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Monday, March 02, 2015

By Jason Knott

Did the custom electronics industry sign up for a life-long membership in the federal witness protection program? Is recognition for this industry buried with Jimmy Hoffa?

Yet another study has been released that unveils the obscurity of the industry, despite the growing popularity of smart home systems. This is the same mantra that has been repeated over the past decades about “hot” technologies such as home theater, audio systems, flat panel TVs and home automation.

According to a new study from Parks Associates entitled “Key Competitive Elements for Smart Home Service Providers,” three out of every four U.S. broadband households has absolutely no idea whatsoever where to turn to get a “smart home system” installed. Likewise, about 70 percent of consumers have no idea where to purchase a “smart home system.”

This lack of recognition of the custom installation channel comes on the heels of the recent 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where home automation and smart homes was clearly one of the hottest trends at the mega event. But there is also a long way to go in terms of product awareness. About 60 percent of consumers say they are totally unfamiliar with smart home products and smart home services. That, despite the fact that 16 percent of all homes in the U.S. have smart home devices in them.

Related: CE Pro 2015 State of the Industry Report

So here we go again with the custom installation industry perfectly poised to take advantage of one of the hottest trends yet…

Posted by Jason Knott on 03/02 at 01:00 PM
Blogs, Research, Home Automation and Control, (2) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, February 26, 2015

During peak times, reports suggest Netflix and shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the new Black” consume as much as 30 percent of all network traffic. A newly announced ruling from the FCC will ensure consumers receive equal treatment from their Internet service providers (ISPs) to protect the quality of streams during high traffic hours.

By Robert Archer

Fans of “House of Cards” as well as thousands of custom integrators are rejoicing today over the FCC’s decision on net neutrality.

Roughly a year ago the streaming service company Netflix signed deals with two of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs), Comcast and Verizon, to protect the quality of the service its clients receive from these companies.

Taking it a step further, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just announced that it is adopting, “strong, sustainable rules to protect the open Internet.” In a statement, the government agency says that it is ending the uncertain future of the open Internet by setting up rules to promote innovation and investment on the country’s broadband networks.

By taking these steps, the FCC is ensuring that all U.S. citizens receive the same level of service from their Internet service providers (ISPs) after two failed attempts in a court of law.

“Today the Commission—-once and for all—-enacts strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of legal authority to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future,” says the FCC in a press release. “These new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open——principles shared by the overwhelmingly majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC’s Open Internet proceedings.”

The government’s action should be well received by the nearly 58 million Netflix subscribers and the millions of fans of the service’s “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New…

Posted by Robert Archer on 02/26 at 01:03 PM
Blogs, Video, Digital Media, Legal, (16) Comments, Permalink

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Unhushables.

By Julie Jacobson

You gotta love DIY home automation and the people who blog about it, and the people who send me links to the people who blog about it.

The two most recent hilariously sad posts concern 1) Nest Protect smoke detectors that won’t shut up, and 2) a Wink smart home system that rarely works *amd* has a typo in its GUI.

Unhushable Nest

In Brad Fitzpatrick’s 6-minute video of his multiple Nest Protects going off, he tries pushing the button on each only to be admonished, “This alarm cannot be hushed.”

The flummoxed engineer yanks each unit out of its base, tossing them all into an ice bucket … and then an Igloo … but barely manages to muffle the sirens.

“Do not buy a Nest Protect,” he writes. “You will regret it.”

The products are, as he says, “unhushable pieces of crap.”

Oh, and Fitzpatrick is an employee of Google, which acquired Nest last year for $3.2 billion.

“I feel that these Nest Protect units are damaging the Google brand & reputation,” he adds. “So I’m defending Google by steering users away from this product, before those users experience the same thing.”

Wonky Wink

And now, the Gizmodo story read ‘round the world.

Adam Clark Estes titles his piece, “Why is My Smart Home So F***ing Dumb?”

Only he didn’t use ***.

Estes’ experience with Wink, a unit of GE-backed Quirky, can be summed up in a word: “Fail.”

But for some of the finest moments, read the captions that accompany his images and videos.

Like these:

“It amazing how much you miss a…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 02/20 at 02:42 PM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, Lighting, (2) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jeremy Burkhardt introduces Europe to Origin Acoustics at ISE 2015

By Julie Jacobson

So you think Jeremy Burkhardt has a big personality?

He’s a wallflower compared to Cyrille Vergely, who represents Burkhardt’s Origin Acoustics in France through the rep firm Vivateq.

Making its European debut at ISE 2015 Origin couldn’t find a more enthusiastic advocate than Vergely who says, “I was an installer and that’s why I love this product.”

See for yourself in the video below why Vergely is so excited about Origin.
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Posted by Julie Jacobson on 02/12 at 01:47 AM
News, Blogs, Videos, Audio, Speakers, Events, ISE, (1) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

By Chuck Schneider

As I age gracefully through my sixties, how many more icons of my youth can I stand to lose? For example, I really miss Howard Johnson’s 28 flavors of ice cream and “sweet as a nut” fried clams. Radio Shack, at least in its original form, is the latest to go and this one hurts. Like Howard Johnson’s it was born in Boston and died nationally.

Those scrumptious chicken croquettes with yellow gravy notwithstanding, HoJo’s didn’t have a huge impact on my career journey in consumer electronics. Radio Shack did. I’m pretty certain it somehow impacted just about every baby boomer that reads this column.

Radio Shack started in 1921 (HoJo’s started four years later) near the sight of the Boston Massacre with the goal of becoming the place to shop for the new and booming amateur (or ham) radio business. By the time World War II was raging, the Shack had nine stores, a strong lineup of private brands and a burgeoning mail order business. In the mid 1960s they fell on hard times and were purchased for a song by the Tandy Leather Company. Déjà vu?

Those mid-60s were when my love affair with Radio Shack began. I built my first short-wave radio, an Archer Globe Patrol, in 1964. It had vacuum tubes, you whippersnappers.

My first Hi-Fi purchase was in 1966, a pair of Realistic Solo 4s, one of the best selling stereo speakers of all time. Later that year I replaced a mono amp I extracted from my mom’s Stromberg-Carlson portable record player with a 10 watt Realistic solid state (hard wired transistors, no integrated circuits) amplifier and a Radio…

Posted by Chuck Schneider on 02/10 at 06:27 AM
Blogs, Slideshow, Audio, (6) Comments, Permalink

Monday, February 02, 2015

Using a gross margin calculation in pricing your equipment vs. simple markup can add money to your bottom line. (Photo: PCG Services)

By Jason Knott

Warning: This is one of those “boring” accounting blogs that most of you don’t think you need to read.

If you discovered that one of the basic tenets you use to run your business was incorrect, would you fix it? Of course you would.

So how many times at either the end of the month or the end of a project have you discovered that you did not make the profit you had anticipated? It probably happens a lot. I am not talking about a job that had lots of mishaps or delays, but one that went smoothly; a job that you priced everything accordingly and your labor calculations were precise, but still your profit ended up lower.

This could be happening because you don’t know the difference between gross margin vs. markup. Indeed, most integrators do not know the difference between these two things, and the result is often a gross profit that runs well below their anticipated levels.

How Do You Calculate It?
Here is how it works. If you buy a product, let’s say a thermostat to keep it simple, for $100 and you want to make a 20 percent gross margin on it, at what price would you offer it to your customer? Most of you would mark the product up by 20 percent to $120. That is incorrect.

You see, 20 percent markup does not equate to a 20 percent gross margin. If you want to earn 20 percent gross margin on that product you would actually need to charge $125, or add a 25 percent markup.

Huh? What the heck is he talking about? How can 25 percent…

Posted by Jason Knott on 02/02 at 12:11 PM
Blogs, Business Resources, (9) Comments, Permalink

Friday, January 30, 2015

Angry wife of a home automation-happy guy: “I’m sick of living in an automated house. Change it all back.”

By Julie Jacobson

It’s kind of cliché, but generally true: Women hate it when their husbands perform home automation experiments … at home.

And one particular wife of a particular tinkerer is not at all happy with his installation of a smart home system from SmartThings.

The husband, smarcc, posts in the SmartThings forum:

Here are 3 consecutive texts I received from my wife last week, after going from zero smart devices in December to a new SmartThings hub and 60 devices today. Brace yourself:

8:41 PM: [This is the] second time I have had to get out of the shower to turn on the g** d*** f****** [light] in our master bedroom. Because they keep going out even though the baby is in his swing. Pretty crappy motion sensor. Change it back.

8:43 PM: it just happened again. I’m sick of living in an automated house. Change it all back.

8:57 PM: And before you spend more countless hours on a project that will only make my life more difficult, how about you tackle the ones that will make it easier: patching the roof, fixing the sewer line so it doesn’t back up in the guest bathroom, getting new windows so we have windows that actually close, baby proofing the house, putting a fence around the pool, removing the bedroom set from the guest bedroom so we can have a nursery for the baby before he move out, getting your car fixed so you don’t have to borrow mine and leave me car-less, installing a car seat base in your car, etc. etc. etc.

I guess I have some troubleshooting ahead of me - all around. Anybody experience…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/30 at 09:33 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Permalink

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Curt Hayes, CFO and president of Capitol, says some of the basic assumptions integrators are making about the category of wireless audio are incorrect and hurting their sales ability.

By Curt Hayes

When it comes to product categories, audio is royalty. Whether it’s the center of attention, as in a multichannel surround system, an add-on to a display, or a portable, it is hard to think of another product type that is so much a part of nearly every sale that is made.

Or should be, especially when you consider that there seems to be another system or format introduced every few months, followed by a dozen variations on the theme. From high end to commodity products, dealers can say, “There’s something for everyone,” and not be lying.

And, yet, my colleagues at Capitol and I know of far too many instances where dealers leave money on the table but just being satisfied with pushing the basic sale out the door, all because a customer’s initial reaction to audio was apathetic or even negative. Or, even worse, the dealer is still not up to speed on how to communicate the benefits of whole-house networked audio to end-users who are reticent about a traditional installation.

Nowhere is this more prevalent in the custom channel than audio. Our customers’ livelihoods are derived from creating and servicing a home entertainment experience that makes an irrefutable difference in the lives of their clientele – clientele who have shown that they are willing to invest in a high performance and high price system, so long as they can rationalize the investment.

“Not fair,” may be your first response. “We spend a great deal of time talking about the latest options for the project at hand.”

True. We all spend a lot of time talking about the most popular additions to a…

Posted by Curt Hayes on 01/28 at 08:53 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, Audio, Distributed Audio, Distributors, Network, Wireless A/V, Permalink

Friday, January 23, 2015


By Julie Jacobson

Here’s the story: Soap Inc., which promised to make smart home automation routers, had two founders – Brandon Jeffrey Jones and Alexander Davis Jones.

Brandon Jones declared bankruptcy a few years before the duo launched Soap on Kickstarter in 2014. Kickstarter kicked the company out for non-performance, at which point Alex Jones declared bankruptcy (more on the bankruptcies and suspicious pasts).

Shortly thereafter, the brothers fled to Indiegogo.

$300,000 later and not a shred of evidence that Soap hardware or software exists, the brothers this week launched yet another campaign on Indiegogo. In something of a Ponzi scheme, the company admits to using the third campaign to fulfill commitments from its past campaign.

Apparently the duped backers have been contacting Indiegogo officials for quite some time, with allegations of fraud.

Whether or not the operation is a scam – we don’t know for sure – Indiegogo shouldn’t allow a company to re-launch a campaign under suspicious circumstances such as these.

Certainly Indiegogo and Kickstarter and the others can’t police all activity on their crowd-funding sites, but in this case it seems Indiegogo had fair warning.

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RELATED: More Scoop on Soap

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Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/23 at 07:34 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Permalink


CE ProS yawn at the business stories.

By Julie Jacobson

CE Pros aren’t reading the right stuff. They skip past vital business-oriented stories and dwell on scandals, personalities, newfangled technologies and breezy fare.

Yet when you ask dealers, in survey after survey, about their shortcomings, they overwhelmingly cite business acumen including accounting, sales, legal, marketing, HR, operations, recurring revenue and the like.

I agree that that stuff can be boring as heck to read, but CE Pro does a pretty good job of making it interesting. And still, if we post it, dealers don’t click. And so we sometimes get into a self-perpetuating cycle of posting fewer dealer profiles and business features, favoring more attention-getting product, personality and technology pieces.

We recently posted a list of the top 20 most popular stories on for 2014 by number of page views.

The list shouldn’t surprise anyone. In general, the most-visited articles feature themes with wide appeal – DIY home automation systems like Wink and the now-defunct Revolv; emerging smart-home protocols; Staples, Lowe’s, Home Depot and other mass-market initiatives; and anything that looks like Sonos.

Hey, we’re not knocking technology stories ... but would a little business learnin’ kill ya?

Consumers, bloggers, analysts, manufacturers and “the industry” are drawn to stories like these, so naturally our Top 20 list is skewed towards the broader market.


But even when we get to more CI-oriented pieces, readers still prefer personalities over practicality.

Jeremy Burkhardt’s launch of Origin Acoustics (#8 on the list) and Read entry

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/23 at 07:30 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, Permalink

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