How to choose your home automation or AV professional

If you are looking for a company to partner with who can provide home automation or AV services it can be a daunting prospect. The world of home technology moves at such a pace, how can you be sure you are getting someone that has the technical knowhow to provide a solution that is technologically relevant today and will still be in 5 or 10 years time?

Things to consider when looking for a home technology professional

Here are some things you can look out for and some questions to ask that will sort the wheat from the chaff:

1. CEDIA. I would always suggest finding a CEDIA Member. CEDIA is a not-for-profit trade organisation representing the home automation industry. Their key focus is to educate it’s members and promote best practice. CEDIA launched a tiered membership structure at the start of 2019. Choosing a CEDIA member means you are partnering with a company that has demonstrated a level of professionalism and competence. A CEDIA Advanced Member needs to have proven a commitment to training and excellent customer service. A CEDIA Member of Excellence is the pinnacle of CEDIA membership. At the time of writing there are only 20 Members of Excellence in the world so it is a very exclusive club. Seven Integration is one fo them.

CEDIA Member of Excellence

2. Certification. There are loads of training course that engineers and system designers can do. CEDIA offer three qualifications: Electronic Systems Certified Technician (ESC-T), Electronic Systems Certified Networking Specialist (ESC-N) and Electronic Systems Certified Designer (ESC-D). There are others, but these are the main three from CEDIA. Look out for companies with ESC-D, this is the highest level of training from CEDIA. Non-CEDIA certification to look out for includes THX Certified Professional or ISF Certified though these are more aimed at Home Cinema specifically.

3. Is the engineer on your project the engineer with the certification? Ask the question. You find some companies that will have a “super engineer” who goes on all the training courses and gets all the certificates but you’ll never see him or her on site. So ask who will actually be doing the work.

4. Meaningless Certification. Watch out for manufacturer certification. Control4 is a classic example of this. You may think choosing a Control4 Platinum or Diamond Dealer will get you the best Control4 programmers and installers, not necessarily. Control4 grade their dealership based on sales alone. Every year a dealer starts at zero and the more sales they achieve, the higher their level – Authorised, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. Whilst you could argue that if they sell more Control4 product then they are probably pretty good at installing it and to a certain extent that is true, but it is quite easy to be a Gold or Platinum Dealer just by selling exclusively Control4 products including their lighting, speakers, network products and cameras. These may not be the best products for your project, so you may be better served finding someone who gives a solution from a broader selection of manufacturers and products.

5. Awards. CEDIA hold an annual awards ceremony that celebrate the achievements of it’s members. There are various categories from Best Home Cinema to Most Innovative Solution. Companies that are repeatedly listed as Finalists and/or Winners are a pretty safe bet. I have my own views on the CEDIA Awards as none of the submissions are ever actually looked at by anyone to check that what the submission says was installed, is actually what was installed and that the performance levels claimed are genuine, but that said, any company that repeatedly gets listed as a Finalist is doing something right.

Home cinema screen close up

Further thoughts

Reading this back, I realise I have focused on CEDIA quite heavily and I make no apology for that. There are companies that will argue that not being a CEDIA Member and having the corresponding Certification does not mean they are bad at what they do, and that may be right. But if you do choose for a CEDIA Member then you know that you are getting a properly trained professional and there is someone you can go back to if you are not happy with the work they have done, whereas partnering with a non-CEDIA Member offers no such security.

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