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VOL. 129 | NO. 127 | Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Connected Home

Memphis company brings automation, connectivity to clients’ houses

By Andy Meek

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When he founded Memphis-based Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment 20 years ago, Scott Fuelling couldn’t have predicted the degree to which consumers eventually would embrace the concept of the connected home.

Scott Fuelling, president of Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment, demonstrates the Control4 home theater automation controller in the company’s showroom. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Security systems and entertainment device setups, for example, can be controlled now with the convenience of an app that functions like a sort of digital master key. Consumers also increasingly want everything from top-of-the-line cinema setups in their homes to energy saving home solutions like smart thermostats as well as general home automation capability.

Fuelling’s company has pulled off the difficult trick of keeping up with technology’s famously fast-paced degree of change, as well as the fickle ebb and flow of customer tastes. And its milestone moment also comes at a time when Phoenix’s services are perhaps more in-demand now than ever.

The arrival of the so-called “Internet of things” – bringing connectivity to everything from coffee makers to appliances to home security systems – has created business opportunities for companies from Phoenix to Google. The search engine company, for example, made headlines recently with its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs, maker of Internet-connected smoke detectors and thermostats.

Nest, in turn, recently bought Dropcam Inc., a video-monitoring startup.

“I can always make more money,” Fuelling says his customers have told him, “but I can’t make any more time.”

That, in a nutshell, is his company’s reason for being.

Demonstrating the everyday use cases of his company’s technology, Fuelling recalled a system he installed that included a lighting display in his and his wife’s bedroom. When his kids would come home on time for the evening, a certain colored light would be displayed. If they missed curfew, however, a different colored light would shine.

He still chuckles at his kids’ puzzlement over the source of their father’s omniscience.

A visit to Phoenix’s headquarters, meanwhile, provides visual evidence of the company’s expertise and culture. Hanging on one wall just inside the entrance, for example, is a giant, workable iPhone. Press the home button, just like on the official and much smaller model, and Apple’s home screen materializes – after the user completes a giant swipe-to-unlock motion.

It’s indicative of the fact that Phoenix has the technical prowess – and the team – to pull off something like that. Deeper into the headquarters building are example showrooms and an assortment of other computing wizardry displayed on the office walls.

“It’s hard for anybody to stay in business for 20 years, but one way you do that is you keep evolving,” Fuelling said, referring to his company’s specialties of integrated system design, installation, service and support.

Phoenix’s services run the gamut from home theater and distributed audio and video to lighting control, HVAC control and other special solutions to meet client needs. And it’s won a steady string of awards and industry recognition for that work.

In recent weeks, for example, Phoenix announced it has been named for the 16th straight year to the 2014 “CE Pro 100” list of leading companies. The company also recently was named to the Control4 Million Dollar Club, a select group of dealers who’ve achieved more than $1 million in product sales.

That kind of recognition is made possible in large part by having a deep bench of talent to draw from, and Fuelling said Phoenix – which has 20 people across the organization – employs an “interesting team” of people with primarily technical backgrounds and skill sets.

That team includes engineers, systems designers and installation technicians, among others.

In an interview with “CE Pro,” Fuelling described Phoenix as an engineering company that designs solutions for clients. And referrals from satisfied clients drive the company’s success, he added.

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