Wireless Solutions Changing the Picture

Capitol Sales is pressing dealers to go retro—retrofit, that is, to draw on the 99 percent of the housing market that's ripe for a multiroom audio solution
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Wireless Solutions Changing the Picture

Apr 20, 2009 8:32 AM, By Rebecca Day

Capitol Sales is pressing dealers to go retro—retrofit, that is, to draw on the 99 percent of the housing market that's ripe for a multiroom audio solution. Capitol's initiative, led by Jeff Kussard, formerly of Russound, Harman, and several custom retail businesses, centers on a national education tour that kicks off May 3 in San Francisco. Capitol Sales' Learning Institute Regional Outreach is being held in conjunction with CEDIA On the Road, and Capital Sales attendees will receive CEU credits through CEDIA University.

"A lot of people are concerned about the current state of the economy," Kussard says. "We see this as a time of regeneration where we can provide solutions for our community and help them reposition themselves so they're in a stronger position when we get to the other end of the tunnel."

Addressing the custom residential market, Kussard believes integrators have focused on a disproportionately small segment of potential customers. "This industry has always suffered from a myopic perspective built around an enthusiast's point of view," he says. "Because of that philosophy and the current marketplace, we're limiting ourselves to a clientele that represents 1 percent of the U.S. population." New housing represents about 5 percent of total market in any given year, he says, and the CEDIA channel has a market penetration of 20 percent of that market, at most.

Now, Kussard says, it's time for integrators to draw on business acumen and to apply their trade to opportunities geared "to the other 95 percent of the marketplace." He attributes part of the CEDIA channel's focus on the once-growing new housing market to limits in technology. Traditionally, wireless technology wasn't reliable enough for a smooth audio experience, and integrators had to rely on wired solutions that were most easily installed before walls went up.

New wireless solutions are changing the picture, he says, opening opportunities for retrofit installations. The company recently signed Lagotek for its Wi-Fi and Z-Wave-compatible wireless home automation system to its client roster. Lagotek supports a number of product lines in Capitol's portfolio including Leviton Z-Wave lighting control. Capitol is also pointing dealers to powerline carrier-based products from Russound.

According to Kussard, PLC has evolved to the point where it is a reliable medium—at least for streaming audio—for multichannel and multiroom audio. "And we will see some meaningful video solutions in the near future," he added. "The opportunities that no-new-wires provides for integrators—if they look at themselves as service providers rather than just contractors—opens up markets that we haven't been able to reach before."

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Wireless Solutions Changing the Picture

Apr 20, 2009 8:32 AM, By Rebecca Day

Getting integrators to hop on board may not be so simple. Revisiting a panel he participated in at CEDIA Expo last year, Kussard says no-new-wires solutions are encountering pushback from custom integrators.

"There were a handful of old-line CEDIA guys who built successful businesses on installing high-end projects with very wealthy customers who argued that these technologies would erode their business," he says. "As if what their customers rely on them for is their ability to run wires through walls." Kussard argues that customers look to integrators for their expertise and guidance. "If one of the solutions you offer is that you don't need to run wires—that all you need to do is implement these no-new-wires devices—customers will accept that from you as a service provider as readily, or more readily, than your saying you have to send guys in to punch holes in the walls and deal with how to patch them later.”

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Kussard says if he were still running an integration firm today, he would continue to move his hard-wire-based business forward as aggressively as possible while setting up a separate division with an independent sales force and installation staff whose sole purpose was to sell no-new-wires-based technologies. "The close line would be 'If I can get this multiroom audio system up and running for you by this time tomorrow, would you sign the contract now?'" he says.

Capitol's Learning Institute embraces other no-new-wires approaches including RF, coax (MoCA), and phoneline as well and sees opportunities for all the media to work together.

"Capitol believes that the contracting community isn't going to be able to rely on one arrow in its quiver," he says. "An implementation may have to rely on multiple technologies in order to reach the goal."

As a sign of the times, perhaps, the first Capitol Sales Learning Institute Regional Outreach, scheduled for this week in Seattle, was postponed at the last minute due to a low number of registrants. Vendor sponsors are looking forward to a strong debut in San Francisco early next month, however. Additional programs will be held in Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Tampa, Fla. Courses are $100 per event.

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