20 years ago there were 2 types of wire in your house, electrical and telephone. If you add that to the list of things that are different today, from 20 years ago, you’ll have an impressive list of technology, communication, entertainment and activities of all kinds. We live in a different world today than the one that existed when the first iPhone was released, 10 years ago. The computer and it’s power have been coupled with the ingenuity of the industrial revolution to make a brave new world, and in that coupling an entire industry, several industries really, have been born.
Technology is a part of lives in a way never before experienced. The cell/smart phone became a computer and brought the internet out of the office and into every facet of our lives. The ability to plan and collaborate was instantly taken to a new level of efficiency. Of course, it also came with it’s fair share of time wasting opportunities, but that issue falls more with the user than the tool. Over the last 10 years we learned to push the buttons on the screens of our phones, cars, computers, tablets and even the refrigerator to, hopefully, get what we wanted.
What many people don’t realize is that the first “Smart Homes” began long before the iphone was a glimmer in Steve Jobs eye. For many years there were 2 names In the world of consumer grade automation (using technology to automatically accomplish a task). Those companies were AMX and Crestron. By the early 80s these companies had begun making products to simplify the use of a new wave of electronics. They both started with simple remote controls for slide projectors and began to expand their capabilities from there. From these humble beginnings the companies stretched out to create touch panels, tv lifts and video switchers. If a product didn’t exist to solve a problem, they would often make the hardware to solve it themselves. It was the wild west of technological innovation and everyone had visions of Marty McFly and his trip to the future. We just didn’t realize it was Actually going to take 30 years to get here.
The technology is no longer only for big budget projects and it’s now the consumer’s chance to automate their life. You don’t have to be a computer expert to capitalize on all the new opportunities. The construction industry has changed with the growing demands of technology in our lives. Those demands might include audio and video for entertainment or data for computing, and these new elements of construction require people to build, install and setup the systems. Homeowners and business owners are retrofitting their spaces to capitalize on new technology, but rarely have the staff members with the skill and tools to get the job done. The skills needed to get the job done range from the basic construction techniques to mount and hide equipment to the knowledge needed to install a computer network or hook up a complicated theater system.
Last year we saw the emergence of Amazon Echo and the Apple Home Kit. Additionally Google has entered the automation market with the Nest thermostat as the ‘brain’ of their smart home. These are the next 3 big players in the evolution of this industry, and there are many other small companies trying to get a piece of what is shaping up to be a very large pie. The emergence of the big 3 players, vying for control of the brain of your home, has caused a big stir among the manufacturers that all want their products to be smart home ready. Practically everything is coming internet network ready and the list of controllable products for each of the big 3’s platforms is growing exponentially. This is great news for the consumer who wants to automate their lives. It’s also great news for people who want to earn money setting it all up for them.
As the technology advances, it will be easier and easier to configure the devices yourself. But it’s never going to be that much easier to install your own speakers or security cameras. While a lot of communication is done wirelessly, there will still be a need for wires run throughout a house for network, phone and other data usages. As more and more technology is added to new homes the need for qualified low voltage installers and technicians will only increase. Picture a world where you have to call the low-voltage guy every once in awhile, just like you call for the plumber. If you’ve never heard the term, low-voltage, it refers to all the technologies that use electricity for communication. It’s not the same type of high voltage electricity that runs through the power lines, thus they are lumped together as ‘low voltage’.
There are many industries that recognize the growing need for low voltage technicians in their fields. This need is so great that several of the industry Associations have partnered to create a training program that will provide the knowledge needed to break into their various fields. The name of the certification is the ESPA program and it stands for: Electronics System Professional Alliance. The program was started by CEDIA (Custom Electron Design and Installation Association), NSCA (National Systems Contractor Association), and CTA (Consumer Technology Association). Several other industry association have also joined to support the ESPA program, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), CompTIA and the Continental Automated Building Association (CABA). All of these industry association recognize the need for quality Electronic Service Technicians (EST).
An EST is someone who installs, upgrades, and services low voltage system and components in the field. The ESPA body of knowledge prepares you for a wide variety of career paths, which might include:
- Residential and commercial audio, video and automation
- Security, surveillance, and access control
- Cable and satellite TV, telecommunications
- Green (sustainable) technologies, energy management
- Heating and AC installation and support.
Someone who begins their career as an EST can follow a career path that can lead to many other avenues.
- Lead Technician – maintain a team of ESTs on the job, including time management, quality control, and adherence to policies and procedures.
- Systems Engineer – specifying the work that is done by ESTs , including wiring, labeling, documentation, schematic drawings, and interface layout.
- Systems Designer – designing the entire system, the components needed, the performance goals etc.
- Project Manager
- Business Owner
There is an exciting new trade opening up in the world and it is going to demand a lot of skilled workers for the foreseeable future. If you are looking for a new path and are interested in the growing world of technology consider using the ESPA training to become an EST. The work is out there and the industries are practically begging for you to come help them out, why not put yourself in position to capitalize?
Written By: Jimmi Dennison – ProMedia Training