Failure Is Acceptable
Something hit me this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES): I have an unsupportable expectation that electronics should operate flawlessly.
Why is this a problem?
Because they don’t.
For instance, I was at the Microsoft booth at the show. Several kiosks operated by its industry partners were sporadically non-operational. A screen went down. A connection failed somewhere. The new software didn’t operate as expected.
These are the pressures all exhibitors face. It’s tough enough to make your products work in the lab. Now move them to an inhospitable location. It’s amazing how many demos don’t fail under these circumstances.
And yet, the technology was great when it worked.
A Little Help Now and Then
In our industry, several automation companies are facing the same troubles. They’ve got high technology products that are apt to fail. And the specter of failure is enough to keep many CI companies from embracing and specifying these technologies.
I’m talking, in particular, about the Windows-, Linux- and UNIX-based automation systems that move so many CI companies to scoff, “Why would I want to install a lighting control system that runs on Windows? My clients can’t afford to be in the dark because Windows failed.”
The truth? Windows does fail. And while I don’t have enough data to support the notion that it fails at a greater rate than other proprietary systems do, that’s missing the point.
The point is that customers may be willing to live with a lot more failure than we give them credit for. In fact, I submit that the next generation of homeowners—those people who are now in college—actually expect their electronics to fail on occasion.
These very same “failure-insensitive” buyers may be the perfect market for the new crop of value-priced operating system-based control solutions. Companies like Lifeware, Savant, Control4 and an upcoming slew of others provide systems that are simple to configure, can be programmed by a technician, cost less than traditional offerings and suffer from the perception that they fail at a greater rate—a perception which is unproven as fact at this point.