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Universal Remote Control Targets the Budget Control Customer

Oct 20, 2010 12:00 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart


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At CEDIA, Universal Remote Control (URC) continued to prioritize an increasingly important market segment, and I don't mean residential. I mean AV users—residential or commercial—who want control systems but didn't think they could afford (or implement) them.

Entry-level and budget-conscious control customers are important because serving them will float all boats. The control universe is expanding. At the high end, systems are becoming ever more capable and integral to operating successful buildings and businesses. They are merging and intersecting wtih other mission-critical technology systems. But at the same time, making control more accessible and affordable is just as important as making it more powerful. People do not go backward when it comes to control; they do not think, "Gee, I miss the days when I had to walk around turning things off by hand." Once they're in, they're in.

But how to get them in? URC thinks it has a way to do that, starting with the simple combination of its MRX-10 network controller and the KP-4000 in-wall controller. The company took a big step into the commercial AV market in June with the hire of Jamie Finnegan, formerly of AMX, as national sales manager for the commercial division. Finnegan says URC saw potential for its affordable control products especially in single-room applications¬—boardrooms, doctors' offices, conference rooms, and schools.

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"The products were perfect for addressing a pent-up demand," Finnegan says, and I can tell he's picturing real dealers' faces as he speaks. "The price point to customization quotient is very high."

Finnegan describes URC's value proposition around the concept of "native-to-the-network" products such as the MRX-10, which addresses all IP, IR, RS-232, relay, and sensor-controlled devices (and is expandable via LAN).

At CEDIA, URC expanded the native-to-the-network vision with signal distribution—starting with a scalable residential music streaming product that Finnegan expects to be muscled up for commercial standards by InfoComm.

This is a timely play to be making. Control systems are the last component category to yield to the commoditization that has hit other products in the AV chain. Prototypical control is still pretty expensive—it stands out in a quote, so it's vulnerable to cuts in situations where the customer may consider it to be optional. Affordable options can help keep control in the equation, Finnegan argues. And since URC's products are compatible with Crestron and AMX systems, they can also be an entry point for users who are likely to progress into more control needs.

We haven't tested URC's products yet, or received industry feedback, but the starting point for Finnegan's conversation with commercial AV is a valid one. I look forward to seeing what URC brings to the control table—which is where we'll all be sitting when we envision the future of the AV industry.



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