Product and management training is the lifeblood of a custom integration business that is, by its technology-driven nature, constantly evolving. Whether through trade associations, such as CEDIA and InfoComm, or manufacturers, reps, and distributor training programs, learning about the latest tools of the trade, product developments, and industry trends is critical to an integrator’s success.
RTI Advanced Control University (ACU) is held onsite at a variety of locations throughout the country to provide integrators with a chance to get hands-on education in programming with RTI’s Integration Designer software.
For example, at EXPO 2014 in September, CEDIA is rolling out a new entry-level certification that covers the broad scope of the residential electronics system industry and opens the doors to more than technicians and designers getting certified.
“The new CEDIA Gateway certification is intended for anyone who wishes to demonstrate their general knowledge of the residential electronics system industry,” said Jeff Gardner, director of certification and workforce development. “In addition to serving as a foundation for higher level certification, the Gateway certification will elevate the level of knowledge needed by all team members in a home technology company.”
In addition to the new courses and new certification, more than 45 exhibitors will be making their debut at CEDIA EXPO. Other show floor highlights include Rookie Row, High Performance Audio Rooms, and the New Product Launch Pad.
In the lead up to CEDIA EXPO, Core Brands, “Summer Tour 2014” will hit 48 markets between June and July to give the company a chance to connect with its dealers about the ELAN, Niles, Furman, SpeakerCraft, Panamax, Sunfire, BlueBOLT, and Xantech brands.
“A completely re-energized Core Brands is ready to unveil its next generation of products and programs, all of which have been carefully designed to help our dealers and installers build their long-term business base,” said Joe Roberts, Core Brands VP of products and marketing. “Our commitment is to delight our dealers, and this is one show they are not going to want to miss.”
Screen Innovations has tripled the size its building (pictured) and added a training facility that will feature SI products and multiple projector brands.
Firefly Creative has created a new marketing educational webinar for integrators, titled “Is Your Website a Winner or Loser?” to help home and commercial technology systems professionals improve their online presence. Through a joint training initiative, CEDIA and Crestron have developed a new course, Understanding Ultra HD/4K Technology, with an exclusive eCourse version only available through CEDIA Training. This course serves as an important benchmark as the residential technology industry moves to full adoption of Ultra HD/4Kas the standard for display resolutions.
The course covers the differences in Ultra HD/4K technology as compared with its 1080p predecessors and what it takes to successfully distribute such signals. Participants will gain a better understanding of Ultra HD/4K, including the improvements it offers in image resolution, the math in calculating the higher rate video signals, and the transport mechanisms through HDMI. Home technology professionals have the option of taking an eLearning version of the course or an instructor-led version. Both options are offered to CEDIA members and non-members at no cost.
URC offers an array of training vehicles to satisfy schedules of thousands of integration specialists worldwide. In the past year alone, URC held close to 400 live training events by way of in-person events and webinars. In 2014, the company is on pace to blow that number away, according to director of marketing Cat Toomey.
“Currently, we are in the throes of a nationwide tour specifically for the new ccGEN2 home automation line, and have been at it full time for five months,” she said.
URC training includes free live, nationwide training at dealer and distributor sites, in cities across the country via live tours, and monthly webinars. The company’s online school, URC University, is available 24/7 and offers free self-paced courses on URC products, networking, and general concepts that dealers need to compete. Nearly 55,000 courses have been taken at URC U to date. Virtually all of these courses have associated CEU Credits for CEDIA.
RTI Advanced Control University (ACU) is held onsite at a variety of locations throughout the country to provide integrators with a chance to get hands-on education in programming with RTI’s Integration Designer software. A number of topics are covered in these all-day classes, such as designing a system efficiently using the company’s built-in wizards and templates, and integration of two-way communication and feedback.
RTI’s online webinar trainings cover many topics, including a focus on beginning, intermediate, and advanced programming with Integration Designer and more specific topics such as audio distribution, ZigBee setup and communication, and virtual applications like RTI’s RTiPanel App for Android and Apple devices.
The RTI training department is currently in the process of offering new pre-recorded training videos that provide information focusing on specific areas of RTI products, programming, and troubleshooting, according to Tyler Nelson, RTI national product trainer.
Seymour-Screen Excellence is opening its Ames, IA, production facility doors to home theater integrators interested in experiencing first-hand how the company builds its film screens–from basic fixed-frames to more elaborate multiple aspect ratio designs. Here, sales rep Wayne Brown gets a crash course. Following the 2013 launch of its high-resolution, native 24-bit, pure-digital music streaming Bluesound platform, Lenbrook America’s Bluesound training team will be offering reoccurring online training webinars, as well as dealer-specific regional trainings focusing on various topics, such as High Resolution Audio (HRA) playback from both local sources and future cloud based services, moving HRA content between the Bluesound players and Bluesound Vault, and networking solutions for maximizing traffic, preventing dropouts, and speeding up setup. Lenbrook America’s national trainer and technical sales support specialist, Marshall Currier, offered the first round of online trainings on June 24 and those will be reoccurring on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the summer.
Firefly Creative, the full service marketing agency division of One Firefly, has created a new marketing educational webinar for integrators, titled “Is Your Website a Winner or Loser?” to help home and commercial technology systems professionals improve their online presence.
“Technology integration firms are small companies who have primarily grown from referral business and have rarely focused on their online marketing,” said Ron Callis, Jr., CEO of One Firefly. “Due to the large volume of purchasing decisions that now start with an online search, an integrator needs an effective website to generate a steady flow of leads, as well as provide validation for referrals.”
Attendees to this new industry-tailored course will gain an understanding of the current digital marketing landscape, learn the role of a strong web presence as it relates to lead capture, and discover best practices that create a winning website.
During the week of June 9, rep firm End Result, conducted a tour of its Pennsylvania and Ohio territory with Jim McGall from Wolf Cinema and Blake Vacker from Screen Innovations, who provided tips and techniques for maximizing any projector’s performance levels and achieving successful integrations in today’s most demanding home environments.
H-P Products is trying to encourage sales and installation of its central vacuum systems by offering a “Simple Centrals Training Program,” which is essentially like crib notes for dealers considering central vac for their portfolio.
Although not offering a specific training tour, ESP/SurgeX wants to make it easier for its residential-focused U.S. dealers to pursue both light commercial and international sales opportunities, and training is a big part of that.
ICRealtime “Technical Guru” Patrick Carter will help lead several regional dealer-sponsored onsite training sessions across the country.
URC founder and CEO Chang K. Park nearly always welcomes dealers personally to his company’s Harrison, NY, training sessions. “Understanding how power protection and smart energy management can improve the operations of a small business is not much different than understanding how it benefits a home control system or home theater, and we’re equipping dealers with that knowledge,” said company president Shannon Townley. “We’re also developing new tools that dealers can use for monitoring short- and long-term energy diagnostics. Training dealers how to use this information to make add-on sales or sell energy monitoring services is another area of focus we think will benefit the bottom line for dealers.”
According to Tom Coffin, director of business development for design software maker Simply Reliable, his company has revamped its entire training process to better train dealers on the capabilities of SmartOffice Online and Design Machine v3.
Simply Reliable has discontinued the weekly training it once relied on in favor of a more personalized approach. A new user can get started using the video help via the company’s YouTube channel, communicate one-on-one via chat, email, or phone, and schedule personal online training with tech support and subject matter experts.
ICRealtime is offering in-house training at its Pompano Beach headquarters from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month this summer. Representatives come from all over the world to learn more about the company’s new security solutions, as well as the basics of system design and installation. The company’s online webinars continue on Wednesday and Friday at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. EST. Topics vary from basic networking to an IP product introduction are covered in a 30- to 45-minute open forum.
“Technical Guru” Patrick Carter and “Everything Guru” Dennis Hardy also will be packing their suitcases for several regional dealer-sponsored onsite training sessions across the country as well. Then the team will once again host two sessions at CEDIA EXPO in Denver.
ADI offers more than 1,500 training opportunities per year to help dealers learn about the latest technologies. Free to industry professionals, ADI hosts 46 ADI Expo training events across North America which offers an array of training seminars.
The distributor also has been partnering with CEDIA on a number of educational opportunities this year, including intermediate and advanced CEDIA networking workshops in its branches, along with meet-and-greet events so dealers and CEDIA representatives can get together and discuss industry trends. ADI is also working with CEDIA to coordinate the Security Solutions Central at this year’s CEDIA EXPO. Security Solutions Central will help dealers move into adjacent spaces and introduce them to the newest solutions in security, networking, IP video, and access control.
ADI made a multimillion-dollar investment in developing an internal training program for its internal sales staff, and now the company will be offering the same resources to its dealer base. The ADI Academy consists of 30 hours per month of online training modules that will provide an overview and general product knowledge of the all the major product categories.
Atlona had a successful pre-InfoComm dealer/ consultant “mixer” last month at its San Jose headquarters, featuring three live demonstration areas: Atlona Huddle Room (using HDVS-TXWP and HDVS-RX products ), Atlona Conference Room (using HDVS-TX and HDVS-RX products ), and finally Atlona Classroom (using brand new CLSO-612 along with HDVS-TX and HDVS-TX- WP transmitters). The company will conduct a similar event in September in the run up to CEDIA.
Atlona had a successful pre-InfoComm dealer/consultant “mixer” last month at its San Jose headquarters, featuring three live demonstration areas. Seymour-Screen Excellence is opening its Ames, IA, production facility doors to home theater integrators interested in experiencing first-hand how the company builds its film screens–from basic fixed-frames to more elaborate multiple aspect ratio designs. The sessions–by managing director Chris Seymour–include a tour of the factory, followed by an overview of the different types of screen surfaces and design options available today.
Seymour will also offer tips on how to maximize screen size and loudspeaker placement within the room, followed by a Q&A session. Integrators will also get a sneak peak of Seymour-Screen Excellence’s new ambient-light-rejecting screen, Ambient Visionaire, which is hitting the market this summer.
While ICE Cable Systems has hosted webinars in the past, the company doesn’t have any concrete plans for a specific training until CEDIA EXPO. In the meantime, its website homepage hosts a series of training videos, and its new catalog, which demystifies wire and cable, has been a big hit with dealers.
Lutron Electronics offered ways for installers to grow their lighting and shading control businesses with its Residential Opportunities Tour, which hit 15 cities earlier this year. The nationwide tour was designed to offer hands-on training and education for Lutron dealers selling RadioRA 2 and HomeWorks QS total home control systems.
CEDIA EXPO Plans
At CEDIA EXPO 2014, D-Tools will host a Manufacturers’ Training Session designed to educate integrators how to harness the power of Autodesk AutoCAD and Microsoft Visio and other electronic system design tools. The session, titled “Creating a Project in SIX 2013,” will demonstrate to integrators of all skill levels the benefit of creating a system design project in D-Tools System Integrator SIX 2013, and provide the opportunity to gain in-depth insight on how to put the platform to work for their business. The D-Tools training session on Friday, September 12, is worth 0.75 CEU.
Torus Power has created a training session specifically designed to address the needs of integrators, and it will be launched at CEDIA EXPO. Called the “Torus Power Hour: Grounding & Power for High-End, High-Performance Installations,” this 90-minute session will provide attendees the level of knowledge and understudying required to select the most appropriate power-based product solutions for the specific job at hand. Anthony Grimani, Dennis Erskine, and Arthur Kelm will discuss best practices for proper grounding and power for high-end, high performance installations during the session.
Lenbrook America’s national trainer and technical sales support specialist, Marshall Currier, is offering Bluesound online trainings throughout the summer. With its Projection Technology 101 and Projection Technology 201 classes, Digital Projection will offer two levels of training at CEDIA EXPO. The first session helps participants understand their application needs and select the correct projector. The second goes a little deeper by reviewing application examples and highlighting environmental factors, including lighting and screen materials options.
New Training Facilities
Beyond regular training tours and sessions, several companies are building new design facilities to support their dealer education programs. This summer, Triad Speakers will finish construction on the Cinema Reference Experience Center at its Portland, OR, headquarters. Working with industry partners like Datasat, Digital Projection, Kaleidescape, Stewart Filmscreen, and others, this experience center will let the speaker manufacturer demonstrate to its dealers and their customers nationwide its Cinema Reference Speaker system in its native environment.
“Designed for ‘ultra-large’ home theaters, screening rooms, and music rooms, our new facility will highlight the Cinema Reference Audio Experience of power and high output combined with nuance, detail, and musicality,” said Steve Colburn, director of product development and training for Triad.
Pro Audio Technology founder Paul Hales noted that his company has “invested heavily” in a new training facility to instruct its partners on how to properly design, install, and optimize systems.
“Since our systems are installed in some of the largest and most extreme home theaters, we needed an experience center that lived up to the performance of our audio systems and a place where distributors, manufacturer reps, dealers, and end users could all meet to discuss business and just enjoy a killer demo,” he said. “Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation and dogma in the audio industry and a lot of the common practices, though well-intentioned, are in the best cases misapplied, and more often just plain wrong.”
Through its training programs, PRO hopes to shine a light on how to optimally design and install complex audio systems in thoughtfully designed acoustic spaces. To supplement these courses, the company gives each attendee a copy of Floyd Toole’s book, Sound Reproduction. In it, Toole offers comprehensive scientific explanation of what does and does not matter in sound reproduction and invalidates many of the widely accepted, but incorrect, ideas and practices that are common in the industry.
Screen Innovations is in the process of tripling its building size where the company is adding a training facility that will feature SI products and multiple projector brands. It will be hosting monthly trainings with many partners with anywhere from 50 to 70 people per session, starting in August. As part of its training program, Screen Innovations will focus on made in America, where attendees to the facility will experience on-site R&D efforts as well full production.
“We have revamped our training program and we’re going back to the basics,” said Blake Vackar, director of sales. “We lost a whole generation of salespeople focused on flat panels. We want to recapture these folks by educating them with a two-tier approach on two-piece projection.”
Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.