Where has the market gone to? It is a question integrators in all categories have been asking themselves. Until recently the commercial integration market could cast a bemused eye at our residential cousins while their market was rocked by off-the-shelf solutions and diminishing margins.
What was once a safe haven for some during the great recession, has now undergone seismic shifts. Smaller, cheaper, and non-serviceable have become the order of the day.
Most of us are well aware of this trend and the rogues gallery of the usual suspects — tablets, huddle rooms and drop-and-connect infrastructures. These devices are collaborators to the undoing of the established business model, but there is also a change to the zeitgeist.
Recently, The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) changed its name to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). While the name may seem inconsequential, it signals major alterations for all in the integration industry.
CTA explained this new name, in part:
By replacing the term “Electronics,” which no longer captures the full breadth of the consumer tech industry, with “Technology” the Consumer Technology Association more accurately represents its members, many of whom are non-hardware innovators…
Depending on your perspective the above statement is either a brilliantly succinct description of the market or a terse eulogy to an all but forgotten marketplace.
Watch the Gap
There are several driving forces which, at this writing, appear to be an undeniable next wave.
The Consumer-Pro gap is no more. Only a few years ago the striking differences of what was aptly described as Do It Yourself (DIY) were clear. The gap of technological power, features and GUI between the “consumer” goods and Pro has come to near par. Stable and high-bandwidth networks and internetworks are ubiquitous. With the universal connectivity comes mass acceptance of standard public protocols.
Now is the time to modify your business plans. Present day clients are looking for products that are faster, cheaper, smarter — and they are getting them. The argument that we are providing long-lasting and stable environments is losing, with a few exceptions, to the culture of consumables. Why invest in long term equipment when the next year or next six months will bring a new more powerful system?
Our challenge is to provide these updates on a regular basis, swapping out or expanding existing systems with no down time for the client. The business will be insuring remote management of “the” network of devices and insuring it is secure.
Gone are the service contracts of old, replaced with newfound management oversight and quick response customer relationships. In many ways, we are to become “that tech guy” — attentive to the client’s business process, needs and culture. Solutions are to come from both the elite, for infrastructure, and the diverse, for everything else.
Sound familiar? It should.
Commercial integration needs to see beyond the gear and the code to a place where we provide agnostic seamless connection of disparate devices.