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Hot Idea: Home Automation and Media Storage

Offer clients the home of the future with your own home automation and media storage business.

A Jetsons-style home may not be that far off. Increasingly, home is where the high-tech is, and there's a need for entrepreneurs to pitch in to this burgeoning market. Broadband is rampant, networking technology has matured, and consumer devices and desires are ramping up. "It's been a slow-growth industry that is finally turning the corner," says Stoneham, Massachusetts, home systems consultant Kenneth Wacks.

Wacks points out some red-hot areas in the home automation and media storage market: lighting control, security systems, energy management, comfort control, entertainment systems and networked kitchen appliances. There's room for creative product development ideas, but entrepreneurs should also investigate the service side. Once homes are relying on all these technology items, consumers will need someone to make sense of it all, install equipment, and maintain and service the systems.

Home theaters, media servers, automated lighting and talking toasters aren't just for rich folks anymore. OK, we made up the talking toasters. But it's not that far-fetched. "Re-examine the mundane and find the gems, and apply your creativity," advises Wacks. It's a market with more facets than a princess-cut diamond. For more information, visit the Continental Automated Buildings Association and the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association.

Getting Started
Thinking of launching your own home automation and media storage business? Follow these tips:

  • Services, services, services. There are a lot of large-screen LCDs and plasmas, surround sound stereos, media servers and high-end DVD and DVDR machines being sold. There's also a need for experts who can put it all together and make these devices work well with each other.
  • Builders need help, too. New home construction is a prime place for installation of home automation applications. "More than half the new houses being built are incorporating some sort of home network," says Stoneham, Massachusetts, home systems consultant Dr. Kenneth Wacks. If that's your area of expertise, you can find a niche working with builders to install these systems. It's often easier than retrofitting an older house later on. Savvy consumers will want their home automated from the ground up with the latest technology.
  • Energy conservation. Rising energy bills are hitting consumers and businesses where it hurts most: in the pocketbook. It's a smart time for entrepreneurs to aim home automation products at solving the problem of energy conservation. This could include electrical systems that automatically power down at the highest demand parts of the day or just simply turn off lights and other devices as needed.
  • Store it away. Home computers aren't keeping up with consumers" needs to store all their digital photos, music and videos. There may be quite a few media servers and capacious storage drives available, but consumers are really looking for simplicity and ease-of-use. If you can meet that need by creating smarter, easier and more affordable products, you could be in good shape to launch a business in this market.
  • Make designs on the market. Wacks sees a need for a new look at product design when it comes to home automation technologies. This could be the place where creative entrepreneurs could really find a compelling reason to make a toaster talk or a refrigerator e-mail the owner about running out of milk. Those might be far-out examples, but there is room for startups to turn their nimble minds to the business of design.
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