Autocall is coming back

I recently heard from a few folks on a Facebook group that Johnson Controls is resurrecting the Autocall brand. They will be relabeling Simplex’s product line (4100ES, 4010ES, etc.) and selling to independent distributors under the Autocall name. The equipment will be proprietary and incompatible with Simplex’s main product line, similar to how some Honeywell brand addressable protocols are incompatible despite being the same technology. Should be interesting…

I somewhat question the business logic on this decision. I would understand if Autocall were to be brought back as an “economy” brand; for example, bringing back older technologies such as the 4006/4008 series panels for smaller applications under the Autocall name. However, undermining Simplex’s core technology in the ES series seems to run the risk of diminishing the value of their own equipment.

In fact, I think using the Autocall name for their older equipment could be an excellent idea. Simplex is losing many of the markets they once dominated - schools, small office facilities, manufacturing plants - because the costs associated with the features of their current equipment simply are not justified for use in smaller facilities anymore.

One of the big things that seems to turn a lot of companies/installers (hobbyists especially - although they only barely account for a tiny percent of the market) off of Simplex and EST and Bosch and the like, was the fact that all of the software was proprietary and to make a programming change on the advanced addressable panels normally requires a hugely expensive programmer.

Maybe the plan is to use modified software on the Autocall branded units that allows installers to add points or map functions without a programmer or with a free PC-Panel software solution (like Silent Knight does) and limit device counts/features, sort of how the Fire-Lite MS-9050UD software limits the device count to 50 addressable devices (Yes the 9050 has hardware limitations as well but even the hardware limit for their basic CLIP protocol was 99).

As for “incompatibility” I imagine that the Autocall branded systems will use identical modules to Simplex and follow the IDNET protocol, using embedded ID codes to separate the Simplex devices from Autocall’s, so the incompatibility would be at the software level and maybe there’ll even be a software release that doesn’t check the ID code (my Silent Knight 5808 talks to Notifier FlashScan devices just fine, for example)

I think the business logic is solid. They want to expand their market, probably to lower-end applications, but don’t want to undermine the Simplex brand by spreading it too thin.

In the 1990’s, Apple was trying to do everything at once, and churning out a wide variety of different products. Brand equity suffered as a result, and when Steve Jobs took over again, he decided to focus on developing a handful of really good core products.

As a conglomerate, Johnson Controls can have the best of both worlds. They can keep the integrity (bad word choice?) of the Simplex brand, and have Autocall as a side gig distributing old-style equipment and/or non-proprietary re-brands.

Really? I see them all the time in schools and such around here.

Wait, when did they discontinue the 4006? I still see it on Simplex’s website.

I’m not saying they no longer have any share of that market, it just seems highly diminished. If you go into any school built from the 1980s-1990s when Simplex was really at its peak, in my experience 90% of those building will be equipped with a Simplex system.

I live in the northern suburbs of Chicago, so they are constantly taking down and putting up new school buildings. I haven’t seen a Simplex system go into any of those buildings (or any new mid-sized building, for that matter) since a high school about 2 miles from me went up in 2004, and that building is absolutely massive.

That brings it back to the other side of this argument, which is the fact that Simplex’s products are ideal for large-scale facilities and campuses. Contrary to the situation with smaller buildings, if you take a walk around Chicago and check out the new high-rises, they are loaded with high-end Simplex systems.

I’m simply stating that it may worth the effort for Simplex /Johnson Controls to use the reintroduction of Autocall as a catalyst to re-capture the market for smaller facilities.

I don’t think it has been discontinued. That’s why I think it would be a good potential starting point for the re-introduction of Autocall, should they follow the model I have hypothesized.

Ah ok. I see what you mean. We have a large prescience down here because of the Cleveland district and regional office. I do occasionally see Honeywell stuff but I would bet the system in the new high school that starts construction next year is probably going to be one of the two.

Siemens did the exact same thing with the Cerberus line. Makes perfect sense to me.

JCI operates under the same structure, so I’m not surprised at all they’d want to put their own fire line out to their vendors instead of keeping it all in house like Simplex traditionally did. It’ll give their factory more opportunities to sell products, even though Simplex may now be bidding against an Autocall system.

Autocall has been a dead brand for years, but it’s also already an established fire alarm name so it makes sense to pick it back up.

Yes, but wouldn’t there bedownsides to this? Small end Simplex systems would be virtually obsolete, and wouldn’t some customers recognize the Simplex name more than Autocall? I’d understand why JCI wants to do this, but for some reason it still seems kind of silly. But it could very well be a good move to get Simplex equipment more ‘out there’ I guess. It would be hard to see it go though, as my area has used Simplex equipment a lot. But I do see Honeywell a bit more now in these smaller facilities which makes the Autocall revival plan perfectly justifiable.

So I guess I’ll go with whatever floats JCI’s boat.

Small end Simplex systems are virtually obsolete. That’s the whole reason they want to revive the Autocall brand. They’re trying to get something to compete with say the Silent Knight 5808.

You do have a point there. My school even uses a higher end 4020 panel, and it’s big, but not huge. In contrast, I’ve only seen several small end 4006 systems about two or three times as Simplex systems in say a strip mall or something would be more likely to be networked together to one larger panel than to be a separate smaller system.

Even the Silent Knight 5808 isn’t all that popular. I can think of very few places I’ve been to with a 5808 installed. Seems like if they use Silent Knight at all for installations these days, they go for the 5700 for a small building or the 5820XL for a department store/warehouse, which is a shame because they have a ton of other really nifty products. I have a 5808 myself because I really like the Silent Knight brand, but I think Autocall would be looking to compete with the Fire-Lite MS-9050 and MS-9200 really here.

I feel like JCI’s proposed Autocall revival is really trying to compete with Fire-Lite and Gamewell-FCi. Those two brands have, at least in my area, a complete domination over the small-midsize market now (not including schools). I haven’t seen a small-midsize Simplex system newer than 2001 in my area, and there are only a handful of small-midsize newer Siemens or EST systems.

Now…I wonder if we’ll be seeing third-party signals or Autocall TrueAlerts…

I think they’ll just keep it cheap and give the panels basic FWR power supplies, and have the distributors buy third party signals.

I can’t help but wonder if they’ll offer the new Federal Signal 450E electronic horns. I believe they are listed for fire alarm service, and Autocall used Vibratone 450D horns back in the 80’s and 90’s. In all reality, however, I have a feeling the signals of choice will either be System Sensor or Wheelock.

I don’t think it would be that financially viable for them to manufacture another series for their “budget line”. I think you’re right on the System Sensor or Wheelock, whatever the distributor can get for cheaper. I’d like to add Gentex, but I think those cost quite a bit more with their metal mounting brackets.

As far as I heard, they are rebranding the entire Simplex product line including the TrueAlert ES series. The Autocall and Simplex product lines will basically be identical, but the Autocall programming dongle won’t work with Simplex panels and visa versa.

Hmmm…I’ve seen many TrueAlertES’s out in the field as of now, and that rebranding principle just doesn’t sound like a move Simplex would make. Especially with their proprietary nature and the integrity of their products. If they would be identical, what would be the point of an Autocall brand anyways? Seems like what happened to Faraday when Siemens bought them. Frankly I think it’s a rather risky move considering they’ll be using the same products, and that being said, does that mean the complete end of all of Simplex’s conventional devices (i.e. 4906 SmartSync only series, 2099 pulls, conventional smoke and duct detectors, and the 4903 series TrueAlerts as well as all the retrofit applications)?

I sure hope not.

That’s just my two cents.

Going with a completely random guess of possible situations here:

  1. What I think makes the most sense. Take some older panels such as the 4005, 4010, 4006 and 4008 and rebrand them as Autocall, and make them compatible as retrofit and low end solutions for the small to mid range building. A market Simplex is basically non-existant in where I am. After all the schools have switched to EST, and all the other buildings are FireLite and the rare appearance of SK, Notifier and Gamewell FCi equipment Simplex isn’t really seen unless you get into some of the 4+ floor office buildings, and even then, you might not see any fire alarm system, and just sprinklers.

  2. What has been suggested as the most probable thing, they just stick the Autocall name over the Simplex one, and make them non-compatible.

  3. Go for a 4100 ESi approach, make some nonproprietary versions of already existing panels.

  4. 2, but the devices are compatible.

    Or I could be completely wrong and they throw a curveball.