Each year at CEDIA, we see throngs of exhibitors emerging from the DIY market to tap the home technology channel for their wares. Some come to the pros after disappointing launches in the mass market; others make the channel a key component of their business strategy. What they all recognize is that the integration channel can sell and support connected devices like no mass-market outlet can, no matter how “simple” the products.
Many of them gravitate to our channel as a last resort after facing too many challenges selling even the mere concept of a smart home or an intelligent device. And then there are the big fails after the sale – fielding tech-support calls, averting product returns, and ensuring a positive user experience that has customers purchasing more products and telling their friends.
I spoke to several of the DIY-centric companies exhibiting at CEDIA this year:
Eero, the brand new and already-popular home-networking solution that employs “mesh Wi-Fi” wants to explore the custom channel not as a last resort – the company has done quite well in the DIY market – but as a real engine for growth.
“I love the pro channel,” founder Nick Weaver tells CE Pro. “They get to do such cool things in people’s homes. People who buy products from the pros, they’re some of the biggest product advocates out there. We’re investing very heavily in that.”
Eero recently announced partnerships with the Catalyst AV group of distributors and Access Networks to distribute its products in the channel.
Other companies like Plex have been around for a long time but want to expand from their DIY roots. A nine-year-old spinoff of XBMC, the free Plex media-management platform streams from lightweight computers or NAS drives to pretty much anything attached to a renderer (display or loudspeakers) including Chromecast, Roku, smart TVs, TiVo, mobile devices and more.
At CEDIA, Plex will introduce Plex Pass Pro, a new $299 service available exclusively through the specialty channel, with dedicated support, lead generation and a custom-install forum for authorized dealers.
“Virtually every integrator is already installing Plex clients throughout their customers’ homes but they might not know it,” says Bob Silver, Plex Pass Pro Program Manager, who adds that Plex provides new opportunities for selling NAS drives and other media-related devices.
Bob Perry, a veteran of virtually all the major TV brands, is back in the channel with Mass Fidelity, a company best known for its $599 Core wireless speaker. Perry, who joined the company as chief revenue officer, tells us the speaker delivers “cinematic sound” through a pint-sized box equivalent to two high-end speakers.
“You really hear it,” Perry says. “The attraction to me as that they solve a real problem. The percentage of people that have bought receivers and installed all five speakers is very very low.”
At CEDIA, Mass Fidelity will also be pushing the original product that launched the company – the $249 Relay, a Bluetooth DAC featuring a 24-bit Burr-Brown processor.
Perry says the product beats out other higher-end DACs on the market that cost much more: “In side-by-side testing, you take a headphone connection to an iPhone or PC, and then compare it to Bluetooth through our DAC, most people can’t tell the difference. That’s how clean it is.”
New Mass Fidelity products especially for the integrator channel will be coming soon.
Similar products are coming to the channel from Riva Audio, maker of wireless speakers that purport to deliver multichannel sound through a single box. The company says its audio technology “gives listeners an audio experience as close to live as it gets by using three discrete channels to create stereophonic sound much larger than the actual speaker size.”
A high-quality aptX Bluetooth streamer called Riva Cast is coming soon to complete the ecosystem.
While Riva's products are quintessentially DIY, the company's new Wand series is especially relevant to the channel, says spokesperson Jim Noyd. “RIVA will be adding margin back into a category that is critically needed.”
And then there are all the video doorbell manufacturers. Virtually all of the new DIY-centric vendors will be at CEDIA this year. Even the quintessential DIY provider Ring is looking to target the channel. While its products still don’t integrate with all that many third-party systems, the company will at least be introducing a flush-mount PoE-enabled solution at CEDIA.
The thing with the doorbell camera manufacturers is that the mass-market providers have big plans to aggregate data from multiple devices for neighborhood safety and community engagement, meaning they need to capture the entire market that includes pro-installed systems.
“We want to be on every home,” says Ring founder James Siminoff. “The more homes we’re on, the more we can impact crime in the neighborhood.”