Mark Scelza, product specialist, Northeast Smart Connected Home Solutions for GE Infrastructure, Security, talks about his company's offerings to builders interested in the AIN Group.
Imagine buying a newly built home equipped with wireless Internet, in-home entertainment system, security and alarm system, baby monitoring system and central vacuum system - all waiting for you when you move in. Imagine being able to get a completely networked home like this through one builder.

Imagine being a dealer that is able to offer some of the most well-known brands in these categories available to consumers today: GE, Sony, Dirt Devil and Klipsch. What about purchasing the equipment direct, saving money and earning higher profits? What if you could offer builders recurring revenue on each home they sell? Does it sound too good to be true?

Tom Yesowich came out of retirement to find the answer. Yesowich, owner of Vitex Advanced Home Wiring, Marco Island, Fla., and Walled Lake, Mich., went back to work full-time, putting all of his effort into partnering with Authorized Integrators Network, Detroit, Mich., a new network of low-voltage dealers/integrators that has been more than three years in the making.

"Other programs are geared just toward security - this program is settled on residential new construction integration," Stan Matysiak, president of AIN, told SDM.

Authorized Integrators Network (AIN) is an association of low-voltage integrators that work with new construction builders and buyers to offer customers complete homes and buildings. Manufacturing partners in the program include General Electric, Sony Electronics, Klipsch Audio Technologies, H-P Products and Philips. Through the program, a dealer is able to offer home buyers a combination of these highly recognized brands integrated into their new homes, with the option of adding the price to their mortgage.

The association is not managed by a manufacturing company, but rather a board of directors made up of 20 dealers in the program that serve two-year terms. Together, the members come up with standards and new ideas for the program. "AIN is an entity that sits outside of corporate America," Matysiak said. "The board is made up of AIN dealers and they make the decisions."

The role of AIN, which has nine of its own employees, is to carry out the board of directors' wishes and perform duties and research involved in dealer selection and adherence to AIN's standards and contracts, Matysiak said. AIN also "keeps pulse on what the consumer wants," he added.

"When I heard the name GE, I came out of retirement," Yesowich said. As an AIN integrator and board member, Yesowich has been actively selling with the AIN program for about a year and a half. "The program is not that unique, but the timing with new residential construction is huge, and names like GE and Sony are huge. I'd have been stupid not to give it a try," he added. According to Yesowich, another appealing factor in joining AIN is its exclusivity.

Matysiak said the association will eventually cap membership at 267 dealers. Currently, it has signed on 100-plus dealers to the program. Numbers will be kept low, Matysiak said, to ensure that dealers can make the most in their markets. The number of dealers that AIN will allow in a particular marketplace is determined by several factors, including marketplace population, residential new construction activity and number of households.

The idea for this program came after AIN proposed such an opportunity to General Electric - a company that already dominates the appliance industry in residential construction applications. The association conducted studies with integrators and builders, asking them what they would like in a partner. AIN reached the conclusion that builders' businesses would be made much easier by dealing with one integrator for all of their needs.

"When you are dealing with builders, you need to minimize the number of integrators. AIN does that. To me, that's a home run," said Tony Leone, vice president of sales, new home entertainment solutions for Sony Electronics Inc.

Leone said another important factor about working with AIN is consistency. He explains that the need for national and regional builders dealing with an integrator that will be consistent across all their developments is critical. "A standardized program is very key," he added.

Each AIN manufacturing partner trains the integrator on its products and services. On the new Web site that AIN is planning to launch in the near future will be online training and marketing materials for dealers, as well as order tracking for builders.

As part of the program, AIN integrator members are given access to the builders' customers, explaining different options and services available. This is important, Yesowich said, because technology changes constantly and AIN integrators will have the knowledge and training to talk intelligently about the manufacturing partners' products and capabilities.

And who can ignore brand recognition? "Dealers can offer all the number one brands that, together, make up more than 90 billion dollars in brand valuation," Matysiak said. "We wanted to put together and assemble the dream team."

Some of the options AIN dealer members can offer to home buyers include structured wiring through GE; Sony wall stations which can include radio, intercom, room monitoring and an alarm clock; Klipsch speakers built into the walls and ceilings of the house; Dirt Devil central vacuum system; and an extended warranty through Philips.

AIN and its manufacturing partners launched a pilot of 13 events through the month of August to introduce builders in strategic markets across the country to what the program has to offer. Builders, integrators and the manufacturing partners are optimistic about the program's future.

"The biggest brands in the industry are in this," said Mark Scelza, product specialist, Northeast Smart Connected Home Solutions at GE Infrastructure, Security. "What we are bringing to the table is difficult to equal. The homeowner wants it - it's in demand." - Maggie McFadden, Associate Editor