We were talking to a customer recently who was having a problem controlling their automated shades. The shades were using a relatively unknown shade control system that their whole-house Home Automation system was talking to. One day, the shades stopped responding to the whole-house Home Automation system. The client made a call to their Home Automation contractor who checked out their whole house control equipment and everything looked fine on their end. They then stated that the shade controller was not responding in the same way it had in the past and that they should contact the shade contractor who installed the shades. As it turns out, the shade contractor sub-contracted out the shade control programming to a 3rd party since they were a relatively unknown control brand. This third party was not from the area and felt it was not worth his time to come all the way out to reprogram the shades unless there was a minimum charge that was paid. This was on top of the service call fee they would have to pay the Home Automation contractor to make sure they tested their connection to the shade control equipment once the shade control equipment was back online. Meanwhile, the customer still had no control of his shades and was looking at a hefty service call. What was the customer to do?
As the installation of Home Automation systems becomes more and more common, more issues like the one above can arise. So how does the customer address? Is there someone to blame in all this causing this customer the frustration of trying to resolve his issue? If not, how does the customer address these issues if and when they occur in the future?
As far as blame is concerned, I would say that there is some onus on the Home Automation contractor to help their client realize that when you install a Home Automation system in your home it is not a single transaction. Installing a Home Automation system is equivalent to installing a garden. Plants must be watered on a routine basis, trimmed of dying leaves, pruned when appropriate, weeded when unwanted plants grow around them and replaced when they die. The same holds true for a Home Automation system. Firmware updates on all network connected devices must be regularly maintained. Network connection of these devices must be maintained and accidental disconnection by other service providers or the client himself must be resolved quickly. The entire network must be regularly monitored to prevent conflicting IP addresses, chatty devices that take up too much bandwidth, rogue wireless devices that hamper the existing wireless network., etc. Failed electronics must also be replaced. Rechargeable control devices must have their batteries replaced every 6-18 months. Bottom online– there is a lot to do to have a Home Automation system perform its best. In the case of this customer, they felt that concept was not adequately explained to them. It is unfortunate that is was not, but the customer has the system installed now so the best course of action for all parties would be to resolve the issue at hand.
So what is the best way to resolve the shade issue with so many people involved in only part of the overall control process? What this client really needs is a “Ringmaster” that can coordinate all these various subcontractors that were used to put together his Home Automation system. Enter, the Home Automation “Service plan.” Assuming this Ringmaster doesn’t work in a non-profit organization, the client will likely have to pay him or her to take care of his issue. And why should they not? If the client is unable to resolve the issue themselves it is only natural they pay a professional with the experience and qualifications to resolve the issue. The Home Automation service plan is a good bet as the Home Automation contractor is typically involved in most control aspects of a home. They are also technically minded and typically good trouble-shooters so their skill set is a good match for resolving technical issues.
In this new clients particular case, we signed him up for one of our monthly service plans (we happen to be a Home Automation contractor). We both felt it was a good idea to have a routine maintenance package as the client had quite a complicated Home Automation system installed and didn’t want to really devote the time to troubleshooting issues. We then examined his system and discovered that his main shade control module had lost power as the clients IT guy inadvertently unplugged it when installing a new NAS drive for the client. When the shade control module was powered back on, it lost all its shade addresses. Thus, when the Home Automation system tried to communicate with the Shade control module, the Shade control module didn’t know which shades it was supposed to talk to. To resolve, we called the original shade control programmer and asked him to send us the programming manual he used along with a brief 5 minute discussion on how he went about the original programming. We then reprogrammed the shades to talk to the main shade controller and sent the programming file to him to review to make sure everything was correct. He confirmed, we loaded the new shade file program on to the controller and voila, shade control via the whole house Home Automation system had been restored.
If you are a Home Automation system owner having similar issues to the client we mentioned, or you are thinking about installing a new Home Automation system, contact us if you would like to talk in more detail about your project. We can be reached at 855-832-4775 or find us on the Web at www.technospeakco.com
At Technospeak, we take the “Tech-y” out of Technology, leaving our clients with the knowledge they need to enjoy their electronics.