4HomeMedia, like many companies past and present, dreams of becoming a software-based command center for all the gadgets and applications in your home, including for your television, phone and PC.
Its vision is to present homeowners with a unified interface for managing anything from using your cell phone to turn on your porch light while you’re at work, to watching YouTube videos on your TV.
Today, it is introducing a way to manage all of your digital home media content — movies, web video clips, photos, etc. — in a single place.
It is also introducing a health-care service for elderly people who live alone: Software, a set of in-home sensors and an emergency alert button to enable two-way communication with care-givers and family members.
The Sunnyvale, Calif. company isn’t trying to serve consumers directly. Instead, it provides a white-label software platform designed for telecommunications service providers such as AT&T or Comcast. It wants to help these companies go beyond being so-called “triple play” phone, television and internet providers, to become more general software service providers.
A major issue for these companies, 4HomeMedia tells us, is that they struggle to bring together many different software services into one, coherent user interface. As a Comcast subscriber who occasionally battles that company’s convoluted menu of TV, movie and music options, we agree that is a problem. See screenshot 4HomeMedia interface, below.
The company hosts the software on its own servers and lets its clients customize and further develop its user interface and features for their own customers. It charges a service fee in return.
Many other companies have tried and failed to fulfill the vision of unifying gadgets and software in the home, as we noted when we last covered the company. But maybe the time is right, now.
Today, “triple play” is a commodity, as the company puts it. Telecommunications service providers are locked in increasingly tight competition, and are dropping their prices. They need new ways to make money and, as 4HomeMedia sees it, a range of in-home software services will become large sources of new revenue.
Meanwhile, of course, Microsoft is also moving into the so-called “home control” market with its Media Center for Xbox game console owners, a software service that lets them sync their televisions with their computers. Apple, as well, offers Apple TV, a way to sync a TV with other applications, such as iTunes.
Other startups, such as Prodea Systems, are also trying to create a unified software home command center.
4HomeMedia goes a step further with its health care service, and this may make it more attractive to telecommunications clients already serving millions of homes across the nation. As a large number of Americans retire and increasingly rely on forms of assisted living, the demand for in-home health monitoring services will grow. A survey by Park Associates shows this market reaching $2.1 billion in 2010, 4HomeMedia points out.
The company, together with its licensees, has won five CES 2008 Innovation awards.
It says it is profitable through service contracts. Current clients include Actiontec and Digeo, among others. It has raised $2.85 million from London-based Pond Ventures.
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