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Home Tech: Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk

Home-tech expert Joe Whitaker discusses smart-home integration, the CEDIA Design Connection Tour and KBIS 2019. By Danielle Karr, Control4

Home Tech: Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk

An active member of the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) and the smart-tech community, Joe Whitaker is one of the brightest minds in the home-technology business. Whitaker’s integration company, The Thoughtful Home, located in both the St. Louis and Dallas areas, provides smart-home solutions that encompass the client’s needs, budget, and time in a way that sets him apart in the industry.

Whitaker was one of the hosts for the inaugural Design Connection Tour at the 2018 CEDIA Expo, a tour that brought top interior designers from the NKBA to the CEDIA show floor to connect them with home-technology experts and products. There will be similar booth toursat the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) next month.

Here, Joe discusses his overall experience leading the CEDIA Design Connection Tour last year, how smart-home professionals can help designers enhance their projects, and what he’s most looking forward to at KBIS 2019.

How did you prepare to lead the CEDIA Design Connection Tour?

I was excited for the opportunity to give designers a glimpse into my life when it comes to choosing and integrating technology products. I wanted to show them new brands as well as bigger brands and how they can all incorporate together, from smart toilets to TVs in mirrors to connected ovens and fridges. Every one of the brands I picked worked with Control4 — even before I knew Control4 was sponsoring the Design Connection Tour — because I wanted to provide designers with the comprehensive technology experience I use in all my projects.

Control4 allows so many things to work together in one comprehensive system, so it just seemed natural to present that complete home automation experience to designers.

What questions surprised you most on the Design Connection Tour?

I was very surprised when designers asked me about network security and hacking. It was a really great opportunity to get technical with them in a way I hadn’t expected, and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge on how to make a system safe.

Some of the other great questions were about how to best incorporate speakers into designs and how to get more education on home automation. I shared with them how important it is to find a trained, certified smart-home professional in their area and that the expert has the same level of certification that designers pride themselves on. Designers need to have a partner who can play on their level while providing industry-specific expertise.

How can smart-home professionals like yourself help NKBA designers on a project?

Society is starting to want more and more technology in the home, including things like water monitoring, smart toilets, kitchen devices that need to be on secure networks, etc., and smart-home experts are the designers’ key to providing these technology solutions in a way that clients will love. If a designer brings a smart home professional into a project early on, it allows us to showcase what we can do with home automation in a way that the clients can get excited about. For example, my Control4 Certified Showroom enables me to show and not just tell clients about all the possibilities that come with a truly smart home. Designers can bring in their clients and have them interact with the home automation and talk with me about the possibilities. Then, I’m able to assist the designer with what needs to come together in the project to get the best smart-home experience and results for the homeowner.

What are you most looking forward to at KBIS next month?

Being from the tech side of the home, I am really interested and excited to see the new ways tech is going to be blended with kitchen and bath from the designer perspective. How different is their outlook than mine in the technology industry? How are they presenting tech in a compelling way? How are their opinions on tech in spaces the same or different than mine? Then, how can we all work together for the greater good of home life? This is what I’m looking most forward to —seeing the other side of the equation and how we can all make the home work better together.

What do you thin designers should pay special attention to this year at KBIS?

My outlook may be a little different than most at KBIS. Designers should remember when walking the floor that not all the new home technology they see is created equal, and not all home tech can be added and used in a whole-home tech ecosystem. My advice from the automation and tech side is to look for the unique technology devices at the show that are able to be tied into a whole-home system like Control4. Pay attention not only to what the device does, but whether it works well with other devices or systems.

Cool motorization trends and hidden cabinets for the kitchen? Unique usage of lighting, like tunable under-cabinet lights? Self-cleaning items in the kitchen and bathroom? The big question that every designer should be armed with while walking the floor and running into tech like this is: ‘Can my preferred home-technology professional integrate this into a whole-home control and automation system?’ That’s how you’ll find the cool new technology that will give you and your clients the best home automation experience possible.

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