Prodea Delivers a Horizontal Platform to the Connected Home
4/8/2014 11:38 AM
Prodea’s Residential Operating System (ROS) isn’t like any other control system you sell.
At first glance, it’s tempting to brush this aside as another internet of things hyped wannabe home control solution, but the innovators behind Prodea designed their system to be much more and to have clear distinctions from what’s available on the market.
Co-founder and CTO Amir Ansari described ROS to me as “a generic connected home platform” capable of potentially limitless expansion by layering apps and services over the base cloud software and network infrastructure. When asked to differentiate Prodea’s ROS solution from other advanced home control platforms, Ansari said it was “more horizontal,” opposed to vertical, point-to-point products that proliferate the market.
The systems integrated by residential AV installers were traditionally designed for audio video at their core, and those have evolved to be more one-sized-fits-all wizards today. Alternatively, ROS was designed to connect everything possible in the home from the start. The protocol agnostic cloud service needs simply one piece of hardware, which Prodea sells for about $100, but any hardware device can act as this software driver. This hub also projects the Prodea user interface to a display—typically a TV and any other mobile device—and it functions as a pass-through device for adding services to other components.
The delivery and marketing of ROS are major distinctions that set it apart from what AV installers are accustomed to.
“ROS is not a home automation or security company trying to do more,” said Andrew Tauhert, EVP, marketing and business development.
| Prodea's user interface. |
For starters, Prodea’s founders intended for their solution to be for the mass market, yet not to be marketed to the consumer. Prodea depends on third-party service providers for delivery, design, and service. With the term “service providers,” Prodea is casting a wide net, currently including telecom, cable, wireless, satellite, and other pay TV providers. Prodea is also targeting what it deems a new breed of emerging service providers, set-top box services, for example, and this is where an AV dealer broadening his/her offerings could fit into the equation. A custom residential installer could achieve a higher end solution for more discerning clientele.
So what are some of the unique features that Prodea’s ROS delivers? Family-friendly features like parental controls and multiple user profiles allow personal media aggregation in the cloud. Both an individual user’s entry to the home and individual rooms are detected via sensors, which can activate personalized settings, like lighting, music, etc. Health and wellness devices are enabled via Prodea’s e-health platform, interacting with third-party devices, and even facilitating health data and messages between doctors’ offices. The system can schedule an appointment if your client’s home health metrics raise any flags.
By far the most interesting feature was its ability to learn your personal habits and offer advertised promotions—the example demonstrated was to order a pizza when you start a movie, but ad content is curated for different screens and localized. The idea of being bombarded with annoying ads by a home control system is not at all what ROS is programmed to do. You can, of course, opt out of this feature, but it’s designed to know what you like, through a “hyper-private” data analysis where Ansari emphasized that privacy and security were a major feature of the system.
“Stitching all these things together,” is what ROS is all about, Ansari said.
Homebuilders as service providers are major targets for Prodea, and this group seems to make the most sense in that position. Up-front fees for the system are very low because the homebuilders can “bake” them right into the home, Ansari pointed out. And that is precisely what current deployments are doing; since late 2013, seven providers have been announced internationally. Today marks the official U.S. launch, where Prodea is also announcing its first U.S. partners: The Surf Club Four Seasons Private Residences in Miami; Canal SUR, one of the largest Latin American cable networks, offering a new OTT service model; and Hillwood, a community-wide real estate developer based in Texas.
I believe that the quality of the service providers may in some cases determine the success of Prodea’s ROS because there is an ongoing level of support that the system requires. This is another area that custom integrators are uniquely posed to take advantage of. It seems obvious for CIs to deliver the best service and whole home integrated technology solutions. I wonder how a homebuilder or set-top box company would be equipped to provide the same level of service.
I also wonder to what extent the ROS offers advantages over the most advanced and current automation systems on the market for that upper echelon clientele. While I was told that there was no conflict with these different types of automation systems—traditional AV control versus ROS—functioning in perfect harmony together, I remain a bit skeptical of the purpose in doing so. There might be some more advanced home entertainment functionality offered by a traditional AV control system, or it might make sense in a retrofit application where the ROS is selected to help bring a home fully into “connected” status.
Whatever the application, or however Prodea’s innovative connected home solution plays out in the market, it will certainly serve as an interesting story to watch unfold.