John Clancy was a member of the CEDIA board of directors and CTO of the giant home-technology integration company Audio Command Systems when he heard Crestron – the big home automation manufacturer and anchor of every CEDIA Expo – was skipping the 2016 show.
He called Crestron CEO Randy Klein because he thought the CEDIA exit ‘appeared to be a move away from supporting the residential market’, John tells CE Pro. “We talked very openly.”
At the end of the conversation, Randy invited John to be the residential guy.
It was a tough decision for John, who spent 23 years at ACS, helping to grow the business into a 100-person behemoth with over $27 million in annual revenues, much of it from Crestron jobs.
Ultimately, though, he couldn’t pass up this ‘extremely unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’.
John, now VP residential at Crestron calls the company a ‘sleeping giant’ in the residential realm. While the company does substantial business in the market, it pales in comparison to Crestron’s commercial business, which accounts for some 80% of Crestron’s $1 billion-plus revenues.
“Residential could be much bigger,” he says.
Clancy’s Agenda and the Mystery of Pyng
Currently, John is hitting the road, speaking with Crestron dealers and asking, “What can we do for you?”
He says it helps other integrators to have perspective from a residential dealer, especially one who has been around for a while – someone who gets: “This is what we need, these are the battles we fight every day.”
According to John, one of the questions that comes up frequently is how to maintain profitability on a Crestron project.
John knows all too well how a system that can do everything can quickly sap profits from a job, so ACS took much of the ‘custom’ out of custom installs.
“At ACS, early on we were able to develop repeatable, expandable code,” he says. “It was reliable and feature-rich and allowed us to scale with Crestron quickly, to get a lot of projects done quickly.”
Every project “started with a basic template and feature set, so we could bounce programmers between projects,” he says. “We had the same look and feel across projects. There were some extreme features built in, but we turned off a lot of those.”
With programming efficiency a major theme at ACS, the company welcomed Crestron Pyng when it arrived in 2014.
Pyng was a new framework that allowed Crestron dealers to program basic home automation systems through a simple mobile app. End users likewise can make simple changes and enhancements to their systems – scenes, schedules and alerts, for example – through the app, with no involvement from the integrator.
Since then, Pyng has expanded to include more controllable subsystems – pretty much everything that full-blown Crestron does, except for multiroom video (for now).
A Pyng-based system can meld with a full Crestron system to provide all of the benefits of super-customised control with less programming and more customer engagement.
“I was a beta tester,” John says. “Technologically it’s been fantastic. I have 30-plus dimmers, 10 zones of audio, two HVAC zones, door locks… it works religiously.”
That message is important to Crestron dealers, many of whom don’t understand Pyng and haven’t embraced it.
The messaging has been a little ‘confused’ in the past, John says: “If you asked 10 of our dealers what it is, you’ll probably get seven or eight different answers.”
CEDIA and Other Crestron Notables
Crestron is still focused on the luxury market “because of what it takes to do a system and do it well,” says John. “It takes a lot of time and dedication but it does allow for ultimate customisation.”
He notes as well that the quality of the hardware befits the luxury home market: “It’s the same stuff deployed in government and enterprise.”
John is diving into integration, working on Crestron’s Integrated Partner Program (I2P) and prioritising modules for manufacturing partners.
“We’ll be a significant part of two major announcements at CEDIA,” he says. (CE Pro guesses Sonos and Amazon Echo/Alexa, but Crestron’s not saying.)
Who owns the code? That has always been a pesky question for integrators who spend years putting their spin on custom programming and don’t want it usurped by the next guy. Clancy says it was always ACS’s practice to give clients all of their software and documentation on a USB stick at the end of a job.
Even so, he concedes that customers can sometimes be stranded without the keys to their system if a dealer disappears, gets fired from a job or simply closes down before the source code can be transferred, as in the case of Via International.
John says Crestron is “trying to take some burden off” former Via clients and the dealers who took over those jobs, but concedes, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.”
Crestron Pyng and the company’s movement to a more cloud-based architecture somewhat mitigates these concerns going forward, says John.