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Anonymous Poster #1

Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 9:32 AM

I'd be keen to use phone or tablet as the touch interface of the electrical appliance my company produces. The screen should be integrated to the unit and it should be capable of controlling pumps and valves. My motivation is that a phone should be the cheapest way to purchase touchscreen + processor + memory + WiFi + 3G + GPS + UPS (=battery), which are all needed in our system.

I have hard time finding examples of appliances with a phone built in. I wonder if it is possible. The best example so far was this iPad controlled juice dispenser (www.scanomat.com). Do you know of any other commercial applications? What phone/tablet was used and how were the relays commanded by the phone? All help is appreciated!

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#1

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 12:50 PM

eBook readers such as Kindle Fire and the like are a bit cheaper than tablets and would work quite well as a self-contained, intelligent UI. Have you looked at these as well?

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#2

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 1:29 PM

Don't your appliances have Bluetooth capability, or WiFi?

I just bought some LED light bulbs with Bluetooth control over a smart phone.

"Pumps and valves" will require smart contactors and motors for valves.

Are you sure about what you want?

Control DC Motors with your Smartphone (Perfect for a Robot)

Fine motor apps | OT's with Apps & Technology

I'd start searching the web, since only you know what you really want, I hope.

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#3

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 2:17 PM

I have no idea, but do keep us updated in your quest. What is this electric appliance for? Feel free to leave us with a more or less vague answer to that question.

Have you looked at micro-controllers with WiFi? Maybe attach a digital shield over this to display information, data, etc.

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Anonymous Poster #1
#5
In reply to #3

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 2:33 PM

Thanks James, I don't want to share my company name as I want to release a touch screen version before my competitors ;)

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Anonymous Poster #1
#4

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 2:30 PM

Thanks Andrew and Iyn for your quick replies!

Kindle would probably work okay, but with tablets & phones you can make more attractive UI.

I know what I want!
-Our appliance is now controlled by mechanical buttons: on/off, stop&empty, running speed 1-2-3-4, and a few led indicators. As simple as that.
-In the future I want the mechanical buttons to be replaced by touch screen, with the same simple controls PLUS I want some nice additional features like weekly schedule (e.g run full speed daytime, half speed night time, stop and empty sunday at noon), show richer info on the screen (e.g. thruput volume per hour, remaining time to next service or other nice stuff), and most importantly remote control (either via wifi or cellular, e.g. error message directly to our field service team, with GPS data included). Get the point?
-My issue is that the hw solution that our (potential) IT partners are proposing all seem awfully expensive and clumsy. You need to add wifi, 3G, GPS etc as add-on components. A mobile phone would have all the needed hw features for less than half the price. And skilled android app programmers can be found easily. Naturally, the phone should be connected to some IO or relay device which will power the pump or valve as needed.
-What puzzles me is that phones & tables aren't used in appliance control a lot. That's why I approach anyone on this site. Please let me know if you have seen appliances using phone or tablet as UI panel.
-I just joined this forum - if you feel there's a better site for my questions, please let me know.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 2:37 PM

I've never heard "pumps and valves" referred to as appliances.

Where I come from, these are appliances:

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Anonymous Poster #1
#7
In reply to #6

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 2:45 PM

Good point Iyn, sorry for being unclear... pls consider our product a bit like the washing machine in your picture. It is an appliance which includes pumps, valves etc. Our challenge is that unlike GE washing machines, we produce some hundreds of units per year. Ours is for B2B customers, not consumers. So our resources to develop the control panel are quite limited compared to GE. Being able to use proven std hw like a phone or a tablet would be great.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 3:15 PM

I hope it is not one of those washing machines that go boom!...and catch on fire.

What you want is probably easier than you think, so this "phone" is android or apple?

You could probably have the phone connected permanently to another micro-controller or PLC that would run the "appliance" through the charging/USB port. Two birds, one stone.

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Anonymous Poster #1
#9
In reply to #8

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 3:31 PM

Thanks James. I have my fingers crossed we have no booms with our units!

I've been thinking of Android mainly... iPhone would cost more and give less (less freedom at least).

Thanks for the suggestion... What kind of micro controller or PLC would you recommend? I did look at the USB controlled PLC's too, but they seemed quite expensive. Do you have some device in mind which is using this solution?

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 3:35 PM

Perhaps you should put James on the payroll. It looks like you could use a consultant to help you develop your product.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 3:41 PM

I am not the engineer here, but I have slept at Holiday Inn some time in the past.

There are many other (younger) kids that need a shot at a job, so hire them.

I would wind up making your product glitchy, over-budget, looking like Frankenstein washing machine.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 3:39 PM

I think that pretty much what you have in mind can be controlled with a $35 Arduino UNO. Really. They have a USB port, a separate power port, and various "shield" boards can be mounted on them. The software is C+, although I have only a small bit of programming of relays, it is not rocket science. Use a relay board with 8 relays. Then use SSR's that work with DC if you need, or use the relay board output to control AC using SSR (solid state relay). By buffering the phone and Arduino boards from any negative going signals, you ensure reliable operation. Heck, you can even have a shield board with an SD card on it to record data about your appliance.

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Anonymous Poster #1
#13

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 5:53 PM

Wow, thanks James. You are hired!

I quickly looked up in Sparkfun the stuff you refer to. Need to get deeper into this. In the meanwhile, can you share some real world application of how a phone+arduino have been used? Also, did I understand correctly - the logic program would still run in a phone which in turn would command the Arduino which again would command the relays? I'm asking this because Sparkfun seems to have shields for all our needs - wifi, cellular, gps, and even the display so that we would not need the phone. But all that would cost much more than the cheap android phone.

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#17
In reply to #13

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 11:29 PM

Interesting that you would say an eBook doesn't have the umph of a tablet or phone but then you would consider an Arduino as viable alternative? It's your call of course, but with all due respect that strikes me as saying something akin to "You suggested a VW Bug but we're thinking more along the lines of an Escalade. Oh look! A Radio Flyer wagon!"

If you decide to go the 'Maker' route (not a bad idea, actually, because you can build exactly what you need), I would seriously consider notching things up a bit to something like Raspberry PI. It's got the horsepower to do you want (many people are running it under Linux, for example) and there are decent touchscreen displays and other peripherals available for it. It also has a huge user base which is always nice because it generally means someone out there has done something functionally similar to what you want to do and you can draw from their experience.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 11:56 PM

I think our covert AP is either in marketing or just too technically challenged to ever pull this off.

Worrying about the competition in his position is, shall we say, "quaint"?

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 12:09 AM

I dunno, Lyn, to be fair it's hard to conclusively say what someone's skills are based on such cursory information. I do understand the need to keep something like this under wraps: In 1986 I designed the first touchscreen graphical UI ever to be used on an electron microscope (actually suggested it during my interview) and the company kept it under wraps that would put the NSA to shame - and were handsomely rewarded when we unveiled it at the EMSA (Electron Microscope Society of America) show that year. Philips, meanwhile, came out with a new microscope whose control panel looked like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, but they were all traditional physical controls. Impressive, but nobody was at their booth. Everybody was over at ours ogling our new machine, including the Philips guys. It was awesome.

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#20
In reply to #13

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 9:33 AM

You will be better off listening carefully to Mr. Westman, he is one cool, smart dude.

Raspberry pi as he suggested has the horsepower to do the whole thing, and you won't need grandma's cell phone. Also makes the things more economical than stringing together stuff that is not necessary to get the job done.

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#14

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 7:02 PM

You're behind the curve, "There's an App for that"! This one is homebrew, but you get the idea, and maybe even contact the guy. There's plenty of this on the web.

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#15

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 9:18 PM

Since phones and tablets have the same operating systems, it will be all up to your own imagination.

Good luck!

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#16

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/27/2016 10:40 PM

Here's a dockable or hand-held touchscreen remote that controls fans, heaters, aircon, electric window blinds and such stuff in the back seat of a Bentley:

https://www.flyingspur.bentleymotors.com/en/the_connected_car

Maybe even at your volumes it's feasible, also avoiding the hackability of a phone, also negating the temptation to steal the controller as a free phone.

Scroll down at that link and see it both loose and docked.

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#21
In reply to #16

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 9:38 AM

Totally mind blowing how technology just keeps marching while I sleep!

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#22

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 10:28 AM

Join "Instructables" if you are not already a member:-

http://www.instructables.com/

and look here:-

android+phone+as+controller

Plenty of good ideas....

An Arduino maybe an even better way, with or without Bluetooth....more robust.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 10:32 AM

I think we already established that the newer Raspberry pi boards are more suitable for the application.

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/28/2016 10:45 AM

I like the "101" boards even more. Have you seen them?

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 2:25 PM

No, have you a link share?

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#28
In reply to #26

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 4:07 PM

I will look around and post it here....I think I know where I was looking....

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#29
In reply to #26

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 4:11 PM

Try here:-

ArduinoBoard101

It also understands gestures, which might prove even more attractive than an expensive touch sensitive screen..

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 4:20 PM

Thanks. Actually, I did Google it also, and found that same link, then work intervened, and lunch, and work, and break...

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#25

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 2:03 PM

If "integrated" means that the only mode of operation is via a touch screen which is physically affixed to your appliance then a microprocessor board (e.g. Arduino or Raspberry Pi) is many times cheaper than a phone as the processor.

Even if you are thinking of remote control, two Arduinos linked by wi-fi/Bluetooth will still be cheaper.

If you are thinking of using a phone wherever you are, out of range of a wifi signal, then only will a phone become a sensible alternative. The problem then becomes one of programming a transmitter app for either Android or iOS or both, which is much more difficult than writing programs for Arduino or Raspberry Pi (you are going to need these anyway in the receiver section). You could still consider a microprocessor with a SIM card attachment to dial up and send a data stream.

As you see, programming expertise is as necessary as the hardware for the success of this project.

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#27
In reply to #25

Re: Phone or Tablet as Appliance UI?

12/29/2016 4:06 PM

What you wrote makes good sense.

Furthermore with phones, if someone accidentally calls, it could send something haywire. Or block some function...

Furthermore, it can happen that a server/tower goes down and phones don't work for a time, even if its only a short time.....or are overloaded at peak times = no connection!!

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