Tool Belt

  • Those who recently spent an autumn weekend organizing their garage are well aware of a condition that has been worsening over the past half-century. There's a power tool for everything. Every single miniscule task has a specific motorized component designed to minimize strain. There are sanders specifically calibrated for getting those nasty corner spots, saws for countless materials and angles, and nail guns for every occasion. This high-powered, high-function trend can make a trip to the hardware store a bit daunting.
  • The same situation applies for the specialty kitchen and bath stores out there. There are so many products that solve "problems" we never imagined. You don't have to stay up late watching infomercials to know that a product has been developed and marketed for every imaginable need-until a new need crops up and everyone wonders why they didn't think of that first.
  • All these freshly identified "needs" are part of the reason the word "solution" is sprinkled so liberally throughout marketing materials. Back in the day, we just needed tools, a little elbow grease, and time. Now we need solutions that allow us to forego the latter two factors.
  • Fortunately or not, the factors in specifying low-voltage systems equipment are finite. Or at least comparatively so.
  • As it turns out, the specific needs of this market are more numerous than even those demands associated with coffee grinders, and hence, there are a plethora of niche-y solutions. But, luckily, the question of compatibility helps make it easy to pick your niche-y solution. A surprising number of decisions are made based on what will fit in an equipment rack. Beyond that is the question of whether one of the major control product manufacturers offers a corresponding module.
  • Obviously, the game is changing. There are more cross-platform, plug 'n' play, one-stop-shop, hybrid, open-source solutions available every day. So more gear suits more applications. But even then, there are considerations that prevent true innovation. Next on the checklist is the question, "Is it easy, or is work required to make it happen?"
  • There aren't many who would choose the "more work" option in an era of shrinking margins, but with all the easy-to-install options available, it is critical to keep one more consideration in mind when selecting a product from that vast array in front of you. Will it meet the end-user's needs and be easy to operate? If the answer isn't affirmative, you're going to be heading back to the product pile again anyway. Meanwhile, I have to make a trip to the hardware store to buy a multi-pronged duster for my venetian blinds.
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.