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Friday, August 29, 2014

By Jason Knott

Hiring new employees just got a little more difficult.

Now that consumer confidence is back and the economy is on the upswing, custom installation companies are growing again. Hiring new technicians, salespeople and administrative staff is a top priority for many integrators.

But it turns out that in at least one state—New York—asking that job applicants in an employment ad to not have a criminal background and that they have a clean driving record is discriminatory and against the law.

According to legal expert Ken Kirschenbaum of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, whose column appears monthly in CE Pro’s sister publication Security Sales & Integration, it appears New York law now prohibits an integrator from advertising an open position with the somewhat vague caveat that the applicant not have a “criminal background.”

The issue came to light recently when a security firm was notified by the New York State Division of Human Rights of a violation for his recent job advertisement. According to Kirschenbaum, by excluding anyone with a “criminal background” the dealer “went well beyond the criteria used by N.Y.‘s Division of Licensing Services. In New York you would be prohibited employing an employee who needed to be documented only if that employee had a felony conviction. A crime is more than that,” he writes.

At the same time, requesting that job applicants have a “clean driving record’ could be deemed discriminatory also.

“Someone may have a DUI conviction in their history. That may be from alcohol abuse or other drug abuse, and that is probably a disability that is a…

Posted by Jason Knott on 08/29 at 07:37 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, Legal, (1) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is this you? “Trunkslammer implies the contractor works out of their car trunk, with no office or licenses.”

By Chuck Schneider

As NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells once simply remarked, “You are what your record says you are.”

For many of you reading this, I’ve looked over your record… and you are a trunkslammer.

At worst you epitomize the Urban Dictionary definition of a trunkslammer: “Derogatory term for a contractor who has minimal skill, experience and equipment. Trunkslammer implies the contractor works out of their car trunk, with no office or licenses.”

If that describes you, please start looking for a new line of work.

At best, you’ve got licenses, some training and some nice displays in your home for clients to see. You do quality work when given the chance. What you save in rent and the other essential expenses of a having a showroom and office you pass along to your customers. If that’s you, today you are my target audience.

You think you have the right business model but you still feel like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” Every day you open your browser and see the daily emails from CE Pro and read about elaborate and over-the-top home theater and whole house installations routinely costing upwards of six figures and into seven. You never get those jobs; never even get a sniff. You’re still just hanging flat screens, pulling wire and drilling holes.

You rationalize that “those fancy ass systems” rarely happen in your market until one day you read about some kid 20 years your junior and his award-winning $250,000 install. That system is one freeway exit away from your house. You know you are better than boy genius but…

Posted by Chuck Schneider on 08/28 at 11:43 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, Events, CEDIA, Home Theater, (18) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

By Julie Jacobson


Yup, that’s the sound of Pyng. What were you expecting? A friggin’ orchestra?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 08/27 at 07:40 AM
Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Events, CEDIA, (2) Comments, Permalink

Friday, August 22, 2014

By Julie Jacobson


This image was posted on Reddit, with a nice little dialog to go with it. Before you check out the original caption, write one of your own and post it in the Comments section below!

Thanks for the tip,

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 08/22 at 05:17 AM
Blogs, (114) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, August 07, 2014

AMX’s Jeff Kindig (Oh yes I did)

By Julie Jacobson

The beauty of doing what I do is that I can write and publish whatever I want. We tend not to post every single story about industry do-gooders. There are just so many of them.

But occasionally I have a personal connection to a cause and, well, this is one of those cases.

Commercial- and home-automation company AMX recently built a playhouse for the annual Parade of Playhouses in Dallas (running through through Aug. 17) to benefit CASA, an organization for Court Appointed Special Advocates – the volunteers who help abused and neglected children find safe, permanent homes.

As it happens, I know the former executive director of CASA, Beverly Levy, who just retired after 20 years. So I smiled pretty big when the AMX CASA press release landed on my desktop … because I also know Jeff Kindig, the cool-in-a-nerdy-kinda-way VP of marketing for AMX.

So I emailed Beverly about this connection and she replied:

“What a small world, Julie. The director of CASA’s Community Relations is a woman named Lynn Brooks, and her husband, Jeff, works for AMX. … Do you know Jeff?”

Yes, yes I do. For about 15 years or so.

And this from Jeff: WOW! Freaky small world. That was my wife’s boss!! My wife is the marketing director for CASA!

Beverly tells me Lynn is “way overqualified to work for CASA, but she came to CASA because she believes in what we do to help abused children.”

In any case, the sailboat-themed playhouse AMX built, “Seas the Day” is pretty darn cool. It has a sail, flip-down catamaran/hammock, U.S. flag to hoist when passengers are aboard,…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 08/07 at 03:30 PM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, (0) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

By Julie Jacobson

Smart bulbs have always seemed like a dumb idea to me: Pay $60 to $100 for a screw-in LED and then control it with your phone. That’s a lot of money for a single light vs. a switch that can control a whole bank of bulbs. And then there’s the issue of having to keep the switch on at all times, not to mention the hassle of digging out a smart device to brighten the room.

I was having this very conversation at the recent Parks Associates Connections conference, and someone asked: Is the concept really that stupid or is it just the price? If the price were $10 or $15 per bulb, then would it become interesting? That shut us up because, indeed, if the price carried just a small premium over a standard LED, then it starts to make sense. And you can imagine that the light-switch issue will resolve itself eventually.

CentraLite, for example, recently introduced a ZigBee switch that sits on top of a standard toggle, locking it into the “on” position. The device, then, could be used to control the load “directly” from a location where users expect to flip a switch. Certainly we can expect more such fixes in the future. And that big obstacle — the high price of a smart bulb — also will resolve itself.

Indeed, we’re seeing some aggressive activity on that front. GE plans to smash the price barrier with a $15 ZigBee bulb that will integrate out of the box with the new Read entry

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 08/06 at 08:52 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Lighting, (0) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

No, it’s not REALLY the Crestron Pyng logo!

By Julie Jacobson

Congrats to Crestron for becoming a finalist in CEDIA’s Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards with the forthcoming Pyng product.

Now, if only we knew what it was in advance of CEDIA Expo 2014.

Crestron is being uncharacteristically coy about the new software, and the only hint we can find about Pyng comes from this trademark application filed on July 23, 2014:

Computer software, namely, software framework for integrating management and control of audio, video, environmental, data, and security devices; software application for mobile devices, namely, a software framework for integrating management and control of audio, video, environmental, data, and security devices.

Doesn’t sound like anything too novel, but it must be a pretty big deal.

Any guesses as to what it is? At the very least, what do you hope it is?

Place your bets in the comments section below. And, hey, want to guess at the Pyng logo? Shoot me an image (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and I’ll post it. Let’s see who comes the closest.

A patent application filed by Crestron (Fred Bargetzi, et al) in October 2013 and published April 17, 2014, refers to a system that responds to RF beacons “to determine a location of a user.” That information is then communicated to a server, which opens an application in response.

There’s a lot of pinging - er, pynging - in that scenario.

The particular application is for conference-room scheduling, but there are certainly parallels to location-based services within the home. As one dealer suggests in an email to me:

I think this new Crestron thing is a location aware…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 08/05 at 10:58 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Events, CEDIA, (19) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 31, 2014

MikroElektronika shows how to build a voice-controlled light switch. You don’t need no stinkin’ smart bulb.

By Julie Jacobson

Got a kid gearing up for the science fair? Here’s a great project for building a voice-controllable light bulb.

It comes from MikroElectronika, a microprocessor company that offers the SpeakUp spech engine.

Not only does Mikro provide a time-lapsed video of the project (below), but it provides detailed instructions on how to build the project, as well as a $54 deal on all the pieces needed.

As a bonus, you get some wit with the project:

Used as a light switch, the SpeakUp eliminates real pain points - toes stubbed into coffee tables while searching for switches in dark rooms for example. Or the above-described grocery bag conundrum. Not to mention the dexterity needed to hit a light switch with a slipper from across the room where your bed is. ...

Configuring the SpeakUp takes about a minute (just use the free software tool). You should consider recording multiple commands like “lights on,” “turn on the lights,” “lights please,” “ouch, my toe!” and assigning them to the same IO pin, to cover a variety of usage scenarios.

Find the details here.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/31 at 09:22 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Lighting, (2) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 24, 2014

By CE Pro Editors

Whether you’re a large 20-person organization with a retail showroom, or a smaller outfit working out of a home office, every company strives for the same thing: increased profitability.

There are many levers you can pull to get there: sell more profitable stuff, find new customers, raise prices, trim operation expenses, and so on. While cutting expenses isn’t sexy or easy, it will increase profits, regardless of your ability to grow top-line revenue.

SnapAV deals with thousands of custom integration companies on a regular basis. Craig Craze, CEO of SnapAV, offers a half-dozen solid operational tips the company has gleaned from years of discussions with its dealer base and personal experience from its old days as integrators that might help any business become leaner.

1. Understand your true cost of labor: For project-based work, it’s all about accurate estimations. Do the job faster? More money in your pocket. Do the job slower, well … You can only improve what you measure, so consider having techs fill out detailed time sheets — using categorized codes to show what they spent time doing (travel, prewire, cutout, etc.). It can be a pain, and is definitely time-consuming, but ultimately it allows you to better estimate jobs in the future, making each install — and the company as a whole — more profitable.

2. Wash, rinse, repeat: Once you understand the cost of labor, you’ll know where to make improvements. Here’s where process is king. Any time you can standardize it adds efficiency, saving time/money and increasing your bottom line. Back in the day when we had our custom A/V business, we did time and motion studies…

Posted by CE Pro Editors on 07/24 at 08:00 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RIP Home Director.

By Julie Jacobson

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a hoarder. Maybe a sentimentalist.

Whatever the label, I’ve amassed hundreds of T-shirts touting such iconic brands as Home Director and LifeWare. Some companies gracing my T-Shirts ... I’ve never even heard of.

Now settled in California and nearly 50 years old, it’s time to grow up, weed through the Tees and part with many of them.

Before doing so, I’ve committed them to the digital archives.

My criteria for keeping the shirts? They must be:
1. Flattering (of course)
2. Appropriate in public (“Nice Rack!” didn’t make it)
3. Relatively unsoiled
4. Kinda cool or wildly nostalgic

With apologies to those whose brands I’ve besmirched, here are some of the CE tees that didn’t make the cut.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/17 at 08:50 AM
News, Blogs, (1) Comments, Permalink

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