Volume 13, Issue 20 — October 26, 2016
|The Three Most Dangerous Integrator Mindsets|
By Mark Coxon
I have the opportunity to work with an amazing group of integrators here in Southern California. Their expertise vary widely, their company cultures can run the gamut, and they range in size from a handful to hundreds of employees. I also worked on the integration side of AV from 2002 to 2012, and those three integrators were very different in many ways as well.
Given all this, I can tell you there is not one universal formula for success on the integration side of the business. If anyone tells you there is, run for the hills because you’re about to get a truckload of manure dumped on you. On the flip side, I can say with certainty that there are three integrator mindsets that can be dangerous to the future success of an integration firm. In an effort to help anyone reading recognize and perhaps mitigate them in their businesses, I am sharing them here.
If you have tried this approach to your integration business you already know it’s a bad idea. It’s impossible to be everything to everybody. Expanding your business outside of it’s core competency is not typically a good idea. Many sales and marketing books cite examples of why specialization is such a key part of many companies’ successes. I’ve written about this many times before as well. We all know a customer who hired the integrator that did his home system to do his high-rise or vice versa (and then kicked themselves repeatedly afterward).
The takeaway here? Not all revenue is good revenue. Isolate your strengths, where you add the most value and what type of clients you have had the most success with and then focus on throwing your hat in the ring on those jobs. You can still grow into new verticals, but just make sure your core competencies line up to create the best opportunity for success.
“Bring it in and we’ll figure it out.”
As a career sales professional, I have heard this before. The company is hungry for success and growth and they enlist the sales people to go get the elephant and assure them that they’ll be prepared to deal with it by the time it comes in.
I had this happen in my first commercial job. The integrator I worked for had residential chops and I leveraged some personal relationships to get the opportunity to bid a large commercial job with multiple floors of a high rise, various conference rooms including a two projector edge-blended boardroom, and a 540 speaker distributed audio and sound-masking system. When I was awarded the project I approached the president and asked if we should accept the contract. The answer?
“Bring it in and we’ll figure it out.”
I brought it in alright and then the promised resources weren’t given. I had to “figure it out” myself, which I eventually did. Needless to say, in a future situation where I was told the same thing, I decided not to “bring it in,” as I didn’t want to damage our client relationship by overstepping our capabilities. I referred someone else instead.
Even if you are looking at a job in a vertical you are familiar with and have success in, avoid the “bring it in and we”ll figure it out” mindset. Instead, build your capabilities and contingency plans first. Test those capabilities and processes in smaller ways and then once you’re ready, send your sales people elephant hunting confident that the “figuring out” is already done.
“Someone Else’s Problem”
In a world of increasingly commoditized products, one thing that successful integrators have in common today is that their clients see them as partners and not vendors. One of the quickest ways to go from being a partner to being a vendor again is to shift responsibility by saying that’s “someone else’s problem.” Many times it may actually be the truth, I get it, but it’s the last thing you ever want to say out loud to your client. It says clearly to the client that “you’re on you’re own on this one.” That is not partnership.
A better approach when confronted with an issue that may not be yours is to offer advice. If the client comes to you with an issue, say: “That sounds like a an important thing to get fixed. Why don’t we look at it together to see if there is something I can do to help or if it may be better addressed by one of the other partners on this project?”
This maintains your position as a partner while not increasing your responsibility for fixing things you were not contracted to do. It allows you and the client to explore the issue and solutions together to determine the best resolution. What says “partner” more than that?
As you can see, there may not be a magic bullet for success in every project, however avoiding these three common pitfalls can greatly increase your chances. If you can stick to your core competencies, refrain from biting off more than you know you can chew and maintain a partnership with your clients, you may just find yourself being wildly successful.
We’d all love to hear your comments and stories. Please share them in the comments below.
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|Are You Thinking Ahead? The Smartphone Is Killing the Large-Screen TV|
By Gary Kayye
In case you haven’t been paying attention, your kids are watching nearly all their entertainment (TV, movies, sports, etc.) on their phones. Oh, and by the way, they’re also using their phones for Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, too.
Well, that number is moving up — up in age.
Five years ago, the average 25-year old watched entertainment content on their phone less than 20 percent of the time. Today, that number is over 50 percent. And, the same trend is moving up towards 30 and 35 year olds, too.
You can deny it and die OR adapt. I think adapt is best.
The future of the HomeAV market isn’t entertainment. So, you need to stop leading with that — the big-screen TV or projection TV is easy to sell to a 50-something and maybe even to a 40-something (male, that is), but for everyone else, the primary entertainment content player is, well, the phone and tablet.
So, what do you do?
You listen to CEDIA and what they’ve been telling you for the past few months — lead with services, not systems.
The systems approach worked for over two decades. Congrats. But, it’s been milked. Sure, there’s no denying that having an integrated system is way, way better than a bunch of stand-alone products working differently in every single room but, let’s face it, SONOS is dominating whole-home audio. Oh, and SONOS is NOT a system. Sure, they’d like you to think it is, but it’s not. And you know that.
And, if you looked around CEDIA, there were well over 20 different app-based control systems — none of which are integrated together. In fact, the moist popular home control systems on earth aren’t integrated together — they work independently as stand-alone apps. Yes, of course, Apple is trying to solve this with HOME and Google with Alexa, but those are both services, not products.
So, are you ready for the services-revolution? Can you sell intangibles? I sure hope so.
OK, i just set you up, ihiji! Go for it! Let’s see if you read rAVe…Leave a Comment
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|Someone Call Security|
By Lee Distad
Recent experiences have brought security installations to the forefront of my thinking.
Security subsystems are something that AV pros have polarizing opinions on. Some don’t mind handling them, some do so only grudgingly, and others won’t touch them.
Like everything, when deciding whether to do security at all there are pros and cons. The most obvious plus, and the one that drives the dedicated security-only channel is recurring revenue. I’ve never met an AV professional who didn’t like making money, and the direct benefit of doing security installs is receiving the monthly residuals from the monitoring company that you’ve partnered your firm with.
There’s a downside to that however. For more than a generation, national alarm brands have commoditized the hardware and installation itself to the point that the up-front costs for new customers are basically free. The motivation there has been to drive sales volume and make the profit on the monitoring contracts.
I still recall after all these years my instructor for a security integration class at CEDIA Expo ranting at the class for upwards of fifteen minutes about how recurring revenue was the devil, and how it had ruined what he felt used to be a profitable installation discipline.
If your client insists on you giving a breakout of the cost of a basic security system, and they compare it to a quote from a big security company, you’re going to look overpriced. That leads to the risk of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about what else you might be overcharging for.
You can defend against this by doing security at all.
The alternative is to be straightforward with clients that, due to the nature of the security business, it costs you “X” to do security installs, whereas a big national provider will give away the same work to get the monitoring contract.
If you’re honest about that, your client can choose to give you the business because he has confidence in your value, or he can opt to save his pennies, and contract the security contractor to tackle that part of the job, and you can work with them on the project.
From a technical perspective, if AV pros are going to want to handle the security subsystem it will be for no other reason than to make sure it gets done properly, and that it can be integrated into the overall control.
Commercial security contractors are, generally, more on the ball and inclusive than residential security contractors. Many residential security installers will bash in a keypad, a couple of glass break sensors, and call it a day.
If you ask one of those guys in depth questions about their panel, they may or may not know.
Just because a security panel has Ethernet, an RS232 or an RS485 port doesn’t mean that it’s going to be plug-and-play with your brand of control processor. A mystery panel might end up necessitating hours and hours of programming writing code to allow your controller to poll the panel for it’s status. No one wants that.
AV pros need to check with their automation vendor for a list of security panels that they know work with their controllers. You’re way better off specifying panels that are approved by the automation vendor, which will already have modules written for it.
Building on that, since network functionality has become the norm for both security and control (and everything else) that further necessitates an AV/IT Pro (such as yourself) to take ownership of security subsystems that involve video cameras.
At this point, if it’s on the client’s jobsite, and it’s networked, the AV pro needs to have ownership of it’s installation and integration.
The thing that I disliked the most about touching security installs was the risk of being pigeonholed as a security contractor when your real business is audio/video and control systems. That’s probably a bias I gained by osmosis from my old employer: Just looking at the hardware and the install labor alone, security installs are tiny little jobs, a couple of grand, tops.
It’s one thing to install a security subsystem as part of a whole-home A/V project, and you can probably get away with doing a security job or two as a “favor” for a long-time client or family friend, but get bogged down in doing too many of them, when your teams should be working on larger systems, and that’s a problem.
Most AV companies eventually have to face the realities of the kind of projects they need to limit themselves to in order to be profitable.
In one instance, a friend of mine hired a business consultant who looked at their costs of doing business, and determined that with the time and effort it took them to sign, design and execute projects, they could not afford to take on any project that was less than $20,000 in size.
If the security system is built into that, fine, but on its own? No way.
Like other AV pros, that might ultimately be the deciding factor for you.Leave a Comment
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|A New Way to Create Projected HDR?|
By Chris Chinnock
Founder and President, Insight Media
With High Dynamic Range (HDR) TVs offering 600 to 1000 cd/m² of peak luminance and various levels of black, many are concerned that the experience in the cinema is starting to lag behind the home experience. IMAX and Dolby offer HDR cinematic experiences, but a solution for mainstream theaters is needed, too. But a new approach may be possible — and Barco is the one that plans to nurture the technology via a recent acquisition of MTT Innovations.
We spoke with MTT Innovations CEO, Anders Ballestad, to get his take on the deal with Barco. “The acquisition was actually initiated by a potential customer we were working with. They believed, and we agreed, that working with a top tier projector maker would be necessary to fully commercialize the technology and would we be willing to talk to Barco about this?”, noted Ballestad. “We had already had some initial discussions with Barco, but agreed that having a customer as part of the conversation would be a more powerful discussion. Talks began last fall and accelerated after the first of the year culminating in a deal by the end of May.”
Ballestad could not reveal the terms of the deal, but Barco essentially acquired 100 percent of the shares of MTT Innovations so the seven employees are now Barco personnel. He also could not say anything more on the customer who helped initiate the deal other than to say they are an organization with some industry influence. That could mean a major exhibitor chain or major Hollywood studio, seems to me. Some studios have seen demos of the technology, so this seems like a better bet to me.
In terms of the technology they are developing, again, not much can be revealed now, but based on some previous interview notes, we can get a sense of where the company is going.
MTT Innovations was cofounded by Gerwin Damberg while pursuing his PhD in the Physical Simulation and Measurement lab at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He had previously worked with the co-founder, including Anders Ballestad, at another UBC affiliated startup called Brightside Technologies. Brightside was sold to Dolby Laboratories in 2007, where Ballestad continued to work until forming MTT Innovations in 2012.
The team believes that luminance levels in the cinema need to increase dramatically to get to parity with what the home HDR TV sets can offer. In the cinema, the black level can be quite good but is often limited by the minimal ambient light in the theater and reflections from people, seats, walls, etc. Getting to higher luminance levels is a big challenge since the peak luminance in conventional cinemas today is around 50 cd/m² with some HDR implementations reaching 108 cd/m² or so. That’s a long ways from the 1000 cd/m² of peak luminance available in the home.
Throwing 10 times more light at the projector is not the answer, thinks MTT Innovation. “That’s very wasteful as most of the light is not projected onto the screen owing to the low average picture level of most movies,” noted Ballestad. “Creating a projector that can display 1000 cd/m² of a full white screen is not needed. What is needed is the ability to create high luminance in a small portion of the image at any time,” explained Ballestad. “The average picture (luminance) level (APL) for DCI movies is about 7 percent and for HDR content it is more like 2 to 3 percent,” said Ballestad. “We want to develop an approach that redistributes the available light to enables more light to be sent into the peak luminance areas of the picture.”
MTT Innovations has revealed nothing about their architecture other than to say the idea comes from the field of computational photography. It is an RGB laser approach that uses primaries at 638, 462 and 530nm with a ‘close to BT 2020’ color gamut. They have also shown a working prototype of a 1000 cd/m² HDR projector at Siggraph in the past using off the shelf hardware and light sources. The graphic below is from a Siggraph 2015 video and reinforces the light redistribution concept.
The Barco acquisition is only months old, but they have already met with the Barco team and been brainstorming ideas for continuing development. It seems likely that a more robust and portable demo will be one short term goal — perhaps being ready by this fall. Other technical and implementation issues will now be explored using the considerable Barco resources.
Chris Chinnock is the founder and president of Insight Media. He is a consultant, analyst, blogger and event producer covering the professional AV, display, cinema, broadcast and consumer electronics industries. Free-to-access white papers can be found on http://www.insightmedia.info with blogs on this site as well as http://www.displaydaily.com. Chris can be reached at 203-831-8464 or email@example.com.Leave a Comment
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|Middle Atlantic Earns Patent for Essex QAR Series Rack Design|
Middle Atlantic Products today announced it has secured patent number 9,301,605 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its Essex QAR Series Rack. Featuring an innovative approach to rack design that speeds up integration and assembly, the Essex QAR Series Rack enables AV contractors to focus on multiple projects during their workday.
The Essex QAR Series Rack is a knock-down rack. It features a patented snap-together design, making it integration-ready in five minutes or less and saving up to 30 minutes or more in assembly time compared to other knock-down racks. Providing a high-quality foundation for residential AV systems, it can be used as a skeleton rack or easily configured with sides, doors, and a range of Essex power and accessory options.
It is UL-listed with models available in 12 sizes to complement a full range of AV systems. Ideal for installation in closets, basements, and equipment rooms, it is optimized for efficient cable management with generous facilities for bottom cable entry. All Essex QAR Series racks feature lockable casters, optional leveling feet for fixed installation, and a convenient mounting bracket for vertical power distribution.
More information about Middle Atlantic Products is available here.Leave a Comment
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|ISE 2017 Will See Over 130 New Companies Exhibiting|
With over three months to go before it opens its doors Integrated Systems Europe 2017 has been confirmed as the biggest exhibition in the event’s 14-year history following an increase in show-floor space, exhibitors and halls.
A true indication of the event’s international pulling power is the fact that ISE 2017 will see 135 first time exhibitors making their debut at the show. This confirms ISE as the destination of choice for companies looking to build their profile and business opportunities in the AV marketplace. In total, ISE 2017 will feature over 3,000 square metres of additional show-floor exhibition space compared to ISE 2016.
Integrated Systems Events Managing Director, Mike Blackman commented: “Making sure that we can feature all of the world’s leading AV vendors and service providers has always been a priority for us in delivering value for ISE attendees. With the expansion of the show I am delighted that we are able take the attendee and exhibitor experience to the next level for our 2017 event.”
The 2017 edition will not only be the largest but also the most compelling show produced so far. A Closing Keynote featuring Cirque du Soleil’s CEO Daniel Lamarre, the largest ISE educational programme so far produced by CEDIA and InfoComm International plus five Show Floor Theatres all point towards a rich and vibrant four-day event.
To help cope with the show’s continued year-on-year growth the RAI Amsterdam will be introducing an additional hall and pavilion, a new hall numbering system and increased car parking facilities. The new hall, named Hall 9, will be able to be accessed via Halls 8, 10 and 11. A new Pavilion will be erected at the Congress Square providing an additional 1,500 net square meters of exhibitor floor space. It will connect with the Exhibitor Foyer, Diamond Lounge and Auditorium. The combined area will now be known as Hall 14.
Blackman continued: “We will be able to provide more space for exhibitors and create a richer experience for attendees over the four days of the show. As ISE evolves and grows it’s great news that our venue partner is working with us to take the show forward.”
Furthermore, a total of 940 additional parking spaces have been created to meet the expected increase in attendee demand.
The introduction of the new areas means that some ‘traditional’ halls and areas within the RAI Amsterdam will be renumbered. These are as follows:
Other updates at ISE 2017 will include the introduction of a new Smart Building Theatre into the new Hall 9 and a focus on Education Technology in Hall 13.
The next Integrated Systems Europe will take place from 7-10 February 2017. You can register here (and use our free company invitation code: 250332).Leave a Comment
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|Atlona Adds Backlit Keypad|
Atlona just introduced an eight-button network keypad, Model AT-ANC-108D, for Atlona IP-controlled AV switchers equipped for single channel output, including single channel mirrored output components. Designed for remote configuration, the keypad uses Power over Ethernet technology a single CATx cable handles both signal and power.
Combined with Atlona IP-controllable switching products for huddle spaces, classrooms and conference rooms, the network keypad has eight soft-touch backlit buttons and acts as a remote IP-based controller to send commands to the switcher. The switcher in turn responds to the commands or conveys them via RS232 to control other devices, such as video displays.
The AT-ANC-108D’s compact and shallow depth fits into a U.S. one-gang junction box for placement in walls or switch-enclosures built into tables and cabinetry. In cases where powering by POE is not practical or desired, it can also be run by an optional, external 5 VDC power supply.
The AT-ANC-108D is shipping for $399.99 and here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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For all you REGULAR readers of rAVe HomeAV Edition out there, hopefully you enjoyed another opinion-packed issue!
For those of you NEW to rAVe, you just read how we are — we are 100% opinionated. We not only report the news and new product stories of the high-end HomeAV industry, but we stuff the articles full of our opinions. That may include (but is not limited to) whether or not the product is even worth looking at, challenging the manufacturers on their specifications, calling a marketing-spec bluff and suggesting ways integrators market their products better. But, one thing is for sure, we are NOT a trade publication that gets paid for running editorial or product stories. Traditional trade publications get paid to run product stories — that’s why you see what you see in most of the pubs out there. We are different: we run what we want to run and NO ONE is going to pay us to write anything good (or bad).
Don’t like us, then go away — unsubscribe! Just use the link below.
To send me feedback, don’t reply to this newsletter – instead, write directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or for editorial ideas: Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at email@example.com
A little about me: I graduated from Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I am adjunct faculty). I’ve been in the AV-industry since 1987 where I started with Extron and eventually moved to AMX. So, I guess I am an industry veteran (although I don’t think I am that old). I have been an opinionated columnist for a number of industry publications and in the late 1990s I started the widely read KNews eNewsletter (the first in the AV market) and also created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which is now known as InfoComm IQ. rAVe Publications has been around since 2003, when we launched our original newsletter, rAVe ProAV Edition.
rAVe HomeAV Edition, co-published with CEDIA, launched in February, 2004.
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rAVe HomeAV Edition contains the opinions of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of other persons or companies or its sponsors.