The need to simplify is a strong trend in the hobby noted by David Barrow, Lance Mindheim, Mike Cougill and Trevor Marshall among others. They speak along this line for size of layout and simplifying the complexity of the physical layout while increasing the purity of the operation. They are looking for better couplers, better rules, better paperwork and operations to improving fun and faithfulness to the prototype. What areas are left to apply this perspective?
What they have not seen and we have not seen is a simplification to the operations control system. DCC is a 20+ year old standard that came into being before Windows 95. When you see this from a perspective of the computer industry it is apparent that while the decoders are significantly better and more full featured the backbone of the systems is still ancient technology. The wireless system used by these systems and the control interfaces are still from a generation ago. There are exceptions.
Lenz does allow you to use a single box to interface with a wireless router and use of small devices like an iPhone. There are a number of wireless vendors who are making units usually for use with a battery powered system. NCE recently released its own plug in receiver for use with those wireless vendors. The question is whether any of these represent the next generation of control systems.
Bachmann has announced what an alternative path of using bluetooth to control the locomotive and this will be coming to their HO locomotives in 2015. This may represent a new approach to the whole question depending on how well implemented is the system design. The system is not Bachmann's design but they deserve credit having the vision for trying a new path. The standard, software and equipment is made by a company named BlueRail. The links to the announcements and websites are as follows:
Take a look at the video on the BlueRail site and see the possibility.