A new study by ABI Research forecasts that over 500 billion smart sensors will be integrated into homes by the end of 2018. Half a billion.
This is good and bad news for the HomeAV community. As the home automation world becomes less of an art and more of a science, it also becomes commoditized. It all started with simple, free iPhone apps that would allow you to control TVs, DVRs and AppleTVs via Wi-Fi, but it’s gotten way, way bigger than that in just a few years.
Companies like Nest, Philips Hue, Belkin and LightwaveRF, although aren’t compatible together, do have one thing in common: they’re all available for anyone to buy over the Internet and come with instructions so easy that even a middle-schooler can integrate them.
Are we are in trouble?
While we keep pushing custom programming and proprietary gear, the consumer market is slowly getting smarter. And, there’s a movement to make all these so-called Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be able to talk to each other — it’s only a matter of time. Bluetooth is turning out to be a stronger “standard” for communications and content sharing than anyone ever thought it would be (remember when it was used just for phone headsets?). Now we see more and more companies adopting ZigBee (more than 600 at last count) and Zwave (200+ now) wireless protocols and some companies integrating both at the same time. That means that the thermostat can now be controlled by an iPhone or TV today but, in the not so distant future, also by our car keys.
The writing is on the wall. We NEED to move faster and faster towards the service business — and farther and farther away from the product sales business. Products are becoming a commodity faster than we all thought. With the exception of a handful of companies in our market, everything is available via Internet resellers and now more and more once-custom AV manufacturers are selling their wares at Best Buy — companies like Klipsch, Polk, SpeakerCraft, Niles, Russound and **insert any TV or projector manufacturer here** — yes, any.
So, our differentiator needs to be service. We need to offer solutions that are more affordable, simpler to integrate and use and can easily be remotely monitored and managed, proactively.
But, we also need to move more towards commercial AV (ProAV) integration. Yes, seriously.
We’ve had a ProAV publication for years that covers all aspects of the commercial AV world including digital signage, security, boardroom and meeting room systems, educational AV products, etc. You can subscribe for free here.
And, the best part about those markets is they’re growing — double digits in many cases. For example, the digital signage market has grown 20-28 percent each of the past three years. The HOW (House of Worship) market is growing at least 15 percent a year. The educational AV market is growing 8 to 14 percent a year. And, the small meeting room (aka Huddle Room) market is growing over 35 percent in 2014.
And, CEDIA needs to help you move that way — and they are. In fact, over 25 percent of the new products shown at the 2013 Expo were commercial AV related. In addition, there were almost a dozen digital signage-related seminars.
That same guy you did that whole-home AV system for may own a company with conference rooms, may be the CIO of a university system or may even be the IT manager for a fortune 2000 company — and all of them need commercial AV services.
Go for it!