Mythbusting at Design and Construction Week
By Ed Wenck, CEDIA
In january of 2016, CEDIA CEO Vin Bruno and Dave Chic, CEDIA Director of Industry Relations, were taking in the sights at the annual Design and Construction Week exhibition, the joint venture of the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) International Builders’ Show and KBIS (the Kitchen and Bath Industry show, owned by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, or NKBA).
"We need these people at our next CEDIA show," mused Bruno at the time.
Chic recalls concocting a more efficient solution. "How about if we come here"?
"By February, we were at the table," Chic continues.
Those nascent discussions soon led to the CEDIA Smart Home Pavilion, a sprawling 10,000-foot display complete with 13 product booths that featured exhibitors from Nest to RAYVA. The mission was simple, says Bruno: "We wanted to engage designers, builders, architects - these are really important influencers in our industry."
But that engagement came with challenges; most notably, a preponderance of myths about the home tech industry. A big part of DCW - for Bruno and Chic and the attendant volunteers - was actively busting those myths.
Myth No. 1: The High-Tech Home Is Only For the "One Percent"
Both Bruno and Chic are quick to point out that the evolution of smart home technology is now reaching the point of truly broad accessibility - after all, voice controlled interfaces can now be had for as little as 50 bucks. But between the humble Dot and the fully integrated wonderland residence packed with distributed audio, automated climate, smart lighting, and a dedicated home theater, there's a great middle-ground of consumers with budgets big enough to generate decent profits for the integrator.
"I saw a lot of interest from the production builders," says Chic. “They want packages: good, better, best. They constantly ask me about the more modest installations - 'Hey, we're not building $2 million homes,' they tell me."
Now the question from builders is: 'I've heard of this! How can you help me?' The other trades see what we do as a profit opportunity."
"We can absolutely meet whatever demands are out there," says Bret Jacob, Director of Builder Sales with Core Brands. "We scale up to the biggest mansions, of course - but we’ve got packages that start at $1,200."
Then there's a company like RAYVA: they've got pre-configured, dedicated home theaters in a broad range of budgets. Builders, designers, families are realizing that an extra space, a bonus room can easily become a place for movies, games, and watching sports
Theo Kalomirakis, Executive Director of RAYVA - who built a demo theater right on site at DCW - tells us, "The attendees who witnessed the demo were blown away. First, they had never seen a home theater in a builder's show before. Then, they could not believe that you can get everything, technology, seating, acoustics, lighting design, installation, calibration, guaranteed performance for such a low price ($78,000 list)."
Myth No. 2: Instant Obsolescence
Dave Chic delights in counter-arguments.
"I had a long talk with an architect. He said he saw no value in any of this," laughs Chic. "But that's how people think sometimes. Ultimately he asked the question he thought would put me away: 'Isn't this stuff all out of date the minute you put it in?'
"So I asked about the car he drives.
"Turns out, it's a 2006 Accord. Maybe a tad outdated, but certainly not broken."
His point made, Chic went on to ruminate about evolving software updates - a topic that Bret Jacob can elaborate on: "I look at what Elan has done - those controllers take software updates that are forwards- and backwards-compatible. The last iteration ran our software for eight years.
"It gives us a leg up on the DIY stuff, too - with some of those products, you pull it out of the box and that's as good as it gets."
Myth No. 3: The Bottom Line Bummer
Although it's begun to fade, there's still a lingering concern among the DCW faithful about the cash destined for granite countertops suddenly being rerouted into hidden speakers. Builders often look askance when a CEDIA firm winds up in the mix. That's shifting, though - and you can thank the ubiquitous nature of smart-home media saturation made possible by this very technology.
Theo Kalomirakis says, "Clients have an alternative if they think the granite countertop does not fit the budget. With home theater, there is no alternative: you either love it when you experience it and go for it, or you skip it because you cannot afford it. We strongly believe that buying a theater is a decision that is based on an emotional response whereas the purchase of one material versus another countertop is based on more rational considerations. We saw this play-out during the Builder's Show, those types of questions came up but once the demo was over the conversation shifted to, ‘How do we get started?'"
"Everybody knows about this stuff now," notes Vin Bruno. "They really look to us - as an association, but more importantly, to our members - as the people who can take the confusion out of this."
“We’re not competitors, we’re collaborators.”
And Dave Chic's found that it helps to include other strategies: "Talk about resale. Heck, leave the tech out of the building budget if it's an issue. Just include a pre-wire package and let the homeowner and the integrator tackle whatever's going into this wall or that rack."
And that takes away another worry: A builder is always concerned that if something breaks or stops working, it's the guys who hung the sheetrock who gets the call."
"No," says Chic. "That's OUR job."
"It used to be I'd go to trade shows and they'd stare at the CEDIA logo. ‘What do you guys do?' Now it's changing," notes Chic.
Bruno agrees. "Homeowners want this stuff – not as an option, but as part of the whole. Now the question from builders is: ‘I've heard of this! How can you help me?' The other trades see what we do as a profit opportunity."
Core's Jacob was equally pleased with the education efforts at DCW: "I'll definitely be participating [as an instructor] next year." (Jacob is a CEDIA Outreach Instructor.)
Back to Bruno: “Take a product like Ring – everyone's amazed you can see who's at your door from anywhere in the world. It's in big box stores. Everyone knows what is. Now we have plumbing sensors that automatically detect leaks before the house incurs damage – the other trades are really starting to understand the value here."
And Bruno's appearance at a roundtable of other association CEOs cemented that critical perception: "We're not competitors, we're collaborators."
Now that the influencers are being convinced, consumer awareness is the next hurdle, according to Bruno: “CEDIA has to be place where consumers come to find the people that design, build, install, integrate, upgrade, repair, manage, and monitor their technology."
Looks like there's a task list prepped for the months until DCW comes around again.
And Dave Chic and the association's events master Debbie Antrim are already in talks with the organizers for an even larger CEDIA presence in 2018.