Sunday, September 13, 2009

Control4 2.0 is Coming! And it's Hot!

Just back from the CEDIA show in Atlanta and all I can say is WOW! Control4 showed a sneak preview of the upcoming 2.0 software that should make it's release before the end of the year and it is going to be hot!

The Control4 booth was really buzzing this year! The setup was a little different than CES, but they certainly got their message across. The interface is getting a face lift. The 5 year old product is making a change to the interface which will give the homeowners more control and capabilities then ever.

Software version 2.0 brings a whole new operating system to Control4 and incorporates Zigbee Pro into their system. With the new interface, Control4 will now offer a software applications page (a-la Apple) whic will enable consumers to download "apps" written by developers. Some apps may be free, some may have a cost, but the consumer will have the ability to download these apps to their system directly from their touchscreen. The apps could be anything from news related to weather and even traffic apps (see photo for samples). As said above, they will be developed by dealers and other third party developers.

Another major milestone announced at CEDIA was that Control4 will now interface with Z-Wave, the "other" home automation interface technology. This gives Control a significant advantage over other products (not naming names!) in that it opens the door to several additional third party vendors that were only available to Z-Wave customers. It expands their relationships and interoperability with several other manufacturers giving more choices to consumers and installers. We are extremely excited about the upcoming software release from Control4 and will keep everyone posted once it becomes available to the consumer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Come Visit our new "Smart" Home!

So, we just finished a fantastic installation at our new demo home in Silver Spring, Maryland. The "spec" home was built by Housewright Development and we were happy to assist them with automating their show house. By the way, this is not a million dollar home. The home is priced at just $699,000.00 and includes the automation solution.

Inside we installed several items that really assist the homeowner to become more energy efficient. Items like a programmable wireless thermostat and programmable dimmers and switches that allow the homeowner to program lighting scenes and schedule timers so that they can control how much energy is used throughout the day. Our goal in setting up this house was to keep things simple so that ANYONE could use it.

We installed a multi-zone amplifier that supports speakers in the dining, kitchen, living room and master bedroom. Music can be accessed with a simple touch of a single button in each room. A 3-button keypad that allows access to several play lists is installed in the living and dining rooms that allows the user to select the play list they wish to listen to by pressing the top button. Press once and light jazz begins to play. Press the button twice and today's latest pop music begins to play. Press the same button three times and your now listening to your favorite Dave Matthews albums. Hold the button down for three seconds and the system turns off. Volume can be controlled by the other two buttons, one to raise the volume and the other to lower it.

Since the kitchen is usually the most common area of the home we installed a 7" touch screen that allows the homeowner to control the entire solution from. Access Rhapsody for all of your favorite music, see the installed IP video cameras displaying who's at the front door or parked in the driveway; control the thermostat right on the touch screen; Turn off the television in the family room to call the kids in for dinner. Control every music zone in the home from one location. The system is also tied to the alarm system, which allows us to use the touch screen as the alarm system touch pad, further simplifying by consolidating the amount of separate controllers/touch pads installed in the home.

In the family room we have a Sony Plasma television installed above the gas fireplace with a Denon Surround Sound receiver and a Blu-Ray DVD player hidden inside a cabinet that flanks the fireplace. Take control of the Control4 SR-25o Remote and you have full control of the system in the palm of your hands. Press the red "4" button and the system turns on and the screen quickly shows the simple Control4 menu screen. What do you want to do? Watch television, or maybe a DVD? Or maybe you want to listen to something on your iPod or a Rhapsody play list. Whatever you want to do it's just a simple selection away from starting. We have a three button keypad that you can control the fireplace and lights from. We can even program a scene that automatically dims the lights, starts the fireplace, changes the television to the correct input to begin watching a DVD all by just pressing "Play" on the remote control! How cool is that!

We are very excited about this house and all of the capabilities that this system brings to the homeowner. If you would like to see this home in action, please give us a call at 877-343-2727 and we would be happy to schedule a live demo.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Home Show Gods!

It's been a while since my last post and happily its because I've been very busy. It's home show season and we have kicked off the season with several successful showings. The thing about these shows is that you get all kinds of folks coming through the booths, people with varying degrees of interest in what you are showing, some that just want to take the free stuff we're giving away.

We have just come off of three very successful shows that I hope we have provided very good insight and information to those that chose to come and visit us. A lot of vendors at these shows are trying to sell items directly out of their booths. You see the Sham Wow towels and the pots and pans people are schlepping through the isles. My idea of a successful show is if I can help someone understand the value of what we are trying to provide. Having someone understand what you are explaining and seeing their eyes light up with that understanding that it isn't actually our of their budget, or giving them ideas as to improve on what they already own is such a powerful thing. I know this will sound odd, but I truly get a warm feeling when someone leaves the booth and says "thank you for educating me, I'm so glad that I took the time to stop and chat with you".

My true favorites however, are the ones that stop and say, "I don't understand what you do". Looking at my booth I thought it was obvious, but I'm in the business so of course it is to me. So I begin to explain it to them and you see the light bulb go off in their eyes and it's very cool. I know they're hooked.

So we have really put our new show booth (pictured) to the test. We have several more shows coming down the pike, as a matter of fact the next show is scheduled for next week at the Howard County Fairgrounds Friday Saturday and Sunday April 3rd, 4Th and 5Th. Following that we will be traveling across the US to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a show April 17Th and 18Th at the Snow King Center. If you have a moment, stop by and chat!

We are showcasing the Control4 Home Controller solution. At the booth we are showing the benefits of taking control of your lighting and thermostat in ways you may not have thought. You can search through the digital music we have installed on the system to play through the Control4 WiFi Speaker Point as well as play with the iPod and iPod dock integration for even more music choices. We are also showing how simple it is to operate your own equipment with our universal remote control such as your television, cable box and DVD players. Use the new Control4 7" Touch Panel or try the Apple iPhone/iTouch application or wireless control from anywhere in the home. Watch others pass by on our wireless camera that we have connected to the systems as well!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What's new at CES (or...Thinner is Better!)

So, just back from visiting CES in Las Vegas. As a side note, it's always easier getting acclimated to the time change, but coming home is never easy! Still trying to catch up on my sleep! Anyway, a lot of cool items were shown at CES. Looks like the big item as 3-D. All of the major manufacturers showed off their new 3D televisions, or 3-D converters (converting standard videos into 3-D videos). This had to be one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. So, televisions are getting another makeover.....they are all skinnier then ever. Sony has a new set that looked to be less than a 1/2" thick (see pic), as did Samsung, Toshiba and Panasonic. The resolution was amazing on these sets.

Interestingly enough, the show wasn't as busy has it has been in past years. Usually you are elbow to elbow with all of the others being pushed and shoved from booth to booth, but this year there was plenty of room to walk around and see all of the exciting new products.

So, in regards to automation, Control4 is introducing some very cool items, including the new HC-200 Home Controller, which is a scaled down version of the current HC-300. The HC-200 has all of the capabilities of the HC-300 but the remote control that is included with it has no display It's small enough that it you can mount it to the back of a television out of the way.

Control4 also showed their new 7" handheld touch screen which is very cool. The screen is large enough that the buttons are easy to use, but the unit is small enough that it doesn't look like your carrying a notebook computer to change channels.

Control4 had a separate area in their booth for about 20 of their strategic partners, companies that offer products that are able to integrate with the Control4 product line. Black & Decker boasted their new key-less door locks that are ZigBee enabled and are controllable via Control4. Need to unlock the door for a repairman, or someone needs to get into the house and forgot a key? No longer a problem as you can access the lock through Control4's 4Sight web portal and unlock and re-lock the doors.

Another really cool item in the booth was Vision Art. Vision Art gives you the ability to put an actual piece of art to cover the flat screen that is hanging on the wall. At the touch of a button, the artwork quietly lifts up and the TV screen appears! Another touch and the picture re-appears. Very cool stuff!

There was a lot more to see and a lot more the write about, but I think this post is long enough. On a final thought, I think that the show was very interesting. With all of the economic stress that is going on, technology is still moving forward at a feverish pace. It is very interesting to see that the major electronics manufacturers aren't showing any sweat with the lack of retail sales and the mass of major retailers having trouble keeping the doors open. Technology keeps moving forward.