Control4 Smart Home OS 3 – Making Complicated Installations as Simple as a Smartphone

Control4 Smart Home OS 3

Control4 announced today an all-new and improved operating system for Control4 installations that they call Smart Home OS 3. OS 3 is designed to be an easy unifier of the many devices in consumers’ installations, offer a robust infrastructure, give consumers choice & simplicity, maintain privacy, and – critical for integrators – enables professional support. It is their most tested and intuitive user experience that is as simple to use as a smartphone.

See more on the experience upgrade that Control4’s OS 3 offers users…

Brad Hintze, Control4’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, gave Strata-gee an overview and demo of the company’s new Smart Home OS 3 user interface, a significant upgrade they believe over their previous iterations (or competitor’s user interface [UI]). Hintze started his presentation talking about today’s world of tech, with its proliferation of AI-enabled DIY devices.

*1|*2 According to Hintze, usage data shows that Control4 customers have on average 40(!) devices connected to their systems. Clearly, 40 devices could be a confusing and complex challenge, but all Control4 systems are installed by professional integrators who ensure easy device interoperability which is further facilitated by Control4’s smartly designed operating system software.

With DIY (Do It Yourself) devices, consumers are left on their own…and the complexity that situation engenders could be daunting. Some of that added complexity is due to the fact that those DIY devices are usually single-function units that live in their own “walled gardens,” according to Hintze. They often don’t play well with other branded devices and can be difficult to integrate into a full-featured system.

DIY Devices are Really Just ‘Smart Accessories’

Hintze says that in Control4’s opinion these devices are more like “smart accessories” that “in so many ways” are “failing consumers.” He optimistically added (to this B-to-B writer) that consumer tech writers are “finally wrapping their heads around the shortcomings that smart accessories have.”

Control4 OS 3 Family Room entertainment options
Control4’s new Smart Home OS 3 allows users to create a simplified room screen showing those most-used entertainment options readily available for selection [Click to enlarge]

We’ve never wavered on the idea that DIY will never serve customers well. We always knew that was an inevitability and we’ve focused and built a business that really focuses on that opportunity.

Brad Hintze, Control4 Senior Director of Product Marketing

Hintze said that as more and more things are getting connected, the “shortcomings” of these smart accessories are becoming obvious to a lot more consumers. Smart accessories may be fun to play with, but they are not really designed for infrastructure, he suggested. This is one of the shortcomings of these DIY smart accessories.

Other ‘Smart Accessory’ Shortcomings…

  • Families want a pro to help them out – Hintze says families want a professional to “help them install, upgrade, and manage” their systems. Once they get a few devices, they need help to manage them. He tells the story of seeing a post where an end-user complained that they had moved and “it took them two days to reset 40 different smart home devices that they were going to sell.”
  • Smart Accessories offer a “lack of interoperability” – This big DIY world often brings a lack of interoperability, with some devices representing “walled gardens.” When that happens, then the “consumer’s choice gets limited,” Hintze told me.

The Solution?

The solution to these challenges is Control4’s Smart Home OS 3 ecosystem which can make “everything in the home work together.” A Smart Home system that “is going to unify everything in the home,” Hintze said. And that’s true whether the desired priority is “security and peace-of-mind” or whether it’s “entertainment and comfort.”

No matter what the device, in a Smart Home operating system it becomes part of the infrastructure, not a freestanding gimmick. “It’s robust, it’s reliable,” and it’s built to be part of the infrastructure that will be a part of the home for a very long time.

A Smart Home OS Also…

  • offers homeowners choice, allowing them to bring in the best products for their particular use-case or home
  • brings simplicity, including a variety of interfaces such that every member of the family can use the system
  • offers protection and secures privacy “from those who want to spy on them.” It will, Hintze said, protect the data that users generate in their private space
  • enables professional support so that users can get the help that they want to manage their system
Control4 OS 3 menu screens are optimized for devices
With OS 3, menus are optimized for each device – whether smartphone… [Click to enlarge]

Smart Home OS 3 offers users all this and more, including a tremendous number of personalization opportunities to help users make the system “truly their own.”

OS 3 provides homeowners with a tremendous amount of choice. We have one of the largest ecosystems, particularly among the professionally installed smart home, where we support over 13,500 devices – and over half of them are devices that shift with Control4 software embedded in them. And that’s from brands that you know and trust, like Samsung, and Sony, LG, and others… So this OS 3 platform gives homeowners the most choice for the products that they bring into their home.

Brad Hintze

Thousands of Dealers & Enhancements

Hintze also says that OS 3 is built for the Smart Home professional and it “offers the fastest deployment.” Consider the fact that, “Today we have nearly 6,000 dealers. But more importantly, that represents over 20,000 trained technicians that can install a Smart Home for customers and take care of all those needs for any of those homeowners.”

Control4 says that OS 3 offers more than a thousand new enhancements over their previous system. These enhancements touch every part of the system Hintze says, whether in lighting, entertainment, comfort, or security.

Control4 OS 3 - menus are optimized for each device, in this case a tablet
..or a larger tablet-sized screen [Click to enlarge]

Some of these enhancements are big enhancements, others are “really important little enhancements” that add fluidity and make the system more intuitive to use. “So we know that our homeowners will be really excited about this new OS and the new way that they can live with their Control4 Smart Home,” Hintze said enthusiastically.

‘Favorites’ – The Ability to ‘Elevate’ Devices or Services

One of the new enhancements that Control4 introduces with OS 3 is the ability to use a “favorites” function to “elevate” devices within the interface. With more than 40 devices connected to their system on average, this capability can help users choose which of those are most important to them and bring it to the front of the interface on their screen for quick and easy selection.

This “Favorites” function can be a service like Spotify or Pandora…or even a favorite playlist, Hintze said. It also could be a specific light, say a favorite reading lamp, or even a certain lighting scene that the user wants right at their fingertips when accessing the system.

Control4 OS 3 favorites in the theater room
Here you see readily accessible ‘Favorites’ for the Theater room that can be easily created by users based on those services or activities they use most often [Click to enlarge]

“So Favorites will enable them [end-users] to elevate that to the top and they can arrange [it] and puts the power of that curation of the important devices into the hands of the homeowner.”

Brad Hintze

‘Elevate’ Your Rooms; ‘Filter’ Your View

Also helping to remove complexity for the user, OS 3 gives full visibililty to all connected devices and room setups. Homeowners will typically have multiple rooms with connected devices in them. But some rooms are more important than others – these too can be elevated to show on the main screen, say the 3 or 4 rooms most important to the user out of the 15 or so connected spaces in the total installation. It’s all about helping users gradually personalize their system by adjusting screens and operations in a manner that is most logical to them and therefore feels better.

Many times, this can’t be truly decided until you’ve lived with the system for a while. Now users can make subtle but important adjustments to fine tune the system themselves…without scheduling a truck roll from their installing dealer. You’ll still need the dealer, but now for more substantive issues rather than simply re-arranging screen layouts.

OS 3 also offers user a “filter” function which allows you – with the push of a button – to see specifically, for example, only those lights that are on…or only those shades which are up (or down) or doors that are locked/unlocked. With this kind of added visibility, users can now easily create a “dashboard” that offers the current status of your home, “all in one place,” Hintze told me. He particularly envisions homeowners appreciating this capability in the master bedroom, when you need to know the status of those items as you’re getting ready for bed.

More Entertaining ‘Sessions’ & More Quality via MQA

Control4 has completely redesigned the entertainment experience as well. Hintze noted that this new design in OS 3 has added a capability that they call “Sessions,” which has elevated the active media that’s currently playing on your whole home media dashboard to make it easy to see and interact with. Not only can you see what’s playing, but you can easily see in what room or rooms it’s playing.

Control4 OS 3 - screen shot showing 'Sessions'
We have Norah Jones playing in the Kitchen and Master bedroom, while Dad is rockin’ out to Boston in the garage. It’s easy to see it all with ‘Sessions’ showing which media is active and where. Touch the screen to change rooms or music or volume [Click to enlarge]

It is a simple matter of a couple of screen touches to add or delete a room…or change what’s being listened to in each space. Also, the all-important volume adjustment is equally easy to see and change, whether in an individual space or for a group of rooms.

Not only that, but OS 3 also offers native support for the streaming of high-resolution audio on Control4 systems with the new inclusion of Master Quality Audio (MQA). So fire up your high resolution TIDAL Masters tunes and be ready to enjoy better sound anywhere on your Control4 OS 3 system..

Put Down that Glue – Wallpapering Made Easier

The wallpaper that appears in the background of the room screens is now easier for the user to select and change. Hintze says this was a popular request from many users and it is so simple to accomplish that they can quickly set a separate wallpaper for each individual room.

This capability allows the user to visually identify each room with a quick, at-a-glance look at the display. To change a room’s wallpaper, the user can take a photo of the actual wallpaper in the room, or use one of a number of designs included with the system.

One Interface for any System – Small to Sophisticated

“The important part of OS 3 is that it is a single platform for all of the homes that Control4 will end up being installed in,” Hintze summed up. “Whether that’s a one room [implementation] where they’re simply controlling their entertainment…or an 80,000 sq.ft. mansion…it’s the same set of tools, it’s the same software, the same ecosystem, the same interface.”

OS 3 is designed to be easy for integrators to deploy (with even more programming flexibility)…AND…easy for users to personalize. Control4 clearly sees this as a win-win.

Control4 OS 3 now includes MQA high resolution streaming music
Audiophiles rejoice – Control4’s new Smart Home OS 3 includes MQA high resolution streaming music anywhere on your Smart Home OS 3 system [Click to enlarge]

The Process of Creating This Interface

Hintze told me that this new operating system is the result of years of research, including an extensive surveys of dealers and users.

“We conducted literally thousands of interactions with dealers…and with users, including in-home visits,” Hintze said. “This was the largest beta [testing] we’ve ever done.”

Brad Hintze

It was through this research they came up with the thousand+ system enhancements. One example he pointed to is that with OS 3 menus are now completely optimized for the device being used. On a smartphone, for example, the menu screen is optimized and presented in portrait mode…while on a tablet or larger touchscreen, that same menu is reconfigured and optimized for a landscape presentation. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big impact on usability.

Hintze also noted that dealers and users both really like some of the new personalization capabilities that OS 3 offers. The fact that users can easily make minor modifications to the system such that it works and feels better to them, saves dealers from having to get bogged down with truck rolls for small, and simple changes.

He also feels that this new design will ultimately cause customers to see the added value to the services that the dealer does provide.

Deployment and Compability

Control4’s new Smart Home OS 3 is fully compatible with the thousands of devices that the company offers today. I asked Hintze, what about older existing Control4 installations, will there be problems there?

He responded that they don’t feel it will be too much of a problem. “There are some older controllers that will be left behind,” Hintze told me. But he said these systems would have to be older than 5 years old, which could turn out to be be an upgrade opportunity for the integrator.

Control4 says that OS 3 is easy for dealers to deploy
Control4 says its Smart Home OS 3 is super simple for dealers to deploy and will be such a dramatic upgrade in user experience that it may create upsell opportunities for them as well
[Click to enlarge]

An Upgrade Opportunity for Dealers

The company has bent over backwards to make the rollout of OS 3 as easy as possible for their dealers. “We have provided an Upgrade Advisor dealer tool” that is essentially a wizard that will facilitate a system assessment by scanning any installation and flagging any issues which the dealer may need to address.

Finally, Control4 believes that the user experience provided by Smart Home OS 3 is so improved, that consumers will consider adding more devices to their installations. And this means a new revenue opportunity for Control4 dealers.

Learn more about Control4 and its technologies, visit: www.control4.com.

* CORRECTIONS

  1. 5/24/19, 11:38AM – This section has been rewritten from the original text which incorrectly interpreted a comment from Brad Hintze as referring to DIY devices as part of the “40 connected devices” when he actually was referring to only Control4 devices.
  2. 5/24/19, 4:56PM – This section was further edited to better distinguish between professionally installed systems and the challenges of DIY systems.

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

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