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Azione ‘Propagates’ Industry Data, AI & Power Knowledge at Spring Summit

Richard Glikes had already imprinted his legacy in the custom electronics world before founding Azione Unlimited a dozen years ago. Now he’s bid a fond farewell as Azione president, but not before the group staged another successful summit for its high-level members.

Held in April at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, the three-day Azione event drew over 130 dealers and 55 vendor members. As with other spring and fall events, Glikes had fun coming up with a theme and name — “Propagating Partnerships” was the alliterative focus this time.

The conference was jam-packed with interesting presentations and panel sessions.

Glikes, who is now chairman emeritus, kicked things off with an organizational update. He enthusiastically noted that Azione now sits at 298 integrator members, 53 vendor members plus 298 integrator members who have collectively amassed $1.25 billion in revenue.

“It looks like about 53 years – have I enough?” Glikes joked about his career, which was highlighted on a slide. “So 25 in retail and the rest in groups.

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“And why we’re here today is ‘Propagating Partnerships’ We’re going to grow together, that’s what we’re going to do. A partnership is not a contract between two individuals, it’s an emotional alliance not a legal between two people who are committed to each other’s success.”

Patrick McCarthy, director of new business development, shared Azione’s education initiatives that are a major pillar of the organization. He also gave dates and locations for three Leadership Symposiums: Operations, which just took place at Leon Speakers in Michigan; Emerging Leaders, June 25-26 at Sonance in California; and Lead Technicians, July 17-18 at Lowell Manufacturing in the St. Louis area.

D-Tools’ Knott Shares Benefits of Industry Data

A keynote followed, “What Data Is Revealing About Your Businesses,” by D-Tools Data Architect and Evangelist Jason Knott, the former longtime editor of CE Pro.

Knott presented industry data and trends by playing true or false about a statement he would read regarding current market trends gleaned from D-Tools large dealer base that includes 2,000+ D-Tools Cloud users. Some of the questions were easy but other pieces were trickier and counter intuitive.

D-Tools Jason Knott delivered an eye-opening keynote about the potential of data’s usage in the industry. Photo/Arlen Schweiger

Part of that is because the channel on the whole really has yet to embrace this kind of detailed info.

“One of the things that D-Tools is doing is bringing data to the industry and trying to make sense of it. This industry is void of data,” Knott asserted.

“Think about how important it is for you to know how to benchmark yourselves against your competitors, but also for the suppliers to know how they can make the right products for you and for this industry.”

He mentioned about how the CE Pro Deep Dive research reports are based on surveys that integrators don’t necessarily have company information for at their fingertips.

“D-Tools is not survey data, this is real data being drawn from proposals in D-Tools, from the contracts that are being signed. I’m not saying the data we provided at CE Pro wasn’t real – because it is – but this is much more substantial, let me put it that way.”

As an example, his first slide and statement were that custom installation demand was up in 2023 – which was actually true despite other industry data that may have found the opposite. Indeed, many in the room thought the statement false.

“It’s true. Richard talked about [Azione members being] 9% down, but this is real data from D-Tools Cloud. Integrators did 84 signed contracts in 2023 vs. 82 in 2022 and 155 proposals in 2023 vs. [fewer] in 2022.”

AI, Power on Azione’s Hot Technologies List

The Azione conference tackled trending technology with engaging panel sessions on artificial intelligence (AI) and energy/power management.

Not surprisingly, Josh.ai CEO Alex Capecelatro discussed the potential of AI and how it may affect the channel in his “How Generative AI Will Impact the Smart Home” talk.

One of Capecelatro’s staggering points was how rapidly ChatGPT gained 100 million active monthly users, taking a mere two months. That’s blazing fast compared with the likes of Instagram (30 months), Pinterest (41 months), Spotify (55 months), and others.

To get Azione members on board with the growing AI space, he provided attendees with websites suggestions to try in eight areas: text (ChatGPT), images (DALL-E), meetings (Fireflies), grammar (Grammarly), voice (Eleven Labs), music (Loudly), video (Runway), and presentations (Tome).

One thing Capecelatro noted that gets him revved up about AI is how quickly it is advancing. He used ChatGPT’s updates as an example.

“When we had ChatGPT, which was really GPT 3, that was the first time that most of us used it easily as a consumer so we could do different things with it – that was based on parameters, 1.5 billion parameters. That is an insane amount of data,” he says.

“Most of us know that we went from ChatGPT to GPT 4. Well, the step function of 1.5 billion parameters for GPT 3 went up on GPT 4 to 1.76 trillion parameters.”

Moderator Joe Piccirilli of RoseWater Energy and his panelists followed that up by outlining today’s benefits of pitching robust power products. His integrator panelists included Mike Barry of Millennium Systems Design, Kyle Steele of Global Wave Integration, Nick DeClemente of Elevated Integration, and Bill Charney of Advanced Home Audio.

Another insightful presentation came from Ron Callis of One FireFly. He focused on how dealers can generate effective marketing strategies and offered real-world actionable possibilities. Callis also touched on AI, which is making an exciting impact in the world of digital transformation and marketing.

Perhaps the most enlightening panel, based on chatting with integrators at the event, was one on working with builders moderated by Spexi’s Sean Wiener. It featured representation at various homebuilding tiers such as luxury, production, and custom.

Guests John Taylor, chief estimator and senior construction manager at Phil Kean; Bruce Cole, owner and founder of Cole Homes; and Greg Hardwick, P.E., Master GCP, LEED AP at Hardwick General Contracting shared their perspectives and experiences, pros and cons of partnering with custom integrators. I’ll share more about this panel in an upcoming editorial.

John Taylor offers Azione integrator members tips on improving their relationships with builders. Photo/Arlen Schweiger

Azione Recognizes Member & Vendor Awards Recipients

Azione also doled out member awards during the conference and inducted new members into its Gold Club.

The awards highlight the exceptional performance and collaboration for 2023 among dealers and vendors:

Dealer Tripler Award: InsightAI Calgary, for tripling their business volume

Highest Vendor Growth %: Awarded to eero for achieving the highest growth percentage

Highest Vendor Volume: Recognized Snap One for achieving the highest sales volume

Rookie of the Year: Jointly awarded to Patrick Coleman of Future Automation & Design and Michael Johnson of Mozaic Audio Video Integration

Vendor’s Choice Award: Paul Ostrin, Unlimited Integration, recognized for exceptional collaboration by vendor member

Dealer’s Choice Award: Apex Technologies & Sonance, for excellence in service as chosen by dealers

Azione Unlimited’s Class of 2024 Gold Club inductees honored six individuals. The honor is reserved for dealer and vendor members who exemplify business excellence, fully engage with the Azione community, and consistently embody the association’s highest values of share, trust, and prosper:

Angie Larson – Savant

Bill Charney – Advanced Home Audio

Don Dixon – Definitive Electronics

Matt Yaletchko – Home Automation Hawaii

Patrick Cain – Prestige Worldwide

Ron Angner – PLAY Serious Home Technology

One last note, in honor of Glikes, the group handed out t-shirts filled with all of the witty conference theme titles he gave them over the years and they gave him a roast at the event. Azione initiated a search for his replacement following the conference.

Glikes, meanwhile, recently took a senior advisory job for upstart integration firm Daisy. Looks like he is already propagating new partnerships.

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