Home Tech Experts at Azione: Trends in Home Automation, DIY, Networking, Millennials

IoT and the business of smart-home data drove a panel discussion at the recent Azione Unlimted conference, where home-tech experts chimed in on everything from DIY automation to Millennials and the “ownerless economy.”


The opportunities in IoT are staggering: Think of everything in the home that is not connected today, like water heaters and propane tanks, says Hagai Feiner, principal of Access Networks, a networking company focused on the home-technology integrator channel.

Feiner was one of five panelists discussing “Where will be in five years?” at the fall conference of Azione Unlimited, a buying and networking group for home system integrators and vendors.

I moderated the panel, which also included Vincent Bruno, CEO of the trade organization CEDIA; Angela Larson, VP sales operations for home-automation developer Savant; Frank Sterns, ‎Sony VP for A/V in the custom installation channel; and Tim Costello, CEO of BDX, a leading marketing firm for home builders and allied trades.

The question was: What should we expect technology-wise in the next five years?

Feiner talked about the myriad unconnected devices that will be connected in the near future.

Costello, who works with virtually all of the leading homebuilding companies, says these devices will ultimately be connected but homeowners won’t necessarily be interacting with them on a personal level.

Instead, “cognitive systems” and “sensor immersion” will ensure the home responds automatically according to the environment and occupants.

More dramatically, Costello pondered whether home builders might subsidize properties in the future in return for the valuable data collected by the sensor-rich spaces.

Related: A Faustian Bargain: Will Builders Subsidize Smart Homes in Exchange for IoT Data?

“Will we make more money with the data than the house itself?” he asked.

Continuing in the smart-home vein, Larson from Savant discussed the role of DIY products in pro-installed systems.

She says the company receives roughly 60 new requests per month for profiles (drivers) for consumer-oriented products.

In the past, she says, “We would see this only in certain [modest] projects. Now we’re seeing it even at the high end.”

On Entertainment

Besides automation, A/V will continue to be a big story in the smart home.

Larson believes that in five years, entertainment will continue to drive smart-home adoption, which is among the reasons Savant has invested in handheld remotes, both for pros and do-it-yourselfers.

She says that nearly 70 percent of Savant dealers are purchasing the entry-level Savant remote for entry-level jobs, opening a new market for integrators.

“Can we use technology so that a new home is more than a new address? Can we use technology to fundamentally change the product?”

— Tim Costello, BDX

Feiner touched on this subject as well, noting that Access Networks – even with its legacy of delivering the highest-performance networking solution – is embracing DIY start-up eero for smaller systems.

“We want to remain relevant,” he said.

CEDIA’s Bruno echoed the sentiment, urging dealers to “still do the $100,000 jobs, but you also have to do the Sonoses,” naming the multiroom audio brand that has become synonymous with DIY.

On the video side, it’s all about the big. Sony’s Sterns says sales of TVs 85 inches and up are selling briskly.

Acknowledging that such TVs are big, heavy and hard to install, he’s looking forward to the trend in roll-up TVs for “great-sized pictures in the room.”

Meanwhile, the processing power behind the tiny computers that power TVs continues to surge, enabling crisper images than ever before. That’s HDR for you.

Look out For …

What challenges or unpopular sentiments might our industry face in the next five years?

Costello urged us to stop looking at “What did we did last quarter” to drive strategy in the near- and longer-term future.

“So much of technology is looking back at the past,” he says.

Here he notes how dramatic shifts in demography and the “ownerless economy” sees Millennials demanding “sensational living and working places without ever owning.”

He wonders, “Can we use technology so that a new home is more than a new address? Can we use technology to fundamentally change the product?”

Boasting that “my drywall is better” doesn’t cut it, he says.

What else should we keep a cautious eye on? Feiner has just one word for us: Latency.

More stuff attached to the network and higher bandwidth demands from 4K streaming and high-resolution audio could yield homes with disturbingly unsynchronized audio and video and slow response to automation requests. Nobody wants to wait 3 seconds for a light to turn on.

Larson takes a more philosophical view of the challenges to come: Be afraid of ourselves. If we don’t learn how to run strong businesses and react to changes in everything from bandwidth concerns to a shift in buying habits by Millennials, we could be in trouble.

And in true Frank Sterns style, he warns us to be mindful of interest rates.

Right now, we’re enjoying “easy money.” Tomorrow, maybe not so much.

The Latest on Azione

Azione Unlimited is a business networking and educational buying group in the home-technology integration channel. The group, founded by Richard Glikes four years ago, now includes 175 dealer members after 10 new integrators were recently added (below).

In all the companies have combined sales of more than $550 million, with most of the members generating less than $5 million in sales per year, and eight members generating over $10 million per year.

They include:

  • HP Media Group, Las Vegas, NV
  • Interseckt Corporation, Coral Gables, FL
  • Adobe Cinema & Automation, LLC, Mashpee, MA
  • Lavish Theaters Corporation, dba Lavish Automation, Healdsburg, CA
  • Electronic Home Environments, Inc., Leesburg, VA
  • Crystal Clear Management, dba Criteria of Naples, Naples, FL
  • TDA Enterprises Inc., dba Technology Design Associates, Bend,OR
  • Cinemaplex Technologies Corp., dba Hoishik, Spring City, PA
  • Encore Custom Audio Video LLC, Sterling, VA
  • Electronics Made Easy, dba Integrated Custom Audio Video, Little Neck, NY

Azione also includes 44 vendor members.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

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




Access NetworksBDXCEDIADIYMillennialsSavantSony