Can You Use Commercial Equipment in a Residential World?
Commercial cameras, displays and even advanced networks can often be deployed in homes by integrators. However, control and audio solutions can be trickier.
Often, when an integrator is presented with building plans for a multi-million-dollar home, there can be specifications calling for every possible video source to be driven to each display throughout the home. It is certainly not an average residential A/V install. Indeed, it is a project in which the video and audio distribution looks and feels more like a commercial job vs. a residential one. And you need to be ready for it.
At CEDIA Expo, integrators are exposed to many manufacturers that do a number of similar things to their commercial counterparts, including video distribution solutions, control, and wired and wireless multiroom audio just to name a few. As someone who grew up in the world of A/V squarely in the commercial realm I am drawn to the question of why there is such a difference between residential and commercial manufacturers. Couldn’t the companies I had experience with just make a "residential version" of their video distribution system or amplifier?
The answer is quite simply “no.”
The residential market is as diverse and nuanced as it is exciting and cutting edge. Companies rise and fall with Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and other startup ventures that are promising the next great IoT solution.Taking an all-in-one room system and throwing “home” on the label doesn’t make it a residential product.
There are certainly instances for using commercial products in a residential installation, but there can be downsides to doing so in some cases.
Video & Displays: Ample Crossover Opportunity
Video is a ready-made excuse for using a commercial product in a home install. There are very few residential products that can handle multiple inputs and outputs like a commercial quality video matrix.
Walk the CEDIA Expo show floor this fall and you will see what I mean. There are maybe three companies that have begun to go down this road for home theater setups. However, if you want to get a true matrix environment you will need some form of twisted pair or fiber transportation and the switcher to handle all the inputs and outputs.
Displays are another area where putting in commercial equipment is warranted. I say this knowing full well a number of your clients are going to Google to price check your proposal.
In their bedroom, sure, put in a $300 special from Amazon. Let them buy it. In a home theater or high-profile room, no way. You are going to be talking about 4K or higher in a display or projector. If projection is where you are headed you might need to consider either large venue or lecture hall projectors such as those put into higher education. These will give you ample lumens, contrast ratio, resolution, and the connectors you need.
These are centerpieces for your client. They should be treated as such.
Audio: Not as Easy
Audio is typically taken more seriously in the home than in the board room. I say that due to the prevalence of 5.1 surround sound, Atmos, and other high-end audio solutions that have a bigger foothold in a CEO’s home and probably not in his conference or huddle spaces. That doesn’t mean that the commercial products should be shunned here.
There is a speaker company in Berkeley, Calif., that is highly regarded as the top of the heap. Its speakers have gone into stadiums, churches and theaters the world over. So why not your client’s home as well? Moreover, outdoor audio installations can just as easily be tweaked to allow a small live band to connect to the system for parties. That’s a unique feature to your client’s new audio and video upgrade; the ability to quickly and easily bring on the band.
Control: Using Commercial Sensors
When it comes to control, the home market is typically far sleeker and better looking than commercial. This is usually due to the fact that those who are doing the programming and designing of the interface are in direct contact with those who will be using the system in the end.
There are certain products that we can take from the commercial end to bring into the home to make a difference.
Occupancy sensors have typically been installed in the corporate and education markets to signal to lighting systems as well as building management systems the presence, or absence, of a human. Integrators could take those same sensors and place them throughout the home for various automation tasks. Place one in each bedroom and use them to trigger the lights during certain times of the day to turn on. You can also use them to turn off the lights and all the other A/V equipment in the room when someone has left the room for a certain period of time.
You also are able to register when certain sensors are triggered throughout the day and create a “vacation mode” for your client. This will access the log of those sensors and recreate a day in the life of their automation system, turning lights and other devices on and off throughout the day based on what happens in a typical day.
Networking: Security Is the Crossover Point
Networks are not primarily “home” or “corporate.” They are just networks. There are several areas where you could bring in various switch manufacturers from the commercial side. However, it may be best to simply assess the needs of the client and go from there. The big guy on the block for network switches also makes home versions as well. Does your client’s needs surpass those capabilities? If so, then you will want to look beyond those.
Network security is also an area where integrators can take corporate protocols and apply them in the home. You can setup VLANs for each room, or higher risk areas, apply “guest” accounts for various activities, and give your clients various levels of authentication. All of these are commercial standards that you can make a reality in someone’s residence.
There are a great number of companies and products that market directly to commercial integrators and end users that may very well be primed and ready for the residential market. Just because a manufacturer doesn’t see a fit doesn’t mean you can’t. You are the pro on the ground and trying to solve various levels of A/V with whatever product works the best.
If you run into a situation where your standard lineup of products doesn’t fit the bill, check out some commercial applications. You may be surprised at what is available and give a manufacturer a new market to service.
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Tim Albright, CTS, is the founder of AVNation. He holds a B.S. from Greenville College. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org
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