More and more end users want to use their mobile devices for both personal needs and control of electronic systems in their homes. Successfully using mobile devices that way demands a robust and reliable network configuration for connectivity and roaming throughout the house, bringing the home network front and center for today’s electronic system contractors (ESCs).
“Today, end users expect their mobile lifestyle to seamlessly transition into their homes, and, more importantly, throughout their homes,” Dave Pedigo, senior director of Technology, The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA), Indianapolis, told SDM. “Using mobile devices in the home requires a reliable connection to a wireless network. Quality networks are much more challenging and time-consuming than most realize. Even though we are moving very rapidly toward standard IP, there are still a lot of nuances for today’s systems to be designed properly and perform reliably. High-end IP is not plug-and-play and is not for the faint of heart. But with training and the right approach, it can be a profitable undertaking,” Pedigo says.
According to Pedigo, that is because despite the network’s challenges, it presents a clear opportunity for ESCs to “own the network,” which is an extremely valuable position to have in today’s homes. Owning the network is the theme of this year’s CEDIA EXPO, where attendees will see the tagline “Own the Network, Own the Home,” a concept you can also read more about in this month’s “Home Technology Now,” written by CEDIA, on page 46. There, ESCs will find education sessions and product solutions aimed at arming them with the products, information and training they need to own the network. That will include offerings specifically addressing mobile devices and the network.
In March, CEDIA released the first white paper in a new series titled “Mobile Devices in Residential Systems Integration.” The series of white papers is strategically designed to examine and recommend best practices for the adoption of mobile devices as a core part of a company’s strategy for a converged Internet-protocol (IP) ecosystem in the home.
In May, a second white paper, “Ten Steps to Creating a Robust Wireless Environment for Mobile Device Integration,” was released to provide ESCs with 10 steps that pave a roadmap to creating a profitable and repeatable Wi-Fi solution. Additional white papers in this series will be released.
CEDIA has expanded course offerings and tripled computer labs at CEDIA EXPO, as well as created a new Networking and IP credential called The CEDIA Residential Networking Specialist, which will be introduced at the EXPO. See “Mastering the Network” on page 68.
Pedigo offers ESCs three pieces of advice when approaching mobile devices on the network.
1. Think Ahead to Navigate Multiple Platforms.
“One emerging difficulty is that end users want to be able to use multiple platforms in the same system. One family member has Apple, while another has Android — or they want to switch platforms after the system is installed. This is a relatively new phenomenon as end users continue to shift away from brand loyalty towards platform loyalty. Hardware manufacturers are working on multi-platform solutions, but until there is a universal solution, successfully navigating multiple platforms in the same system requires very careful design and making sure that every device you are controlling is interoperable,” according to Pedigo.
CEDIA EXPO Session Suggestion
Check out ESD071: Using Smartphones and Tablets as Wireless Sources in the Home to discover methods to maximize the value of these devices as wireless sources. Real-world information will help you implement these technologies with confidence. CEU Value: 1.5
2. Focus on DESIGN AND RELIABILITY.
“Simplicity is the hardest thing to do. You don’t have to teach anybody how to turn on a light switch, but you do have to teaching a guest how to turn on and watch TV is a different story. Good design is really, really hard — but critical because it makes things simple for the end user. Mobile devices are successful now because they are convenient. If ESCs design properly, they can offer high quality and convenience. Many people watch video on their phone and not on their big screen because it is convenient. The integrator’s window of opportunity is to make it as easy to watch Web videos on the TV as it is on a mobile device,” Pedigo says.
CEDIA EXPO Session Suggestion
Check out ESD161: The Designer, the Client, and the Process for more on the roles of the designer, justifying the value of design, and the five steps required to understand and define the end user’s scope of work, lifestyle and needs. CEU Value: 3
“The most successful ESCs are the ones who take the time to design systems that are bullet-proof. Reliability is critical. Designing a system that works all the time requires education and experience. Systems that are hard to operate or malfunction make for an unhappy client and reduce the likelihood of repeat business.” Pedigo adds.
CEDIA EXPO Session Suggestion
Check out ESD008: Designing Control for Mobile Devices and Tablets. Whether you see apps on mobile devices as a threat or an opportunity, there will definitely be something in this session to help you deal with this powerful industry trend. Includes a quick industry update, real-world reports from a panel of experts, and an open forum for questions. CEU Value: 0.75
“Design thoughtfully before installing for each customer. Every customer is going to be unique,” Pedigo reminds ESCs.
3. Cover the Property.
“ESCs have to make sure that every single spot of the property has high-quality , high-speed wireless. People want to walk around with their phone or tablet and never lose signal. This will include using a spectrum analyzer to measure what frequencies are being used and at what amplitude. Creating reliable Wi-Fi environments has become increasingly challenging as wireless bands are heavily used by a multitude of technologies.
“For example, 2.4 GHz has become widely used by other technologies rendering it a saturated band. Instead, 5 GHz is the secret for integrating Wi-Fi and control applications. However, for all of its benefits, 5 GHz also brings its set of challenges. That’s where education comes in. Understanding the benefits and challenges of both bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) as well as mesh networks will help ESCs create the wireless environment needed for a reliable mobile device experience,” Pedigo explains.
CEDIA EXPO Session Suggestion
Check out EST353: ADVANCED Wireless Networking “Hands On” to learn how to design and install robust multiple-access-point wireless networks for the increasingly complex and converged systems that today’s clients are demanding. CEU Value: 4
“The white paper, ‘Ten Steps to Creating a Robust Wireless Environment for Mobile Device Integration,’ does a great job of addressing the challenges and the benefits of both bands on the wireless spectrum and offers detailed points for ESCs to consider,” Pedigo adds.
To read more about how one ESC, Vision Systems Automation of Cypress, Calif., installed continuous wireless service in a 10,000-square-foot home, turn to the special smartHOME Technology @ Work on page 113. The size of the property presented challenges that would not be encountered in a normal installation. The path to success included creating a heat map of the wireless coverage to determine the best placement for wireless access points (WAP) from Pakedge, Foster City, Calif.
Using mobile devices on the network has its challenges, but a great place to start is at the CEDIA EXPO, scheduled to take place Sept. 5-8, 2012, in Indianapolis.
“ESCs are looking at day-to-day operations and trying to be profitable, while to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. The EXPO is the best place for ESCs to go to help foster long-term prosperity. One week a year ESCs can get needed training, and also figure out where they are now and where they will be five to 10 years from now,” Pedigo says. “With that said, CEDIA believes the next five to 10 years will experience tremendous growth in the home automation market, particularly in utilizing mobile devices for control. It can be a profitable area of growth for ESCs and they can start the journey by finding the classes addressing that area at this year’s EXPO.”
Editor’s Note: Manufacturers continue to add more offerings that are mobile. They are also a great resource for training and tips when installing mobile devices as controllers. Watch www.SDMmag.com for the upcoming podcast series “Hit the Easy Button: Mobile Devices in the Home,” featuring home automation providers such as Control 4, Crestron and ELAN discussing their mobile offerings and networking tips for ESCs.