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Behind the Scenes: CEDIA Technology Advisory Council

A few minutes with Mike Maniscalco, chairman of CEDIA’s Technology Advisory Council.

CEDIA Tech Council
The CEDIA Technology Advisory Council in action.

Before we get to Mike Maniscalco, a note from the first Chairperson of the CEDIA Tech Council, Rich Green (Rich Green Design):

The Technology Council was first proposed to the Board in March, 2006, by Mike Heiss with the following purpose:

“The same technologies that have enabled us to do business could as easily end up changing our business to harmful results. Through a CEDIA Technology Council we will be able to keep ahead of the curve, manage the changing technology scene, and take appropriate actions to keep our businesses and our Association on a growth curve.”

The defining document for the Technology Council was a mind map created by Mario Leone and myself on October 6, 2006 in a dingy Indy hotel. It describes a CEDIA-wide effort to harness grass roots discoveries into a “digital scrapbook,” which became our first collaborative Wiki designed and managed by Michael Stein. The Wiki gave us insight to trends, opportunities, and threats.

The Technology Council harvested the deep tribal knowledge of CEDIA members and made it actionable.

CEDIA Tech Council – Mike Maniscalco
Mike Maniscalco, chairman, CEDIA Technology Advisory Council

CEDIA: How often do you meet, and what working groups report to you?
MIKE MANISCALCO: We have two annual meetings a year — full day events — but we’ve got the Discovery Working Group underneath us, which meets monthly. We also keep in touch constantly via Twist. The idea is to keep track of current trends and see where there may be issues or opportunities. We also work with the CEDIA standards and best-practices staff.

How do you vet members of this council?
We typically interview people for the Working Group; that’s how people typically get up to the Tech Council. They put in some time in the Discovery Working Group so we understand where their area of expertise lies. We have brought in outsiders to the Tech Council if there’s a world-class thought leader on a certain hot topic that wants to participate.

Do you have examples of the gains the Council’s made?
Publishing white papers is incredibly important, and the podcasts have been huge. We used to be in a situation where we’d meet behind closed doors and the information would trickle out to the membership. But with the help of the marketing team, the white papers, the Two-Minute Tech Reads, and the tech-driven podcasts, we’re reaching a lot more people.

What are the big predictions the Tech Council’s gotten right since its inception?
Well, networking. We sounded the alarm on networking back in the mid-2000s. We told the Board that networking is going to change the game — homes are going to be digital and connected and our membership is not equipped for that disruption. The Tech Council played a big role in the introduction of new classes and certifications to address that — it’s been huge.

Have there been surprises?
The pandemic has been the biggest surprise. And within that disruption, I think there’s a change afoot that can offer some really interesting opportunities for the future. Wellness and health, telework, and e-learning with engineered spaces — all these things that were on the five- to 10-year horizon are now here today. That’s really amazing.

You’re the first volunteer that I ever interviewed when I came aboard. So why have you been doing this for so long?
It’s two things. It’s the friends and relationships and the respect you gain and how much you learn from others.

The other piece is that the Tech Council has always been near and dear to me is because the ideas behind Ihiji were in a lot of ways validated by some of the work I was doing at the time on the discovery working group. It was a CEDIA event that cemented the idea — and it was immediately after what we used to call the “Business Exchange” that we founded Ihiji.

Mike Maniscalco is the founder of the strategic consulting firm Pytheas, and was one of the original founders of the remote monitoring firm Ihiji.