Lighting the Future
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Control4 dealer in possession of an upscale client list must be in want of a more advanced lighting control solution.
For those of you in the audience who aren’t Jane Austen fans, that is of course a joke. But there’s an element of truth in it as well.
Over the past decade, Control4 has made incredible strides in the areas of entertainment control, comfort automation, security integration and monitoring, and even complete compatibility with third-party lighting control systems. But in those 10 years, its own wireless lighting hardware has been a bit minimalist in terms of scope: a dimmer, a switch, a few keypads and tabletop and outlet controls.
Until now, that is. Control4 has introduced a robust new line of fully featured wireless lighting devices, including adaptive phase dimmers compatible with virtually any type of load; wireless ceiling fan speed controls; keypad dimmers that transform any switch into a sophisticated combination lighting and automation controller; auxiliary keypads for three-way dimming; dedicated switches; 10v dimmers; 277v dimmers—everything you could possibly want from an advanced lighting control line, all simply and easily programmed from within the Control4 Composer Pro software.
Add to that complete compatibility with the company’s new panelized solution, and it’s hard to imagine any lighting control situation—residential or commercial—that Control4 can’t handle.
Before you really dig into the technological innovations of Control4’s new wireless lighting solution, though, it’s hard not to notice the stunning aesthetics of the new lineup. Control4 senior product manager Scott Stephenson says of the new design,
“I will be the first to admit that our previous product line—although it’s served us very well—is not something that someone is going to put in a multimillion-dollar house and say, ‘Yes, that looks fantastic!’ So we spent a lot of time upfront on industrial design to ensure that our entire lighting lineup would look gorgeous in any environment.”
That new look has a lot to do with why Control4 is introducing such an expansive lineup all at once. “The world is changing around us with regard to lighting,” Stephenson says. “There’s incredible growth of LEDs, and we knew we needed to have a product line that addresses that properly, and addresses it intelligently, in one product. That’s why the Adaptive Phase Dimmer was at the center of the entire design process.”
And for Control4 dealers like Shawn P. Lemay, president of Sound & Theater in Williamsville, N.Y., the Adaptive Phase Dimmer is going to be the go-to product in the new lineup.
“Going forward, unless I know I need more than 600 watts at a location, the Adaptive Phase Dimmer is the only dimmer we’re specifying. Because I can’t tell you how many times customers have put incandescent bulbs in and a year later decided to put LED or CFL lights in. And of course forward-phase doesn’t like that. So that’s going to be huge. It’s going to make supporting our lighting installations a lot easier, especially down the road, when incandescent bulbs are harder to come by.”
“But,” says Control4’s Stephenson, “we couldn’t just roll out the new dimmer by itself, because it doesn’t look anything like the other products. So a big overhaul was in the works, obviously, and it’s fortunate that we were at a place as a company where we could put a team of 15 people to work on the project for 18 months.”
In those 18 months, Stephenson and his team put a lot of thought not just into the nuts and bolts and the overall aesthetic, but little touches as well. Like perfecting the custom engraving process—not merely for the keypads, but for the dimmers and switches, too. “I’ve lived in houses for five years and still walked up to a bank of four-gang switches and thought, which one is which?” he says.
Of particular interest to dealers will be the incredibly integrated, incredibly simple process by which that engraving is handled, all from within the Composer Pro software. Installers will be able to enter text and any combination of 48 different custom icons, click a button to generate a printed report, review the engraving with customers, and then with another click of a button export an engraving order that can be uploaded directly to Control4’s online store.
Other highly dealer-requested features include the ability to change the default LED status light (and backlight) color for an entire project with a single click, and an ambient light sensor that allows dealers to dim or brighten the LEDs based on low, medium, or high ambient brightness in the room, without a lot of in-depth programming. “The little examples like that, I think, represent just how much we’ve listened to dealers when designing the new lighting line. We’ve made so many tweaks and enhancements to save dealers a few minutes here, a few minutes there, all of which adds up to a lot of time saved over the course of a single project. And time is money.”
For dealer Ralph Carratura, owner of HomeLife Technology in Gibsonia, Pa., software enhancements like that are almost as revelatory as the new hardware lineup. “One of my favorite aspects of the new system is the feature lets you replace Control4 legacy lighting with one of the new wireless products at the touch of a button,” he says.
“Basically, all you have to do is click, select which light you want to replace, and Composer will go in and grab all of the programming, bindings, macros, and scenes, and apply all of them automatically to your new dimmer or keypad. That’s huge, because when you’re first building a system, you’re intimate with it at that time, but if you leave and come back a year or two later, if you want to make any changes you have to spend a long time digging through programming and scenes. But Composer does all of that work for you now.”
In addition to time-saving features, Stephenson also hopes that the new wireless lighting line enhances business opportunities for dealers. “The ability to do 277 volt with the new dimmers is something I’m especially proud of,” he says. “There’s this huge opportunity out there for professional office buildings and board rooms and conference centers, where our dealers have been doing the AV, but there was no good way to do the lighting, even with our competitors’ lighting solutions.
“Dimming 277 volt loads with an easily integrated solution like this—something that isn’t a massive-scale commercial-only lighting solution—is quite unique. There’s been a gap in that slice of the lighting market, and we’re now filling it.”
Noah Stein, project manager for Smarthomes Chattanooga, also sees new business opportunities arising at the other end of the spectrum as a direct result of the new line. “Generally speaking, although I love the look of the new lighting products, our clients are usually unfamiliar with smart home technology, and they’re just so amazed by the functionality that the aesthetics are just a bonus.
The biggest deal for our market, I think, is going to be the combination Keypad Dimmer. We have so many customers that want to do music throughout the house—controlled by keypads—but they might not have the budget for lights, or may not see the benefit at first. The Keypad Dimmer is a great way for us to get audio control and lights into the project from one product, with very little extra cost. From this single device, they’re going to be able to control the audio system, and as an added perk, they’ll start getting some lighting control, too. That’s going to let us start adding—and hopefully expanding—lighting in projects where it never would have been an option before.”
And as dealers like Stein, Carratura and LeMay all see lighting control becoming a bigger part of their business, it’s at a time when a report from Pike Research finds that the global market for intelligent lighting controls will enjoy steady growth through this decade, rising from $1.5 billion in 2012 to more than $4.3 billion in 2020. Seems like Control4 and their dealers will benefit from this robustly growing market. •
For more information, visit Control4.com.
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