Tech Concerns Part 2: Reliability

posted on Jan. 30, 2019, at 2:00 p.m.

NKBA Staff

Consumers are anxious about several elements in the smart home, but a savvy designer working with an integrator can allay their fears by using systems that work together seamlessly. By Ed Wenck, CEDIA

In December’s column, we discussed one of the primary concerns that clients express when it comes to integrating smart-home technology into their home-improvement projects —  the costs associated with the tech.

But their worries don’t stop with their wallets.

A recent survey conducted by the NKBA noted several other stressors cited by customers about emerging smart-home technology. Three of them are related: Compatibility, reliability and difficulty of use. No fewer than 37% had concerns about different devices and systems being incompatible with one another, while reliability was a potential issue for 32% of those surveyed, and 28% felt that modern home tech was just too complicated to use.

Amanda Wildman, who’s a co-owner of the firm TruMedia in Grand Rapids, Mich., (she’s in business with her husband), has a simple answer for the first two: “I think the companies that are achieving reliability and fighting obsolescence are the ones that are going to be rewarded. And the companies that just throw stuff up on the shelves in the big box stores, the ones that create consumer frustration — and those are companies that I stay far away from — are going to be punished, and punished soon.”

Wildman’s aware that the consumer is bombarded with ads regarding various smart-systems pitched as simple app-controlled devices. But these sometimes crash after updates, or simply clutter the client’s smartphone with colorful icons that work intermittently. This ultimately makes her job harder. But Wildman — like her colleagues in the CEDIA channel — has experience with a wide range of products, and she’ll install reliable systems even when the margins are thin. “There’s an audio system that I’ve used in many, many integrations I’ve done. It doesn’t make me much money at all — but I never have to roll a truck to fix it after it’s in.”

The systems that can work and play well together also offer another benefit: They’re compatible with universal control systems that are intuitive and easy to use.

Which brings us to the number-one concern that clients have when it comes to smart home technology, something those in the industry refer to as “the paradox of choice.” It’s difficult for the average consumer to compare and identify what’s available and what will fit their needs and wants.

“Well,’ says Wildman, “that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?”

CEDIA integrators can be found at

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