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CEDIA 2017
By Alex Moersen

CEDIA Fellow Inductees Explain Significance of IoT Event

It takes the hard work of many people to create a successful event like CEDIA. But not all are recognized as CEDIA Fellows. This year, CEDIA announced that David Graham, Len Wallis, and Julie Jacobson would be inducted into the CEDIA Fellows program, which honors longtime CEDIA members and volunteers who have contributed significantly to the association’s success. As CEDIA Chairman Dennis Erskine said, “These CEDIA members have had a profound impact on our association, and we are incredibly thankful for their dedication, generosity of time and knowledge, and significant contributions to the association.”

We had the opportunity to discuss different aspects of CEDIA with David Graham, MD of Grahams Hi-FI, and Len Wallis, MD of Len Wallis Audio.

David Graham

On how the industry has changed since they first joined CEDIA.

Grahams was one of the founding members of what was CEDIA UK back in 1996, when a group of around 30 dealers (at the time mainly from the AV background) all met at Harman’s UK HQ just north of London to talk about setting up a chapter of CEDIA, which had started in 1989 in the U.S. The key organisers of this were Simon Spears who worked for Harman at the time and Steve Moore, who subsequently became the first Chairman of CEDIA UK. At this time our business had already been installing distributed music systems for many years and we could see the growth of our business in this sector.

Whilst most of the dealers in the room were from the hi-fi and AV background, mainly like Grahams, with retail premises, I remember listening to people like Kevin Andrews from Sound Ideas (now Ideaworks) saying how “audio” only accounted for about 30% of what they did. “Audio!” I was outraged that people downgraded our “Hi-Fi” to just “Audio.” At the time, Kevin said about 30% of their business was lighting control and it did not take Grahams long after joining CEDIA to realize that whole house solutions would include a much wider range of products and services, which we would subsequently learn about and then integrate into our business model. Since then we have seen massive changes in technology and many companies like ours diversify into fully integrated homes. Like many CEDIA professionals, our expertise now encompasses complex IP networking, CCTV, security, lighting design, supply and control, high-end home theatre, distributed Hi-Fi (we still have a passion for making things sound as good as they can and are saddened by the mediocrity which people see as just audio), HVAC, and more. And now the lighting element accounts for 30-40% of revenue on our larger projects. With IP connectivity and the IoT the norm nowadays, our starting point on most projects is the backbone and IP infrastructure which is vital to the success of any project.   

When we first started CEDIA UK we had no paid professional staff, everyone involved gave their time and energy for free and I think my first role was that of treasurer.  Our first training opportunity was up in Harrogate in Yorkshire where we tagged onto an existing Hi-Fi trade show. Our first CEDIA UK Expo took place in Croydon in 1999 (from memory), South of London at the Selsdon Park country hotel where we had around 250 delegates. Many of our industry colleagues and friends from the U.S. will remember coming to this event which I still have very fond memories of and I am sure they do too.  I took over as our second Chairman for the next two years and then subsequently stayed on the board for a further two years after which I was given time off for “good behaviour!”

On how CEDIA contributed to their success.

Over the years we have had to learn and develop our skills in a number of disciplines and without a doubt our involvement in CEDIA helped us with education, training, and now measured standards and certification.  Back in the late 90s what was happening in North America was usually about six months ahead of what was happening here in Europe, so visiting CEDIA Expos in the U.S. was an annual highlight and gave us a good idea of what was going to be happening in the coming months.  

Nowadays, with global communications, social media, and instant communication, product launches happen instantaneously throughout the world, but back then it was a real advantage to go to the U.S. Expos and many good friends and relationships were made over the years. I have fabulous memories of visits to Expos in Denver, Dallas, New Orleans to name but a few. Over the years I devoted much of my time to working with CEDIA, helping develop membership and training and I regularly presented at our CEDIA training events. My colleagues always asked why I was spending so much time training our “competitors” and I had to explain that it was better to have a small piece of a larger pie by helping improve the size and taste of the pie. Having a high profile in the industry has done nothing but improve our business and if harnessed sensibly, it’s a great to let our clients know we are leaders within our industry.

On some of the key experiences they’ve had at CEDIA.

Being Chairman was hard work, and seeing the introduction of Professional Staff being introduced into CEDIA UK and watching them and consequently the association grow was something I look back on with satisfaction and happy memories. My highlights have to be employing Wendy Griffiths back in 2000-and-something (I think she was 18 at the time) and has not changed much apart from now being VP of Global Developments. But the real highlight has to be being thrown off the stage on Brighton Pier (we had UK Expos in Brighton for a number of years) after my tuneful augmentation to “Mustang Sally” went down like a ton of bricks, the only thing apparently I have about perfect pitch is the roof on my house.

Having a well-known face in one’s industry means you can be in a room with 1,000 people who all know you and it’s sometimes hard to remember everyone’s names. I learned very quickly to not be shy about saying “remind me who you are”, something that I can promise you does not get easier as I get older…

Finally being made a fellow of our wonderful industry has to be the icing on the cake and I am very honoured and humbled by this recognition which I understand will be formally presented at our EMEA awards at the end of September — sadly, I can’t be in San Diego this year. My congratulations go to both Len Wallis and Julie Jacobson my fellow fellows this year. It is fitting that Len Wallis Audio (Australia) along with Grahams Hi-Fi were both listed as one of the “5 best Hi-Fi shops” in the world back in 1990 and now both our businesses have evolved with our involvement of our wonderful association CEDIA.

Len Wallis

On how the industry has changed since they first joined CEDIA.

Len Wallis Audio was a founding member of CEDIA when the Australian chapter was formed 25 years ago. Since then I have been Chairman of the local chapter twice.

In the early days, the CEDIA marketplace was all about multi-room audio, with a little theatre thrown in. With time, this has expanded to include more sophisticated dedicated theatre design and automation, which introduced lighting control, security, blinds etc. Networking then became an integral part of what we do, necessitating a new skillset and market approach. We are now facing an entirely new stage of evolution as the likes of Google, Amazon, etc. enters our space.

On how CEDIA contributed to their success.

CEDIA did more than contribute to our success. In many ways it was the catalyst of that success. This was for two reasons. The first being what we learned from our peers, particularly those based in the U.S. who were ahead of our market. At that time, the training that was available was invaluable. More important were the contacts that were made and the flow of ideas that followed. We were exposed to manufacturers and individuals who at that time were pushing the market in new directions. It was both an exciting and daunting time.

On some of the key experiences they’ve had at CEDIA.

Our proudest CEDIA moment was in 2001 when we were the first company outside of the U.S. to be named the CEDIA Dealer of the Year.


Author Bio: Alex Moersen is an Associate Editor for Innovation & Tech Today, covering pop culture, science and tech, sustainability, and more. Twitter: @yaboii_shanoo

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CEDIA Fellow Inductees Explain Significance of IoT Event

September 8, 2017
By Alex Moersen

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