Widgets Magazine

Over the Counter Control

Automation and control has become more like over the counter medicines

What do you do when cold and flu season strikes you? Do you call the doctor to make an appointment, head over to the office, wait to be called and endure the pokes and prods? Or do you head off the local healthcare store and pick up an over the counter (OTC) medicine?
Over the Counter Control
It is highly unlikely that many of you reading this opted for the full doctors visit, deferring to that which would get you up and running (and back to work) faster. For most illnesses that fall into the ‘common cold’ description, OTC products satisfy the need. This holds true even when we know that the professional prescriptions pack a better punch (but with more potential complications and side effects).  
The middle market integration industry has reached the growth state where many consider basic home automation and control as an OTC solution.  
While we wrung our hands over the transfer of power from AV to IT, the consumer market began to offer one-off applications and began the road to an ecosystem. The much-lauded mesh networking Internet of Things (IoT) products jumped from professional infrastructure management to home. To be honest, in the past the commercial industry looked at the products offered up at CES much in the way post-war America looked at products made in Japan.
Beyond the established market, the demand for simpler products is booming. One only has to take a look at the offerings on sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo, Fundly and others to see that there are hundreds of companies vying to offer quick, simple, and often efficient systems.
True, a goodly percentage of these deliver only a portion the features promised or fail to even produce a product at all. The industry should be careful in its attempt to frame this as evidence that the effort is Sisyphean. Though many of the early prospects resulted in less than stellar results, these are small stumbles for the start-up incubators.  
The depth and breadth of products which overlap the pro-integration industry are astounding. From controllable lights which do more than just dim, to fans, thermostats, locks, connected wearables and remotes to replace all factions of our proprietary control systems. More and more pop up with each week because the demand is there. We are not talking of if, but when.
Hugs for the Home
The company SevenHugs, (silly name – winner of three awards at CES 2017), offers the ‘Smart Remote.’ The unit, about the size of an iPod Nano, can instantly change to the device controls simply by pointing the remote at it.
The website states that the Smart Remote can control 25,000 devices via infrared, Bluetooth, and Wifi. List price is just under $300 US. Just like that aggressive cough drop you get at the local CVS, it may leave a bitter taste on your palate, but damn it works well.
Companies with existing ecosystems like Apple, Microsoft and even the big boys of the custom integration world have taken notice.
Apple and Microsoft have long played with (with varying degrees of success and attention span), the idea of the “Home of the Future.” In general, the vision incorporated the company’s hardware and software as inclusive parts of the new home.
Apple HomeKit is really the first to take advantage of a ready-made library of controllers. For some years, Apple simply let the disparate apps live as separate entities. With the newly upgraded prominence of HomeKit, Apple is looking to bring the apps for control under one standard, but more importantly one umbrella.
One big argument against the app as ‘real’ automation/control was that the plethora of apps were cumbersome. To change the channel on your TV or turn off the lights one had to activate the phone, unlock it, find the app, open the app, find control, dim lights/enter channel 13.  
Apple and the collection of off the shelf IoT tech-centric products are already available and accessed from one icon. Even more telling is that the HomeKit can be accessed via the one left to right swipe control center. The control center is that screen you access the camera, light, airplay and music without unlocking the phone.
Medicinal Meditations
Many of us want to ignore the cold sweats and the general feeling of being off, eschewing a short stop to the chemists, saying things like, ‘I’m not sick, just bit off,” or, “This will pass with a good night’s rest.”
The truth is we cannot ignore the impact any longer. The OTC idea in the public’s mind is established. To separate it is a Herculean task. Clearly, the inclusion of systems like Sonos, Nest, and Alexa by the major integration manufactures is telling. Following the demand and practices of their dealers, companies are making accommodations to business models which include installation of the OTC products.  
Survival for the small to medium sized install houses requires a familiarity and willingness to sell these in addition to the ‘pro’ offerings.
Vin Bruno, former President of CEDIA and newly appointed board member of Rayva, tagged it perfectly when he promoted the phrase, “Do It For Me.”  The OTC products may allow for the DIY or general enthusiast to gain control of aspects, and as such, we need to learn how to push our expertise in making them cohesive. In the end, the integration industry needs to be more like, well, chain store pharmacies offering a wide array of casual and professional products while knowing the OTC client will one day need a prescription drug.

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