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In-Home Techies Get New Professional Status

Industry group CompTIA pushes for digital home technology integrator certification to ensure quality.
Next time you have "geeks" to your house, you might want to ask them for their credentials.

A new professional certification for "digital home technology integrators" is being offered through collaboration between industry organizations, the Consumer Electronics Association and Computer Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA.

The certification is geared to individuals who install, integrate and maintain "smart" homes, in which the PC is the hub controlling lighting, security systems, audio-visual and digital entertainment gear, including home media centers.

"The power of the network in the home is impressive," said Miles Jobgen, CompTIA product manager of the new certification.

The most ready candidates now for the certification are those individuals who work in the consumer electronics world doing installations of audio-visual equipment, as well as those folks who work for computer resellers and do computer repair. The expertise needed for the new digital home technology integrator certification is a blending of two skill sets.

Jobgen expects third-party training companies will soon begin offering classes to help individuals hone their skills sets to pass the certification test offered by CEA and CompTIA. As for computer skills, the certification exam quizzes individuals on their knowledge of local area network configurations, Wi-Fi, and operating systems such as Microsoft's Windows XP, Windows Vista and Apple's Macintosh operating system -- or Mac OS.

A number of companies were consulted in the development of the news certification testing, including Best Buy, known for its Geek Squad of in-home techies, as well as Circuit City, which offers in-home tech-expertise through its Fire Dog Team.

It's not yet certain whether either of those companies will require its in-home tech-pros to attain the new certification, said Jobgen, although he thinks the credential will become a competitive advantage for retailers and "seal of approval" looked for by consumers.

Brett Griffin, co-founder of Architectronics, a Seattle-based home-tech installer, said he's planning to get the new certification and will expect his two co-workers to attain it, too. "Without this certification, you can't say you've got the credentials to do this sort of work," he said. For instance, "an electrician might say he can do any kind of lighting, he doesn't necessarily know how to do home theater lighting" that's tied together with a computer network, routers and home entertainment center, Griffin said.

It's not just new high-end homes that are being constructed as "smart homes," with computer networks connecting assorted high-tech gear, including high-definition TV, lighting and security systems -- it's also middle-class houses that are being retrofitted, said Griffin. "This is definitely trickling down and becoming more main stream," he said.

The certification test is offered to CompTIA members for $180. The fee for non-members is $225.