Can High Resolution Audio be Trojan Horse for Home Automation?

Control4 breaks new ground by including HRA streaming services in $600 EA-1 smart-home controller. Will the bet pay off?


Smart-home “pundits” have been talking about The Trojan Horse in Home Automation for the 21 years I’ve been in the business. In the early days it was the utilities that were going to sneak into the home by way of smart meters, which would tie into connected thermostats, which would compel homeowners to invest more into their ecosystem with things to attach to energy management, and we would all become rich.

Nowadays, “Trojan Horse” is as tired a term as “game changer,” especially in the smart-home business because we’ve been wrong for so many years (although I swear I never thought the utilities were going to drive smart-home adoption).

But when Trojan Horses do happen, they happen quite by accident. People gravitate to a smart thermostat if for no other reason than it looks cool, and then end up buying something else that Works with Nest and then something else that works with that.

Or else, out of the clear blue, a voice-controllable speaker changes our behavior such that we become accustomed to asking for things by speaking into the air. And then we want to ask for more things by voice, like turning off the lights and turning on the big ball game.

Lately, the doorbell camera is seen as the next big hope for smart-home adoption.

Here’s Another Idea: Music

So what about going back to basics? Could music be a driver for the smart home? In our household, we started to listen to more music and talk radio because we found an easy way to listen: Amazon Echo. And now that we’re addicted to Echo, we want to use it to do more.

Could the same thing happen with a high-end music system that makes it so easy to listen to good audio that clients will want to use the system to do more?

Control4, a leading provider of professionally installed smart-home solutions, thinks media might be the ticket for mainstream adoption of integrated home technology. That’s why the company has invested so heavily on the music and video experience with its latest price-shattering controller, the EA-1 ($600 MSRP).

Tues., April 26, 2:00 PM EDT

Control4 Head-to-Head

How $600 home controller with HRA stacks up to other one-room home-automation solutions. REGISTER HERE.

Beyond the improvements Control4 has made to its user interface, the company appears to have an industry first: high-resolution audio (HRA) built into a mainstream home automation controller.

“There’s a big population of music lovers who really appreciate good-sounding audio,” says Paul Williams, VP Solutions for Control4. “Why not sell them a high-performance media player that, by the way, has home automation built in?”

Williams says the new EA-1 doesn’t cost much more than a standalone HRA streamer, and it has all the bells and whistles to control an entertainment center and a home full of smart devices.

“Some of our dealers sell it [EA-1] as a solid universal remote, and some sell it as a high-performance music player,” Williams says. “And then they go back to clients offering smart-home upgrades like lights and motorized shades.”

He adds, “HRA is just another thing to talk about. If you have clients that care a whole lot about music, then lead with that. Home automation just becomes a, ‘Hey, by the way …’ and it’s something you can continue to sell for the lifetime of the customer.”

Free Webinar, April 26

Williams will discuss the business opportunities for HRA-enabled smart-home systems in a Webinar, “How the Right One-Room System Can Transform Your Smart-Home Business,” on Tuesday, April 26, 2:00 PM EDT. Registration is free.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

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


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