April 08, 2013 by Lisa Montgomery
Home Control—21 Hours of Reflection
Things have changed in big ways during my 15+ years following the industry.
When you’re stuck in a car for 21 hours, you have a lot of time to think. During a recent road trip from Michigan to Florida, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic as my now-driving-age son Matt handled the wheel for a good portion of the drive. Matt wasn’t even born when I started working at Electronic House. These were the days when it was darn-near impossible to find a high-tech home to feature in the then bi-monthly magazine. It was also a time when X-10 was the king of home control. A/V showrooms were a rare breed, and CE pros camped out customers’ homes on order to write the complicated code required to get the lights to talk freely to the alarm system.
When mass media today reports about “this new and relatively uncharted world of home automation,” I can only chuckle. Home automation has been around for longer than the Internet … and like my son, it’s taken awhile to mature to the point where consumers feel ready to hand over the wheel.
Here are a few of the most significant areas of maturation:
• House Calls. A have to admit that I was shocked to hear during one of my first visits to an automated home that the custom electronics professional had spent the night at his client’s house on several occasions to program their system. I later discovered that burning the midnight oil was a fairly common practice among CE pros during those early days of home automation.
Today, it’s a completely different story. Often, programming is handled by the CE pro remotely and can be completed in a couple of hours instead of a couple of weeks or months.
• Showrooms. Few and far between were showrooms where you could see, touch and experience technology for yourself when I started working for Electronic House. It was such a shame, too. This was a time when people could have benefited tremendously from seeing home theaters, whole-house audio and other accouterments in action. It was an extremely hard sell back then.
Today, most CE pros are able to invite current and prospective customers to their showrooms to demonstrate home control, home theater, high-end audio and more. And it’s not just about technology. It’s about the experience, as many CE pros now use their showrooms to host parties, paired nicely with music, food and drink.
Choice. There were two choices when it came to automation years ago: a highly customized hardwired system, or a simple plug-and-play X-10 system. The former was extremely expensive; the latter super cheap. There was absolutely no middle ground, resulting in a market where you either had to be a millionaire or a hobbyist to enjoy home automation.
Today there are home automation systems for all budgets—small, medium and large. While we had no choice as EH editors but to feature mansions back in the day, we now can cover a wide range of homes and lifestyles. Automated homes are becoming increasingly common.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.