RIP HAI, Home Automation Icon: CE Pro Wouldn’t Exist Without You

How Home Automation Inc. (HAI), now discontinued by Leviton, was responsible for the existence of CE Pro. Plus, photos from HAI and co-founder Jay McLellan in the early days.

RIP HAI, Home Automation Icon: CE Pro Wouldn’t Exist Without You

HAI co-founder Jay McLellan, the iconic 1503 security and home-automation panel and the distribution business that launched CE Pro in 1994: Home Systems Plus.

Home Automation Inc. (HAI), maker of the iconic 1503 panel, is officially dead. Leviton acquired the home-automation company in 2012 and is now phasing out the security and smart-home system that launched a category in the 1980s.

HAI also was responsible for the birth of EH Publishing in 1994, which at the time comprised one wimpy little black-and-white consumer rag called Electronic House, boasting some 2,000 subscribers. EH went on to publish in full-color and eventually became a pioneering and iconic brand in the smart-home sector.

I was a co-founder of EH Publishing with long-time CEO Ken Moyes. Together with EH editor Lisa Montgomery, we launched HA Pro, the first trade publication for home-tech pros. We changed the name to CE Pro a few years later.

So What Does HAI Have to Do with CE Pro?

Prior to EH Publishing, co-founder Ken Moyes was CEO of a big security distribution firm called Arius that rivaled ADI in size at the time. I worked in marketing at Arius back then.

Ken was pals with HAI co-founder Jay McLellan and the two got to talking about bringing HAI into the security channel.

Oh what a learning curve that would be! But Jay and Ken shook hands on a deal to launch a home-automation training program for prospective dealers, and Home Systems Plus was born.

Related: The History of CE Pro

With HAI, Channel Plus and Xantech (and maybe Leviton?) signing on as inaugural partners, we launched a 4-day training event for which dealers paid $695 to attend. X10 was all the rage. Don’t ever underestimate the powerline-carrier technology’s contribution to the industry.

HSP was successful. Ken saw Electronic House at a newsstand and liked the brand. He called the owner, asked to license the brand, and ended up buying the whole darn thing for a song, thinking the Arius board would approve the deal.

The Arius board didn’t. Ken kept the property. Arius was sold. Ken and I left to start EH Publishing.

HAI bought ads, along with Unity Systems, Mastervoice, several distributors and perennial back-page benefactor ITI, the pioneering wireless-security company that would become Interlogix, then GE Security, then Interlogix again.

And that, my friends is why we wouldn’t be here if not for HAI and Jay McLellan.


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