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Control4 Aims to Be ‘OS’ of the Automated Home

Escient to incorporate Control4 automation platform in Vision media server; other CE vendors expected to follow suit.


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Control4 is hoping to become the operating system for the home.

The manufacturer of affordable home control systems is working with CE partners to "embed the Control4 software or technology to enable other devices in the consumer electronics industry to provide control functionality," said Control4 president Glen Mella in an interview with CE Pro.

Previously, the company's automation technology was exclusive to its own hardware, which includes media servers, home theater controllers, multiroom audio systems, and a full gamut of automation controls including lighting and HVAC.

Johnson Controls, a leading building controls provider, began OEMing product from Control4 earlier this year, but the technology is largely confined to products actually created by Control4.

Industry watchers might think Sony's adoption of Control4 is analogous -- but not really. The controller is simply standard Control4 fare, bundled with Sony's NHS rack of A/V gear.

Control4 now is going a step farther, allowing third-party manufacturers to incorporate Control4's core technology into their own products.

Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if Sony ditched the Control4 box, and instead built the technology directly into Sony receivers, switchers, multiroom audio systems and related gear?

Those products conceivably then could communicate directly with Control4's own keypads and touchpanels, as well as products from other manufacturers with embedded Control4 technology.

That's the vision.

Escient Server Has Control4 Inside


So far, Control4 has at least one taker: Escient, a media server manufacturer owned by D&M.

Earlier this year, a division of D&M Europe made a cryptic announcement that the Control4 operating system would be embedded in Escient's forthcoming Vision Series audio/video servers.

The brief release reads:

DMi D&M Installation will introduce a range of Escient Multi-room network control products in the forthcoming spring.

The new products are the result of a recent collaboration between D&M and Control4 to develop a series of control products under the Escient brand that are based on the Control4 operating system.

Further information on these products will be available in due course.


When asked about the announcement during the Electronic House Expo in March, Escient representatives were quiet about the Control4 collaboration. Neither Escient nor Control4 has commented specifically about the deal.

We can assume (or I will at least) that this implementation will enable the Vision system to be operated directly by Control4's keypads and other controllers, as well as third-party devices (maybe their own?) with Control4 technology inside.

Here we go Again?


Other technology developers over the past 15 or so years have pledged to become the OS of the home. Certainly Intel and Microsoft have tried, with BeComm's Strings technology, Simple Control Protocol, Home API, plus numerous other efforts over the years.

"Microsoft Windows is a wonderful OS for the PC," Mella states, "but a PC is not necessarily the best device for running your lighting, temperature and other key systems in your home."

The industry is littered with other companies and standards bodies that had high hopes of owning the home automation architecture of the home.

AMX, with its long-ago Panja mistake, was hoping its core technology would be embedded in cable settop boxes and other mass-market appliances.





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Article Topics

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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]

19 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Avi Rosenthal  on  05/08  at  07:44 AM

Julie,

I am surprised at you.  To put the label “OS of the Home” on a closed proprietary system like Control4 is preposterous.  After years of ignoring the open system, open platform architecture of the industry, they finally make one step in the right direction, and now they are the ones to be successful? Superna has always preached an open fully leveraged standard OS for the home, and we don’t just talk the talk we walk the walk.  Our software includes drivers for over 2500 different devices, from hundreds of manufacturers.  We have user interfaces that are completely customizable, an easy to use configuration tool and all at an affordable price.  Our software is light, portable and reliable, it runs on many different devices from Windows to Linux to CE.  It is only with this kind of flexible, easy to use software with connections to literally thousands of other devices that a Home Control system be called the OS of the home. And we believe, no we know, that we have achieved this goal.  I challenge any integrator out there, check out both systems, and tell me that Superna is not the one that is truly the OS of the home.

Avi Rosenthal
VP, Sales and Marketing
Superna, Inc.

Posted by Jake  on  05/08  at  10:37 AM

Superna who? Sounds like this guy is jealous! haha

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/08  at  11:38 AM

I do agree that Superna is one of the most open, flexible systems on the market. Is the company trying to get third-party CE vendors to embed Superna’s core platform into their products. If so, any successes?

Posted by Avi Rosenthal  on  05/08  at  01:24 PM

We are currently under contract with numerous companies that will use our software as part of their offerings.  Some can be discussed in an open forum, others cannot.  Since our software is very light and portable it can run on many different platforms, even with small “strongarm” processors.

Posted by jack  on  05/08  at  01:49 PM

All I can say is snake oil.  Control4 is horrible.  The story makes fun of amx/phast and that was the control 4 founders company vision. They should focus on making thier stuff work. Any company that would partner with control4 is technologically and ethically bankrupt.  You don’t half to look far for their trail of failures. This may be the funniest story I have ever read. Probably trying to milk thier investors for more money!

Posted by LOL :0P  on  05/08  at  05:04 PM

I thought the story itself was silly but the argument from Avi was the icing on the cake that made me giggle out loud.  I haven’t been too impressed with Control4 myself, but how can Avi say Superna is more deserving of the “OS of the automated home” title when nobody in the industry has even heard of it.  I’m just waiting for the VP of Sales & Marketing of Savant to come in and say their product is more deserving.

Posted by Wake up  on  05/08  at  08:15 PM

C4? Come on.  I agree that connectivity should be standarized, but who in their right mind would go with something proprietary, if UPnP couldn’t make it how would C4, their own products don’t even work well from our experience and you would add a second network to the home when you already have a ethernet network.  And fyi Julie, OS means operating system, what you are talking about is a connectivity or networking technology.  This story is flat emberassing to any large company looking at the CEDIA space.  It makes everyone associated look like monkeys to think that C4 has any “real technology” in the comparison to Sun, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco,  etc…

Posted by Drew  on  05/09  at  05:35 AM

Superna has some mighty Israeli balls. From the beginning it was a deliberate copy of Control4. They even lifted the marketing look-and-feel of the packaging (a poor choice since there is nothing great about Control4’s marketing).

Alan, it’s sad really that you’d comment here like you’ve got the original product or something so unique. Is that why you guys are so well known? Is it the x10 support that pushed you guys over the edge with sales?

Jack + Wake, if you think Control4 doesn’t work you’ve either never used it, or you don’t understand networking to make it work. (take a class CEDIA has a bunch) Control4 has grown into the industry leader, with more systems in more places than any of the former big boys - in two years time. Since you claim it doesn’t work well, can you explain that growth to us please?

We’ve got 50+ large C4 jobs completed (video dist, audio dist, lighting, hvac etc) that work great. Clients love the system because it works every time. It costs about half the price of CrestCrap and it’s made by a company that isn’t currently loosing market share…

Posted by Get a Grip  on  05/09  at  05:56 AM

Are you all CRAZY!!! Can’t this industry stop trying to impress itself with self promotion, internal marketing and living in a dream land. Let’s look at some facts.

1) Our industry can’t even standardize on an IR code set.
2) Our industry can’t even standardize on RS-232, ASCI, Hex etc. It’s all over the place. Even On/Off command structure.
3) If products STILL don’t have a RS-232 or Ethernet port on them after the past 5 years of growth any imbedded OS is still a pipe dream.

There are so many strategic reasons why this has not happened and all are based around the product design to NOT BE plug and play. UPnP, OSGI, AMX, Crestron, C4, Superna, Life-Ware whichever, whatever get real.

The truth still lies in the company design and SOP’s. If you can’t even develop a company plan with standard operating procedures for which products you sell, integrate and automate then STOP LOOKING TO THE INDUSTRY to solve your problems.

Here’s an article for you Julie. Poll the top 50 integration firms in the US and ask them if they have a preset of standard equipment they allow to be specified into automation projects, AND, have complete code sets developed for every single product with GUI you will see why they are in the top 50.

As to who is trying to market themselves to the mass public and why, I’ll leave that to the reader. But to see how much investment funds have been sung into some of the new automation firms, C4, Life-Ware, Superna and others in recent years the fact in my mind is that this layer of control will never be decided by the automation partner themselves. If that could happen don’t you think Crestron would have jumped on that bandwagon years ago when Phast and then AMX attempted this. If power house firms that were behind OSGI could not get it going it sure isn’t going to be from some propritary automation firm, especially one who isn’t even #1 or #2.

Just my rant

Posted by ROFLMOA  on  05/09  at  08:33 AM

Drew Said—“Control4 has grown into the industry leader, with more systems in more places than any of the former big boys - in two years time. Since you claim it doesn’t work well, can you explain that growth to us please?”

That has got to be one of the most ignorant statements I’ve seen yet.  I bet the Philips Pronto is in 10x more homes than Crestron, AMX, and Control4 combined.  But, just like your statement, that proves NOTHING.  C4 is NOT and will NEVER BE a Crestron/AMX replacement.  It is a different market and a different client base.  Even though your statement mean nothing, I’d like to know where you pulled it from because I find it very hard to believe.  I’m guessing that statement came from the same spot other hot air is often released from.

Posted by Drew  on  05/09  at  08:46 AM

ROFLMOA,

If you seriously believe Philips Pronto should be the ‘Home OS’ vs Control4 (or Crestron or AMX) I wish you the best of luck. While you’re programming individual remotes Control4 will be rolling networked systems into entire buildings (as they are now).

It’s already happening. Who was Control4 three years ago?, now there are people like you WRITING IN ALL CAPS trying to defend the Crestron Customer. The unfortunate truth is that there never was a Crestron Customer, people just want stuff that works - regardless of price. Thats why we’ve removed 1 and 2 year Crestron installs to replace with Control4.

Contact Control4 and ask them how many controllers they have shipped, then contact Crestron and ask them the same question. You’re in for a surprise.

Posted by ROFLMOA  on  05/09  at  09:30 AM

Drink more of that kool-aid, Drew.  I never said the Pronto should have that title, I was merely pointing out the fact that the Pronto statement was as ridiculous as yours.  Control4 is not an OS either so do get your facts straight.  Your credibility just went out the door with your comment about there never being a Crestron customer.  You either have never had the pleasure of working with Crestron gear or you simply can’t understand how to program anything that doesn’t include a “Wizard”. 

“Contact Control4 and ask them how many controllers they have shipped, then contact Crestron and ask them the same question. You’re in for a surprise.”

That number would mean nothing.  How many Phast controllers were sold?  And how many of those Phast controllers are now in the trash?

My intent was never to bash C4, but more to say it has its place, as does Crestron/AMX.  Your inability to see that just goes to show how narrow-minded and/or uninformed you are.

Posted by Drew  on  05/09  at  09:56 AM

“I bet the Philips Pronto is in 10x more homes than Crestron, AMX, and Control4 combined.”

Is this the way you point out ridiculous statements? by making them?

I had the “pleasure” of working with Crestron for years. When the customer wanted a certain keypad button to do something new, it was terribly slow and expensive to change it. With C4, you drag and drop the functions you want - done. It is robust enough to tackle any job commercial or residential. The GUI (while ugly now) is moving to flash and will entirely customizable. New remotes/touchscreens on the way. What am I missing? What exactly do you think is untouchable about Crestron/AMX? Since you’ve claimed I’m ‘narrow-minded’, ‘uninformed’ & ‘ignorant’, please inform me.

Posted by jim  on  05/09  at  10:55 AM

I am privy to information from where C4 sources thier electronics semiconductors and trust me they have not sold much. The claim of a 1000 or 2000 systems is pretty accurate, but that is nothing. TV, STB, and PC is 10’s of millions a unit a month. Why do you think they just took in 20 million dollars of investment capital again a few months back.  Because they aren’t selling anything to create a profit.  They are bold face liars and have no real traction.  I have met with Best Buy, Circuit, Home Depot, and sony and even Johnson controls, nobody is selling any of their stuff.  All a big marketing program to baffle with BS and try and sell their business to a would be investor.  They just keep trying new tactivs like this to attract some M&A;guy.  Julie you should feel emberassed that they mislead you into their antics. No doubt Drew is an employee of C4.

Posted by Drew  on  05/09  at  11:19 AM

I’m definitely not a C4 employee, just a lowly integrator thanks. For the record I have rallied against *many* things still wrong with the C4 system, but it’s still the best one out there.

Jim - since you are familiar with the sourcing and retailers - which brand do you work for? Did your product end up OEM’d by Johnson Controls too?

Our phones ring off the hook for this equipment. Marketing is BS, and it works.

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