Control4 Adds If/Then Engine to Home Automation, Lets End Users Tweak System
CEDIA 2017 Showstopper: As part of Control4 OS 2.10, new When/Then engine lets users configure their own if/then home-automation commands -- a 'transformational' paradigm for pro-installed smart-home systems.
Julie Jacobson · September 6, 2017
Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL) blends the best of professional and DIY home automation with a new feature called When/Then, which allows consumers to personalize their own smart-home systems after a professional installer sets it up. Think IFTTT (if this, then that) but for 10,000-plus devices that Control4 supports.
“We’ve been hearing for a long time that home owners want to make adjustments after they’ve lived with their systems,” says Brad Hintze, senior director of product marketing for Control4. “We think we’ve struck a good balance between the quality and reliability of a professionally installed system with the hands-on capabilities that consumers have wanted.”
Over the past few years, virtually all the major home-control vendors have incorporated DIY-type features in their professionally installed systems. Once the installer walks away, users can make adjustments like creating lighting scenes, setting up automation schedules, or programming text alerts for certain events.
But no pro-oriented system goes as far as Control4 with its When/Then engine. The user can take virtually any configurable button in the Control4 environment – whether it’s on a remote control, keypad or doorbell – and tell the system what to do when someone presses it, taps twice, presses and holds ….
The whens don’t have to be physical actions such as pressing a button. A when can be a time of day, sensor activity, temperature setting, basically anything that could occur in the Control4 environment.
Users can program thens to be as simple as sending a text message when the door is unlocked, or as complicated as launching a morning scene that ramps up the lights, opens the shades and turns the television on to CNN.
Developing the When/Then engine was no small feat for Control4, which had to ensure it was simple enough that “customers wouldn’t be bombarding their dealers,” says Hintze, but also safe enough that users couldn’t wreck the programming.
Nothing the dealer programs in Composer Pro can be touched, but it can be supplemented. For example, if you want a preprogrammed button to control an additional light, simply create a command that when the button is pressed, then control that light.
All of the When/Then commands are pushed into Composer automatically, so dealers can view, delete and modify the programming as necessary.
Oh the Engagement and Analytics!
When/Then helps dealers avoid all the little customer calls for adding a light to this scene, or changing the TV station on that scene, or sending a push notification when the kids come home.
But the feature does a few other things. First, it keeps customers engaged with the system. As every integrator knows, if the system doesn’t keep up with the needs of the family, eventually the family stops using it, stops adding to it, and stops telling friends about it.
Once they start playing around with it, however, Hintze says customers will likely want to add more devices to the system and "tell others about it."
“We think it will be transformational for our channel,” he says.
There’s another thing: Since dealers see the end-user programming, they can get a better understanding of how their customers are using – or not using – their systems.
This knowledge can help dealers better understand their clients’ needs and how they might benefit from additional products and services.
Additional OS 2.10 Features
In addition to the When/Then engine, Control4's new OS 2.10 and 4Sight service includes a new Intercom App that lets users receive calls directly from their Control4 door stations and other video intercoms on their mobile devices.
While on a call in the Intercom App, with a single tap, homeowners can initiate Control4 commands such as turning on lights or unlocking the door, without leaving the app. The company says this feature is unique to Control4.
Also new: Control4 has added iHeartRadio and Spotify to its roster of native streaming services, which already includes Deezer, Napster, Pandora, TIDAL, and TuneIn.
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 email@example.com
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