Like superheroes tortured by their ability to sense trouble from miles away, so too must the members of the low-voltage systems integration community bear the brunt of knowing too much. Perfectly pleasant meals at restaurants become painful when poor acoustics combine with off-the-shelf speakers blaring entirely the wrong type of music. A trip to the megaplex becomes a horror show before the movie even begins, thanks to poor video projection and amateurish graphics during the pre-feature rotation of local advertisements. And what of public parking garages, where security systems become security risks thanks to broken conduit and sloppy installation.
For every bit of progress made in these areas, there seems to be five times as many instances of poor workmanship. Some would chalk this up to the "trickle-down" effect. Joe Big Client has a super system, and suddenly all his competitors are installing the cheapest possible version of the same. This is seen not just in our industry, but in nearly every trade. Those knowledgeable in a particular area experience discomfort upon seeing a poor rendition of the work they take pride in doing.
Meanwhile, the information age continues to produce more experts. Where formerly the ins and outs of electronic systems were too convoluted to generate any interest among laypeople, today nearly every client meeting will involve a self-proclaimed expert. This is good and bad. Sometimes a knowledgeable client can expedite the sales process with a list of internet insights (or hinder it).
We have entered an era of too many experts, and the stakes have risen as the public demands better, for cheaper. The question is, at what point will more people begin to discern between an acceptable installation and a poorly rendered one? When that happens, the self-proclaimed experts will hopefully hand the reins to someone trained in a craft.
There may be a point in the future when a walk through a parking garage will trigger the urge to run to an emergency call box and scream not for the police, but for a knowledgeable low-voltage systems integrator. Or when a customer at a convenience store points out that maybe the DVR for the security camera shouldn't be installed within reach behind the counter. For now, there remains a gap between those who think they know our field and those who employ best practices to optimize system performance. So take pride in what makes you cringe, because that is what sets you apart as a specialist.
Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years.
Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.