Whole-House Audio Expandability

How to Seize the Profit Opportunity at the Point of Sale With an Eye Toward Future Revenues
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It is not an uncommon scenario to have consumers purchase a whole-house audio system and/or other smart home technologies with an eye on future expandability. This challenges the integrator to engineer a solution that delivers the desired functionality today, while leaving options open for future scalability. It also provides an opportunity for integrators to showcase their design creativity and service acumen, enhancing their relationship with the client for the long haul.

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Autonomic offers a Mirage Audio System that supports up to 96 zones of music–each zone bolstered by 100 watts of amplifier power, access to lossless streaming content, and support for high-resolution digital formats.

Central Sound

Right out of the gate, custom integrators have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from mass-market consumer audio solutions by emphasizing the advantages of a robust structured (hardwired) system. While hardwired music systems are more reliable, wireless systems are typically designed for DIY and don’t offer the same level of performance, reliability, or scalability. The consistency of a wired system along with the convenience of wireless control using Apple and Android phones and tablets create the ideal platform for future expansion. As an example, Autonomic (my company) offers a Mirage Audio System that supports up to 96 zones of music–each zone bolstered by 100 watts of amplifier power, access to lossless streaming content, and support for high-resolution digital formats. Integrators can use the system to get their clients started with a modest multi-zone system, laying the foundation for easy expandability. We refer to this concept as “Central Sound.”

A structured whole-house audio system offers other advantages, including support for high-resolution digital music files as well as lossless streaming content—all without dragging down the bandwidth of a typical home network. And networked whole-house audio components are free from competing with wireless phones, tablets, laptop computers, and other household devices for critical bandwidth. The number of devices in a typical home seeking access to the wireless network is growing exponentially. This is the reality of IoT (Internet of Things), and is all the more reason to offer your clients a structured whole-house audio solution free from interference and other anomalies of the wireless domain.

Once consumers have discovered the luxury and convenience of whole-house entertainment, they often create or import vast libraries of content to accommodate multiple family members, moods, and events. Integrators should be cautioned that some systems have a maximum number of audio tracks that can be indexed on the system. This has nothing to do with storage limits (as those devices don’t have their own storage), but rather a limitation of the processors and software running on them. Your clients will appreciate the flexibility of expandable storage options and sophisticated music management software of more robust, professional-grade systems.

“Whole-house entertainment products have become integral in nearly all of our installations; the enthusiasm for the category and customer satisfaction factor is huge for us,” explained Greg Simmons of Eagle Sentry in Las Vegas, NV. “Clients love app-based solutions because they no longer have to deal with unsightly keypads and volume controls; everything is controlled via the mobile devices they already own.”

Control System Support

Our industry is embracing an explosion of visibility for connected devices, with more affordable smart home technologies reaching a broader audience. These consumers may well purchase whole-house audio today and come back to you for home automation in the future. This makes it imperative that integrators have access to a high-performance, structured whole-house audio system that works both as a standalone solution, as well a within all popular control and automation platforms. Consumers appreciate the flexibility and future-proof nature of making a purchase that is scalable as their lifestyle evolves and as they adopt new smart home technologies.

“Consumers want to be able to control distribution (which zone or zones are active), volume, and source easily; this is what they demand,” Simmons noted. “[Then], each family member can select the content they prefer from each zone and enjoy their music and their playlists throughout the home.”

The Profit Speaks

Another key aspect of selecting a whole-house entertainment industry partner is business model and profitability. Not all product lines are created equal in terms of performance, features, and profitability. Integrators benefit from product lines with good margins that also offer an opportunity to gain repeat business from existing clients, as well as referrals. Savvy integrators will seek out a protected line sold exclusively through a network of professional dealers. This is an important business distinction, insulating integrators from the pain of competing with the manufacturer and/or online discount retail establishments.

With the home entertainment market overrun by so many consumer DIY solutions, it is imperative for the custom integration specialist to focus on differentiation through quality, performance, and profitability. The answer lies in the reliability of a structured solution engineered specifically to become part of today’s smart home infrastructure. Whole-house entertainment is a market segment offering tremendous opportunity to attain new clients and open doors to sales of peripheral products. These are clients who will buy now and likely buy from you again–this is an opportunity for integrators to showcase their technical skills, creativity, and commitment to customer service. Whole-house audio is a vital gateway to cementing relationships with key clients, leading to both new and repeat business.

Michael de Nigris is CEO of Autonomic Controls, Inc.