Networking in the Home: An Integrator Opportunity

AccessHDSHT-0913Aaron Gutin
VP of Sales and Marketing, Access Networks

By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. (Cisco Visual Network Index 2012-2017)

For the past 10 years, there has been a consistant proliferation of network dependant devices enriching our everyday lives. You know the list: televisions, Apple TV and iDevices of all kinds, Blu-ray players, lighting control systems, shading systems, etc. As a result of this mass adoption of the IP standard across all categories of consumer electronics, our niche community has experienced first hand the resulting strain placed on the residential local area network. According to the CEA’s 15th Annual Household CE Ownership and Market Potential Study in January 2013, the average American household had 6.8 network connected devices (2.6 per person). Certainly the homes our industry services are well above this average.

As consumers begin to search for a better IT solution than what they have puchased at the local big-box store, our industry has a unique and rare opportunity to provide these consumers with an advanced solution that not only outperforms their current solution, but positions your company as that client’s vital resource for all things network related.

So, what practices must we adopt to become successful IT service providers to the affluent? What steps do we need to take to further integrate a comprehensive IT solution into our operations?

Networking has and will continue to be one of the primary differentiating factors between the CEDIA channel and big-box stores. As new network-connected devices are released and consumed, our community will be asked to provide a network solution to support them today and in the future. For this and many other contributing factors, it is paramount to offer our clients an enterprise-grade networking solution.

While the list of manufactures that claim to offer enterprise-grade solutions seems to grow on a monthly basis, the true list of enterprise-grade networking manufacturers is short. Companies like Cisco Systems, Aruba Networks and Juniper, among others, manufacture products that are robust, long lasting and offer a vast array of tools that allow their equipment to be molded by a certified IT professional to fit any networking environment. Unlike the simple guided user interface (GUI) you find on over-the-counter networking appliances, enterprise-grade networking appliances provide the necessary configuration and diagnostic tools required to properly program a solution and to resolve challenges as they present themselves.

This collection of engineering tools is commonly referred to as network visibility. Network visibility makes service issues easier to manage and therefore, provides a swifter path to resolution. Adopting the use of high level network appliances is the first step to developing a comprehensive, serviceable IT solution that will be prepared to support the project well into the future. The next step will involve your support staff.

homenetwork-0913Over and over again studies have shown that the United States has fallen behind much of the western world in our creation of educated IT professionals. The resulting vacuum of talent has corporate entities of all sizes paying higher base salaries than most integration companies can pay their top employees. This makes finding affordable talent extremely difficult. Moreover, developing an in-house IT department will take some time, some money, some IT certifications and some real world experience.  However, there are several viable paths available for our community to follow. For example, Cisco Systems offers a comprehensive curriculum that, if followed, will provide the student with a wealth of knowledge not only about networking as a science, but offers a path to learn and apply best practices throughout your support organization.  These classes are available at most community colleges, online and from private schools, like DeVry University.

Over the next three to five years, consumers everywhere will be looking to install sophisticated IT solutions in their homes. Over-the-counter networking solutions are quickly being overwhelmed, slowing down and/or failing, leaving consumers frustrated, and therefore, open to better solutions. We are already seeing reports from CE professionals indicating a more than 20 percent uptick in IT related sales. This will not stop in the near term, but rather, will accelerate. The CEA predicts over 400 million network connected devices will be sold in 2013, up from 25 million in 2003 – a 1,600 percent increase over 10 years. What is required to maximize your earning potential as this growth continues to accelerate is a comprehensive, well thought out networking solution that outperforms, outlasts and exceeds your clients’ expectations.

In order to develop such an offering, you need to evaluate your available options for product, education, and staffing. You should begin by taking a survey the offerings currently available on the CE and IT markets, evaluate their positive and negative attributes and then make a reasoned decision on the right path forward for your company. What better opportunity to begin this process than CEDIA EXPO? There will be several vendors available to you under one roof, ready to demonstrate and explain their offering, how it will help your business and how you can make money in the networking category with their products and services. This affords you a rare opportunity to personally review each offering, ask the appropriate questions of product specialists, review the cost/ benefit ratios of each offering in total and move forward in capturing new business.

Alongside of the product demonstrations, there are several networking related classes to attend. The curriculum is designed to address the fundamental skill sets required of today’s CE professional and should be a great place to get started.

Whether your company is small or large; whether you service the high-end of the market or not, networking is here to stay. It is my opinion that this is the greatest earning opportunity to come our way since the advent of the DVD and the home theater boom began. But unlike DVD, literally every house on the block needs a network. The question is: How many of those homes will be your clients?

Aaron is the vice president of sales and marketing at Access Networks, a leading provider of advanced, enterprise-grade, plug-and-play networking solutions for the automated residence. Learn more at http://www.accessca.com