Once upon a time an Electrician did not need a license. Heck the first automobile drivers were not licensed either. Today we cannot imagine a world with out licensed Electrical Professionals wiring our buildings and everyone knows the results of driving without one.
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Now try to imagine the world of the Home Automation Installer or Integrator in 5 or 10 years. Will we all have a license just like an Electrician and standards that vary little from State to State? Is it true, is Low Voltage licensing here?
Here in New England the more populous States have Licensing. The more rural areas are enacting certification primarily for fire and safety. For example Massachusetts has extensive Licensing while New Hampshire is working on Certification legislation for the Alarm Industry. The other adjoining States are somewhere in the middle. The degree of training required also varies from State to State. The number of hours on the job and the classroom time in some States make getting a College degree look like the easy way out. Does any of this make you a better Technician? It’s hard to say at this early stage since standards vary so widely from one place to the next.
In Massachusetts the Burglar and Fire Alarm Association recently changed it’s name to the Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association. My own state Alarm Association has not changed the name but they actively are seeking out Integrators as members and learning (as well as teaching) more about the other Low Voltage Systems. The reason is simple, a low voltage contractor will need to be versatile in the entire spectrum of systems in the near future. Now isn’t that what Integrators have been up to all along? So in a strange twist of fate the Integrator may be raising the bar by proving it is possible for one Technician to Install a multiple of Systems. Meanwhile the existing associations are working to consolidate these many disciplines into a coherent group.
Naturally the Integrators who have been out there for a few years kind of like the free-wheeling Old West environment of the Low Voltage Industry. Like the Old West this will not last forever, standards have risen to the surface. Not so new concepts will begin to take on larger meaning. However the world will not end if this is beginning to make you nervous. Instead, working with other trades will become helpful in order to learn more about this process. “We are all just trying to make a living” as the President of one major Alarm Company put it recently. In reality not everyone is ready for this development, in fact it is down right unfair to make those of us who are already doing this for a living suddenly have to go back to the end of the line. My hope is that the real world experience will always be a factor during the license process. I envision Licensing to be a growing issue over the next few years and the best way to stay on top is to join the State Associations and stay informed. Get online, your State web site may have information on pending or existing legislation. You can help shape the future and will not get left behind if you are informed.
Now what is that about not so new concepts? Some time ago I found an article on the BICSI organization web site describing the Electronic Systems Technician (EST) concept. This article called, the Electronic Systems Technician, Occupational Profile and Outlook by the Ohlhausen Research Group and was written for the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association in 1999. My reaction was, this is a term I have been searching for. Over the years it is apparent that not only are technologies combining and reemerging the Technician who Installs and Maintains them will need to adapt as well. The lines are blurring more and more as the distinction between the various technical disciplines merge. The one thing that stands out however is the EST training. One can only hope that on a national scale this will ultimately allow for uniform standards across the US.
The hardest translation is for the consumer. We all understand the need for an Electrician, Plumber and Carpenter on a construction site. So who is this new creature who wants to run Phone lines, Cable TV, a cool sound system and integrate it to work together all at the same time? Without a concise name to apply it is very hard to explain the Home Automation Installer. I think the term Integrator has served the Industry well and it may be counter productive to walk away from. The problem is this, does it really tell the whole story of what we do and more importantly what we are capable of? It might be a good time for our Industry to accept the idea of an EST or Electronic Systems Technician.
The consumer is also the reason why all of this came about. Streamlining this business can go a long way with the people who the Integrator is working for. Once the Home Owner understands the basics and the vast array of possibilities there is no limit to how smart their home can get. Now throw in an Integrator or EST who is Certified or Licensed and they now have something to guarantee that the job will be done right. Ultimately a State Licensed professional in a State that adopts a National Standard is where this is should lead. This could make the process easier for States that have yet to adopt a set of values regarding Low Voltage systems. Many Installers do this now by posting which National Associations they belong to like CEDIA and CEA. If you are just learning about this technology these organizations are a great place to start. As a matter of fact so is the Home Toys site.
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Paul Deshaies is the Owner of Lifestyle Automation, a company that designs, installs systems and also provides nuts and bolts products as well as A/V and other equipment. Currently he is developing his small business while researching any issue required to build a business including licensing and writing articles on Home Automation basics for local publications. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lifestyleautomation.us