Control & Automation

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.

Control4 Adds If/Then Engine to Home Automation, Lets End Users Tweak System
Control4's new When/Then feature in OS 2.10 lets users put their own DIY spin on professionally installed home automation systems, configuring if/then commands for smart-home actions.


View sample When/Then screen shots here.

Photos & Slideshow

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.

When/Then is launching this week at CEDIA 2017 as part of Control4’s new OS 2.10 and the 4Sight cloud service. For Control4 and the home-technology channel in general, this changes everything.

“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.

Click for sample When/Then screen shots

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. 

Read OS 2.10 press release, next page.


View sample When/Then screen shots here. " />
  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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Comments

Posted by antoniohardeman on September 7, 2017

This great for users of Control4.  It shows that they’re trying to loosen that bow-tie that may have been a little too tight.  Julie, I’d make one caveat with this in comparison to IFTTT.  What Control4 is doing here is essentially the method that SmartThings, Nexia, Lowes Iris, Vera & Wink use to allow their users to create scenes and automations.  Literally, this is what happens in the Nexia & SmartThings apps and on Nexia’s consumer web portal. 

What IFTTT with it’s 1 million applets (according to IFTTT web page) does and how it’s different from what Control4 is doing is IFTTT takes disparate services that don’t even work with the control system, such as Twitter, Google services, Weather Underground and other services such as Lutron and allows those services to work within the control system with high levels of functionality.  So you can send a Tweet and your lights will come or if your lights are activated you can receive a text and send out an automated Tweet; or if Weather Underground says the pollen count is X, my Trane thermostat in my Nexia system will turn on at a temperature that I’ve designated. 

Good move by Control4.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on September 6, 2017

Absolutely, SKoolD ... Savant’s implementation was definitely a game changer. Hats off to them! C4 takes it even further. Here’s the story we wrote on Savant back then: http://www.cepro.com/article/savants_new_smart_home_app_truly_epitomizes_simplicity_elegance

Posted by SKoolD on September 6, 2017

A showstopper? Really? It is nice to see other vendors are following Savant’s lead from 3 years ago…

Posted by SKoolD on September 6, 2017

A showstopper? Really? It is nice to see other vendors are following Savant’s lead from 3 years ago…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on September 6, 2017

Absolutely, SKoolD ... Savant’s implementation was definitely a game changer. Hats off to them! C4 takes it even further. Here’s the story we wrote on Savant back then: http://www.cepro.com/article/savants_new_smart_home_app_truly_epitomizes_simplicity_elegance

Posted by antoniohardeman on September 7, 2017

This great for users of Control4.  It shows that they’re trying to loosen that bow-tie that may have been a little too tight.  Julie, I’d make one caveat with this in comparison to IFTTT.  What Control4 is doing here is essentially the method that SmartThings, Nexia, Lowes Iris, Vera & Wink use to allow their users to create scenes and automations.  Literally, this is what happens in the Nexia & SmartThings apps and on Nexia’s consumer web portal. 

What IFTTT with it’s 1 million applets (according to IFTTT web page) does and how it’s different from what Control4 is doing is IFTTT takes disparate services that don’t even work with the control system, such as Twitter, Google services, Weather Underground and other services such as Lutron and allows those services to work within the control system with high levels of functionality.  So you can send a Tweet and your lights will come or if your lights are activated you can receive a text and send out an automated Tweet; or if Weather Underground says the pollen count is X, my Trane thermostat in my Nexia system will turn on at a temperature that I’ve designated. 

Good move by Control4.