When a BlackWire Designs box arrives, the company’s iconic packing tape is a sign of good things to come for custom integration professionals. That’s because shipped alongside the equipment there are always snacks – perhaps some beef jerky, Skittles, or even some fresh coffee beans. Our company’s founder, Kevin Luther, who worked previously as a technology integrator, came up with the snack pack idea after missing multiple meals on a job while climbing around in hot attics. Hunger has always been part of the professional AV installer’s life, and the snacks are there to help take the edge off.
BlackWire Designs understands, however, that the way to a customer’s heart isn’t just through the stomach, but through a shared experience. Several members of the BlackWire team have an integration background, including me, who serves as VP of sales and marketing. This has honed the company’s networking philosophy, unwavering service and support, and broad offering of tried-and-true solutions, which includes HDMI distribution, networking, speakers, power and remote management, cloud devices, cables, custom drivers and software for residential and light commercial installations.
Choosing High-Quality Networking Products
On average, there are 20 to 30 devices that need to be connected on any job. For an AV integrator, it’s not as simple as plugging in a device, putting it on the network, and walking away. There are other things that installers have to consider to deliver a good experience. For example, most consumer networking products have a low concurrent device limit built in. This is a great opportunity to educate the customer on why they should be using higher quality networking products, which can handle not only the demand of their devices but also those of friends and family who may use the network when they visit.”
Integrators must ensure that their customer’s network and components are configured so they’re not all fighting for the same little slice of the network pie and are also saving some room for devices on the horizon. To do this, the integrator should be able to provide all of the equipment past the modem, know how to install it, and properly configure it. They have to know how many devices are going to be connected, and how many access points are needed to make sure the home has the best coverage. Likewise, customers want to know they’re getting the best bang for their buck and that all of their components are installed properly.
Wi-Fi Can’t Do It All
While Wi-Fi is great, it’s not perfect. There can be poor signal spots, and if this is the case, then the customer is going to have an extremely frustrating experience. Any device that has the option to be plugged directly into an Ethernet port should be. That way, attention is paid to both current and future wired and wireless needs. By owning the network – knowing those problems spots, for example – the integrator can dial that device to the customer’s specific needs. Another example is granting secure and limited access to IP-based security cameras, which can be a direct link into the customer’s network. Integrators should know how to properly secure and control any network ports that are accessible outside of a building.
Coordinating Between All Service Providers
Beyond network issues and the multitude of devices, integrators also face complex jobs where there’s not only the internet provider involved but an IT technician as well. Each person has a stake in providing a good experience, but it can be difficult determining who is responsible for what when problems do arise. BlackWire recommends integrators coordinating as much as possible with all parties as part of providing solid service.
Finally, as systems and network standards constantly evolve, integrators have to be aware of what’s going on in the industry to stay on top of the latest technology. BlackWire realizes that owning the network and keeping pace with new standards is less of a finish line and more of a moving target, which is why we have a strong and dedicated service and support team who is available for a broad range of hours, even nights and weekends.
The biggest example of this is the move from 2.4GHz to 5GHz Wi-Fi. While 5Ghz gives you faster speeds, 2.4 gives you better range. So, where you might have covered your bases on 2.4 with maybe two or three access points, to get the same coverage with 5Ghz, integrators may need to add one or two more access points.
The other part of BlackWire’s service and support philosophy is offering preconfigured video distribution and networking solutions. To preconfigure the components specifically for the video distribution system, we ask a multitude of questions about the system design, so that when the equipment arrives, it’s ready right out of the box. There’s no waiting around for firmware updates, configuration of settings, or new equipment due to DOA components. This also allows companies to hand off setup to lower level technicians and get a head start on any job.
What a lot of people find when they’re doing business with us is that we’re not just staff that happen to work at a distributor. We’re folks who live and breathe AV. We have experience that allows us to offer support where customers can pick up the phone, send an email, and start a chat with somebody at our company who gets it. We know what they’re going through and what they’re trying to accomplish.