Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

Feb 12

How to use your iPad to control your home

Use your iPad for whole home control

The wheel of home control

Imagine that you’re relaxing at home. With the press of a button on a portable device the size of a book, but with the thickness of a pamphlet, you flip on your favorite song (from a collection of thousands housed in an area smaller than a breadbox). Another tap, and you adjust the temperature to a more comfortable setting. Then, with the slide of a finger, you drop the lights so you can sit back and relax to your favorite tunes.

Even 5 years ago, that paragraph would have sounded like science fiction, or at the very least, like something only available to those who might routinely smoke a cigar made out of hundred dollar bills. Today, it’s a fairly simple reality for many people.

This week on the Vann’s blog, we’ll be talking about some of the amazing custom home installation options available. First up? Controlling your whole home from the comfort of your iPad.

Airplay gets it started

We know, we know — we’ve talked about this functionality from the iPad before. You can check out the whole article on using your best tablet for control here (don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to get back before continuing), but just in case here’s a quick refresher:

  1. AirPlay lets you share any media on your iPad, Mac, or other iOS device across your whole home either with each other, or with other Airplay enabled components.
  2. Wondering which components are Airplay enabled? Check the box or instruction manual to see if it has that capability. For TVs, you’ll want to pick up an AppleTV for best results.
  3. Your components need to be connected to the same home network, wired or otherwise, in order to stream to each other. Apple’s own AirPort is probably the best router for the job, but almost any one will work.
  4. When you turn on your top rated tablet or start iTunes, a little triangle symbol shows you what devices are available for streaming to. Click on it, and select which sources you want your music or movies to go to.

With the myriad of Airplay enabled devices available, it’s fairly easy to set up, and very simple to use.

Spreading out

Setting up your home theater room is pretty simple with Airplay, but what about spreading that out through your entire home?

There are a few options here. If you’re looking to knock out some walls, or run some wiring, a receiver like the Pioneer SC55 might be best. Tablet control is fairly easy thanks to built in Airplay compatibility, and with three powered zones available, it gives you the flexibility to put speakers in up to two additional areas in your home. The SC55 can even handle video to zones 1 – 3 if you’re looking at setting up secondary viewing areas.

If simply sound is your goal, there are a few speakers that will fit your needs. A dock like the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air should be your go-to for a major listening area — its small size, powerful amplifier, and accurate drivers make it particularly adept at fitting into a room while still filling it with sound.

Alternatively (or in addition to, if outfitting multiple rooms), there’s the Sony SAN-S500 Homeshare speaker. While not quite as powerful as the Zeppelin Air it does have the added benefit of having the option for battery power, making it not only a portable option, but also truly wireless.

Home control

The dream of having your lights, heating, and even security system controllable from your iPad isn’t quite as easy as AirPlay, but it’s getting closer. Companies like Control 4 make whole home control a realistic option. To get an idea of how something like that might look, check out this video.

Features can range from simple touch control (like turning a light off and on, or adjusting the temperature in a room), to complicated programming (like scheduling the lights to turn on when you get home, or changing the average temperature depending on the time of day and season). Techno music constantly playing in the background is optional.

While systems like these have been around for years, the iPad makes controlling them much more simple — instead of custom built, single-task keypads scattered in every room, the same device you carry with you everywhere lets you keep everything under control. Even better, charging and docking systems like the Launchport from iPort exist to make moving your best tablet from room-to-room less bothersome — you don’t have to mess with cables, and you don’t have to worry that you’re going to run out of power.

While you can dive right in, retrofitting your entire house for control, taking it slow might be the best way, allowing you to ease into the idea (and the costs) that can be associated with it.

Hopefully the idea of integrating the iPad into your life for more than just Angry Birds seems less like science fiction, and more like a beautiful reality.

How would you use the iPad to control your home? Or do you already? Let us know in the comments.

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