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The Voice ‘Thing’

For the PowerHouse Alliance distributor members and dealers, Internet of Things developments touch many aspects of their business and product categories.

Editor’s Note: For the PowerHouse Alliance distributor members and dealers, Internet of Things developments touch many aspects of their business and product categories. Updates to IoT are constant, but every once in a while an innovation is disruptive and causes a ripple effect across the industry in determining the next generation of products and in how we do business. Voice control is a new control method for IoT devices and AV systems, and is proving revolutionary for CI dealers.

Chad Tierney, general manager & director of sales, MRI Distribution

Dennis Holzer, executive director for the PowerHouse Alliance, talked to Chad Tierney, MRI Distribution’s general manager and director of sales about voice control and how it is changing their business operation and their dealers’ customer relationships.

Holzer: What are you seeing as the biggest IoT trend(s) affecting your CI dealers and the residential market overall today?
At CEDIA 2016, voice control was the clear focus for many manufactures, and we saw this trend explode by the time CES 2017 rolled around. We expect that all smart home systems going forward will incorporate voice-activated control devices, such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or the like.

This trend also affects other areas of our dealers’ business. With cloudbased connection, there is a low-cost of entry for customers because products in this category have become more accessible. Also, many of the devices that are compatible with voice control are wireless, so installation is typically much easier and faster.

Technical support is also easier for the dealer, with advancements for remote management to tap into a customer’s network to resolve an issue. There is less need to schedule appointments and truck rolls. On the flip side, faster installations let our dealers complete more projects, in general, and since the number of new smart home devices continues to grow, there are greater add-on and upgrade opportunities.

Voice control is the clear focus for many manufactures, including Control4.

Has voice control changed how manufacturers are designing products? Has it caused the creation of new products or new product categories?
Yes, absolutely. Our dealers have had tremendous success selling and installing Nest products, and that success was the first indication that our business was changing. Now, every week we hear of a new voice-controllable product being introduced, including recent announcements from Yamaha and Sony. Vendors understand the importance of voice control and are moving quickly to ensure their hardware and software work fluidly in a voice-controlled system like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

New products in the voice control market that we and our dealers are interested in include doorbells, lighting, shading, AV, and even hot water heaters and home appliances. These expanded categories open up more opportunities for distributors and dealers alike, and in a way have created a whole new ecosystem for our dealers to sell into.

As these devices become more network reliant, the stronger the network must be to support them. MRI believes all systems begin with a powerful network, which is why we have certified network technicians who train our dealers on all things related to networking, including how to beef up and build out residential networks with great products from companies like Luxul, Ubiquiti, and Aruba.

How does voice control affect the end user and their preferences? How about dealers?
As household adoption rates of voice control devices continue to explode, consumer demands will change and grow. There are more endpoints than ever on the home network, and customers are looking to control and automate more devices in their systems.

For dealers and custom installers, the development of voice control has given them the opportunity to work with new customers, as well as to sell existing customers new and improved technologies that works with their system. As manufacturers use their marketing power to drive the category as a whole, dealers are now starting to get callbacks from existing customers who are looking to upgrade and add new capabilities to their system. This is the opposite of the norm, and is a welcome change!

Do you see voice control sticking around and developing further?
Absolutely, there’s no looking back now; voice control will continue to develop with supporting products growing in line at a rapid rate. Where it will go in a few years is difficult to say, but I could definitely see VR being integrated.

Just like universal remotes did away with the need for multiple remote controls, voice control is further simplifying system control for our customers. Having the knowledge and expertise on the latest technologies is critical for our dealers’ success, and we all need to embrace new developments and continue to educate ourselves and our customers.