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Only days before the all important CEDIA Expo in Surfers Paradise Control4 has appointed an Australian distributor. The first of the new Control4 products will be on show at the Expo.

Its official Nick Liebertone’s Convergent Technology has snared the rights to distribute the Control 4 range of products. It was this time last year that Liebertone lost the rights to the Creston range of products. The first of the Control 4 range to be distributed in Australia will be shown for the first time at next weeks CEDIA Expo in Surfers Paradise.

 “This has been a long battle but I can now confirm that we are the official distributor of Control4 in Australia” Said Nick Liebertone the Managing Director of Convergent Technology. We will not be ready to distribute product until the last quarter of 2005. “We will not have all the product range but most of it” he added. The battle to snare the rights to the Control4 range in Australia has been fierce with Amber Technology being one of the losers. Kevin Chatfield of AV Technology claims that rejected the product after extensive discussions with Control4 at this years CES show in Las Vegas. He claims the product is not mature enough and has not been in the market long enough for it to be tested. On the other hand Nick Liebertone, the former distributor of Crestron and now managing director of Convergent Technologies, has persisted in chasing Control4. It was only a few weeks ago that he escorted a senior Control4 executive around various CEDIA members.

 In recent weeks Control4 started shipping product into the US market and they believe that a key priority right now is getting their model right in their home market before they branch into international distribution arrangements. Control4 is popular because it is a leader in a new generation of wireless and wired IP-based products for home automation. What the company is doing is delivering a range of solutions that allow a reseller to sell a scaleable solution from entry level to high end.

 Will West, chief executive officer of Control4, believes that the Control4 technology will allow CEDIA members and non members – including IT solution providers – to tap into the new construction home automation market, broadening it into a multi-million dollar industry in Australia. West, chief technology officer Eric Smith and vice president of marketing Mark Morgan co-founded Control4 in March 2003. West and Smith had by 1995 developed an early protocol for residential automation control, which they named PHAST. The system was sold to AMX in 1997.

 Bound by a non-compete agreement, West and Smith then went on to found the broadband business service provider STSN in 1998. West, Smith and STSN veteran Morgan remain owners in STSN. Their experience there – managing broadband service via an IP-based network, with disparate devices entering and leaving the network (usually in a hotel or office building) – laid the groundwork for Control4.”Whereas PHAST was proprietary and focused on rich people building homes this year, Control4 is very much based in IP, open-based standards,” West says. “We couldn’t figure out why people weren’t incorporating more new technologies – technologies that were cheaper, better and faster – into the home automation environment.”

 

 

The ability to retrofit an existing home with wireless (Wi-Fi or ZigBee) home automation products, West contends, will make the existing home automation market grow a hundredfold. “Make it easy to install, affordable and retrofit-able, and the market is 100 times bigger than that,” West adds.At the recent CES show in the USA, Control4 introduced roughly 30 home automation products. The Control4 tech pitch is based on scalable, easy-to-use home automation technology that can be used in both new and existing construction and is capable of controlling legacy equipment. Control4’s technology resides in a software kernel embedded into its products. The technology can communicate over Ethernet, WI-Fi and 802.15.4 Wireless Mesh (ZigBee), as well as traditional cable and infrared connections. Users can control devices via remote controls, touch screen and LCD keypads, on-screen TV interfaces and PCs.

 Control4 products are programmed by the homeowner, who answers questions about his or her home and desired network features via interview software residing on a laptop, says West. “A copy can be installed for the customer, but typically the dealer will do all the initial setup.” A TV-based version is in development. After installation, homeowners can upgrade their Control4 networks with additional components – for example, adding lighting automation with a Control4 light switch. “When they get into a small system, whether its $500 or $5,000, resellers have recurring revenue for the next five years from that customer, as that customer continues to buy more automation products that ride on that system,” explains West.

 A reseller can sell Control4’s products with tiered subscription services, collectively dubbed MyControl4. With Control4 running the back-end, the MyControl4 service supports remote control, service and programming, off-site system back-up, content services and access to automation templates, user interface skins, a sounds library and automatic software updates. MyControl4 also allows Control4 tech support to work with a dealer to remotely service a customer’s system.

 West contends Control4’s “razor/blades/service” business model will be critical in the years ahead. “The dealer who sold the box now has a customer who will continue to come back to them not only to buy the razor blades – they’re going to buy everything else. The retailer becomes the electronic architect of the home. A home theatre receiver/controller, designed to package home theatre and home automation in one box, as well as a thermostat, is now available. Control4 plans to distribute product through both the CEDIA channel and also a retail trial. SHR learnt from Control4 that Harvey Norman had already held discussions with the company.”We believe these products have the potential to transform the home automation industry. Consumers and dealers now have access to products that offer high quality automation at a price that almost everyone can afford, and because we offer both wired and wireless solutions, they can be easily retrofitted into every home,” says Will West.Control4 is now ready to supply orders for its touch panels, wired keypads, wireless light dimmers and switches, 16-channel amps, 16×16 Matrix switches, table docks, contact relay extenders and its Media Controller, which combines a media server with a whole-house control unit. Some Australian solution providers are already trying to source the product direct from the USA.

 

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