Iceland's "Diamond in the Sky"

Last year, TSP partnered with Savant and Lutron to create the ultimate Icelandic home automation experience, in the highest residential apartment in the country.

In an article titled, "Capital Throne," the Icelandic Magazine Hús Og Híbýli (House and Home) just declared this stunning project the "Best Apartment in Iceland," and we like to think that we had something to do with that distinction.

Just in case your Icelandic is rusty, here's a translated quote from the article:

This is probably the most technical apartment in Iceland, integrated with an American home automation system called Savant Systems, the best available in this sector. With this powerful home automation system, the lighting, curtains, webcams, radio, fireplaces and HVAC services are all managed, just to name a few. There is air conditioning in the apartment and heated floors, but in such a technical apartment it is also possible to cool the floors when the sun shines through the large windows.  Small sensors in the walls sense the temperature, but they are hardly visible, they are so small.  It was electrical contractor Gaflarar and American technology integrators TSP who were responsible for setting up this perfect home automation system that is a dream to operate.

It should be noted that when Björn left the apartment just had to press a single key – all the shades closed, all of the lights went off, as did the fire in the fireplace. No risk of forgetting something running with the most advanced home automation available.

The iPad Pro: Analysis and Predictions from a Mac MSP CTO

Yesterday's announcement of the iPad Pro wasn't much of a shock.  The Apple rumor sites have been talking about this product for over a year, and as the September 9th event approached, most of them pinned down the event as the official release of this new product.

Technically, the features aren't much of a shock either - the processor architecture, large retina display, detachable keyboard, and "pencil" - are all either improvements from the previous generation or features already available from a variety of other products across other platforms.

THESE SPECS, SCREEN SIZE, AND PENCIL DON'T MATTER.  THE ECOSYSTEM DOES

THESE SPECS, SCREEN SIZE, AND PENCIL DON'T MATTER.  THE ECOSYSTEM DOES

In fact, much attention post-event has been on the striking similarities of the iPad Pro to the Microsoft Surface – even poking fun at predictions three years ago that Apple would copy the Surface.  In fact, many are predicting that the iPad Pro will fail because it's not offering anything that hasn't been offered by competitors for years.

They're wrong.

Even if the iPad Pro had been an exact clone of the Surface down to the Microsoft logo, there are two reasons that it will succeed far beyond the nay-sayers' predictions: Timing and Apps.

First, let's talk about some context.

I've already done two interviews with with IT industry press, and the leading question is: "Will the iPad Pro be able to counter the year over year decline in tablet sales for Apple?"

That's a ludicrous question, and one that shows exactly how off-target today's expectations are for technology companies, especially Apple.  Everyone knows that infinite growth is an impossibility.  Eventually outside forces will put a downward slope on your graph, no matter how great your products are.  So a decline isn't something that needs reversal (no matter what your shareholders say).  A decline is something that you should have seen five years ago and developed the right product to release at the right time to create a new platform while another product's demand is petering off.  Just look at Samsung to see an example of what not to do.

The real question is: "Does the iPad Pro give developers a reason to create a new set of apps that users will want to buy, very very badly.... enough to pay $1000 for a device to run them on?"

In my work in the Apple space for 25+ years, as CTO of TSP, and as a paid expert for Coleman Research, there is one constant that has accurately predicted how successful an Apple or competitor's product or will do: the strength of the surrounding ecosystem.  If the ecosystem exists with a healthy group of energized developers; interesting problems that can be solved with software; and an audience ready and willing to pay for a device that can uniquely solve those problems with software written by those developers, then it will be a meaningful success.

The problem for most hardware manufacturers from Samsung to Microsoft is that they simply don't get that this combination is an almost assured formula for success (or they get it but can't achieve it).

Some examples:

The reason that most premium smartphone manufacturers' financials are in the crapper is simple: their dependence on Android means that their devices are not uniquely capable of solving these issues.  It's simply too easy to trade out one Android device for another, be it a tablet or phone.  Not unique? Not a long term success.

Samsung has tried to counter this with their Tizen OS, but they were too late to this game.  There are simply not enough developers willing to invest in a new development platform to write apps to solve the same problems being solved with other devices on other operating systems.  So Tizen misses on two marks (energized developers, unique devices).

When the original iPad was released in 2010, I argued that it had all of these elements.  I wasn't wrong.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a more interesting analysis.  Microsoft has almost all of the ingredients: Windows developers are arguably still one of the largest group of developers out there; and certainly enterprises are willing to pay for cheaper Windows-based computing devices.  The Surface also provided something unique - an alternate form factor for the uber-mobile professional, without sacrificing all of the power of a mobile processor.  So why hasn't it been a meaningful success?  (Just look around any premium airport lounge if you disagree with that assessment.)

Some would argue that it's simply a success that is biding its time.  Incremental improvements in hardware spec, mobility, and OS have made huge strides in the past three years.  Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 3 is a pretty nice experience.   So will the Surface now be a runaway success, especially now that Apple has essentially validated many of the design choices made by the Microsoft team three years ago?

I doubt it.

The problem is that there's isn't a lot of passion in the platform.

I sometimes co-work out of a vibrant space in East London called 90 Main Yard.  Most of the people in the space are younger than me, and I can tell you that no one is talking about the next game-changing Windows app.  They're all talking about mobile development for either iOS or Android, and honestly, they're all too busy trying to make money to care about learning about another platform.  After all, in the mind of a 25-year old developer, if Uber and Airbnb can build multi-billion-dollar empires on iOS and Android, then that's where he or she is going to focus energy and passion.  The "old-school" developers are doing web development, and the crazy people just talk about making money on YouTube.  No one is doing snoozy desktop app development for Windows.

It's not that there's no money in developing for Windows.  If you want to write an app for professionals to do their jobs well, like AutoCAD or Photoshop, then you make a version for Windows.  In the UK public sector, large portions of the IT budget goes to companies like Capita and CapGemini, and I'm guessing that many of the dev projects, if not written for Windows, are still being used largely on computers running Windows.

The problem is that nothing exciting is being done on Windows, no matter how hard Microsoft tries to make it exciting.  So the Surface, firmly entrenched in the desktop world (with touch screen interface add-ons, yay!) just isn't going to engage and energize consumers because it's not engaging and energizing the developers.

So what about the iPad Pro?  What's different?

Let's go back to Apps and Timing.

Apps

Clearly, the energized developers are developing for iOS.  There's a positive feedback loop in being and iOS developer.  You come up with a good idea; make it into an app; release on the App Store and get instant positive feedback.  Some of the millions of iOS users are buying your app, you're making a decent cut of the profits.  Even marginal successes create a positive enough experience for a developer or mobile development company keep trying for the next big app.  After all, you can at least demonstrate your cool new idea to your friends and family, because chances are, at least half of them have an iOS device (Tizen, anyone?).

Now, Apple has released a new device - nay, platform - for your ideas.  Now it has a 12" screen (remember when desktop computers with 13" screens were big enough?), desktop-class power, and a stylus.  You already know how to code for iOS, you just need to learn some new APIs (which Apple has trained you to do faithfully with yearly iOS updates).

Perhaps you're getting a bit older, a bit wiser.  You no longer think that the future is in hyper-local dating apps, but maybe in something more grown up.  Your doctor uncle has an idea for an app to help visualize 3D information from MRI systems.  Or your friend in the construction says it would be great to have these building plans on something that he can use onsite to replace his tattered notebook.  Or you've got a great idea for an education app that schools can use on iOS devices to help kids learn how to be more creative with a stylus.

Are you going to develop those ideas for the Surface or iOS?

That's why I don't think the iPad Pro is "just another device."  To a developer, it's just as much of departure from the iPad Air as tvOS is.  Different form factor, performance, and input capabilities.  All of those open doors for developers, especially those with a passion for the platform and an understanding of life's more complex problems that need solving.

Timing

And I think the timing for the iPad Pro is impeccable – not because it's what Consumers are demanding now, but instead it gives Developers what they are clamoring for: new opportunities.  Developers are looking for outlets for creativity in what are already crowded App Stores.  Everyone has had the ideas for a new mobile app already, but now there's new places to focus that energy: a device that puts the app on the TV; a device that puts the app on a clipboard-sized tablet; and a device on people's wrists.

It's not coincidence that Apple has in the last year release three new platforms for iOS developers: WatchOS; tvOS; and now the iPad Pro.  Because now is the time for them to give developers who have made some bucks off of the iPhone some more opportunities to make more bucks.

The Result?

I predict two waves of iPad Pro sales:

The first will be as soon as the gates open - Apple fans and developers looking to figure out what is possible with this new platform.  This is the usual "push" from an iPad upgrade cycle.  Nothing new here and nothing to write home about, and in fact, I bet that the first two quarters of iPad results after the event yesterday will be called "disappointing" by investors.

The second and much more significant wave will be as soon as the developers start hitting the ground with apps that leverage the power and potential of this new device.  That will probably take 6 months at least, but the surge will be strong and consistent.  Maybe not groundbreaking, but you'll start to see the iPad Pro in the hands of your doctor; your architect; and your kids' teachers.  And over time Apple's tablet numbers will start to notch up.

And that will be when you know that it's not just about the pencil, the keyboard, or larger screen.  It's about the ecosystem.

The Next Gen: LED Lighting and LED Challenges

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Much has been written about the benefits of LED lighting: longer life (10+ years), lower heat output, and tremendous gains on efficiency.

However, we see a lot of skepticism out there on LED technology, and we know why: early generations of LED lighting were, in one word, disappointing.

We tested LED bulbs as early as 2006.   They were very a cool blue in color, not as bright as similar sized bulbs using traditional or fluorescent technology, and expensive as hell.  Worst yet, they all burned out within less than a year.  It was a dim start (pun fully intended) for the technology.

Fast forward to today, and LEDs are everywhere - and you may not even know it.  I recently spent a few days at an Intercontinental Hotel - and I had to look twice to see if the lights were in fact LED.  The light they produced was warm in color, and from the outside the bulbs didn't have the distinct "array of LEDs" look to them.  Once I sussed that they were in fact LEDs, I took the fixture out to see what exact bulb that they had selected.  It was a Sylvania 6 Watt LED MR16 bulb, specifically a LED6ML16/DIM/827/FL36.

Now obviously, that's a good sign for the technology.  The Intercontinental wouldn't go replacing what must be over 1,500 bulbs just in one hotel with LED MR16s if they didn't have a proven track record and provided incredible benefits to the bottom line without sacrificing a top-end hotel experience.

Even so, the LEDs at the Intercontinental weren't perfect.  One morning, I turned on the lights in the room and the lights in the desk lamp – a more traditional Philips model LED – started to blink.  They stopped shortly after warming up (in less than a minute), but it wasn't exactly the wake up that I was looking for.

Bottom line: LED's are ready for prime time, but even so they should be selected with caution.  That's why when TSP recommends LED technologies for your home automation project, we not only read the specs and do the research, but we also set up the exact same LED bulbs for testing in our labs, with the same bulb, fixture, driver, and dimming unit that you'll have in your own home.  That's the one and only way to assure that the experience that you get with LED lighting meets and exceeds your expectations.

TSP Reaches Savant Gold Integrator Status

TSP is happy to announce that we're a Savant Gold Integrator.  Savant's home automation systems are regarded as the top of heap of the new generation of "whole house" home automation systems, and being a Gold Integrator means that we've reached and maintained strict training, knowledge, and volume levels of only a select number of Integrators throughout the country.

TSP also attended the Savant Integrator conference in Austin, TX earlier this year. In addition to seeing the newest Savant products being released this year, we got to meet top brass at Savant and share our growth strategies and plans to expanding home automation into new areas of growth for both TSP and Savant.

We're excited to be one of Savant's top integrators in the New England market.

Sneak Peek: Skuggi in Reykjavik, Iceland

TSP's new look isn't just skin deep, it also signifies a natural progression in what we do: to bring business-class IT services into the home.  Today's cutting edge home technologies require IT to function at the highest level of performance and reliability, and there is no better demonstration of that then our most recent Savant Home Automation project, completed in March, 2015.

A culmination of over a year of work, this luxury penthouse in the center of the city has "Whole House Automation" – Apple iPad-based control over A/V, heating, shades, lighting, security system, and even the fireplaces using Savant technology.  What made the project even more challenging was which city it was in: Reykjavik, Iceland.  Much of the project was planned and executed remotely, and we had to create a system that we could monitor and maintain from a 1,000 miles away.  The owners have remote access to their system from anywhere in the world, giving them piece of mind that their home away from home is secure and can be made ready for them to arrive with the tap of an iPhone.

Our upcoming website will highlight the unique challenges that this project faced, along with how TSP applied our founding principles to execute a signature project in a remote location to the highest standards.  Here's a few pictures of how things turned out.