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BREAKING NEWS: Cisco Tips Millions Into Control4

Overnight Cisco announced a $25M investment in the IP based automation company who have been on the hunt of late for investors after the company witnessed significant growth primarily from the commercial automation market.

The partnership between the companies allows Cisco to deploy Control 4 products in the roll out of new Cisco commercial projects in particular utility energy management projects.

“It’s a new channel for Control4 and for Cisco as well,” said Paul Fulton, VP and general manager of Cisco’s Prosumer Business Unit. The collaboration, he says, will “get control systems into consumer homes in a really broad way.”

“We’re not going to be announcing new products at this time,” says Fulton, who adds that integrated Cisco/Control4 products are a possibility “going forward.”

As part of the deal, Control 4’s IP based technology will be integrated into Cisco products as well as their Service Delivery Platform (SDP). However there are no plans to use Control 4 embedded chipset technology in Cisco networking gear such as routers and switches.

The two companies aren’t offically announcing the size of Cisco’s investment, but Cisco is the leading investor in Control4’s most recent $15 million funding round according to a recent US filing. Control4 already closed $15 million of the round and is in the process of raising a total of $25 million in a combination of equity, options and security.

Cisco’s Wim Elfrink, chief globalisation officer and EVP, explained the Control4 distribution deal to me as a non-exclusive agreement to provide Control4’s home operating system in projects with cities and utilities. Elfrink said, for example, that Cisco is working with the city of Incheon in South Korea to build connected homes that will include Control4 home energy products, as well as Cisco’s building automation technology and telepresence video conferencing.


The news of the partnership and equity stake come on the heels of Control4 doing a deal with Cisco smart grid competitor and networking company Silver Spring Networks just a month ago. That’s the beauty of open standards and IP-based networks: application companies can plug in anywhere on the network. Though, for the smart grid it’s still early days — Elfrink compared the maturity of the smart grid to the Internet 20 years ago in our phone conversation.

Cisco also has a broader vision of the smart grid, moving beyond just utility energy projects, and encompassing “the Internet of things” and truly connected cities. Over that type of platform, Cisco can sell a whole host of products.

Control4 is one of the home energy startups that seems to be finding some success in a difficult market. In the summer of 2009, Control4 raised $17.3 million largely to launch a division to connect its wireless home products with smart meters, smart grid services and utilities. At the Distributech smart grid conference last week, Control4 announced a deal to provide at least 20,000 of Control4’s home energy devices and software to Nevada utility NV Energy. In the utility world, 20,000 home energy devices is a sizable deployment, and Control4 called the deal the first true rollout — not a pilot — of customer-driven demand response using home area network technologies.

It’s expected that Cisco will initiate a major marketing campaign through their existing solution provider and reseller channel for Control 4 products a move that could impact the traditional CEDIA channel solution provider.

Joseph Riediger of Advance Audio Australia the distributor of Control 4 products in Australia said that he was not aware of the investment but admitted that it “sounded like a good deal”. We are seeing a lot of interest from both State and Federal Governments who are looking at future housing and building needs in particular energy management. Control4 is a leader in this field”.