I returned earlier this week from Amsterdam (Integrated Systems Europe Show) with a case of the flu, but a generally bright out look on the state of the custom installation channel. After all, ISE’s show floor reminded me of pre-recession CEDIA EXPO in the U.S., and the talk from both U.S. and foreign-based manufacturers was that on a worldwide scale business is “flat to good,” with flat being the new up. After I left Amsterdam, I hopped over to the U.K. to see friends and family, and though there were economic jitters there too, I still found a lot of silver lining to wrap around the concerns.
But as my illness has got progressively worse over the last few days, so have my anxieties regarding what is increasingly proving to be a global economic crisis. The news reports are staggering and demoralizing, and I admit to wondering if we are all talking a good game in hopes that somehow we will get through this or if we, as a business channel, are ready to face a reconfigured future that sees a shifting model of what exactly custom integration means and takes.
This slide from up to down on my own personal mood scale doesn’t take away from some basic facts, some of which I noted in my early ISE dispatch; namely that there are some CI segments that are still doing well and on a global scale, it still pays to play on a bigger field. Even as there is talk of another Great Depression, there are still many people who want whole-house automation and simpler control options like multi-room audio and eco-friendly lighting choices.
Interestingly enough, one segment of the market that is perhaps under-appreciated is marine installation. Many integrators have been moving beyond home projects to do custom designs and clever integrations on large yachts and boats, many of them so stunning that CEDIA UK has given them their own awards category.
It is also worth noting that while the U.S. is facing its own economic trial by fire, countries like South Africa, India, Australia, and parts of China are now experiencing economic renewal. And while the crisis does indeed touch these regions, there are still many innovations needed to meet this new demand.
I hate to be lied to or pretend something isn’t what it is. At the same time, I don’t believe in giving up or panicking. We are in tough times, but I stand by my initial evaluation that there is still a lot of life left in custom integration and with some creative thinking many of us will make a complete recovery.