Understanding the Network: Why You Need to Care

Jeff Gardner
Feb 09, 2012

Ignoring the importance of networking skills at this point would be like calling home theater a “passing fad” in the mid-‘90s.

We have known for some time that the network would play a growing role in the home. This is just one piece of the emerging trends puzzle our industry must solve and embrace in order to stay relevant and profitable.

We sat down with Jeff Gardner, CEDIA’s director of technical training, to understand more about why electronic systems contractors (ESCs) need intensive training on networking skills in order to continue to thrive.

Q. Why do ESCs need to know the fundamentals of home networking?

A. Networking is now a necessary skill set. Without it, your system designs, control, and functionality will soon be outdated.

Everything is going to IP. The residential network supports streaming audio and video, system control, voice over IP, and a variety of other devices and functions…simultaneously. ESCs must design and implement networks robust enough to meet these new demands.

Many technicians have some basic network configuration skills, but the demands on the network now require more advanced setup to ensure smooth delivery of audio and video as well as seamless system control.

One example of what we’ll be expected to do is prioritizing network performance. It’s no big deal if an email is a second late, but if a streaming video is interrupted by a second, the experience is severely impacted.

Q. Where is this trend headed?

A. Just a few years ago we used to joke about “IP toilets and toasters.” Guess what? They’re here. Not to mention more immediately relevant technologies like IP light bulbs and IP door locks. This vast expansion of IP capability is known as the “internet of things.” And the possibilities are mind-boggling.

Q. What are the business opportunities associated with this trend?

A. With the onset of the internet of things IoT and IPv6, the network will become the backbone of nearly everything the ESC does in the home, and it must be designed, installed, and configured correctly.

One of the most compelling aspects of this “internet of things” is the introduction of smart appliances. A combination of communication and control in refrigerators, stoves, and such will bring a new level of convenience, awareness, and energy savings to the connected home, or as we are beginning to call it, the “intuitive home.”

There is still a big question mark as to who will do the configuration of this new set of devices. We have the experience. We have the customers. But we need to pay attention and keep an open mind. If we lag behind, we could lose market share to the utilities, security companies, or other service providers.

Q. I know my technicians and designers need this training. Where do we start our training plan?

A. The CEDIA University course EST243: IP for Technicians is available online as an archived webinar delivered in three 1-hour segments. I recommend taking this course before you arrive at CEDIA EXPO this fall just to refresh yourself on the fundamentals and lay the groundwork for additional courses at the show.

At CEDIA EXPO, we’ll offer three new advanced courses for a total of eight half-day networking courses. We’re also tripling our lab space to three full computer labs. We’ll also offer courses on mobile control, streaming media, and all of the other emerging technologies that depend on the network.

Additionally, a new CEDIA Residential Networking Specialist credential will debut at CEDIA EXPO. The new credential will identify those who have shown mastery in the body of knowledge related to the home network.

On a year-round basis, we’re continuing to produce white papers on a variety of important topics. CEDIA is currently working a series of documents related to mobile devices and networking. The first document, Network Security Best Practices, is available in the CEDIA Marketplace.



Jeff Gardner is CEDIA’s director of technical training. He can be reached at jgardner@cedia.org.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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