08.09.16

CEDIA: The Future is Analogue

CEDIA_Beukes_Analogue

I’m not a regular wordsmith. I’m a slow junkie, espresso-loving amateur photographer who for 90 percent of the week has a business habit of designing, distributing and installing really cool tech gadgets into people’s lives.

For this article I thought the whole ‘King is dead, long live the King’ saying, pinched and converted for use here, seems entirely appropriate for the discourse ahead.

Our stunningly advanced, technically proficient industry is littered with examples of product madness syndrome, or CI-PMS for short. It is pure bottom-dollar-busting-box-shifting madness.

Sure, we all want to save the world one spectrum-deficient LED light bulb at a time, and be eco-friendly. We strive to sacrifice our souls at the altar of audiophile awesomeness with ridiculously expensive, unobtainium-plated, cryogenically frozen speaker cables, which have pseudo-scientific electron-aligning pathways. We sell cut and paste systems that profess to impress with magic ‘everything-is-wireless’ and ‘it’ll-set-itself-up’ automation. There are many more such comparisons to be drawn, however you probably don't have time, nor I the word count allocated to it.

We have to take into account the constantly connected, information overload that all clients suffer every day. 

If you take a step back to gather perspective and draw a real look at our industry, what you'll find isn't about energy conservation, or thumping explosions complemented with mind-bending immersive audio, or even being able to turn your fireplace on from anywhere in the world (which is an incredibly stupid idea anyway). Our focus is based around one thing and one thing only: creating a human experience.

Back to the dawn of time, the emotive human aspect of any experience has been at the forefront of making money. Circuses, magicians, restaurateurs, practically any and every industry has one goal in mind that is pretty self serving — our want, need, desire or lust for stimulus of that amazing six-layered neocortex we have tucked away inside our cranium.

If that is too highbrow for you, lets simplify; we don't love our devices, our clothes, our hi-fi systems, or any of our earthly possessions, we love what they do for, and to us. We love the experiences they provide for us in combined effect, or singularly.

We chase visceral experiences like junkies, even if we don't know it outwardly. To paraphrase Cobb, from the film, Inception, “the live data feed which we call life, is a never-ending subconscious loop of perception and creation that works so well that we don't feel our minds doing the creating.”

How exactly does this relate to us and our businesses? Why do I say that the future is analogue? How does this relate to home technology and the Average Joe installer or salesman?

Legend has it that when Apple design their products they don't do very much market research because the end-user doesn’t know what they want until you put it in front of them. Steve Jobs said that design wasn't merely how good something looked but how well it worked. It is our duty in such a changing marketplace to echo those traits.

We have to go back to our roots when it comes to designing systems for tomorrow’s client. We have to take into account the constantly connected, information overload that all clients suffer every day. They don't want to deal with another item that doesn’t work as intended. They don't want to read a manual. They want simple. They want gracious. They want natural. Sometimes they just want to disconnect their tech in order to reconnect with their loved ones, and we are the guru’s that need to make that magic happen. 

Small things like simplifying whole-house systems down into singular room or single-purpose systems, replacing those touchpad based GUI’s with handheld remote controls that have buttons, tactile feedback and resistance; like a perfectly formed Acheulean bifacial hand axe that was specific to the needs of one left handed Lower Paleolithic pre-human being (attend Rich Green’s Future Trends talk at CEDIA expo to find out more expo.cedia.net).

Touchscreens aren't bad; it’s just that half the time they’re just not purposed correctly. You don't need a 9.7in. glowing display with pause button toggle in the middle of a dark movie scene. These are not the experiences you are looking for. Move along.

We need to focus less on instant gratification of our profit margin, and focus more on how the technology we sell is enhancing an experience for our clients. 

There are many aspects we as an industry need to further develop which will emphasize the experience of the whole. We absolutely have to take into account needs and desires of clients. Our companies have amazing spreadsheets with needs analyses and client’s wish lists, yet after 30 minutes of discussion and consultation we’re already closing on two boxes of Brand X, three of Brand Y, and a bunch of Z thrown in for good measure.

That’s not analogue. That’s digital; it’s disconnected from the client experience.

So why are we all still just selling boxes on boxes, when we know we should be selling experiences? We should be immersing clients in what we can do, showing them first hand, and leaving them to see the benefits themselves. Not leaving them to have to read a 30-page introduction manual and then not know how to connect the gizmo in their pocket to their gadget in the ‘black box of magic’ under the stairs.

We’re caught in the trap of ever-changing technology, faster shifting boxes and an ever-diminishing attention span. We need to focus less on instant gratification of our profit margin, and focus more on how the technology we sell is enhancing an experience for our clients. We don't stop doing the quality work we do, no, but we shift the focus to the experience.

As an action point, I’d highly recommend that we all take a breather, disconnect for few days; take time out to think about the experience that we sell, and analyze whether you’re good to go, or need to change.

Never stop selling to the dreams and desires of a potential client, because the minute you do, is the minute you lose the deal.

Christiaan Beukes is the owner of South African-based home automation company, Sphere Custom Design. Having worked in the industry for almost 10 years in the UK, Europe, and South and Southern Africa, Christiaan has a great amount of industry knowledge on an international level. He has previously supported CEDIA by sitting as Education Chairperson on the South African Committee and becoming a CEDIA certified outreach instructor and lecturer.

CEDIA is set to host its first four-day roadshow in South Africa from Friday, 21st October.  Find out more about this event.