Marketplace: For Park City-based Avi-on, the future is bright
Technology allows users to control lighting with their phones
March 3, 2017
Long before the term "internet of things" became popular to describe items connected to the web, Eric Miller was creating technology that would fit under that definition.
"He's been building connected devices for 30 years in his career," said Dana Kunz, Miller's business and life partner. "He's built wind farms and smart metering and other kinds of large-scale connected device systems long before that term came into existence."
So perhaps it was natural that, when Miller was reading about Bluetooth specifications about four years ago, an intriguing idea took hold of him. What if, he wondered, he could use the technology to create a "mesh" network that allows lighting devices to interact with one another without the need for a single hub controlling it all?
It wasn't long after that he and Kunz used that idea to create a technology company called Avi-on. Four years — and a move to Park City — later, the business is flourishing and is aiming to position itself as a major player in the internet of things.
Avi-on's products are geared toward automating lighting in homes and buildings through Bluetooth technology, making it possible for someone to control their lights with the touch of a smartphone, or even the sound of their voice, Kunz said. Whereas traditional automation systems are expensive, complicated and difficult to change after installation, Avi-on aims to make it more affordable, customizable and user friendly.
"What we're essentially doing is taking the switches and things you're comfortable with and making them a little bit smarter," said Kunz, the company's chief operating officer.
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Kunz said the idea of using Bluetooth to control lighting is similar to the concept of wireless internet. Where Ethernet ports were once vital for internet connectivity, few modern homes or offices now rely on the outlets because WiFi has replaced the need for them.
"You can see there's one there," Kunz said, pointing to an Ethernet outlet in Avi-on's office at 2750 Rasmussen Road. "But there's nothing plugged into it because we're using WiFi. It's the same concept — we think that having 100 percent in-wall switches is going to go the same way as these Ethernet drops."
With a lighting system connected by Avi-on's products, users can perform tasks like turn lights on or off with their smartphones or schedule lights to be on during certain times of the day. But while smartphone users have become accustomed to wielding power in their palms, Avi-on's technology is even more futuristic. With the use of an Amazon Echo smart speaker — which is nicknamed "Alexa" — one can do the same things with voice commands.
"You can say, 'Alexa, dim the kitchen lights to 50 percent,' and she does," she said. "You can come up from the garage and want to go through the living room lights and say, 'Alexa, turn on the living room lights,' and she does. You can crawl into bed and see that the kitchen light is still on and say, 'Alexa, turn off the kitchen light,' and she does."
The technology also allows users to control lights with a wireless capacitive touch switch that functions like a traditional light switch but that can be moved anywhere. Kunz said that makes it convenient for people with disabilities who may have a difficult time reaching normal switches, or for parents with children who always leave the lights on.
The capacitive switches can be programmed to turn off every light in the house with a single touch, she said.
"When they go out the door, those teenagers can just turn it off and have the whole house go dark on their way out," she said.
The products are all aimed in pursuit of Avi-on's overarching mission, which is to change the way the world lights and controls spaces. Kunz said the company is moving closer to that goal each day, but it wouldn't have been possible without moving to Park City.
Being located here, she said, has been wonderful because of the lifestyle Park City offers, but more importantly, it's accelerated the company's growth by providing access to the Wasatch Front's large talent pool.
"There's a lot of really smart people here," she said. "What we're finding is we enjoy the business climate, but we also enjoy the opportunity to work with the people here."
2750 Rasmussen Road
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