We have all witnessed the phenomenal success of Apple iOS and Google Android devices in our clients’ homes over the last several years. For the most part, these products have been used for communications and photography purposes, but increasingly, our clients are asking us to install and implement total home control apps for these touchscreen devices. And all of the total home control companies in the custom channel have responded with comprehensive applications for these platforms.
RTI recently released its RTiPanel Apps for the iPhone and iPad.
Apps versus Custom Programming. The challenge for custom integrators is that the total home control application software of the manufacturers we represent is slowly being undermined by individual applications that run on Apple iOS and Google Android devices that are written to accomplish a specific task for a given subsystem. Think of having an iPad configured with a Lutron application for lighting and motorized window treatment control, Sonos for whole-house audio control, NEST for HVAC control, Panasonic for IP camera control, Pentair for pool control, Alarm.com for security system control. You can essentially emulate the functionality of the total home control platforms that we traditionally create with each of these manufacturer-specific applications.
Can We Compete? Now a number of smaller start-up companies are writing easy-toimplement and use software applications that run on Apple iOS and Google Android platforms. If our clients become comfortable with using these small touchscreen devices to control their TV viewing experience, it is not hard to envision that they will want to use the same handheld device for all of their additional home control needs. The question is, will they want these additional controls on an a-la-carte, pick the app flavor of the month, or will they want our traditional integrated total home control application on these devices?
It’s critical that our industry understands these trends and responds to them in a way that continues to add value to our clients, while maintaining a level of profitably on custom installations that are increasingly using commoditized control products. Installing an iPad-controlled thermostat may not be very profitable, but this installation may lead our clients to request an iPad-controlled motorized window treatment, which can be very profitable.
Taking a Hybrid Approach. At cyberManor we are providing our clients with a combination of solutions, and we will be using their feedback to help us govern the direction of the total home control experience on the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.
The implications for our industry are significant. Will we continue to provide custom programming services to control our carefully designed interconnected home systems or will we become the hardware integrators of software applications that have already been written for independent home subsystems?
This will be the year of the home control applications, and it’s imperative that we become as knowledgeable as possible about this fundamental shift in how our clients will want to control their homes.
Gordon van Zuiden (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of cyberManor in Los Gatos, CA.