Control Systems Design and Programming

The trouble with any piece of equipment is that the more things it can do, the more difficult it becomes to operate.   It can be hard enough with just one device, but when you have three or four different items of equipment trying to work together, it can become virtually impossible to get them to do what you want.   All a control system does is make it easy to use a more complex system.   The best control systems are the ones that you don't notice are there.   They put only those controls that you want to use directly on the screen in front of you, and label the control buttons so that it's obvious what each one does.

A control system is made up of a control panel and a system controller which connects between the control panel and the pieces of equipment being controlled.   The control panel can be a conventional tablet computer like an iPad, or a proprietary device made by the manufacturer of the system controller.   The panel runs an app or program called a user interface which should make it obvious how to get the devices being controlled to do what you want.  It's the user interface, the bit that sits between the human and the technology, that's the important thing in any control system and determines how easy it is to use.

These days touch screens are everywhere and don't cost that much, but this is only a fairly recent development.  It wasn't so long ago that only a handful of companies (AMX, Crestron and Extron) had the resources to manufacture their own touch-panel and develop the software which is needed to program it.   Although this approach makes for high quality control systems, proprietary hardware and software has a habit of leading to high cost.   An iPad, Windows or Android tablet works nearly as well as a control panel.   There is no reason why there should be any difference between the user interface on the different panels.   Nor is there any need to use proprietary software to design it.

Traditionally many devices have been controlled by sending commands over a serial link (RS232), but nowadays many devices connect to a network and can be operated across it.   When all the devices to be controlled are connected to a network there can be no need to have a system controller.   In fact it is possible to have a control system which is just a piece of software (or ap) running on a low cost tablet computer.   This makes for a control system with an extremely low cost.

Ascobra design and develop graphical user interfaces which run on readily available tablets (Apple, Android and Windows).   Our designs work with system controllers from most of the leading companies including AMX, Crestron, Kramer and SY Electronics.   We also design and develop control panels which function without a system controller.