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[CEDIA 2014] Control4 sees home automation booming
By Weili Lin 2014-09-12
The US market is growing with a lot of possibilities. “It’s really been taking off,” said Paul Williams, Vice President of Lighting and Comfort at Control4. “What happened in the US market now is that customers are starting to be aware of smart home technology because of lots of major service providers are getting into the market, such as Xfinity and AT&T with their digital life products. What they do is raising awareness of consumers. Consumers are looking for solutions.” Williams thinks customers are not be satisfied with the services provided because those are canned, not personalized. However, Control 4 can offer custom services for them to fit the way they live at their home or what their lives look like. That’s why they go for Control 4.”
He pointed out integration of DIY products into the whole-home automation may encounter some problems because of inconsistent standards. Those products come from different companies. What automation companies like Control 4 can do is to make things easily done. Williams indicated that its core competence is to build up a solution to bring all these technologies together into a simple and easy-to-use interface. “We want to embrace the Internet of Things, and bring those things into Control4 systems,” he added. Control 4 plans to adopt point solutions like Nest’s products. Dealers are picking them up from local distribution places like Lowe’s and Home Depot. They install them for their customers because their customers like that elegant look. He thinks the DIY products and point solutions help its business, and help to expand its revenue. “You’d better buy something from me or nothing from me.” It could be a win-win strategy.
Control 4 is seeing the great opportunities in China and Other parts of Asia (India) besides Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It established its Banglore (India) and China (Shanghai office) in 2013. The company has sales office there and training center there. “The US home automation market is stable with steady growth because it’s very mature,” said Williams.
Control 4 takes an open-approach partnership to choose device partners into partner ecosystem because what customers’ think is important to the company. “If there is a device maker selling products into our dealers’ channels, we are willing to work with them. We are exclusive with those relationships, to anyone manufacturer, “ said Williams. “We don’t want to offer only one solution only. We want our customers to make decisions based on what they need.“
Control 4 has SDDP partners like LILIN and QNAP. Simple Device Discovery Protocol (SDDP) is software that is built into a manufacturer’s product to make integration with a Control4 system easy and seamless. Dealers add these devices to a Control4 system and the controller automatically recognizes them. SDDP lets consumers enjoy a lower cost of installation.
Control 4 sells its systems directly to dealers. Regarding its business model, it offers dealers the software necessary to be able to configure their systems, and the hardware to be able to install the projects. Then it supports them behind like trainings to make sure they are successful.
Control 4 sells lots of hardware devices, including lighting control products, audio / video switching products to distribute audio and video, thermostats, controllers, touch panels, etc. “We’ve done all the design, and manufacturing is done through contract manufacturing. Most of our contract manufacturing is done in Asia, some in Taiwan, some in China and some in Korea.” The company doesn’t manufacture cameras, but uses cameras from third-parties like LILIN. About the selection standards, Williams said, “We need to make sure that the vendors are developing quality products, they work for our dealers, and they are not problematic during installation and support. Of course, we need to understand what understand what kind of company they are and how they do business before a long-term relationship.”
To keep competitiveness, Control 4 focuses on deal relationship and customers’ experiences. “We continue to focus on dealer relationship, to make sure they are able to build up their business. We focus on customers’ experience, and want to make it economical to our customers. It brings availability of smart home technology to a broader group of people,” said Williams.