Automation 1, Green Living 0

Opened my e-mail in-box this morning – well, actually, I tapped “Mail” on my iPhone5 ‘cause that’s how I roll now, playa’! – and saw a message with the tantalizing subject line titled “FREE Driver for Control4.” Since they pretty much had me at “FREE” and then closed the deal with “Control4,” I boldly pressed on. Turns out it was a message from a company called PocketWare. 
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Opened my e-mail in-box this morning – well, actually, I tapped “Mail” on my iPhone5 ‘cause that’s how I roll now, playa’! – and saw a message with the tantalizing subject line titled “FREE Driver for Control4.”

Since they pretty much had me at “FREE” and then closed the deal with “Control4,” I boldly pressed on. Turns out it was a message from a company called PocketWare. Here’s what it said:

You asked and we listened. Don't you wish more companies did that sort of thing? [I’m thinking this question is rhetorical, but, yes, I do wish more companies would do this very thing. Except I don’t remember asking. Or even hearing about this company before. But, let’s not get bogged down in semantics.]

Who doesn't love free stuff?[An idiot, that's who! Well, or maybe a really rich person. You can never tell with them.] We want you to try out our driver for yourself so that you can experience its awesomeness first hand. Because we are so nice (and because we were bombarded with requests), we are offering one free "demo" license to every single Control4 dealership in the entire world!

Well, I can assure you, THIS GUY (jabs self in chest) loves free stuff! And also experiencing awesomeness in any of its forms. So I was already like 93 percent on board, whatever it was they were offering. Cheese peeler, quasi-legal Canadian pharmaceuticals, some kind of anti-microbial spray, whatever. If it’s free, bring it.

Reading on, it answered that ever elusive question that can best be summed up in this Simpson’s dialog:

Jane: We're having a free get-acquainted session at our resort this weekend.

Homer: How much is this free resort weekend?

Glen: It's free.

Homer: And when is this weekend?

Glen: It's this weekend.

Homer: Uh-huh. And how much does it cost?

Glen: Um, it's free.

Homer: I see. And when is it?

Glen: It's this weekend.

Homer: And what are you charging for this free weekend?

What is Always@Home?

Never program vacation lighting scenes again! We all know how time consuming that can be - and you are never going to get it exactly how your customers [sic] lifestyle really is. So save yourself the time and money you spend programming and download the Always@Home driver.
[I would have hammered this point home with a big, fat exclamation point. Just sayin’.]

This driver from PocketWare records the daily activity of your lights AND televisions in your Control4 enabled home and will play back the EXACT light/TV usage when you are out of town to make it appear that someone is always at home even when you have been away for weeks!

Click here for more details.

“Hmm,” thought John brain. “For years we’ve been kind of selling automation on the fact that it was going to help homeowners to be more green. In fact, specifically making sure that lights and appliances (like TVs) *wouldn’t* be left on. And yet, here’s an app whose very goal in life is to make sure those devices ARE on when we’re not at home…even ‘for weeks.’ I should probably look into this…”

So click there I DID! And here’s the promised “more details” of what PocketWare does:

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["Our driver" installed on a Control4 system in conjunction with a host of automated light dimmers/switches and programmed by a trained dealer/installer. Just a little fine print for your reading pleasure.]

Always@Home is most likely the greatest driver ever created for Control4. [Highly questionable statement, especially in light of the Extra Vegetables Sonos and Pandonos apps, which are pretty spec-Sonos-tacular, but I’ll allow it in the same vein as, “GREATEST HAMBURGER IN THE WORLD!!!” adverts…]

This driver records the daily activity of your lights and/or TVs in your Control4 enabled home and can play back the exact light/TV usage to make it appear that someone is always at home even when you have been away for weeks. [Unless, you know, you are actually never at home during the day turning on lights and TVs and such, in which case the app will just memorize and recreate this “no lights or TV” environment, tricking a thief into thinking that you’re NOT home when you really are in fact not ACTUALLY at home. It's such an amazing mind-flip that the would-be thief will then be trapped in a mental "are they/aren't they?" moral conundrum that will slowly unravel their already tenuous grasp on reality. Brilliant.] 

Admit it - you just realized how miserable your life has been before you knew about this driver.[I'm not sure I'm ready to admit to this, actually. To be fair, Always@Home hasn't entirely convinced that my life is really that miserable. I mean, I HAVE a Control4 system, so that’s got to be a pretty fair first step in the right direction away from misery, wouldn’t you think? And as far as I can tell from this first paragraph, Always@Home has made no promises of “bottomless glasses of scotch” or “Pliny the Younger whenever you like!” which would definitely make me have felt miserable without it.]


• Plays back your actual light usage
The Always@Home driver records the light changes in your home and can play back those changes.
[This is a very Lutron HomeWorks Interactive — a beaucoup cool and expensive lighting automation system — feature, and quite cool.]

• Select only the lights you wish to record
You can easily select which lights to record and which lights to ignore, so that only the important lights are played back while you are away. [OK, you’re starting to interest me here, PocketWare… So it doesn’t have to be my bathroom lights that no one will see anyhow.]

• Global light level setting
You can select a global light level percentage that will be used for all dimmers. This is helpful for customers that like the security Always@Home provides with lighting playback, but are also concience [sic] of energy usage and would prefer their lights to be turned on at a lower level than normal when in Playback mode. [Hmm. OK, so you can still be kind of green by controlling the levels. Have the lights on, but at say 50 percent of the normal levels. Smart. I like it. I'm sure the cat will adjust.]

• Plays back your actual TV usage
The Always@Home driver records whenever a selected TV is turned on and off. You can select up to four TVs and program whatever source/media you'd like to be played when in Playback mode. [This still seems a bit superfluous but, then again, I know there are people that like to leave the TV running all day to entertain the cat, so, you know, tomato, tomahtoe. Also, I like that you can pick which TV – up to four, by Odin’s beard! – so you don’t have to use this feature if you don’t want to.]

• Dynamically adapts to your changing schedule
Because Always@Home is always recroding [sic] your lights [sic] activity, it continually adapts to your current schedule.
[This seems like the same thing as the first point they made, but repetition for emphasis in case anyone zoned out at the beginning.]

• Two week history
Always@Home keeps a rolling, continuously updating, two-week history of your lights. With the crazy lifestyles people live today, its [sic] comforting to know that Always@Home knows your schedule better than you! [Sure this has a bit of a creepy, "Is Always@Home watching me while I shower?" kind of vibe, but relax. Also, if someone is willing to stakeout your lighting pattern for two weeks and then notice that it starts repeating, you seriously have bigger problems going on in your life, and it’s probably time to get a shotgun. Or call in Liam Neeson…]

So the app’s sole purpose in life is to turn lights and TVs on specifially when no one is home — about the ungreenest thing on the planet. Well, except for maybe having fluorocarbon fights while tap-dancing on the ozone or sponsoring the neighborhood's weekly used oil drain pour event — but it appears to have the flexibility to allow users to manage some energy savings settings to balance out the security concerns of a house that looks totally unlived in without burning 100 percent of the lighting to create a stage play.

Automation is definitley about having options, and the PocketWare system provides another cool option for Contol4 homeowners. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, check out PocketWare’s website here, and contact your Control4 dealer. Or me. (Who happens to be a Control4 dealer.)

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.

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