Opinion: GAFA Spells Doom for Traditional A/V and Smart-Home Specialists

Bruno Napoli of Krika, the service for device discovery and remote systems management, thinks Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (GAFA) and other IoT giants will make traditional ‘CEDIA’ smart-home installers obsolete … and soon.

Bruno Napoli, Krika

Let’s be honest for just 5 minutes: A good part of A/V and the home-automation business is about to switch from the hands of Home Technologists to the hands of big companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA). While we are being honest, accept that there is absolutely nothing we can do against it except to try to follow this IoT locomotive, grab all possible opportunities or just be spectators and continue our business model based on moving boxes.

This fantastic new era started the day Amazon exhibited at CEDIA 2016, the trade show for home-technology integrators.

Because it is going to be produced for the mass market, the fancy technologies only a bunch of us could afford are about to land in the homes of everyday people for 1/100 of today’s prices.

The reason home automation systems we see at CEDIA and ISE shows – the two big events for home-technology integrators — are so expensive today, is because they are produced for a very small market of Home Technologists and their equally small number of clients.

A good part of A/V and the home-automation business is about to switch from the hands of Home Technologists to the hands of big companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA).

Just as there is no need to hire an expert to install a computer, there will no longer be a need for specialists to install all those new A/V and smart-home systems GAFA are about to produce. Amazon didn’t choose to launch Echo in 2016 by accident. It was just in time for the elimination of analog signals and infrared. It is the definition of an industrial revolution – and it is starting right now.

The market is mature now and, trust me, GAFA are real experts in marketing. They will provide user interfaces and experiences that will be so easy to use that even your grandparents will understand how to use them.

You might be thinking to yourself about how much of an expert programmer you are for Control4 or RTI or any of the other great home-control systems in “our” channel.

But humble yourself and accept the fact that you cannot compete with Apple or Google: they literally rule the world and created technology everyone on earth uses all day long.

You Can’t Compete with GAFA Money

Although this change will not be perfect in the beginning, it will work beautifully in the end because the big players are involved now. In one year, GAFA can invest 10 times as much money in R&D than the whole A/V and home automation industry has in the last 30 years.

It’s inevitable and there must be something wrong with you if you think you can fight against this change.

We must accept the fact that for almost three decades, Home Technologists have been pioneers, the Indiana Jones, that cleared this market with a machete, trying to avoid the poisoned darts of experimental technologies from exotic tribes. GAFA was watching us, pretending they were not interested when … Boom! Coming out from nowhere: Amazon Echo in da house!

Did you know that within a few months of its debut, Amazon Echo conquered more houses than the total number of jobs addressed by Home Technologists worldwide in the past 30 years? It’s not that Home Technologists are useless, but just that they do not have the power of GAFA. Whatever crap GAFA sells, customers will trust them because they have been infused, literally infiltrated for several years now, totally dependent on their free products like Gmail or Facebook.

It would simply be a new button in the Gmail or Facebook UI that will let you remotely turn on/off your “GAFA-Ready” air conditioner.

When GAFA suggests you purchase their “$30 monthly service and maintenance plan” – you know what? Everyone will obey, just as people are doing with AppleCare.

You can bet that within one year all major manufacturers will create 100% compatible GAFA products to get the benefit of this incredible worldwide market opportunity GAFA is creating.

The clock is ticking, CES, CEDIA and ISE shows will soon be renamed: “The International Show of GAFA Partners.”

For three decades Home Technologists were the kings of A/V and home automation, but they must realize that their business model must take their place in history now.

They Laughed at Bill Gates, Too

Today, the entire CEDIA home-technology channel caters to maybe 10,000 Home Technologists in the world. The latest CE Pro 100 report for 2017 says the median number of multi-system projects done by the top 100 integrators in a year is 150.  

GAFA addresses the entire 7 billion human beings on this planet. This is the same type of revolution Bill Gates did back in 1980, promising “A computer on every desk and in every home.” At the time, professionals laughed at him. Thirty-seven years later, if we include mobile phones and tablets, we have 10 computers in each house for 1/10,000 of the price.

Back in the 1980s, no one would believe that a 3-year-old could learn how to use a tablet (a “computer”) within five minutes –  a tablet that is 100 times more sophisticated and powerful than computers at the time.

The big difference now is the fact that people are used to technology and the UI provided by GAFA for several years. This time it will take less than five years to come into all homes – not 30 years.

Soon the construction industry will partner with GAFA to provide Google or Amazon-ready buildings. Apple will build entire HomeKit – ready districts. GAFA will have their own university to educate electricians. Yes, you heard me: Electricians will be the people who will install all of the new home technologies provided by big players. Even architects will be GAFA certified!

Big players may not want to hire traditional Home Technologists to install their systems. They need fresh blood and they need people with clear minds that will follow their rules. Seems unbelievable? Did Amazon send their own people to end-user’s homes’ for a “Smart Home Consultation” or did they partner with all local Home Technologists?

It’s a new industry that will create thousands of new jobs and could force Home Technologists to change their business model from box movers to service and maintenance providers because GAFA will deliver their gear directly to end users.

Old Jobs Will Disappear, New Ones Created

Like in all industrial revolutions, when big companies are on the field, all the little ones disappear.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a punishment, this is not bad, Home Technologists didn’t screw up, and I’m not pessimistic. It is the way it is. It’s inevitable and there must be something wrong with you if you think you can fight against this change.

Many industries have transformed in the past and many jobs have disappeared, but many new opportunities were created. When Henry Ford launched the Model T, hundreds of thousands of craftsman jobs disappeared in the horse-and-stagecoach business. Who is going to complain about it today? Home Technologists of today are what stagecoach craftsmen were before the Model T arrived.

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The mass market will never buy any of the brands Home Technologist use today because – except in our “little industry” – no one is aware of them. The mass market will want the stuff they see the ads on TV and only GAFA can afford to play ads on TV.

They’ll buy whatever new fashionable gadget GAFA will command them to buy. One day every Android telephone will have a pre-installed “Google Home app” that will natively talk with all devices you already have in your house. Do I have to mention Apple, Microsoft or Samsung? Can’t you see what’s going to happen soon? You have all the pieces of the puzzle to see the big picture now.

GAFA are expelling Home Technologists from the residential market, leaving them just the very high-end jobs for wealthy clients. Rich people are ready to pay a lot for exclusive technologies that no one else can afford, but what will we sell them when anyone can purchase a 4K 75” TV for $700 at their local Best Buy?

Any kind of exotic home automation system we attempt to sell them would be for naught as nothing would “work better than the Apple home stuff.” Clients left and right will be demanding: “I want an Apple Home Kit system because it’s free on my cellphone, it’s simple, and it is guaranteed to work by Apple!

In less than one year, every time you try to sell a home automation system, your client will tell you: “Sorry, we already have an Amazon Echo at home.”

So, what can Home Technologist do now? 

Even though the fact that this revolution will deeply change the way we are working now, there are still incredible opportunities for people with open and flexible minds. You might have been the stagecoach craftsmen of horse-and-carriage ages, but you have the chance to thrive in all the new jobs created by the Model T era. Be sure you don’t miss that train!

A good start would be to add this sentence on your website and your truck: “We won’t let you down with technology. We offer service, maintenance plans and remote supervision.”

What do you think? Let’s share this article to everyone, let’s have this open discussion about this incredible and exciting new technological revolution.

Bruno Napoli is principal of Krika, a developer of device-discovery and remote systems management. This blog originally appeared on the get-krika.com site, and has been republished here (with edits and slight modifications) with Krika's permission to generate a broad discussion of the changing Home Technology channel.

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