Control4 Nabs $17.3 Million for Energy-Saving Efforts
The way Glen Mella sees it, Control4's recent $17.3 million in funding is as much of an investment in the dealer channel as it is in the company.
Control4, a vendor of home control solutions, will use the equity financing to develop energy management systems and home energy displays for its new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) initiative. Under the initiative, Control4 will develop the systems and displays for utility companies, staff a new AMI headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., and work with its dealers to provide the hardware/software solutions needed to build out Home Area Networks (HAN) in consumers' homes.
Mella, Control4's president and COO, said the initiative will take time to gain traction since most utilities are just beginning to roll out their Smart Grid applications, which include IP-based smart meters with two-way communication capabilities, a key component in the AMI solution. But as utilities and other companies start to eventually market those initiatives to homeowners, consumers will begin seeking full energy-saving solutions from their CE dealers. It's up to the dealers to establish in-store merchandising strategies to promote their offerings.
"When customers walk into a dealer's store they'll be able to see entire displays on energy management," Mella said, adding that energy-saving products will include controllers, lighting modules, occupancy and environmental sensors, and relay switches. "The dealers will want to sell the products because they believe energy-saving solutions will be as important as home theaters."
Specialty dealers are in a good position to sell the solutions because customers will need a lot of education about AMI and HANs over the next few years.
"There's a lot to learn," he said. "But if customers don't do it on their own, the utilities will 'incentivize' them to do it."
By that, Mella means that utilities could begin to charge their customers extra for consuming energy during peak times, such as between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. To help customers save energy, the utilities will start installing the smart meters, which can collect data on energy usage. The utilities can then use that info to let customers know when they're wasting energy and what they're wasting it on. The utilities currently have or plan to have RFPs in the marketplace for companies like Control4 to develop the energy displays and other HAN management products that make up that full solution.