The Sink or Swim World of Custom Installation

It’s pretty morbid, but with the rapid pace of technology, if you fail to watch the industry and make the right moves and the right choices, your company will eventually wither away.
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Change or die.

It’s pretty morbid, but with the rapid pace of technology, if you fail to watch the industry and make the right moves and the right choices, your company will eventually wither away.

I’m sure you’ve seen this with other businesses before; one day you drive by that locally owned mom-and-pop shop, and the doors are closed and the lights are off. You had been meaning to stop into that store forever, but you no longer have the option. I’m also guessing most of you can rattle off a name of an AV company or two in your area that probably won’t last another five years.

How can you avoid this extinction? When faced with the decision to sink or swim (I prefer this adage to the more morbid reference above) you have to swim like our U.S. Olympians. Learn what is coming down the pipeline and make informed decisions on what will be the next big thing.

Let’s delve into the past before we look to the future…

Flat-panel TVs were an easy one to predict. In less than a decade the entire industry changed from very heavy tube televisions to flat-panel TVs. The demand was so high that prices for these TVs went dropped from $10,000 under $1,000 during this time frame. (Side note: I’ll never forget getting a pallet of 32-inch Sony Wega TVs and being the only one at the store. I’m 5’4” and I couldn’t even “drop” them off the truck. The driver was not very pleased when I asked him to come back later to re-deliver. Today I can get an 82-inch Mitsubishi DLP down – no problem! Strong like bull!)

HDTV was another obvious “life raft” to jump aboard. This technology, which now seems so ubiquitous, offered visible difference that everyone could see (I spent a few years at home shows pointing this out). There was content to back it up, so much that now I cringe when forced to watch standard definition. My precious eyes can no longer handle only 480 lines of resolution. Before it was everywhere, we clamored for ways to record this beloved HD gold so we could show our clients (since back then you could only get HD on some shows during prime time). HD came during the analog-to-digital conversion, so people were upgrading TVs anyway. It was the perfect storm of new technology. How many times did you say to your clients, “All HD is digital, but not all digital is HD?”

Not to say that it was always a happy time. Having a business in a suburb on the edge of the boondocks, I can appreciate how people truly believed it was their God Given Right to have FREE TV in the home. There were a few times when I was yelled at over the digital conversion since the signal just wasn’t reaching their house. Didn’t matter. The switch still happened.

3D… Not the next big thing. Did you drink the Kool-Aid? The manufacturers would have you believe 3D was/is going to be the next major revolution. I look at it as an additional spec in your new flat-panel TV. Use it or not, chances are it’s going to be there.

So, what’s next?

My guess—and CEDIA’s prediction as well as their entire EXPO will be focusing on it this year—is home networking. Your company must be trained and proficient in IT. More and more TVs come with widgets, apps, and are being toted as “smart” devices. Add that to the laptops, smart phones, iPads (tablets to you non-Apple people), wireless printers, Blu-ray players, AppleTVs and other streaming devices, and maybe even your whole-house audio system (Sonos)… These no-worky without the internet and without a solid home network.

Today you might be able to get that all going. You may add a switch or install a wireless router to make your client happy. But what happens when more is added onto the network? The refrigerators, washing machines, thermostats, automobiles, alarm systems, baby monitors… whew! You get the point.

A brilliant man had a great analogy for this. Your network is a like a party. When you only have a few people at the party everything is great. There’s well-moderated conversation and a fun time had by all. Suddenly Mr. Netflix and Ms. Pandora show up from down the street and THEY won’t shut up. They are very interesting and everyone wants to hear what they have to say, but no one else can get a word in edge-wise. Eventually it’s all about them. Things come to a screeching halt.

How many Mr. Netflix and Ms. Pandora’s can you have at “the party” before things get out of control? The more devices we add on to our systems the more robust those systems will need to be. And WE—the AV designers, technicians, and installers—have a responsibility to make sure it works. With great power comes great responsibility. We must sink or swim.

If you think you will be able to get by without these new skills I fear you will be mistaken. You will only be giving your competition ways to steal away your business.

As for me? I’ll be swimming in the pool.

Heather L. Sidorowiczis project manager/designer forSouthtown Audio Videoin Hamburg, NY. 

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