Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Back in Control

In the 1979 movie, Being There, a simple gardener named Chance, has never set foot outside the gates of the estate where he works. The day his employer dies, the middle-aged man, played by Peter Sellers, finally leaves home and soon encounters muggers. Unaccustomed to the real world, Chance calmly pulls out his TV remote control to change the channel on the violent encounter in front of him. Its an amusing moment that came to mind after seeing ads for the summer comedy, Click, starring Adam Sandler.

In Click, Sandler plays an architect who is given a universal remote thats truly universal. With it, he can take control of his life: freeze a scene, fast-forward, reverse, mute the sound, and select the life chapters of his choice.

Nothing will ever compete with the fiction of Click, but there are amazing improvements to the products in our market every day. My latest toy is the Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote from Logitech. Featuring the same simple online web wizard set up as earlier Harmony models, this new remote has added RF capability, color screen, a recharging base station, and a screen-saver mode that allows you to run a slide show of personal photos when recharging.

In case youre new to the industry, the Harmony Remote also features Smart State Technology, which enables a user to simply press one of the activity buttons, such as Watch TV or Listen to Music, and the Harmony automatically sets up your entertainment system without you ever having to program a macro. This is the feature that makes Harmony remote controls the darling of spouses and babysitters around the country. Its not a big-ticket item like our channel depends on for its livelihood, but it keeps your smaller projects simple and generates loads of positive PR for the CE industry in general. When a product at an entry-level price point can have some of the same sophistication as our high-end control systems, albeit on a much smaller scale, thats a big step forward for our business.

Another big step, potentially, for the custom installation business comes from a relatively new company named Exceptional Innovation. EI produces Life|ware home control software, which is designed to integrate with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Life|ware can be run on a Media Center PC, digital entertainment center, Media Center extender or EIs own Life|touch all-digital high-definition touch panel. The software essentially expands the power and flexibility of Media Center to include lighting, audio/video distribution, security, and HVAC, all through the same interface and single remote.

I had the unique opportunity to see the system in action in the Columbus, Ohio, home of EIs vice president of marketing, Mike Seamons. I was impressed with the way the system expanded an MCEs feature set at a price point much more attainable to average Americans. Just to prove the systems versatility, Seamons integrated the EI system with SmartLabs INSTEON lighting control and security system. It was an elegant solution that even incorporated a modest home theater.

But before you get the idea that EIs system isnt high-end, the companys president, Seale Moorer, is in the process of building an upscale home in Columbus that may push the limits of MCE and Life|ware. The equipment room, which most of us would call a basement, is proof that his is going to be a first-class system, typically the domain of the big boys of home control. While, EI absolutely hopes to bring home automation to the mainstream, its also clear that, with the full support of H-P by the way, they are ready for the big time as well.

To quote Janet Jackson, this is the story about control, and its exciting to witness the continued success of AMX and Crestron, all the while companies like Logitech, Exceptional Innovation, and Control4, gain acceptance in the control system space. I cant wait to see where it all leads.