"Own the Network, Own the Home" was our EXPO tagline only a few short years ago, and today we are presented with "Hyperchange" as CEDIA EXPO 2014 begins. In only a few short years, we have seen networking companies — a once small section of our industry — rise from a booth or two to almost a dozen across the show floor. Although it seems like some of these companies have just popped up, they’ve been around longer than we think; many are celebrating ten years plus of service.
The rise of this technology (invisible to our clients) has become the foundation that the rest of our systems live upon, and is still continuing to grow, morph, and change.
As a dealer, I can say one of the largest hurdles to overcome is price point. How do you convince your client to pay for something they believe they are getting for free from their internet service provider (ISP)? I once had a client tell me I was trying to "rob" him when I presented him with a quote for over a grand for a network system — and this was after he had purchased a control system for upwards of twenty thousand dollars. After failing to convince him, and multiple road calls throughout the first year, he recently sent me a message, “I would like to look at that network quote you sent me last year again.” To me, this says that times are beginning to shift. And now is the time for us, the custom installer, to capitalize upon it.
Here is noteworthy news coming from a few of these companies we need to partner with:
Pakedge: I can’t mention this company without mentioning that they have finally released their new RE-1 Router. I won’t go into spec’s here, but I will say this is a game changer to their line up, as it comes in at an MSRP around $500. A router is like a traffic cop controlling the flow of traffic, or information, in and out of the house. The Rent-a-Cops (i.e., free all-in-one routers with wireless that you get with your ISP) do the job well enough, yet, sometimes cause traffic jams and a bogged down system. With solid companies like Pakedge bringing this price point to the market, we are finally able to sell the average consumer the right product for the right price.
Luxul: Did you know that Luxul started out as an ISP? Maybe this is why Luxul’s focus is education first. (Insider tip: you don’t need to be a dealer to take advantage of their online trainings.) Their most famous class, "How to Build a Kick-Ass Network in 30 Minutes,” has been taken by hundreds, and they don’t stop there. They have three webinars a month, and did I mention they are free to anyone? Luxul also has price points accessible to all to build the network needed to support the future.
Access Networks: Anyone who knows Access Networks, knows that they are the Ferrari of the network world. With their white glove service, they are second to none in both the redundancy of their systems and the support they provide. “You can’t drive a great car without great tires,” tells Sara Fleishman, vice president of marketing. Furthermore, they’re bringing their line to mass-market arena with the launch of their e-commerce site, which will be launching this fall. Not only will you be able to order entire systems from their site, but you will also be able to dip your toe into this truly enterprise grade product line with just a part or two; all while providing you with the same support you’ve come to associate with the company.
Legrand: Even companies like Legrand are out to make your network better. Legrand is doing this in creative ways. They now offer MOCA products as well as power line network, a technology they claim is better than ever before. Yes, it may be susceptible to environments with induction motors and water and heat pumps, but it does provide a solution where there may not have been an option previously.
Companies like ihiji (secret just for you: review from yours truly coming soon), Dlink, Netgear, and others are also out there with new and exciting products and should not be overlooked.
Cisco now estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 (the IoT is coming!), and yet the client is just starting to understand the importance of the network. They are just beginning to see the light (or maybe it’s the fiber optics?). Switches, routers, WAPs — these are terms that you and your team not only need to know but to understand what is their imperative need within the home. Hyperchange is here; it is wise they find a partner to grow with today.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.