Getting the Straight Scoop About
New Technology Opportunities
There is no need to discuss the challenges
that custom installation professionals
face as we mark the second anniversary
of the near-halt in new housing starts.
According to CEA figures, a 35-percent
decrease in residential construction led
to a 27-percent decrease in sales of multiroom
audio, while home automation
and automated lighting fell 18 percent
during 2008/2009. But, three-quarters
of the way through 2010, this is simply
With two years to consider how best
to stay vital, I would think that my friends
and colleagues would only differ on what
new trends to follow, rather than whether
or not new opportunities exist. And many
of them do, though nearly as many are
opting to wear blinders and stick only with what they know.
Nowhere is the need to be open-minded more necessary than when it
comes to looking at the many “no new (long) wires” options that have surfaced
over the past year. From wireless to Powerline Carrier, not to mention
the extensive pre-installed base of long wire runs that offer important
new signal transport opportunities (not to mention new and upgraded
sources and speakers), our industry is hardly suffering from a dearth of
opportunities for new and expanded business.
So why then do so many CI professionals simply wring their hands and
turn away from the potential? Personally, I’m baffled. There are far too
many professionals who are either resistant to change or are mistakenly
awaiting a return of the runaway home building fervor of the recent past.
In an effort to clear up a few misconceptions, here are two lingering
myths that I would like to eradicate once and for all:
Myth #1: We tried Powerline Carrier (PLC) technology before and
without much success
Fact: No you didn’t. Without mentioning names, an age-old product
that received a bad rap is being confused with PLC products
and their proven capabilities; forget it.
PLC is a recent innovation, having coalesced in 2000 when the Home-
Plug Powerline Alliance set out to create a standard that would allow
manufacturers to use existing home electrical wiring to connect to each
other and in turn connect to the Internet. The specification published in
2005 opened the door to increased physical layer peak data rates from 14
Mbps to a remarkably robust 200 Mbps.
An example of the topology used for Russound’s Powerline Carrier-based Collage multi-room
The growing list of manufacturers tapping into PLC is indicative of
its market potential, especially for the CI community. Channel leaders
such as NuVo and Russound have committed significant R&D to creating
entertainment and intercom systems that are specifically designed for
These new products are typically installed in hours, not days or weeks.
With minimal disruption to the end-users’ lives, and a level of reliability
that easily matches more traditional systems, an installer can turn to a
prospect and safely commit to setting up a multi-zone system within 24
hours or less. This time savings makes it easier to close a sale, yet there
are those among us who are afraid to sacrifice more traditional projects
because of the significant drop in labor.
Myth #2: I won’t make as much on a typical installation because of
the significant drop in labor
Fact: It isn’t a myth, at least when looking at it on a project-by-project
basis. However, the drastic savings in time devoted to a single
installation means that many more installations can be completed
in the time it takes to retrofit a home with a new long wire system.
Back when I spent a significant amount of time pulling wire, I would
have been thrilled to have at my fingertips an easy-to-install, easier-to-use
product that allowed me to complete, say, three or four jobs in the time it
usually took to finish just one. A faster turnaround time allows for more
jobs, especially with so many satisfied customers ready to offer referrals to
their friends and neighbors.
As much as we would all like
to see a return to the building
craze of the late ’90s through
early ’08, I think we can all agree
that it will not happen during
our lifetimes. Instead, we can
either wallow in nostalgia and
misinformation, or take advantage
of some of the most exciting
new products to come along, no
matter the economic scenario. I
think we have no choice but to
embrace the new and make it
work to our advantage.