ELAN has taken its lumps in recent years, particularly as a result of an overly long product development cycle for its ELAN Tools programming software. Now the company is hoping to put all that frustration behind them with the multi-tiered launch schedule of a completely new software, hardware, user interface, controller platform, called “g.”
ELAN's 'g' family of products
Though the first wave of products won’t ship until April 1 (not a joke, they assure me), the company will first unveil an interactive website, called gvangelist.com, that will help build enthusiasm for and knowledge about the new platform.
The “g” platform leverages a lot of the IP technology at the heart of the HomeLogic brand that ELAN acquired two years ago. In this first full partnership between the two brands, HomeLogic’s technology was integrated into a more cohesive framework with new controller hardware, entertainment devices, and user interfaces.
“We’ve had this power partnership between our brands over the last couple of years since they were acquired, but we never really integrated the products fully until this launch,” ELAN marketing director Eric Harper said. “Our vision was for a system that was easier than our current systems, more personal, but still has a lot of the legacy features that ELAN is known for, like live video. But, it needed to be very scalable, expandable and smart, with home management and entertainment features.
We had to make sure the timing was right and the products were right before flipping the switch, and now is that time. It gives us the ability to move upstream and downstream, giving dealers lots of customization without hundreds of hours of programming time.
In its first phase, “g” will have 11 different devices all using a common interface. “We have everything from a handheld remote, TV interface, laptop wireless, OLED-based in-wall touchpad, and a Valet,” Harper said.
The goal is to have a very seamless experience from in-wall to iPhone to on-screen, all the way down the line.
Harper said that the days of presenting a homeowner with 15 pages and screens of information, if he only wants one summary shot, are over. Instead, g can be designed as complicated or as simply as an integrator might want.
G also is designed to scale from a single room to a large home on the same platform, which was not possible for ELAN in the past.
ELAN also has changed its AV switching philosophy. Whereas in the past they kept “the brains” and switching in one box, now they’re splitting up those functions.
The TS2 may look familiar, because it was built on ELAN’s Ole XL architecture, but with a newer higher rez screen and embedded software. But while the hardware seems familiar, the functionality is much improved, according to Harper. Widgets will allow weather, stock quotes, to integrated through a more “app-centric” style of design.
“Historically HomeLogic had these tabs that you’d show or hide,” Harper explained. “Now that the market, thanks to Apple, has moved to this apps mentality, both in the way functions are presented and the way you purchase them. Going forward, if you want lighting, you pay for the lighting app and get a button that says lighting and then you have the ability to control the lights.”
Next up are the TS7 and 10 and, in the future, the 15, which are all inwall touchpanels. The hardware includes hard buttons on the side that provide faster access to more frequently used functions. The panels also have iPhone-type finger flicking capabilities.
“We’re changing the way folks interact with their surroundings,” Harper said. “Instead of presenting layer upon layer of thermostats, for example, I could have one summary screen. With the four thermostats in my home, I could select one of those and just like on an iPhone when I flip through my cities for the weather, I would just flip through my various thermostats to control them. It makes it much more seamless and intuitive instead of a having a menu tree that you have to drill through.”
ELAN’s First OSD
Another first for ELAN is the introduction of an on-screen display interface in the “g” line. Whether it’s the top line controllers or base model it gives homeowners the ability to sit back on the couch and use a clicker with up, down, left, right, enter.
“This also helps get us into that one-room control environment, when you pair it with our entry-level control, called the HC4,” Harper said.
Moving up the line is the HC6, which is more of the rack-mount controller, and HC8 which has more serial connectivity (eight inputs), and then an HC12. “These guys are the control brains and have all of the serial ports, relays, IR sensing, as well as getting you two zones in the case of the HC12 or streaming audio content, from Pandora and Rhapsody,” Harper added.
April 1, No Foolin’
The April 1 launch is largely a software update to existing hardware. Dealers will be able to upgrade the Profile 700, which is the current HomeLogic panel, to the g interface as well their Multibrick, Homebrick, and Theaterbrick products, according to Harper.
“With one software upgrade, it will give you all of these user interfaces that you’ve never had access to before,” he explained. “Of course the iPhone app will be upgraded as well. All of this gives dealers the opportunity at the beginning of Q2 to existing customers and perhaps upgrade their user interface. It could be a chance for some new-found recurring revenue.”
The only new piece of hardware in the first launch is the TS2, which will get ELAN a lower price point for full control of security, lighting, and HVAC.
With it will come a new configuration app for programming this stuff. Called “g tools,” it will be a single configuration tool for all of the products in the g line.
The Second Wave
During the “undated” second launch, ELAN will introduce larger screens, like the TS7, a new in-wall, and a new matrix media switcher, called the M86A. The company also will offer the TS2 Valet, which a new housing for an existing TS2s for an inexpensive tabletop solution. Finally, the OSD interface will be available at the same time that the HC12 and HC6 ship.
The Third Wave
Later still will come more controllers, including the HC4. It can work as a standalone device or it can tab into a larger controller, like an HC12 for example, back at the head end.
The Fourth Wave
The last product introduction will include the TS10 Valet, which is a hi-res, 10-inch tabletop or under-the-counter display, as well as ELAN’s first handheld remote control, called the HR2.
“We just received our first samples the other day,” Harper said. “I’ve used a lot of remotes in my day. The first time I picked up a TiVo remote, it felt really good in my hand. I picked up the HR2 and got the same feeling. I believe it’s the thinnest two-way, color touchscreen remote on the market.”
Priced at $650 it can work as a standalone or in conjunction with the g HC4 and HR2 for a one-room theater, for around $1,200-1,500 retail.
So in this new era of single-letter product launches (remember Runco’s “Q” line marketing at CEDIA EXPO 2009?), ELAN hopes to make a fresh start with dealers with “g.” Come January 1, you can visit gvangelist.com and learn first-hand where the company is headed. Registration for the 10-week unveiling opened today. Let me know what you think.
It’s all fun and games (and prizes galore) for ELAN over the next 10 weeks. But, on April 1, the company will have to get down to business and deliver on its promises.