Tech to Watch
The inaugural CEA Demo Suites, partner of CEA Line Shows and included in the first-ever CE Week, kicked off in Manhattan last Friday at the Affinia Hotel.
Panel discussions were headlined by some of custom integration's elite. Kicking off these sessions was a presentation on "Pioneering Technology for the CI Industry," including Jamison Ching, Sr. Marketing Manager, Consumer Retail, Entropic Communications, Inc.; Hagai Feiner, President, Access Networks; Aaron Gutin, VP Sales and Marketing, Access Networks; Franklin Karp, COO of Audio Video Systems; and Joe Bingochea, VP of Product Management and Marketing for Channel Master, a manufacturer of Multimedia over Coax (MoCA) products.
Moderated by our own editor-in-chief, Maureen Jenson, the panel covered three key trends in the CI industry: energy management, aging in place, and cyber and physical security.
Panelists agreed that the demand for "green" tech is not high amongst consumers. And the key to monetizing the technology also remains to be seen, says Audio Video Systems' Karp.
Feiner likened energy management to the car industry's antilock brakes. "It doesn't necessarily have to come as a demand from the consumer. The manufacturer has a responsibility to the consumer to address it and push it down. Then, integrators can optimize the systems as much as they can."
"It's a nascent technology," adds Gutin of Access Networks. "The glue that holds everything together is the network-the digital foundation of the home. And there is an awakening even in this [troubled] economy about the need to address the IT environment."
Gutin agreed with Karp, saying the "recurring revenue" in this sect of the industry is a broad term and will depend on individual business models. He sees potential in the vacation home-the ability to track and control these homes from a main residence.
This, however, calls to mind the importance of security, both cyber and physical. The questions arise as to who has access to the home, including specific individuals, such as estate managers.
"The integrator is the digital centerpoint of the project, held accountable for security as well," says Access Network's Feiner. "There is a 'what I want' versus 'what I need' trend of everything becoming connected."
Channel Master's Bingochea is looking to the not-so-distant future with this technology, adding that he sees the consumer being able to control security and much more directly from their TVs.
"It's important for the integrator to jump in and not let the operators take the business," he said.
"We need to promote existing wiring- the use of coax cables (MoCA)," says Entropic's Ching. "Wired networking is less susceptible to intrusion."
"The recurring revenue for us," said Karp, "is the client satisfaction. We are on call 24/7. We have to provide the best service. To me, it's critical."
Part of the customer satisfaction element is providing technology to keep individuals happy and in their homes as long as possible. Thus, the growing aging-in-place market.
Hagai recalls a recent request he received from an assisted living center to install Wi-Fi. The goal? To keep tenants connected to their families, the world, and generally improve their quality of life.
"We are taking the technology we use every day, extending it [in a new way] that is much more personal and emotional," says Feiner.
"We believe there is a lot of growth [in this market] for things like blood pressure cuffs, connected monitors, etc." added Bingochea. "It will reduce the burden on families, but a lot of it depends on the insurance companies getting behind it."
Also a broader issue, said Gutin, is how the country views Internet access and the use of information. "The U.S. lags behind other countries in this area of viewing the Internet as a public utility, a right."
Especially now as technology grows, this issue will become more important. "We are seeing a change is where we are and where information is stored," explained Feiner. "There is stuff on the computer, phone and now it's the cloud. It all rides on bandwidth (the pipe to get to content) and latency (the delay to get to information).
"The connected home is getting more bandwidth for less money. We, as a group, have more tools to use the infrastructure to keep homeowners connected to information."
When asked which issue has affected or will affect business most dramatically, Ching said there is "a huge market in a more secure and robust network."
And the panelists agreed that the iPad has been a game-changer in the custom install market because of its control-panel capabilities.
"The touch-panel market is gone with the iPad, and [Apple] didn't even have to anything," said Karp.
"[The iPad] invaded several spaces all at once," added Gutin.
"The iPad is very reliable," Feiner noted. "Clients expect it to be part of their projects. It can grow our business because Apple creates products that are network-dependent."