There are some really good routers on the market today, and a lot of excellent controllers and cloud services that let users/installers remotely manage their networks and home-automation systems.
But you won’t find many (any?) that combine both high-performance networking and cloud-based control. Now Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL) comes along with the RK-1 smart router with BakPak service from Pakedge, the networking company it acquired last year.
The enterprise-grade router, to be demonstrated at ISE 2017 next week, features five LAN ports, two WAN ports (for failover) and two USB 3.0 ports. The magic, however, is in the onboard BakPak service, which enables dealers to remotely monitor and manage their customers’ home networks and home-automation gear.
Previously, BakPak was available only through a standalone NK-1 wireless controller.
So what’s wrong with offloading BakPak to a separate box? Nothing, really. In fact, if you’re using your own router, you’ll need that NK-1. (And if you require more than three wireless access points, then you’ll want the NK-1.)
But if you need a good router anyway, why not get one with BakPak? That’s what Control4 is banking on.
Home-technology integrators sometimes have a tough time selling a standalone box (NK-1, in this case) whose purpose can be unclear to the end user: It simply looks like a tool to help the installer.
Add to that the recurring fee that many dealers charge for this “tool,” and you can see why it can be a tricky proposition. (Of course, we all know that it’s really a tool to help consumers maintain reliable service and enjoy quick and cheap fixes to many system hiccups. But that can be hard to articulate.)
With the Control4 solution, BakPak is just there. It’s in the router. And Control4 just stopped charging dealers a monthly fee for BakPak service, so they can structure their own RMR (recurring monthly revenue) programs as they see fit.
“We think this is an important step in making remote management and BakPak a ubiquitous standard,” says Brad Hintze, Control4 director of product marketing. “Every home has a router.”
In explaining the new product and the decision to eliminate dealer fees, Hintze explains, “Dealers need critical mass with remote management before getting real value. For a long time, our vision has been for dealers to get all their customers on BakPak. We want them to buy more gear, of course, but we want them to be more effective dealers, too.”
Hintze points to a recent discussion on CEPro.com about whether to charge customers for remote-monitoring services, or to chalk it up as the cost of doing business.
With Control4 focused on minimizing hardware costs and (for now) eliminating monthly fees, “the whole struggle between starting an RMR business model or absorbing BakPak as a cost of doing business … all of that goes away when it’s just a feature of the hardware,” Hintze says.
By sneaking BakPak into the router, integrators can go back-and-forth on the RMR matter. Maybe they don’t want to sell recurring services right away, but at least the option is available in the future.
Home-technology integrators are trying to nail this RMR thing, but until then, Hintze says, “dealers just need to be effective today. BakPak is applicable whether you do RMR or not.”
At CEDIA Expo 2016, Control4 added new features to BakPak, including the ability to monitor Z-Wave devices on the network when paired with a Control4 home-automation system. The cloud-based service also monitors ZigBee, Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks and devices, all via a single interface.
Dealers can monitor and manage all of their accounts through a single dashboard.
The RK-1 Router with BakPak pre-configured to manage and monitor an unlimited number of connected devices is available now. The “retail” price is $750 (Pakedge only sells through authorized dealers), with no monthly fees to the dealer. Installers, however, will likely charge monthly fees to the end user to cover the cost of remote network monitoring and management.
Existing RK-1 Routers can be upgraded to BakPak without additional license fees.