Recently, I detailed some of the activities that Crestron, one of the original leaders in office automation, has taken to adapt in the age of Covid-19. Despite the forthcoming vaccines that will hopefully return the world to some sense of normalcy, it’s clear that the remote working trend, at some level, will be with us long after Covid-19 has receded. For more details on this, I encourage you to listen to my podcast with Ranjan Singh, Crestron’s Commercial Business lead.
As I mentioned in my previous blogs about Crestron, the company has been a mainstay in office automation for 30 years. It also had a significant, if under the radar, presence in the home automation space, long before digital assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and (to a lesser level) Apple Siri made the smart home fashionable. Despite the sector’s mammoth growth over the past several years, the smart home’s potential has been hampered by its complexity, installation headaches and inoperability problems.
John Clancy, VP of Crestron’s Residential Business, believes that Crestron’s vast and experienced dealer network is not only a differentiator from other providers but a requirement for consumers to realize the potential of the smart home fully. Crestron recognizes that a one-size-fits-all model for the smart home can be a recipe for disaster since each home is a unique expression of the lives lived there. Undoubtedly, smart home technology needs to be intuitive and straightforward to succeed with many consumers. Still, that dream is often an impossible one with off-the-shelf products that don’t work well with each other, quickly become obsolete and don’t grow in functionality as needs change or expand. Crestron’s smart home strategy is sensibly built on four pillars that consumers consistently rank as high priority: entertainment, home security, video and comfort.
Creston’s recently announced Crestron Home Audio Conferencing System (UC-MM30-R) is a good example of the company’s overall strategy. Underscoring Crestron’s belief that remote workers will likely not return to traditional offices any time soon, the UC-MM30-R facilitates enterprise-quality conferencing and can be used to control a Crestron Home automation system. Its modern-looking, low-profile design features a high-resolution 7″ touch screen, a premium-sounding speaker and a four-microphone array. This product could indeed make it difficult for colleagues to determine if you’re calling from home or a corporate office. The multi-microphone capability for 360-degree, long-range audio detection is particularly appealing. Most home office setups utilize low-end microphones embedded in laptops, which generally yield poor audio performance.
Crestron has gone to great lengths to ensure that the UC-MM30-R is agnostic and non-proprietary. It works with the most popular video conferencing applications, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom Rooms, Slack and Google Meet. From a usage model standpoint, the UC-MM30-R functions as the dedicated audio device for meetings initiated from a Mac or Windows-based PC. Utilizing the touch screen, users can manage the volume of calls while monitoring their entire Crestron Home system, including doorbells, security cameras, smart thermostats, TVs, lights, automated shades, garage doors and more. Many home users will create a unique combination of computerized actions that might include launching the initial call, lowering music played, brightening the lights in the room and closing the shades.
In my view, the potential of the smart home has been minimized because the integration of disparate, discrete products is often incredibly challenging for the typical mainstream consumer to install and operate. This dynamic has led to non-trivial customer dissatisfaction for many consumers. Since Crestron’s historical DNA, built over decades, has been cultivated in the smart office, this attribute is actually a tailwind for the company’s ambitions in the smart home as making things work in an intuitive manner is what Crestron has done best. Crestron continues to accrue great credibility in the workplace technology space, thanks in big part to collaborations with companies such as Microsoft, which is integrating the newly introduced Crestron 70 Series Scheduling Panels solution.
What’s more, few companies can boast the strong credentials Creston has in its distribution channel. This dealer network provides the “glue” needed to simplify complex home installations and provide expanded and reliable support at a local level. This ensures that customers’ existing DIY solutions don’t have to be discarded. With solutions like the UC-MM30-R, the bottom line is that Crestron is helping consumers realize the potential of its smart home. This is especially important since many homes have been transformed into second (perhaps even primary) workplaces for a significant percentage of the population. That isn’t likely to change very soon.
For more details on my conversation with John Clancy, you can listen to my podcast via Apple iTunes via this link.
Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Crestron. I do not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.