ASA Electronics’ state-of-the-art iN-Command with Global Connect allows RVers to monitor and manage RV functions from anywhere
Remember when trailers were a relatively simple yet still comfortable way to travel? Sure, there were many amenities of a home like a roof air conditioner, hot running water and, if you were really digging it, cable TV and a phone connection.
Fast-forward to 2018, and the paradigm has changed. To some, RVs are now passé if not connected. Many of the newest models come with cellular boosters, Wi-Fi hotspots, USB charging ports, integrated entertainment systems with smart connectivity, all-in-one remotes, digital HVAC controls, programmable inverter-chargers, automatic leveling systems and, well, you get the point. For many consumers, RV technology is just as important, if not more so, than its construction features. To that point, RV manufacturers have even “decontented” some models to add technology that consumers demand and keep the price stable.
The technology fueling the RV space race is a mix of new and old. What was the highest-level technology in the RV industry, reserved for the most exclusive motorhomes, has now filtered down to fifth-wheels and some travel trailers. Multiplex technology is probably the most notable.
In simple terms, multiplexing is where multiple digital signals are transmitted over a wire to a computer that reads and then responds to the data. Most current model-year cars and trucks utilize multiplex wiring systems where the processor controls each electrical circuit. In big conversion coaches and motorhomes, switch panels located throughout the RV can be programmed to control a variety of circuits like lights and window shades. In today’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth world, multiplexing allows control of systems through connected smart devices and even via the internet from half a world away.
There are varying communication protocols in multiplexing. Some carry messages; others, just signals. The Controller Area Network bus (CAN bus) is the automotive protocol that allows a mechanic to connect to a vehicle to see fault codes, test circuits and other diagnostics. For years the RV industry and SilverLeaf Electronics have worked on integrating a protocol based on CAN bus, called RV-C, into RV components and systems to aid technicians and owners in diagnosing problems. It’s been slow going, but the advancement of technology is helping to push this into the RV mainstream.
Enter ASA Electronics, a name well known in the RV industry for supplying mobile electronics. Trailer Life has had the opportunity to test several RVs with ASA’s iN-Command multiplexing system installed, and the company recently invited us to its Elkhart, Indiana, facility to see the third-generation componentry. While the first product was introduced a couple of years ago, the latest systems have significantly raised the bar on advanced technology for RVs and supercharged the wow factor.
Previous iterations of the system allowed users to control circuits and monitor battery-charge and tank levels. Owners were able to operate slideouts, awnings, levelers and lighting via a touch-screen tablet built into the RV or a smart-device app.
The latest version is a true, whole-RV control system. The system connects to Android and Apple devices via Bluetooth for app control, and for the first time it incorporates the RV-C protocol, allowing iN-Command to communicate with and operate HVAC systems and roof-vent fans, and send alerts to users for empty or full holding tanks. Applications are almost unlimited, according to ASA.
Communication and Connectivity
To make the system even more powerful, ASA’s Global Connect feature automatically switches to Wi-Fi mode and the company’s dedicated cloud network if Bluetooth connectivity to the paired smart device is out of range. The connection is made via a separate Wi-Fi access point, like your home or campground Wi-Fi system, or a Wi-Fi hotspot installed in the RV. Once connected, full functionality with your internet-connected smart device is available anywhere there is an internet connection.
While some folks may think this has little practical application, it can be beneficial, and even life-saving. As more components are built to communicate with the network, additional functions will be introduced. For instance, if you forget to turn off the lights or want to turn one on remotely, you can do it with the mobile app. Or, say, it’s cold outside, and the furnace is running. The app lets you check power and propane levels. Or it’s warm, the pets are in the RV with the air-conditioner on, and the power goes out. You can react by starting the generator, and opening and turning on a roof-vent fan to circulate air remotely. Or perhaps you want to turn on the air conditioner to cool the interior for your return. The list of possibilities goes on.
According to ASA’s design-engineering team, the goal is to have universal interfacing for all the different systems and functions in an RV. A growing number of component manufacturers are offering app control for their products, which can lead to user confusion and poor function when too many individual apps are loaded into the smart device, not to mention the constant stream of updates required for smart devices. According to ASA, iN-Command users will eventually be able to use a single app to manage just about everything in their RV, except maybe the recliner.
The latest iN-Command has a similar feel to previous-generation systems, using a wall-mounted central controller and a body control module (BCM), typically located in a compartment or cabinet. The system requires special wiring throughout the RV for loads and RV-C networking, so it is not available in the aftermarket.
The convenience of being able to operate so much from the app or main controller raises the question, what happens if something goes wrong? The engineers at ASA came up with an ingenious way of making sure the system remains reliable by using common automotive relays for the switching circuits. If one should fail while you’re out camping, a quick trip to an auto-parts store will yield a plug-in replacement. Additionally, essential items like slideouts and awnings can be controlled from the BCM in an emergency.
Wiring for the iN-Command follows a color-code profile set by ASA so technicians will be able to trace the component wiring from source to load quickly. The company will soon be offering smart touch-screen switch panels that can be programmed for various loads and button styles.
Many corporate partners have teamed up with ASA Electronics to test the iN-Command interface. Garnet Instruments, maker of SeeLevel II holding-tank monitors, has interfaced its components to provide level information for up to seven tanks. Xantrex power inverters can be controlled through the system. Dometic and Airxcel HVAC systems are compatible, as are Maxxair and Fan-Tastic Vent roof fans. Other partners include BAL RV Products, Winegard, Equalizer Systems, Surge Guard, Carefree of Colorado, Wesco and Lithionics Battery.
RVers who purchase a new model equipped with the latest iN-Command system will receive a Global Connect account and can log in if the BCM is within range of a local Wi-Fi source or one is installed in the RV.
What’s next? At this point, according to ASA, the sky’s the limit. As companies continue to develop new app-accessible RV technologies, iN-Command with Global Connect will provide additional interfacing.
iN-Command on the Go
The following new RVs come factory-equipped with iN-Command with Global Connect. ASA reports that more models will be available with the control system in the coming year.
Keystone: Alpine, Cougar, Fuzion, Montana Legacy, Raptor
Redwood: All models
RV Factory: Luxe Gold, Luxe Elite, Luxe toy hauler
Winnebago: Minnie Plus fifth-wheels and travel trailers
ASA Electronics | www.asaelectronics.com/incommand-welcome
Chris Dougherty is technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome. Chris is an RVDA/RVIA certified technician and lifelong RVer, including 10 years as a full-timer. He and his wife make their home in Massachusetts and hit the road with their travel trailer every chance they get.