Irecently became a board member of the CEA TechHome Division. My first meeting was last month in Washington D.C. This trip turned out to be a great experience and one that I learned a lot from, so I thought I would recap some of the highlights in this month’s column.

During my time in D.C., I attended CES Capitol Hill, our division’s board meeting, the Digital Patriots Dinner and I also met several members of Congress, including my own Congressman from Charleston, Tim Scott, during the CEA Lobby Day. The topics that repeatedly came up during my trip were residential networking and cyber security, and how important they both are for our industry and our country.

CES Capitol Hill
Unlike the CES International Convention in Las Vegas, CES Capitol Hill was held in a relatively small venue in downtown D.C. The purpose of the event was to show members of congress new and emerging technologies and their possible legislative impacts. During my time at CES Capitol Hill, I briefly discussed cyber security as it pertains to consumer electronics with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. He was quite interested in this topic and is actually in the process of putting together a committee on cyber security.

Seeing all the various technologies represented at the event, it was quite apparent that residential networking has changed our industry in many profound ways and continues to play an ever-growing role in the greater scheme of residential technology. It is an exciting time to be a part of the consumer electronics industry.

CEA TechHome Division Board Meeting
The purpose of one of the exercises we did as a board was to help us look at how the industry is changing and moving forward into the future. We all wrote down areas of growth in our businesses today and how we as individuals see growth coming about going forward. The overwhelming response was that IT (residential networks and IP-enabled products) represented the largest potential growth opportunity, and that that opportunity could have very positive financial benefits for those companies that learn to capitalize on said technology.

CEA Lobby Day
Lobbying has always had such a negative connotation in my mind. I think of big companies pumping millions of dollars into supporting causes that might prove harmful for our country, or special interests who can influence politicians even if a majority would be opposed to any given legislative act. This was not at all my experience during CEA Lobby Day. The CEA and their lobbing efforts are really apolitical in nature. For instance, pushing for more wireless spectrum is not a party issue. I really enjoyed meeting with congressional members and discussing real-world implications of technology and legislation. There was a very human aspect to meeting people that I have seen on TV from both parties and discussing network security or the need for more wireless spectrum to be opened up.
During my meeting with Congressmen Tim Scott, I was able to discuss these topics in greater depth. He was so interested in these topics and our conversation that he invited me back for a longer meeting where we discussed the issues that are near and dear to me, mainly cyber security and how it impacts him as an individual. He was very interested in knowing more about how he could leverage the technology in his home to best serve his needs.
Digital Patriots Dinner
During my visit to Washington, I heard Dr. Robert E. Kahn speak at the Digital Patriots Dinner. For those of you who are not familiar with him, Dr. Kahn was one of the creators of the TCP/IP protocols and is fundamentally responsible for creating the Internet (I know, I thought it was Al Gore, too!). As you might imagine, Dr. Kahn has a very interesting perspective on the Internet today and where it is going in the future. His two key points that he felt were vital moving forward were visibility and security. This sent goose bumps down my spine. These areas are of vital importance to our industry channel’s future, as well as the future of the Internet in general.
When I take a step back and look at everything that happened during my trip, I have a few takeaways. First, our industry is alive and well. There is so much innovation going on right now. I sometimes take for granted the impact that this technology and ongoing innovation has on individuals, whether they are a congressmen or a grandparent in Middle America; technology has become the cornerstone of our lives. We, in the integration segment, are all in the business to serve customers and I believe that we are in the best position now to bring our customers compelling technologies that can change their lives for the better.
The other key takeaway is that the residential network is the center of all of this innovation. It is clearer to me now than ever that the network is the foundation on which our industry will continue to grow.
From an integration standpoint, every major company that I spoke to sees the network as the digital backbone that their technology will navigate. The point I tried to make in my conversations was that the CI channel is already deploying advanced networks and are getting more serious about this basic cornerstone technology with every passing month. Cyber security and remote access accountability are technologies that are just emerging and will require more industry education and product development. But, as a whole, our industry segment is positively positioned to take advantage of the many emerging technologies that CE as a whole is dependent upon, given the overall importance of the residential network digital backbone. CR