Industry Insights – Eyal Kattan of Media Nexus Inc
Eyal, thank you for taking the time out of I am sure is a very busy schedule to sit down and do an interview with us here at Home System Integration! We are excited to learn more about you, your company Media Nexus Inc, and work in the New York City area. I’ve been keeping up with you and your comments in the LinkedIn Group HTPC, Home Server and Home Automation Professional Group and sensed you would be someone I’d like to feature on our website.
With that, let’s get started!
Eyal Kattan (EK): Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts. I am truly honored J
HSI: Would you give us a brief history of your background in the technology industry, starting with any education and what it was that allured you into this type of work?
EK: My background goes back to 1990 where I started to get interested in software development for my own business – DJ for hire. From there I continued to evolve and became one of the leading experts in Small Talk and Object Oriented design in Israel. I moved to the US in 1998 and was hired by Columbia University to lead a large project. At that time Java was gaining much popularity so my switching was relatively easy and in 2000 I was officially comfortable with the language. For the next 10 years I worked for different companies at various capacities from Sr. software Architect, Information Architect, IT Manager etc. all the way to my last day job as Director of Interactive at NBC Universal. I have acquired all of my knowledge by teaching myself and compliment this with some advanced courses.
HSI: Delving a little deeper, what motivated you to start your own Systems Integration company?
EK: As a long-time geek and after watching so many science fiction movies, I always dreamed of the day we would be able to control the entire house by using a single computer. This isn’t a new concept and you can see it in many classics. A few years ago, around 2005 I accidentally stumbled on Windows Media Center in its very early version (Windows XP MCE). The concept was (and still is) pretty exciting and when I connected our XBOX360 at home, wirelessly to my desktop, even my wife was impressed with the ability to stream our media over wireless connection to our bedroom. Suddenly she could play all of our music and other media in the bedroom. At the same time, I had access to several market researches that predicted a significant shift in the way people consume digital content. It became very clear to me that this new technology is a game changer that will affect our life. It is very much like when the VCR first came to market. It changed the way people watch TV because they no longer had to stay home to watch their favorite show. Except this time it is much bigger. While the VCR solved the “When” question, the digital media solves also the “Where” and “What”. I like to call it the triple W or WWW. What you want, Where you want, When you want… Connecting all the dots, made it very clear where I want to be in the next 10 years.
HSI: Do you have a particular type of clientele that you target and what do you consider your strong points, your forte’ as it were.
EK: This is an interesting question. I think the majority of our clients are in their 40’s-50’s. These are professionals who appreciate technology and appreciate how technology enhances their lifestyle as long as it is extremely user friendly. Usability and User Experience are very important to me as well. Working on different web projects as information architect, I had the opportunity to learn from very talented people about the importance of usability and how you create something that visitors would like and use. When talking with our clients, I usually leave the technology outside of the initial conversation and focus on the needs from usability point of view. I look at technology as enabler for creating an experience. This experience is what determines the success or failure of a project.
As for the technology, in today’s world, the computer and networking is becoming more and more prominent and this is where we excel thanks to our IT and Interactive background. We basically bring enterprise level approach into residential and enabling our clients to enjoy greater digital freedom at a fraction of the price of traditional systems.
HSI: Would you describe for us one of your favorite installs? **if you have any photos, I would love to embed them into this interview!**
EK: One of my favorite projects – although not the largest one – is a 4 bedroom apartment in NYC. We installed a Media Center Server + 3 Extenders. The extenders are all connected to the server via Wireless N access point and can stream Live TV as well as other HD content from the server. To top this story, our client is a 90 years old person. I love this project because it demonstrates usability and the strength of the technology at the same time.
HSI: Do you sense a shift in the Home Integration / Automation industry? Do you feel that the average consumer is becoming more aware of the opportunities they have available to them when it comes to Home Technology Integration?
EK: The short answer is Absolutely! Technology becomes more affordable and consumers realize the potential of the new technology and how it can affect their life. One very good example is the change the iPad has made and will make to the touch panel industry. If prior to iPad you had to spend anywhere from $1500 and up for touch panel to control your home, now you are looking at $600. That being said, I also think that consumers are getting showered with more features and new technologies than they can possibly comprehend. I myself feel sometimes that I can’t catch up with all the new releases which are almost on a weekly basis. While all this technology is great, some consumers may be overwhelmed by the offerings and options. This is where an integration company could help the consumers to define their needs and integrate the different components for them so all they are left with, is enjoying their life. For the DIY’ers, I think we are living in paradise.
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?
EK: I think that Media Servers are integral component of the streaming revolution. Regardless of how easy and accessible streaming content will become, consumers will always want to have their own library of content. Just look at the music. You have Pandora, Last.fm, XM, HD Radio and others, but MP3 downloads are still the most popular method of content consumption.
The restrictions that the content owners (movie studios etc…) impose on the consumers are not helping to promote a strong trust feeling between the two parties. This trust is key factor in the decision of abandoning the physical media (whether it is a disk or file) completely in favor of streaming.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that all of the new devices and services for content streaming are helping to raise the awareness and openness to connected homes (as we like to call it).
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!?
EK: I think blogs like yours and others are doing a great job in promoting this vision. However I’m afraid that we need better exposure of the technology in the main stream media and in simpler language. Technical sites are by nature attracting enthusiasts more than the average consumer. I would love to see more articles and news releases about this technology hitting news generators such as NY Times, Wall Street Journal etc. Another aspect is to make more integrators and custom installers comfortable with including a PC in their projects. Unfortunately the first iteration was quite a failure because of inadequate hardware and immature software that was used in the media servers which created real bad experience for both the installer and the user. I think with W7 and the removal of some of the restrictions that were imposed earlier the technology is finally becoming mature enough for the average consumer and we should see better adoption rates once the economy starts to bounce back.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge Eyal and the time he took to do this interview. He’s a busy guy and that’s exactly why I wanted to get his thoughts about what is happening in this industry. If he’s busy, then he’s down in the trenches getting his hands dirty with Home System Integration. I respect that inside vision…