CEDIA welcomed over 100 smart home industry professionals to the London Connect with CEDIA event last month. It event kicked off with a State of the Industry round table discussion which included around 50 people representing members, non-members, trade suppliers and other professions, such as, the Electrical Contractors’ Association.

Kris Hogg, CEDIA Chairman led the round table and focused on key developments within the smart home industry, highlighting the introduction of mass market products and what effect this might have on the CI sector.

The general consensus was that this new tier of home technology products will, of course, have an impact, but that there is still a great opportunity for skilled professionals to install products, and this won’t change. 

Stuart Tickle of AWE expressed the view that the situation mirrors the concern that most people had for the arrival of the iPad and iPhone. The industry thought that these innovations would mark the end of home control systems but instead companies like Crestron, Control4 and URC are thriving.

As Will Brocklebank of Face to Face Digital and Rupert Merryweather of HaveMoreControl pointed out, consumers aren’t that well informed about home technology. There are a group of DIY consumers who are happy to do the research and try some products out for themselves, but a significantly large proportion of end users are happy to pay for the advice, design skills and installation expertise provided by custom installation professionals.

David Smith from SMC backed this view, making the point that home technology professionals are providing a service; they’re not just about products. Customers aren’t interested in hearing about the wires and the various products, they’re ultimately seeking to enjoy a luxury lifestyle that our technology can bring. So, even if mass market products become more popular, there will always be a requirement for great service, and that is where our industry can really build differentiation and business.

As the discussion continued, it became clear that the majority of the audience believed that there are three tiers – the high end market, an upper middle income, mass market and a lower tier of consumers. Yes, we are seeing an increase of mass market products, but it is only the DIY consumers who will know how
to fit these technologies.

It may cut out a few customers, but it could open more doors for installers. Certain products are great, and consumers are familiarising themselves with these innovations, but a simple software update can disrupt their whole set up. It won’t be long before homeowners get completely fed up with these issues. What manufacturers, distributors and installers need to do, is decide on the area of the market that they want to focus on and then do the best they can to meet the customer’s requirements in this area.

Simon Buddle, CEDIA’s Education Director turned the conversation onto wiring. Whatever the product
is, wires are needed, and again, this is where professional installers come in. Simon also announced that the CEDIA Recommended Wiring Guidelines is currently being updated and will be available as a benefit in the near future.

Turning the attention to what clients are asking for, Omar Hikal of Archimedia explained that apart from security, everything else is a nicety. Clients want nice-to-have products, so AV still plays a massive part in what we are selling. Robin Courtney of SMC works on a lot of multi-dwelling projects and took issue with this point in this area of the market. Cost is everything for developers so they don’t want to have unnecessary products installed, he argued.

The state of the industry round table ended on a positive note.

While some attendees were concerned with the latest developments in the industry, many don’t see it as a threat. The market is widening and it is up to each company to position themselves correctly to take advantage of these opportunities.