As many technology integrators know, the best way to demonstrate the life-changing power of home and business automation to customers is to let them experience it themselves, often in a showroom or an existing installation. But according to Wade Backman, president of Sioux Falls, SD-based Digit-All, those solutions still put the onus on the customers—they have to come to you.
While brainstorming ideas to increase sales of the ELAN control system and demonstrate the smart home experience without a massive brick-and-mortar investment, a light bulb went off. Or maybe it was an RV headlight.
"We realized the solution was to bring the automation experience to the customers, instead of making them come to us,” Backman said. “The west is steeped in travel and road trip culture, so what better way to connect with our market than to deck out an RV with the latest and greatest home and office technologies? Now we have an extremely impressive, cost-effective showroom that brings leading-edge tech like ELAN control and SpeakerCraft audio to a customer’s front door and allows them to test out and learn about the options and capabilities on their schedule.”
In less than seven months, the team along with TJ Paige Construction gutted and retrofitted a 38-foot RV into this rolling high-tech experience, complete with a home theater, office conference room, indoor and outdoor audio and video, automated lighting, motorized window shades, a surveillance system, security, HVAC, a wireless network, and full control from any smartphone or tablet. Using ELAN control to tie everything together into one simple system, all of these features are controlled through the intuitive ELAN app on any mobile device, the on-board 7-inch ELAN touch panel or an advanced ELAN TV remote in each room.
“We’ve seen an uptick in demand for boardroom and conference room installations, so that was a must-have for the mobile showroom,” Backman added. “By splitting the RV into two roughly equal-sized rooms, we are able to show off both the residential and commercial applications of all this technology. Whether a customer wants a new home theater, upgraded security and surveillance or a reliable HD videoconferencing system, we can roll right up to their doors and show them what’s possible. In fact, after the first big home event where we showed the RV, several people expressed interest in transforming their own RVs with control and AV upgrades.”
Every part of this RV is dressed to impress. Upon entering, guests are immediately awed by the 65-inch Sony TV dominating the front theater room, complete with in-wall speakers, a subwoofer, a luxurious couch and an advanced ELAN HR200 remote control. Video content is delivered from a Sony Blu-ray player, an Apple TV or a laptop through a wireless Microsoft adapter. When guests’ attention turns past the theater to the conference room, there’s an even bigger 75-inch Sony TV resting above a custom-built conference table. This TV has a special trick of its own, allowing meeting leaders to annotate directly on the TV and save the presentation through the innovative eBeam system, which turns standard HDTVs into digital creation spaces. There’s no need for a digital whiteboard or touchscreen, something Digit-All is excited to show off.
“For about 90 percent of clients, whether homeowners or business owners, these technologies present a new level of sophistication and ability,” Backman continued. “We tried to think of everything, tying in all residential systems and core commercial applications, so every potential client feels like there’s something here that could improve their home or business. With leading technologies built around ELAN control, the actual process of using the system is as simple as using a smartphone, making sure every guest in the showroom can get real first-hand experience in just minutes.”
So far, visitors have been floored by the experience and have spent an average of 25-30 minutes in the RV exploring and discussing the capabilities of the system. Within the ELAN app there are buttons to view feeds from the Luma surveillance cameras, adjust the climate, open the motorized window blinds, arm the security system, control all the TVs and speakers, and make fine adjustments to the custom-built low-voltage LED lighting. For most people, it’s like stepping into the future. But that’s not all.
As frequent vendors at home and garden shows and technology conferences, the Digit-All team knew an indoor-only showroom is nice, but adding an outdoor area would drop a whole bunch of cherries on top of its high-tech sundae. Using a custom-built TV mount, the team installed a 55-inch Sony TV that faces out through a large custom-built window, then added outdoor speakers and a subwoofer that pop out from the underside of the vehicle. It is all controlled with remotes or mobile devices, just like the inside, showing that anything can be done, and giving a preview of the team’s next showroom project.
“The outdoor area is important because it shows we really did want to think of everything and be prepared for every client’s needs,” Backman said. “And after seeing how this RV excited people about upgrading their own vehicles, we’re now planning to build another rolling electronic experience, this time focusing on making the best tailgate vehicles possible. We’re talking big outside-facing TVs, great sound, mobile Wi-Fi, security to protect everything, cooking equipment and refrigeration. We want to show frequent tailgaters, campers, car race attendees and toy haulers they really can have it all.”
Despite the custom work required to outfit an RV with a mobile technology showroom, this approach is saving Digit-All big bucks on marketing and in-person presentations. The benefits really started to add up at a recent home show, where the team had a lot less setup and breakdown required since they can just drive the mobile showroom in and set up a larger outdoor area. This cut the total installation and breakdown time from approximately 100 staff-hours to less than 10 staff-hours, while also ensuring that nearly everything is already connected, functioning properly and ready for lots of hands-on guests to experiment with. It’s a public event setup that most vendors and booth operators only dream of.
“As far as marketing is concerned, the first time I drove this thing around town I got half a dozen phone calls in the first half hour,” Backman said. “The exterior acts like a mobile billboard, while the inside transports potential clients to a world where nearly anything is possible for their home or business. We’re excited to see how we can leverage this even more in the coming year and bring the benefits of ELAN control to as many people as possible.”
The entire electronics system is integrated with an ELAN gSC2, the brains of the showroom, as well as ELAN amplification that power in-ceiling SpeakerCraft speakers throughout the interior. Additional amps and speakers connect to the theater and conference room TVs, making multiple audio zones. A 7,500-Watt Onan generator ensures all equipment, including HVAC, can run in any location, while a standard RV connection allows use of a regular wall outlet for power when available