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‘Connected Lifestyle’ Panel Probes App Revolution

June 26, 2011 By Nancy Klosek
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Companies catering to the custom segment have had to react quickly since cracks in the economy changed the game for their dealers and integrators beginning in late 2008. And last year, just when survivors on the supply and integration sides began to feel they’d started to get a handle on how to evolve their business models going forward, along came tablets, the app revolution and bigger bandwidth demand – and in their wake, another layer of challenges and opportunities.  What’s next? What do consumers want?  What directions will the market take? What do dealers need?

Those hot-button issues and others were addressed at the June 24 CE Week Lifestyle Technology Summit panel entitled, “The Connected Lifestyle: 2011 and Beyond,” on June 24 during CE Week in New York City.

The discussion was moderated by Maureen Jenson, CustomRetailer and E-Gear editor in chief, and the panel included: Richard Stoerger, vice president and COO, Audio Design Associates; Lesley Kirchman, senior director of corporate marketing, Actiontec; Steve Iommi, business development manager, Somfy; and Krista Bergman, national sales manager, BitWise Controls.

All participants agreed that the future direction of connectivity will inextricably be tied to how well they can educate dealers in teaching consumers about connectivity’s possibilities. There was also general agreement about the need to seamlessly integrate the products they make with familiar consumer interfaces like smartphones and tablets. 

Iommi, whose company recently introduced the mid-priced TaHomA system for control of shades, awnings, lighting and thermostats through iPads and iPhones, said it had been designed “to enable the end user. We have now recognized we’re solutions providers, not box providers.”  With the rapid rate of technology evolution today, he continued, “you don’t have a lot of time to change. You need to anticipate the long-range implications. You can’t be reactive; you have to be proactive” in product design. TaHomA, he said, “helps dealers get into a job in the first place and also provides them with an upgrade path.”
“Platforms change constantly,” said BitWise’s Bergman, whose company offers IP-based solutions and customization options for both tablet and smartphone interfaces. “We believe it’s important to evolve with them, to play with other manufacturers.”  She added, “Going forward, we will all need to be flexible. For us, it’s all about keeping an eye out for the next platform – keeping our finger on the pulse of technology.” That research has recently pointed BitWise at serving integrators who are making their livings by handling efficient and repeatable installations – “dealers who get in and get out of the job. By attaching to the iPad and Android platforms, it gives our dealers new revenue opportunities.”

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