While homeowners may be attracted to the convenience that today’s home management systems are said offer, if the technology is too complicated to operate, there is nothing convenient about it. Custom installers, too, want systems that are able to perform complex functions, but can integrated into the home efficiently. That was-and still remains-the philosophy followed by Craig Slawson and Wil Henderson when they officially founded CorAccess Systems LLC (303.477.7757, www.coraccess.com) last year.
While the CorAccess team boasts some unusual background traits (Slawson, the organization’s CEO, for example, is a geologist), vice president of engineering Bill Wimsatt, Henderson and their chief are firmly rooted in technology, with experience working for companies such as IBM, Qubit, and Oracle. It was this experience, along with the belief that simplicity in technology can be achieved, that led to the development of a company that produces intelligent home control and media system interfaces.
“Our team had developed very reliable, useful tools in the embedded Internet appliance space, and we felt that there was a huge need for those tools and those interfaces in the home connectivity space,” Slawson explained. “Providing those tools on a very simple-to-use, robust and IP-based architecture was not only a new paradigm for the industry, but a very unique offering.”
CorAccess’ product suite encompasses the Companion 6, Companion 10 and Mobile Companion touch interfaces. The Companion 10 is a touch panel equipped with Internet capabilities, while the Companion 6-which picked up the 2002 CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Award for Best User Interface-is more compact. The Mobile Companion interface is wireless.
To accompany the interfaces, CorAccess has developed a suite of software products, including AutoMate, which enables users to access environmental, security and lighting control systems; PhotoMate, which allows users to view their own environment (such as who is at the front door), as well as the community (traffic, weather, etc.). AudioMate, used with the Companion 10 and Companion 6 interfaces, controls audio for Internet radio and streaming MP3s and is capable of integrating with media server technology such as ReQuest Multimedia’s Audio ReQuest system. TeleMate is an intercom system, and AniMate enables control of all Companion products, allowing users to access Ethernet-based or serial media and security control systems. According to CorAccess, most Companion products featuring AutoMate programming will connect to HAI Omni, OnQ HMS, UStec, Aegis and Futuresmart systems.
“The high-end systems that are out there today are unnecessarily complex. We get that resonating comment from CEDIA dealers all the time,” Slawson said. “We felt there was an easier path that could be taken to develop an open-architecture to these systems versus a closed, proprietary architecture.”
This open architecture is not only easy for homeowners and installers to work with, but it facilitates the future-proofing process, according to Slawson. “You can, in effect, continue to add functionality as that functionality becomes available,” he said. “When video-on-demand is available and provisioned, our products can be the interface for video-on-demand services.”
The Internet plays a key role in CorAccess products. “Our background is in embedded engineering products and Internet and IP-based architectures, and when we looked at the home control and home management market we didn’t see a lot of IP-based systems and wondered why,” Slawson said. “The world is migrating toward that IP-based, Ethernet-based architecture. We wanted to position our products ahead of that market.”
One of the challenges CorAccess faced was dealing with the perceptions surrounding touch panel interfaces. “It’s more than a pretty interface,” Slawson said. “It’s really an interface and controller all in one. Installers are used to complex sets of rack-based systems that have to sit behind curtains, and we do it all in one.”
Slawson noted that without embedded pervasive computer devices-extremely small computers-much of what is found in the home systems market wouldn’t be possible today. “You don’t need a PC anymore to go on the Internet; you can do it on a pocket PC,” Slawson, said. “You can browse the Internet on a cell phone. Those are sub-optimal platforms to be browsing the Internet, but nonetheless, you can do it. Being able to have a computer device that is lighter than a PC, and being able to get all of the information and richness of the PC is one of the unique innovations in the world today.”
As broadband connections increase in accessibility, the functionality of products like CorAccess interfaces will expand. Videoconferencing over IP-based systems, for example, lends new hope to video phone-type applications. Slawson agrees. “Bringing broadband to the home and being able to connect the home network to the world network offers unlimited possibilities for future online applications and services,” he said.
Carolyn Heinze ([email protected]) works from her office in Vancouver, Canada.