Blackwire Writes Control4 Software, Sells Cool Integration Products

Blackwire creates software that makes Control4 more flexible, especially for commercial installs. Now the company is distributing products including interesting finds for ZigBee and IP networking.

Blackwire Writes Control4 Software, Sells Cool Integration Products
Blackwire's Kevin Luther shows off his secret sauce for Control4 automation systems.

Photos & Slideshow

Julie Jacobson · August 30, 2013

“I didn’t know Control4 could do that.”

That was the reaction of several dealers who attended the grand opening of Phoenix-based Blackwire Designs, where owner Kevin Luther demonstrated you can indeed use Control4 to manage video conferencing and control banks of TVs and components in a sports bar.

It’s all thanks to Luther’s two-way drivers that give Control4 dealers a little extra edge. Last year, we reported on Quick Control, Blackwire’s enhancement to the existing, rather static Control4 interface.

With Quick Connect, You get more of what you want on any given page. If you don’t want Control4’s bottom bar, lose it and enjoy 20%  more real estate. If you want to monitor and control a bar full of A/V systems, no problem. View everything on a single page or organize them by rooms. For DirecTV households or facilities, you can even view what’s playing on any given TV at any given time.

Users can add FAVORITES buttons and jump quickly to their most-used rooms, sources, devices or macros. Unlike Control4’s own scheme, where you first have toggle to the FAVORITES screen, Blackwire presents them on the side of any given page, always within reach.

Over the year, Blackwire has added more products and services to its repertoires. Again, for the commercial realm, the company now supports several audio and video conferencing systems from ClearOne, Polycom, Cisco and Tanberg.

With the Polycom VSX and HDX series videoconferencing systems, the Blackwire app enables control of both the near and far cameras, as well as volume control for units with built-in speakers. Contacts are shown in the app, allowing users to touch a person to launch a call, or manually enter an IP or phone number to dial.

Part II: Blackwire the Distributor

The new Blackwire facility is about 5,000 square feet, including about 3,200 square feet of warehouse space.

Why does a software developer like Blackwire need such a big warehouse? Because the company is now selling hardware, too. Blackwire sells some stuff from typical channel vendors it supports, like Global Cache, Fusion Research and Just Add Power.

But Blackwire is also carrying a few products that Luther discovered on his own.

Take Planet, a Taiwanese company that offers a variety of networking devices from switches to cameras to NVRs.

Why would any dealer jump to Planet from their own network-device vendors?

“Because they’re affordable, and they’re good and we support them,” Luther says. “Their access points look the same as Ubiquiti but they’re not sold on ebay.”

In fact, at Luther’s behest, Planet rejiggered some of its IP cameras to better suit integrators and installers.

“Most IP cameras have a pigtail cable bundle which has to be stuffed in a box when installing the camera,” Luther explains. “We had them make that bundle removable and install an RJ-45 on the board so dealers have an installation option instead of being stuck with the 1.5-foot bundle.”

In addition, Blackwire had Planet add the ability to set the lux levels at which the camera turns night vision on and off.

“We had a ton of complaints from dealers that night vision turns on when it’s still bright enough in the room,” says Luther. “Now they can decide when it turns on.”

The best news for Control4 dealers? The cameras are Simple Device Discovery Protocol (SDDP)-enabled, meaning they just appear in the Control4 programming.

The cameras, which “retail” for $300 to $899, are stocked and sold through Blackwire.

Another Blackwire discovery is Axxess Industries, which offers a full line of Control4-friendly ZigBee products including sensors and a doorbell.

Blackwire also carries a ZigBee outlet from SafePlug. The product was released last year with little fanfare but Luther thinks it’s something to talk about, given that the plug also monitors energy consumption, offers some impressive surge protection and features RFID.

Luther suggests coffee shops could hand out RFID tags to customers so they can use the outlets for a certain amount of time if they make a purchase.

And this: “You could also order lower amp tags and then it turns it into a power limiting device. For example, if you have a device that should draw more than 5 amps, you would put a 5-amp tag on it.. If the device goes crazy and draws more then 5 amps for a few seconds it will turn that plug off.”

And in the category of “where did that come from?” Blackwire is stocking in-wall enclosures from start-up Intuitive Designs for people who want to stash components behind TVs or, naturally, guns behind tapestries.

Check out Blackwire goodies at CEDIA Expo 2013 in the Control4 booth.

  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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