The AVD Australia Mission Statement
If it exists, we know about it
If it doesn’t exist, we find a way
If it needs to exist, we engineer it
CEDIA: How did you become interested in residential technology to begin with, Sandy?
Sandy Howard: I worked in retail audio back in the very early ‘80s. I had a partner back then. We looked at what was going on globally with multi-room audio. From 1985 to ‘87, we were developing our own product called the AVD system
2000, which was predominantly a push-button multi-room system with what we called “local functions” -- in other words, window coverings and those sorts of things. So we ended up making our own circuit boards and going into production and
that was quite successful. Eventually we decided to go full time with that concept and that's when AVD was born.
CEDIA: That would put the birth of AVD in line with the founding of CEDIA, roughly. What was it like then?
Howard: I remember CEDIA for me started as a thought process only. We were one of the founding members back in those early days. And I think as we progressed forward, we could see some opportunities to extend beyond audio and video. CEDIA helped inform
that transition. For us, even back then the concept of educating the industry as to what was available was very important to us.
There were a number of players, both from the manufacturing perspective, as well as the sort of retail environment that noted that CEDIA was a burgeoning organization coming out of the U.S. At that point we were trying to identify a roadmap -- obviously
driving membership at that stage was critical.
CEDIA: What do you think about the Australian market that might be different compared to say EMA or the Americas?
Howard: Oh, look, we're far more advanced. (LAUGHS) Look: We're 25 million people here. I think what we would describe as big projects are thin on the ground. I think the effort that needs to be made to bring parties to the table, not just from a client
perspective, but also from architects, interior designers, clients, the education at that level of something that we as a business focus on dramatically. And I think it's in that area of education for the market, generally, not just the integrators,
but the market in general, that's critically important.
Part of what we're doing with Paul (Skelton, CEDIA’s regional development consultant for Australia and New Zealand) is helping to rewrite some of the Continuing Professional Development series works (CPDs) for architects, and so on. That’s
important: We need a lot of education from the contractor perspective and the integrator perspective. There's a huge amount of education that needs to occur at that level: architects, clients, builders, and interior designers.
CEDIA: Do you have a guiding principle beyond the mission statement?
Howard: We spend probably 20% of our time in research development, both from a software and hardware perspective. Now we have software engineers here that are continually hammering manufacturers to ensure that their code is stable enough to be able to
There's a number of players in the marketplace that would say IoT plays a major part within our industry these days. Whereas I probably say it doesn't. It's a bit like back in the old days of VHS and Beta. Two companies hammer and target each other, was
it necessary? Probably not. Was one better than the other? Probably not. if there was true IoT, then you'd have true open protocol communications between those companies.
We look at the best of each of those organizations. We do not believe that there's a company that provides a one-stop shop for every part of an integrative environment. One of the projects that we're working on in fact, is a hybrid between Savant and
Crestron. We've got a Crestron backend and a Savant front end for the very reason that we can apply the Apple iOS principles, as in pinch and zoom, from a plan-based controlled environment, which gives the user an experience like you just cannot get
out of a single platform.
CEDIA: What is Practical WOW?
It’s a broadsheet format newspaper that contains a little fun, a bit of a stab at our industry and what we consider the market should be looking at and doing when considering anything integrated. We sat back one day and said, “Let’s
put something together that tells a story – in fact, several stories but not in a way that anyone would expect.” There are several very good analogies such as the butcher story (find it here: https://www.avd.com.au/practical-wow) that
is so true of what occurs in our industry. That’s why education of our market is so important. Take a read, I hope you find it informative and amusing at the same time. It’s designed to put a smile on your face.
CEDIA: Did you have mentors as you were coming up?
Howard: Probably more from a family perspective, not an industry perspective. But no, I really had no mentors, per se. Though I do play a part in mentoring a number of people now within our industry and associated to our industry. As you could imagine,
being in business for 33 years, we have had a lot of people come and go here. And part of the process internally is to mentor. And I think if we look at some of the people that are out in the marketplace now and undertaking their own businesses --
some in competition, some are not -- we’re enormously proud of that, and enormously proud of those people.
CEDIA: What is the one piece of advice you would give to somebody who's starting out, either at your firm or on their own?
Howard: Work hard, educate yourself. Things don't occur overnight. If you dedicate your time and your efforts within the field that you want to put yourself in, hard work is the way to go. If in doubt, ask questions of those that know better.
CEDIA: How do you relax? What's your downtime like when you're not at AVD?
Howard: My wife and I have a couple of houses that we go and work on the weekend. One’s up the beach and we love to get up there on weekends and spend some time.
For me, I consider myself enormously lucky to be as passionate as I still am within this industry. To the benefit of the business, to an extent, but to the detriment in terms of personal time.
I also take the dog walking at five o'clock every morning. That's my way of relaxing. I'm out of the house before anybody's risen.
Project photos: "Bellevue" Best Integrated Home, Level IV (Winner, Asia Pacific, 2018) by David Thomson Photography