whole-house automation and a lot of eyes glaze over. It
can be a world of mystery to homeowners, real estate agents,
builders and even electricians.
loads and relays. Interfaces and modules. Low-voltage
and high-voltage lines, Programming remotes and computer
systems. It can be a full-time job just to make sure that
the people designing, installing and programming an automation
system speak the same language (let alone make sure that
the machinery speaks a common language).
Bower is trying to make things a little simpler. After
several years as a home theater and automation integration
consultant working primarily for home-owners and builders,
Bower is bringing advice and training to the people who
do the work -- the electricians and the electrical contractors
-- with SMART Systems and Service, which opened a new
training facility in Richfield last week.
someone building a new home wants an automation system,
the homeowner or builder usually hires a company specializing
in integrating lights, security, audio-video, computer
and telephone systems. That company then works with the
electrical contractors to install whatever gear is needed.
The integrators might call a telephone specialist, a computer
network specialist and an audio-video specialist to work
with the electrical contractor who is doing the lights.
would like to see that pattern change. In the future,
he said, homeowners or builders should go directly to
their electrical contractor for that expertise. The electrical
contractors would get the expertise from SMART Systems,
which would train the contractor's electricians and provide
technical support, such as creating wiring diagrams and
ordering the automation equipment.
I believe that the electrical contractors will be doing
all this work,"Bower said. "Electrical contractors
are not going to allow other people to steal business
cutting out one or two layers of subcontracting, automation
installations ultimately will be less expensive; in addition,
the systems will be installed by people who are more familiar
with how things work.
we will both make money and the customer will get a better
system," he said.
support team for electricians isn't out there now, said
Bower. Supply houses don't know how to market each new
advance in automation to electricians, let alone homeowners.
making it easy for them," Bower said. "We're
their office in the back that does all the techie stuff
systems in new homes is only part of the market for automation.
Bower estimates that 75 percent of his company's business
volume could come from retrofitting existing homes --
from 100 years old to half a dozen.
it is a budget consideration when they built the home
five or six years ago and they didn't have the money,"
he said. "Now they're able to go in and exchange
switches and have home automation."
Systems specializes in automation systems under the Vantage
brand. Sticking to one manufacturer simplifies some of
the programming and compatibility problems often faced
in automated homes. Vantage also can integrate hard-wired
and wireless devices.
you get into some of these century homes and have to start
peeling off lath and plaster or drywall, that can put
an end to the project right there," Bower said.
makes this system so great is that you can program a switch
to do anything," he said. "You can pull out
a light switch and put in a wireless switch that can do
whatever you want it to do."
said he hopes to serve about 50 electrical contractors
out of Richfield training center. But he doesn't expect
that SMART Systems will put current system integrators
out of business.
matter how great the products get, there will always be
compatibility issues," he said.
distinction between SMART Systems and current system integrators
is not so much who is doing the selling but who is doing
trying to market to the end-user," Bower said."We're
doing it in a mass market approach. If we have 50 or 60
electrical contractors using us, we have that many salesmen
out there selling these systems. I could see that this
could be the most profitable segment of an electrical
that sounds like an ambitious agenda for the future, maybe
it is appropriate for the ambitious nature of home automation
itself. Bower's description of the systems his company
designs might also describe his business plan.
is a stepping stone between the Flintstones and the Jetsons,"
Bower said. "It's somewhere in between."