2011: Year of the Mass Market Home Controller?

Big cable and telco rollouts of home control and energy management systems to come, says platform provider iControl

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Basic, inexpensive home control and home energy management will be made available on a mass-market scale in 2011, according to the co-CEO of iControl, a connectivity platform being used by cable, telephone and home security companies to deliver remote home management and automation services. “We see the opportunity being literally millions of home per year,” says iControl CEO Paul Dawes.

iControl already provides the platform for ADT’s Pulse system, which has been rolled out nationally and can include remote management of security cameras, thermostats and some lights. ADT offers very basic “energy management” by enabling users to shut off lights and adjust thermostat settings.

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Dawes says a host of similar launches from broadband providers will begin in the first two quarters of 2011. Dawes would not say if that included Xfinity systems by Comcast. Comcast is an investor in iControl and has been marketing a system using products from GE security, which is an iControl partner.

iControl recently merged with rival uControl to provide a better platform for cable operators, who prefer the ZigBee wireless protocol that uControl offers. (iControl’s utilizes Z-Wave.)

For the time being, iControl will offer two platforms, a Connect platform for security companies that uses Z-Wave, and a Converge platform for cable operators, which uses ZigBee.

The company will also try to develop uControl’s OpenSMA, a technology-agnostic platform to connect lifestyle devices like lighting to platforms that service providers can sell to consumers.

Dawes expects to see much more energy management being offered through iControl systems by service providers in 2011, including some energy monitoring. Though the energy management functions will likely remain simple and limited. (Read my full report on this here.)

In addition, Dawes foresees digital home health care services on the iControl platform by the end of 2011. That could include monitoring elders in their homes with video or audio look-ins.

As for those who have said mass market rollouts like this have been tried before and failed, Dawes points to a couple of factors. “One is technology,” he says. “There is a dramatic change in the technology available to get to a mass market of consumers. Things like wireless sensors weren’t available in any mass-market way until the last couple of years. There’s also been a dramatic shift in consumers to mobile apps, with the iPad and iPhone and Android phone, and who would have guessed three years ago that half the phones sold would be smart phones?”
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