At Capitol and through the CI industry, everybody who is involved with growing business—and by that I mean all of us—has learned to become a networking expert, or at the very least, hired one or more pros who have the vision and smarts to know exactly how networking fits into the new era of home controls.
From entertainment to power management, client control to security, vendors are well on their way to helping dealers move from traditional systems to 21st century technologies. Yet there is still one area where pros on the front line need convincing, though I'm not sure exactly why: IP telephony. Telephony and network communications are fledgling, yet the level of innovation in this area continues to expand at a near exponential rate. In fact, it's fair to say that VOIP has improved to the point of being nearly indistinguishable from traditional wired and cellular calls.
Growth may be steady, but there are still challenges that to my mind are taking far too long to overcome, with the biggest being the complete integration of phone systems with whole-facility control systems.
The advent of the smartphone as a fully functioning player in whole-house systems has somewhat delayed IP phone adoption. Overshadowed by the smartphone's app-based security and control functions, IP phones are taking a little longer to gain acceptance in the residential and commercial markets. It's baffling, considering that having IP phones on the network saves time and money, skipping the need for dedicated cable runs and related expenses. And, one of the best parts is how it's possible to take advantage of existing cabling when first expanding into the IP telecommunications.
Today's telephone systems can be wired using legacy Category 3 cabling for analog and digital telephones, while IP and SIP telephones are supported with Category 5 and 6 infrastructure. IP conversations require minimal bandwidth, and telephones are easily added as new cabling infrastructure is installed. In short, it's a simple step forward to achieve a cost-efficient IP telephone system for the client while reaping the rewards of a cabling upgrade and hardware sale.
There are numerous benefits to a networked telephone system. Some phones allow users to answer an intercom hands-free. Door and gate communications are popular features as well, and becoming even more so with off-site forwarding and control. Some phones even allow users to view IP cameras, and new features are being introduced all the time.
There are a number of manufacturers leading the charge, with Panasonic being one of the most prominent. Their KX-NS series, for example, is a user-centered system that is much more IP friendly and flexible than the typical product. But even the best products on the block aren't worth the R&D until the professionals on the front line can effectively communicate just how easily IP telephones can be installed and used.