This page last changed on May 01, 2012 by pigbite.

This is a continuation of a discussion started on the OR Facebook page.

The question is essentially if anyone would be interested in purchasing a wall panel with OR Controller pre-installed.

My response to this is that as an integrator we have seen the market for wall panels drop massively. The primary route for control is iPad (or similar) as people will not pay 3-4 times as much for a wall panel when they can have an iPad. The other aspect is that being a hardware centric business is the wrong place in this market - the software is key.

I did also point out that having a TP as a controller does increase the risk of some breakdown in a single point of failure but it is fair to say that this is probably of limited additional risk to a standalone controller box.

The TP as a single unit controller is not a new idea and one that is still used. Even Gira at Light and Build last week announced a replacement for the InfoTerminal based around their Control9 product. It will offer a very Homeserver like interface but without the need for Homeserver. It will have timers, schedules etc but very limited logic and no plug ins (as I recall).

As Marc points out, there could be big benefits for DIY or less technical integrators as it could be essentially plug and play, requiring alot less configuration and programming.

My view is however that the software is still king. I have been keeping an eye on OR for since it's inception and feel it is about ready to use in larger scale residential and even commercial installations. The software has matured and is flexible enough to cope with pretty much anything we might have used Crestron, AMX or Homeserver for in the past. For me, the decrease in emphasis on a hardware solution and the integration of devices such as Global Cache has been a wise move and I would see a move back towards an end to end hardware/software solution presenting a risk that effort and result becomes diluted.

Sure, there is a laudable goal in making OR even more accessible at the entry level. My gut feel is that this can be approached from the software perspective. Can the configuration process being abstracted and simplified at a software level so that the Controller becomes easy to configure? Can this generate a basic user interface? Granted the platform installation process is still a potential hurdle however from an integrators perspective I would still much rather have the flexibility to offer the hardware platform of choice instead of being forced to use a solution that may be inappropriate or less flexible.

The best product I saw at Light and Build was http://www.iknix.com/ - a great product that uses a modified KNX IP interface with web server to allow the configuration of an iPad app via ETS. It interfaces with a/v via a KNX/RTi gateway. This has limitations compared to the Controller (e.g. no logic, schedules) but is a great at what it does.

Obviously I am a lurker here normally but this to me is a critical issue for OR as getting the balance of the offering right is complex and for OR to work long term in the professional install market requires the best use of resources.

I also do not really believe in an integrated controller + panel solution for several reasons:

  • It will be costly to make a good looking / high quality device that fits on/in the wall. The goal would be to have a device as nice as an iPad.
  • If it fits in the wall, it does involve a non trivial installation. I doubt "lambda users" will do this. At least, people who can do this can certainly install a plug computer in the closet and connect it to their LAN.

But we should indeed move towards making that last step as easy as possible (easier than it is today), like installing an Apple TV. In fact, it's making the whole start-up experience nicer.

So having a controller box that you just plug in your network, it boots up and your iPad/Android device auto-discovers it would already be nice.
We can polish the user experience, so on the iPad, instead of saying "Panel.xml not found", we should guide the user towards creating an account in the Designer and starting configuration of their system.
This is something we can work on with the current system, even before we have a box to sell.

Also, before having a dedicated physical box, using available hardware is possible.
For instance, having pre-configured SD cards available for the Plug computer or the Raspberry Pi.
Has to be seen if this solution really brings value, because it will still be a bit complex if users have to buy the Plug computer from one site, then the card from us. Maybe proposing a package can help.

Posted by ebariaux at May 02, 2012 09:38

Would this add value?:

  • a neutral but well designed panel at half the price of an iPad?
  • preconfigured
  • positioned as just a reference design, referring to open source hardware suppliers for professionals who are looking for their own branded hardware solutions.
    Rationale is that software without hardware doesn't work and you want to enable users to make it damn simple to get started with Open Remote and find cost effective controller and/or panel solutions.
    Of course it shouldn't distract from Open Remote from differentiating with and sticking to THE software tool.
Posted by bruce awillis at May 03, 2012 21:57

From an installer's perspective a panel will never be cheaper than an iPad because of the install overhead. A wired panel requires an electrical supply, a mounting mechanism, LAN connection etc. It's also needs installing and maintaining.

There are definite advantages to wired, wall mounted panels in some cases and we still spec them but it's not a striaght forward DIY, entry level option. Actually, the most simple solution is an iPad with a box plugged into the ADSL switch.

Eric's points are spot on. About the only product in the A/V space that is typically easy to install for a relatively non-technical user is Sonos. Even so we reguarly do Sonos installs for people that are more than capable of doing it themselves. Did one today and doing two more in the next couple of weeks. The real beneficaries of a simple hardware install and software setup would be the integrator market as (a) it reduces the cost of an install as you can do something simple and reliable more quickly and (b) encourages take up by those entrants into the integrator space who have less IT technical experience (e.g. electricians) and need to use something that they can confidently use to add value to their business offering.

Posted by pigbite at May 03, 2012 23:04

Here in Brazil the things are really expensive, but currently we have here many 7" Android Tablets comming with prices near US$100-US$200, anyone is making and selling this. Good ideas like Raspberry Pi, are not available here. To get one of this US$35 devices I have to pay near US$40 for shipping, and probably more US$50 for importing taxes(total aprox US$125).

Android devices are becoming very cheap, the Controller is available directly on the Play Store. Like Eric said, maybe the user experience for first time user can be changed to be easier but I think that using and standard platform will give better results, in costs and benefits, because we can use all the features implemented in the devices and available in the stores. The LocalCommand implementation on consoles will make easier to put all things available to OR Console.

Posted by ivanfm at May 07, 2012 14:03
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