“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”—Attributed to Nikola Tesla
The world of residential integration has undergone a fundamental shift over the last few years. We once consisted of high-end component systems, home theater, and distributed analog audio. The skills to properly install and implement were technical and specific but had clear connections to the backgrounds of the folks who made up the industry. Most of us were former musicians and audio professionals that became the technicians, planners, and even sales folks of the channel.
A CEDIA network training class
Even with the transition from analog to DSP-based processing, there was a common thread to the pro audio technologies. Then came the onslaught of digital propagation.
Residential installation has always pushed home automation and delivery technologies to its edge. Unlike our commercial cousins, our clients demanded the innovations work in ways they expected, not just how it was designed. The skills to meet the great expectations of the homeowners required a good deal of granular knowledge, much of which could be imparted with hands-on apprentice relationships.
The implementation of Ethernet networking into the “AV” industry occurred over the span of a decade, but for many rooted in the traditional arts of it all, the pace seemed almost breakneck. As the industry pushed forward, it was clear that many were unprepared and manufacturers under planned support. Hours-long phone support was commonplace as both sides of the conversation walked step by step through setup and diagnostics.
If Not You, Who?
Where are we now? Awareness of home network technologies tops 95 percent, but our implementation and tech support knowledge base still lags far behind. Many people in our business can name the essential parts of a network, but when it comes to understanding how the parts work to optimize the delivery of content, things get a bit fuzzy.
This is not just a specific age demographic issue; the Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials all have large gaps. More troubling is that these gaps are often filled in with assumptions based on a brief YouTube tutorial or by memorizing specific setup methods to be put in place cookie cutter fashion. All is well until a hiccup happens or unintended consequences occur. The old saying that a little knowledge can be dangerous can have serious repercussions to the bottom line.
This is not to say that folks should not seek network installation education through self-paced learning, community sharing via YouTube, social sites, or bulletin boards. Any advance in understanding is to be applauded, but where is the company support to enable your staff to truly excel in networking? Where is the investment in time and money for the folks who you send out to jobsites to become the experts? Or, put another way, how much does it cost to repeatedly send one or several technicians onsite to resolve an issue? Who are you going to pay to solve it all?
Where can staff get great training with certifications that matter? Do you need to have your staff achieve the much-lauded Cisco CCNA, or are there courses that provide similar solid foundations?
The industry has often looked inward for education, and there are several great options. CEDIA offers a very comprehensive set of courses that build toward a certification. The ESC-N is offered online, during the annual trade show, all year long at the main office and, most recently, with regional, in-person classes.
AVIXA (formerly known as Infocomm International) has long offered courses specifically on networking. The classes are written with the help of industry manufacturers. All of the CTS designations include networking components as one of the standard components of any AV system.
CompTiA offers a proven and comprehensive non-manufacturer-specific training in network technologies. While the certifications are not specific to the AV industry, their classes range from those focused on the fundamentals to ever-important network security courses that are divided into manageable segments.
The industry, your business, and your clients need the industry to step up and take on the roll of becoming the experts. Commercial integrators have already had to acquiesce some market share and billable responsibilities to IT departments. Don’t miss out on your chance to be an expert.
In the end, it is good to ask, “If we don’t step up? Who will take it over?”