Get smart about training

AWE managing director Stuart Tickle discusses why electrical retailers looking to offer a smart-home sales and installation service need to make sure their staff are trained in the skills they will need

Home automation, custom install, connected home and smart home are all differing names for a growing market. And as smart-home products have become more affordable, homeowners are upscaling their properties to benefit from the latest smart systems and technologies.

Proactive and market conscious retailers could benefit from this upsurge in business. The key is to assess where you, as a retailer, can provide added value.

Some retailers present a delivery and set-up charge as a negative, but in reality adding value to the items you are selling to a higher standard and charging appropriately for that service is key. Moving towards a full installation service and more advanced control makes perfect sense, as it allows you to not only expand your business, but also stand out from the competition.


For those retailers that are interested in the smart-home market and are thinking about getting involved, where do they start?

My advice would be for the business management to speak with a company such as AWE to gain an understanding of what is possible.

Having done that, business decisions can be made as to what scope of integration you want to offer, be it lighting, music and TV, smart appliances and so on.

Retailers must understand the benefits of the products they are selling, and how these devices may or may not connect with one another. Presenting yourself as knowledgeable to customers is of paramount importance, as working within a client’s home requires trust and professionalism.

AWE's show apartment
AWE’s show apartment

This means getting training from people in the know. AWE’s Smart Home Academy covers a range of courses, including Cedia training, a foundation workshop and courses in lighting control system design and programming, single and whole house control, and HDMI and 4K video distribution.

The foundation workshop is aimed at independent retailers, and focuses on the fundamentals of smart-home installation. Uniquely, as well as important background and theory, there is a heavy bias towards the essential skills and knowledge required for a variety of tasks that integrators will be faced with on a regular basis in a hands-on workshop.

Starting with basic health and safety advice and dos and don’ts of CI, the full-day course then progresses into the practical sessions. A variety of tasks await course delegates, from neatly and safely placing an in-ceiling speaker between joists and mounting a TV bracket, to reliably terminating and testing CAT 5/6 networking cables.


Products need to be displayed in a real-life set-up for customers to fully understand how these systems can work in their own home. Therefore, a demo facility is a must.

For those retailers who don’t have the space to do this themselves, we at AWE provide them with an industry-leading demo facility. AWE’s dedicated show apartment, Dolby Atmos home cinema and product showroom showcase the latest products as part of a working solution that people can experience first-hand.

Retailers that can build business in this area with a service and maintenance offering will see longer, more profitable relationships with customers.

My advice would be to do it, and do it now.