I sometimes despair at what it will take for our industry to be taken seriously.
We were recently called to a site where the homeowner had commissioned the on-site electrician to specify and install their whole-of-house speakers. Unfortunately, all the speakers in the house had been run daisy-chain, i.e. wired from one speaker to the next (don’t laugh – this is not the first time we have seen this).
The bad news was that without a significant (and now expensive) re-fit, the owner would not have multi-room audio. The good news was that we would be able to get one speaker working, and all the client needs to do is decide if he wants the left or the right channel of his system connected!
It frustrates me that, as an industry, we cannot elevate ourselves to the credibility level of other services. No home builder will commission the on-site plumber to install the electrics or the roofer to do the floor tiles. So why is it that the assumption is that on-site services can design, install, and commission an AV system or the networking? Is it because everyone assumes that cables are cables, and they all look much the same? Or is it because, as an industry, all our marketing is price-driven with no attempt to explain the features and benefits of what we do?
We have electricians on staff – not because we carry out electrical work (although we could) but because electricians are well down the training path when we employ them. It takes a lot less time to train an electrician up to the required skill level necessary than it does for someone with no cable experience at all. But it still takes time.
Note: I acknowledge that many electricians, security technicians etc., have spent the time and the money to learn our trade, and many are very competent. But they are still in the minority – it is up to the end-user to sort the good from the bad.
There is a lot of knowledge involved in what we do. It is not knowledge one has unless they have had the training specific to that topic (audio and video distribution, control systems, automation etc.) and the hands-on experience to back it up. The primary issue at the moment is networking. In this age of streaming, almost everything we do relies on a solid network, and the network of old that allowed you to receive and answer emails will not cut it today. We find we are constantly hamstrung by poorly designed network systems, usually by other on-site trades. Networking has now become the fastest-growing part of our business. And the golden rule is – if you can cable it – do so.
Wireless is not the all-encompassing panacea it is often made out to be.
Every industry has its relevant association – for example, electricians have NECA. Our industry has CEDIA (Len Wallis Audio is a founding member). One of their roles is training. They have developed over 100 training courses specific to our industry (there are a dozen on future technologies and trends alone – would you like the technology in your home to still be relevant in five years?).
Len Wallis Audio spends a great deal of time and resources in training and learning, both from CEDIA and elsewhere. I have been in this industry for 50 years, and I still learn something new every day, plus we employ a considerable number of people who know a whole lot more about what we do than me. We, and others like us, are specialists in our field, and we do what we do every day of the week. We have already made the mistakes and hopefully learned from them. Like the example above, others are still learning from their mistakes – don’t let it be on your time.
If you are building or renovating, ensure that you include an integrator along with the other on-site services such as electricians, plumbers, painters etc. This way, you stand a much better chance of having the job done correctly, and you may even be surprised at what is possible!