Networking & Cables

Why Internet Connectivity Matters to You

Capitalizing on emerging IP-enabled A/V devices can help keep your clients happy.


CE Pro Editors · August 14, 2008

One of the most important trends in CE hardware this year is Internet connectivity.

While IP-enabled hardware has steadily grown in the lighting and automation fields, many new A/V products with Internet connectivity have launched in the past eight months.

New receivers from Pioneer Elite and Yamaha use their Ethernet connections to connect to online music services, such as Yamaha’s MusicCAST server or music folders on computers in the home. These are the sorts of features that will likely get your clients excited.

At the other end, several units in Denon’s CI series of AVRs allow for online diagnostics and troubleshooting via Ethernet. I can imagine that this is something that you are more likely to get excited about than your clients, but it’s still a great idea.

While you can always count on forums and bulletin boards for a healthy dose of negativity and player-hating, there’s already been a sizeable outcry about how many early-generation Blu-ray players weren’t equipped with Ethernet connectivity to take advantage of online features.

Clearly, the market is demanding Ethernet on playback devices.

It doesn’t take a professional Futurist to predict that we’re going to see more and more of our A/V hardware cross over to the network side of the business. They will need to be addressed appropriately, no pun intended.

Even if the toys you just installed for your clients aren’t networked, odds are that down the road, the toys they buy from you will be.

So how should you prepare yourself and your clients?

Install Plenty of Bandwidth

As the saying goes, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” So too can you never have enough bandwidth on your network.

Over time, the amount of bandwidth used in residential homes has increased steadily. It will only continue to grow.

While wireless networks give installers a break when it comes to retrofit installs, you need to continue to offer wired solutions.

Speed and security are just two concerns that should prevent you from making an entire home operate on WiFi.

When specifying the structured wiring for new homes, run Cat5 or even Cat6 to a plethora of wall-plate locations, including everywhere you think you’re likely to hang a TV.

Get Involved in the Client’s Broadband Choices

More often than not, CE pros are more likely to influence a client’s decision on which HD broadcaster to go with than their broadband provider.

But if you have ownership over all of the functionality of the gear and are dependent on the broadband connection, you have to give the client input based on your expertise.

As an expert, you need to familiarize yourself with the offerings in your area and be able to help your clients make a well-informed decision.

Focus on the Details

In most cases, automation hardware requires that the household have a static, permanent IP address.

It’s rare, but I’ve heard stories from integrators who overlooked that small detail, and had hardware issue because the home’s IP address was non-fixed.

A dealer I know installed a nearly half-a-million dollar project in a mega home on a lake in, quite literally, the middle of nowhere. The only option was wireless broadband via microwave towers.

Most of the time it works fine, but at peak hours between 3 PM and 7 PM, access slows to a crawl as bad as dialup. In this case, the dealer and client had no other options, but they were unaware of the shortcomings of the local broadband until the finishing stage.

Even being a little forewarned could have saved them some time and effort during troubleshooting.

Capitalizing on emerging IP-enabled A/V devices is neither dramatic nor headline grabbing, but with a little forethought and preparation, you will have no problem taking care of business as our networked world grows.

Lee Distad is a freelance CEDIA Certified Professional Designer who offers design and process consultation to firms in the Custom Installation industry, as well as copy writing and other professional writing services. Lee’s business and industry blog can be read at http://www.leedistad.com



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