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The future of backyard automation

Quick and easy download

Rob Pyrz, co-owner of Aqua-Tech, was involved in putting the finishing touches on the customer’s automation system, which included downloading the App to their iPod touch. Shortly after that, it was fully operational.

“The customer can select ‘kid’s party’ mode and the water slide kicks on, along with the waterfall, lights and everything else we programmed into that setting,” says Pyrz, who also helped the owner customize the setting names. “In ‘serenity’ mode the lights change and the flow to the waterfall tapers off.”

In addition to these custom modes, the iPhone/iPod touch can also be used to operate individual pieces of equipment. To tweak the amount of flow to the slide or waterfall in any of the modes, the owner simply adjusts it via their laptop or the wall-mounted panel.

“The owner does not need to understand the swimming pool’s hydraulics,” says Pyrz. “They just know they want more or less water on the slide or waterfall and it can be easily adjusted with this system.”

Live streaming video

This technology also presents further options for pool and hot tub owners. By adding up to four cameras and the optional video and lighting protocol adapter, live video of the backyard and swimming pool area can be streamed to the iPhone/iPod touch.

Although Aqua-Tech’s customer did not adopt this feature, it allows homeowners to keep an eye on their property with the ability to pan cameras almost 180 degrees. The cameras can also be set up to detect movement, snap a still image and send the file to multiple e-mail addresses. For example, if an unexpected person or animal comes into view, the camera will detect motion, capture an image and alert the iPhone/iPod touch user via e-mail to warn that something might be amiss.

At the same time, however, the customer can also use the App to access the system at any time to inspect their backyard.

The heart of the matter

The heart of the system is a protocol adapter, which is essentially the translator from an ethernet network (still the most common point of access for home Internet connections) to the pool control system. This adapter allows users with an iPhone/iPod touch, laptop or desktop computer to access the automation system over the Internet. It consists of a small box, which typically sits in the homeowner’s office near the DSL or cable modem.

The same protocol adapter has been used for many years to provide remote control capabilities when using devices such as customized wi-fi tablets, special PDAs or in-wall touch screen systems. When the iPhone/iPod touch was introduced, Pentair and HomeLogic developed an interface to work with these devices to provide another option for swimming pool and hot tub owners in controlling and automating their backyards.

A scalable solution

Homeowners who want to expand this system to also control home heating and air conditioning, lighting, security, sprinkler systems, etc., already have the basics in place and can make this upgrade with the help of a home automation dealer/installer.

The swimming pool and hot tub automation system also has the capacity to connect to an integrated home automation system by using a special adapter. If the customer also has ScreenLogic, which is based on an open communication protocol that is network- and IP-based, then the whole system can be operated from an iPhone/iPod touch.


MacCallum_HeadshotDavid MacCallum is the senior product manager for lights and automation at Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Sanford, N.C. He can be reached via e-mail at

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