Integrators that have tested the new release of AMX's VisualArchitect, a drag-and-drop programming software designed to simplify complex coding tasks, increase the number of jobs integrators can handle and improve overall productivity and efficiency, say it lives up to its promise.
Jeff Skalny, IT manager at Spire Integrated Systems, a Pleasant Ridge, Mich., installer that focuses on high-end homes, says he and other programmers were worried that a drag-and-drop program would limit their ability to customize their AMX systems. "It didn't excite everyone because our experience with drag-and-drop is that it's very restrictive and can't be modified," he says. "There's really no reason to use it."
That, he says, is not the case with VisualArchitect. "It generates similar code to what we write. It's segmented, easy to follow and easy to change. And if you need to generate more advanced programming you can go into VisualArchitect and change the source code."
AMX's philosophy behind the VisualArchitect was to create software that would be easy enough for unskilled programmers to learn, freeing up high-priced programmers for more complex jobs. That simplicity should also allow integrators to go after low-margin jobs they would have ignored and to program smaller rooms that would not have been worth the time.
"It will save us money if we can push this programming down to our lower-level tech people, so they can do some design with having to tie up our skilled programmers," says Barry Halligan, executive director of technical operations at Technical Innovation, a commercial integrator in Norcross, Ga. Halligan and other integrators say the value of VisualArchitect is heightened by the fact that skilled AMX and Crestron programmers are expensive and difficult to find in some locations. "It's easier to organically grow out technical people. If they can do some of the smaller projects, it will make them more valuable, make us more competitive and drive down our cost of doing business."
VisualArchitect can handle most programming chores on single master system jobs. It can also be used in conjunction with AMX's other programming tools, such as Design Xpress, NetlinxStudio, TPDesign and G4 PanelBuilder. Those programs, which require more sophisticated coding, will still be available and can still be used to program more complex system components, an AMX spokeswoman says.
AMX designed VisualArchitect not only to help its current dealers but to attract new integrators by lowering the barrier of entry. AMX is seeking feedback on VisualArchitect through a series of road shows and its online AMX Forums. The road show travels through Seattle, Portland, and Orange County, Calif. during the first week of May; through Florida and Philadelphia during the week of May 8; to Massachusetts and New Jersey the week of May 15; Chicago and St. Louis the week of May 22; and Washington DC, and North Carolina the last week in May.