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Motorola Back in Home Automation, Acquires 4Home

Motorola Mobility is acquiring home automation developer 4Home, after trying two other home-control partnerships in six years.

4Home founder Jim Hunter receives an Innovations Award for the ControlPoint home automation platform at CES 2007.
Julie Jacobson · December 2, 2010

Motorola is trying again to enter the home automation business – this time by acquiring 4Home, a home-control start-up backed by Verizon.

The acquisition is through Motorola Mobility, Inc., the mobile device division of Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

Motorola’s earlier efforts with home control were largely through its cable modem and settop box businesses. Perhaps the mobile group will succeed where its cable cousins failed.

A press release announcing the acquisition does not go into detail about the deal or 4Home.

4Home was founded in 2002 (as NearMedia and then 4HomeMedia) by Jim Hunter, a fixture in the home automation industry. The company offers a flexible home automation platform, alternately known as ControlPoint and Fluid, for integrating the typical array of subsystems – lighting, thermostats, security, surveillance, smart grid devices, media and more – into a customizable user interface.

While 4Home has created its own proof-of-concept finished systems, it never wanted to be in the hardware business. 4Home’s software is meant to be implemented by third parties in the utility, cable, telco and other service sectors.

Despite several trials with service providers, 4Home has announced few wins beyond a deal with smart-meter developer Sensus. Also, 4Home’s chief investor, Verizon, has indicated it would use the technology to deliver the connected home experience via its LTE mobile communications network. Verizon also has shown 4Home software implemented in an Internet gateway.

4Home and Motorola could not be immediately reached for comment about the acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed.

Third Time a Charm for Motorola?

Motorola began its foray into home automation in 2004, when it began selling DIY kits from then-startup Xanboo. Still on the market today, Motorola Homesight comprises an Internet gateway, IP cameras, security sensors and a thermostat for basic remote monitoring and control via the Internet or smartphone – like a simplified version of iControl, uControl, MiCasa Verde (MIOS platform), Schlage or modern-day Xanboo.

Motorola’s early attempt at home automation with Xanboo, CES 2004. Click to enlarge.

Then Motorola got serious, acquiring Premise Systems in 2004, one of the original developers of IP-based home automation systems.

The intention was for Motorola to shrink the Premise OS into a board that would grace Motorola cable modems and settop boxes, providing cable companies with new perks for their customers, and new sources of recurring revenue. Would you like remote home management with your TV shows? That will be an extra $9.95 per month (which is what the Motorola Homesight system requires).

It’s the same dream that cable companies, telcos and their OEM partners continue to chase today:

To date, despite at least six years of trying, no mass-market cable, telephone or Internet service provider has succeeded in the home automation business. The most notable flop was AT&T, which went nowhere with a widely marketed but scarcely adopted remote home monitoring solution from Xanboo.

Motorola, likewise, never did anything with Premise Systems, although die-hard fans of the open-platform, highly capable system continue to develop the software.

  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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