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CEDIA 2014: More on High-Low Automation and Control

URC’s booth was extremely crowded, and true to the high-low trend this year, Total Control was again the big story with ccGEN2 getting its own room.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see several more control companies, as well as a few other businesses including D-Tools. One thing I can say is that it is crowded out there. Several of the booths I went to were so crowded that I could barely move through them and I found it difficult to find a company rep who wasn’t tied up with another attendee. But I did manage to have some great meetings and see some interesting product.

URC’s booth was extremely crowded, and true to the high-low trend this year, Total Control was again the big story with ccGEN2 getting its own room. Conspicuously absent (or so hidden away I couldn’t find it) was Complete Control. URC is aiming for higher level automation jobs and it appears they may be leaving the single room solution to companies like Pro Control and Logitech.

For those not familiar, ccGEN2 is the product URC introduced to sell through the distribution channel. It is similar to Total Control, though without quite as much functionality, but still lives on the network. People were swarming around the new on-screen display, the MRX-20 system controller, and their new gyroscopic remotes that use hand motions to control the on-screen display. There is also a new media streamer, the SNP-2, a fortuitous introduction given the last minute news released by Control4 and Extra Vegetables on Wednesday night. URC also introduced their own line of lighting to augment the lighting solutions they already partner with. This will likely make integrating lighting solutions into the Total Control system an even more streamlined product.

Control4 is making it easier for installers to do the initial programming on jobs, bringing Control4 to a larger potential market. Composer Express is automation for the techs. A tech can walk through a project, discover all devices, activate them, and do preliminary testing. This frees up a skilled programmer for the more complex programming. The on-site technician can do many of the beginning steps of the set-up and initial programming, with final work and polish put on by a higher level programmer. This means that your highly skilled labor can be more centralized, remoting into projects instead of being on-site for the nitty gritty, spreading their cost over potentially more projects.

Speaking of being more efficient, I’ve used D-Tools for about six years now, and had always found it very challenging to learn, especially since I was doing it all myself and didn’t have enough time to appropriately train. Now that I have an office manager, she has fully trained on it and I have had a little more time to spend on the software. I can’t tell you enough how much it has helped us manage the business more efficiently and profitably.

Yesterday I met with Tim Bigoness, VP of sales and marketing. He gave me a lot of one on one time – more than I could have expected. He went deep with me on a lot of questions I had about usage of the software (this is just an example of how dedicated they are to helping you). The programming has gotten a lot easier, but as I always say, if you want to be an expert, you have to read the manual (or do the training). There is no substitute for that. When used properly, software like D-Tools can make you way more efficient — but you’ve got to put in the effort. It can help you track and optimize labor hours, change orders, cost of goods, and all aspects of your cost and revenue structure. Overall, the software helps you manage the business. To get the most bang for your buck, you have to know how you want to manage your business and implement the right strategies. For D-Tools is just a tool, not an outsourced solution.

+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation, Powered by Fregosa Design, in New York City.