Integrator Teams with Mobility Store to Help Seniors Live Independently
Livewire sells home automation and assistive technologies at Mobility Supercenter, alongside stair lifts and ramps.
Livewire used to partner almost exclusively with home builders during the boom years. But these aren’t the boom years. These days, the Richmond, Va.-based integration company is “cutting a wide swath of business because we really got burned in 2007 when we were so reliant on the new construction world,” says owner Henry Clifford. “It almost killed us.”
A wide swath indeed! Livewire has found an unlikely new partner in Mobility Supercenter, purveyor of stair lifts, wheelchair lifts, ramps and other products that help people get around.
With a full-time salesperson camped out in one of the Supercenter stores, Livewire sells home automation solutions for people with disabilities. A kiosk in the store showcases home control with assistive technologies such as sip-and-puff, voice and button devices.
The partnership was born in the Virginia Council of CEOs, where Clifford and Supercenter chief Kaye Crenshaw struck up a friendship. A collaboration made perfectly good sense, according to Clifford.
“They’re an integrator in their own right—converting stairs to ramps, installing chair lifts, etc.,” he says. “There is a lot of similarity because we’re both in home services.”
The first order of business was for Livewire to handle some veterans affairs work for returning soldiers who required home controls modified for their needs. Upon investigation, Clifford discovered that “the durable medical equipment world was using ancient technology. They’re really into X-10 and other older, Luddite products.”
Even the terminology for assistive home control devices is archaic (and arcane). The bridge that links assistive input devices with third-party controllers – Control4 in Livewire’s case—is called an environmental control unit, or ECU. Livewire usually relies on the Primo ECU from Possum, purchasing the product and other assistive devices mainly from AbleNet.
Generally, Livewire submits bids to Mobility Supercenter, which is then free to mark up the products and services as part of a complete mobility solution.
Mobility Supercenter currently has three stores, with additional locations in the works.
“Our plan is to go where they go, build this book of business,” Clifford says.
For manning the first store, he hired someone from outside of the industry with just the right sales touch, Clifford explains: “We wanted someone who had maybe a caregiver’s personality, rather than someone who came from Glengarry Glen Ross.”
LiveWire Assistive Technology display at Mobility Supercenter
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]
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