CE Pro Opines on IoT: Wink, Quirky, Savant, LiteTouch, Thread, AllSeen, Control4, Alarm.com
CE Pro Editor Notes: Wink and home automation hubs are complicated; the end of LiteTouch and the fate of hardwired lighting controls; Thread and AllSeen IoT lovefest; Control4 and Alarm.com stock.
CE Pro email newsletters include musings from the editors. In the last couple of weeks, Julie Jacobson had a few things to say about home automation, covering the woes of Quirky and Wink, the end of lighting control pioneer LiteTouch, the new IoT bedfellows of Google’s Thread Group and AllSeen Alliance, and the sad state of Control4 (CTRL) stock.
JULY 17 | Wink, the home automation hub and platform that spun out of GE-backed Quirky, is facing some serious money issues. It turns out: making, selling and supporting a smart-home controller for the mass market is an expensive and otherwise tricky proposition. Surprise!
We’re not hearing such rosy pictures for Staples Connect and Lowe’s Iris either. It’s all getting way too complicated - from the messaging to the sales process to the implementation—and we might have already run out of daring early adopters. Is the Wink news bad for the professional integration business? I think not. Integrators know which products to install, how to sell them and how to create a positive user experience for the long term. If only we could get more of them to create a business model for high-volume installs!
JULY 15 | LiteTouch is dead, marking the end of a very memorable era for one of the pioneers of hardwired, or “panelized,” lighting control systems. Savant, which acquired the company just a couple of years ago, is moving out of the hardwired lighting business completely, pushing its new WiFi-enabled solutions instead. So it is shutting down what remains of LiteTouch and will stop selling related inventory in September.
First, hats off to LiteTouch for a great run! Second, there are a few notable issues coming out of this event. In advance of killing off LiteTouch completely, Savant worked with Lutron to create a special “retrofittable” lighting control system that may be able to utilize existing LiteTouch wiring the company employed a rather unique wiring scheme. That’s kind of cool.
The other notable issue arising from this announcement is the reminder that you can’t just rip out a hardwired lighting control system and replace it with a newfangled wireless system: There is no high-voltage wire running to the dimmer/keypad locations and no physical connections between the keypads and the loads. All of the high voltage runs from the lights to a central panel. Knowing this, and knowing that so many new wireless lighting-control solutions have hit the market in the past few years, would you still spec hardwired? Absolutely, says Michael Cogbill, a longtime LiteTouch dealer and integration specialist.
JULY 14 | There’s a very slight chance that multiple home automation protocols, standards and schemes may actually start working together.
Today, the Thread Group announced its Internet of Things (IoT) networking spec is finished and will be provided to its 85-or-so contributing members. At the same time, the group announced that Qualcomm has joined Thread’s board of directors. Qualcomm makes AllJoyn interoperability technology (like its AllPlay, but for smart-home devices) and leads the AllSeen Alliance, which shares the AllJoyn platform with scores of member companies.
Meanwhile, Thread is already working with ZigBee to actually make its lower-level spec usable in a smart-home ecosystem. One of these days, we may indeed all get together on this IoT thing.
JULY 10 | It’s no fun being a public company. You have to make decisions for the short term to appease investors that want to see growth every three months - growth that is reflected only in financial statements, not in R&D and strategic planning.
Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL) stock is getting killed right now, probably as a hangover from a disappointing Q1 and general boredom and impatience by investors. But I have some other thoughts about Control4 and its falling stock price: The company is unflinchingly devoted to the custom installation channel. CEO Martin Plaehn recently penned a very visible opinion piece about “why the DIY smart home revolution won’t work.” Yet that’s where we see the most volume and the most buzz.
A DIY play won’t kill off Control4 dealers. Look at Lutron and its deft expansion into the DIY market with Caseta. At the very least, Control4 needs to create a platform that empowers users to do more for themselves - like creating TXT alerts from a simple app.
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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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