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Lifeware Automation Runs on RTI Remote; Company Committed to ‘Choice’

Exceptional Innovation is departing from its earlier insistence that Media Center be the hub of a whole-house system.


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When it comes to Media Center, folks in our industry almost always think of Exceptional Innovation, whose Lifeware automation software was built specifically for the Media Center platform.

Now, EI wants to make it clear that Lifeware isn't just for Media Center.

"Media Center is a beautiful way to render Lifeware, but it's not the only way," says EI founder and CEO Seale Moorer.

Back up?!

Moorer's revelation came after EI worked on a 25,000-square-foot house in West Palm Beach, Fla. The clients didn't care to use Media Centers to "run" the house, but they liked the idea of Media Centers as components and they liked Lifeware.

They really wanted to run their home using universal remote controls, without being beholden to a TV interface, a browser-type controller, or in-wall touchscreens and keypads.

The solution was a house full of T-2C RF remotes (28 of them) from Remote Technologies Inc. running Lifeware client software. EI demonstrated the solution for the first time during the Electronic House Expo, March 13-15 in Orlando, Fla.

In the West Palm job, the Lifeware host was a $3,000 LifeController with embedded Lifeware -- not a full-blown computer with Media Center.

"I personally put RTI in my own house and I love it," says Moorer. "It was a real turning point to learn how powerful it can be with our software."

In the West Palm Beach installation, EI created an entire integration package for the RTI remote so it essentially serves as a Lifeware client, able to perform most Lifeware functions, such as activating scenes and controlling multiroom audio.

Since the T-2C is a one-way IR/RF device, however, the unit cannot receive metadata from the network.

Lifeware-enabling the T-2C was a dry run for EI, which plans to support other universal remotes in the future. The company cautions that the RTI solution is not yet available to dealers.

At CES, EI showed Lifeware running on a Philips SRM 7500 ("Tino") remote, but that product is only available in Europe.

Switchers Trump CableCard


Accommodating the T-2C is only a slight departure for Lifeware. What really has changed is that the company has resigned itself to embracing matrix switchers.

In the past, Exceptional Innovation implored integrators to rely on Media Center as the hub of a whole-house automation and media-management system, with all content distributed over the Ethernet network.

Forget that DVD and protected HDTV content cannot be distributed freely over the network. EI still held to its all-network, all-the-time mantra.

Not anymore. "For me it was a light bulb going off," says Moorer of the West Palm Beach job. "You need remotes and video switchers."

He is disappointed by the (non-)progress of CableCard for PCs, and does not blame integrators for dismissing CableCard-enabled PCs in favor of traditional sources of HD content.

"It makes sense for the high end, which is really what our dealers want to go after," Moorer says.

In a departure from earlier days, Moorer now maintains that Lifeware is a suitable automation solution with or without Media Center.

"You can run it [Lifeware] on a $3,000 LifeController or a $500 PC," he says. "What you do not need anymore is putting Media Center at the center of it."

He reiterates, "I don't want to come off that Media Center isn't the right product as a centerpiece, [but] I'm committed to choice. I'm backing dealers who want to use Lifeware without the full-blown Media Center experience. We're going to make this work with a variety of products."

The new approach will help acclimate integrators to the Media Center experience, without making them commit to the platform.




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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Universal Remotes · Media Center · EHX Spring · Home Automation · Media Center · Universal Remote · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, 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.

10 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Really? Surprised? C'Mon  on  03/26  at  05:59 PM

Who cares?  Seriously, no one actually installs LifeWare. The whole idea has been propped up by third party marketing dollars and some at EH have been eating it up because of that.  Their days are numbered. 
-Seamons left because he saw the writing on the wall
-Their business plan has made a drastic change because the PC isn’t a reliable platform for automation.
-cost
Just another flash in the pan HA company that failed.
Alothough, they did raise awareness with their massive marketing budget.

Posted by bob  on  03/26  at  08:41 PM

I am an installer for a large florida integrator, we just installed a very large lifeware job and it works great.  The homeowner has had many other crestron and amx systems and he has indicated he would like to tear out the other systems and go all lifeware at all properties.  If you haven’t installed lifeware, then it is easy to be a skeptic.  If you have installed lifeware, you finally have something you can replicate and make a ton of money on.  I am the field tech not the owner, but the only negative to lifeware is we need to layoff our crestron programmers, because about anybody can set lifeware up. The builder we did this job for was a skeptic as well, but he says no more crestron in any of the homes he builds. And just so you are aware, you don’t need a MCE PC for lifeware to work. I had the same negative approach with all the glamor and glitz of the marketing BS, but our lifeware sales guy can out program our top Crestron programmer.  Take a closer look or hope your competition doesn’t.

Posted by Life-believer  on  03/26  at  09:05 PM

Look at the latest Lifeware headlines.
-Part of new Disney “House of the Future” attraction.
-Trainings booked till summer.
-CEA Mark of Excellence-Best Media Server.
-CEA Mark of Excellence-Best Control System.
I think it’s clear they’re more than a flash in the pan or a good marketing plan.

Posted by OhMyGod  on  03/27  at  02:51 AM

Really, suprised, c’mon - you’re a loser and a dumbass as well because you don’t understand the PC enough to make it work well in a home automation environment.

Posted by Whaaa  on  03/27  at  06:05 AM

OhMyGod, are you crying?

Posted by Life-Doubter  on  03/27  at  08:50 AM

I still have not talked to anyone who has installed more than one of these things.  Most “dealers” I talk to have been to training and have not sold a system “yet.”  Just because people are attending training does not mean that they will actually sell something.

“House of the Future” does nothing for our industry today, nor does it indicate the marketability of a product.  If fact it is quite the opposite.  If it is a product of today why talk about it in a future context?

Mark of Excellence awards are not given out on the basis of marketability, sales, or even the product’s ability to work.  They are evaluated on paper only.  I could submit the “OhMyGod is a Crybaby 3000” and claim it can control everything under the sun and it requires no programming at all and it would probably win several awards.

The question is “Is anyone buying it?” and it looks like the answer is “not really.” It is probably because only a fool would allow a Windows box to run their house.  If you just like the interface there are literally dozens of software products like HomeSeer, ECS Omnipotence, etc. that can provide a really slick PC based interface to a legitimate embedded home control system without all of the ridiculous licensing associated with LifeWare.

Posted by bob  on  03/27  at  07:33 PM

Dealers only invest in loss time and travel expenses if they intend to sell systems or already have.  The long industry lead times on custom homes make it slow for all new product to have a quick install base.  We are one of the only done one that you refer to, but we now have five more sold.  Next one doesn’t install until late this year.  All the licensing you talk about is all the profit we make, the licensing associated with lifeware is no different than the billed time that goes with crestron or amx programming, except you can actually track it and charge for it with out your sales people saying “oh sure we can add that graphic or those 10 scenes” and nobody collecting and that kills the bottom line.  Proven model in much larger industries, it will help us fix our P&L;and giveaways on code writing.  HomeSeer and HomeLogic have nothing on the logic that lifeware has in their application BTW.

Posted by Life-Doubter  on  03/28  at  08:16 AM

Exceptional Innovation has been around since 2004.  I am not sure what the sales cycle is like where you live, but that is long enough to sell some systems where I come from.

As for the programming, the difference is that with Crestron or AMX the programming is handled by the dealer not by the manufacturer.  You are giving up the margin to a software company.  That is stupid.  If you were a decent business man you would be making a killing on Crestron or AMX.  They guys who understand it all make a lot of money.  They own their own modules and have the ability to do what they want with them.  You are selling someone else’s intellectual property, and that property is widely available to anyone who wants to sell it.  You have not done anything to differentiate yourself except choose an inferior PC based solution. 

Never mind the fact that a PC has a designed life cycle of 3-5 years where as Crestron and AMX have been around for decades and still have systems running from the 1980’s.  Does your PC from the 80’s still work?

As a result, with the ridiculously long sales cycle in your area all of the hardware you are selling will be obsolete by the time you install it.

Posted by Reality Check  on  03/28  at  11:25 AM

Hey, this is not rocket science here.  EI has been burning a ton of money pushing their brand out into the market; lots of advertising, huge tradeshow booths, etc.  They bet the farm on MCE taking off and adoption for that has been slow… really slow.  So, they’ve been making ‘adjustments’ incrementally to try to make some of that money back. 

Partnering with Best Buy… was an adjustment, selling their servers through retail (instead of via their dealer channel)... another adjustment, backing away from MCE and embracing other platforms… yet another adjustment.

Hey, nobody gets it right the first time! You need to ‘morph’ when the market requires it.  Remember, EI might seems like a huge, seasoned company but they’re only 4 years old…. and most 4-year old’s are just barely out of diapers.  smile

Posted by Vista is Horrible  on  04/01  at  11:22 AM

With all of the push back vista is getting, I would imagine they need to do something.

Who is actually using vista in the living room, much less anywhere else?

It is seriously time for a reality check and to realize that microvist does not need to be the only option anymore.

Take of your sunglasses and look at the other options people, just because microsoft is everywhere does not mean it needs to continue making our lives difficult.

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