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Control4 Marketing Its OS To CE Suppliers

Denver — Home automation supplier Control4 will supplement sales of its branded hardware by licensing out its home-control operating system to consumer electronics and custom-install suppliers for inclusion in A/V receivers, TVs, set-top boxes and other devices, CEO Will West said.

“TV and audio makers are not home-automation software developers,” West said. Licensing Control4’s C4iQ OS and user interface will enable them to “get into the market quickly” by leveraging a standards-based OS and adding it to products that already pack “plenty of processing power,” to run the software, he said.

Suppliers that adopt C4iQ will also be able to leverage the availability of Control4-branded products in national and specialty retailers as well as in the custom-installation channel, he said. Licensees’ products would be able to interoperate with Control4-branded products, including in-wall touchscreens, if the manufactures chose not to offer those products.

“We’re not exiting the hardware business,” said president/COO Glen Mella. The new strategy, however, will enable the company to “achieve broader penetration” through partnerships with CE companies that could each sell a million units per year.

The company’s home-automation products are based on industry standards such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi and wireless ZigBee to simplify the installation of multiroom-audio and home-control systems. The $2,995 HC-1000, for example, is a home controller, music server and DVD-management system that distributes music from its embedded server and from connected legacy sources to Ethernet- or Wi-Fi-connected tabletop clients. Different clients can be connected to existing stereo systems or to passive speakers to reproduce music from the central music sources. The HC-1000 also controls ZigBee-equipped home systems through an embedded ZigBee transceiver. An embedded database of control protocols enables it to control thousands of other-brand RS-232-based home systems, and additional protocols can be downloaded from the company’s Web site. The HC-1000 also features contacts and relays to control other home systems, West said.

The integrated systems can be controlled from tabletop and in-wall touchscreens available in ZigBee and Ethernet/Wi-Fi versions.

Although Control4 will not mandate the type of inputs and outputs needed to secure a licensing agreement, many products from CE and custom-install brands are already equipped with the inputs, outputs, and processing power needed to connect to home systems, Mella said. Many audio suppliers, he noted, offer Ethernet-equipped A/V receivers. “They just need to embed our software.” They’ll also likely want to embed ZigBee, he added.

Licensees will be able to offer “some customization” of the Control4 user interface, but the interface will nonetheless will be consistent whether appearing on a TV screen or a touchpanel.

Control4 was founded in 2003, launched its first branded products in late 2004, and recently began to seek our partners for its technology. Control4, for example, has begun making commercial-automation equipment that Johnson Controls sells under its own name, and earlier this year, it teamed with Sony to add a Control4 HC-500 controller/server/DVD-management component to one of Sony’s prepackaged home theater/multiroom-audio “rack systems.” The first other-brand product to incorporate the C4iQ OS will likely be Escient’s Vision Ethernet-based multioom-A/V server for European distribution, West said.