CEDIA CEO: Home Technology Market Remains ‘Incredibly Healthy’

Giles Sutton, co-interim CEO of CEDIA, cites association’s achievements in certification, workforce development in face of pandemic.

FISHERS, Ind. — The past year has been challenging for CEDIA. At press time, the association is still in the midst of searching for its next CEO, and the pandemic forced the cancellation of its in-person education, both on the road and in its headquarters, located here.

Meanwhile, the market keeps chugging along despite extreme shortages in labor and in products. But despite those challenges, CEDIA is emerging from COVID-19 with eager anticipation of what lies ahead for events, education, and continued market growth.

Leading up to the return of an in-person CEDIA Expo this month in Indianapolis, Giles Sutton, CEDIA co-interim CEO, addressed the state of the association in an exclusive interview with SSI sister publication CE Pro.

How would you characterize the state of the smart home industry?

The smart home industry is at an important inflection point. People have spent the past 18 months confined to their homes, and it has had a massive impact on the adoption of smart home products. Recent research from Parks Associates tells us the number of U.S. consumers that now own at least one smart home device has doubled from 17% to 34% over the last five years.

The number of “Power Users,” which the market research firm defines as those that own between five and nine such devices, has also grown significantly, doubling in just the last two years. The appetite for technology is there; even CE Pro’s own 2021 State of the Industry report reveals that integrators reported 11.5% revenue growth, and this in a pandemic year.

These factors point to an incredibly healthy industry, which is promising, but I think the key for integrators moving forward will be going beyond the products they sell to the service they provide.

There may be a whole new market of consumers who have enjoyed getting to play with an Amazon Alexa or Philips Hue light bulbs but are ready to take the next step to a fully automated home.

What are the biggest challenges facing the market?

As we continue to read news reports on the labor shortages across industries, I can’t help but feel sympathy because the labor shortage is something our channel has been battling for years — and it continues to be a barrier for continued growth for the home technology profession as a whole.

How is the association addressing those challenges?

CEDIA has been working on a framework for workforce development over the last several years. In fact, it has been a key initiative in our strategic plan. I am so proud of the progress we have make this year in our work with current education partners, as well as new education partners like the PowerHouse Alliance.

This fall, the full network of PowerHouse Alliance members will begin offering entry-level training in local markets — making CEDIA education more accessible than ever before. I think of when I was first starting in the industry — I relied on the local training made available from CEDIA in the U.K., and it is exciting to think we can replicate this model in the U.S. with PowerHouse. I am excited to see this next generation of talent enter our industry and see what makes it such an exciting career path.

What do you see as the strong growth areas for integrators right now?

Our industry has always had a tie to the housing market, and in this case I think there are three distinct opportunities for integrators. The first is targeting new Millennial homeowners; these digital natives now make up 38% of the homebuying population, according to the National Association of Realtors. Their level of comfort with technology is high, so beginning to target that segment with the convenience, security and entertainment possibilities that home technology professionals can deliver is a no-brainer.

Broaching into more categories, there is significant data that points to continued growth of rental properties and the desire for smart home amenities among MDU residents. Recent research from Parks Associates found growing ownership in smart home devices among MDU residents, with 41% of all MDU broadband households owning at least one smart home device, compared to 34% of single-family households. As long as an integration company is ready to scale for a project of this size, it is a market ripe for opportunity.

Finally, I think we’re continuing to see a growing desire among homeowners to stay in their residences longer, compared to previous generations who may have opted for assisted living or retirement communities. This trend was once called “aging in place,” but the industry has recently adopted a fresher, more apt moniker: “living in place.” The pandemic has demonstrated new technologies for people to keep an eye on loved ones from afar, and I see this as a momentum builder as consumers seek technology to make living in place easier.

How was CEDIA affected by the pandemic?

CEDIA was far from immune to the pressures of the pandemic — but I like to think that amid that pressure we’ve produced some of our most valuable programming and initiatives to directly benefit CEDIA members. Early on, our government affairs team worked overtime to ensure that integrators were considered essential workers as to continue to serve customers without disruption. We hosted countless webinars and networking sessions globally and even released a new series of member benefits under the new CEDIA Propel program.

What are your goals for 2022 for CEDIA?

The entire CEDIA team is excited to welcome a new CEO later this year, and I’m sure we will see our goals take new shape and expand under their leadership and with support of the CEDIA Board of Directors. For the moment, the team is hyper-focused on providing valuable resources and content to our members so they can continue to find success in the industry.

This is taking the form of some truly exciting strategic partnerships with PowerHouse, HTSA, Google and academic institutions including: AV Tech (Detroit), Ivy Tech (Indianapolis), Lincoln Tech (nationwide, U.S.), Orange Tech (Orlando, Fla.), Pinellas Technical College (Clearwater, Fla.) and Skills4Stem (U.K.).

Additionally, this past year CEDIA has achieved important milestones with our certification program. We successfully launched the CEDIA Cabling and Infrastructure Technician (CIT) Certification in January of 2021 and this September we will begin beta testing the Integrated Systems Technician (IST) exam and CEDIA’s Networking Specialist certification is also in the early stages of revision. We are thrilled with the progress that we have made.

Through 2022, CEDIA will continue to pursue these goals looking to serve our members and their needs.

What gets you most excited about the industry right now?

The return to in-person events is the most exciting thing on the horizon in my opinion. So much of the work we do at CEDIA relies on conversations, networking opportunities, and simply being able to see each other face-to-face. As an AV lover at my core, I admit nothing can replicate the in-person demo.

At a time when so many new products have launched virtually, I am anxious for when we get to walk the CEDIA Expo show floor or connect at a CEDIA Tech Summit and see and experience the latest and greatest our manufacturer members have brought to market.

This Q&A first appeared on SSI sister site CEPro.com.

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