Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

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Tiddles
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Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby Tiddles » Sun May 10, 2015 10:37 pm

I have the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2.

I want to know if I can simply and cheaply tern my smart phone or Android tablet in to a second walkaround controler?
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BananaRepublic
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby BananaRepublic » Sun May 10, 2015 11:53 pm

Not "simply".
For the PA Squared, you'd need to operate with an external computer running a software control program that supports Smartphone or Tablet devices as handsets.

The WiThrottle Engine Driver app works with JMRI, in which the PA Squared is now said to be supported.

The andRoc app is the Android equivalent for use with the RocRail software package.
The iOS equivalent is iRoc for iPhones and padRoc for iPads.

Some other DCC systems will allow you to use a Smartphone or Tablet as handsets, without the need for a computer running a control software package, e.g. Lenz and ESU ECoS.
The Roco Z21 and z21 systems are of course, already based on using a Smartphone or Tablet as the handset; while the new Piko SmartControl system uses Android as it's operating system, running on a dedicated handset with a touch screen and a real motorised control knob.



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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby End2end » Mon May 11, 2015 5:12 pm

Tiddles I would also keep an eye on Bachmann as they are to release some sort of bluetooth train control soon.
Albeit not exactly what you are after but once released I think it will open the door to all sorts of bluetooth/phone/tablet control.
It uses bluetooth4 (also known as bluetoothLE - or "bluetooth low-energy")
http://resources.bachmanntrains.com/iho ... tml?page=1

There's also these guys
http://www.bluerailtrains.com/faq.cfm

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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby flying scotsman123 » Mon May 11, 2015 5:17 pm

I haven't looked at that closely End2End, but doesn't that require you to fit new chips to all locos?

As Bananarepublic says, you need a PC with something like JMRI (free) in between the controller and the smartphone, so the phone talks to the laptop which in turn talks to the controller which then sends instructions to the chip in the loco!
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End2end
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby End2end » Mon May 11, 2015 5:31 pm

flying scotsman123 wrote:I haven't looked at that closely End2End, but doesn't that require you to fit new chips to all locos?
As Bananarepublic says, you need a PC with something like JMRI (free) in between the controller and the smartphone, so the phone talks to the laptop which in turn talks to the controller which then sends instructions to the chip in the loco!

Indeed it does FS. What I meant was that after the technology is "out there" then I'm sure we will see a plethora of similar programs for control.
My understanding is that it is not that hard to make an app. If you outsource the coding using a non disclosure agreement.
I do not use JMRI et al so have not looked into those unfortunatly but they do sound interesting if computer control is required. I did take a passing look at SPROG though and that definatly seems to capture a gap in the market.
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Tiddles
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby Tiddles » Tue May 12, 2015 7:32 am

I did use JMRI when I had my very short relationship with Digitrax.

The Gaugemaster interface thing is almost half the price of a second hand held :roll:

A cheap basic laptop is a possibility but I think that would cost more in total than a new hand held.

I like the Bachmann idea but can not see it being popular with modelers who have already made big investments in DCC.
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby Bigmet » Tue May 12, 2015 8:28 am

Best to wait and see on the bluetooth based control. It'll offer a cheap start, but then rapidly become more expensive than DCC in my opinion, because the loco decoders are likely to be more expensive for matching capability; and there 's track power management built into DCC, which will have to be provided if bluetooth is used for more than one or two locos running simultaneously. Everything I read says 'trainset starter system' to me, rather like the Hornby Select. Watching for what the scaleability is like, once users have their hands on it.

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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby Vonkiglin » Tue May 12, 2015 9:04 am

Depending on how computer literate you are and how interested in this side you end up getting there is a few options as outlined above.
If you are fairly computer literate and could cope with linux then one option is use JMRI, SPROG + Raspberry Pi. Starter sets on ebay are about £50. All you would need is something to use as a monitor. You wouldn't need to worry too much about layout design in it unless you run your points + other accessories through DCC. This would mean once the Pi is turned on and the software loaded you could quite easily hide keyboard + monitor etc and let the phone control. I am not sure however whether you can run a sprog at same time as your current system. Then for about £15/£20 more you could get the USB interface from gaugemaster which would then connect to the Pi and run JMRI as described above. One key to remember if using JMRI rather than one of the more expensive systems for Withrottle to work you need a wifi connection for the Pi + your phone to connect to where as some of the more expensive systems have this capability built in.
If less computer literate you could buy a second hand laptop/desktop and use it solely for this purpose. JMRI can cope working on quite old systems.

One note if you do end up using a computer you may find you get a bit addicted and interested in the technology and its capabilities... this in turn means you may need to consider the long term approach at this point before you do buy a PC.

If you can cope with a Pi go on outube many videos showing them in use. I did consider it myself but the Pi wouldnt cope with the amount of commands I would be doing at any one time.

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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby End2end » Tue May 12, 2015 4:38 pm

Are we thinking of this rear about face? By that I mean, use a phone or tablet to control the SOFTWARE and control the trains THROUGH the software not directly.
There must be a simple way to control a peice of software using a phone et al without the need of bluetooth chips in all the loco's I just cannot put my finger on it.
It's like using a CRESTRON box for home automation. It has say 40 virtual switches/pots etc and all you do is link/assign each physical switch/pot to any of the virtual ones by plugging into ANY port as they are not initially connected/assigned to anything. And all this can be controlled with a tablet.

...Wait a minute.... :idea:
I know that my music production software (Cubase) can be controlled by a tablet by replicating what you can see on the main screen, so it MUST be possible.
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alex3410
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby alex3410 » Tue May 12, 2015 4:46 pm

its what TouchCab link to apple store does on the iPhone - i have not had chance to play with it yet but it should connect to the ECoS Command Station base unit via WiFi and simply issues commands to the station which then relays them onto the track.

my problem is that my WiFi does not reach to the shed :roll: (need a range extender)

note also that the command station does not have wifi and needs a network cable to connect to the network (can get ethernet to wifi converters which is what i have but again its out of range)

but it all relies on the DCC system connected up to the track to support it

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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby End2end » Tue May 12, 2015 4:51 pm

Alex you must have other cables running to the shed, why not add a network cable rather than an extender? In fact while your at it...run 2! then just terminate them in a double wall box.
Tidy and RELIABLE :)
There's NOTHING that beats a cable between 2 things.
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby alex3410 » Tue May 12, 2015 5:11 pm

Unfortunately I am still haring a garden extension cord to connect up the shed so I would have to connect it up manually each time and it's not worth the trouble - if it comes down to it I will just set up a wireless network in the shed just for my trains :lol:

But it's a very good point and when I eventually get around to getting it connected up correctly I will make sure to run a network cable alongside the power one!

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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby End2end » Tue May 12, 2015 5:28 pm

alex3410 wrote:Unfortunately I am still haring a garden extension cord to connect up the shed so I would have to connect it up manually each time and it's not worth the trouble - if it comes down to it I will just set up a wireless network in the shed just for my trains :lol:


Ahh! as that's tha case, have you seen Network over mains / Ethernat over power (EoP) / Powerline networking (PLN) devices?
I am not sure if it will run on an extension lead but I don't see why not.
An example
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/D-LINK-WIFI-O ... 1e9e54fa67
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alex3410 wrote:But it's a very good point and when I eventually get around to getting it connected up correctly I will make sure to run a network cable alongside the power one!

Try to leave a gap between them as they may cause each other interference. Cat6 might be better as it has better shielding.
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Bufferstop
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby Bufferstop » Tue May 12, 2015 6:48 pm

As a technological challenge, using smartphones to control all sorts of goodies is probably a good one. However controlling a locomotive or MU train with one is nothing like driving the real thing. Even the latest cabs have a lever of some sort that controls acceleration and brakes. There doesn't seem much difference between the one in a Javelin and those in Manchesters Flexity trams. Apart from the keyhole in the end of the T bar.
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Re: Smart Phone as DCC Hand Set???

Postby AustralisRico » Tue Aug 04, 2015 12:09 am

Why has everyone suggested complicated systems rather than recommend the one built for this purpose?

I have the Roco Z21 DCC command station. You get no controllers, just a wifi router and black box as the command station which you connect to using Android or Apple smartphone or tablet. It also supports PC control via rocorail and has an input for a traditional controller. More details:
http://www.z21.eu/en/What-is-Z21/General-information

I grabbed the Z21 so that I could use smart devices being 28 and working in IT I have spare devices to use and my friends can easily join with theirs. Much cheaper than buying multiple controllers and none of the hastle of getting JMRI to maybe work if the machine gods are in a good mood. Give it a look, I have one and took me 30 mins to get 2 locos running and I had not touched DCC previously.


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