Not meaning to sound unsympathetic to those who are struggling with the effects of COVID-19, a panel of industry leaders opined that the custom electronics industry has actually benefitted from the pandemic, both in the short term and likely over the long term.
Certainly, some will consider the conclusion to be cold hearted, but the trio of Hagai Feiner, founder and CEO of Access Networks, JC Murphy, president of Savant, and Bill Lacey, president and CEO of GE Lighting, had a logical analytical discussion as part of the Day 2 Keynote conversation at CEDIA Expo Virtual.
“I believe that the primary change in the marketplace from COVID-19 is homeowner perception of what integrators do and where they fit into the project has changed,” says Feiner. He noted that much of the home-building industry has not been negatively affected by the coronavirus.
“Construction is still the same if you look at framing, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, but now the perception homeowner has about the importance of the technology that’s going into their house has forever changed. And when I say forever, it’s probably in our lifetimes, meaning the people that will remember the pandemic and what their home systems meant for them during this period,” he says.
Feiner believes homeowners will likely continue to invest in their home entertainment systems now, especially their network connectivity with distance learning and work-from-home situations become so much more prevalent from the pandemic.
“I’m in the process of building a home in Santa Monica. I can tell you that the primary focus that we’ve had was, of course, the network but also lighting, music and video. We want to make sure that all of our sources are there. We want to make sure that we can stream and the kids are doing their thing and no one’s interrupted,” he notes.
Feiner adds, “In my view, the clients that our industry caters to have not been affected negatively by the pandemic. As far as our industry sees it, budgets that used to go to trips to France in the summer or taking a jet somewhere are now going into investing in home systems and integration, because your home is your fortress in these turbulent times
JC Murphy agrees with Feiner… with a more introspective angle. Murphy sees the technology in homes almost as a savior for homeowners, not to sound too biblical.
“I think the big thing here is a human nature element. Folks felt very out of control all of a sudden when the pandemic hit. They were forced into their homes, and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do next?’ he says.
“The clients that our industry caters to have not been affected negatively by the pandemic.”— Hagai Feiner, Access Networks
With technology, those trapped homeowners were able to take control of their lives much more fully, which is a good thing mentally.
“If you can give somebody more certainty about what’s going to happen tomorrow that makes them feel better. And I think homeowners and business owners now are saying, ‘I never expected to live through a pandemic. It could happen again, and this is going to continue. So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to take control over my living environment.’”
In addition to networks and entertainment, Lacey sees lighting control and lighting fixtures as a category that is benefitting from the pandemic. He says GE Lighting’s data showed a lot of consumer purchasing light sources (bulbs) during the pandemic.
“They’re making special trips to the DIY centers to improve the light because they’re now having to stay in their home. As a matter of fact, we just came out with a new slogan during this period called, ‘Light the Way You Live.’ You’re not just living there, you’re working there, or even playing there,” he says, adding that “good old fashioned lighting” has been impacted positively by the pandemic.
The panel also discussed some of the negative effects of the pandemic, including the supply chain disruption, but they agreed that those disruptions are much less now. Lacey pointed out that the biggest disruption now occurring is the crowded ports that are delaying the unloading of ships dramatically, causing supply shortages.