More and more people are starting to use “Smart Phones.” I’m one of them, and it has changed my life, perhaps forever. If you are like me, you have probably bought and started using an iPhone. Moreover, you have probably become addicted to downloading and installing useful and oftentimes fun applications. These are usually referred to as “apps.” Now if you can just imagine a perfect world, and put aside the problems AT&T is having with its network lately, the iPhone’s relatively weak battery life, and if you primarily always operate in an area with decent wifi coverage, you have got yourself one powerful little tool! This brings me to the point of this article, applications that can help tech managers and end-users with systems design, measurement, and even control.
In the basic (and free) necessities realm, I would recommend that you have a good measurement conversion program, a good level, and a Skype application. www.freetheapps.com offers a measurement conversion application that will convert back and forth between standard and metric for length, mass, power, pressure, speed, and even temperature. iHandysoft has a very handy level that can help make sure you mount that flatscreen properly. Skype has an application for the iPhone that can allow you to make telephone calls to any landline free of long distance charges. Most of us can make all the telephone calls we want, but if you are on a 5 hour plane flight, and the plane is equipped with wifi, you are no longer incommunicado while airborne. This can be huge if you are a busy and hard working tech manager.
Another necessity would be to have a decent sound level meter application installed and ready to go. www.faberacosutical.com has an app called “soundmeter” and “signalscope” that includes FFT analysis of both sound and vibration from the iPhone’s internal accelerometer. Quite handy to have, but always keep in mind that even though seemingly power and useful, a sound analysis application in an iPhone is only intended to be handy and is not a substitute for professional grade instrumentation or signal processing equipment.
Millennium Design Concepts (MDCI) offers an app that is intended to guide installers, designers, consultants, and engineers. The app allows you to calculate things such as impedance (ohm’s law), screen sizing, usable viewing area, SPL, speaker distance, video bandwidth, RF TV system calculations, and several handy to have technical references. Even better, I found out about it on the InfoComm website so MDCI is working closely with our recognized industry associations, which is good news.
Crestron offers several iPhone friendly products such as their iDock and Crestron Mobile or Crestron Mobile Pro. Crestron Mobile is free, but Crestron Mobile Pro will set you back $100.00. The Crestron Mobile allows you to view your room and AV system status. The reason Crestron Mobile Pro costs $100.00 though is because it allows you to control your entire AV system remotely. This could include lighting, switching, volume…anything an existing Crestron system does. The Crestron iDock allows an existing Crestron system to fully sync or control your iPhone and display audio or video.
Another great product or application for iPhones is from a company called Savant Systems. Savant has several applications available for iPhone-based control and already has an application for the iPad. Look out for their iPad application, because this could be a game changer when considering buying that next $4,500 touchpanel.
Video Mount Products (VMP) now offers a free iPhone app called “videomountfinder” that is intended to allow installers to search for the mount they need based on the type of display they are trying to install. Quite handy.
Extron, not to be left out has developed a mobile website specifically for iPhone and Google Android phones. It’s quite impressive and informative, as we all know how handy Extron’s catalogs have been to all of us over the years. The Extron site can be found at http://www.extron.ro/company/article.aspx?id=mobilewebsite.
There are also a number of conduit fill calculators available to help installers and designers determine what size conduit to specify, or if trying to pull a certain quantity of cable through that -inch pipe is even worth trying. I recommend the “Electrician’s Helper” by Sam Virigillo or “Conduit Fill Calculator” by Dae J Myung. Both are based on NEC codes and a 40% fill ratio.
Make sure that these apps are in alignment with any local building codes though before you plan an entire project based around their data though.In addition to the many iPhone apps that are already out there, if there isn’t one that is right for you or your business, there are also several companies who specialize in developing iPhone apps to suit. Companies like Appiction, Sourcebits, and Mutual Mobile can turn around full applications in weeks, not months. Oftentimes, the cost of these applications can pay for themselves in months, and not years!
This is just a taste of what is available and surely an indication of the way that smart phones will change how we design, control, measure, and calculate within our industry forever. Its important though to keep in mind that many of these applications are, as noted earlier, intended to be handy, and in some instances not precise. So the way in which these applications are employed needs to be carefully analyzed. But in the end though, these smart phones will undoubtedly help to grow and expand the audiovisual industry.
Joey D’Angelo is Principal Consultant of Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc, in San Francisco, and frequent contributor to Systems Contractor News and AV Technology magazine. Did we miss an important app for tech managers? Leave a comment in the comment box below. Thanks.