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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #216: An Industry Q&A with Ian Bryant

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Ian Bryant, Consultant and Independent Specialist Contractor shares his background and expertise in the industry.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #216: An Industry Q&A with Ian Bryant

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Ian Bryant. Recorded live on Wednesday, July 6th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About Ian Bryant

Ian started in the AV/Integration industry in the live sound and stage sector in 1998. He migrated into residential integration in 2001 and then into commercial, government and higher education integration in 2010 with his company ZenArray specializing in consulting, system design, control system programming and DSP configurations.

Ian has volunteered throughout his career as a subject matter expert. He has sat on numerous panels and working groups, mostly with CEDIA, where he was awarded volunteer of the year in 2011 and 2016. He recently worked for CEDIA managing technology applications, workforce development and strategic partnerships. Ian is currently a consultant and independent contractor specializing in thought leadership, go-to-market strategies, events and publications.

His qualifications include CEDIA CIT, Crestron CMCP-S, Harman Certified Programmer, Extron Control Professional, BIAMP & Dante Certified, and is a Certified Living In Place Professional.

Interview Recap

  • Ian’s experiences working remotely from different locations around the country.
  • His background and expertise in the industry
  • New technology trends and emerging business model opportunities

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #215 An Industry Q&A with Hakan Olsson

Transcript

Ron:  Ian, how are you, sir?

Ian: Doing well, Ron, thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Ron:  Yeah, my pleasure! So what, you're always out you're in your, what do you call it, your RV?

Ian: Yeah, I mean, we say RV. RV encompasses all of the different types of recreational vehicles. I actually have a travel trailer, it's a 21 ft...

Ron:  Now, Ian, I'm letting my audience know here and what makes this particularly risky today is he is out in the middle of nowhere, I want to say Wyoming and he is on Starlink. Here you can see he disappeared. So we shall see if his internet is robust enough to have him come back. When we were testing prior to going live, he kind of came in and out a few times. He is one of the new customers on Starlink, says he's paying $135 a month to our friend Elon Musk. Apparently yesterday he had 90mbps upload and download speeds and today he says it has dropped to three megabytes upload and download.

Ian: Sorry guys.

Ron:  This may happen a few times. What is your internet speed right now, Ian?

Ian: I was using Starlink as my primary connection. As soon as that dropped out, I looked over at my phone and my Starlink app and it said offline. So something happened and it dropped off. So I switched over to cellular. My cellular speeds are only three and a half meg down and like a half meg up. So if I start to get pixelized or buffer, I apologize.

Ron:  You know what, the show must go on. We'll do our best to conduct an interview, and if this doesn't work out, we'll do it again when you have stronger Internet.

Ian: Sounds good.

Ron:  Or when Starlink decides to cooperate. As you went offline, I was telling the audience that you are out in the middle of nowhere. Do you want to be more specific? Where exactly are you in our beautiful country?

Ian: Yes. If you pull up Google Maps and search for Rim Station, Wyoming, you'll see there's a small little building and twelve RV sites. It's 40 minutes from east of Jackson, Wyoming, and about 35 minutes west of Pinedale. So pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Ron:  So tell us about this adventure you've been on. You've been on this adventure for... I remember watching you on social media, getting ready for this adventure and tricking out your truck and getting all the supplies. I may be sharing too much. I love watching those prepper shows on TV, on Discovery Channel, and you just get ready for whatever, and I was watching you get ready for whatever there on Instagram, and then you went out and you've been on the road for a while. Maybe just share that; we'll get into your backstory and all that fun stuff, but just that you being a road warrior, tell us about that adventure.

Ian: I've always loved the outdoors, and my father took me backpacking out in the Rocky Mountains from Indiana. So going out west as a child was always, like, a big adventure. Every summer we would go out and do a huge trip out into Colorado and Wyoming. So I always wanted to do this, and I always wanted to move and live out west. I started about five years ago, starting to prepare to move west, and when COVID hit, I was working for CD at the time. We closed our offices in March of 2020, and the apartment that I was living in, which was near the office up there in Fishers, my lease was up in September of 2020, and I just didn't make sense to continue to stay in an overpriced apartment in Fishers, Indiana, while I was trying to make my way west anyway. So I just started getting everything. I downsized everything that I could, I packed everything that I couldn't fit into my travel trailer, into a pod and it's in storage, and I hit the road the first week of October in 2020 and have been circling around the country since. We're on our second loop around the US. In a couple of weeks, we'll have made two "kind of" circles around the US.

Ron:  How many miles have you put on your truck in the past year?

Ian: There is probably about 25,000, 30,000, roughly, I think we do ten to twelve a year with the trailer, and then I leave the travel trailer at RV parks on the weekends, and then we just take the truck out and get back because there's areas that we travel. I say we; it's just me and the dog, but there's no way I could pull a trailer back there, that's why I have the Toyota Tacoma that I drive that's built for off-roading and overlanding.

Ron:  Got it! What I'm going to attempt to do here and for everyone that wants to see, maybe just talk us through what I'm putting on the screen here. You run a couple of Instagram pages and you just have really world class, stunning photography, maybe share where; you can verbally do it, because a lot of folks will just be listening to this. How do they find you on Instagram and what type of content do you post?

Ian: So my mother was a photographer, a professor of photography at University in Tennessee. So I was taking pictures as soon as I was old enough to walk. So my Instagram photography page is just Ian Bryant Photography, that's the same as my website, ianbriantphotography.com and I love landscape, nature, but I also do like painting, which is a type of long exposure photography that uses lights, where we create; my specialty is creating light orbs. So if you look at my page and you see these balls of different color lights, I'm actually inside of that ball creating that light in that image. Then I have a separate Instagram page for my travels called ManDog Open Roads. It was kind of what I came up with when we hit the road, was just trying to think of something catchy, but I post where we're at and what we're doing and videos and all kinds of stuff on that page around our travels throughout the country.

Ron:  Yeah. As you can see, I'm not logged into Instagram. So once I tried to click, any deeper, it goes, nope, you need to get logged in. So for those that are watching with us, you saw kind of a little preview there of that. I remember fondly it was some years ago. Maybe you'll tell me when it was. I want to say I don't even remember the city. We've been doing CEDIA conferences for so many decades now. But I remember I met up with you and I was like, yeah, man, I see you posting all these light orbs. You're like, I'm about to head out and go do one now. Do you want to watch?

Ian: I think I was in Dallas.

Ron:  Was it?

Ian: When we were in Dallas last time, I think.

Ron:  Yeah. We snuck away to the water fountain area. It was in a public space. So you're like, this is not exactly legal, but I'm going to see if we can shoot one.

Ian: Yeah, I did some steel wall. Yeah, I haven't done much steel wall. I don't do steel wall when I'm out west. Just because it's a 23 year drought out here and I don't want to start any fires. So I just use Led lights but when I was in Dallas back then, we were in that park inside the city and I did do some steel wall because there was nothing in the area that was going to catch fire. Yeah, it was fun, man. It's been a while since I've done a lot of that work. It takes a lot of time, preparation, set up. I mean, those shots that I took, I really didn't get anything good out of those. When I do some light painting, sometimes it'll take three, four, five hours just to get a couple handful of shots that work out well. So I think my favorite place that I ever went was the Klipsch facilities in Indianapolis. They let me in their Anechoic chamber and I spent about 5 hours locked in that chamber by myself with the lights off. I didn't do steel wall in there, of course.

Ron:  They might have a problem with 1000 degree steel walls.

Ian: I did just led the lights, I did some light orbs in there. It was a blast. But it takes a lot of time to get those right and then do a lot of post-photo editing in lightroom and some other software that I have.

Ron:  I was noticing on your Instagram, those images look, I mean, they're all stunning and they do look like you've probably done some post processing. Do you do that on the phone or do you take that onto your laptop?

Ian: No, I shoot raw files. So those files I have an icon, D 800 that I've had forever. Then I have a Sony A7 R2, that I bought a couple of years ago. I shoot both those in raw. So the files are about 80 to 90 megabytes each. I pull them off on my laptop usually and then find the ones that I feel the best. Then I have a couple of different pieces of software that use filters or I do some editing and do some HDR stuff. But yeah, by the time I'm done, these are really big images, upwards of 8000 by 4000 pixels. But it's fun, I really enjoy it. Getting out and doing the photography and getting out in nature is a way that I kind of disconnect and get grounded and it's what makes me happy. Everyone has their own thing that helps them get through the week, and that's my thing.

Ron:  I recently got a drone and I've been having a ton of fun with it and I think you have a drone.

Ian: I do, yeah. I've got a mavic air2. I just took it out yesterday. I was at Teton National Forest, which sits right across from Teton National Park. You can't fly drones inside of national parks, but if you're outside, you can use an app called Before You Fly. And you can see where you can and can't fly. I was like right 100 yards from where you can, so I took it up and got some really nice aerial shots of the Tetons.

Ron:  Why would you not be able to fly a drone in a park? It seems like that's probably some of the more drone worthy content out there.

Ian: Well, it's the same reason why dogs aren't allowed to go on trails in most parks either. You get a couple of bad apples that ruin it for everyone else. So the stories of the drones there were reports in Yellowstone of people with drones chasing animals, herds of animals, they were trying to get really close, and they freaked them out and they continued to chase them. I think one drone got caught up in one of the geysers at Yellowstone. There's stuff in Yosemite. It's usually the bigger, more the really packed, busy parks, but people just do stupid stuff. Same thing with like when I bring Odin, my dog, on the trips, and most of the parks, we can just drive through. I can walk him on any paved tow paths, but we can't go on any trails because again, some people have let their dogs off leash. They've gone and disrupted the national wildlife, they don't pick up after their waste. People are like, well, there's animal poop everywhere. I'm like, yeah, but dogs are not natural to most of these places. That's not a natural habitat for them. So it disrupts it. So unfortunately, it just ruins it for everyone else. But I always tell people, if you do travel with your pets a lot, and there are ten times more national forests than there are national parks, and the national forests are very open and have very few restrictions, so you can have a lot of fun in the national forest.

Ron:  Oh, that's amazing. I can't help myself. I'm going to go down. There you go. I got pulled up the YouTube over here just so that I can see this feed. The travels, you've seen more of our country, probably than many people ever will in their lifetime, and you've done it just in. How long have you been on the road?

Ian: Almost two years. Been to 35 states, 20 ish national parks, around 30 national forests. There's parts of the country that I think people kind of forget about that are really amazing. Like New Mexico was the first place when I hit the road, I went down to Las Cruces for two or three months in 2020, and I really fell in love with New Mexico. You've got Hilo National Forest, which is three and a half million acres. Lincoln National Forest. North of Santa Fe, there's mountains and skiing up there. It's really an amazing place. Lots of great areas in northern Arizona, Nevada. You think Nevada is just a desert. In fact, there's mountains. You get up to the northwestern region or the Mid east region, a great Basin National Park is at like 7000ft elevation. I have a video on one of my Instagram's where we were doing a big loop through southern Utah in northern Arizona and then came back around after hitting up Moab and some of the parks down there and then went straight west into Great Basin National Park. They were in the midst of getting 2ft of snow and there was like no one there, there was maybe 20 people in the entire national park and they were getting pummeled with snow. It was amazing.

Ron:  So for those want to be preppers that want to have a truck that has gear in it that's going to help them survive the zombie apocalypse, what are five pieces of kit or gear that you travel with that you can't imagine traveling without on the spot?

Ian: Well, one thing, I always have 15 gallons of gas in the back of the truck in three five gallon cans. I never go anywhere without having those full because I've been in some back countries and I've even stumbled upon people who've run out of gas and I've given them some of my gas. So always keep extra gas with you, especially if you're going to go in the back countries. Good medical kit, I used to be a volunteer EMT, so you can never go wrong with making sure that you have some emergency supplies. As far as the truck itself, make sure you bring some traction boards and have some recovery gear, some straps, a Winch. You never know if you're going to get stuck if you get stuck when you're completely alone. Like I said, I've been in some of these back country areas where I haven't seen anyone for days. So if you get stuck, you're kind of on your own. What else? Generator or battery, I have a small 3000 watt generator that will power up the travel trailer and sometimes I bring it in the truck with me.

Ron:  Gas or solar?

Ian: Mine is gas. I bought it before some of the newer ones came out over the past year that are pretty robust as far as battery powered ones go. I do have a solar panel on the truck. It just wires into the battery because I have so many electronics in the truck that it constantly keeps the battery charged in case something's powered on when I don't have the engine running because inside the truck I've got ham radio, CB scanner, cell phone, repeater, multiple different navigation devices, including one that is probably number five that I would recommend is getting a... If you're going to go way out in the middle of nowhere, get a satellite transponder. Mine is the Garmin one that I can actually pull up maps. It doesn't use cellular, it uses the satellite GPS and then you can actually send text messages on it, SMS, and then there's an emergency button and you can pay extra for insurance. If you do have to hit that emergency button and you need to get air lifted out, if you don't have insurance to cover that, that can cost upwards of six figures. I recommend that.

Ron:  You'll survive, but you'll be in debt for the rest of your life.

Ian: Right. And I've used that garment unit every time we go out somewhere on a trail that I've never been and we don't have cell service. I keep that on me 24/7. That way my family can, if they're like, where are you? We haven't heard from you in two days and we can't reach you. They can always get me text me on that unit. And I can always track where I am, where I left the truck. I definitely recommend one of those. And then I do have extra food supplies. I'm not a prepper, but I am just in case. So the top of the truck, I've got two pelican cases, and one is full of dog food and human food. We've got about two to three weeks worth of food up there. If something were to happen and we were to get stuck somewhere.

Ron:  Could you imagine having done this trip without your dog?

Ian: No, it would not have been the same. I have no problem being alone. I've spent years in the past where I've kind of not been in relationships and I've gone and done my own thing and been alone. So I would say if someone wants to go full time on the road, you definitely have to be comfortable being by yourself. But it makes a lot easier when you've got a dog with you and he's laying on the ground right now napping. But he loves riding the truck, going out, backpacking and hiking, and he loves every bit of it, so it definitely makes it more fun with him.

Ron:  It sounds like a dog paradise. They have their master, their honor with them 24 hours and he always has your attention.

Ian: Yeah. Again, 20 1ft travel trailer, so the kitchen is right behind me.

Ron:  00:21:23.008 Look at that!

Ian: Bedrooms right to 5ft to the right, bathrooms 2ft to the left, and I have a slide on the driver's side. I removed the couch that was here and I built a standing desk so that I could have a nice workstation. So I've got big 27 inch iMac, and then I've got a 32 inch TV to my left to use as second monitor.

Ron:  So you're using the new Starlink service from SpaceX?

Ian: Yeah. So they recently opened up an RV version of it. I was on the waitlist for the general version for over a year, and then I found out that they had opened up this RV. The dish is a little bit different. The router is different. I don't particularly like the router because it has no Ethernet ports at all. So you're just stuck with wireless. I have a lot of extra devices in here that I'd like to have hardwired, but for the most part. It's been doing fine up until today. It was really weird. I was getting 100. In fact, the first day I got to this RV site here in Wyoming, I was up to 199 megs down. It was super fast and awesome. Then all of a sudden they're going through some changes. I don't know if maybe there's some people that showed up here with other Starlinks and we're sharing some of the same satellites or what it is, but it's been good. I tried it when I was in... so before I was here, I was in Montana for two months. I spent a month in Lolo and a month in Kalispell. When I got it, while I was in Kalispell in the RV site that I was at there, there were a couple of big pine trees near me. So even if you have trees with some leaves on them, it causes obstructions.

Ron:  It's line of sight.

Ian: Yeah, anything that's obstructing it will cause dropouts, and so I would get a drop out every 60 seconds, which was a pain. But here I have no trees and things have been going really fast up until today.

Ron:  Generally, I think they're going to be. I have a buddy that works at SpaceX, and right now Starlink is a part of SpaceX, I think from a corporate standpoint, but I think the bigger plan is that one day SpaceX will go IPO and I think Starlink will be broken off in IPO.

Ian: There are some concerns though, right now, Starlink is kind of battling with; it was either dish or DirecTV. One of the two are trying to take over the frequency that Starlink is running on 12 GHz. From what I heard, it was something that was happening before Starlink started that kind of came into the picture and then now they're kind of battling over those frequencies, so we'll see what happens. I have cellular as my secondary, which was my primary, even though I use everything Apple. I have two Android phones that run Easy Tether, which is a software. Anyone that wants to go investigate it can. Then I've got a router with Open WRT Linux software on it that you can do some fun little cracking and hacking on that.

Ron:  Are you a white hat hacker or a black hat hacker?

Ian: White. I don't do any bad stuff. No.

Ron:  Nothing you'll admit to here on video. That's funny. All right, well let's go back I appreciate you letting me, I find your trip awesome and I follow you on social media, so I definitely recommend our audience check you out. In fact, we'll drop those handles down into the notes here on social media as well as on the page on our website. Let's go back into your history. How did you get started in this industry many moons ago?

Ian: Man, the high school that I was at got into AV. Well, I'll say this, I was like a lot of us in the industry, I was tearing apart stereos and rebuilding stuff when I was in grade school. I loved electronics even as a small child. Then when I got to high school, I jumped in and became very quickly became the producer of a TV show that we had inside of our school. So I did the production and all the video editing and everything for that. I DJ'd all the dances, I was the MC or I did the AV for anything that had to do in the gymnasium, the assemblies, all that stuff. So I was very into it. My very first job, my sophomore year of high school, I was employed by a small newspaper called Teen Track in Indianapolis. They were student produced newspaper from kids all over the city. They had this room in this facility that was just stacked from floor to ceiling with nothing but old 486 and 386 computer parts. They tasked me to build computers, put in Das and WordPerfect 1.0 on these computers for people to write up their stories on. I would just sit in this room a couple of days a week building computers for them to use. Then I then quickly got connected up with Markey's AV. Markey's is a rental and stage company based out of Indianapolis. They're very big now, they're in all over the Midwest, one of the largest in the country. I first started working in their warehouse, checking in products. So I would test everything that came in and clean it up. Then I went over to become a hotel tech. So I would set up and tear down for conferences and events at Marriott East in Indianapolis and then went to the Marriott downtown, Crown Plaza, Union Station. So I spent my junior and senior year and then the year after I graduated, continued to work for Markey's. And while I was there, I was working with this one guy who brought up the name of a company called Triphase and said that they were a really awesome company in the residential integration business back then. I think it was just residential AV. We didn't have the really word integration in the late nineties, early two thousands, and I went to go talk to Robert Hecker, who owns Triphase and joined on their team. Was really small back then. They're giant now.

Ron:  They're a big name in the country, award-winning.

Ian: I just went and saw them recently and man, their facility is impressive. If anyone's in Indianapolis or comes to Indianapolis, you got to go check it out. Yeah, I worked for them for a year doing pre-wires. So I was in the field pre wiring non-stop for an entire year. While I was doing that I went through and got my Microsoft there, MCSE Microsoft certified. I can't remember the term for it back when it was Microsoft Server 2000. It was funny and I remember my first project at Triphase, where I was trying to tell Robert, I was like, people are going to want Internet in their homes. They're going to want to distribute this. So we had this one project in 2001 where I set up a Microsoft full on server in this person's home. We built a computer, built a server running Microsoft Server had they had a T One line. We brought that into the server and then distributed through the home like a corporation would. And then of course, we all know about five years down the road you could pick up your routers at Radio Shack and Best Buy eventually. But back then it was like, no, no one's going to do that.

Ron:  If I'm remembering, isn't that like guaranteed 1.5 megabytes up and down?

Ian: Yeah.

Ron:  Guaranteed.

Ian: And I don't know how they got it at this house because it was in the middle of nowhere. They must have paid the I think they paid the phone company to drop a line all the way from the pole to their facility to their home. So I left Triphase in 2002 and went down to a new company in Louisville, Kentucky that had just started up and I was their first employee and I stayed there for about two and a half years. When I left, we had about six or seven employees. We grew really rapidly. Louisville was a really booming area in that time. Came back to Triphase in 2005. At that point I had gotten my Creston certification for programming. So by 2005 I was a certified programmer, by 2006, I was Master Certified. Then by 2008 or so, I was Master Certified Silver. So when I came back to Triphase, I was doing Crestron programming. I soon got into AMX programming because they were doing both Crestron and AMX at the time. With my background in commercial work with Live Stage, Sound and Stage, I kind of headed up any of the commercial projects that we had. Did some really awesome work with Triphase over the next five years. They were really growing and got to work on some pretty amazing homes and doing some really unique. I think that's one of the fun things. Those of us who have been in the industry back in before, 2012, 2010, some of the things that you were trying to do inside of the home, that products did not exist in the market and you had to create these unique experiences with stuff from the commercial space and stuff from just all over. I think that was like the heyday of when these really big multimillion dollar homes where we were just doing crazy custom programming. Yeah, I stayed with Triphase till 2010 and then I started my own business and we focused on just outsourcing programming and then grew into also doing DSP configurations because we got out of residential and went into commercial, higher education, corporate, military, government work, and then got into DSP configurations and then soon started to bring on technicians to outsource because around that 2014, 2015, the commercial space was just exploding. No one could keep up. So we were doing really well, outsourcing all throughout the Midwest, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky. I had a lot of really amazing clients, did a lot of really cool jobs.

Ron:  Was most of that work direct behind Integrators, or did you also do direct work for customers or was it a blend?

Ian: Most of it was for the commercial integration companies. So like Blue Water, CIM, ABISPL, there's quite a few up in Michigan that my partner, who was up there, did a lot of the jobs for. But yeah, most of the work we did was directly for Integrators and have programmers on staff or that were too busy, their programmers were just packed, their schedules were full, and then they would outsource to us. We had some really great relationships with some amazing companies. Then there were some residential Integrators that would get on some commercial projects and ask us for some assistance as well. Occasionally, we would do some work directly for we did some work directly for some universities up in Michigan. But yeah, a lot of it was through Integrators.

Ron:  Focusing on that time, like around 11, 12, 13. Do you feel that at that time, the custom programmer, in the Crestron land, they were called a CSP.

Ian: Yes, CAIP first, Creston Authorized Independent Programmer. Then they made that push around that 2012 to 13 time frame for CSP. They made that distinctive change because they were offering more different...

Ron:  Broader than just...

Ian: Right, because we were a CLC. We are certified lighting commissioning agent. I was and then they did some other stuff as well, because I remember at that time, you were also you were at the meetings and we were talking about diversification.

Ron:  I was on the board. They voted me into the executive council or advisory board there for the CSPs. But I feel like I got to the game late, that's how I feel, it doesn't mean it's accurate. I feel like I got to the game late as it relates to the custom programming happening residentially, because that was at the infancy of the birth of the configurators and the different configuration products coming from Crestron. We probably just weren't good enough to fully succeed in the way that we aspire to succeed. Do you perceive that there was a change that happened around that time and the landscape of programmers in the country changed? Or is that just maybe in my little microbubble kind of what, we just didn't succeed? So that's maybe how I feel.

Ian: Well, it depends. I'd say there was a pretty big difference when those that were in residential versus commercial.

Ron:  Yes.

Ian: Commercial, that time was again like I said we were busier than we could.

Ron:  But you were doing all simple Windows, right?

Ian: Simple or simple plus, yeah, there was no simple chart back then. Then in the commercial space, no one was using. I can't remember when Adagio came out. Yes. Like around there. Yeah. And then there was...

Ron:  I'm trying to think, was it Prodigy?

Ian: Prodigy, there was Adagio first, then Prodigy, and then the software the software configurators came out, but they're really meant for the residential space, so we didn't really feel any pressure on that. Then AMX had their data configurator as well. But when it came to commercial, no one was really using those because at that point there were so many different products coming out that didn't have modules. Companies were changing up APIs. I remember around that time frame was when was either Cisco or Polycom completely redid their API and we were having to do Iremote emulation for a while before we could get it was a nightmare, but it was plenty of work because I think a lot of...

Ron:  You were in demand. Your skill set was well in demand.

Ian: And there are a lot of programming companies that were writing modules to sell. I think that time it was pretty much the heyday, like that was our peak. I really do believe that because things in the past couple of years have drastically changed when it comes to programming firms.

Ron:  Take me through that transition as it relates to you and ultimately what happened to your programming business and then when did CEDIA come into the picture?

Ian: So the programming company still exists. It's Zenarae. They're still based in Michigan. I walked away from managing our clients in the Indiana area, and I still keep in touch with my partners up in Michigan. They're still running the show, but I was given an opportunity to do the entire build out of the CEDIA headquarters in 2018. That was not just the control side of it, but pretty much manage anything that had to do with technology inside the facilities. As far as access cameras, working with HVAC, working with Lutron, did all the lighting and shades, working with pretty much everyone. So I spent almost a year managing the build out of that building as a consultant and contractor for CEDIA, and then I was asked to come work for them and I started in March of 2019. At that point I just talked with my partners and said, this is a transition I want to make. I want to try and make an impact on the industry bigger than just us and really try to help the industry grow and be a thought leader. I spent a little over three years at CEDIA until just recently, so I managed technology application. I did a lot of collaboration with the education team. First thing I got there, I know we just did the announcement a couple like a month or so ago about the programming pathway in the new Cdlms and that was something that we had started when I first jumped on in 2019. I started working with the education team on building that out and then in 2020 I managed the Workforce Development Department. We put together a business plan and a roadmap for building out the new textbooks, the CIT and ISD textbook. Worked on building out the new hybrid training programs. Then there was a strategic move to move workforce back into Education department and then I was moved over to partnerships and business development kind of area. So I managed TCD, the software, the CEDIA designer software for a while, I managed the propelled program and then I managed a lot of our strategic partnerships and it was great. I think there was a lot of, had a lot of wins, made a lot of headway and there was a strategic decision again with a new CEO to change some things up recently and it was my time to go. So I'm back on the market. I'm open to a lot of different opportunities right now, but I'm kind of hoping to get back into consulting and possible contract work. Not sure if programming is on that list. I still have all my certifications, that was definitely one thing that, I didn't let any of my certifications expire, but I really enjoyed working with other organizations and with other businesses and the partnerships role and trying to help people get into the industry because our market is different, especially when we had those couple of years with no shows. It was very difficult for small businesses and startups to try and get into our industry and figure out how to work and get their go to market strategies. That's kind of where we're at now.

Ron:  What do you believe, from your perspective, you've had an interesting viewpoint on the residential technology space and now we're mostly, mostly past COVID. Not totally past COVID, I just in fact got it two months ago so I'm fully vaxxed, triple boosted and I got it. So I think it's moving around at a pretty good pace right now, actually.

Ian: Yeah, it is.

Ron:  Hopefully it burns out before CEDIA and the show is not affected because I know everyone watching and listening wants to be at that show and connect with our friends from the industry. But what do you feel is kind of the state of the residential space right now?

Ian: It's a good question because one of the things that I was doing at CEDIA, especially over the past year or so, was really focusing on the emerging trends and so power and energy wellness and some of these newer areas that were coming in. I spent a lot of time doing research and I had some events surrounding that and worked with Walt on a lot of podcasts to talk about some of these merchant trends. But one of the other areas that I spent a lot of time on was this mid to lower market, and the do it for me or do it with me. And I know that's a hot topic when it comes to the integrator channel and the CEDIA channel, but what we were seeing was finally, like, if anyone went to the international builder show this past year. If you've been keeping track of some of the things at CES over the past two years, you're really starting to notice that tech is getting into every single last piece of anything in the home. Now, we've got all of these new smart connected power distribution panels. We've got almost all the appliances now in the kitchen and bath space are somehow connected, whether it's a faucet or a fridge or a microwave or a mirror or your shower, everything.

Ron:  Or your faucet. We have a smart faucet in our house. We've never done that. So we wave your hand over it and it turns on or off. But it connects to google and you could like, say you name it. I think it's Moen. Like, hey, Moen, I don't even know what the command is. Give me one liter of water and it will give you exactly that amount of water out of your faucet.

Ian: Yeah, Kohler has a similar product as well. It's crazy. You can say, give me one cup of water at 98 degrees or something. Where I was going with this was never before have we seen such infiltration of technology into not just the luxury space, but the mid to lower markets.

Ron:  Oh, we've lost Ian, but my money says he's going to come back. His internet was cooperating so nicely, too. Oh, yup, here he is. Here we go. I knew he'd come back. Keep going. We didn't miss a beat.

Ian: Weird. I could hear you the whole time. The way I see the residential market is that mid to lower market is expanding at a rate that we've never seen before. The luxury market is still there, and there's still some really amazing luxury products and manufacturers, trade suppliers that are coming out and supporting that top 1%. They'll always be lots of work in the luxury space, and it's always going to be super exciting. But what we were seeing in the mid 2009, 2010s was that the tech that would come out, that was emerging would come out for the luxury first, and then it would trickle down to the mid to lower market as the price came down, as the technology became easier to reproduce. But now we're starting to see tech come out that's emerging at the bottom in that lower to mid market and then working its way up to the luxury market in the opposite direction. I think that's where we're getting some really interesting opportunities for integrators that maybe don't have the ability for their size or their abilities to do the luxury that can make really good business and really good money at that lower to mid market. From what I know, CEDIA's most recent size and scope survey was that they found that the average Integrator in the US is that two to three or three to four employees. That's where a lot of the industry is at right now and it's a lot of work and there's a lot of people are now realizing it's not just a luxury to have a lockable door and a video doorbell and a smart thermostat, it's a necessity. It's not only in your homes but in MDUs and apartments. People are now renting apartments and expecting to come into the space with some smart devices. 15 years ago a video doorbell, we were selling those things for $2,000 and they required multiple pieces of infrastructure to get to them and require programming to make them work. Now it's super quick and easy. So I think that the residential market right now is probably the most exciting that it's ever been. There are more opportunities available for businesses and there's more you can do. But at the same time for the consumer that's trying to do it on their own. The do it for me or the do it by myself, the DIY. It's more frustrating than ever because there is so much tech and there are so many different options that not everyone knows what products work with. That's what we're hoping Matter is going to solve. At least hopefully for some consumers, it depends on how many manufacturers pick up on the standard.

Ron:  What is it? I'm not familiar with that.

Ian: Matter, a chip, what Google, Apple, I mean there's so many manufacturers involved but it's a standard protocol, a communication protocol to bridge between all the different manufacturers product. So you won't have to worry about what only got Samsung SmartThings and I have to stay within that bubble or the Amazon product line, or the Google product line or Apple's product line. If they adopt the Matter standard, they'll all be able to communicate cross platform. I know Walt did a podcast with Mitch Klein recently about this. I have an article and the CEDIA communicates the last issue about it as well. So it's pretty exciting. But I still think Integrators are going to be needed because the general consumer doesn't know which products are going to be the best for their situations, and that's what integrators do. You have your client discovery conversations based on what the customers, how they're going to live in their home and you provide solutions based on that. An Integrator can provide a custom solution with direct to consumer products or they can provide a custom solution with luxury products. That's what makes an Integrator special and that's what I think so many people love about this industry is because you can be so creative with so many different options and at least that's what I find so fun about it.

Ron:  So I'm going to maybe clarify, are you seeing a newer type of business being born that's trying to serve the volume of this middle to lower tier market where the do it for me product kind of a different class of products, higher volume products. There's not a $25,000 lighting control system but maybe a $2500 this or that. But these businesses are being born to take these products and deploy these into people's homes?

Ian: Yeah, it's starting to grow. It's very slow because it's a whole different mindset than what we've been used to as far as, when I say we I mean the industry, you're talking about lower product margins, faster turnover on job sites similar to any Integrator that used to do satellite installs back in the 2000's. You had to go in and knock them out as fast as you can.

Ron:  It's a different business model.

Ian: It's a completely different business model. There are some Integrators out there that are trying to do both and they've figured out that they've got to separate the custom side from the do it for me side because your projects are managed differently, your margins are different, your tech skills are different. You don't need to have someone that knows how to do ISF and Ha Calibrations and Cinema going out to do a ring doorbell install so you've got different techs. But I think that eventually as that lower market continues to grow and as consumers continue to realize it's not just consumers and manufacturers realize that they still need some professional help to get these products installed and set up properly because everything that is coming out now is reliant on having an infrastructure backbone. So your hardwired, your wireless networks and there's an entire profession out there, people, that's what Integrators do. I'm hearing from so many different people from different media that there's consumers. I can't remember that article that came out. Was it in Wired magazine or one of them about well the smart home just doesn't work. It was in reference to the direct to consumer products and the frustration that most consumers have about trying to create a smart home. Integrators don't have that issue because that's what we do and that's what the industry provides service for. I think we're getting very closer to the consumer starting to realize that there is an entire industry that supports this technology.

Ron:  I was watching TV the other night with my family and there was a commercial and the commercial was making fun of the smart home. It had the house and it had this frustrated person in the house and it was like a banking commercial. It had nothing to do with home automation. I was like, really? You have to go and take a jab at smart home?

Ian: Yeah.

Ron:  But that was their example in this TV commercial of a frustrated consumer, was the consumer in a smart home and somehow they made banking cooler than integration, I was like, man, we've got some issues, people. I don't know if I'm the only one that picked up on it. I was like, this is messed up.

Ian: Yeah.

Ron:  But there's some truth to it because this stuff is frustrating. If it doesn't work and it is proliferating society and the 1% of society or the fraction of 1% currently gets an Integrator, currently knows that an Integrator as a service is a good site, that they even exist. I agree there's this frothy void, which is the proliferation of technology. I think what you're picking up on is that that's happening and that a new business or new business models are being born to serve that space.

Ian: Yeah.

Ron:  CEDIA, as a trade organization, do you feel they're trying to appeal to that business type? And should they?

Ian: I mean, that would be a good question for Darryl, the new CEO of CEDIA.

Ron:  I'll have him on the show.

Ian: Yeah, he would be great to have on the show. I know that the organization is currently going through some new strategy. I am not pervading that new strategy these days. But I think that they're between CEDIA, between HTA and some of the other buying groups like Azione. I think everyone's right now trying to figure out what's the best avenue. We've tried in the past to talk directly to the consumer and it's so hard because none of us have the budgets to put together marketing campaigns to go hit the consumer. That's very expensive. Says that the design build community is at the builders and the architects and designers. We've tried that in the past, but I think in the past it was a lot more difficult because ten years ago the majority of the products and the services that integrators were selling were for the luxury market. There was really no low, there was a mid market. But the direct to consumer products were nothing compared to what they are now. But now that you've got the international builder show in cave is where almost every person there or every product is including technology, they're kind of getting it. The light bulb has finally gone off. We've got all of this issue. One of the partnerships that I was working with when I was at CEDIA was with Kohler. Kohler realized this, that they have this great product line of these connected devices and they're being sold to consumers, to plumbers and to builders to install. Yet they are having all these issues of getting them connected onto a network and getting them configured for the user and how does it then work with my smart speaker and my voice control and all this stuff? That's where we figured out that we need to connect the integrator. So I think with a little bit of time as the design build community starts to realize the importance of the integrator as the manufacturers start to realize the importance of the integrators just like they do other trades. Like as Schneider or someone who's coming out with a connected panel says. Well we already work with the electricians, but now that we've got these things that need to be on the network and the customer needs to be trained on. We really need to start working with the Integrator channel. I think that combination of the builder and the manufacturer and the Integrator all pushing together will start to really affect how everyone perceives this industry. It's going to take a little time, but it's going to happen. Ring and Nest both have pro programs. I saw a Nest commercial a year ago that said, hey, hire a Nest Pro to install your thermostat. Now they've got this program where the Nest Pro puts in their ID when they install it and set it up. That could be an HDAC company, it could be an Integrator, and they get notifications if there's issues happening and they can contact the homeowner directly. It's starting to change. We're starting to see a shift, but it's just everyone's going to have to continue. I say everyone, the Integrators, the trade associations, all of us are going to have to continue to push and we're going to get there.

Ron:  I agree. I think when I hear you talk about this, I still feel I feel like I felt 20 years ago, man, we are so early.

Ian: I think there were times in the past ten years, the past decade, I feel like we've had this moment where we thought maybe we're making traction, but I don't think it's ever really been this big. Like the smart products are just flooding the market and people are just going to get to the point soon. But yeah, 20 years ago, I was putting in security systems into mansions that were made for small buildings, like corporate buildings. The lighting stuff that was coming out was all new and everyone was trying new stuff like we do power line communications, do we do RF? And then we got all these wireless touch panels coming out running on different frequencies, and we're figuring out that there was conflicts on certain frequency channels. I mean, it was like the Wild West back in between 2000 and 2010. I feel like there was just everyone was shooting at the hip trying to figure it out.

Ron:  What I'm hearing is there's lots of technology permeating society. There are lots of issues around standards and communication protocols. There's an exponential growth in consumer demand for these technologies. By the way, none of this is taking away from our historic nature of serving the fraction of 1% of society that demand, in my mind, has stayed constant or grown. Like the wealthy are wealthier today than they've ever been. So that hasn't changed. So the classic Integrator, how I've spent my 20 years growing my career working with Integrators and in the space, I see that it's continuing to evolve, maybe consolidate to some extent. But what's really happening here is this expansion of the market. This is market expansion. It could be perceived as, what does that mean? The top end is going away? In my opinion, no, this is new market. This is new customers to serve and new business models to be born in terms of figuring out how to serve them.

Ian: Yeah, there's also another area that's different, and the technology that... Odin's walking around down here. He's getting bored.

Ron:  Getting antsy.

Ian: I'd say ten years ago, if someone went to go sell a house, and they said, this house has these touch panels on the wall that allow you to control the lights and the thermostats and their speakers in every room, say, majority of the people would be like, yeah, okay, well, I don't see how that adds value to this house. I'm not going to pay for that. Now, it's completely different. You have smart devices inside of a home that's being sold on the market. It may not have direct, like the assessor that assesses the home, may not put a dollar figure on those because it's very difficult depending on the age of the technology. But it makes that home so much more appealing, more than it ever has before. Now we're seeing and it's not just in the top 1% homes, the multi million dollar homes. These are smaller, two three bedroom, two bath houses that have distributed audio, distributed video, doorbells, smart locks. That makes it very appealing. The same thing with MD use. Now, these companies that manage and sell or build these apartment complexes, they're starting to see, if I just put in each one of these rooms a door lock and a thermostat and a good wireless network, a mesh network and a camera, I can get my units rented out much faster than the units that are down the street. So that is making that push even faster. So everything's kind of coming together and you're right, the market is just continuing to grow. Now, the only thing, because I don't consider myself cynical all the time, but everyone is getting a little nervous right now. The housing market is possibly on its way to bursting. You've got the Fed raising the rates, the stock markets been struggling. So everyone's a little on edge about what's going to happen over the next couple of years. We know that even during the housing market crash in 2008, the luxury market was still doing fine. That didn't really affect them, but any of that mid market stuff was kind of slowed down a lot. So I think that what we'll see, though, is generally there's a trade off, right? So in 2008, when the housing market crashed, the commercial and business market was still doing fine, the big companies are still spending money in the universities, the schools, everything. Then recently, during COVID, when no one was going to their offices, the commercial market slowed way down. Housing, the residential market boomed. All the integrators were getting phone calls. I need a better network. I need this, I need entertainment because we're all at home now and it's always a trade off. I don't think we've ever seen over the past 30 years where both have completely dropped out. Integrators are much more diverse now than they've ever been. Most integrators, I think, would say that; residential integrator would at least say they're doing 25%, if not more commercial work on top of residential work. Commercial integrators are now starting to do some residential work. So as we come more flexible, there's going to be the differences. The high end luxury residential integrator has the ability to do things that a commercial integrator doesn't and a high huge commercial company can do things that a residential integrator can't, like an arena. Most residential companies aren't big enough to do that. But my point being, with the diversification we're at now, if the housing market does drop and we have a bubble burst, I think most innovators are going to be fine to transition some of their workload over to the commercial space and there's going to be enough business there to support it. So we have that going for us as well.

Ron:  There's a lot of threads to pool there and I could go down all of those rabbit holes with you, but I am mindful of time for our audience and we are at the 1 hour, actually just a little bit after an hour. I would say generally, Ian, the Internet mostly cooperated.

Ian: I know I switched over to cellular and I was surprised that I didn't get enough a lot of buffering. So I threw up my cell phone repeater. I do have one of those too. It's on a 20 foot long pole and I screw that up right before we jumped on.

Ron:  That's a good call. I'd say this has been a pretty... When SpaceX failed us, unfortunately, the cell network stepped up. So it was awesome. Curious for the next opportunity, are you looking to stay on the road and continue traveling the country? Are you looking to settle yourself down in some particular part of the country?

Ian: So I did purchase land up in Montana and that is planning to be my home location eventually. The market up there is absolutely insane right now. As far as the building remodeling and building, I found my builder right after I purchased the land in late 2020 and he said, absolutely, we'll get you in the queue. It's probably going to be two to three years. Okay, I can wait.

Ron:  Holy moly.

Ian: I'd like to spend, if I can, find some remote work, whether that be consulting in contracting or working for someone full-time, I'd like to stick on the road for another year maybe. It's been really great. There's still some things I still haven't seen and I'd like to go to some more parks, forests and get out there. But yeah, eventually I'll land up there in the Montana area. It's pretty amazing part of the country that if anyone's never been to Montana, northern Idaho, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, western Wyoming, it's a pretty special part of the US.

Ron:  I've been hearing more and more about that part of the country and in fact more and more integrators are moving to that part of the country. So there's a lot of action in that region of the country right now.

Ian: Yeah, there's lots of movement as everyone knew when COVID hit and everyone kind of went to remote and as companies are starting to reevaluate their hybrid work environments, it's a huge mass migration from a lot of the big cities, especially those in California and east coast and a lot of people decided to go up to the mountain state and it's growing really fast. So there are a lot of business opportunities up there. So I recommend if anyone's interested, check it out.

Ron:  That's it. And now everyone listening and watching knows there's a talented young man that's going to be in that market looking for an opportunity. Ian, for those folks that want to get in touch with you, what channels or handles would you share?

Ian: Yeah, on Instagram, like I said, Ianbriantphotography and Mandogopenroads, my personal email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and then LinkedIn; search for Ian Bryant. I'm all over LinkedIn. So yes, I am really happy to have been on the show, man. I appreciate it. It's been a blast. I just want to say I've been in this industry since the late 90s, started volunteering for CEDIA in 2007. I met you through CEDIA volunteering. I met so many other industry professionals that way and I love this industry and definitely going to stick around and I think it's going to be one of my industry friends. a deal from Google had a thing he said at a tech summit a couple of months ago. He said this is the decade of the integrator and I truly believe that this is the time that this industry is going to grow faster than it ever has. It's going to be pretty amazing.

Ron:  Amen. Your mouth to God's ears and I agree. Ian, it's been a pleasure having you on show 216, my friend, really appreciate it.

Ian: Thank you so much.

SHOW NOTES:

Ian started in the AV/Integration industry in the live sound and stage sector in 1998. He migrated into residential integration in 2001 and then into commercial, government and higher education integration in 2010 with his company ZenArray specializing in consulting, system design, control system programming and DSP configurations.

Ian has volunteered throughout his career as a subject matter expert. He has sat on numerous panels and working groups, mostly with CEDIA, where he was awarded volunteer of the year in 2011 and 2016. He recently worked for CEDIA managing technology applications, workforce development and strategic partnerships. Ian is currently a consultant and independent contractor specializing in thought leadership, go-to-market strategies, events and publications.

His qualifications include CEDIA CIT, Crestron CMCP-S, Harman Certified Programmer, Extron Control Professional, BIAMP & Dante Certified, and is a Certified Living In Place Professional.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

Ian can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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