How did you come to be working in the professional installation sector?My father had an audio/video shop in Paris, so I was therefore born and grew up in a technological environment. I have always been very interested in both sound and video; the products and the extraordinary evolution of technology during the last 30 years. The speed of development has been remarkable in so many ways: product quality, the distribution of sound and video on a network, etc. I also became fascinated by automation and the complementary nature of A/V technologies, underpinned by the aim of providing the best possible installation in any given scenario.
What do you regard as the highlights of your career prior to Integration Technologie?I began to work with my father, selling and installing video and sound products, but ultimately I decided to relocate to the south-west of France, near Biarritz. I then spent two years at a sports and musical event organisation - that was very exciting - but the company in question ceased working in those areas and I was forced to find another job. I went to work as store manager at the Biarritz BOSE Center, and it was during my two years there that I discovered the luxury installation of home theatre and multi-room systems.
How did you come to be involved with Integration Technologie, and what is your current role at the company?I had always wanted to create my own company and, by this point, I didn't want to stay working in a store anymore. I was interested in the installation sector, but also wanted to maintain [other areas of] commercial activity. So, in 2007, I took the step of founding my own company, Integration Technologie, to specialise in custom installations. Most of the time, I work alone, undertaking the commercial development, administration and installation of each project. I really enjoy the process of identifying the best solutions and resolving all the technical challenges.
What are the most pressing issues confronting the French installation sector? The installation is dependent on the construction companies and architects who determine the final prices, as a result of which AV installations can sometimes take place rather late in the construction/build process. In such cases, the integration can be more difficult and costly, leading the client to select a less expensive installation. Fortunately, I believe that this is now changing and that, more and more, the client is thinking about AV systems installation at the very beginning of a project
To what extent has the business recovered from the recent economic downturn?The business is picking up, but cost restrictions are always present so the lower price can be the first choice factor, especially outside the big cities. There are many positive trends that we can see, though: the renewed activity in the construction and real estate markets has prompted the resumption of installations, while the government's desire to equip schools with the latest equipment has also helped the installation sector. Similarly, the new French classification of hotels, five star, is encouraging them to improve their facilities. But I do think that we need more communication from AV brands about the features and benefits of their systems to help increase the demand for high-quality installations even further.
Which technologies do you think will define your area of the business over the next few years?It's difficult to say because I think that there is a lot happening in the public, private and residential markets. Automation has a good future with the possibility of energy cost reduction and I hope that it will be incorporated as part of more systems with AV in the future. 3D and touchscreens will also have an important part to play, specifically in commercial locations and the tourism business. Lighting systems will also become more and more sophisticated thanks to LED technology.
Is there one recent project that particularly stands out in your memory - and why?One project that springs to mind involved the integration of a residential home theatre. The final system that I installed entailed complete home automation with an AV network and storage, a luxury home theatre system, and LED lighting to provide the required ambience. The automation was KNX-based and featured Home Logic technology for control, a Sunfire home theatre sound system, and an Elan AV multi-room system. A residential installation must be of a very high quality, but also well-designed and discrete. In my view, customers for luxurious home integration projects tend to be harder to please than those in [other areas of] professional installation, with the exception of those in the hostelry sector.
In what ways do you think Integration Technologie will evolve/change over the next few years? I only began the company in 2007, and the economic downturn that happened shortly after that affected my initial expectations. As a result, it's difficult to make predictions; I just hope that the business carries on growing! But I would like to develop my interests in other areas of professional installation, because at present my activity is largely concentrated on residential projects. Tourism is very important on the south-west coast of France, so I intend to work more in the hostelry, golfing and cultural sectors. I am also interested in the possibility of installing systems on yachts.
And finally, what does the future hold for you personally? Any unrealised ambitions? I would like to realise my own personal construction project, which is an ecological wood home equipped with automation and multi-room systems, as well as a full home theatre. I would also like to have my own boat and make a round-the-world trip. Finally, it's also my goal to create a festival which combines music and extreme sports. So, yes, I have quite a few ambitions to realise in the years ahead! Cyril Chilewicz was speaking to David Davies. www.integration-technologie.fr [Ends]