RadioRA 2 Software, Any Installers Not Nearby? - Page 3 - AVS Forum
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Old 08-05-2013, 07:34 AM
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I know this was posted almost a year ago but I found the thread by googling around since I've had customers ask me for the software as well and I'm sure others might be googling this too.

Before I go on my rant, I should mention that Lutron does in fact give homeowners a lot of power by letting them change scenes using the tablet apps for Android or the iPad AFTER the system is installed and running. You can also do an old fashion install using pressing and holding but it won't ever be compatible with apps or anything else. I should also mention that Lutron is the ONLY wireless system I have used that always works and looks good doing it. Nothing else even comes close, especially those mesh networks. This is a fixture of the house so if you use a Radioshack style "open" network, good luck with it working and good luck finding parts later.

The reason why I'm against giving the software to customers is multifold.

Business reasons:
Between Lutron and Vantage, our company (which shall remain anonymous because I'm not here to drum up business) has invested 10's of thousands of dollars and many hours on training and CE courses and we're a small company. On any given day, I can be called to service a system and the Homeowner only says it's a "lutron" system. Is it radio ra classic? radio ra 2? Chronos? Homeworks interactive? Homeworks Illumination? Homeworks QS? "the original" Homeworks? Very few electricians can service all of these systems and AV companies can't replace electrical parts (legally in most areas) so add all the electrical licenses involved to the equation and realize that I'm not going to give this away for free without expecting something payment.

"But I'll buy the parts from you". Great. Unless you're buying enough parts for a big corporation, the profit margin on parts is very little because Lutron has many hands involved in distribution so I would be lucky to get 10-20% profit. Subtract income tax, franchise tax, and all the time it took to negotiate this with a difficult customer and it adds up to walking away. The way we make our return on investment is through the complete installation package and labor and future service calls.

I also appreciate Lutron not giving the software away because they have to protect their dealers. We invest a lot in Lutron and install their systems right. A customer who gets in trouble will blame everybody but themselves.

Technical reasons
This is my favorite part. My background is computer science and it's amazing to me how much customers, especially those from a technical background underestimate the things that can go wrong. On the surface you just design the system and tell a button what to do and you're off and running. The reality is different.

Do you even know what to order?
Do you know about the wattage requirements of the dimmers? How many dimmers can you put on the system? Would you need to link two systems? Do you know the difference between electronic loads, magnetic loads, fan speed controls, relay loads, how many repeaters you need, etc?

Do you know how to wire these dimmers, links, or panels in case of Homeworks? I know of many seasoned electricians who can wire a big scary 480 volt industrial machine who can't figure out how to install a 4 way Lutron Dimmer or replace a thermostat with a Lutron/Honeywell thermostat.

Let's assume you've managed to install all the parts or had someone else do it and you want program them and someone gave you the software and you managed to figure out how to do the programming on the software. What do you do if something goes wrong during the upload? Say a dimmer didn't have light bulbs installed yet or you got a screen full of red warnings that dimmers failed. Can you troubleshoot that? What if you want to add or remove parts from the system, can you do that? I did a job with two main repeaters where during my upload someone knocked out power to the repeaters in one system and somehow part of the system became orphaned and got a different house address. After spending hours on the phone with Tech Support, it was decided to factory default the entire system. There were also networking issues (not my network) so the upload would take nearly an hour so I had to find workarounds around that and I've installed many systems and it still took everything I had so the homeowner could use their lights that night.

Can you handle all that? If you can't, it would cost you much more if you call the pros in after you're stuck. Once to factory default and undo everything you did, another to replace the dimmers you blew out, and lastly to start from scratch.
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
it would cost you much more if you call the pros in after you're stuck

Isn't that a good thing for dealers? Let the customer try and fail and then you're the hero and they are at your mercy and they realize how valuable your services are.
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Lutron has many hands involved in distribution

This penalizes the customer by preventing the market from providing an efficient supply chain.

Otherwise all the problems you list are due to poor design/documentation. As HA products move from luxury to commodity this will change. There will still be a place in the market for the HA equivalent of an interior designer but there will also be a place for a geek squad type franchise service. Currently there are not enough solution providers that cover the range of desired services.
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Old 08-05-2013, 09:58 AM
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Notice none of that long-winded reply mentioned doing actual lighting design. All about trying to make a profit on the switches, while denigrating a regular electrician.

The crux of the problem with automation systems is a lack of expertise on the part of the overall system design and usability. The devices are simple. Designing lighting plans is not, but the switches are a trivial part of the equation, as it installing them. Honestly, if someone can't figure out how to read Lutron's well-written documentation then they shouldn't BE an electrician. There's nothing at all complicated about the actual install of them. Not even for a homeowner (RA that is, QS tends to be more involved).

But once you've got these gizmos installed there's a HIGH likelihood you'll want to change how they're configured. No designer is ever really going to be able to plan ahead well enough. Sure, lots of thing can be done ahead of time. But you never really know how you're going to utilize an automation system until you actually live with it. And pardon me if this sounds insulting, but a field tech living in an apartment just isn't going to have the mindset necessary to grasp how someone actually LIVES in a million dollar house. So sending one of those "techs" out at $100/hour to "program" the system is, frankly, bull-sh1t. More like paying them $100/hour to learn how to live in the house. This should not be something the customer gets stuck with. Creston... I'm lookin' at you...

Yes, Lutron's homeowner options are good. But I'd argue they're really not enough.

Should these be done piecemeal like any other switches? Probably not. But are they something that should be entirely hands-off by the homeowner? NO! There's certainly middle-ground to be found here. Someone doing a comprehensive lighting plan for a house is WELL WORTH the investment. But I'd question if that same expense should be REQUIRED for the actual devices themselves. I'm certainly not playing it that way. But I've paid a fair bit to have a lighting consulting (that is a lutron dealer) work with me to design a system that will fit my expectations.
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:53 AM
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As far as pricing goes, the retail prices are more or less the same so it's the dealer that ends up eating the cost since this is a consumer product and people can find it everywhere. Of course, if you're a company that buys tons of these things a year, you can bypass some of the hands involved but for an electrical contractor who does other things besides automation, you have to go through a dealer who goes through the local rep. Vantage cuts out one middleman but their stuff is pretty expensive too.

Being better for business if the customer messes up? I've had to clean up after a few people before, but some customers are just difficult so it's best to say no.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

And pardon me if this sounds insulting, but a field tech living in an apartment just isn't going to have the mindset necessary to grasp how someone actually LIVES in a million dollar house.
Maybe they can watch some reality TV shows about people who LIVE in million dollar homes so that apartment living folk with tiny little brains such as themselves can attempt to grasp it. rolleyes.gif
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Old 08-05-2013, 05:02 PM
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Sorry, but millionaires still wake up and go to the bathroom in the morning and it wasn't a millionaire plumber that installed the toilet for them. They're not that special. All fancy society parties are about the same - plastic surgery, bartenders, servers, etc. programming a "party" scene and a "cleanup" scene is not rocket science so someone living in an apartment can still figure it out.
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Old 08-07-2013, 12:35 AM
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I appreciate that you're being straightforward about the real reason - their business model so homeowners are forced to go through the dealers. But there are some technical aspects that homeowners should still be able to adjust on their own, even with that kind of business model. For example it doesn't make any sense to me why I can't add or edit user logins or change the IP address without the dealer software. That aspect is just bad design.
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Old 08-07-2013, 05:41 AM
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That gets complicated. If you try to change the IP settings and mess it up, or change user names and mess it up, you could be locked out of the whole system. It's all about balance between how the vast majority of the users will use the system and their knowledge of networking, programming, and electricity.

Also, keep in mind that we're talking about a fixture of the house and not just a fad toy. Many homeowners of the houses where I've installed these systems, the homeowners don't even care about the apps and just want the keypads to do what they want. Even when I try to explain the difference between a Room button and a Scene button most of them don't want to hear it. "When I push that button, I want those lights to come on" and that's probably how it'll be until they sell the house. If they push that button and it doesn't come on because their kid changed the programming on it, there will be hell to pay.

I can understand how some people want to do things themselves (heck, I only call for help when I'm in trouble or it involves plumbing or AC) but for the target customer base - wealthy people who like to eat sausage but not know how it's made), these systems are great.

Myself, I prefer Homeworks QS because I've seen the limitations of Radio-Ra 2 as the number of devices goes up and you have to add another main processor . For that, you have to be a Level 2 dealer (or whatever it's called) so many dealers can't even use it.
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:23 PM
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Hi,

I'm trying to get the software as well. Would you be able to share it or recommend how I get a copy of the software?

Thanks,
David
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