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$100 iRule Could be Next Big Thing in Cloud-Based Home Automation

Starting at $100 for software and $100 for hardware, iRule cloud-based home automation works great as a DIY remote control or as a professionally installed system for large commercial jobs. See it at CEDIA 2013.


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A rich solution like this (more examples at avsforum) starts with iRule Pro software ($100) and IP-enabling hardware from Global Cache ($100+)

iRule started out in 2009 as a couple of “enthusiast geeks” making iOS-based remote controls for do-it-yourselfers. Today, the Detroit-based company is one of the biggest sleepers in home automation and commercial integration with thousands of installs in homes, conference rooms, sports bars, retail showrooms, yachts and numerous other venues.

Starting at $50, the iRule software (for iOS and Android) is written for networking gear from Global Cache, which provides every manner of two-way modules for IP (wired and Wi-Fi), RS-232, IR and relay controls for roughly $100 apiece.

So enthusiasts can create a nice little one-way IR remote for their iOS or Android devices for about $150.

A good two-way solution for controlling and monitoring audio, video, security, lighting, thermostats, motorized shades and other systems starts at a mere $100 for the iRule Pro software, plus some optional plug-ins, plus a few hundred dollars for Global Cache hardware. Even then, we’re talking maybe $1,000 to $3,000 for a complete system, sans labor of course.

But is it any good? You can be the judge at CEDIA Expo 2013, where iRule is showcasing its existing products and its first piece of hardware (coming soon in another story).

Let me just say that iRule is the most extensible, least risky home-control platform I’ve seen. You can start small with a simple remote and build up to solutions that control thousands of devices. If the company ever goes out of business – doubtful—the off-the-shelf hardware can be repurposed and the software is likely to be supported for a long time via an active user community.

The iRule System


I met recently with iRule founder Itai Ben-Gal in Detroit and spent some time with the system.

I can understand the allure. iRule provides numerous templates for the do-it-yourselfer and custom installer. The templates – both the user interface and the programming logic—can be modified or users can start from scratch, “so it is the best of both worlds,” says Tom Morgan, CTO of Worthington Distribution, which distributes the system.

Going with modified templates allows dealers to install lots of systems quickly in a cookie-cutter-kind-of-way that can still look different from job to job. It gives customers the impression that their system is unique, “so they really can’t price-shop,” says Ben-Gal.

Despite its DIY roots, iRule can rival the richest of pro-centric home automation systems with extremely flexible interfaces and a wealth of programming options.

“They started out with an excellent focus on A/V control,” says Morgan. “However, they have now moved towards two-way drag-and-drop drivers for connectivity partners.”

Virtually all of the popular audio, video and control brands are supported, as well as some other brands you don’t always see in high-performance automation systems – like Roku, Boxee, Plex, Popcorn Hour, XBMC, Sky, Shinybow (huh?), Insteon, Sonos and Belkin Wemo (partial list of supported devices here).

The day I visited, iRule was demonstrating integration with Nest thermostats even though Nest has not yet released an open API.

Furthermore, iRule supports full-featured home automation systems like MiCasa Verde and HAI (now Leviton Security & Automation ).

So if you use Leviton (HAI) for security, lighting control and energy management, for example, you can integrate those controls into a complete cloud-based whole-home audio/video/automation system.

It is undoubtedly the best HAI add-on ever, and it’s a wonder not every single HAI dealer is using it.

Tutorial on integrating Leviton (HAI) with iRule

iRule charges $25 for the HAI module, as it does with some of its other software modules, but more on the interesting pricing formula later. ...

With a rich database of supported devices and the flexibility of its software, iRule has won numerous commercial integration jobs over its more recognizable rivals.

Ben-Gal showed me the user interface for an iRule system used by a race track to monitor and control some 200 TVs with an iPad. The TVs can be arranged on the screen in a number of ways, allowing easy access to individual or groups of displays. Designing the system was as simple as dragging the TV icons on the iRule Builder programming editor.

VIDEO: iRule runs Silhouette Lounge, Bronx, N.Y. Installation by Mistertec

Earlier, I called iRule the most extensible, least risky home automation system I’ve seen. That’s because it is modular, requiring no proprietary hardware. Instead, iRule uses palm-sized Global Cache adapters that cost roughly $100 each. Want to add an RS-232-controllable A/V receiver to a system? That’ll be $95 (retail) for Global Cache iTach IP2SL TCP/IP to Serial adapter. (Obviously IP-controllable subsystems don’t require network adapters).

To be sure, there are scores of developers today writing home automation software for Global Cache, BitWise and other low-cost network-enabling controllers (Roomie Remote is a popular one; see them at CEDIA).

But iRule seems unstoppable. The product is good, Ben-Gal is hungry and the company is funded and credible.

“Even before we quit our day jobs,” says Ben-Gal, “we were selling systems. We already had 1,000 customers.”

The Cloud, Compuware and Credibility


Although iRule started life in the basement of a geek who didn’t like the existing remote controls on the market – like where all these things begin – the company looks all grown up now, with 12 full-time employees and a real office.

Today iRule shares space with Compuware, the massive IT service provider, in downtown Detroit, where I had to pass through Mossad-worthy sentinels and other security measures to get to the iRule office.

The tight security is required for Compuware’s Tier 4 data centers upstairs, which are encased in layers upon layers of bullet-proof glass. There, the IT giant stores sensitive corporate and government data and powers 12 of the top 20 most visited U.S. Websites.



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$100 iRule Could be Next Big Thing in Cloud-Based Home Automation


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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Lighting · Universal Remotes · Events · CEDIA · Irule · Hai · Cedia 2013 · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Sean Greer  on  09/13  at  01:48 PM

iRule is a great product. When you pair it with a HydraConnect switch like the HSS-3, you get a complete 8x8 HDMI matrix, 8x16 audio matrix, and HDBaseT full outputs, all controlled by the iRule cloud software directly when you put the HydraConnect matrix switch in iRule mode. With CEC control built in, you can even control your TVs (on many brands) all with iRule and not have a single IR bug in the system!

Posted by Bryan Taylor  on  09/13  at  03:36 PM

My concern is the race to the bottom as far as pricing is concerned. It is not about points but about total profit dollars. If you sell a system and then the client returns 3 months later to add one more control, you cannot take 90 minutes to sell and program the new piece when you make such small profit. This may be a workable solution for an integrator working from home, but if you are paying $5000.00 to $10000.00 a month for rent, this might not be the product for you. I will see them at CEDIA.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  09/14  at  07:21 AM

Bryan—Some very thoughtful comments and the dialog we SHOULD be having.

I am working on a feature about dealers charging good money on projects with cheap hardware and software.

In the mean time, we do need to consider a new paradigm in which hardware and software is (essentially) free. How do integrators make money in that world? As you say ... there must be a way. I will work to uncover it for our readers.

Thanks for the comment.

If you care to, shoot me an email to chat some more .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted by Bob Lieto  on  09/14  at  08:19 AM

As a custom integrator, I read about iRule and contacted them for more information. I do not see them being able to supply us with any usable product, for our clients want US to program, instruct and be there when there are questions. For a small rack of gear (4-6 pieces) it takes us about 2 hrs for the whole process of digesting the system requirements, programming and instruction. The iRule product might be of use to the DIY people, but I feel it will grow thin when changes become needed. We are still evaluating their offerings as we do all new services, to see if there is a fit somewhere.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  09/14  at  08:31 AM

Hi, Bob - obviously it’s not for everyone but I’m not quite sure I understand your comment. With iRule Pro, YOU do all the programming and installation, just as you would with any other control system.

Thanks for chiming in.

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