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The future is now

The FutureHome Guild can hook you up with someone to tackle every networking task you have, from one wireless laptop-Internet hookup to patching together a deluxe gaming system.

If your home is more than a few years old, it probably doesn’t contain the wiring necessary to sustain a top-of-the-line (or even mid-level) home network.

A lot of basic networking can be done by the homeowner, but the heavy lifting should be left to a professional. That’s where the Detroit-based FutureHome Guild comes in. The FutureHome Guild installer directory lists home network installers, digital home consultants, home control specialists and small office network installers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The Guild can hook you up with someone to tackle every networking task you have, from one wireless laptop-Internet hookup to patching together a deluxe gaming system. FutureHome Guild President Chris Kaminski talked about the guild and what its member companies can offer.

Can you tell us briefly what FutureHome Guild does, and what kind of services its members provide?

FutureHome Guild is an online directory and loose community of home network installers and digital home consultants. Many of those same companies are custom audio-video installers, small business network installers, and smarthome consultants.

How and when did FutureHome Guild come about?

The FutureHome Guild was started at HomeNetHelp.com, a DIY home networking Web site. Many people at HomeNetHelp needed more help that a Web site could provide, but did not know where to turn.

Home network-related services are not exactly something you can look up in the telephone book. FutureHome Guild helped solution providers find those people in need of services.

How many companies belong to the guild at this point?

We currently have about 180 companies across the United States, with a smaller number of additional companies abroad.

How does a company go about joining the FutureHome Guild? What are the qualifications?

Companies can join at the FutureHome Guild Web site. As long as a company is professionally working in home networking, home automation, or audio-video installation, they can join.

From a homeowner’s perspective, what are the benefits of hiring a FutureHome Guild member company to do a home-networking or audio-video setup?

Finding a local company that provides these kinds of services is very difficult. Without a directory of service providers in your area, a homeowner might default to one of the larger chain stores. There are, however, many benefits to working with a small, local company.

First, personalized and custom services are more commonly available with smaller, boutique-style service providers. That personal service can also roll over into any technical support or repair that is needed in the future. Often, individual technicians are assigned customers and can provide services to that customer over the lifetime of the relationship.

Second, by working with local, small businesses, you are putting your money back into your local economy, which we see as a very important consideration.

What are FutureHome Guild’s plans and goals for the coming months?

We will be doing an advertising campaign to spark interest from both the installer side and the consumer side in the summer. Another campaign will be happening in the fall, when people traditionally have a high interest in new computers and AV systems.

In the next several months, we hope to launch a recruiting campaign to increase our membership, and therefore increase our national coverage.

Home networking: The Cat’s out of the bag

Paul Deshaies is president of Lifestyle Automation, a Tilton, N.H.-based electrical contractor and member of the FutureHome Guild. He answered a few questions on home networking from a professional’s perspective.

What percentage of consumers are able to do their own home networking and other similar projects?

A number of people I run into are doing their own network wiring. My guess is perhaps 10 to 20 percent of those who have networking, but the number may be higher if you consider wireless routers. Do-it-yourselfers are really the foundation of much of the integration work done today.

Do you see that percentage changing, or will the technology always be too complex for most consumers?

The percentage of DIYers will probably decline some as the time required and the amount of work involved, and in some cases the complexity, create limitations.

What are your thoughts on the future of home networking?

Networking should be the next item of business after phone and cable/satellite (coaxial), and is probably the least expensive item to wire in a fully integrated home. Because many homes are wired with Cat5e (an Ethernet cable standard that supports short-run gigabit ethernet [1,000 Mbps] networking by using all four copper-wire pairs, and which is backward-compatible with ordinary CAT5 wiring) as phone wiring, it is very easy to use this for networking and a host of other signaling issues.

With so many audio and other systems now using Cat5e, it can be run to any object that requires a control, or it can be run in series with other wiring to allow changing out to another type of system at a later date. These issues will drive the need for twisted-pair wiring in all homes.

Will it become a standard element of newly-built homes?

Once the general population as a whole understands this and sees how easy it is to home-run several Cat5e wires to every room during construction, then nearly everyone building or remodeling will insist on it. For an average home, the focus is not on having a “smart” home as much as being smart and having a properly wired home.

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