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Behind Somfy’s Tahoma System: A Sleeper Home Automation Engine

Battle to become Home OS intensifies as little-known developer of cloud-based home control platform wins Somfy business; look out iControl, 4Home, Control4, Xanboo and others.


Julie Jacobson · March 2, 2011

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We were impressed with the home automation engine driving the new Somfy Tahoma – a simple yet elegant system for integrating and controlling lights, thermostats and Somfy’s own motorized window treatments.

Somfy didn’t create the system itself. The company makes motors and controls for window treatments, lifts and other motorized devices – not software.

So when it came to creating a whole-house control system focused on energy management, Somfy turned to a sleeper of a developer called Bulogics (now Zonoff).

Bulogics has been around for more than five years, apparently finding its way. For example, in 2005 the company released the clever but ill-fated HackTV that allowed Linux geeks to control Z-Wave devices via the open-source MythTV PVR software.

Bulogics has demonstrated its Z-Wave-enabled products – like the old Basecamp home automation system—on and off at the Consumer Electronics Show, but the company has always made it pretty clear that it would rather OEM its platform than manufacture complete solutions.

It seems Bulogics is on its way with the Somfy win.

Somfy business development manager Steve Iommi tells CE Pro, “I think Bulogics deserves a lot of credit.”

He lauds the platform for its extensibility, explaining that version 1 of Tahoma “is like a Hemi running on four cylinders. ... We planned out this platform because we knew there was a whole lot more we wanted to do.”

View the Gallery: Somfy Tahoma powered by Bulogics

As Iommi tells it, “Bulogics had the Hemi. It’s something that, when you want to be economical and run lean in the beginning, you can do that. They built a powerful controller with an unbelievable amount of expandability and headroom.”

The same language has been used to describe 4home, a competitive home-automation platform developer, recently acquired by Motorola. Verizon announced that it would use 4Home for its new home monitoring and control system.

Both Verizon and Motorola tell CE Pro that they embrace 4Home’s flexibility to be embedded in something as small as a phone or as powerful as a computer.

Bulogics: The Little Engine That Could

Somfy isn’t the first win for Bulogics, but it is certainly the most substantial.

Last year, Bulogics snagged some grant money in Philadelphia to outfit a couple of buildings with its Smart Grid Home Controller.

That product bridges a Z-Wave-enabled HAN (home area network) with a smart grid infrastructure based on the ZigBee Smart Energy profile (via a U-Snap protocol translater).

The capability could come in handy for Somfy since the company plans to “introduce other technologies as consumers demand,” says Iommi. “ZigBee is a viable technology we would seriously entertain.”

Bulogics and 4home are not the only home-automation platforms gunning to be the Home OS. They face competition most notably from iControl, uControl, Control4 and Xanboo (recently acquired by AT&T).

But Bulogics is still a bit player, with a low public profile, a small shop, and not a lot to say right now.

In response to our request this week for an interview, president Ryan Buchert told CE Pro:

Unfortunately we are currently in a big transition right now and are unable to talk about everything going on.  In about a month we will have a lot to talk about and would really like to catch up at that time.

Despite its size – in fact, because of it – Bulogics seems to offer a pretty good deal to its partners.

Evolve, an up-and-coming provider of Z-Wave solutions for the hospitality industry, is using Bulogics for thousands of hotel rooms.

Evolve vice president Avi Rosenthal says the folks at Bulogics are “brilliant” and the service is cheap to boot – at least compared to the other prospects noted above.

Bulogics provides all of the back-office processing for Evolve-enabled projects.

“When we do a hotel, we set up the applications in the cloud and provision the devices in the factory,” Rosenthal says. “Bulogics does all of the cloud implementation for us.”

For the Bonus ...
By the way, the Tahoma GUI was created by Slamm, “a bunch of energetic, creative guys with tons of experience in inventing new ways to get to your customers,” according to the Web site.

Iommi says the team is completely committed to Tahoma. “This is just as much their child as ours,” he says.



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Control4 · Evolve · iControl · Somfy · Tahoma · uControl · All Topics
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