Long time control-system manufacturer URC announced recently that will join iControl's OpenHome Partner program. iControl is a white-label platform that cable providers such as Time Warner, Comcast, Xfinity, and Cox utilize to provide various home automation and monitoring services. Through the partnership, URC will provide select styles of handheld remotes, in-wall keypads, and touchscreens to end-users subscribed to iControl's various partners.
Prior to this announcement, subscribers to these various services were purchasing a purely app-based home automation platform, capable of controlling sub systems such as thermostats, security, cameras, and smart locks through the end-users smart phone or tablet. The problem, as any home automation professional or experienced end-user will tell you, is that channel surfing with a smartphone app sucks... big time. Perhaps someday gesture and/or voice control will truly take over. But for now the traditional wand-style remote is still the undisputed king of the TV room.
Very few who have experienced a TV room sans-hard buttons would hard argue otherwise.. Which would lead some to believe that the URC / iControl partnership is a slam dunk. To which I say, only time will tell. Those in the know, such as ElectronicHouse.com's Grant Clauser are asking the obvious question: Who will actually program these remotes? And are they qualified to do so?
On one level, this is pretty cool news, but ask anyone who’s had to deal with a cable television installer—is that someone you want responsible for integrating all your A/V gear as well as your home automation?
Professional Systems Integrators have long understood the challenges that this task entails. And frankly, I don't think the cable guys are up to it. There is a good deal of nuance required to properly program a media room remote. And while platforms like the Logitech Harmony line have certainly made it a far cry easier than it used to be, it's still no walk in the park. Especially when you introduce that nagging real-world variable known as owner-provided equipment (read: off-brand gear with no discrete power or input commands). Put simply, it just doesn't strike me as a task particularly well-suited for your run of the mill, turn and burn cable installer.
This offering by URC and iControl could potentially take shape as a DIY product geared for end-users who like to tinker. In this scenario, iControl could offer some sort of web-based programming tool for customers to program their own remotes.
Either way, some substantial resources will need to be invested in training (whether for the installers, the end users, or both). Otherwise, I suspect there will be a lot of poorly programmed URC remotes gathering dust in the bottom of media room cabinets.
What do you think of the URC & iControl partnership? Let us know by leaving a comment below!