HD Connectivity Interview: automation is the new cool

posted on Sunday, 27th July 2014 by Steve May

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With a new partnership deal inked with leading distributor AWE and a prestigious win at this year's CEDIA Region 1 Awards for Best Innovative product, things couldn't be going better for UK-based AV signal distribution experts HD Connectivity. Inside CI sat down with managing director Chris Pinder, a man known to have strong opinions on all things CI, to talk trends and technology. But first, of course, congratulations are in order. With so many exciting new products shortlisted forthe category, taking top slot with the HDanywhere Modular matrix must have been deeply satisfying?

Chris Pinder: "The event is the custom install industry's biggest of the year, and the yearbook its best advert. To be featured in it as Best Innovative Product will create opportunities for HDanywhere. Being judged to be the best is always a great feeling, but whether we won or not, we knew it (the Awards, pictured below) was going to be a fun night either way; 90 per cent of the people in the industry keep it fun and that's what's great about CI."

CEDIA Awards

Consumer interest in home automation seems to be on the rise again, thanks the advent of new innovations in heating control like Hive, Tado and Nest, as well as Apple's upcoming HomeKit...

Pinder: Absolutely! I believe to what level your home is automated and the quality of your home gadgetry will be the new one-upmanship with the neighbours. It used to be the car in your driveway, now it's how eco your home is and how cool your home AV setup is.

Is that where the wow factor is when it comes to cutting edge residential technologies?

Pinder: I still think the true wow factor is immersive home cinema experiences in your own home that can totally transport you into content. It's real escapism in your living room, with wow picture and wow sound.

Connectivity and infrastructure continues to challenge the CI business.  What's new when it comes to cabling?

Pinder: HDMI will continue to be the de-facto cable people use to connect up their devices. The good news is that more and more can be achieved using just a single cable, which makes viewing areas tidier and removes rat's nests behind TVs. HDMI can carry and internet connection and also communicate control signals - potentially replacing the infrared point-and-click remotes, with smartphones, smart watches, tablets etc as a better controller.

Do you think the belated implementation of HDCP 2.2 on so many 4K UHD compatible products is going to create problems for installers down the road?

Pinder: Yes, I see trouble ahead. The key is, it's not backwards compatible. An HDCP 2.2 device would not work in the mix with any HDCP 2.1 (and below) TVs or sources. Everything has to be 2.2. I cannot see Sky implementing a fix as the chipsets are too expensive for them. It will require a premium model Sky box. It will be down to the TV manufacturers to implement a fix to accommodate the millions of sky boxes that are out there. Or I think the fix is already in place, whereby you using a specific alternative HDMI port on the display that is not HDCP 2.2.

AWE's Stuart Tickle has talked about the rise of the Smart Home guy installer. Has the ubiquity of smartphone devices created a great new opportunity for anyone to sell the connected digital experience?

Pinder: Anyone can sell the concept of a digital home, but you need well-trained installation and support teams to truly offer a connected home service to a customer. The ability to bring a disparate bunch of devices together to work in harmony from your smartphone still isn't very consumer DIY friendly. The opportunity is there if you invest in skilled installation teams.

Modular CropOngoing interest in multi-room audio seems to offer a great jumping on point for Smart home guys and small start-ups. What advice would you offer?

Pinder: In my opinion independents need to diversify into offering custom installation services to enhance their chances of survival. Unless an independent can offer multiple value-add benefits, such as CI, over online ordering and big box sellers, today's consumers will not have a big enough reason to use them. 

When it comes to control systems, the hardware and technology can seem intimidating for a start up. Where's the best place to begin?

Pimder: Education. Control brands offer classes and courses, some of them for free. It's zero risk to attend one and make an informed decision of whether or not you feel capable of offering control systems to your customers. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

HD Connectivity has always taken a lead when it comes to installer training. What courses are available that you would recommend?

Pinder: All CEDIA courses and a personal favourite of mine is URC Control at AWE Europe. It's free and the AWE show apartment is inspiring to people contemplating a career in custom install. They also provide free Dominos pizza, which is almost as good as providing free Krispy Kreme donuts! 

For more on HD Connectivity and HDanywhere products, visit our partner page here.

Also read:
AWE Europe interview: Rise of the Smart Home Guy
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Is this the best low cost HDMI 4xe matrix yet?

AWE Europe partners with HD Connectivity for Modular

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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