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Working with Consumer-Grade Partners

What are the DIY brands that make your job easier?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how some large, national, DIY brands make integration — and our lives — a little difficult.  This week, I want to take the opposite side of that coin and talk about some large DIY/consumer brands that have embraced our industry and make things much easier for us.

I know some of these choices may be controversial, and some of you may think of them as not relevant in our industry, but the whole point is to highlight consumer-grade products that have made the effort to play well with the custom industry.

First up is Sonos. Yes, I know that full integration is a thing of the past and that we know only have access to My Sonos, transport, volume, and room grouping, but for most of our clients that is more than enough. I had a hard time getting behind Sonos initially, until a very good friend of mine who also owns a home technology business finally won me over after extolling its virtues day in and day out. With the Crestron integration of the Sonos app into Crestron touch panels, the experience feels more seamless to the end user. Sonos product “just works.” If you wire things right and understand STP protocols, you will not have any problems and the system will work flawlessly. Homeowners love it because every streaming service imaginable is supported and it is easily and affordably expandable to rooms that were not wired initially or for retrofit situations. We love it because there are okay margins if you are a direct dealer, support is strong for a consumer-grade product, and we have NO service calls or issues once installed and working optimally.

Another product line that I initially had some reservations about but now use quite frequently is Eero. Granted, when given the opportunity, I am going to a full, professional-grade, hardwired solution with traditional APs. But in NYC, with pre-war construction, no basements, and no attics for retrofitting wiring, Eero has been a Godsend. We used to have to rely on MOCA and Powerline solutions, but now our go-to solution is Eero. And Eero is very CI focused. They have been exhibiting at CEDIA for years and they take our concerns seriously. A few years ago, we talked to them about the need to be able to manage our client systems remotely. They introduced a dealer portal with a dashboard that allows us to see all client systems at a glance and to do basic troubleshooting without having to roll a truck. There is no other consumer-grade solution out there that offers this kind of support for our channel, that I know of. It is also widely available through distribution, so there is some margin in the product, unlike Orbi and Google Wi-Fi.

Finally, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, we love Roku. True, they don’t explicitly support our channel, they do not have a distribution channel for purchasing, and they do not have great tech support, but it just works every time and has solid IP integration with every major control system. I am not sure if it is intentional or not on their part, but they work really well with our solutions and, as a result, are our top recommendation for a streaming device. The only time we end up going with an AppleTV is if the client insists upon it or if screen mirroring from an iOS device is critical. Don’t even get me started on Amazon Fire — we have had way too many issues with control and changes in the integration that we will not even integrate it for a client. We tell them that if they insist on a Fire device, they will need to use the native Fire remote.

What consumer products do you find yourselves using over and over again? Any great finds out there that we should be considering?