Crestron Masters 2018: Welcome to the New World

Halfway through a session on Crestron’s upcoming HTML5 touch panels, a friend who works there texted me, “Your excitement is the most entertaining [thing] I’ve seen thus far in a class.”

What can I say? I’m looking forward to using the same tools as the rest of the software industry. I will have to brush up on my CSS and JavaScript, but it’s a small price to pay in order to play outside Crestron’s sandbox.

I’ve been beating the drum for years now that AV programming is going to change. Some of us are going to adapt, but some of us are going to be left behind. Friends, that change is on the horizon. As AV programmers, it’s past time to start expanding our skill set.

How do I know that (to quote the late, great Sam Cooke) a change is gonna come? I looked at the new products that Crestron was hyping at Masters. Some of them, like XiO Cloud, are pure software tools, with no programming necessary. Configure your devices from a webpage, hand the controls over to your IT department,and pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. XiO Cloud will monitor and manage hardware at a firmware level. It’s our AV/IT convergence nightmare. Don’t Praise the Machine. 

But at the other end of the spectrum? New touch panels and a software product (XiO Edge) that are designed to run “real” software (HTML5 and C#, respectively). XiO Edge is a server-based control product. As of now, it will run C# only, no Simpl Windows. The next generation of touch panels will have to support both HTML5 and Smart Graphics, but Crestron is eventually going to force us all to learn how web tools work. Notice a pattern here? Products like VTPro-E and Simpl Windows aren’t going to disappear tomorrow, but Crestron is clearly not trying to keep them around forever.

So what does that mean for those of us who have made a career out of figuring out the best ways to use Crestron’s proprietary software? The good news is, we can now look stuff up on Google (or Stack Overflow). The bad news is, we’ve got a lot of learning to do. I’m already doing development in Simpl# and Simpl#Pro, but my day-to-day code still relies an awful lot on Simpl Windows. I predict a lot of online classes and software books in my future.

Whenever someone asks me how to become a Crestron programmer, I tell them to learn how to be a “real” programmer first… go online and learn about object oriented programming and algorithms. That advice goes ten-fold today. There are some cool new tools in our future. It’s on all of us to learn how to use them properly.