Control4 are a relative new comer to the world of home automation but their reputation is growing fast. With reasonable pricing, full integration and beautiful hardware they have made a splash in the smart home world.
Hi Tony – perhaps you could start by telling us a little bit about your background and what led you to work in the world of home automation?
I had my own System Integration company oversees for a few years which got me into control systems in the commercial sector. I then returned to the UK and set up the AMX distribution. Some of the engineers at AMX in the US, who were involved in home automation business, left and after a few years established Control4. The residential market has been of great interest to me as I have seen a growing market with a very entrepreneurial set of installers who are great to work with. So when Control4 came to market I set up Aventure (with my business partner Brian Chapman) to distribute for them in the UK. Brian’s background in AV Design and Consultancy has helped us establish a set of services not before offered to the smaller residential installers.
How long have Control4 been in the UK now and how do you see the smart home market developing?
Aventure started training and selling Control4 back in 2006, and last year we experienced good growth and acceptance of the platform. The market is developing in many ways. The traditional sectors of Home Cinema and Distributed Audio are still good, but with Control4 far more customers can get into the Lifestyle choices. We are selling experiences and ease of use not hardware. The more solutions we can offer the more customers we can find. So we see the market as solutions based rather than technology based.
We hear you are about to invest in a new regional sales, distribution and support center in York. What can you tell us about that?
Control4 have been very conservative in their expansion plans, which has been a very bold move. It would have been easy to supply every enquiry that came to them – and there have been hundreds. However now the platform is established and second and even third generation products are coming, they are ready to expand. We got into discussions and the outcome was that Aventure would pass over its Control4 distribution business, along with customers and staff , to form Control4 EMEA. This quickly gives Control4 the expertise to access new territories and markets. Aventure will continue but mainly as a distributor of the all important accessory products that installers require to make a Control4 system even better. The facility in York will house a training centre, warehouse, administration and technical support.
What is Control4’s overall philosophy regarding smart home technology?
There needs to be a ‘digital platform’ for the home. This will allow most equipment in the home to be integrated, controlled, accessed and monitored by the home owner. Many attempts have been made, and failed, to make a hybrid solution from a wide variety of technologies and suppliers. Control4 has a clear strategy to make this a low cost, easy to implement, reality. Being an open platform product, Control4 technology can be readily accessed by any manufacturer.
What would you say is Control4’s unique selling point?
That is different for the installer and the user. The installer has a business model that allows him to sell at good margins to a broad market. He can offer solutions that usually cost a great deal more. Furthermore with the same system he can offer different solutions. The user is really buying Lifestyle, easy to use technology that is powerful and expandable.
Can anyone buy and install their own Control4 system or do you sell through an approved installer network?
Control4 is not a self install system for users. We have a network of installers. All installer have to attend and pass a three day training course to become accredited.
What do you see as the biggest drivers in the market currently? Is it the green issues for more efficient heating control for example, or is it mainly based on an “easier life” and more integration?
Green issues are definitely a driver for many people. Control4 have definite plus points for anyone wanting to save energy. More features such as power monitoring and automatic energy saving are coming. However there are certain other drivers such as integrated security and Lifestyle issues.
Give us some scenarios of a basic, medium and complex Control4 system and a ball park cost for each
The beauty of Control4 is that it can be sold as an audio distribution system, home cinema controller, full Home Automation or anything in-between. It does not just have to be a control system in the traditional sense. Examples are therefore difficult. However the controller (with handset and High Definition On Screen Control Display) costs just over £800. This will control a cinema system, or an audio distribution system or a whole home control system. Or all! We recently costed a 4 bedroom house with three bathrooms and living/dining areas. The control system, touch panels, digital amplifiers, wireless dimming etc. for all rooms for about £11,000. This did not include labour and installation materials.
Our readers like a system that is expandable, one that can be added to as you can afford it or as your requirements grow. How does Control4 fit with this idea?
This is one of our strongest points. You can start with the Home Controller for a distributed audio system, and then a few months later add wireless dimmers for example. The next year add bedrooms and bathrooms as audio zones. Maybe add remote monitoring and email alerts so you can access your home systems from any web browser. All still with the original controller.
Thanks for answering our questions Tony. Where can people find Control4 on the web?
We will be adding a where-to-buy for the UK and Europe onto our website in the coming weeks. For the moment please contact us on 01347 812300