Interview: A little help from your (CI) friends1 July 2011
Only four years on from its formation, home integration company Elytronic won one category and was nominated as a finalist in two others at the 2011 CEDIA Awards. While delighted by the recognition, founder and MD Harris Epaminondas has plenty of other goals in mind – a move into marine, enhanced support services and, with any luck, further awards! David Davies spoke to Epaminondas to find out more about the rapid rise of the Cyprus-based company.
Elytronic won the Best Integrated Home Under 30K category at this year’s CEDIA Awards. What was special/unique about this project, and how important is this kind of recognition to Elytronic?
It was a fully integrated home incorporating lighting/shading control, air-conditioning, high-definition video distribution for all TVs, and a very nice home cinema room with motorised screen and lift for the projector. Sonos, Future Automation and SIM2 were some of the brands specified for the project, about which we have received fantastic feedback.
This was the first time we had ever submitted an entry to the CEDIA Awards, so to receive this level of recognition is wonderful. It shows that our work is world class and that we are following very strict project requirements – from the very beginning of a project to its completion.
Elytronic has come a long way in only four years. What was the starting point for the company?
I started out working as a distributor with Sonos and a couple of other brands. My interest in the home installation market really started to expand, and so over time I got into integration. Ultimately, the company is a fusion of my personal interest in the sector and a love for technology.
The average value of our commitments is probably around the £100K mark, but we take on a great diversity of projects – from 10K all the way up to £600K. For the less expensive installations, you can be talking about lighting/shading control, audio and video; at the upper end, it can be all these elements plus security, central heating, air-conditioning, door access, CCTV, home cinema, energy consumption monitoring, robust networking systems, and more.
Some of your most distinguished projects to date have been retrofits, but how important is new-build work?
Very important – it accounts for the majority of our projects. We have become particularly specialised in multi-apartment developments, and in this vein have just taken on one of our most prestigious projects yet: a 26-apartment, four-house development called Gladstone Residence.
It’s a really exciting project with more AV integration than you would normally find in new-builds. Over the course of three years, we’re going to provide each property with intelligent lighting control technology and automation systems integrated with the intercom, heating and air-conditioning. Some of the properties will also be provided with distributed audio/video and home cinema equipment.
As an aside, we are also looking into the marine sector and may be undertaking our first project in that area soon.
The potentially disastrous economic crisis in Greece is very much in the news at present. Is the situation in the neighbouring country affecting your business?
To a certain extent. It is taking longer to get decisions from some customers, and a few projects are also being reduced in size and scope. For example, a 50/70K customer might become a 20K customer.
But overall, I am pleased to report that we are busy, with plenty of projects on the books.
What trends do you think will affect the CI market over the next few years?
I think that more people will want to incorporate energy-saving technology to monitor electricity consumption. There will also be more integration of iPad and Android tablets, but I regard this as secondary to the [sort of control] offered by, for example, a wired touchpanel.
It is possible that custom integration will become more affordable to a wider public, but I think that you will always need to have the labour and skills to bring about a high-quality installation. The whole notion of service is vital; we have to think like the IT industry and offer full support over the long-term. It’s important to explain the customers that there might be problems and that, however expensive the systems, things can go wrong. Even if you buy a £200K car, it can go wrong…!
We already offer a number of support packages, including a scheme whereby we visit the property two times per year to clean systems, check that everything is working correctly, and so on. We will look to further develop our offer in this area in the future.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for. It’s vital that the industry goes on educating customers about the need to go for reliable, quality systems, even if they are more expensive. The cheaper the system, the more problems you are likely to get.