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Home Automation Still Not Ready For Primetime

TWICE: Will home automation play a large role in Q4?

Dave Workman, ProSource: It will be a factor in general, depending upon the retailer. The reality is that the technology is doing the system architecture. It is no longer just one solution that’s difficult to install and expensive. The technology and the category are broadening.

In the high end our members are enjoying a very, very good business, along with the low end. The middle of the market is under the most pressure. This is more than a one-year phenomenon that will include security, lighting control, shades, wholehome control management … it’s a nascent market but will grow.

Mike Abt, Abt Electronics: We’re very much in home automation and have been in it for a long time. It requires lots of labor. We carry the Nest Protect smoke alarm product, but often when customers buy it they still need service on it, they still have us come out. The industry still hasn’t figured out how to make home automation a do-it-yourself category.

Rick Souder, Crutchfield: It’s still a very disparate landscape with multiple apps. An integrated system is still on the horizon, but there’s a new generation of home automation products that are a natural for us with our do-it-yourself background, and there are some products coming in the next few months that will provide a much more practical application for the average consumer. There’ll be some promise there.

Of course there are also platforms from Apple, Google with Nest, and the cable and mobile providers. We’ll have to see how viable a business model that is for retailers.

Tom Hickman, Nationwide: I don’t know if the category will go full force now. I do see it fully entrenched in the mainstream by next year and the following fourth quarter. I’d love to say it will be this year with simple solutions but I don’t see it coming that fast. There is still plenty of business on the high- to middle-side of the market. For us, we have a unique opportunity with all the home automation going on through the kitchen with Whirlpool and others.

For the fourth quarter of this year we really think Ultra HD TV will create lines outside our stores due to the picture quality. But next year with the new technologies available to control your home, and the features increasing and pricing getting better, demand will be strong.