Logitech is launching its first dedicated Harmony remote control for the specialty home-technology channel. Starting this month, new $400 Harmony Pro will be available exclusively through distributors ADI and Dow Electronics. Consumers cannot purchase the product directly.
The new remote and base station are the same as the DIY Harmony Elite introduced last year, but the Pro remote has a silver-tipped base, and the warranty is doubled from one year to two. The two IR emitters that come with the Elite are replaced in the Pro version by “precision IR blasters” (multiple emitters on a single wire) to enable control of more IR devices. And the Pro costs $50 more than the DIY remote.
Otherwise, the two products are indistinguishable in terms of design and performance. The Pro product can operate the same third-party IP and Bluetooth devices that the Elite can, as well as the same ZigBee and Z-Wave devices via the $99 Harmony Home Extender.
What’s important here, says Logitech senior product manager Todd Walker, isn’t so much a different feature set, but a somewhat distinct look for a device that can’t be shopped online
There’s also a bit of an attitude adjustment on Logitech’s part “to address some of the historical concerns about Harmony in the channel,” says Walker.
There will be training through the distributors, and Logitech plans to offer tools on the back-end for CE pros, for example, to help them manage Logitech customer accounts.
“It has some limits, but they're also working on a way for a dealer to keep all of their accounts in one place,” according to one dealer posting on RemoteCentral. “It allows making changes without needing the remote, which is great for people who have a second home and a road trip would be prohibitive.”
The launch of Harmony Pro, says Walker, is “just the first in a number of steps we’ll be taking over the next year.”
Dow executive VP John Yodzis tells CE Pro the distributor has carried Logitech Harmony for many years, and that the Harmony Elite has “opened up the mid-tier market” for dealers who hadn’t penetrated that segment before.
Even so, he says, integrators seem less interested in the Z-Wave and ZigBee smart-home features as in the A/V control capabilities of the Elite remote. Any integration tends to be via IP with Nest, Sonos and Lutron Caseta.
Yodzis says dealers eventually will benefit from “additional programming, customization and automation” offered by the Pro remote.
In addition to Harmony, Dow carries remote-control products from URC. ADI carries URC, Pro Control and the Savant Remote.
Harmony and the Custom Channel
Logitech launched its flagship “activity-based” Harmony remote controls about a decade ago, providing an A/V control solution that supposedly didn’t require a pro to configure. The remote would remember the status of A/V devices being controlled, so it could accurate turn devices on and off in the absence of discrete IR codes.
Today, Harmony says its exhaustive IR database is unique in that it continues to learn as consumers add new devices.
“When they [customers] teach new devices, we vet it and then add it to our control scheme,” says Walker. “We have more than just the IR codes but also the timing [how long to pause before issuing a command] and what order the devices should be turned on. These are our own proprietary algorithms.”
Logitech continues to add both to its IR database as well as its IP integration. Two-way feedback is provided for Sonos systems as well as Dish satellite service and others.
Harmony hasn’t really come after the custom channel in several years. Even so, the brand is used by plenty of pros looking to tap a broader market or simply working with the customers’ existing devices.
One dealer commenting on RemoteCentral explains why and when he uses Harmony:
Why? Because I know their limitations, and I make sure that I don't need to do something that they can't do for me. They also have a very expedited timeframe for supporting other devices such as Caseta and Hue lighting. Can I ask my Amazon Echo to turn on the living room to Watch Tivo? With the Harmony gear, why yes, yes I can. With URC, Pro Control, RTI, Crestron, and anything else … Why no, no I can't.
By the way, Harmony remotes do not directly work with Amazon Echo … yet. Walker says Logitech is still determining “what’s the right integration” for voice. (Logitech dabbled with Ubi and Ivee last year.)
Logitech has a landing page for the Harmony Pro, which looks like the Harmony Elite page with the addtion of, “Available exclusively through professional installers.” Also, the “Package Contents” section notes the “Precision IR blaster kit.”
Next Page: Harmony Pro press release
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Logitech Announces Harmony Pro
“Commercial installers have been asking for Harmony products that are tailored to their needs,” said Renee Neimi, general manager and vice president of Logitech Smart Home. “Harmony Pro is the first example of our efforts to meet their special requirements, and we have several more planned over the coming months to address the commercial channel.”
The Harmony Pro advanced touchscreen remote builds on everything people love about Elite—dedicated buttons for instant access to lighting and temperature controls, a touch-screen UI that communicates the status of all home devices at a glance, vibration feedback, etc.—while adding things that A/V professionals need like precision IR blasters and twice the warranty.
“Logitech knows custom programing and integration is a critical part of the integrators revenue stream, so DOW is excited by the introduction of Harmony Pro – a remote control package designed specifically with this thought in mind,” said John P. Yodzis, DOW Executive Vice President. “We believe Harmony Pro will give integrators the opportunity for additional programing, customization, and automation, ultimately allowing our integrator partners the ability to generate additional revenue.”
The Logitech Harmony Pro is expected to be available exclusively through U.S. distributors DOW and ADI in June 2016. For more information please visit logitech.com/harmony-pro
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