Inside Peerless-AV: Not Just Mounts Anymore
Known for inventing the first TV mount in 1964, Peerless-AV diversifies into racks, wireless video transmission and cables.
Jason Knott · December 19, 2012
When you’re the inventor of a product category, it’s easy to become pigeonholed as a provider of just that category. But it is possible to shed that generalization. Apple made the move from personal computers into smartphones pretty successfully, don’t you think?.
Aurora, Ill.-based Peerless-AV is facing a similar transition, trying to make headway on breaking its image as a firm that makes “just mounts.” The company claims to have invented the TV wall mount in 1964 for Zenith (for hotel applications) and the first flat-panel mount in 1998, so it has nearly 50 years of reputation in that niche category.
But in the past several years, Peerless-AV, which used to be called Peerless Mounts, is trying to build new street cred in other categories, including racks, cables and electronics with its HD Flow Multimedia wireless video transmission system.
“The market is just starting to recognize that we are not just a mount company anymore,” says Brian Eble, vice president of brand development and strategy. He admits that “it’s a process.”
“We wanted to be disruptive. We did a lot of testing, hired installation experts and did field test studies,” Peerless president John Potts says about the launch of the HD Flow Multimedia Kit in 2010. “We put a lot of resources behind it.”
The HD Flow product distributes wireless video using WHDI technology. It’s sold both through integrators and directly to consumers via retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. Earlier in 2012, Peerless-AV packaged the HD Flow unit with articulating arms and a tilt wall mount, a mobile cart, projector mount and cabling (including short-run HDMI) for its PeerAir Wireless Mounting Solution. The combination of the wireless A/V transmitter built into the mount can be useful for integrators who cannot run cables due to environmental constraints such as mirrored/glassed walls, historic sites, complex cable runs, or safety/code issues.
The system can beam the signal through a 131-foot sphere, so users can leave the content delivery devices where they are and mount the screen or projector in a different room, a floor above or below, or outdoors. HD Flow has features like reverse IR to control content devices remotely, multi-casting to stream up to four screens or projectors from a single transmitter, and WPA2 security protocols.
Serving 22 Commercial Niches
Peerless-AV actually serves 22 niche markets, with particular focus on commercial markets such as restaurants and education. It has three engineering divisions within the company: Standards Products Group, Custom Products Group and the Emerging Technologies Group. Its 30 industrial, mechanical and electrical engineers are all based in its massive Illinois headquarters, which also houses its manufacturing for its mounts. Peerless received some much ballyhooed press when it shut down its Chinese factory in 2012 and brought it back to the U.S.
Some of the trends in the commercial market include the conversion of digital signage from passive displays to touchpanels. These “digital concierge” kiosks for hotel lobbies allow guests to book restaurants, etc., using the touchscreen and reduce the need for extra on-site concierge staff. (The Four Seasons has implemented several Peerless units for this.)
Other big commercial trends include “high traffic unit” mounts that retract the keyboard and computer against the wall in a medical environment, mounts for outdoor video walls, and mounts made to go on top of TVs for video teleconferencing. In educational environments, HD Flow is making headway for use in classrooms, primarily because it can receive signals from up to five different sources. The company also has various educational mounts in its PeerSound Audio Solutions line with a built-in speaker, receiver, amplifier and surge protector that Derrik Lam, director of product development for the emerging technologies division, says can be installed in 10 minutes.
The company has also partnered with Ciil TV on its Ultraview product, a 1080p TV for outdoor use with no openings. The 26- to 55-inch TVs are fully submersible for 30 minutes because they have no venting.
Peerless-AV now makes multiple lines of racks, along with cooling fans and a rack-mountable power strip. The racks can be designed using the Peerless-AV Online Configurator, and Lam says an integrator can assemble one in less than 3 minutes. Lastly, the company has its own line of cables.
A special project going on at Peerless-AV is its new PeerAir Pico Broadcaster, which takes a signal and converts it to UHF and broadcasts its up to 350 feet unobstructed. The integrator simply assigns an unused UHF TV channel in the facility. In essence, it creates a private powerful TV station for the client. An application might be a multi-story furniture mart that is not conducive to short-distance wireless transmission options. Instead of running wire from floor to floor, the Pico Broadcaster can be used efficiently. The drawback, admits Lam, is that the neighbors within 350 feet can access and view the channel also.
Residential Solutions: Soundbars Are Big
On the residential front, Peerless-AV sees the booming soundbar market as a big opportunity. The company’s new XT Smart Mount Line is ultra thin with cable management for flat panels up to 65-inches diagonal.
“The lighter TVs get, the thinner mounts can get,” says Lam. Indeed, new mounts can be made from aluminum vs. steel because TVs weigh so much less. Lam does not see super thin OLEDs that can hang on a nail on the wall as a threat to the mount industry. “Integrators will still want to use wall studs for safety,” he notes.
The company does not play in the motorized space. Lam notes, “Everyone likes them, but few people will actually buy them.”
For its dealer base, it has established the Peerless Partner Program that allows integrators to purchase protected mount lines directly. However, the bulk of its dealer sales are through distribution.
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org
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