Industry Insights – David Wilson
David, it sure is strange how the universe works sometimes isn’t it? Can you believe that it was around 10 years ago that we were “fragging” together in Quake III Rocket Arena as part of LoD? Wow…seems like eons ago. What a crazy circumstance that you and I actually joined the same LinkedIn Group (HTPC, Home Server and Home Automation Professional Group) within the same week after only having random conversations over the past 5 years or so, especially as I headed off to Iraq for my tour of duty. If you ask me, there is a definite purpose behind all of this, especially as I found out what you are doing for a living these days as the owner / business consultant at Consolidated Technologies. The fact that you are finding more and more customers interested in “Integrating” the technology they have throughout their homes to me is a testament that I’m on the right track in thinking that the Home Automation / Home System Integration industry is on the verge of massive growth!
While you and I may go way back and I probably know a lot of these answers, I appreciate being able to interview you and here in a public venue so that I can share with our readers the depth of your knowledge and expertise on a technical level and also raise awareness about our common vision about where this industry is going.
And with that…let’s dive in!
HSI: Would you give us a brief history of your background in technology, starting with any education and what it was that allured you into this type of work?
DW: How can you sum a brief history? Unlike today’s youth we were not born into this age of “instantaneousness”. I come from a time when we sat on the stairs waiting for the phone to ring and if we were on the phone, the next caller got a busy signal. I think my very first foray into technology was when I bought a used desktop push button telephone and extended the phone into my room so I could have some privacy while talking to my buddies on the phone. I remember this very well because my fingers still tingle from holding onto the tip/ring when a call came in. It sent me reeling backwards.
Later when I was in High School, I worked for a software vendor that wrote produced and distributed software for the Apple IIe computer. One day the president came back from Comdex with two white and light beige boxes with the logo IBM written across them. We all gathered around and watched as the very first PC any of had ever seen, booted up. We all laughed at how slow it was and commented on how “This slug would never take off.”
Jumping forwards some thirty years, I find myself in the middle of a new age still getting educated on what works and what does not. Along the way, I earned a degree in Technical Management and am currently working on a Masters in Information Systems with an emphasis in Security. I had the fortunate opportunity to work for a company that allowed me to learn a lot of what I know today by trial and error. I have always said that learning from our mistakes is what makes us grow.
HSI: How was it that you ended up starting your company, Consolidated Technologies?
DW: At the end of June 2008, my Brother and his Wife were killed in a tragic plane crash on their way back from Las Vegas. They were there with another couple and both were celebrating wedding anniversaries. Upon learning of what happened, I resigned from my position as Director of IT and relocated to the children’s home to care for and raise them. For the first year I casually looked for work to no avail. While looking, I began to help out friends and neighbors with their personal computers. As the word got out, I also began to take on managing small businesses in the area as well. During my travels, I have come across many customers who know and recognize the need for something greater than just a couple of computers and an internet connection. This has lead to a greater interest into creating home networks leveraging the resources to create something greater than what they had.
HSI: What is the main focus of your business, meaning…what kind of customers are you after? Besides paying of course!
DW: To date, I have had good luck with customers that pay their bills even in this economy. I attribute that to my very reasonable rate and reliable service. In fact I have several repeat customers and the majority of my business is based on customer referrals. My motto is “If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.
My favorite customer is one who recognizes the future and what it brings. One that understands the necessary evil of the information age as is willing to listen to good sound advice and act on it. I like to go into a relationship with my clients with the understanding that I am working for them and with their budget. I am not there to sell them the Starship Enterprise, unless that is what they want.
HSI: What are your thoughts about the amount of business in the “home” market and more specifically…the direction of that business?
DW: Today, as Windows 7, and WHS begin to establish themselves as reliable products, unlike Windows Vista, more and more home users will begin to open their line of thought towards bringing it all together…to consolidating their technologies.
Recently Boxee Box was announced and Amazon is taking pre-orders. Home users are realizing that choices are coming to them on how they want to view the media they want to view and when they want to view it. I was talking to a client last night about how he can consolidate all of his media and make the most of it by using a home server; either a networked external hard drive, or really taking advantage and installing a Windows Home server. His eyes got more and more excited just learning about these choices. He asked if I thought we would ever be able to get away from the clutches of Cable and Satellite companies. My response was so long as there is not an answer for being able to watch live sports, we are stuck with them. However, I continued, that does not mean we can take advantage of our other forms of entertainment.
When WHS and new products like Boxee Box become more prevalent, we will see a huge growth spurt in the home market. For years now, I have been presenting my argument that the home user is becoming more and more like small businesses, with a strong need for a server like based network. Home Users are smart, they know they want something better; they just need to be offered the choices.
With the introduction of technology like touch screen interfaces that exist built into the coffee table, the home user market is on the verge of an explosion.
HSI: Are there certain technologies that are starting to come into play more these days that you feel could cause a shift in the amount of Technology the typical home user has? Examples?
DW: Yes. There is a huge shift from renting DVD’s at the local video store to instant streaming them from an online source. I was working at a client’s house a few years ago and realized that they did not have copper lines from the local phone company; they had fiber right up to the MPOE (Minimum point of entry). This was a house that was out in the middle of Cow Town Nowhereville, not in a major metropolitan area. It was then that I realized that the bandwidth that was going to be available to the typical everyday home user was going to be beyond what most major businesses had available to them. Since that day, there has been a major shift in broadband companies and what they are offering in retail packages. Where we once in awe of 1.5mb DSL speeds, we are now getting over 16mb speeds.
Because of this huge increase in available bandwidth, I have seen Home user begin to shift from burning images to DVD and then “snail mailing” them to Grandma to sending them via email and other online sources such as Facebook and others. Home users are beginning to look for ways to adequately store and secure their pictures, music and now videos on their local computers. Today’s users are driving the momentum towards such technology as networked external drives and even Windows home server. The path of making a home entertainment center that includes the pc is increasing exponentially.
The 64bit processor and gobs of RAM is finally taking hold with the release of Windows7.
HSI: Do you feel that as people become aware of and use technologies like streaming media more in their homes that it will bring that awareness to other technologies like Media Servers, Home Theater PCs, and fully networked homes?
DW: Oh most definitely. Consumers are smart, they know that there should be a simpler way of doing things. They know that there is a way to bring it all together, as an example look at the universal remote. A one stop control for your devices. With the introduction of Apple’s iPad, that step can be taken to a whole new level. Be able to control your home systems both while you’re at home and while you’re away.
It’s a matter of time, and I suspect not too much time, that Home users will begin to migrate/upgrade to Windows Home server from their make-shift peer-to-peer networks and networked external hard drives. Especially with the upcoming release of the current version code named “Vail”. By the way, Vail is only being designed for 64bit processors.
My point of view is this: If you can imagine it, It probably already exists, or it will very soon.
HSI: Tying everything together around the subject of awareness, a final question: Besides websites like this one and some of my other favorites listed down at the bottom of this page, how can we as a community share our vision of the Integrated Home with the general public and help people understand that this stuff is within reach of the vast majority of them…now!?
DW: There is an old saying: “Out of sight, out of mind.” It’s a matter of getting this information into the public eye, making them aware that there is something better than what they have. Too many times, people settle for whatever works, and never take the step look for a solution that really meets and satisfies their needs.
For me, I am in that position of educating the public. I get the opportunity to talk daily with clients about the many solutions that are out there. The grass is truly green on the other side.
Dave, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down with me and do this interview. You’ve actually shed some light on some events in your life that I didn’t know about. While truly tragic events, they also seem to have put you squarely on the path where you belong. Instead of working for someone else at a regular job, you’re not really doing it as the owner of CT Incorporated. I know I’ve mentioned to you how much I respect that and you have become a bit of an inspiration for me in my aspirations with my own company.
I was awesome, after all these years, to run into each other again and find how aligned we are in our thinking of the direction of the Home Technology Integration industry.
Anyone out there reading this that is in the East Bay area of the San Francisco region who needs some help either at home or in your business, be sure to give Dave a call. You’ll find his contact information on our Resources page.