video, etc.

It’s just a lot smaller and has a cell phone built in. A few million lines of computer code later and the engineers had something of which only futurists had dared to dream: a way to control almost everything in your house from a pocket-sized remote.

Like home automation touchscreens, the iPhone has the potential to command any electronic component that can be remotely controlled. Lights. Audio. Video. Heating. Air conditioning. Security. Spas. Swimming pools. Movie stars. (If only!)

The interface varies from company to company, but the basic premise is always the same. Open the iPhone application for home control.

Touch a button on the main menu screen to open up a menu with more specific control options. For example, Crestron’s app offers on-screen buttons for such categories as Media, Lights and Climate.

Touch one of these buttons and you can choose to control specific devices in those categories — a Blu-ray player in your home theater, the ceiling speakers in your bedroom or the track lighting in your den.

Although the iPhone offers the same level of control as a big touchscreen, its size opens up entirely new possibilities in home automation.

The iPhone is designed to nestle unnoticed in your pocket, while big touchscreens from AMX and Crestron are intended to sit atop tables or mount flush in a wall.

The iPhone’s extreme portability makes it “a fundamental game changer,” as Savant Systems president and cofounder Jim Carroll put it. No longer do you have to find a touchscreen if you want to dim a light. No longer do you have to lug a bulky wireless touchscreen around if you want convenient control. Simply reach into your pocket, pull out your iPhone, punch a few buttons and your entire home obeys your every command.

AMX iPhone appThe only limit is the range of your home’s WiFi network, which is what the iPhone uses to communicate with your home automation system. And of course, if WiFi extenders can expand a network’s range to cover an entire hotel, they can do the same for any house.

Using an iPhone as your touchscreen also makes it easy to browse the offerings on a music server or a docked iPod. Lots of multi-room audio systems let you scan through your music collection and select tunes from any room.

But most of them require you to work for that convenience: You have to walk up to a wall-mounted touchscreen or use a TV screen to access your music. An iPhone puts the whole list right in your hand.

Some companies are exploiting the iPhone’s cell phone capability to let you control your home systems from practically anyplace.

As Crestron marketing communications manager Jeff Singer explained, “Anywhere in the world, our customers can see the lighting levels in their homes, the positions of the shades, the temperatures of all the rooms in the house, the status of the home alarm systems. And from anywhere in the world, they can change all that.”

Another huge advantage is cost. Big touchscreens can run as much as $10,000, and even the smallest ones typically cost around $2,000. Compare that to $199 for an iPhone with a service contract.

Suddenly, putting a home automation touchscreen into every room of the home costs practically nothing — perhaps less than a single large touchscreen.

Of course, you probably wouldn’t want to sprinkle iPhones all around the house, but all of the iPhone automation apps I’ve seen also work on the iPod touch, which shares the iPhone’s form factor and operating system but lacks cell phone capability (and cell phone contract requirements). The iPod touch starts at just $229.

Control4 iPhone appYou do suffer some disadvantages when your home automation touchscreen costs one-tenth as much as your old one and measures only 3.5 inches across. A 10- or 15-inch touchscreen has room for lots of on-screen buttons plus a video feed or two.

It’s easy for any talented programmer to create a user-friendly menu system on one of these screens.

For example, during my recent visit to the Crestron Experience Center in Las Vegas, I noticed a large touchscreen displaying the entire floor plan of a home — and the status of every light in every room.

Obviously, you’ll never see an iPhone match this feat. The iPhone can still check the status of every light, and adjust every light, but it takes a lot more button punches to get there.

The fancy, high-powered touchscreens from companies like AMX and Crestron can be programmed any which way you want, with any graphics you choose. Your installer can put your picture on the screen. Or your dog’s picture.

And hitting the dog’s picture might illuminate the back yard, shut off the sprinklers, and play sprightly adventure themes through the outdoor speakers. You get the idea. With iPhones, you’re locked into the programming that the manufacturer provides. However, this could be an upside — you don’t have to worry that the installer might make a programming error.

On to even more possibilities...


I understand that there is an iPhone app coming out that controls a Vantage Controls Automation System.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options

Local Guides

 All Guides
   New Hampshire
   New Jersey
   New Mexico
   New York
   North Carolina
   North Dakota
   Rhode Island
   South Carolina
   South Dakota
   West Virginia