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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The rapid evolution of the A/V, security and automation markets now require dealers to have some level of basic networking knowledge.

By Robert Archer

For traditional A/V-based integration companies, the evolution from analog and traditional residential technologies to digital IT-based technologies is profoundly affecting the skills and services they offer in the field.

Installers are now being forced to learn on the fly what should be taught in a controlled classroom environment. Compounding the situation is the action—or lack of action from some of the tech sector’s biggest names—Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others that are driving these changes and taking little responsibility in ensuring the public fully understands the products they offer.

These major Internet service providers (ISPs) are some of the most well known corporations in the tech sector, and they are at the forefront of home entertainment’s new era of streaming media. Unfortunately, they are holding back the mass adoption of high tech products and services they are trying sell through their lack of communication.

To paraphrase Alanis Morissette, it’s ironic these telecoms aren’t communicating with their customers.

Dealing with Common Networking Issues

Fulfilling the promise of the custom install market, network products and services companies such as Pakedge, Luxul and Access Network are stepping up to provide support services to installers and their clients that are dealing with changes made by ISPs.

Brett Canter, CTO of Access Networks, says installers are forced to deal with just about any possible scenario out in the field. He notes that when dealers enter clients’ homes for the purpose of upgrading their networks to perform at enterprise-grade levels, they often have to overcome several major hurdles.

“The primary challenge that integrators face is getting the ISPs’ modems set up correctly. The modem has to be set up…

Posted by Robert Archer on 03/26 at 07:41 AM
Blogs, Networking, Wireless A/V, (2) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What is the difference between an electronic signature and a physical signature?

By Jason Knott

Whatever happened to the integrity of a handshake? Those days are long gone, I am afraid. You have to get a signed contract. But is a customer’s electronic signature the same as a physical signature? Maybe, maybe not.

At least one security company finds itself embroiled in several sticky situations with clients who opt not to honor their own electronic signatures. Indeed, these customers have allegedly figured out that certain free or homemade “e-sign” software programs do not have the “legal integrity” to hold the signer responsible, so they don’t have to pay.

According to Arthur Fucetola, president of ECCO Safety Services in Blairstown, N.J., he has been burned several times by clients who realized that their e-signatures on contracts could not be held against them. Indeed, it gave them the opening to refuse to pay for services rendered.

As reported by legal expert Ken Kirschenbaum of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, who writes for Security Sales & Integration, CE Pro‘s sister publication, an integrator that accepts electronic signatures that do not have “legal integrity” are not worth the virtual paper they were written on, despite the passage of the ESIGN Act that became federal law in 2000 and establishes a federal safety net to ensure that electronic contracts would be legal for interstate and global consumers.

The ESIGN Act, which is law across all 50 states, confirms that electronic signatures have the same legal standing as pen-and-paper signatures, and a contract or record of transactions may not be denied legal effect or ruled unenforceable simply because it is in electronic form.

There is also the Electronic Signatures…

Posted by Jason Knott on 03/17 at 09:28 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, Legal, (7) Comments, Permalink

Monday, March 16, 2015

Seeking Alpha errs in recent analysis of Control4’s (Nasdaq: CTRL) home automation business.

By Julie Jacobson

Seeking Alpha is a reputable stock-market analysis firm that follows, among others, Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL), a prominent provider of mainstream home automation products and services. (Correction: Seeking Alpha is a “crowdsourced investment analysis site, not a stock analysis firm.”)

I follow SA’s coverage regularly because of its smart insights, but analyst Howie Man gets a lot of things wrong in his piece, “Control4: No Control Of Its Destiny.”

The major flaw in Man’s analysis is his premise that professionally-installed proprietary smart-home systems are doomed; however, it’s the little details in his report that make him seem a little misinformed.

For example, Man touts Revolv as a viable $299 DIY system that would put Control4 out of business.

Revolv failed miserably and was sold last year to Nest for what we can only assume was pennies.

Man’s naiveté shines elsewhere in the piece, for example, when he hypes Microsoft’s relationship with Insteon as a threat, when the deal is little more than Microsoft scrambling to do something in this space and picking Insteon as a product to sell in its stores.

Control4, be very scared.

Another example of a Control4-crushing competitor, according to Man, is Verizon, which like ADT and Comcast “began cross-selling automation products to its existing customers.”

RELATED: What Went Wrong with Revolv? Theories on Home Automation Hubs

Here again, he cites a failed initiative. Verizon was the only one of the service providers (AT&T Digital Life, Xfinity and the other cable…

Friday, March 06, 2015

SecurityMan’s DUMCAM uses solar power to make the dummy cam seem smart.

By Julie Jacobson

We’ve seem some pretty dumb burglar-deterrent products from SecurityMan before, but this dummy cam looks kinda smart.

The DUMCAM-SLM is “easy to install and is completely maintenance free,” according to SecurityMan. Because it doesn’t actually DO anything except for sit there and look scary.

Actually, that’s not true. The $46 product shines a 110-lumen light when motion is detected after sunset, making it a “cost effective theft deterrent device used to purposely deter intruders and solicitors with just a fraction of the cost of a real security camera.”

Solicitors. Nice touch.

To power the light and built-in PIR, the faux camera has a solar panel that charges internal batteries (included) during the day.

To make the “professionally designed” camera look particularly authentic, there’s a cable to nowhere coming out of the housing, and labeling that says, “Color Outdoor Camera.”

It’s dumb alright, but I kind of want one. I wonder what my product review might look like: It works! No burglars yet!

See more stories filed under SLOW NEWS DAY.


Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/06 at 12:47 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Security, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Samsung in hot water with EPIC and maybe FTC for privacy concerns surrounding its cloud-based SmartTV speech-recognition engine.

By Julie Jacobson

Samsung offers voice control for many of its SmartTVs. Instead of pressing a bunch of buttons, just say, “Channel up” or “Smart hub” or “Hulu.”

The way Samsung implements and improves its engine is by capturing your voice commands; shipping them to the cloud, where the commands are turned into text or some other format recognized by your TV; and returning the usable commands back to your television, where your utterance becomes action. In a split second, you’ve got that new channel.

The thing is: a third-party service (Nuance Communications, in this case) does the processing so they have your voice, and your spouse’s voice, and little Schmuel’s and Matilda’s voices on file (why does it always have to be Johnny and Susie?), along with the electronics you all are controlling … which is explained in Samsung’s privacy policy for its SmartTVs.

Bear in mind, also, that Nuance captures your voice during private conversations, says, if you’re messaging a friend via voice.

Users can easily disable the voice-recognition feature and change channels the old fashioned way: by swishing their hands to and fro in mid-air.

Even so, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has asked the FTC to investigate Samsung because it “records and transmits private conversations through its SmartTV” (Read complaint, pdf).

The practice is unlawful and deceptive, according to EPIC, which quotes dozens of users like @CSElder, who posted, “@Samsungtweets i will NEVER buy another Samsung tv thanks to your recording feature. You overstep your bounds. #SamsungFail”

It must be true if @CSElder tweeted it.

In its section on “Legal…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 03/05 at 05:16 PM
News, Blogs, Product News, Displays, TVs, (5) Comments, Permalink


By Jason Knott

How bad is the hiring situation? Pretty darn bad.

At the ProSource Summit this week in Orlando, integrators are swapping war stories about the difficulties they are having finding quality employees. One integrator in Southern California says he has let go six technicians in the last six months that did not work out.

Another dealer from Jacksonville just discussed how an employee showed up “high on crystal meth” on the second day of work. That same integrator recently had two young Millennials quit after the first week, deciding they didn’t like crawling in dirty attics after all.

But the ultimate might be a security dealer in New York who is openly encouraging former felons to apply to work for his company, according to a note to Ken Kirschenbaum of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, a security industry legal expert and columnist for Security Sales & Integration, a sister publication to CE Pro.

The compassion to give a person a second chance is admirable, but it shows how desperate the situation is getting for employment in the industry. The New York state licensing law includes a clause that stipulates a person applying for a job must indicate if he or she has ever been convicted of a felony “involving fraud, bribery, perjury or theft or any other misdemeanors or offenses.”

Related: Check Out the CE Pro Job Board

According to the CE Pro State of the Industry Study, the typical custom installation company grew to a median of eight employees in…

Posted by Jason Knott on 03/05 at 12:17 PM
Blogs, Business Resources, Buying Group, Legal, (2) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Don’t think you need to actively growing your business? Thumbs down.

By Steve Firszt

Many custom installation company owners have told us they were “just fine” doing the amount of business they’re currently doing. This is a vulnerable view.

According to recently published research, the smart home market is projected for 17 percent compound average growth over the next several years. To put that into perspective, $2 million in 2014 is projected to grow to $3.2 million in 2017 (a 60 percent aggregate increase).

If the market grows by 60 percent and a $2 million company remains at $2 million, over $1 million in market share will be lost to competitors. There is no such thing as “standing your ground” in a growing market.

There are other important reasons for actively growing your business:

  • A business that’s growing gives customers more confidence than a business that’s not.
  • A business that’s growing gives employees more opportunities than a business that’s not.
  • A business that’s growing gives its owner more options than a business that’s not.

Related: ProSource to Dealers: Grow Smart, Bigger Is Not Better

3 Growth Challenges to Overcome

There are many challenges to growth, of course. Here are three key issues that must be correctly managed to grow sales while also improving profitability:

Financial Planning and Management: This goes without saying. You need quantified goals, strategies for achieving those goals, and a plan for how you will implement and manage the strategies.

Organizational Architecture: People are a huge part of any growth strategy. What should a $3.2 million organization look like, compared with a $2 million organization? We know it should have 15 to 18 full-time positions, but what should those positions be and…

Posted by Steve Firszt on 03/04 at 10:10 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, (0) Comments, Permalink

Monday, March 02, 2015

By Jason Knott

Did the custom electronics industry sign up for a life-long membership in the federal witness protection program? Is recognition for this industry buried with Jimmy Hoffa?

Yet another study has been released that unveils the obscurity of the industry, despite the growing popularity of smart home systems. This is the same mantra that has been repeated over the past decades about “hot” technologies such as home theater, audio systems, flat panel TVs and home automation.

According to a new study from Parks Associates entitled “Key Competitive Elements for Smart Home Service Providers,” three out of every four U.S. broadband households has absolutely no idea whatsoever where to turn to get a “smart home system” installed. Likewise, about 70 percent of consumers have no idea where to purchase a “smart home system.”

This lack of recognition of the custom installation channel comes on the heels of the recent 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where home automation and smart homes was clearly one of the hottest trends at the mega event. But there is also a long way to go in terms of product awareness. About 60 percent of consumers say they are totally unfamiliar with smart home products and smart home services. That, despite the fact that 16 percent of all homes in the U.S. have smart home devices in them.

Related: CE Pro 2015 State of the Industry Report

So here we go again with the custom installation industry perfectly poised to take advantage of one of the hottest trends yet…

Posted by Jason Knott on 03/02 at 02:00 PM
Blogs, Research, Home Automation and Control, (2) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, February 26, 2015

During peak times, reports suggest Netflix and shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the new Black” consume as much as 30 percent of all network traffic. A newly announced ruling from the FCC will ensure consumers receive equal treatment from their Internet service providers (ISPs) to protect the quality of streams during high traffic hours.

By Robert Archer

Fans of “House of Cards” as well as thousands of custom integrators are rejoicing today over the FCC’s decision on net neutrality.

Roughly a year ago the streaming service company Netflix signed deals with two of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs), Comcast and Verizon, to protect the quality of the service its clients receive from these companies.

Taking it a step further, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just announced that it is adopting, “strong, sustainable rules to protect the open Internet.” In a statement, the government agency says that it is ending the uncertain future of the open Internet by setting up rules to promote innovation and investment on the country’s broadband networks.

By taking these steps, the FCC is ensuring that all U.S. citizens receive the same level of service from their Internet service providers (ISPs) after two failed attempts in a court of law.

“Today the Commission—-once and for all—-enacts strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of legal authority to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future,” says the FCC in a press release. “These new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open——principles shared by the overwhelmingly majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC’s Open Internet proceedings.”

The government’s action should be well received by the nearly 58 million Netflix subscribers and the millions of fans of the service’s “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New…

Posted by Robert Archer on 02/26 at 02:03 PM
Blogs, Video, Digital Media, Legal, Permalink

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Unhushables.

By Julie Jacobson

You gotta love DIY home automation and the people who blog about it, and the people who send me links to the people who blog about it.

The two most recent hilariously sad posts concern 1) Nest Protect smoke detectors that won’t shut up, and 2) a Wink smart home system that rarely works *amd* has a typo in its GUI.

Unhushable Nest

In Brad Fitzpatrick’s 6-minute video of his multiple Nest Protects going off, he tries pushing the button on each only to be admonished, “This alarm cannot be hushed.”

The flummoxed engineer yanks each unit out of its base, tossing them all into an ice bucket … and then an Igloo … but barely manages to muffle the sirens.

“Do not buy a Nest Protect,” he writes. “You will regret it.”

The products are, as he says, “unhushable pieces of crap.”

Oh, and Fitzpatrick is an employee of Google, which acquired Nest last year for $3.2 billion.

“I feel that these Nest Protect units are damaging the Google brand & reputation,” he adds. “So I’m defending Google by steering users away from this product, before those users experience the same thing.”

Wonky Wink

And now, the Gizmodo story read ‘round the world.

Adam Clark Estes titles his piece, “Why is My Smart Home So F***ing Dumb?”

Only he didn’t use ***.

Estes’ experience with Wink, a unit of GE-backed Quirky, can be summed up in a word: “Fail.”

But for some of the finest moments, read the captions that accompany his images and videos.

Like these:

“It amazing how much you miss a…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 02/20 at 03:42 PM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, Lighting, Permalink

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