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Training in my smart

How can electrical retailers make a move into the lucrative world of the professionally installed smart home? Matt Nimmons, operations director, at industry trade body Cedia, offers some advice

Smart home technology used to be the preserve of the super-rich. Now it’s available to us all. And it’s on course for rapid growth in the years ahead.

According to a Digital Homes report commissioned last year by Barclays, in partnership with YouGov, 41 per cent of UK homeowners already have some form of connected technology in their home. By 2020, market researcher Frost & Sullivan states that this market penetration will have increased significantly to a point where there will be 10 connected devices in every household.

Cedia’s own research into the professionally installed segment of this market reveals a sector that’s in good health, with average turnover increasing by 30 per cent in 2014. Our study indicates a market that is worth between £910 million and £975m, with around 1,500 active design and installation companies in the UK. It also shows that around 2,500 new home-technology professionals joined the market in 2014 – proof, if any were needed, that this is a buoyant sector open to growth and welcoming of new entrants.

So, where can retailers start?

Multi-room audio is an excellent gateway for independents looking to offer a professional setup and installation service. Most wireless streaming music systems aimed at retail do carry low margins and can end up costing you money if the customer does call you out for help at any time during the installation process.

But there is an opportunity for the retailer that moves beyond a single one-size-fits-all solution and takes a ‘good, better, best’ approach to the brands and products they offer in multi-room audio. This will give the chance to up-sell, increase margin and improve cash flow. More importantly, this approach will offer the chance to build an expertise in data networks, service and maintenance.

Wireless music systems are going to stretch the capabilities of most cheap internet routers. A robust data network is an essential foundation for multi-room audio. It’s also going to be a major factor in TV and for other connected services.

In short, the Cedia world not only embraces entertainment systems, but also lighting, security and HVAC sub-systems alongside any IoT device or appliance that can be connected to a home network.

With the availability of high-speed broadband increasing across the UK, the proliferation of TV streaming services and more 4K content on the horizon, predicted growth in internet-connected appliances and the increasing adoption of smart energy management technologies, from Nest, Hive and others, maintaining the network for the connected home becomes more and more critical to any technology you sell.

Opportunity

Retailers who can offer a design and installation service will be in a good place. Those who take the opportunity to build business in this area will be able to capitalise with a service and maintenance offering to develop longer, more productive and more profitable relationships with their customers.

Education is vital for anyone who is interested in moving into this industry. Cedia provides training pathways for businesses to help them make the transition from purely retail into this type of service-led business.

Our Cedia Boot Camp is purpose-designed for newcomers. It’s a five-day course that will help retailers acquire the knowledge and skills to get started in the residential electronic systems industry. Boot Camp teaches the engineering and technical foundations necessary for an individual to go on to Cedia’s five-day Technical School and then take the ESC-T certification examination.

Building on Boot Camp and Technical School, Cedia’s Networking School is a three-day course covering essential IP and wireless networking content. Those who successfully complete Cedia’s 12 training courses, which comprise Boot Camp, Technical School and Networking School, plus the ESC-T and ESC-N certifications, will be awarded with the City & Guilds accredited Smart Home Technician certificate.

Beyond education, any retailer should, of course, research the market thoroughly by talking to those already active in the sector. Cedia runs a series of tech forums in different UK locations throughout the year. These provide a mixture of education and networking opportunities, giving those who take part the chance to find out more about smart homes and engage with Cedia representatives and other installers.

Smart-home technology professionally installed and maintained represents a huge business opportunity for retailers. What are you waiting for?

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