URC’s Doug Cole on KNX, Distribution, DIY, Sonos, Heos & Other Stuff
CE Pro visits with URC general manager Doug Cole at ISE 2015 on broader distribution for Total Control, expanded EMEA business, and drivers for Sonos, Denon HEOS and KNX.
Julie Jacobson · February 13, 2015
This should be a good year in Europe for URC, a leader in remote controls and home automation. The company recently launched its driver for KNX, the prevailing protocol for building automation in the EMEA.
URC has been working on KNX for a couple of years, but the company went to a third party who specializes in the protocol to get the final product launched.
After the European market, URC is heading to China, where URC sees the next big opportunity, says SVP and general manager Doug Cole.
Besides shoring up its sales and marketing there, URC is working on the product-development side to tweak devices for the Asian market. For example, URC remotes and other interfaces will have to support multi-byte Chinese characters.
Cole says support for those wireless audio distribution products is, conservatively, about 60 days out.
URC already integrates with Nest thermostats, Lutron Caseta, Philips Hue, Z-Wave and countless other devices and protocols.
Distribution for Total Control
URC announced last month that it would fold the company’s mid-tier ccGEN2 product line into its comprehensive Total Control offering.
ccGEN2 was meant to fill a gap between URC’s entry-level Complete Control line of remotes sold through distribution, and the full-fledged home automation and multiroom A/V solution that is Total Control.
URC had opened ccGEN2 to distribution, keeping TC to a small group of committed dealers. Now ccGEN2 will be phased out and TC will take its place on distributor shelves, enabling broader adoption of the system. Dealers who buy through distribution still must go through training and become certified for Total Control, while direct dealers continue to enjoy attractive terms and special benefits.
As expected, a couple of dealers commenting on CE Pro’s original story said URC’s change of plans was possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to an integrator.
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But Cole says the feedback from dealers has been overwhelmingly positive. Direct dealers cite their ability to now buy from the corner store if necessary, while those who buy through distribution can now spec an end-to-end URC solution including digital multiroom audio, which previously was unavailable through distribution.
Cole says the timing was right to push Total Control to a broader base.
“We can support it,” he says. “Canada and Europe all use distribution. We’ve learned from that.”
In the end, says Cole, URC’s number-one priority is “being a company that’s much easier to do business with.”
Expanding its reach through distribution allows URC to achieve the growth it needs to continue focusing exclusively on the professional installation channel.
While the Complete Control products enjoy a “huge market share” in the mainstream remote-control category, URC intends to push that line “into the new world of home automation,” says Cole. “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”
Is URC tempted to follow the cool kids on the crowdfunding circuit with a white puck packed with home automation radios for the DIY hipsters?
“We’re not distracted by DIY,” he says. “We are totally committed, 100-percent focused, on the custom installation channel. We’re going to broaden our reach within that channel by going through distribution.
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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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