It’s always exciting to get to know a relative newcomer in the industry, as I did while attending the grand opening of BlackWire Designs’ brand new showroom and warehouse, but it was doubly exciting to learn about some different brands targeting our market.
BlackWire is a hybrid-type distributor, actively developing software plugins, many of which are for Control4, but there are many other partner solutions the team is working on, including Savant, and URC. Kevin Luther, owner of BlackWire, has run his company out of his home for the past three and half years and experienced fantastic growth, finally necessitating a new warehouse and office space, complete with a showroom for dealer/client meetings. The founding premise for BlackWire was to be a vigorous test house for dealers while developing specific automation platforms and networking products.
Read more about the new headquarters here.
“Keeping things simple is a big deal,” was how Luther explained the major concept behind much of what BlackWire does, especially on the programming side. BlackWire does so much programming and driver writing, Luther said, that the only other company that writes drivers to the extent they do is Extra Vegetables. The big difference between the two companies is that BlackWire distributes to dealers as well.
Luther and his team welcomed a full house of current and potential dealers, to its showroom for tours and technology demos. He enjoyed showing off a Control4 touchscreen running BlackWire’s platform to switch TV sources in various rooms of a home from the main screen, instead of having to navigate to different pages for each room. DIRECTV metadata displayed on that same main screen for a selected TV source is another cool feature. BlackWire can add thermostat and lighting controls to the interface for an extra $100. The GUI works on Flash, so it’s not currently available for iOS devices.
Networking and security products are a big element of BlackWire’s showroom, with products from the Taiwanese company Planet dominating warehouse shelves. Noting how this isn’t a mainstream brand, Luther explained that Planet doesn’t have any U.S. offices, and BlackWire is its main distributor in the States. He showed off the concise wiring configuration of Planet’s IP cameras, noting that, “We worked with them to tailor all recent cameras.”
Luther found Planet’s cameras through Just Add Power, and once he started testing them, he was impressed by their performance. Planet makes an extensive line of networking equipment, including LAN switches, PoE, wireless LAN, IP telephony, wireless access points, etc.
Intuitive-branded mounting solutions were also on display in the showroom, including in-wall mounting boxes and in-wall firearm boxes. Intuitive’s president, Cary Christie, told me that the firearm box was a solution his company had been considering after customers told him they were using its in-wall control box like a traditional safe for their guns. As a result, Intuitive has turned it into a formal product offering.
BlackWire introduced Polycom and Cisco integration to Control4 systems, as well, enabling video calls to be controlled directly from a Control4 touchscreen. ClearOne and Tandberg are also supported. A Lifesize driver is up next, Luther said.
Blackwire additionally writes drivers for Fusion Research's music servers and dbx audio products.
BlackWire also works with Axxess Industries’ Zigbee products, including a wide range of motion sensors, humidity sensors, wireless doorbells, among other devices for hospitality and home environments.
SafePlug, a manufacturer of electrical wiring technologies for energy and security, is another BlackWire partner. Luther showed off the brand’s 15-amp relays, which he said stand out against the 10-amp versions that most other companies offer. He also showed off a SafePlug Zigbee outlet designed so that oversized plugs can comfortably fit on the outlet without wasting space.
While some of the brands BlackWire offers were less familiar to me and probably uncommon on most traditional custom install projects, these types of components are likely to become an important part of today’s home systems.
You can find Kevin Luther demoing BlackWire’s solutions at CEDIA in Control4’s booth, 604.