September 02, 2010
| by Julie Jacobson
HomeSeer, a rich home controller that often flies under the radar, is busy responding to two significant industry happenings: the rise of Android and the fall of Charmed Quark.
Charmed Quark, another sleeper in the home control business, announced in July that it would close shop and let the open-source community take over. Forget that owner Dean Roddey changed his mind a few weeks later. Several home-control vendors pounced on the opportunity.
HomeSeer was one of them.
Sales and marketing director Mark Colegrove responded quickly to the would-be demise of Charmed Quark and its CQC home-automation software.
He told me (rightly): “We learned a long time ago that dealers want two things: 1) Hardware-based systems (not software) and 2) Great “hand-holding” support.
Charmed Quark provided neither. HomeSeer has both.
New HomeSeer Hardware
Now HomeSeer has launched its third-generation hardware, the HomeTroller Series-3 (S3).
Like the S2 before it, the HomeSeer S3 offers a fanless, diskless design, but the new version packs a much faster processor (Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom replaces the VIA 1.0 GHz CPU).
In addition, the product now supports Gigabit Ethernet via two LAN ports, and a few more USB ports for a total of five. As always, Z-Wave, UPB and Insteon retrofit technologies are supported natively.
On the A/V side, the S3 now supports DVI, and the unit sports audio ports on both the front and the rear.
Even though hardware is a must for most CE pros, it’s really all about the software. HomeSeer continues to improve both the user interface and programming environment to meet homeowner expectations. The faltering of CQC reminded the company that even pros want a simple out-of-the-box experience.
“We are paying very close attention to making the program easy to set up and use,” Colegrove tells us. “The new version is way more dealer-friendly out of the box.”
Where HomeSeer has stumbled in the past has been the user interface. It’s flexible and it works but it’s not always pretty.
Colegrove promises, “Yes, sales/marketing is now involved in the new GUI design!”
If you’re not already familiar with HomeSeer, the IP-enabled product supports most of the major subsystems for lighting, security, HVAC, audio, video and more … plus a variety of less-major subsystems such as Brultech energy monitors and SageTV.
These plug-ins are sold separately in the consumer version of the HomeTroller S3 ($1,000), but the HomeTroller Pro S3 ($1,300) includes all third-party drivers developed by HomeSeer, as well as HSTouch, which is Homeseer’s touchscreen interface module.
HSTouch extends HomeSeer access to Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile and other platforms.
Coming Soon: Android Support
The benefit of being a smaller, nimble company is that everyone in the organization is a geek and they can respond quickly to technology trends.
One of the hottest trends today is Google’s Android operating system.
Colegrove points to the fact that Android phone sales have surpassed iPhone; Android tablets are hitting the market; and retailers are all over it.
“Yes, Android OS support is going to be huge for us, since a lot of hardware seems to be heading that way,” says Colegrove. “There’s already a lot of buzz about it in our user channel.”
He says HomeSeer plans to release the Android version of HSTouch this fall, adding, “That will make our HSTouch system natively compatible with everything mobile, except the Blackberry. Blackberry users will still be able to use the HTML interface.”
The Android area of the HomeSeer forums has already generated more than 100 comments.
During a typical work day, you’ll find 150 to 200 users at a time visiting the active HomeSeer forums.
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.