Integrated Concepts has had a rather unique take on the audio/video, security and connected home installation industry since its launch in the mid-1990s. While it’s not bizarre for custom installers to create tailored solutions for their client, which address their unique needs, Integrated Concepts Rich Babcock went one step further and used an active demo as a selling tool in order to give prospective clients an idea about what they might want – rather than telling them.
The custom installation industry has been obsessed with lavish showrooms and demos, but Integrated Concept chose a more homely environment to ensure that it could relative to its respective customers who were located throughout Fairfield County in Connecticut, USA. Integrated Concept set up a demonstration environment within a local home, which was designed to be as welcome and un-intimidating as possible, while still giving prospective clients the opportunity to expose themselves to the latest and greatest technology.
Inside the show home, Rich and the team at Integrated Concepts show off everything from a video projector-based home theatre to window treatments, advanced use of security cameras, home automation and whole-house entertainment. Rich believes that its this environment that has become one of the company’s most powerful selling tools.
Unlike walking through a retail store, the Integrated Concepts show home is by appointment only. While that may sound more intimidating at first, it’s so that Rich and his team can learn about their client’s first, rather than waste time demonstrating technologies that they have no interest in.
Some of the technologies installed inside the show home include the Autonomic MMS-5A whole-house entertainment platform, which is controlled within the Crestron environment. Rich can demonstrate everything from a 20in in-wall touchscreen, a 15in table-top touchscreen, as well as directly from an application installed on either an iOS or Android-based smartphone. Using the Crestron Smart Graphics interface, Rich can ensure that the design is uniform across all the different platforms and completely tailored to the client.
There are architectural speakers throughout the home and an audiophile listening area adjacent to the upstairs master bedroom. Streaming services offered are Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL and TuneIn. This gives the customer an opportunity to explore the functionality of each service and high-resolution sound quality offered by TIDAL, especially in the upstairs listening system. Rich feels strongly that demonstrating all of the services through a single interface helps entice his clients.
“In order to deliver the desired streaming services, we used to employ multiple devices such as Apple TV and others. Now with Autonomic and their native integration with Crestron, everything has been aggregated into a single experience, including local content such as iTunes and/or large collections stored on external drives,” says Rich.
“Autonomic is the best blend of entertainment and sophisticated home integration available. Something this good changes our world as integrators, it really makes a difference in how we present technology to consumers.”
Though he also cautions: “The key to success here is a robust home network—ideally, Autonomic operates on a separate sub-net to maximise reliability even when the kids are streaming video or taxing the network in so many ways.”
In the upstairs listening space, the Autonomic MMS-5A is connected via S/PDIF output to an exotic DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)/preamplifier from AURALiC. This gives Babcock the ability to demo high-resolution digital playback including 192 kHz/24 bit files as well as TIDAL lossless streaming all in a single location. TIDAL is also available throughout the home on the architectural speakers.
“You can make quite an impact on a customer by playing them better quality formats—much more effectively than talking about it in conversation. With Autonomic, everything is centralised so the demo is easy to grasp, full of colourful metadata, and the client can envision how this will fall into place in their home and in their daily lifestyle,” notes Rich.
Another feature from Autonomic that Rich leverages is the TuneBridge feature, which enables users to map content by genre, artist or song type when they hear something they like at the touch of a button. “TuneBridge is brilliant, however I typically bring my customers along slowly, let them get comfortable with Autonomic gradually before introducing the power of TuneBridge,” Rich concludes.
The Integrated Concepts show home offers a basement theatre experience featuring 4K video and 4K video switching along with the latest HDCP 2.2 support. Autonomic streaming content is also available here. “We show clients everything here—from advanced integrated security options, the quietest motorised window treatments, home automation and the Autonomic-based whole-house entertainment. The customer can experience these technologies in a way that is conducive to envisioning them as part of daily life. That is the purpose of creating a show home,” adds Rich.