One of the biggest surprises at MACNA 2012 was the huge product re-branding effort and hardware compatibility update by the aquarium controller gurus at Neptune Systems, home of the extremely popular AquaController. Along with the beautiful new logo and decal labeling that both found their way onto each and every one of the controller modules, the AquaController Apex got a very nice update in the form of advanced third party compatibility, called the Apex Ready system. And tying all of those updates into a clean and useable package is the refreshed Apex Dashboard, which further carries out Neptune Systems’ long term vision of meaningful and visually appealing aquarium control and monitoring.
There are a lot of updates to discuss, so we’ll start with the Apex Dashboard. Every probe, outlet, and profile on the Apex controller will be available as a separate tile on the computer screen, and users can move and resize them as they wish to display the most relevant information in a way that is most conducive to a quick glance. Furthermore, by clicking on the tiles in specific places, users are taken to either the configuration screen for that particular module or a big graph displaying all available data. From the configuration screen, users can easily change how the controller responds to certain parameters (e.g. pH, time of day, temperature, etc.) without ever having to go through the controller itself, thus eliminating the sometimes frustrating navigation of the Apex display unit.
As for the Apex Ready roll out, Neptune Systems has been adding modules to their controller line that play nice with third party products for the last several years, and it would appear that they are making an even bigger push to improve communication and compatibility with outside products. From what we gathered at MACNA and a couple of back and forth emails to Neptune Systems reps, the certified Apex Ready products would connect to the controller through cables, much like what the Tunze controllable pumps already do, or wirelessly through a specified module. From there, the product would show up on the Apex Dashboard and would be fully controllable. A good example of this is the IP camera that was on display at the Neptune Systems booth. The camera mounted to the light fixture and aimed down at the aquarium. Through the Apex Dashboard, video footage from the camera was being streamed live. Unfortunately, the Neptune reps have been pretty tight lipped on all of the features that are supposed to be available. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait much longer for the beta release of the software, which we’re told should be in a few weeks or so.
The last major feature of this new system was the updated mobile control of the software for 2012. Through Apple and Android based apps, hobbyists could control their Apex controller from anywhere in the world, provided the controller is communicating over a network of course. The controls are all touch based, making adjusting things on the fly extremely simple. We realize this feature isn’t exactly new, as it has been available for years through the AquaNotes app, but it sure is nice to see it coming straight from the source. The Apex app was first shown off several months ago, but MACNA presented the first time for us to see it in person.
All in all, MACNA 2012 proved to be a very busy show for Neptune Systems and we can’t wait to see what the short term future holds for the Apex Ready program and who all will be getting on board.