Review: Control4 International Dealer Tour

posted on Tuesday, 23rd August 2016 by David Slater

Control 4  Training  Smart home  lighting Design 

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We were on the road again recently, taking a short trip from DSE HQ to the Marriott Hotel, Heathrow, to join the Control4 UK Dealer tour. This particular London date shared a schedule with Manchester and Dubai! The event is designed to update integrators with all the latest information, and introduce new products from Control4 and its relevant business partners.

Things have been particularly interesting of late. Over the last year, Control4 has acquired a number of businesses, one of which was Pakedge, a manufacturer of networking equipment. This is significant, as all smart homes and control equipment need a solid framework to build upon. One of the biggest reasons for install failure is a poorly installed network; IT is like the concrete foundation of a house. If it’s sub-standard your building will most likely fall down.

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A large profit sale for DSE is network infrastructure; we always spend money on quality routers, switches and CAT 6 cabling. The service you offer should not just include installation of this product. You should always try to maintain the equipment, and offer service contracts. This will earn your company good money and keep your project working seamlessly. The main benefit if you are a Control4 dealer, is that if you use the Pakedge brand you have support from the C4 tech team – an end to comments like ‘it might be your IT equipment that is at fault…’

Pakedge builds intelligence into all of its equipment, via an advanced software platform. Pakedge zones is an improvement upon VLANs. Colour coded zone templates allow the installer to zone all IT equipment. AV kit, voice, data and cameras can be dragged and dropped onto the relevant port on the network switch.

As wireless networking is always a problem on a large install, Pakedge makes a device called the NK1 which is a WAP controller which brings all your wireless access points into a shared system, rather than each WAP fighting against the other.

System management is handled by Bakpak software. Bakpak allows you to maintain a network from anywhere in the world. The interface will show all your network devices. It will even send you SMS messages or emails if there is a problem on the network. Self-healing can be setup to reboot devices if they have been offline for a certain time, but remember to turn this off if you are doing a software update on the controller.

As with every Control4 dealer event, there are always fascinating talks from third party partners. This time the subject du jour was blind automation from Q Motion and Collingwood Lighting. Blinds are big business in the home automation game. Q motion is working very close with Control4 and now has all drivers set up in Composer for you to install without any hassle. The product is IP controllable, so there’s no messy interfaces. The company has been trading in the UK for two years and in US over five and claims less than 1 per cent failure rate on motors.

After an amenable lunch break, the room’s attention focused on lighting, which we just love here at Inside CI. The strap line on the presentation was ‘Smart Light, Smart Life’ which is a cool way to look at it. Lighting and lighting control can make any job seem magical. A well-designed lighting scheme can make an £80k kitchen, or £20k bathroom, look a million dollars.

The first couple of slides present us with a familiar image of wall acne, used in many different lighting presentations. But lighting control is so much more than fewer switches on the wall - good lighting control creates atmosphere, stimulates mood, helps clients relax. One cool feature of Control4 is that it makes great keypads that can do all sorts of stuff, with status LEDs telling you what state the system is in: is the garage door open? Is the alarm set or have I turned off all the TVs? The possibilities are endless.

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To make your life simpler, Control4 offers a full design service. This is a great plus point for the busy integrator. Send your floor plans and a brief description of the project, and the Control4 team will send you back a kit-list and quotation. This can be lighting, networking or a control system.

The next topic on this busy and informative day was programming techniques. Delegates were shown useful Composer shortcuts, some new drivers that were added on the last release, including Mockupancy driver that learns a householder’s movements and then can be triggered when the client goes on holiday. 

The final topic was single room control. Introduced on the new EA-1, it brings control at a great price point. You can get an SR260 remote control with the EA-1 for around £440. Not only does it bring you control of your devices, it also has built-in music from all the big guys, like Tidal, Deezer and Sonos. This system is a great starting point for your client to dip his toes into the Control4 market. High-res audio, which is one of the major updates of composer 2.81, was also promoted as a must-have upgrade, which I have to say I agree with. Tidal was one of the first services I upgraded and fed through Control4. It worked seamless and sounded great compared with compressed MP3

So rounding the day up, Control4 seems to found a great format for its tours. They’re very educational with a lot of input from dealers on what is good and bad in the industry. Couple this with some jokes from Jason Girardier and a gift from Control4 for lasting the full day, and you’ll come away with lots of ideas to improve your business. We rate this is an essential event if you are a Control4 dealer, especially if you want to chat to the guys behind the hardware and software that you are installing on a daily basis.   

For more stories about Control4, visit our partner page here.

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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