Business

GAFA and the Future of Smart-Home Pros: Big IoT Will Make Us Different, Not Worse

IoT initiatives by Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon will forever change the smart-home landscape, providing new and different opportunities for professional installers serving the 99 percenters.

GAFA and the Future of Smart-Home Pros: Big IoT Will Make Us Different, Not Worse
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (GAFA) and other "Big IoT" companies will have a major impact on the evolution of professional smart-home integrators.

Julie Jacobson · May 30, 2017

In a widely read doom-and-gloom piece about “end times” for traditional home-technology integrators, Krika’s Bruno Napoli declares, “A good part of A/V and the home-automation business is about to switch from the hands of home technologists to the hands of big companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA).”

In so many words – many, many words – Napoli makes the following claims. We counter (in italics) with observations of our own.

PRICES: Solutions in the traditional custom industry are necessarily expensive because they are “produced for a very small market of Home Technologists and their equally small number of clients.”

Prices are dropping in our channel, and it’s becoming simpler to integrate inexpensive mass-market products to decrease the overall cost of system ownership. Furthermore, custom products are becoming simpler to configure, diminishing the need for expensive programmers. Finally, these products now empower consumers to troubleshoot and configure on their own, reducing the need for costly interventions.

The key is for integrators to explain why their solutions – products and services alike – will provide a “less expensive” option over the long term, saving both money and heartache.

SIMPLICITY: “Just as there is no need to hire an expert to install a computer, there will no longer be a need for specialists to install all those new A/V and smart-home systems GAFA are about to produce.”

Much of the specialist’s job will move offsite, monitoring clients’ homes from afar and troubleshooting systems over the phone, via email and through online chat services. 

There will always be a need for installation “specialists.” It’s just that the nature of these specialists will change – maybe not at the high-end, but certainly the mid- and mass-market. These new specialists won’t necessarily need the level of skill as prior generations, as systems become self-configurable and easier to program. The high-skilled technicians might come in the form of network and cybersecurity experts.

In addition, much of the specialist’s job will move offsite, monitoring clients’ homes from afar and troubleshooting systems over the phone, via email and through online chat services. Much of the job will move to preemptive support, “fixing” clients’ systems before something breaks.

Commenting on Napoli’s piece, a reader responds, “You obviously don’t understand the CEDIA model. Most if not all serve the 1%ers.”

That simply is not true. While most of the 1%ers might be served by the CEDIA channel, most CEDIA dealers don’t cater to that market. It’s too small … only 1% of households.

BIG MONEY: GAFA can invest 10 times as much money in R&D than the whole A/V and home automation industry has in the last 30 years.”

Ain’t that the truth! Those investments – in technology, marketing, e-commerce and logistics – can benefit the integrator channel, but only if we exploit them. That means, for example, incorporating native Alexa in custom products, marketing your services around Apple HomeKit, and emulating the processes that make GAFA so easy to do business with.

GENERATION TECH: For years, we’ve heard doom-and-gloom prophesies for the home-tech channel, but we’re still here, stronger than ever; however, as Napoli notes, “The big difference now is the fact that people are used to technology and the UI provided by GAFA for several years.”

Most of our work over the past two decades has been educating consumers on the virtue of home technology and how to use a system.

Today, everyone knows how to navigate a touchscreen, where to find menus and options, how to get tech support, how to order products and enroll them into a smart-home system, and generally what to expect from connected devices.

Your job now is to exploit what consumers are already know and love about technology – as well as the things that make them crazy – and continue to evolve your business to provide solutions that GAFA can’t … or won’t.


RELATEDGAFA Spells Doom for Traditional A/V and Smart-Home Specialists




  About the Author

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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View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.


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Comments

Posted by Bruno Napoli on May 31, 2017

Hello CLK3RD

I totally agree with you, we have to be careful as no one can predict the future.
But nevertheless, it worth the try to have an open discussion, put everything on the table, try to guess what changes could occur in our industry and figure out how to get the most benefit of this GAFA Tsunami.

As Julie said, we are here to start a conversation. Let’s share our point of view.
Be sure that as a Remote Supervision Manufacturer, my wish is this CEDIA channel to succeed.

Cheers

Posted by CLK3RD on May 31, 2017

Be cautious of overly optimistic projections of what households will want. Current buzz reminds me of past enthusiasm when digital clocks became a hit to where six appliances in the kitchen all had clocks that never had the same time. Most people are of the opinion that they do not need to monitor the temperature of their refrigerator while they are traveling abroad and I certainly do not need to remotely turn a lightbulb from white to red.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on May 30, 2017

Indeed, Bruno, I think you’d agree with my comments here, but you just put them in different words. Indeed, the “traditional” integrator will change ... must change. Thanks for starting the conversation.

Posted by Bruno Napoli on May 30, 2017

Hello everyone, hello Julie,

Let’s not forget that my piece was more a warning for new ways to work and business opportunity rather than a prediction for extinction.

Yep, we are an incredible reservoir of talented people in the CEDIA channel that could help GAFA perform a kiss landing in everyday people’s house. We are the perfect people at the perfect moment. But right now we are also between the hammer and the anvil. The choice is ours: To be smashed or to be the smooth mattress that will gently help GAFA technology to land in all home across the world.

Peace everyone.

Posted by Bruno Napoli on May 30, 2017

Hello everyone, hello Julie,

Let’s not forget that my piece was more a warning for new ways to work and business opportunity rather than a prediction for extinction.

Yep, we are an incredible reservoir of talented people in the CEDIA channel that could help GAFA perform a kiss landing in everyday people’s house. We are the perfect people at the perfect moment. But right now we are also between the hammer and the anvil. The choice is ours: To be smashed or to be the smooth mattress that will gently help GAFA technology to land in all home across the world.

Peace everyone.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on May 30, 2017

Indeed, Bruno, I think you’d agree with my comments here, but you just put them in different words. Indeed, the “traditional” integrator will change ... must change. Thanks for starting the conversation.

Posted by CLK3RD on May 31, 2017

Be cautious of overly optimistic projections of what households will want. Current buzz reminds me of past enthusiasm when digital clocks became a hit to where six appliances in the kitchen all had clocks that never had the same time. Most people are of the opinion that they do not need to monitor the temperature of their refrigerator while they are traveling abroad and I certainly do not need to remotely turn a lightbulb from white to red.

Posted by Bruno Napoli on May 31, 2017

Hello CLK3RD

I totally agree with you, we have to be careful as no one can predict the future.
But nevertheless, it worth the try to have an open discussion, put everything on the table, try to guess what changes could occur in our industry and figure out how to get the most benefit of this GAFA Tsunami.

As Julie said, we are here to start a conversation. Let’s share our point of view.
Be sure that as a Remote Supervision Manufacturer, my wish is this CEDIA channel to succeed.

Cheers