Technology Integration: Finding the Right Partner
Want to turn a project “smart?” You don’t have to be a techie. CEDIA Content Director, Ed Wenck, reports on the key to successful tech integration within our built environments.
Christopher Wright of Wrightworks, LLC, one of the leading remodelers in the Great Lakes region of North America, sums up the frustration both he and his clients encounter when it comes to ‘smart home’ gadgets: “There’s this increasing challenge of having home owners go to some home centre and then there are all these end caps of connected products. They’re marketed like this: ‘Just take it home, plug in your WiFi password, and install an app!’
“So now we have all this app clutter because our clients are buying these little one-off things, and then when they do a major project, they bring them to us and say, ‘Hey, I have all this. Can we incorporate this into the project, too?’”
“We hear this all the time from people that tried the DIY approach,” says Adam Gibson, the brains behind Adam Gibson Design, an architectural design firm that specialises in high-end kitchen and bath projects in the U.S. Midwest.
“’Okay, I did this, this, and this and now this, this, and this don’t work.’ That’s why the knowledge and experience of someone who knows this stuff is critical.”
If there’s a single message Wright wants to impart to other builders, it’s this: “You don’t have to be a techie. That’s what an integrator is there for.”
“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room when your clients ask: ‘What about privacy? What about security? What about when I want to do something different or expand down the road?’ Those are questions for the integrator.”
Keys to Successful Technology Integration
Whether it’s a new build or a remodeling job, whether a client wants a few automated systems (like lighting or HVAC) or a pricey kitchen loaded with audio, video, and smart appliances, there are a few mantras that technology integrators swear by.
The top of that list: WiFi alone won’t cut it.
The best way to ensure any technology installation will perform at its peak is to run cable — planning and pre-wiring a room for the systems that room will use is key. WiFi’s not always stable, and as technology systems grow and become more complex, any wireless network will most certainly become overwhelmed.
Another buzzword: ‘Interoperability’. That’s a term that expresses the ability of all the devices in a home to work and play well with others. A solid integrator knows what combination of technologies will provide a ‘frictionless’ experience for the end-user.
And in the final analysis, that’s what technology should provide for a client: not a collection of stuff, but a user experience that can turn the home into a kind of concierge for its occupants.
Finding the Right Technology Integrator for Your Clients
Christopher Wright says, “When we design a kitchen, we’re asking a client, ‘How do you live? How do you cook? Where do you like to put things?’ When it comes to technology, we ask that client, ‘Tell me about your current experience with your network? What devices do you have? Where do you want to watch content? Where does that content come from?’ Then we go from there with the integrator.
“I want to give them a comfort level that communicates: ‘Okay, we’re not just going to over-sell you.’ I want to make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze; that we’re not just putting in gimmicks.”
“I do appreciate an integrator who will show clients things they may not realize they could have,” adds Adam Gibson.
“Not necessarily trying to upsell them, mind you — but if they don’t realize that they could have a lighted pathway from their garage to their kitchen, to let them know: ‘Actually, with a push of a button from your car, we can provide that lighted walk.’ As designers, we don’t think about those things. We just think about how things look or how things function, but we don’t think about the technology that we can offer.”
Wright sums things up: “In many ways, I look for things that I look for in any vendor that I work with, whether that’s my plumbing distributor, my lighting distributor, whoever. I look for people that will take care of my client, that will communicate well, that will understand we’re all working toward the same goal and none of us is the most important person at the table, but we all have input to give that’s going to further the experience.
“The end goal is to build beautiful things and have happy clients.”
This article was originally published on the CEDIA website.
*To find a quality integrator in your area, check out the CEDIA Finder Service at CEDIA.org and look for firms who have CEDIA Certified pros on staff. [http://www.cedia.org/find-a-cedia-professional].