Recently, I was able to visit a couple of homes in Chicago to check out their high-tech accouterments. The first was a high-rise, not yet finished, but with plans for extravagant LED lighting throughout, among other technologies. The second, a brownstone in a historic district, was undergoing a major renovation of the heating and cooling system, but had one of the most extensive video distribution systems I’ve seen.
It’s easy to be blown away by amenities like these. We’re supposed to ooooh and aaaah over enormous screens that descend from the ceiling on cue from a handheld remote and music that pours out of speakers hidden within the architecture. However, it’s often what happens months earlier—in back rooms of a custom electronic professional’s office—that can be a more accurate representation of a firm’s level of professionalism and customer service.
As proud as the CE pros at Integrisys were of those two Chicago homes, they were just as stoked about their business—not just the glitzy demo area or the shiny stack of brochures on the reception desk—but areas like the garage where they receive product shipments, the room where they test systems before delivery; engineering; and storage.
Remarkably, the recent Chicago visit marked the first time a CE pro had taken me the bowels of their business, and I’m glad they did. It completely changed the way I look at projects. That swanky roll-up screen in a home theater is just surface stuff, now that I realize are so many other details involved in getting to that fantastic end result, a huge percent of which happens before the product even gets to your door.
Simple things like the way Integrisys labels and tracks products—there’s no way something will ever get misplaced or dispatched to the wrong house. Customer problems are dealt with swiftly thanks to digital stock ticker that streams status reports 24/7 on every single system they’ve ever installed.
The office itself is completely automated, with the same system and software they use in clients’ homes—not just the demo area (which is super impressive), but every individual office, the conference room and the bathroom. Plus, they’ve added some of their own unique twists to illustrate the full potential of their system and their programming expertise. For example, each employee has his or her own card, which is passed through a scanner, to gain access into the building. After determining who the user is, the automation system sets the lights, motorized shades and music in that specific person’s office to their preprogrammed preference. Very slick, but don’t let those smoke and mirrors cloud your judgment. My advice: ask to see all the back rooms of a CE pro before you sign on the dotted line. You’ll have a much clearer understanding of how your project will be handled.
Back room experience center
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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.