Category: Assistive Technology

Name give to equipment and devices that ‘assist’ individuals with disabilities accomplish various tasks.

iControl for iPad switching

Image of iControl used for switching of low voltage devices e.g. toys from an iPad

iControl for iPad Switching is the second of the two new devices launched by Pretorian Technologies. Read this blog post for a review of the iClick mains controller.

In comparison, iControl is designed for switching low voltage battery powered devices such as toys. Whereas, iClick is designed to control mains powered (110-240 volts) electrical appliances such as an electric kettle.

Both iControl and iClick bring switching capability in-the-real-world to an iPad user; that’s the interesting and new feature.

Unboxing the iControl

Open the box and you find:

  1. The iControl unit
  2. USB charging cable
  3. 2 cables with a standard 3.5mm jack plug on each end
  4. Set-up and Operating instructions

The top face of the iControl unit has a very simple layout. You see the on/off button, the battery charge indicator and two outputs where the connecting cables are plugged. On the front edge is the serial number that’s used during the paring with the iClick app on the iPad.

Image of the iClick app used with iControl available in the Apple App Store
iClick app used with iControl

You are now ready to charge the iClick. Take the USB charging cable and insert the small plug into the ‘charging port’ on the right edge. Plug the other end into a powered USB port on, say your PC. The green LED will flash indicating the battery is being charge and will go out when fully charged.

iControl needs the free iClick app to be installed on an iPad: visit the Apple App Store and search for iClick by Pretorian Technologies. Install it on your iPad as you would any other app. (Note: iClick only works on the iPad generation 3 onwards. It is not available for the iPhone.)

Set-up is exactly the same as I’ve described previously in the posting about the iClick mains controller. In summary: pair the iControl with the iClick app within the apps settings, if you want to customise the buttons, set the type of switch control then press the iPad on-screen buttons. All very simple.

Switch modes

Understanding how toys operate is helpful:

Timed: once activated many toys will operate for a short period of time without any further action by the user. Typically the toy will sing a song, recite a nursery rhyme or dance. It may last for 10 seconds or up to a minute.

  • Toys on Excitim’s website in the ‘Talking, singing and dancing’ section work in timed mode.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.

Direct: once activated these toys work whilst the switch is continuously pressed (this is also called momentary switch mode) When pressure on the switch is released the toy stops working.

But, the iClick app can also tell the toy to remain on even though pressure on the switch may have been released. It can do this using the ‘Latched’ and ‘timed’ settings.

  • These toys on Excitim’s website work in Direct mode: bubble machine and domino train as well as others.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.
  • Alternatively, select ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ settings in the app for continuous play without the need to keep pressing the switch.

If that sounds complicated feel free to contact us with your questions and I’ll be happy to help out.

iClick Quick set-up

Image of customised buttons in the iClick app to help visual recognition and associate with action, toy and switch
Customised iClick buttons

Follow these instructions for a quick set-up of the iControl and iClick app

  1. Make sure the unit is fully charged. Re-charge it if necessary.
  2. Turn on the iControl by pressing the green power switch on the face of the unit.
  3. Plug one or both jack plug leads into the sockets on the front of the iClick.
  4. Connect the plug into the socket on the adapted toys (assuming it’s a toy you want to control)
  5. Open the iClick app and make sure it is paired with the iPad.
  6. Customise the on-screen buttons for added interest but also for purposes of visual recognition and association with ‘action / toy / switch’.
  7. Select ‘Direct’ switch mode to tell the toys to operate (appropriately ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ depending on the toy.
  8. Tap the on-screen buttons to make the toys work.

Watch the video

Watch the video of iControl switching a bubble machine and a fire engine – scroll to the bottom of the page.

Sleep Mode

iControl has two in-built ‘sleep’ functions designed to help save battery power.

  1. If it is not used for over one hour the unit goes into low power mode and ‘sleeps’. Pressing the ‘Power’ button turns it back on again and it will automatically re-connect with the iPad within a few seconds.
  2. When iClick is not likely to be used for some time it is advisable to put the device to ‘sleep’ manually. Press and hold the ‘Power’ button for a few seconds until the LED goes out. Pressing the ‘Power’ button again re-powers the iControl.

Considered observations

1. Simple switch control of toys through the iPad is now possible and it works very well.

2. The penetration of the iPad and apps into education and the home is so widespread that iControl will be seen as a logical addition. I predict it will be used to help animate story-telling and create sensory stimulation.

Final thoughts

At Excitim we specialise is producing switch adapted toys which means the iControl device fits in completely with what we do. We have added it to our catalogue and it can be found on the website in the iPad Accessories and Switches section. Take a look.

We also intend to explore whether the technology used in iControl can be integrated directly into toys. We’ll be talking with Dave at Pretorian Technologies about this next time we get together.

iClick Mains Controller

This blog post is about the new iClick mains controller developed by Pretorian Technologies and I’m going to start by answering three questions that spring to mind:

  1. what is it?
  2. why would I want one?
  3. what can I do with it?

Later on I’ll get into details but for now I want to give you a feel for it.

What is an iClick mains controller?

Image of the iClick mains controller used for switching mains appliances
iClick mains controller

The iClick mains controller lets switch users control one or two electrical appliances using:

  • wired switches such as the Smoothie switches
  • wireless switches using the SimplyWorks wireless technology
  • and uniquely, an iPad running the iClick app (freely available from the Apple App Store)

Running the iClick app or a wireless Smoothie switch gives the user up to 20 metres working range.

Why would I want an iClick mains controller?

iClick allows iPad user to control mains voltage equipment in safety; users are completely isolated from mains power and risk of shock. Other devices let users do this as well; if fact Pretorian already has a unit called the Simplyworks Energise. What is new is the iPad capability.

iClick uniquely allows of mains appliances through an iPad as well as wired or wireless technology switches. It will also pair with a forthcoming ‘environmental control unit’ (I’ll review that when it is available)

What can I do with it?

Typical uses in, say, the kitchen could include:

  • turning on an electric kettle to make a drink
  • using a blender
  • switching the lights on
  • switching on a ventilator fan

The unit can be set to turn on an appliance for as long as you want, continuously on until switched off or for a timed period such as 10 seconds or 20 minutes. We’ll take a closer look at how that is set later in this blog.

Unboxing the iClick

The iClick mains controller is a single box that connects into the standard 3-pin 13 amp main wall socket used in the UK by a cable approximately 1m long. (European and USA versions are also available with appropriate plug and sockets)

The top face has two 3-pin sockets labelled ‘1’ and ‘2’ these are the sockets you will push the appliance plugs into. On the right hand side is the control panel used to set:

  • Whether you are using switches, the iPad or, when available the EnvirON the environmental control unit.
  • How you want to control the appliance(s)
Image of the iClick control panel
iClick control panel
Image of the iClick switch sockets on the side panel
iClick switch sockets on the side panel

On the right hand edge of the iClick are two sockets. These are where you will plug a wired big button switch such as a Smoothie Switch if you wanted to use wired switches for controlling the iClick.

On the base are the circuit breakers that activate if too much current is drawn through the unit: this is a safety feature. There is a warning on the top side label that the maximum current should not exceed 10 amps.

If the circuit breakers are activated then one or both appliances may need to be unplugged to reduce the load. Pressing the circuit breakers back resets the iClick.

And of course there is a full set of instructions describing how to set-up the iClick Mains Controller.

iClick in iPad mode

This is the newest way to control mains appliances and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this blog post. I’ll cover the ‘Sockets / Simplyworks modes in a follow-up blog and a third post when the ‘EnvirOn’ module is available – expected later this year in Q4.

The iClick App

The uniqueness of iClick Mains Controller is that an iPad user now has control of electical appliances in the real world. Put very simply: there are no other devices on the market like it.

Head on over to the Apple App Store and search for iClick by Pretorian Technologies. (Note: this is an iPad only app and your iPad must be iPad 3 or newer. It will not work with an iPad 1 or 2)

This is the app you’ll need.

Image of the iClick app by Pretorian Technologies found in the Apple App Store
iClick App by Pretorian Technologies

Install the app just like any other and pair your iPad with the iClick unit. This is how:

1. Make the iClick findable by pressing the ‘mode’ button on the iClick face; look for the LED next to the iPad label to light up.

2. Open the app

3. Go into ‘Settings’ by touching the blue ‘cog wheel’ in the top right corner of the screen

4. On the ‘Settings’ page touch the ‘No connected devices’ text at the top. This will make the iPad search for the iClick.

5. You should see your iClick is available to pair. (when I did this the iPad found iClick-DB36)

6. Touch the ‘iClick-XXXX’ to complete pairing; it will say ‘Connected’

It’s very simple and similar to connecting a Bluetooth speaker although all the settings are done in the iClick app – not in the iPad Settings.

Configuring the iClick App

This is the interesting part and gets to the heart of how the user can control things in the real world. Users can choose seven switch modes:

Direct: this makes the appliance work whilst the switch is held down.

Latched: pressing the switch turns the appliance on, pressing the switch turns the appliance off.

Timed: allows the appliance to operate for a pre-set period of time from 1 second to 250 minutes.

Co-operative Direct, Latched or Timed: (requires two switches to be attached) Pressing both switches together turns the appliance on. Releasing one or both turns the appliance off. This is a great way of encouraging two individuals to work together.

On / Off: (requires two switches to be attached) here switch 1 turns on both appliances; switch 2 turns both off.

On Screen Buttons

Image of the default iPad on-screen buttons in the iClick app
iClick app default buttons

Open the app and you’ll see two big touch-areas representing buttons used to activate the appliances. The default buttons are red and yellow and roughly 8.5 x 8.5 cm square.

If you like that appearance fine but you can chage them by going back into the app settings (blue cog wheel) and swipe down until you can see the ‘Button Summary’

It’s here you can change the colours, size and apply text to your button. Changing colour is easy and you also have the option to change from a square to a picture taken from your library. You can also use the iPad’s camera to take specific pictures. All this will be immediately obvious to anyone who has used iOS on their iPad or iPhone.

Delayed Access

This section lets you choose between ‘Immediate Access’ and ‘Delayed Access’ and is intended to help users who may be distracted by the on-screen menu items; the blue cog wheel and the ‘All off’ text.

‘Immediate Access’ displays the cog wheel and ‘All off’ text in blue and if touched takes the user into the settings section or switch all devices off all connected appliances.

When ‘Delayed Access’ is selected the ‘All off’ and ‘cog wheel’ are greyed out. As a safety feature the ‘All off’ button is still active and switches connected appliances off. Access ‘settings’ is possible if the greyed-out cog wheel is pressed for two seconds.

Info Section

The info section includes a link to a  ‘Help’ file stored on the Pretorian Technologies website.

Finally, the ‘About’ tab indicates the app’s version number and links to social media.

Considered Observations

The iClick has got a lot going for it and already has been welcomed by specialists in the assistive technology community since its launch in July because:

1. iClick is unique, there is nothing like it anywhere on the market. When you consider it works with the most successful tablet (iPad) available to date it will be a winner.

2. It is produced by Pretorian Technologies Ltd the same people who make the APPlicator, iSwitch, Smoothie Switches, SimplyWorks wireless switching technology, the Enabler Joystick and a number of other products for computer access and switch control.

3. Before long iClick will be seen in schools (helped by the massive installed number of iPads) homes, places of work actually most places where there is a need to turn on a mains powered appliance.

Final thoughts

Excitim are mainly known for switch adapted toys; even so we also offer a range of assistive technology equipment such as the wired Smoothie 75 and Smoothie 125 mm diameter switches, iSwitch, and the APPlicator both for iPad use. The iClick Mains Controller is a welcome and useful addition to our iPad accessories and switches.

We will also be adding the iControl to the catalogue: read this blog post to learn more about iControl for iPad switching of toys.

Switch accessible telephone calls

This blog is about making switch accessible telephone calls using an APPlicator connected to an iPhone 6 with the help of Siri and a Smoothie switch.

The APPlicator from Pretorian Technologies is a really useful piece of kit that connects with Apple’s iOS devices.  The connection is wireless using Bluetooth and works very well with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. On the other side the APPlicator has sockets for four push-button switches like the Smoothie switches.

Here’s a link to a blog a comprehensive blog about the iSwitch – think of the iSwitch as an APPlicator with a built in switch.

Making the connections

Before making a switch accessible telephone call there are three things you need to connect together:

  1. the APPlicator
  2. the iPhone and
  3. the push-button switch.

IPhone 6 – here I’m going to assume you have already stored a series of telephone numbers in your ‘Contacts’ app. If not then you will need to do that first. APPlicator – make a Bluetooth connection with the iPhone. Follow these steps:

Making a Bluetooth Connection

  • Go to the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone (Settings then Bluetooth). Make sure
    Image showing the APPlicator Bluetooth connection to the iPhone
    APPlicator Bluetooth connection to the iPhone

    Bluetooth is turned on; if not slide the iOS slider to the right.

  • Turn on the APPlicator by pressing either ‘channel or ’mode’ switch once.
  • After a few seconds the APPlicator should appear as a ‘discoverable’ device listed as something like ‘Pretorian-V49.3-ABC1. Tap on the name and the pairing process will begin.
  • The APPlicator is ready to use when you see ‘Connected’ in the iPhone’s Bluetooth device list.

Setting the iOS command

  • Press the ‘CHAN’ button on the APPlicator to select the channel you will use to connect the switch to. Let’s say ‘1’.
  • Press the ‘MODE’ button repeatedly until the the letter ‘T’ appears in the red window.
Image showing the APPlicator and iPhone being used to make a switch accessible telephone call.
Make switch accessible calls with APPlicator and the iPhone

Letter ‘T’ represents an iOS instruction that has been programmed into the APPlicator and gets sent to the iPhone when the user presses the push-button switch. When the iPhone receives the letter ‘T’ it knows what it needs to do. I know that sounds a bit ‘techie’ but it all goes on in the background and when you’ve set it you can forget it.

Finally, connect the switch into the channel you chose. That’s channel ‘1’ if you are following me step-by-step.

Making a call

This is where it all comes together and you can make your first switch accessible telephone call. 🙂

  • Press the switch for a slightly longer period that you normally would – perhaps for half of a second (a bit of trial and error may be needed to get the best results for each individuals circumstance)
  • Letter ‘T’ tells the iPhone to leave any app it’s in and launch Siri.
  • Siri then asks ‘what can i help you with?’
  • Tell Siri to call ‘home’ or ‘mum’ or an individual telephone number such as ‘01630 123456’

I also found that if you have two switches programmed with channel ‘T’ then this can help if the iPhone throws a wobbly and gets a bit stuck. If that happens try pressing the second switch to get back to Siri.

It works, it’s far from perfect but it is certainly worth playing with. I’d love to know if it works for you.

Get in touch via our Contact Us page or why not give me a call; my mobile number is 07774 318443.