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Imagining a Universal Tech-Support Platform for Smart-Home Pros

Can a merger of Control4 and SnapAV, with industry-leading Ihiji and OvrC remote-monitoring platforms, yield a 'central monitoring station' model for smart-home pros?

Imagining a Universal Tech-Support Platform for Smart-Home Pros
If the smart-home industry moved towards a common platform for remote monitoring and systems management, would call centers like OneVision's spring up everywhere?

Julie Jacobson · July 2, 2019

What’s the biggest challenge in the home-technology integration industry? I mean, besides the labor shortage? It is, I believe, the inability to service clients who have a home full of connected devices from disparate vendors.

Typically, the ongoing service must be provided by the installing dealer – who might be too busy, too inefficient, no longer in business or otherwise unable to provide the prompt and effective service that clients demand of a professionally installed system.

This challenge of supporting systems over the long term creates a big fat stain on our industry. Sick of the upkeep and confusing cast of characters, homeowners who splurged on a fancy custom system the first time-around often opt for something simpler from a mass-market brand the next go-round.

“I would argue that if a homeowner moves every seven-to-10 years, many who had a system [in a previous home] will opt for a more basic system now,” says David Welles, principal of integrator Tunnel Vision Technology Inc. (now part of AVDG via Guitar Center acquisition).

“If you do not have a separate service department that is constantly checking in with your clients you are setting yourself up for failure.”
— David Welles TVTI/AVDG

Why splurge for a professionally installed system when you could kludge together a DIY or semi-custom system on the cheap, with sometimes-decent remote support from Amazon and friends? Or better still … in-home service by a number of local technicians from Geek Squad, Amazon Smart Home Services, Dish Home Services, Vivint, or whatever mass-market machine comes along.

How can we, as an industry, do a better job of servicing custom clients over the long haul? Not just your own clients, but the entire collective? Regardless of which company sold and installed a "custom" system, and which manufacturers provided the goods, an unhappy customer is bad news for every integrator.

“I paid a fortune for this custom system, and it doesn’t work,” users say. “I’ll just buy something cheap from Best Buy and get Geek Squad to install it.”

Often, the thing that “doesn’t work” is a network dead spot or a loose HDMI cable, which the disgruntled client may never know.

Towards a Universal ‘Service Department’

As Welles wisely notes, “If you do not have a separate service department that is constantly checking in with your clients you are setting yourself up for failure.”

Who but the largest firms has the bandwidth for that? When the entire labor-challenged industry is striving for efficiency, why not share a universal service department? That is the principle behind companies like Parasol and OneVision Resources, which remotely monitor, diagnose and otherwise provide tech support for end users on behalf of custom installers.

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In the big scheme of things, though, these companies are small and they service just a handful of higher-end integrators and their clients. They are constrained, and the entire industry is constrained, because there is no “standard” in custom integration and no universal platform for remote managed services (RMS).

When the security industry created a standard for communicating between security panels and central stations, the alarm business took off. In the IT world, managed service providers created an industry around standard networking processes and platforms.

Imagine if we had a standardized method for sharing device data with service centers nationwide for third-party support. Now imagine if consumers come to expect that their smart-home systems will be monitored full-time by a third-party provider – as with security and IT monitoring – for a fee. Would an industry grow up around this model?

I think so. The good news is that we may be closing in on a “standard” with the impending merger of Control4 and SnapAV. The two companies have the leading RMS platforms … by far.

Among CE Pro 100 integrators, 91% use SnapAV’s OvrC platform, and 63% use Control4’s BakPak or Ihiji platforms. Assuming the merger goes through, the combined company could work towards a single platform that the industry embraces. “Central monitoring stations” would crop up as in the alarm industry; custom clients would be well serviced and happy; integrators would rake in recurring revenue; and the custom installation business would be the hottest thing going. There ya have it.

Visit Control4, SnapAV and OneVision Resources at CEDIA Expo 2019.


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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · News · Blogs · Control4 · Ihiji · Industry Insider · OvrC · Pakedge · Remote Management · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by mbaty on July 2, 2019

Can you explain what you mean by “back-end service provider”? Are you just talking about RMM’s and PSA’s or actual customer service?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on July 2, 2019

Exactly, Joey, as mentioned in the article. Same with security monitoring. Let a platform developer dominate for several years as the industry adjusts business models and then (as in IT world), let the back-end guys splinter off into their own niches and competitive platforms.

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on July 2, 2019

Julie - makes sense and agree that standardizing the data flow is a critical component.  Control4’s SDDP protocol combined with SnapAV’s clout combined with all the smart people at both copmanies is an impressive combination and has the potential to move this industry forward significantly.

Another comparable industry to compare this one to is the MSP market.  Just about every successful MSP in the market servicing business’ IT needs partners with a larger back-end service provider to help bring scale, systems, and process to the business.  There are really low-end MSPs who don’t do this (and subsequently aren’t able to guarantee support) but the high-end ones all do it (and guarantee a better service experience to their clients).

Posted by Joseph Kolchinsky on July 2, 2019

Julie - makes sense and agree that standardizing the data flow is a critical component.  Control4’s SDDP protocol combined with SnapAV’s clout combined with all the smart people at both copmanies is an impressive combination and has the potential to move this industry forward significantly.

Another comparable industry to compare this one to is the MSP market.  Just about every successful MSP in the market servicing business’ IT needs partners with a larger back-end service provider to help bring scale, systems, and process to the business.  There are really low-end MSPs who don’t do this (and subsequently aren’t able to guarantee support) but the high-end ones all do it (and guarantee a better service experience to their clients).

Posted by Julie Jacobson on July 2, 2019

Exactly, Joey, as mentioned in the article. Same with security monitoring. Let a platform developer dominate for several years as the industry adjusts business models and then (as in IT world), let the back-end guys splinter off into their own niches and competitive platforms.

Posted by mbaty on July 2, 2019

Can you explain what you mean by “back-end service provider”? Are you just talking about RMM’s and PSA’s or actual customer service?