Prepping for Prosperity: KnowledgeFest
The final figures are in for KnowledgeFest Dallas, held last month, and it was another record-setting event for the MEA, with year-over-year growth in attendees and exhibitors: More than 1,729 attendees, including 1,217 retailer and distributor attendees, 1,115 retailers and 103 distributors. There were over 60 exhibitors occupying 90,000 square feet of exhibit space, 48 hours of educational workshops, and 78 hours of manufacturer training. To accommodate the event’s growth, the show floor moved to a bigger hall within Dallas Convention Center. It will be held in Dallas again in 2019.
Growth came from product categories such as driver assistance and safety products. Both of these emerging categories are offering installing dealers new revenue opportunities New tech companies are finding the KnowledgeFest show floor. The specific training times are an affordable way to bring their products to market with the mobile specialist. Chris Cook, president of MEA, noted: “Over the last several years, we’ve watched KnowledgeFest evolve to the point where, this year in Dallas, we’ve seen the mobile electronics industry make KnowledgeFest their own. Looking at our show floor, I was struck by the number of pure 12-volt companies exhibiting—more than [at] the North Hall [at CES]. Attendees, eager to learn, packed our education and training sessions. Dallas establishes KnowledgeFest as the premier event for our industry. I believe we’ve created the optimum venue and experience to achieve our exhibitor goals and attendee goals. We’ve gathered the best available education, supplier displays and much more.
“We have an awesome show and tell,” Cook added. “There is a lot to see and hear on the exhibit floor. The best suppliers in our industry bring their A-Game to KnowledgeFest. They exhibit with the hope they will make a positive impact on your business and on their own.” The international presence at the event was also impressive, with retailers coming as far as China, Spain, Brazil and Colombia.
One of the biggest pushes at the event’s Town Hall meeting was the introduction of a dealer certification program called MEA Certified. If dealers attend four classes at a Knowledgefest event, they will be eligible for certification. This will also tie into the MEA Preferred Retailer that steers consumers to dealers through the MEA’s website. “This is a big benefit to our members and will help retailers who want to learn and attend Knowledgefest to get ahead,” Cook said.
There were a lot of great trainings given by the manufacturers. Some of the standouts included distributor ORCA that represents the Mosconi, Focal and Illusion Audio brands. They brought out a powerhouse of top-tier fabricators that included Tom Miller, JT Torres, Chris Pate, Matt Schaeffer, Sage Weir and Bryan Schmitt (of Mobile Solutions fame) who shared tips for success. The team discussed ‘How it was done’ on their latest creations and how to manage and charge for custom projects. There was also a track on drawing 2D and 3D sketches in minutes to help land clients and keep builds profitable.
Metra Electronics brought its new Axxess, AX-ADDCAM new radio replacements with MOST25 amplifier retention and new AX-DSP T-harnesses and packages. These new interfaces provide accessory 12-volt power and NAV outputs, retain steering wheel controls, retain the OEM amplifier and will retain chimes when they are present. They utilize Axxess’ ASWC-1 technology along with a fiber-optic interface that allows coverage into the MOST 25 vehicle applications. The MOST25 radio replacement interfaces utilize the backup camera input of the aftermarket radio to display personalization menus and, if equipped, the sonar sensors. At CES, Metra introduced a new line of electronic intergraded kits, Turbo Tactile that were also discussed. The TurboTactile dash kits feature factory style hard buttons, etched graphics, LCD knobs, and integrated electronics that retain most vehicle customization features.
Rockford Fosgate gave a seminar specifically on integration on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The motorcycle audio market is red hot this time of year. We especially like their templates that make cutting into expensive motorcycle lids less scary.
AudioControl’s Chris Bennett, national director of Mobile, discussed three specific product ranges: First, the new ACM amplifiers; then, compatibility of AudioControl products with ADS Maestro interfaces to get a clean signal; and finally, their newest RTA called the DM-RTA. The unit puts four test tools into a single unit.
Directed Electronics’ Justin Gear and James Winning walked attendees through the latest technical updates on Directed’s evolving product line, including an exciting new Bluetooth-enabled siren. Installations can be completed faster because there is no need to run wires through the firewall. The team also walked installers through the setup of Directed’s DS4 modules and Viper Powersports offerings, which is perfect for dealers working with UTVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles, boats or jetskis.
JL Audio’s Steve Turrisi and Kevin Ferry led a training on the new DSP-enabled VXi amplifier line. The team walked techs through the variety of applications that can be achieved through the DSP amplifiers. Manville Smith, vice president of marketing at JL, said: “The VXi amplifier lineup has been designed to simplify the process of achieving great audio results by offering full control of all aspects of system tuning, from one device.” All tuning can be done through JL Audio’s TuN Mobile right on your smartphone.
Pioneer is excited about their new SmartSync-featured head units. They allow the customer to control the head unit from their phone via the SmartSync app or vice versa. For lower- price-point installations, this technology can give customers valuable screen real estate while still providing them with a basic head unit when they don't want to mount their phone in an air vent or suction cup. The tech is compatible with Google Maps so lower-price-point installations can get navigation when they need it. Heavy users are still better off with navigation built into the head unit, but it is a great option for young customers on a budget.
KnowledgeFest had a new slogan this year - Achieve. “After carefully evaluating the changing trends that directly affect the mobile electronics community,” Cook said, “we chose ‘Achieve;’ one word defines it: ‘To successfully bring about or reach a desired objective, level, or result by effort, skill and courage.’ What must you learn to be proficient in your profession? If you are ready to achieve success and want to make sure you have done everything in your power to ensure it, take the next step and register for an upcoming KnowledgeFest.”
AAMP and iDataLink Join Forces
Just in time to show off at this year’s Dallas KnowledgeFest, AAMP Global announced a strategic partnership with Automotive Data Solutions (ADS) to distribute the iDataStart line of integrated remote starters. AAMP customers in the 12-volt dealer market will now have access to the lineup over 40 systems that combine simplicity and peace-of-mind through their AAMP sales rep. According to AAMP, the partnership comes at the perfect time, just as cold weather dealers ready themselves for customers who will be prepping for the frigid temps coming in the months ahead. These customers will want remote start that works reliably from inside their warm homes and workplaces, while easing the installation time from the techs.
The iDataStart remote start systems have an operating range of 3,000 feet. The products are available through AAMP with a variety of pre-packaged configurations and one-way or two-way upgrade options that let you match the right solution to a specific customer’s needs. The built-in immobilizer bypass and databus integration technology allows installers to interface with more than 10,000 vehicles from 1989 on, all without third-party modules that traditional remote starters require. Installation harnesses allow factory-fit integration in many vehicles with no need for splicing or soldering, making iDataStart an ideal choice for leased vehicles. Marie Still, general manager/executive vice president at AAMP Global, noted: "We strive to simplify the buying process for our retail partners, which is why, in addition to the resources we put towards our own research and development of AAMP branded solutions, we also carefully curate relationships with complementary brands who offer leading solutions in categories we don’t focus on internally. iDataStart brings proven, installer-friendly, remote start solutions that meet and exceed consumers’ needs. With leading-edge technology, and the highest of quality standards, we are confident that this is the perfect brand to bring into the AAMP Global family. The iDataStart portfolio will strengthen our core offerings and further define our footprint in the 12-volt dealer channel.”