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Friday, August 21, 2015

By Jason Knott

“The best event I have ever attended.”

“This was fantastic.”

“I learned a lot.”


Those are just a few of the comments I heard from both integrators and vendors in attendance at the just-concluded CE Pro Summit this week at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.

The hosted event had 400 total attendees who networked, discussed business models, sales techniques, software usage, company valuations, competitive factors and more. They also met with more than 100 sponsors who were on hand for boardroom meetings and one-on-one discussions. The group even enjoyed a Potomac River cruise.

Sponsors included: aboutGolf, Ltd., Access Networks, AcousticSmart, Almo, Analog Way, Anthem AV, ATEN Technology, Atlona, AudioControl, Audio-Technica, Autonomic, Avenview, Axis Communications, Azione Unlimited, B3Pro, Belden, Black Box, Bluesound, Bogen Communications, Cose, Bristol ID Technologies, Brivo, BTX Technologies, CasaTunes, Channel Vision, Chief, ClearOne, ConnectWise, CEA, Core Brands, D-Tools, Da-Lite, DISH Network, DisplayNote Technologies, DynaQuip Controls, ELAN Home Systems, ELK Products, Emcore, Epson, Fortress Seating, Future Ready Solutions, Gefen, Herman AV, HTSA, HTSN, IAVI, IC Realtime, Integra, Interlogix, Just Add Power, Klipsch, Legrand, Lenbrook America, Leon Speakers, LG Electronics, Liberty AV Solutions, LILIN Americas, Lutron, Luxul, MartinLogan, Metra Home Theater Group, Middle Atlantic Products, Milestone AV, Mimo Monitors, NAD, NEAR, NEC Display Solutions, Netsertive, Origin Acoustics, Pakedge, Panamax, Paradigm, Pella, Premier Mounts, Pro Co Sound, ProSource, PSB Speakers, QNAP, Revenew, Revolabs, RTI, Sanus, Screen Innovations, Security Central, Security Partners, Sennheiser, Sharp Electronics, SnapAV, Sony, SpeakerCraft, Speco, Stampede, StarLeaf, Stealth Acoustics, Sunfire, SVS, Synnex, T1V, Telguard, Tigerpaw Software, Tightrope Media Systems, Torus Power, TRENDnet,…

Posted by Jason Knott on 08/21 at 07:51 AM
News, Blogs, Videos, Events, CE Pro 100, (0) Comments, Permalink

Friday, August 14, 2015

“No respect… no respect at all” describes the custom electronics industry until we have standardized rules for installation, service and pricing. Photo credit: The Comedy Store

By Joseph Kolchinsky

Why the custom electronics industry is the Rodney Dangerfield (“No respect!”) of the design/building sector: The A/V and smart home industry has no regulation and no systems of rules, guidance, or infrastructure.

This problem goes hand-in-hand with my previous two blogs about the eventuality of IT taking over A/V and examples of how some manufacturers and dealers are still way behind the learning curve.

Other trades have all sorts of rules and standards, including requirements for certifications, inspections, and ongoing continuing education. Architects, for example, have an AIA requirement to take several CEUs worth of classes each year (we even teach one!). The accounting/finance industry has the CPA/CFA and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

Doctors have to go to medical school, participate in a residency, and maintain licensure through their home state. Lawyers have to get through law school and pass the bar based on an accepted set of rules referred to as the United States Code.

Can you imagine what it would be like without these regulations? Sure you can; just look at our industry. There are no such standards demanded of technology. Ask 10 integrators to design a system and the designs will probably have more differences than similarities.

Part 1: Caution: IT Could Eat A/V for Lunch

There is no traditional schooling. There are no pricing standards or expected levels of service. Until the industry bands together, creates standards that run deep, and self implements regulations (or waits for the government to do it), we will never quite be…

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on 08/14 at 07:56 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, (32) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

3 disturbing conversations exemplified how the mindset of some in the industry could benefit from a change.

By Joseph Kolchinsky

Following up on my opinion piece declaring how the IT industry is taking over the A/V industry, in the past several months I’ve had three momentous interactions that tell me we still have a long way to go. My conclusion is that if we don’t change, we’ll be eviscerated like the taxi industry already has been by Uber and like the big car manufacturers soon may be.

Here are synopses of those conversations: Two were with hardware manufacturers, the third was with an integration company that is stuck in its old ways.

1. The hardware manufacturer that thinks it still sells “boxes”

Last year I had dinner with a regional sales rep of a big brand we all know in this industry. Here’s a snippet of the conversation with John, regional director of sales for [Brand X]:

Me: “You guys really need to own the experience in the home. Your hardware is good, but your brand invokes fits of anger from the homeowners who think that you’re the reason their smart home system is so unreliable.”

John: “But we all know that our hardware is ultra reliable. It’s usually the integrator who’s not setting up our systems correctly.”

Me: “I totally agree. But it’s your name on the product and it’s your name that’s actively being sold. So that means it’s your company the client holds responsible when the system fails. When their friend asks about their smart home system, they say, ‘Call this integrator, but don’t use Brand X.’ You guys need to become an experience company and have more control over that outcome.”

John: “But…

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on 08/12 at 11:01 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, (17) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Joey Kolchinsky of OneVision Resources believes the A/V industry is resting on its laurels and standing idle while the IT industry reinvents A/V according to its own vision.

By Joseph Kolchinsky

A common theme this past decade has been that IT/Silicon Valley and A/V/smart home technologies are converging, especially because the network, traditionally an IT system, has become a required system in both worlds. But if that’s true, it’s not happening because the A/V industry is meeting IT halfway ... it’s because Silicon Valley is quickly taking over.

For example, Google and Apple both now have dominant products in the smart home space (Nest, Dropcam, AirPlay) which have replaced existing traditional solutions because they have a fantastic understanding of the user experience. But I’ve yet to see an A/V/smart home company successfully make the leap into IT and either become a respected solution or displace anything in that market.

I don’t think this is incidental; it’s indicative of a broader problem in our industry. A/V/smart home brands simply don’t “get it.”

A recent On Point broadcast on NPR discussed the battle between the car industry and Silicon Valley. Tesla has already won—and in the near future Apple and Google will win—the hearts and minds of the car buyer.

The reason is that cars these days are more computers than they are steel and rubber. Silicon Valley companies demonstrating a mastery of the technology user experience can outsource the commoditized aspects of the product (such as rubber, steel, and overall manufacturing).

In Tesla’s case, it outsourced the manufacturing of its original Tesla Roadster while it focused on the technology and batteries. Now Tesla has started to bring manufacturing in-house and will eventually control the entire experience.

A similar…

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on 08/11 at 04:28 PM
Blogs, Business Resources, Home Automation and Control, Networking, (11) Comments, Permalink

Friday, July 24, 2015

SmartRG shows how a home router integrated with a Vera home automation hub from MiOS can offer Internet providers a window into all connected devices in their customers’ homes for remote diagnostics and management.

By Julie Jacobson

We started EH Publishing in 1994, and for the first dozen years the buzz was all about residential gateways for home automation—or Internet of Things (IoT) if that term had existed back then. There were entire conferences on residential gateways. Residential gateway alliances were formed with committees and subcommittees. Had there been Twitter in those olden days, #ResidentialGateways would be trending.

I never much participated in the residential gateway thing. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant.

And even though I’m still not sure what a residential gateway is, I know we need it. We’ve gone so far outside the house with the Internet of Things – where things communicate with other things inside the house via cloud servers way outside of the house – that we’ve lost the ability manage, monitor and control those things locally.

And when I say “we” have lost the control, I mean you, me and the service provider of your choice. That might be your Internet provider, some third-party tech-support operator like PlumChoice, or simply the resident geek, perhaps your 12-year-old kid.

Here’s the problem, which I tend to bring up to unwitting keynote presenters like the Connected Home chief at Comcast/Xfinity: When my light switch stops working, who do I call at Comcast? The broadband people or the smart-home people? There’s a disconnect there.

“What? There’s no disconnect here,” he might have responded to an incredulous audience. “It’s all the same number: 1-800-COMCAST.”

True as that may be, you still have to press 2 for Internet support or 5 for smart home services. So you press 5 because it’s a…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/24 at 09:55 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, Permalink

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It will now cost you $100 to get into CES.

By Jason Knott

Some integrators were a bit shocked and surprised last week when they tried to register for the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has instituted a $100 registration fee for 2016. Registration opened on July 8 for next year’s event, which takes place January 6-9.

You can’t say you weren’t warned, CE Pro reported the new fee back in May, but it was “buried” in a story about the total audited attendance figures. 

As part of its new “enhanced credentialing” program, any new registrants or previous registrants who did not attend the 2014 or 2015 CES will be subject to new enhanced credentialing and tighter qualification criteria. This means that although individuals may have qualified for registration in previous years, they must resubmit credentials to qualify for the 2016 CES.

To qualify, all registrants must provide a brief description of their industry affiliation along with links to their company website with an employee roster, a description of their business engagement at CES or a link to a current publication or article the registrant authored or in which they were quoted or cited as an industry professional. Alternately, registrants may also provide a business card, health insurance card or other proof of employment verification. In addition, in order to expedite affiliated registrants through the verification process, CES will ask registrants to include a business email address.

But it’s still not too late to get a free registration if you have attended the show in the past two years. Those who attended one of the past…

Posted by Jason Knott on 07/23 at 01:31 PM
Blogs, Events, CES, Permalink


Live Webinar, July 29: Nest Labs and the Custom Integrator: Products, Applications and Opportunities. REGISTER HERE

By Julie Jacobson

Integrators are in a unique position to learn more about Nest’s relevance to the custom electronics channel. The maker of the Nest Thermostat, Nest Cam and Nest Protect smoke/CO detectors will be hosting a Webinar next week exclusively through CE Pro.

While there is a set presentation to go over the new Nest product line, the company will also address some of the questions that integrators want answered.

We can’t guarantee that Nest will get to all of them, but there’s no harm in asking, right?

Here’s what I would ask:

~ Why does Nest care about the integrator channel? Isn’t it all about DIY and the mass market?

~ Can third-party home automation ecosystems exploit Nest’s learning capabilities?

~ What are the benefits of using Nest products within a third-party automation ecosystem, rather than using the automation provider’s own products (thermostats, cameras, smokes and whatever comes next)? Are there added benefits of Nest in terms of feature sets that are not provided by integration-specific solutions?

~ Here’s one from “Jason,” commenting on CE Pro: “Why can’t they figure out how to connect the Nest Protect to an actual alarm system? Especially disappointing since it was a promised feature from the very beginning.”

~ Is there a way for integrators to benefit from the recurring revenue on Nest cameras and other fee-based services that Nest might offer in the future?

~ The early success of Amazon Echo tells us voice-control is a very compelling feature. How about some native speech recognition (and voice response) technology in the Nest ecosystem?

~ Is there anything in particular integrators should know…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/23 at 10:51 AM
News, Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Energy Management, Permalink

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Could this chip be one of the keys to bridging today’s home robots with integration and the Internet of Things? DecaWave says its DW1000 chip provides a new approach to real-time location and indoor positioning systems, location-based services, wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things by providing accurate location awareness and communication.

By CE Pro Editors

Author Mickael Viot is marketing manager at DecaWave.

The decades-old dream of robots helping us around the house seems closer than ever. Today’s home robots may not have the human-like structure of robots from the Jetsons, but they are increasingly able to help us with unpleasant around-the-house chores. The best-known home robots vacuum or mop floors, but others are on the market that clean our pools, clear gutters, mow the lawn, flip burgers on a grill, take a look around the house when we’re out, and more.

The opportunities for custom integrators are not quite there yet, but they certainly may be on the horizon as technologies and products continue to mature. Will robots be another “thing” within an Internet of Things ecosystem? Let’s take a look at the impact of one such improving technology — location and navigation awareness.

Today’s home robots use a variety of algorithms to navigate around a room, cleaning the whole room in a back-and-forth or roundabout manner while keeping track of where they were after circumventing furniture. They also have to detect when they get close to somewhere they shouldn’t go, like to stairs, or to the end of the area that they should working in. For example, a vacuum robot turns around when reaching the end of the carpet, while a mopping robot stops before going onto the carpet.

Robots detect when they’re getting somewhere important using a variety of sensors, including touch sensors, distance sensors (similar to radar), and infrared light (for finding base stations). This enables them to detect walls as they (almost) bump into them, stairs right before they fall down them,…

Posted by CE Pro Editors on 07/22 at 09:53 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Permalink

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Integrators need to look for cables that have been fully tested using independent labs like DPL Labs.

By Joe Perfito

4K is like standing at the seashore and watching waves coming in one after the other. Waves… that’s the reality of 4K. We are currently experiencing the first wave of 4K – “Basic 4K.” My designation for the next 4K wave is “4K v2.0.”

The first wave is video under the HDMI v1.4 spec with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (4K), 24 or 30 frames per second (also known as refresh rate), 8-bit color and 4:2:0 color sub-sampling. The data rate for a 3840x2160/30f/8-bit/4:2:0 is about 4Gbps. That’s pretty easy for a well-made HDMI cable at most any length.

The second wave of 4K started when HDMI v2.0 was introduced last year. My first reaction was how will this new spec affect the performance of our then current selection of Tributaries HDMI cables? With HDMI v2.0 expanding the bandwidth/data rate maximum to 18Gbps, I knew our cables, except for a number of shorter lengths, would not be able to successfully transport the dramatic required increase of data. That would also be true for other manufacturer’s longer length HDMI cables.

Then, HDMI LLC announced that any cable that was rated “High-Speed” would successfully pass 4K. Without any further explanation of what that statement meant, I began a journey of discovery to understand how a “High-Speed” cable rated at 10.2Gbps (some, just barely) could now pass 18Gbps.


First, there was the question of the meaning of “High-Speed.” When an Authorized Testing Center (ATC),…

Posted by Joe Perfito on 07/16 at 09:30 AM
News, Blogs, Wire and Cable, HDMI, Permalink

Friday, July 10, 2015

Check these strategies off your list to help grow your brand.

By Jeannette Howe

Attracting new clients often seems to be the sole purpose of marketing campaigns. Marketing to retain your existing clients and help them become brand ambassadors can be equally, if not more, important to your company’s future and health.

Integrators all rely on word of mouth to build their businesses. But besides possible service orders, what are you doing to keep your business “top of mind” with existing clients?

Custom integrators sell to the early-adopter community and they are never finished early-adopting. The client that bought 4K two years ago is now ready to be dazzled by OLED. Atmos is a huge opportunity for a wildly compelling invitation to hear this new solution.

There is an old adage that still rings true today: “It is easier to sell to an existing customer than to engage a new one.” By using these three email tools you can connect with your most valuable asset and encourage customer loyalty by sending updates, invitations and news.

  • E-newsletters – Provide interesting and useful content on a regular basis to your clients while introducing them to your latest innovations and services. Feel free to muse about the latest technology, but also about music, movies and home entertainment in a conversational way.
  • E-flyers – Keep your clients abreast of new products and services. Are your past clients aware of your latest innovations when it is time to upgrade or look at new solutions?
  • Email campaigns – Connect with your clients directly with important information and invitations aimed at generating demand while keeping your solutions and services “top of mind.”

Customer loyalty is more important than ever these days, with so many options for their discretionary…

Posted by Jeannette Howe on 07/10 at 10:00 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, Permalink

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