Home Automation: Making the Complex Simple

16 Dec

One of the most difficult tasks for those working in the world of technology is to understand that not everyone loves this stuff as much as we do.  Jason, of Audio Video Experts in Los Angeles, wouldn’t think twice of standing in line to be one of the first to put hands on the new iPhone, for many people technology is simply a nuisance.  It is something that they must endure each day to accomplish everything they need to do.

custom home theater control

Understanding these differences in people can literally make or break a company.  Steve Jobs had an intuitive understanding of this concept.  If you can create a device that is so simple to use that it removes all fear from the end user, you will be successful.  But if you can make that device draw those same people in, you will have a wildly successful business. (with people standing in line to buy  your products)

Technology in the Home

While this is obviously important for devices such as an iPhone, it is even more important when it is something that people HAVE to use within their own home.  One of the biggest hurdles any technology company must overcome when selling a high performance home theater or home automation system is a member of the family that is anathema to all things technology.

In many couples this ends up being the wife.  I’m not saying all wives, but in my experience the majority of those that took the most convincing were female.  I’m not going to make any sort of hypothetical statements as to why this is, it just is.  But there is very good logic behind it.

In many cases our TV’s and stereo systems are ridiculously difficult to control.  How many times have you seen a coffee table full of remotes and a printed set of instruction for simply turning on the TV.  There is no good reason things should be this difficult.  And most women, rightly so, cannot see the logic in spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a system from which they will get no enjoyment.

This is why it is hugely important to have an intuitive and easy to use interface for all home automation touch panels and controls.  In terms of importance, it’s right up there with choosing the right hardware.  Most large home automation company’s have a wide variety of graphics available for their panels.  This is a good start, but you need to make sure that the system you program is also logical and makes sense.

One company that has done a wonderful job with this within the audio-video industry is Kaleidescape.  We referenced their products in an earlier article here.  They’re interface sells a product that would otherwise be insanely overpriced.

Selling Technology

In one of the most brilliant selling techniques I’ve seen during a consultation, the owner, Jason, of Audio Video Experts in Los Angeles hands the high end touch panel not to the man in his office that is already sold on the system, but to his wife, who is at best skeptical about the whole thing.  He then asks her to operate the system in his office.

Once she’s comfortable with the controls, all the pressure is gone.  This makes things easier on the husband, wife, and integrator.  And it all comes down to finding an interface that is logical, intuitive, and easy to use.

These sorts of things don’t happen by accident.  It takes testing, trial and error, and retesting to get an interface that will disarm technophobes of their fear.  But if you can overcome this hurdle, it makes the job of selling much easier.

Home Theater Controls

The best place to start is with the controls of the home theater.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the winner of the Best Home Theater Installation like Audio Video Experts in Los Angeles in all the big publications.  If you’re clients cannot use their systems easily and consistently, they will never get full enjoyment from them.

Once you’ve mastered these sorts of controls it is relatively easy to ramp up to more complex controls such as whole house panels that include climate control, audio-video, lighting, and security.  Just be sure to test everything in house before you implement them in a clients home.

When done properly, a solid interface can be as important to your reputation as the customer service you provide.  This is, after all, the face of your business once you leave the job site.