Home Toys Article
- October 2006 -
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HomeToys Interview
Reza Raji of iControl Networks

iControl is the only mass-market service available that proactively delivers automation content to its users. Our customers never have to wonder what's going on with their families, or in their homes or businesses.


1. Who is iControl Networks? 

iControl Networks is a private software and services company based in Palo Alto that provides mass-market solutions for the remote monitoring market. iControl is backed by Intel and Charles River Ventures, and collectively the management team has decades of experience in home automation, networking and consumer electronics. 

iControl provides a platform for service providers such as cable MSO's, telcos and ISP's to deliver a new and compelling value-added service to their subscriber base that reduces churn, grows revenues and allows them to differentiate themselves from competitors.

iControl's award-winning online service and reliable home control devices dramatically improve people's lives by providing an entirely new way to stay connected to their "life assets" - their families, homes and businesses - from anywhere at anytime.  Our solution enables remote access to off-the-shelf wireless security devices, cameras, light modules, sensors, and other devices placed in the home via a web browser, a cell phone or a PDA.  Subscribers can receive notifications, make changes to devices at their home or business remotely, and view still images and video. It's primarily designed for residential and small-business use and is perfect for families, small businesses, elderly who are living alone, and property owners.

2. How does it work?  How long does it take to set up?

Every user has a personal, secure portal that they access through a Web browser on a PC, PDA or cell phone to configure and manage their iControl service from anywhere in the world.  By way of cameras, sensors and other devices placed around a home or business, users can get information about alarms, view or take pictures and manage the temperature in the house through email alerts or text messages that are sent to them when devices are triggered.

 

For example, a user can send an e-mail to turn on the light in the kitchen while she is on vacation, or use a motion sensor and camera to send a digital picture every time the door is opened. One of the best parts of our service is that iControl proactively delivers real-time information to its customers - rather than forcing them to track it down - giving customers a new and convenient way to manage the things that matter most to them.

Although the technology sounds like it belongs in the futuristic cartoon "The Jetsons," the set-up is remarkably simple and designed for the average, non-technical person. The process - placing the iControl box, cameras, and devices around your home and then connecting the iControl box to the router and modem - takes about thirty minutes. Users need only a broadband connection and a router or similar device, and iControl requires no dedicated PC or software.

3. Is iControl compatible with other automation technologies or devices?

To meet the diverse needs of families, small businesses, caregivers, and the specialized needs of realtors or vacation homeowners, we have teamed up with a growing list of business and technology partners. These companies provide best-of-breed complementary products and help us offer comprehensive web-based solutions. Some of iControl's partners include Intel, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Z-Wave Alliance, GE and Axis Communications.  

Additionally, the iControl service can work in parallel to an existing security system, so subscribers can continue to use their current security service.

The iControl service works on top of third-party automation and control devices from various manufacturers and spans a range of technologies including IP devices, GE RF sensors, power line devices and Z-Wave RF devices.  The range of devices includes cameras, thermostats, door & window sensors, motion sensors, water sensors, freeze sensors, some/heat sensors, to name a few.

The iControl platform is also future-proof in that it can work on top of any device technology and protocol that reaches critical mass in the future.

4. Do you need a dealer or integrator to install an iControl system in your home?

No. iControl was designed from the ground-up to be a do-it-yourself (DIY) solution.   There is no need to pre-wire a house, as some systems require. Better yet, once the iControl system is installed, it's very easy to use. From start to finish, the product has been designed for the average person.  In addition, it's very easy to add extra devices to customize your solution. As you buy more devices, you open up a world of uses for your system. For example, you could set up a water sensor to let you know if the water heater leaks or the cellar has water in it.  Or you could replace your existing thermostat with iControl's so you can manage it from anywhere using your cell phone or PDA.

5. How do I access and control the iControl devices in my home?

After you've placed your devices in the locations you want, you'll only need a broadband connection to connect the iControl box to the Internet. This takes a few minutes. After that, you only need a browser on a cell phone, a PDA or a PC to view and manage your system - allowing you to stay connected with your family, home or business from anywhere in the world.

For our customers' convenience, no PC is required at the location where the iControl system is and no PC is required to be 'always on' to operate the system, take and see pictures, or make changes to the system.

6. How is iControl different from other products on the market? 

iControl is the only mass-market service available that proactively delivers automation content to its users. Our customers never have to wonder what's going on with their families, or in their homes or businesses.  Imagine receiving an e-mail picture every day when your kids walk in the door after school, or a text message alerting you that there has been no motion in your elderly father's house for 24 hours. iControl gives consumers control over their own lives and takes away the countless hours people spend wondering if everything is okay at home or work. 

 

In addition, iControl is easier to install than all competitors in the market because it's entirely Web-based, and the choice of devices is comprehensive and non-proprietary. 

 

iControl's platform was designed with the service providers in mind.  The architecture and breadth of features were designed to address the many demanding needs of this market (i.e. security, scalability, low-cost, ease-of-installation, ease-of-use)

 

7. Who is your typical user?

 

Our typical users are working adults, ages 35-55, who manage kids, elderly parents, property or businesses. Our typical users share one thing in common - they all have a responsibility to manage their households and families. They may even be called upon to care for elderly and disabled family members. And as home automation solutions become more commonplace, we anticipate growing interest in the iControl service from small business owners, realtors and property managers. Most importantly, iControl users want to know that their homes, properties, and families are always protected and safe.

8. What plans do you have for the company's future?

Q4 of this year is going to be an exciting one for iControl, so stay tuned!

Reza Raji, Founder, President & CEO: Reza first saw the need for a new approach to home monitoring in 1999 and founded iControl Networks in 2003 to execute that vision. Prior to iControl Reza was the Director of Business Development at Echelon Corporation, a leading control and automation company. He joined the company in 1991 as one of the early employees and was involved in its first product launch, growth of the customer base to over 4,000, reaching profitability and a successful IPO in 1998. Prior to Echelon, Reza worked at IBM for four years as a development engineer as well as a member of an IBM Fellow group. Reza has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Consumer Electronics Association's Home Networking and IT Division as well as a Founding Board Member of the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) Steering Committee. Reza holds two US patents. He received a BSEE from State University of New York at Stony Brook and a MSEE from Cornell University.

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