The smart home is a luxury item to many and dreamt of by the masses. But the means of delivering that experience is quickly changing, punctuated by a significant recent event in our industry: Crestron, a leader of whole-home automation, announcing that it has bowed out of the CEDIA trade show for 2016.
It begs the question, beyond the high-end market, is the "all-inclusive" smart home desired anymore? The story has changed for many; a button press when you walk in the door that turns on your lights, plays your favorite station, and brings the house to a pleasant temperature.
Today, most of these features have become intuitive and no longer need the interaction component. Install a Nest thermostat, and it will learn your temperature lifestyle. Press the Sonos button on your smartphone, and a personalized radio station plays. As for the lights, they’re already on because they are set to the atomic clock. These are examples of separate systems not working together to automate anything. Are they, however, not accomplishing the same goals?
These smaller systems are performing their respective jobs, and doing them each very well—without glitches and rebooting. Add a speaker, change the lighting scene, and no programming changes are needed...no truck roll required.
Sure, a simple macro is cool—one button to turn on your TV and change inputs with favorite stations built in. Today, the new Apple TV demands its own remote if you want to use the voice-activated features. And for those who have gone the way of the sound bar, do they still need a $500 remote? Millennials living in our app-based world will find another way with another app, and you will not convince them otherwise.
You cannot deny the landscape of home control is shifting. So how do we, as residential technology professionals respond?
Stay the course. If you’re the best in your market—keep at it. Sell those complex macros with discreet codes and personalized touchscreens! (Then don’t forget to enter those outstanding jobs for a CEDIA award, so we can all ooh and ahh at your talents.)
Yes, there will always be a need for smart homes in some capacity, because the wealthy will still demand it. I have some good friends in the business who buy bigger steaks and more expensive wine than I do, because they program and install these systems for the rich and famous. In today's AV world, I am questioning the appetite of the masses for these systems.
Diversity: There is no doubt in my bones that as a “technology concierge,” we are required. I realize this every time I see someone take a video with his or her smartphone in portrait mode. Our industry is in great flux. Why did Control4 acquire Pakedge last week? They know the future is the network—supplying wireless throughout the house. It certainly doesn’t hurt that all AV systems these days now live on the network. The public does not really understand what a “network” even is, for it is invisible. Now is the time for us to rise and fill that void. Our experience, intelligence, and education cannot be purchased online.
Stop fighting the Apple TVs of the world and start using their magic to sell yours. When you hang that TV above the fireplace, ask about their Wi-Fi coverage. Ask yourself what you can offer beyond seizing control of the entire house. There is a happy medium, and this is a much larger space than just the high-end world we struggle to grasp.
The choice is yours to make.