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What Can iPhone Apps For Systems Design, Measurement, And Control Do For You?

Crestron Mobile Pro allows for remote control an AV system.

More and more people are using “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 possibly become addicted to downloading and installing useful and oftentimes fun applications, or “apps” as they are commonly called. 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! In fact, there are several applications that can help you 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. One measurement conversation option comes from Free the Apps, which offers an 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 fivehour 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 individual.

Another necessity would be to have a decent sound level meter application installed and ready to go. Faber Acoustical has apps called “SoundMeter” and “Signal- Scope” 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 if it seems powerful 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.

Extron has developed a mobile website specifically for iPhone and Google Android phones..

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 helpful 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. Crestron Mobile allows you to view your room and AV system status, while Crestron Mobile Pro 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. The company also just released an app that transforms the new Apple iPad into a full Crestron touchpanel.

Several other manufacturers also offer iPhone system control applications such as iMastercontrol Lite, Home Control Pro, and iViewer. They have decent UI design capabilities, and make use of TCP/UDP to gain access to an existing ethernet- enabled control system such as Crestron, AMX, or Extron’s various product offerings.

Video Mount Products now offers a free iPhone app called “Video- MountFinder” that is intended to allow installers to search for the mount they need based on the type of display they are trying to install.

Extron has developed a mobile website specifically for iPhone and Google Android phones. It’s quite impressive and informative, as is expected, since we all know how handy Extron’s catalogs have been to all of us over the years.

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 one-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 percent 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.

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 that 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, 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. It’s important 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 considered. But there’s no doubt these smart phones will help to grow and expand the audiovisual industry.