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Company: Control4

HQ: Salt Lake City, UT

Founded: 2003

Management: Will West is president and CEO. Previously, he co-founded STSN (now iBAHN), a developer of broadband services for business travelers. Before that, he was president, CEO, and co-founder of PHAST, a manufacturer of high-end home automation equipment. Chief technology officer Eric Smith co-founded both STSN and PHAST with West, and vice president of marketing Mark Morgan was also an STSN co-founder.

Investors: In July, the company raised $15 million in a round led by Foundation Capital, with participation from existing investors Frazier Technology Ventures, Thomas Weisel Venture Partners, and vSpring Capital.

Business Model: Control4 manufactures wired and wireless automation products that allow homeowners to control lighting, audio, video, climate, and security systems. The company’s products include audio components to beam music throughout a house, media storage devices, and wirelessly controlled dimmers and thermostats. Control4 has also developed software that controls all these devices, which can be accessed through a wireless touch screen device – sort of a remote control operating all the wireless products. And it’s linked together using the new wireless networking standard Zigbee (see ”Home Smart Home” in the August 2005 issue of Technology Review). The company claims that most of its products can be installed easily and without the need for remodeling or special maneuvering, at an average cost of around $600.

Competitors: X10, HAI

Dirt: We’ve been hearing fanciful tales about the wireless home ever since Bill Gates built his mansion with picture frames that feature rotating digital images of his favorite works of art. But apart from the occasional home Wi-Fi connection and the ‘Clapper’ (which is not exactly wireless), we haven’t witnessed the broad adoption of wireless technologies in the home yet. To help bring the networked home to the average buyer, Control4 has a very attractive philosophy: keep price points low and make implementation easy.

In the past, the lack of compatibility among devices from multiple vendors hampered the networked home concept, as did the costs associated with building proprietary networks. Today, industry players targeting the digital home market are rallying around a more collaborative approach. For instance, Control4 has joined the ZigBee Alliance, an industry group featuring technology heavies such as Samsung, Motorola, and Philips, that’s promoting an open standard for “cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked monitoring and control products.” This sounds like a promising start. But even the installation of a basic home Wi-Fi connection can be cause for some hair-pulling. So Control4 will have to spend much of its time – and money – educating consumers and proving that its products are as easy to use as it claims.




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Tagged: Computing

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