Redefining the role and expertise of the custom electronics integrator
Gordon van Zuiden ([email protected]) is president of cyberManor in Los Gatos, California.
Our clients now expect that they can enjoy a Netflix movie streaming download to each of the main TVs in their home, and they want to manage and control this content by not only using traditional handheld remote controls but also through an array of iPad-, iPhone-, and Android-based multi-touch graphical devices.
In my opinion, the successful integrator in the next decade must have a thorough understanding of three areas to best meet the current and future electronic integration needs of our clients: streaming entertainment products and services, iPad/iPhone/Android control platforms, and the home network.
1 Streaming Entertainment Products and Services.
Entertainment content for our clients is coming from their broadband connection as much as it is from their cable or satellite services. They are watching TV from Hulu, movies from Netflix, and music from Pandora. These experiences are, or will be, delivered from products like AppleTV and Google TV. They will be watched and listened to in the fixed whole-house audio video solutions that we design and implement, but they also will be seen and heard from myriad mobile devices inside and outside the home.
The ESC has to know how to best match this emerging broadband entertainment content with the needs of their clients. This will be a challenging task, because the landscape for these entertainment solutions changes daily, yet we are expected to be the paid professionals that keep up to date with these evolving technologies.
2 iPad/iPhone/Android Control Platforms. The iPad, iPhone, and Android products are three of the more powerful electronic solutions to enter the home since always-on broadband internet services were wired to our residential clients almost a decade ago. In less than six months, the iPad has become a phenomenal control platform capable of integrating the control of intelligent home network devices onto a beautiful 10-inch tablet that has quickly become what author and cartoonist Scott Adams calls our “exobrain.”
Sometime in 2011, the integrated home will consist of a page of applications, such as this example of Control4’s 4Store apps, that allow clients to control everything from lights, sound, TV, security, pool, and hot tubs to viewing and controlling the home’s electrical energy production, monitoring, and usage patterns.
Sometime in 2011, the integrated home will consist of a page of applications that allow our clients to control everything from lights, sound, TV, security, pool, and hot tubs to viewing and controlling the home’s electrical energy production (think solar panels) to electrical monitoring and usage patterns. Eventually, ESCs will spend less time writing custom control programming for a proprietary touchpanel and more time designing and installing of electronic subsystems that deliver the “app experience.”
3 The Home Network. We have become the designers and integrators of digital home networks. Understanding the infrastructure and operating characteristics of the hardware devices that carry the home’s audio, video, and data is no longer an optional skill set. ESCs must know how to install, manage, and troubleshoot routers, switches, wireless access points, computers, and network attached storage drives. The quality and reliability of the whole-house custom electronic solutions that we provide our clients depends upon the skill with which we design and deploy these network infrastructures.
The custom electronic systems contracting channel is on the threshold of offering the richest entertainment, communications, and control products that we have ever offered to our clients. Enabling these rich new experiences for our homeowners will require the professional talents of ESCs prepared to deliver iPad-based control solutions and reliable, highquality digital streaming services across a robust and well-managed IP network connected home.