On a recent lovely near-spring day, I was able to attend the Long Island stop of the CEDIA Tech Summit, which was packed both in the keynote session and on the exhibit floor. In fact, crowd-wise it looked pretty much like the 2019 Tech Summit — the last one I attended.
The keynote for the day was delivered by Google’s Adeel Tufail, and early on in his presentation he said the words that resonated with me and that I immediately knew would be the headline of this editorial — “This the decade of the integrator.”
The reason why we own this decade, he went on to explain, was that technology in the home is no longer a want, but a need. And with that bump in necessity comes the need to have these devices installed and maintained by a professional. What comes so easy to integrators, he explained, is not easy for consumers.
He also made the distinction between smart home and home automation, with smart home being a composite of various DIY-level equipment serving 5000-square-foot-and-under homes and home automation being reserved for the commercial-level work we do for larger dwellings. Tufail sees a massive opportunity for integrators in the smart home area, with a host of smaller clients that require setup and recurring maintenance of these generally simpler systems.
With the first batch of millennials — a generation immersed in technology from the start — now turning 40, it is easy to see where the need for a smart home expert is coming from. However, it is a different type of business compared to the home automation clients currently being served — similar, but different — and integrators will have to decide if is a right fit for their business.
In my early days of publishing, I remember my boss instructing me to go back to a photographer that we wanted to work with but could not meet his rate with the promise of additional work…at the lower rate. You can imagine his enthusiasm; we did not work together.
The same applies here — can you build and staff your business in a way where it is profitable to service a batch of small smart home clients while offering white-glove treatment to the home automation customers? At the very least, it is worth investigating.
Being from Google, Tufail also spent some time on the importance of voice control and how it is changing how we interact with tech and how it will drive customers to integrators. I agree that voice is a big part of the smart home — particularly for seniors or those with disabilities — but I am not sure it is the main motivator here. For the smart home, interoperability is key to a great user experience and as much as DIY products like to say they can work with most anything, custom installers know it is easier said than done.
But let’s not bury the lead here — congratulations on your decade! What are you planning to do with it?
Anthony Savona is the content director for Residential Systems and the VP/Content Creation for Future plc’s B2B — AV Tech Group, which includes industry-leading brands such as Systems Contractor News, Sound & Video Contractor, AV Technology, AV Network, Mix, and TWICE.