The number of software solutions targeting the CI market is increasing. Paul Skelton talks to the company that essentially started it all.
If news reports from last year’s CEDIA Expo in Dallas are anything to go on, 2015 was very much the year of the software solution. An unprecedented number of platforms were launched (a good portion of which are now distributed locally by Wavetrain) and established brands, like Ihiji, released new features for the custom installation (CI) channel.
Unquestionably the ‘godfather of CI software’, D-Tools also put in a strong showing and earlier this year launched the latest version of its popular System Integrator (SI) software platform, SI 2016.
So it appears to be full steam ahead for integrators, with cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions making it even easier for them to demonstrate the level of professionalism this market requires.
But what does this rapid growth in the CI-specific software market actually mean to integrators? And how will it affect business?
“The software industry in general is exploding and building cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions has never been easier,” D-Tools chief executive Randy Stearns says.
“But unlike D-Tools, most of the software that is coming to market isn’t designed for core business applications. Many are specialty solutions that are designed to be used in the sales process.
“That said, our philosophy is that no one software solution is, or could be, the ‘be all and end all’ solution.
“Our commitment to integrators is to provide an end-to-end solution, which we believe necessarily includes multiple software products, so we regularly integrate with other products on the market.”
To better facilitate integration between his solution and others on the market, Randy says his company will be releasing a web-based API that makes integration with other software solutions even easier.
This is all good and well, but there is still a very large number of integrators who persist with using programs like Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint for their documentation.
Randy says integrators should demand better.
“There are some very good generic software programs on the market, like Excel and PowerPoint, but none of the developers have taken the time to understand an integrator’s business and what’s important to them.
“D-Tools has integrated those very specific features into its software suite.
“We have a database product library that resides in the cloud that comprises every product an integrator will need in a day. It doesn’t just list the manufacturer, model, description and pricing; these listings include all the engineering specs, dimensions, power requirements, and inputs and outputs of the listed products.”
There is no need to individually list these products in an Excel file anymore, Randy says.
“We’ve also taken the time to understand some of the unique features that are required, like drawings. Each of the products has drawing files attached in multiple forms, from 3D renderings to basic block diagrams that include inputs and outputs.
“We also have full integration with AutoCAD and Visio. We can even print cable labels.
“It’s all specifically designed for integrators and it’s something they could never get with a generic, off-the-shelf solution.”
In March, D-Tools released SI 2016. Building upon the architecture of the SI platform, the release added over 50 significant new productivity features and enhancements to make it faster and easier than ever for integrators to perform key functions of their business — estimation, system design and project management.
“D-Tools is now planning to expand into adjacent and new markets, like the electrical contracting and plumbing sector. There’s no reason why if you’re documenting the connection of devices those can’t be plumbing devices or HVAC. It doesn’t have to be low voltage.
“Essentially, wherever there is deployment of technology, or any form of installation, there’s a need to document it.
“The other major direction we’re heading in is movement to the cloud. We’re in the process of developing a cloud-based version of our software, which we’ll make available in the latter-half of 2017.”
Those interested in learning more about D-Tools and the System Integrator software platform can sign up for a free demo by visiting http://d-tools.com/live-demo-webinar/ or for a free 30-day trial, which can be downloaded at http://d-tools.com/30-day-free-trial/.
Local distributor Convergent Technologies will also be running an advanced training course for those familiar with the platform to discuss the new features of the platform. The course will run concurrently with the Integrate Expo in Sydney.
For more information about the training, contact Convergent Technologies directly.