Writing about the next generation of home control apps for the Going Forward column in the latest print issue turned out to be a more daunting assignment than it sounded like. The trouble was that so many manufacturers have apps to control your home. The insightful comments kept rolling in, and I was left with my least favorite part of writing (yes, even worse than starting): cutting out interesting points because there’s only so much that can fit on a printed page.
And as we were getting ready to go to press, I learned about a newer company that I simply couldn’t squeeze into the column in a concise enough way.
iRule fits into a smaller niche of the home control system market, which was precisely what CEO Itai Ben-Gal sought to do. Marketed as a simpler, more affordable and customizable solution, iRule quite simply is an app with no proprietary hardware, but it’s an app that turns your mobile device into a touchscreen, universal remote control. The app controls stereo and AV equipment, home theater gear, lights, drapes, fireplaces, thermostats, etc.
Marketed as a simpler, more affordable and customizable solution, iRule quite simply is an app with no proprietary hardware, but it’s an app that turns your mobile device into a touchscreen, universal remote control.
At first look, we were skeptical about how iRule approached dealers. The idea seemed like one of those DIY home systems that aims to cut out the dedicated, experienced electronic systems contractor, but in truth, the opposite was true as I learned from Ben-Gal, who told me the majority of iRule’s business is with dealers. “We work with hundreds of integrators all over the world,” he said. “That’s predominantly where that growth is coming.”
The other big question for me about the system was about how well it plays with other control systems since so many home automation devices come with their own control software. Ben-Gal said that not only does iRule work in conjunction with a Crestron, Control4, Savant, AMX, etc. system, but it can function independently as well. “On the high end, installers aren’t able to sell a full blown AMX system with every job, and they’re looking for a more cost effective solution.”
Since iRule is built for simple distribution and programming, “For a lot of installations, we can talk to the Crestron equipment on the back end and provide a very pretty front end,” he said of the user interface.
The key, Ben-Gal said, is that iRule is an inexpensive solution.
Just announced, the latest update to the app features iTunes access within the iRule interface, so users don’t have to switch apps. When I asked Ben-Gal about other specific features the company is developing, he kept circling back to optimizing the experience for integrators, particularly with speed and simplicity. Being entirely cloud based is one way iRule achieves this. Ben-Gal also emphasized a focus on installation lifecycles. He realizes that most consumers are going to upgrade components of their systems in an ongoing way, so iRule is “focusing on how to re-upgrade the system and make changes,” as simply as possible. He noted that many installers experience issues when those types of changes are made.
Integrating automation and energy management are the next steps Ben-Gal said, as are the new ways we all consume media. “For consumers, it’s about the user experience,” between changing cover art and navigating hundreds of gigabytes of movies, “so you don’t have to jump to other apps.”
From a service standpoint, iRule has dedicated staff exclusively for the installer channel and conducts dealer training worldwide, online or in an office.
After hearing these details about Ben-Gal’s approach to home control with iRule, I couldn’t help but wonder how he came to this industry. The story is quite simple. An engineer with an IT background who was always a serious AV enthusiast, Ben-Gal was constantly upgrading and improvising his dedicated home theater. When the first apps hit the market a few years ago, all he wanted was to combine the two things he loved most: his home theater and his iPhone. He saw a gap in the market for a flexible, cost effective solution that would be available to a mass market.