Smart Home…Automated Home…Tech Home… Up until recently these terms have been held for the rich and famous…the upper echelon. Combining audio, video, lights, HVAC, and shades had been difficult, and that equated to expensive. Having a truly custom system always has been a challenging feat because technology is not a perfect science. Today, we are on the precipice of change.
As seen at CEDIA EXPO
Walking the floor at CEDIA EXPO this year we saw that the major manufacturers released new updates, with completely new looks to their products. Control4 released OS 2.6, URC released two new apps for Total Control, and of course, there was the super release of Creston Pyng. These major releases are not only bringing down prices, but offering more design simplicity to the masses. It was not hardware that was king, but software that was creating ubiquity throughout the subsystems that dominated the show floor. It was software that you would download onto your already purchased smart devices instead of a push to buy new touchscreens that dominated the messages from control companies at the show.
Manufacturers know the future is on our smart devices, and they are jockeying for the best position. This was seen by the purchase of Extra Vegetables by Control4 and the disappearance of those modules from URC’s devices and then their reappearance for 30 days.
As Alluded to by Apple
Apple’s event on Thursday did not mention HomeKit, but the company did talk all about its ecosystem in the home. Just this morning a call came through on my mobile phone, my laptop, and my iPad—it rang through my house and was easy to pick up from anywhere. I see this build out of their ecosystem as putting together a foundation for what HomeKit can, and will be. Have you seen AppleTV lately? This small $99 part that bridges your Apple devices to your TV went from a few apps to an abundance of apps, making cord cutting more accessible. The more Apple masters this, the more we look to Apple TV as our “menu” when watching TV and the more open Apple will be to adding on other devices to the home.
Tim Cook ended Thursday’s event talking about their ecosystem between their hardware and software. He told the world he wanted a “magical experience for customer(s),” and I am betting most of the world is looking for a magical experience with technology. Apple certainly has the money in the bank to do it.
“And we are just getting started…” he declared as he ended his presentation.
As the Need Demands It
Think about it, why isn’t automation in more homes? My outdoor lights should come on at dark and turn off at midnight. I should not have four switches to turn on different lights in my kitchen; I should have one switch with four settings. We are habitual creatures, so how hard can it be in today’s world to run an algorithm to crack our code? What if we wore a device that told the house where we were? (Could it be the iWatch?) Think of the possibilities.
Now before you comment below on how there are devices, components, and software on today’s market that can make these things happen, think about the masses and the price. Certainly Crestron Pyng may be the answer, but until they can marry with audio and video control, it is not a fully integrated system.
What Does This Mean to Us?
Will integrators cease to exist in this new world? Did plumbers disappear when Home Depot opened allowing people to remodel their bathrooms themselves? No. According to CEDIA Benchmarking Survey, “Systems Integration/AV Installation companies ended 2013 with a 15 percent increase in gross revenue and expect 2014 to end with a 20 percent increase over 2013.” Our industry is shifting from hardware sales to service/labor sales as, “38% indicate a moderate increase in service/labor sales (up from 29 percent in 2013) and 23 perfect indicate a moderate decline in hardware sales…” We just need to remember to sell solutions, not products—products you can get anywhere. The right solution is priceless.
Automation, as we know it is changing; now is the time to learn, understand, reposition, and grow.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.