Fan-tastic

Can you tell which one is me?

Can you tell which one is me?

OK, I have been to the Olympics, Super Bowls, Final Fours, presidential conventions, and NASCAR races, and not to mention CES, E3, CEDIA, and other trade shows. But last week was my first visit to Comic-Con. It was awesome. Why? Because it was the most fan-centered event ever. And for someone in entertainment marketing, that is gold. The passion and loyalty the fans displayed really resonated. Yes, people do camp out for hours (even days) to get into some of the panels that feature stars and producers of movies and TV shows. Yes, many fans wear costumes expressing their interests (vampires were big this year, so were video game characters and there were still many Starship Troopers). This year my costume was “Network TV Marketing Guy.” I am sure I scared a few people there (see pic).

What was special about Comic-Con was its focus; it addresses the fans directly and satisfies their interests. The movie studios and game companies all pay a lot of attention here, as do we. It’s just about the only time we get to be one on one with our fanbase on a personal scale. We get to meet them, and talk about what they like and what they don’t like. It’s all about the consumer. They have the power to build–and break–brands.

Most importantly, it demonstrated once again that in a world where technology is maximizing our ability to communicate, it’s content that is the big magnet (see my post on the Seven C’s). As an event, Comic-Con was extremely well planned and well run. Kudos to all involved.

And that’s the way it is

When I started my career with CBS, the CBS Broadcast Center in New York was truly “Cronkite’s house.” The Cronkite Studio was a newsroom of its own–writers, producers, assistants, with Walter at his anchor desk as the Managing Editor. Every day, the whirl of activity in there grew steadily as airtime approached. As an aspiring broadcaster, I loved walking by the door and catching a quick look inside. It was intimidating, and always mesmerizing. Walter (Mr. Cronkite!) truly was a presence. I was lucky enough to be part of CBS News convention and election coverage, and some of the space mission coverage, when he held the anchor chair. They said he had “iron pants,” because he could sit for so long. You could tell how much he loved it. And I was so inspired.

The smart house

I got into the whole “smart house,” home automation (HA) thing about 11 years ago when reading about how I could get some of the lights inside and outside my house to be controlled automatically. I did some research, and a friend recommended an installer. The timing was perfect, because we were renovating a 100-year-old house that was badly in need of everything. We stripped it to the bones, which was a real treat when it came to running Cat 5 and video cable throughout the whole place. This was before Wi-Fi, before iPods, before LCD TV screens!

The goal was to have the outside lights respond automatically to sunrise and sunset triggers, and also to integrate with the security alarm system.

The installer programmed a home automation system called Stargate. I found it hard to figure out, but it did its job for about 8 years. Then I had some issues and wanted to reprogram, but I couldn’t find the installer. I started looking for a new expert. A lot had changed in that time, so I did a lot of research, evaluation, and conversation.

Eventually, I replaced the Stargate system with one called Homeseer, which is flexible, easy to program, and I can add components and capabilities to it quickly and efficiently. Best of all, it can be accessed via the Web from anywhere in my house or the world. Heaven!

Working with Homeseer and building my system was addictive. Now I know how golfers and fishermen feel: hours and hours of concentration, dedication, frustration, and exhilaration.

Of course, you need a guide, and an expert. Chris Carpentier of Living Automated became mine. As the Homeseer guy in my area, Chris quickly became my “golf buddy.” He is skilled and smart. He is always learning, which is also a wonderful part of this process. Best of all, he’s neat! His wire runs are the tidiest in the county.

Chris and I embarked on the journey, completely rebuilding my home system, integrating all the lights, the sprinkler system, HVAC, security, and video distribution. The key to home automation is just that: automation. You set up how you want everything to work and it shouldn’t need attention beyond the time you want to invest. And it must pass what’s known in the field as the “WAF”: Wife Acceptance Factor. That’s right. It cannot require any heavy lifting from your spouse. The first time something doesn’t work and you are not around, you are busted! You never want to hear, “The lights seemed to go on fine when I turned on the switch, so why are we in the dark now?” Or, “The sprinklers have been on for an hour. Is there a problem?” Or, “The police are here responding to an alarm, but nothing is ringing.” OK. You get it.

The HA community is supported by an eager and knowledgeable group of enthusiasts who comb the message boards to offer help. You learn the answers to questions quickly when you have any problems, and you are soon offering your own experiences to others.

I see the role of HA growing in the areas of home information and energy management, in terms of integrating systems, ensuring a house is secure, and maximizing efficiency. Energy management, such as organizing and conserving lighting, electricity, hot water, heating, and cooling, is a must nowadays.

More to come on this!