Crestron Brings Home Automation to Samsung Smart TVs
New Crestron home automation app lets users control their environment from a Samsung smart TV without interrupting the on-screen action.
Julie Jacobson · June 7, 2013
If you hate looking down at your tablet or complicated remote to control your lights, thermostats, motorized shades, and A/V gear, then a Samsung Smart TV with a Crestron home automation app might be just the ticket.
Crestron is releasing the new app soon – at least before CEDIA Expo 2013 in September.
The collaboration is a little unusual for Crestron, which is famous for home-growing its own products and control platforms.
But as CTO Fred Bargetzi mentions in a recent CE Pro 100 podcast, “This is just one of the ways that we’re looking at technology out there. … We could take an attitude where we say: Gosh if we don’t make it it’s not going to be good, but we try to take the approach of how can we leverage other technology out there to fit consumer lifestyles?”
Like most major home control vendors, Crestron has offered several TV on-screen displays (OSD) over the years, but many times they have been over-engineered for simple home-control tasks, or they have usurped the entire television screen, meaning you might miss just as much TV action using an OSD than looking down to find the right button a touchscreen.
“One of the things we’ve been looking at for a while is: What is the best way of doing an OSD?” says John Pavlik, Crestron director, architecture and design.
In rethinking Crestron’s approach to OSDs, “the whole idea of a separate box seemed crazy when TVs have so much power now,” Pavlik says. “Given that Samsung is such a huge player in the residential market, it seemed like a great time to take a look at this.”
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Simplicity is the Key
As opposed to earlier OSDs that presented all control options via the television screen (at the expense of live video), Crestron recognized with this effort that “we really really needed to create a user interface that is optimal for a heads-up display, where you might be watching a football game and want to do something with the lights,” says Pavlik. “If we had just created a free-form interface, I don’t think it would be successful.”
Pavlik says that consumers these days are very familiar with scrolling menus, the likes of which are employed in the Crestron Samsung TV app: Press one button to pull up the control menu that runs down the left side of the screen, and then use the up/down/select buttons to activate a function.
Crestron learned in this endeavor that it is often more challenging to create a very simple interface than to make every option available to the user and the integrator.
In this case, Crestron limits the top-level menu to six items so that all items are always exposed.
Otherwise, says Pavlik, “When the menu pops up, it might be scrolled already. We found that disconcerting.”
In theory, submenus are unlimited but Crestron preaches best practices to dealers, suggesting they limit the options to “things I want to do while watching TV.”
At this point, the OSD provides no video feedback, say, for video cameras, Pavlik explains: “Since it’s a momentary heads-up display, once you launch video on screen, you’d have to go into a different environment.”
All major TV and media-box brands utilize some sort of app environment for their products. Why start with Samsung?
“We have looked at other Smart TV environments,” Pavlik says, “but felt Samsung offered the best integration for us at this time. As we talked to a lot of our dealers, Samsung came to the top of pretty much every poll.”
Top Crestron dealer John Clancy of New-York based Audio Command Systems thinks the app could be “really cool.”
He says, “I’ve seen an early version of it and it certainly makes sense and gives Crestron something its competitors don’t yet have. We sell lots of Samsung TVs and I believe many of our clients will use this app.”
Users purchase the Crestron app from their Samsung TVs. The price of the app is consistent with Crestron apps for other devices.
VIDEO: Crestron home automation app for Samsung Smart TVs
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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