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Best Buy Picks iRule Home Automation for Controlling Magnolia Showrooms

Affordable, software-based, cloud-enabled iRule beats out better-known home automation brands to run the demos in some 470 Magnolia stores.


iRule home automation interface for Best Buy’s Magnolia stores replicates the actual demos in the showrooms. View more images in the slideshow.

Magnolia, the custom installation arm of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) , needed a home automation system to help customers and salespeople operate audio demos in the listening rooms of roughly 470 Magnolia stores. They picked iRule.

iRule might seem like an unusual choice, given that the software starts at only $100 and the hardware at $100 as well, and given that it isn’t one of the biggest names in home automation. But the Detroit-based company beat out many of the better-known brands in the smart home business.

“There wasn’t anyone else that was multi-platform, flexible enough and affordable,” says Brent Newman, senior manager, Technology Design for Best Buy, in an interview with CE Pro. “We wanted something flexible, modular, something we could easily change out and that wasn’t hardware-driven.”

iRule uses iOS and Android devices as interfaces, a combination of local and cloud-based services for control, and flexible adapters or dongles (about $100 each) to operate devices via IR, IP, RS-232 or relay communications.

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

In the Magnolia implementation of iRule, the user has a smart tablet that replicates visually the display in the store, which consists of multiple speakers and components (take the tour here).

To select a speaker and/or source, the user simply touches the image(s) on the smart tablet.

LEDs in the showroom light up to show the products selected – a feature also enabled by iRule.

Newman says that Magnolia itself – not iRule – built the interface in about three weeks, with iRule doing only “a couple of custom things to it.”

That Magnolia themselves could program the system was an important consideration for selecting iRule, since products in the showroom can be rearranged or swapped out at any time.


Compared to the last demo system Magnolia was using, “we reduced the change-out time by 90 percent,” says Newman.

Although customers themselves can operate the demo system, it is primarily meant for employees. From the same interface they use for demos, they can easily pull up more details on any given product.

“If you can’t get the employee experience down, you can’t get the customer experience,” says Newman.

So is Magnolia offering iRule through its stores? No, at least not yet. Currently the company sells AMX, Control4, Pro Control, Savant and URC for home control.

iRule founder and CEO Itai Ben-Gal tells us that Best Buy is working on a different implementation for its core stores that lets customers try out the products with their own selections of music and video.

iRule Pro, the professional installed version of iRule, was named Control Product of the Year at the 2014 CEA Mark of Excellence Awards.

View the 9 photos attached to this entry
Best Buy Picks iRule Home Automation for Controlling Magnolia Showrooms

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Slideshow · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Irule · Magnolia · 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]

9 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Savant  on  05/28  at  04:13 PM

So much for Savant and C4

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/28  at  04:15 PM

Not at all! Magnolia doesn’t even sell iRule. They just selected their products to run the in-store demos.

Posted by Mr. Stanley  on  05/28  at  05:09 PM

Pretty impressive.

Posted by Jon  on  05/28  at  08:30 PM

I used this at Best Buy the otHer day.  Looks good. Didn’t test all of the functionality but it is really just an Audio Authority type solution for retail. I know there is no real audio video switching.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/29  at  01:09 PM

Jon, as switch is only as good as its interface, which I think is quite exceptional. Did you look at the screen grabs?

Posted by Electric Nick  on  05/30  at  10:00 AM

Dose iRule have the ability to interface with any lighting control systems (Homeworks, Vantage, etc.)

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/30  at  10:53 AM

Here is the list of compatible devices:

I see Lutron Radio Ra and some other lighting controls on there but not Homeworks or Vantage.

Posted by Mr. Lucas  on  05/31  at  10:54 AM

As a former BB HT employee, if this is truly EZ and reliable, it will be huge for employee and customer confidence.

Posted by Robin Ford  on  06/04  at  06:13 PM

Thanks for a great article, Julie. Just wanted to chime in here that the $100 dongles enabling network connectivity in this installation are Global Cache’ devices. We’ve gotten rave reviews from the Best Buy folks.

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