CES Products Inspire Hope for the Custom Integrator

1/10/2013 5:07:00 PM

Sony unveiled its fancy new phone at this year’s CES. It comes with a 13mp camera built in. The iPhone 5 and even the 4S have an 8mp camera. These cell phone cameras are exponentially better than many dedicated “point-and-shoot” cameras from only a few years back. This would make you think that cameras are going the way of film—extinct, right?


Sony is introducing almost 25 new cameras at the show, and they are not the only ones doing so. Many companies are launching cameras; they didn't throw in the towel. They are reinventing reasons to own a camera.

Are you wondering why I'm talking about cameras? Because, I think custom integrators can be compared to the market for digital cameras. Sure, we're seeing the launch of “easy automation” systems everywhere; at this show we have seen dozens of “micro” systems. But does that make us obsolete? 

To be perfectly honest, it is easy to become discouraged, even defeated at CES (and I'm an up-beat person), when around every corner you are bombarded with do-it-yourself' tech. This picture on the right is Lowe's Iris DYI automation, and I have seen similar products from companies like ADT and Verizon. We could just throw our hands up in the air, cry defeat, and call it a day, or we could reinvent ourselves and our companies.

You know what I haven't seen as CES? Magic tape that sticks a fancy new flat-panel TV to the wall. Most people are afraid to hang a picture frame, let alone a TV on the wall. This, my friends, is our foot in the door. Yes, I know what you're thinking, we cannot survive on flat-panel TV installations alone. This is where the fundamental shift needs to happen. We need to get our heads out of the living room and wrap our brains around the house.

Technology is not a perfect science. Most consumers I talk to are still afraid of technology and crave an expert to help them navigate the waters. My suggestion would be to look at your current offerings and really think about what else you could be selling. Take the TV installation and grow it into an whole-house system.

Yes, we are going to continue to see micro automation and DYI systems come to market. Let this wet their whistle. Let it embed the concept their lives, where we can then grow it.

"Hi Mr. Client. Loving that Blu-ray app? What if I could give you an app that controlled your entire house with one button?"

"Mrs. Client, I see you have some controllable dimmers in your kitchen. Have you ever walked into the house when it’s dark? Imagine if when you walked in a pathway would light up for you."

"I noticed you have a wireless speaker. What do you play on it? What if you could play it throughout the house? What if I hid the speakers in the wall?"

And as for the living room, remind them how good great audio is. Remember the art of the demo. This morning I went to check out the demo room with Stewart, Digital Projection, D-BOX, and Kaleidescape that John Sciacca talked about yesterday. I'll leave the specs to him and tell you about the experience. I had seen this type of demo years ago and the way I described it was, “like a roller coaster ride. Fun for a few minutes, but you wouldn't want to stay on for hours.” Today's experience was different. It was immersive. It was what a good system should be. Now I know we all can't afford systems like this, but we can offer to give our clients that type of experience. Remind them why home theater and surround sound is so great. Get them in your store and do a great demo. Create the right system for the room. There is nothing like being transported by a great system and by ease of use. And done right not only can we provide that in the living room, but in their entire home.

CES has been an experience to say the least. I'm happy to have this opportunity to cover it. Now I need to go nurse my sore legs and sleep for a week.

Heather L. Sidorowicz
is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.


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