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Integrators Should Embrace Designer Showcases

Driving around where I live, custom integrators seem to be about as common as Roto-Rooter plumbers and UPS delivery professionals.

Driving around where I live, custom integrators seem to be about as common as Roto-Rooter plumbers and UPS delivery professionals. Rarely a weekday goes by here in Carmel, IN, that I don’t see a CI van driving to a new job or making a service call. The vehicles are a comforting indicator that, at least here in this Indianapolis suburb, business is getting better.

Recently, CEDIA PR director Jamie Riley invited me to the association’s first “Connect with CEDIA” education and professional networking event, held right down the street from my house at the two-year-old Indiana Design Center (IDC). Due to my busy schedule, I missed the presentation and panel discussion on emerging trends, but I arrived just in time for the beer, wine, and light hors d’oeuvres (call me a crafty veteran).

The event, which was the first in a series of similar sessions scheduled for around the country, was a great opportunity to reconnect with the local CEDIA team, Indy-based Auralex Acoustics, and with the guys in charge of sending out those vans that I see around town so often. In fact, two of the integration firms in attendance– One-Touch Automation and Premier Home Technology–are owners of showrooms right there in the IDC. After I had a nice chat with One-Touch’s Ryan McDaniel, Premier’s Ken Irvine took me on a quick tour of his company’s relatively new space, and then invited me back the following week to meet with co-owner Jason Barth to learn even more about it.

During my follow-up tour, Barth told me that when the IDC opened, he and his business partners felt that a move there could provide a spark as the economy improved, and so far, it has. It’s an impressive facility that stands out in a building intended for the top suppliers to the architects and interior designers of the area. Within the cozy 1,600-square-foot space is just about everything an integrator would need to showcase his craft. The showroom, which Premier built itself to avoid competitive conflicts between builders and architects, features 32 vignettes to allow Premier staff to demonstrate 32 zones of a house. One area represents a kitchen, another a master bathroom, and then there’s a “family room” with a $16,999 84-inch 4K LG TV as a centerpiece and a 16×9 projection set up and separate anamorphic home theater that can be compared and contrasted from just the right spot in the room.

The key to the demo space, however, was that it was designed to be controlled entirely through an iPad while Barth or one of his staff walks from vignette to vignette with a client. It offers an excellent blend of state-of-the-art gear in a lifestyle-friendly showroom on par with other high-end decorators, designers, and artisans in the building. It’s the sort of facility where the better firms in our industry, like One-Touch Automation and Premier Home Technology, truly belong. Not every city has a design center, but those that do should have at least one custom integrator in residence. It would be great for business and great for our industry.