Multiplexing is a fancy word for a simple idea. It merely refers to providing a “party line” for different devices to talk on. A typical RV contains many electronic products – electronic controls run the generator, inverter, refrigerator, air conditioning, and many other systems. And most of those products have some method of communicating. But each speaks a different language, to the benefit of no one.
Multiplexing defines a common language for every product, regardless of the manufacturer or function. A single pair of wires connects every element in the network, linking every product together like the phones in a party line. Every component can talk, and every component can hear the conversation.
Just as the telephone changed the world in so many ways, multiplexing promises to revolutionize the RV industry in many important ways. Other industries have already embraced it – most notably the automotive manufacturers who use multiplexing in every car and truck built today. And while there are many reasons the RV industry is embracing the technology, three key factors are driving it forward.
If you take your car into the shop today, the mechanic's first action is to plug in a computer into its diagnostic port. That port is an example of diagnostics using multiplexing. It will soon be possible for RV technicians to access a similar port in the service bay of a motorhome, plug in a cable from their laptop computer, and within seconds be reading diagnostic information from the major systems in the coach. Just like their automotive counterparts, they will be able to perform tests, configure components, collect data, and print reports. A single inexpensive tool will work for every component, regardless of the manufacturer.
Service cost and quality is widely acknowledged as an important concern in the RV industry. By providing the same type of service diagnostics as the automotive industry, multiplexing will improve diagnostic speed and accuracy, reduce warranty costs, and improve the customer experience.
A common feature in today's coach is a safety interlock that prevents the coach from being driven when a slide room is extended. Surely a sensible feature, which brings to mind the question: why doesn't the coach have a similar interlock for the shore cord, bay doors, or satellite dish? The answer is simple: while putting in one safety interlock is fairly easy, putting in several is much harder – not just to install, but to troubleshoot and fix if a problem occurs. But multiplexing changes that dramatically. With multiplexing, adding additional interlocks becomes trivial.
And many other types of “embedded intelligence” become possible. Products can change the way they function based on the available power sources. Climate control systems can interact intelligently. Features that were once impossible become a simple matter of programming.
Design (and User) Convenience
Multiplexing makes many things possible. With it, you can have multiple controls for the same component - or control multiple components from a single panel. Product controls can be customized for the specific application. The scope for vendors and designers to differentiate their product, refine the controls, and improve the customer experience is expanded exponentially.
Of course, the most powerful reason the RV industry is aggressively adopting this technology is simple: The future demands it. Every similar industry – from automotive to farm equipment, aviation to marine – has already moved to multiplexing. It is becoming a basic customer expectation. Just as no computer beyond the most basic is sold today without a network card, the time shall come when no RV over a certain price point wouldn't be similarly connected. The question is not “Whether”, but “When”.