AWE unveils additions to its smart apartment

Custom install distributor AWE unveiled updates to the smart apartment at its Epsom headquarters last week.

The two-day Autumn Smart Home Expo saw a variety of attendees, which included retailers, installers, technology integrators and electricians.

New developments in the smart apartment included a revamped theatre, as well as a brand new smaller cinema room, which featured Definitive Technology loudspeakers.

It also unveiled its brand new music room, equipped with Kef Blade 2 loudspeakers.

AWE revealed a number of new brands that it had partnered with, which included an exclusive distribution agreement for Definitive Technology’s Mythos and Custom Installation collections of loudspeakers, as well Videotree’s luxury range of mirror, bathroom and outdoor TVs.

AWE managing director Stuart Tickle (pictured) tells ERT more about the event and what it has planned next.

Q: What was the reaction from retailers? Were they positive about the smart home?
Stuart Tickle:
The consistent feedback was that they were impressed and inspired. They saw products they could sell now, like URC MX HomePro as a £399 control solution, and the Definitive Technology ultra-slim on-wall speakers. They also experienced systems that were within reach with a bit of training. Many said that they had planned on a few hours, but ended up staying most of the day, as there was so much of interest.

Existing AWE cinema room
Existing AWE cinema room

Q: How are your training sessions going? Are you seeing more retailers getting on board with the smart home?
ST:
Our Smart Home Academy is a key part of what we do and is going very well. The ‘Introduction to Smart Home’ days we held for Retra members at our HQ in Epsom were very well attended.

Q: With the launch of Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers, how much of a role do you think voice control will play in the home audio and smart home markets?
ST:
Substantial. According to Futuresource Consulting, smart-home speakers already make up 40 per cent of the unit volume of typical consumer home-audio speakers – so the impact cannot be denied.

However, they are cheap and the cheapest sound, which is awful in terms of being a speaker for music enjoyment. The danger here for indies would be to go chasing the volume commodity market in itself. The key is to use this massive market driver to introduce voice control as one of several user interfaces in a smart home, show how great they are, but also show their weaknesses. Sell up from Echo and Google Home. Sell up from Sonos One. Integrate with them, but don’t assume just because a customer asks about one, that it is all any customer wants in terms of performance.

Q: What have you got planned for next year?
ST: The great thing is that the AWE Show Apartment is a permanent fixture. It is not an exhibition that has ended, so we will continue to encourage the trade to visit, both with or without clients. We also have plans to take our training further afield to reach more of those in the North.