The Cost of Not Having Control Modules

As the industry moves toward more configurable, “no programming required” solutions, the availability of device drivers or control modules (terminology depends on the specific system) compatible with the popular control platforms (Crestron, AMX, Extron, RTI, etc.) is greater than ever for AV manufacturers. Conversely, for a control platform to be effective in providing a solution that does not depend on complex programming, it must have a robust library of device drivers or control module building blocks. These device drivers or control modules are typically written in the native language of the system: SIMPL# for Crestron, Duet for AMX, Python for Extron, and JavaScript for RTI.

The “heavy lifting” of developing device drivers and control modules requires a software professional who is not only a skilled programmer and proficient in the specific language, but also understands how to interpret an API, has experience with AV systems, and most importantly, knows how to design a driver or module that will work best with each platform and provide the most ease of use.

What does this mean to AV manufacturers and why is it important?

Drivers or modules provide the confidence of a proven solution and make the effort of integrating any device, no matter how complex or challenging, a snap.  If a driver or module was not available, the device would be seemingly unsupported by a “no programming required” solution. This could present a major hindrance to the adoption of the product.

Even with a programmed solution, a driver or module cuts down the time and cost of integrating the product in a system from days or weeks of development time to minutes of programming time.

The cost of not having a driver or module compatible with each control platform can lead to increased technical support for manufacturers, and increased effort for integrators and programmers. It may also contribute to higher frustration levels, lack of confidence in the device, and loss of business for manufacturers.

So, what does the payoff look like for a $10,000 – $15,000 investment to develop a driver or control module?  If considered part of the overall product development cost, it would likely be a small percentage and quickly justified by creating a more marketable device that promotes ease of integration and programming. Control modules play an integral role in driving adoption of a product. The reason one device is chosen over another could be based on availability of a device driver or control module.

The last piece of the puzzle that pays great dividends is having a support agreement with the developer of a device driver or control module.  For a percentage of the development cost, an annual support agreement provides the peace of mind in knowing that the investment is being protected. The agreement provides increased value to clients giving them priority support to answer questions, assistance for programmers, as well as updates, or fixes, to potential issues during usage. It can also offer a quick and easy pathway for upgrades that include additional features. These support agreements, in a sense, are like buying insurance for your products.

As manufacturers invest more in developing robust, fully-featured products that are supported by a complex API, the control system world will continue to move toward “no programming required” solutions, thereby reducing the reliance on programming expertise. Device drivers and control modules are key elements that will ultimately bridge the gap between the divergent paths that will surface in the future.