Question Everything

There are certainties in life: The weather will change, the sun will come up and we must pay taxes. Another certainty design/build professionals are faced with is the constant change of technology.

It changes in numerous ways and there is always a better option looming in the future. The price comes down as each generation of product is released. We hope that quality and endurance are components of this evolution.

In some circumstances, technology is announced by the manufacturer far in advance of it being ready for general consumer application.

Technology, in its contemporary form, has had a significant presence in the residential arena for only the past 15 to 20 years. The smart home, considered a futuristic concept years ago, has gradually become a reality, although not without some level of angst for those responsible for its successful implementation. There were numerous attempts utilizing different standards to deliver this format to the residential marketplace.

Unfortunately, it was difficult for manufacturers to agree on which path is the best to take in the delivery of their technology.

A Lesson

About 10 years ago my company was searching for the latest and greatest integrated smart home product to control the audio, video, lighting and HVAC in some of our upscale projects. I attended one of the technology trade shows with this mission in mind. One of the more progressive manufacturers was launching a new product that “did it all.”

It appeared to be simple, powerful and ready to implement. All the bells and whistles were functioning flawlessly, and the demonstration was exciting. We were convinced and placed an order on the spot. This was the genesis of a new frontier, the answer to all of our needs, or so we thought.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The manufacturer, although having the best intents, was not ready for prime time. The product was conceptually beautiful, but only after more research and testing would it be ready to implement. It was not anywhere near ready for practical application when they thought it was.

When it came time to install, we learned there were serious flaws in the hardware and software. One year later the system was barely limping, the client was unhappy and we had incurred thousands of dollars in additional expense in labor and product to keep our client happy. To compound this, we installed at least a half dozen of these systems in other projects and found ourselves bouncing back and forth troubleshooting and putting out fires.

Needless to say we learned a valuable lesson. Just because a product exists and is apparently ready to go doesn’t mean one should assume the product actually functions in reality. So, when you are approached with new technology as a design/build professional, and you have any doubts that it can perform miracles and make life much simpler, ask a few questions: How long has this product been in the marketplace? Can you show me how it works and give me some history of reliability? Have you actually taken the time to bench test it in your own facility and verify that it is robust and reliable? Can you show me an existing application where the technology was implemented?

If you take this approach to working with technology, you can be reasonably assured you will not have problems with the overall experience. I recommend that any design/build professional consider using this approach in their current and all future projects. If you take the time to do this, you will have positive experiences and your client will thank you.