Home technology integrators live in an increasingly complex world. When home audio first started technicians needed to know about one thing: Audio. Now many high end audio dealers and home theater installation teams are also installing home automation systems. But does diving into home automation make sense for all integrators?
Making the Leap
Many integrators that started out as audio only dealers find themselves in a totally different business from which they started. While audio equipment can be finicky and difficult to setup, once the ins and outs are learned you can count on a relatively stable installation that is easy to rinse and repeat.
As home automation technologies have become more prevalent, more and more audio integrators find themselves in the role of offering these products as well. For many integrators this wasn’t a terribly huge leap as programming all-in-one remotes often required a good bit of work with a computer to get working properly. But today’s modern home automation systems can be notoriously difficult to install and program.
They are far beyond anything that was available just 10 years ago. Manufacturers have made attempts to keep their systems as simple as possible, but a wide range of programming languages and engineering designs mean that carrying even one line of home automation equipment can require a great deal of training every year. And even with training these systems still require a great deal of real world experience before you’re technicians become proficient at installing them so that they are both stable and reliable for the client.
A Different Type of Employee
One of the biggest struggles for integrators is finding the right kind of personnel to install and program these systems. A whole house Crestron system with energy management is a very different beast from a universal remote. While technicians that are great at working with equipment and some minor programming can be completely comfortable working with a universal remote, when it comes to programming one of these larger systems, you need a different type of employee altogether.
Many integrators are actually turning to job candidates that have IT (information technology) experience. Virtually every piece of home audio and automation equipment on the market requires a basic knowledge of IP (internet protocol) and networking.
Beyond that they must be efficient with programming languages that allow them to setup and control these complex automation systems. An efficient business makes every effort build their systems to be as cookie-cutter as possible, but in the end there is generally a good deal of customization as well.
In House or Outsource?
One of the major decisions facing an integrator is whether or not to perform programming work in-house or to outsource it. Many integrators charge as much as $125/hr for programming time. Since they typically pay their employees much less than this, programming becomes an excellent source of income. But this is only true if they can institute policies that allow them to program systems quickly and efficiently. Otherwise they can be an incredibly expensive waste of time.
Outsourcing programming allows you to remove the headache of the programming itself, but also removes this revenue stream. Therefore your choice of employee/programmer becomes extremely important to ensure that your projects run on time and on budget.
Addressing these issues before you make the leap into the world of home automation integration can save you massive headaches and probably thousands of dollars. So spend some time on it before making your decision