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Tracking a $20M Project: Breakthrough with Client

The crew explains to the client the importance of system design. Also, we have the detailed proposals, floor plans, schematics, pre-wire plans, rack elevations and more.


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While the iPad is making serious inroads in our channel, not every client wants it, not yet. The client on this job continually references a system I did for him 15 years ago as the last system he liked.

The problem is he thinks it was the technology, not the way it was designed around him and his family. Until our last meeting he still wanted a lighting keypad, an audio-only keypad and an on-wall thermostat in every room. And the TVs would have cable remotes, which he mentioned he hated and couldn’t use.

After nearly a year of some rather heated arguments, I brought in my handheld remote, iTouch and an iPad and “made” him use them. Three hours later, he decided there should be touchscreens in the rooms and no thermostats. What changed for him was that the new interfaces are so well laid out and easy to use that he finally saw it as an improvement. 

Since the project I did for him years ago, he has had multiple systems that the dealers, while using great products, didn’t build to fit him but rather what they thought he should have. When I chose Control4, Ron Callis and Firefly Design Group were concerned with functionality and asked for a clear understanding of my design. Ron was familiar with Control4 and designs around it on a regular basis, but not on a project this large.

imageClick image to view detailed proposals, floor plans, schematics, pre-wire plans, rack elevations and more

Ron brought up another good point about the design. Saving on hardware translated into more boxes in some cases, and more boxes equals more design/engineering, installation time. Going with a multi-provider solution brings up additional problems of connectivity and interfacing. Five or ten years ago that would have been a bigger problem, today I have solicited the assistance of network specialist, BlackWire Design, as part of our team to create the drivers and to anticipate and resolve any problems.

HVAC uses Backnet protocol, a standard in commercial for years and long since addressed; Vantage driver already done; Pentair for the pools are done (same as Jandy); Motorized blinds using ZigBee Pro works with Control4, no problem. There will be other system challenges that come up, but we’ll deal with them as they arise.

Firefly has done a good initial design on this project and I do anticipate changes once we have a contractor hired. As the contractors receive their bid package, they will find that having a solid design and good reports will make the proposal process very straightforward. The client has now decided to step up to more touchscreens after our latest presentations, giving him the time to process the information over the last year.

Related: Submit Questions for Mark Sipe during CEProLive!

I don’t want to use in-wall iPads, but would rather go with the new Control4 infinity Edge screens. iPads are great, but are not a dedicated control screen. Someone could go off on a weather program or game and never find the home controls. Simplicity is key for our clients, as they all want to quickly turn something on, up, down, etc. iPads offer too many choices for some areas where an interface needs to be restricted to a few buttons.

The design is going out to bid, and dealers have all signed non-disclosures. The CI awarded the project will be interviewed periodically to see their perception of the project and how it is being managed. I will present it with all its warts. The next article will be about the contractor we choose.

Working on Control Interface
Today’s subsystems are so powerful that it makes going with Control4 much easier. The one area we are still working out is the interface and larger touchscreens. The client wants to have a floor plan view of systems like security, lighting, etc. and a 28,000-square-foot home on a 7-inch panel. That’s pretty much a joke. This is where having a system like Vantage, with the ability to talk to Control4, gives us additional options. Control4 plans on a producing a larger screen over the next year, but I can’t hang my hat on that and need a working plan now.


  About the Author

Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Mark at [email protected]

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