One of our clients asked us for a proposal to upgrade his outdated integrated control system that was originally completed in 2005. The system is still operational, but of course cannot take advantage of today’s new technologies; streaming content and control with smartphone and tablet devices. We provided him with an updated proposal, utilizing some existing components, such as speakers and amplifiers. We recommended a new control system and display devices. He sent us the following email:
“The struggle has been that our needs are unchanged and it is hard in principle to pay more for an interface to play the music you have owned for decades after already paying to do this once. We are on the verge of mass home automation and I am worried we are just digging an old ditch.”
Often with replies like this we are tempted to ask our client how old the cars are in his driveway. This client is indicative of some consumers who believe that DIY automation products will be capable in the near-term of handling the complexities of today’s integrated smart homes. The challenge is that some of these prospective clients who have older, outdated control systems believe that they are just going down the same road again, and will be replacing whatever we propose in another few years.
Our job as Systems Integrators has to be one of educating our clients so they understand the differences between DIY products and well-engineered automation and remote management systems. As educators, we have to explain that today’s control systems are mature products that have longevity and upgradability engineered into them.
I will paraphrase our response below and hopefully you will incorporate it into your own discussions with clients.
“I appreciate your comments, but I do not agree with your assessment of the integrated control market and CI channel. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to respond with my viewpoint.
You are correct that integrated control is more commonplace and that there are a myriad of products and choices available at different levels. The DIY marketplace is a rapidly growing market segment and many of the products in this category are alluring for sure. However, while inexpensive solutions abound, at the same time, the higher-end solutions continue to pave the road to the future and set the standards.
You have an older legacy system with older, outmoded technology. Given the opportunity, we can provide you with a well-engineered solution that will offer much better audio system features, greatly improved control of video devices, comprehensive lighting control, advanced security control, and HVAC control. Our recommendation will provide system monitoring with text alerts if anything regarding environmental systems (lighting, HVAC, etc.) should malfunction. Last, but not least, our proposed system will provide remote access to all of these systems from your smart phone or tablet.
We firmly believe that properly executed, these are very valuable tools for managing your property when on or off-site.”
I don’t think our client was necessarily concerned about the costs of our proposal. I believe he had a picture in his mind that Alexa or Siri was all he’d really need to run the multiple systems in his home. Although there is clearly a market segment for these products, for advanced integrated control of high quality control systems, these DIY products are often not up to the task. Listen to your client’s concerns, address them professionally, and educate your client about just how complex today’s homes are and how only a well-engineered integrated control system is capable of properly getting the job done.