Aging Transformation Affecting the Custom Electronics Industry

For more than a decade, we have heard the term “transformation” used to describe many societal shifts.  On the radar of this author and others who have been more intensely focused upon it, there exists a very different and dramatic demographic transformation on the near horizon. 

After significant research and use of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, this transformation will affect all of us.  Knowing the dramatic nature of this, intently considering how we should be moving forward together into the next chapter of our CEDIA industry’s journey is well advised. 

As this author has stated for years, “there is not a single book for us to read regarding CEDIA, because we’re still writing it!” 

Over the past 30 plus years of CEDIA, we have witnessed many dramatic changes. 

None more profound than what we will witness between now and the year 2030.  Remarkably, during this time-period the fastest growing age group in our country, with a projected growth rate of 30% during 2020-2030, will be over 65 years of age.

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While we used to joke in the early years about not trusting anyone in our business over 40 years of age, clearly a new paradigm regarding ageism and cross-generational bridges needs to be considered. 

By 2030, there will be 73 million Americans over the age of 65, up from 56 million in 2020.

This demographic shift also comes with a twist.  As elaborated by Bradley Schurman in his heavily researched 2022 book entitled, The Super Age, “Rather than focusing on tailoring products and services exclusively for the longevity economy (i.e., people over the age of 50), {we} … should be more focused on leveraging generational diversity.”1

In other words, the development of new products and services will need to be focused upon a wide range of age groups, simultaneously. 

Furthermore, in her 2021 book entitled The AgeTech Revolution, Gerontologist Keren Etkin asserts:

“We’ll also debunk three major myths and misconceptions about older adults and technology:

First, that older adults have no interest in technology.Second, that older adults aren’t using technology.Third, that you can’t make money building products and services for older adults.”2

Important to note, nearly five years ago in October 2017, CE Pro published an article written by Jason Knott where a metro DC-area technology integration company Casaplex, merged with another DC-area integration company Encore AV, and they created a project “in support of the National Building Museum’s upcoming exhibition ‘Making Room: Housing for a Changing America’ in which they designed a home technology system that can accommodate all types of families at any stage of their lives. The idea is to show that you can build flexibility and adaptability into systems that will work over time.”

The predominant role that many of us have played for more than 30 years within CEDIA has been through investment in and commitment to building new product lines and categories, territories and strategically training new technology integrators and integration companies with new technology solutions.  Key to this has been our need to remain credible as a market segment and legislatively maintaining our position there.

This author’s passion has been aligned with these efforts by remaining committed to the CEDIA Government Affairs Working Group as well as starting and developing new and existing businesses, including in the current role as chief marketing officer at Maxaware, a cloud-based operations platform, created by and dedicated directly to the technology integration market for maintaining control with increasingly diverse projects. 

Aging CI Industry Is Spawning Exit Strategies

As further dramatic example of this impending demographic shift, in just the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed some of our long-term manufacturer representative friends – who have been foundational in this market’s development – deciding that it’s time to move on from their legacy businesses.  As part of our new generational diversity, we need to support the new market builders who are coming in. 

However, given the predicted increased and healthy longevity of the Boomer generation, it is also very likely that these foundation-building representative principals may be moving into new transitional roles and not going away entirely.  New possibilities for cross-generational learning and training are now therefore possible and critically enabling our industry’s ongoing success.

Our industry’s most significant changes have come via the increasingly complex systems being integrated within residential systems. 

This is one of the reasons why via the CEDIA Governmental Affairs Working Group we are focusing on the use of the term integrator or residential integrator. 

We started with multiroom audio, home theater, and home control and automation, then we moved into home health, color-temperature adaptable lighting systems, and even artificial skylights that created new ways of intermingling and controlling the functions of our electronic technology systems.  Over the years, this author has certainly been invested in many how-do-we-do-that moments in our growing market. 

That process doesn’t appear that will lessen in complexity anytime soon.    

Related: Is the Labor Shortage Finally Easing?

Despite all that we thought was so challenging during our earlier years, it appears we are at a new juncture in building the road ahead. 

That is, dramatic demographic and generational changes will drive us all.  In whatever way you might imagine this dramatic shift will challenge us, given the new inevitable permutations and combinations of system integration possibilities, we’re wise to be finding new connection points for merging both veteran and new generational skills, capabilities, and disciplines together as we proceed.

(Editor’s Note: At CEDIA Expo 2022 in Dallas, on the Smart Stage there will be a panel discussion with the Living in Place Institute that is focused on opportunities presented by the changing demographics of clients. That panel will take place on Friday, Sept. 30 at 2:30 p.m.)

Andrew Ard is a longtime industry rep and is chief marketing officer at Maxaware.

Sources:

 1 Schurman, Bradley. The Super Age (p. 208). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

2 Etkin, Keren. The AgeTech Revolution: A Book about the Intersection of Aging and Technology (p. 15). New Degree Press. Kindle Edition

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