St. Albans, UK-based i.life Solutions – a part of integrated technology group CCOMM – now has more than six years of bespoke residential cinema and home automation projects to its credit, and was recently acknowledged with a nomination at the CEDIA Awards 2011. Marketing manager Daryl Binelli tells David Davies about i.life’s diversification into the developer market and why it’s “only a matter of time” before customers start upgrading to 3D en masse.
Please tell me a little about the early days of i.life Solutions...
i.life is part of the CCOMM group, which has been going for approximately 20 years. The starting point for i.life [and a move into the residential market] was about six years ago when one of our corporate clients asked us if we could install touchpanels into his house. We now have two demo rooms – one in Aberdeen, one in St. Albans – and are going from strength to strength in the whole range of residential automation: home cinema, multiroom audio and whole house control.
Is there such a thing as an ‘average’ project for i.life Solutions?
Our luxury home automation projects can span anything from £20,000 to £0.75 million for our largest install, which took place recently. So we do a lot of [extensive] home automation with, for example, an AMX infrastructure controlling lights, entertainment and heating, as well as dedicated cinema rooms.
In the last six months, we have found that a lot of people are aspiring to the half-million-pound-type project, but are ultimately settling for lower value home cinemas of around £10,000 in value.
What impact is the iPad having on the interface side? And are customers channelling the money saved on this part of a project into other areas?
It’s definitely having a big influence. Customers can buy an iPad for £500, spend a few hundred on the programming and have a working control panel. We had hoped that they would be pouring the money elsewhere, but at the moment they seem to be pocketing the cash for themselves!
Do you have a list of preferred brands, or do you approach each project individually with regard to specification?
We will work with anyone, but we do have a brilliant relationship with AMX, do a lot of work with Crestron, and have a demo room full of Meridian Audio equipment, including their Sooloos player and flagship 8000 loudspeakers. We also work with Pulse Marketing and use a lot of SIM2 projectors.
We definitely investigate other brands as required. For example, we had not worked with Bang & Olufsen systems for some years, but a lot of people have been opting to use their products lately. If a customer comes to us with specific products in mind, we will always try to accommodate them.
And what about 3D? Is that also finding its way onto more customers’ shopping lists?
We’re finding that a lot of people are enquiring about 3D, but then deciding not to go for it. I think quite a few people still think of it as a gimmick.
Personally, I think that with Sky now showing the Masters [in 3D] and an increasing amount of content available on Blu-ray, it is only a matter of time. It has taken a little longer [than I had expected], but I think that a year from now plenty of people will be upgrading to 3D.
With regard to [other areas of technology], we are seeing more and more demand for lighting design, and are doing a lot of projects with Lutron. Even in smaller properties, people are seeing the benefits and added value associated with lighting control.
How are your overall activity levels at the moment? And what are your objectives for the rest of the year?
Our quote line has never been busier – it’s just taking a little longer to get from the quote stage to the customer saying ‘yes’. In terms of project work, the next few months are looking very busy, and we will be looking to build further momentum on that.
We will definitely carry on doing luxury home projects, but we are also looking to break into the developer and hotel markets; for example, offering products like Control4 into boutique hotels or providing basic control of multi-room audio and TV distribution in new apartment complexes. A lot of developers are seeing that the market is demanding this kind of functionality, and we are more than happy to accommodate!