What we have learned from ditching VT Pro-e for CH5

MARCH 30, 2020 CH5CRESTRONVT PRO-EHTML5SIMPL+

Over the last 20 years, we have all experienced the ups and downs of the current VT Pro-e® development environment.  The software has been commendable in its evolution, while still maintaining support for all of the legacy touch screens.  Not a small task when you are talking about hardware that has been made over a couple of decades. While there is no denying that a lot of baggage has been packed in at this point. There is still no debate that Smart Graphics® was a seismic shift that brought a lot of welcomed changes to the platform.  The list of benefits is extensive: scaling of PNGs, vertical and horizontal scrollable lists, sub-page reference lists, to name a few. None have been more important than Custom Themes. Themes gave companies the tools to change the look and feel of their touch screen with a couple of mouse clicks, and thanks to professionals like ElevateGRFX access an array of styles. Unfortunately, Smart Graphics underlying technology is based on Flash, and the world has moved onto HTML5 with all its performance benefits. The good news is that Crestron is ready with all the new tools necessary to leverage this technology.

What is CH5?

CH5 is a collection of components “based on HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript web standards”. Crestron now has a way for web developers to create web projects that can run on Crestron touch screens and communicate with Crestron control systems. So, what does this mean for you? It means that your SIMPL+® programmer can continue to work on projects developing solutions for your clients while a Front End developer builds the GUI for your projects. As a CSP, this is where things get really exciting for Digital Automation. The flexibility provided by these new tools opens an infinite world of possibilities. The best part is that we can significantly improve the user experience while leveraging our existing SIMPL# framework which we’ve been developing for the past 7 years.  This provides all the benefits of a new responsive user interface with the stability of our custom built framework that’s running on thousands of projects all around the world.  What is CH5? It’s a Game Changer!

As one of the largest residential CSPs in the nation, we’ve been investing a lot of time into HTML5. Last year we were fortunate enough to demo our HTML5 touch screen design inside Crestron’s booth at the Monaco and Fort Lauderdale yacht shows as well as on display at this year’s ISE. The feedback we received from our clients and end users was overwhelmingly positive. This emphasizes why Crestron is the leader in the home automation industry and continues offering solutions for all levels of projects while providing a truly customized experience to their clients. 

“Last year we were fortunate enough to demo our HTML5 touch screen design inside Crestron’s booth at the Monaco and Fort Lauderdale yacht shows as well as on display at this year’s ISE. The feedback we received from our clients and end users was overwhelmingly positive.”

And the benefits aren’t just cosmetic. Since CH5 is based on modern web standards, it’s incredibly flexible. Our designers and engineers have been experimenting with the new tools since the shows. We can now dramatically change the look of the touch screens by just editing the CSS of the HMTL5 project. 

What used to be a time consuming and error-prone task using VT Pro-e, is now an edit in a couple of lines of code. 

Crestron has already taken care of the communication layer between the HTML5 project and the control system. Your programmer or CSP can use the HTML5 Contract Editor tool to define all the variables the web developer will need. Allowing your existing team to focus on their code while the web developer works on the GUI. The Contract Editor tool is a small independent program that can be used by both the programmer and the web developer. This means that the workflow can be significantly more efficient, and also that your project can start at the GUI. A company like ElevateGRFX can create the HTML5 project and provide the HTML5 contract to the programmer to import into his SIMPL+ program and connect the necessary signals. 

“Since CH5 is based on modern web standards, it’s incredibly flexible. Our designers and engineers have been experimenting with the new tools since the shows. We can now dramatically change the look of the touch screens by just editing the CSS of HMTL5 project.” 

VT Pro-e has been an integral part of our workflow, and while it’s easy to stay within the comfort and grievances of what we’ve used and known for 20 years, we @DAutomation are happy to say that jumping into the uncharted territory of HTML5 has been well worth the risk. The few discoveries we’ve made so far have proven that it’s been the right decision. This is why Digital Automation has come to understand that HTML5 is the future of our industry and are embracing this opportunity fully.