CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

Jan 7

Written by: Dennis Burger
1/7/2013 6:49 PM  RssIcon

As I write this, it’s the middle of press day at CES 2013—the second day of the show for me, after last night’s Unveiled event—and I’m already getting a strong sense of this year's theme.
 
In previous years, glasses-free 3D, 4K, and bigger, badder, thinner flat panels have risen to the top of the show buzz. And those techs are still right on the tips of almost every tongue this year. But more than anything else, the thread that seems to be weaving through this year’s show chatter is an almost palpable hostility toward the custom market. Not just an apathy. We’re used to that. I’m talking about genuine dismissal of the market we hold dear.

Belkin’s new WeMo wireless light switches deliver full lighting control via an Android app, without the need for a centralized server box.
 
 
It started at Unveiled last night with Belkin’s new WeMo wireless light switches. The $50 switches deliver full lighting control via an Android app, without the need for a centralized server box. It’s all Wi-Fi driven, and even ties into the existing WeMo architecture for expanded functionality. I asked Belkin representatives if some sort of compatibility with full-fledged home automation systems like Control4 or URC Total Control might be in the works in the future, and received a sort of waffling “maybe” that translated into a “no” in my mind.

Allure Energy’s EverSense 2.0 climate control system.
 
Same goes for Allure Energy’s EverSense 2.0 climate control system—a sort of Nest on steroids, with RFID tech that lets you activate wakeup and good-night modes just by setting your NFC-capable phone (Androids, in other words) on a little coaster of sorts—called SyncPads—which trigger sophisticated macros (including streaming music playlists) without even touching a single button. Again, Allure Energy reps weren’t outright grumpy about home automation integration the way the guys at Nest Labs seem to be, but almost acted as if cooperation with the likes of Control4 and Total Control just wasn’t on their radar at all.

Then, today, came news that AT&T is launching a service similar to Xfinity—you know, the sort of telecom-provided, subscription-based home automation systems we’ve seen popping up lately that seem to circumvent the custom market completely by going directly to the consumer.

Acoustic Research’s new Steam Wireless Home Audio System.

The most egregious case of custom market aggression came from the Voxx International press conference today, with the announcement of Acoustic Research’s new Steam Wireless Home Audio System, which was introduced as “whole home music via Wi-Fi and iTunes, without the mess and expense of custom.”

Is that really how our industry is being summed up? Mess and expense?

I think we all get rather used to the kumbaya mentality of the CEDIA Expo, where our market is celebrated and our backs are patted. CES seems to be the exact opposite of CEDIA in every way—but especially in the outright negativity directed at the custom installation market.
 
 
 
Dennis Burger has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics since 1999. He and his wife live in Montgomery, Alabama. 

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4 comment(s) so far...


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Re: CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

Over the years the competency of custom installers/integrator's has drastically declined, especially when compared to the growing knowledge base of clients. This combination has put a bad taste in the consumers mouth.

By Chris dePaola on   1/7/2013 11:23 PM
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Re: CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

For the folks that want true total integration, custom integrators will still be needed for their design and creative abilities. let alone the ability to make all products talk together. I agree that wifi made it simpler for the average layman to get his single system functioning, but that is where the buck stops. Custom Integrators will always be needed for the larger designs and special solutions that only custom integrators can deliver.

By Bob Lieto on   1/8/2013 4:58 PM
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Re: CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

The new reality, as I see it, is that of bias and ignorence. Clearly there are companies out there that are founded by the children of wealthy people who saw the process of custom years ago and thought to themselves "there has to be a better way." Those inventors are now at CES peddling their wares for an ever dwindling consumer niche. Is the disdain for custom growing or is the flooding of the market with a sole focus on the phone in your pocket the true reason for the division? This can easily be considered bias or the realization for custom to get on the ship that is going that way. The Ignorence factor is that of lower wages, fewer jobs, smaller dreams, and the ever present advertising of the big box stores selling evrything at a loss in order to sell a protection plan for the profit. The value of a product has been negated by the word "sale". The limited vocabulary of the people that are now getting into their 30's prevents me from selling fantastic adjectives, defining the spectacular superiority of my products over others. Custom to me has become the lowest operational overhead I can humanly manage, with intense networking geared solely to the wealthy in order to tap the clients that are so busy with life that having me set up the 1 touch system for them is a cost worth paying for. From all the news I have seen, CES has started catering to the people that shop big box and watch DIY. Those folks should not be the custom markets target base anyway. But i gotta admit, that fork that helps you lose weight looks freakin sweet! just one mans insight from southern Alabama.

By DAVID on   1/8/2013 6:14 PM
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Re: CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

There are always going to be people who will install and set up their own equipment but can't match the quality and experience of the truly experienced custom professional.
Now add the complexity of problems associated with interference found in big cities.
I have been in the custom installation business in NY since 1983 and can say without any question this is no picnic. We are constantly being called in to solve problems. often the problems are caused by children or contractors thinking they can design and install a wireless system to by-pass the professional installation company.
Many people think the hard wire infrastructure is a thing of the past. We in the industry know they are wrong especially in congested areas.
I can only speak for NY City but we all know that the same problems problems exist in all major cities.
In any given building we have to deal with multiple WiFi interference coming from next door, floors both above, below across the hall, across the street, traffic cameras, city busses and on and on. On top of all the existing devices add wireless speaker systems private tel cell sites, wireless thermostats and a list of other wireless devices (Wow). We understand that most manufacturers couldn't care less about custom but from where I stand the addition of all the new wireless devices will add to our work load. Custom installation is not for everyone. Our customers are affluent, extremely busy and are willing to pay for our expertise in many areas. A true professional integrator has to be handle many areas from flat screen tv installation, stereo, WiFi, high quality network design, lighting, window treatments and on and on. I believe the good architects, designers, interior decorators and GC's will continue to understand and utilize our services and expertise. There are enough wealthy people around who will continue to use our services so I feel confident the industry will survive.
There are plenty of people who go to Home Depot and still enough people who use professionals.
Enough said for now.
AlanP

By Alan P on   1/10/2013 10:11 AM

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