Shortly after the last month's CEDIA Home Technology Event, Robin van Meeuwen, managing director of Crestron UK, spoke to Paddy Baker about how the show is helping to reach out to electrical contractors, and the company's expectations for the more affordable Prodigy residential control system.
Q: How was the CEDIA Home Technology Event for you?
A: We skipped a year last year because we kept on seeing the same faces, but this year we had quite a lot of new things to show and that's why we were back. Some days were a bit quiet - we wanted to see a bit more traffic. The interesting thing was that we saw quite a few people from the electrical business looking at getting into our industry. That's a new audience for us and hopefully they'll be on track into coming to do business with us. But, of course, they're not born with a wealth of knowledge to get running really quickly, and that's why you've got to make products a bit easier for them.
Q: So CEDIA's outreach programme corresponds with what you're looking to do as far as electrical contractors are concerned?
A: Yes. We're treading very carefully because we don't want to upset our installer customer base. They've been working with us for many, many years, very successfully. With electrical contractors, we still want to establish a solid network of dealers and not just sell to anybody. So they have to still go through the training programme and make similar commitments, like our established customers.
Q: What was the thinking behind the Prodigy range?
A: That was the success of the CEDIA show for us. Crestron's always seen as the Bentley of the residential industry - it's a high-end product made for the £2 million and above residential market. A basic system will cost you £50,000, whereas Prodigy starts at a couple of thousand, so suddenly it opens up a bigger market. Prodigy is like a Smart-car Bentley - same quality feel, same service, same everything, same company, but more affordable. The volume will be there in a much bigger way than at the higher end, but of course there we're talking about volume, rather than margin. There's more competition at that lower end, but the volume will be a lot bigger, and the route to market is different. We're having a lot more electricians showing an interest in this market. So all in all I think it's very positive.
Q: And it's an introduction to Crestron.
A: Exactly, so when people get introduced to Crestron at the lower end, as their aspirations, or their lifestyles change, then it will hopefully inspire them to move up the ranks to a bigger Crestron system.
Q: Can you quantify the sales that you're expecting for Prodigy?
A: I'd say for every Crestron system that we're selling now, we should be selling around about 25 Prodigy systems. We looked at going through a network of setting up a distribution company, or working in partnership with a distribution company, to sell Prodigy. But we decided to still handle it ourselves. We've got a dedicated team of people here who will sell and support Prodigy, and we've got around about 150 potential installers who we are going to get trained up in the months to come. All sales will go through a specialist Prodigy installer. They've got to do the training, that's a must.
Q: Can you give me any hints as to what the next big residential announcement might be from Crestron?
A: We will be showing the product roadmap for Prodigy at the CEDIA Expo in Atlanta at the end of September. We've got a whole host of products that will enhance that product range, again for the middle to lower end of the market - and that will be very, very big. It will put us in pole position for the future at that level of the market.
Q: What will things look like in five to 10 years' time in the world of Crestron residential?
A: There's no doubt that the technology again is changing extremely quickly. We as a company are still going to be here. We'll still be in business, we'll still be the same people. We just try to improve what we're doing every single day - and keep on the forefront of technology.
To read an interview with Robin van Meeuwen about Crestron's operations in the commercial sector, and his thoughts on the implications of the iPad,click here