Thirteen years ago, Eloy Sherlock and his partner, Bernard Zimring,
sealed a deal for their pool-building firm by signing a contract on
a paper napkin. A lot has changed since then. Today, Avanti Pools relies
on the latest technology to operate its Los Angeles-based
“Any time people can access information quickly and easily it
always improves not only the process, but also the relationship
with the customer,” Sherlock says.
For starters, all members of the crew is equipped with smartphones
and use them regularly to create videos and take photos for a
recorded history of their projects. And after each walkthrough, the
builder presents customers with a memory stick containing all the
information regarding the project, from the warranties to the
Avanti approaches automation in similar style. Since 2010, the
company has built nearly 125 pools powered by fully integrated
automation systems. But instead of designing programs that in the
past would have required multiple controllers, Avanti is relying on
the popularity of sophisticated hand-held mobile devices to do the
Thanks to advancements by a number of manufacturers in the past
year, consumers now have the ability to easily monitor and manage
their automation systems using an application on their smartphones
Several forward thinkers in the industry have quickly learned the
many perks of installing automation systems controlled by smart
1. Provides customers with an economic alternative.
In 2006, the first pool industry technology emerged that enabled
consumers to control their automation from desktop and laptop
computers. Other companies followed suit, and soon many builders
regularly were offering this option to clients. These earlier
products allowed consumers to monitor and adjust the settings on
features such as their pool pumps, but they were still limited to
using their computers. The latest incarnations provide the consumer
with more manageable control over the settings to the most
energy-consuming features of their backyards.
“If a customer has to walk outside of the house and change
the speed of the pump, they are not going to do it as fast as if
they have that remote in front of them,” says Tom Cucinotta,
owner of Cucinotta’s Pool Service in Boynton Beach,
“It’s now even easier with their phone or [tablet].
I’ll say to them, ‘Remember when you were on your way
to work and you realized you left the waterfall on? Now all you
have to do is sign on with your phone and turn it
Embracing this trend has caused Avanti Pools to now give away an
iPad with every pool the company builds. The gift adds credibility,
impresses the customer and saves the homeowner money on the price
of a controller, Sherlock says.
& Landscape also may start giving away iPads, though the
firm’s customers seem to be already using the technology, say
officials at the Chandler, Ariz.-based company.
“I have yet to see someone who doesn’t have a
smartphone,” says company President Jeremy Smith. “Now
it’s nice to be able to use them to control your
Annually, the builder is constructing or remodeling upwards of 800
pools, and 80 percent of those finished in the past year feature a
control system to this effect.
2. Saves time and manpower.
Once the system is properly set up and connected, the homeowner
will receive e-mail alerts regarding any potential issues. If the
builder or service technician obtains the client’s WiFi
network password and the serial number for the protocol adapter, he
or she will receive the same alerts. This access is allowing
builders and technicians to offer unprecedented service.
In many cases, they know about the problem before the client does,
and can diagnose and fix the issue without ever having to leave
their offices — or anywhere, for that matter.
Recently, with the help of the product manufacturer, Sherlock
resolved an issue for a homeowner that previously could have eaten
up three hours of his day. “It took us three minutes and we
never left our residence,” he says. “The homeowner was
The ability to view a home’s system is especially helpful for
companies with clients based outside of the United States. Smith,
for example, assisted a customer in Canada who owns a second home
in the Phoenix region. The homeowner received an alert indicating
the chlorine in his pool was off. Thanks to the setup, Smith was
able to rectify the problem for the client before it became a major
This new technology makes servicing pools affected by severe
weather less stressful, too. In the event of an unfortunate natural
disaster, the systems are easy to reset, Cucinotta says. Florida
has a high percentage of hurricanes, which in many instances have
caused power outages that inadvertently reset the time and dates on
automation systems in the affected region. Before, he would have to
visit each home and reprogram the units. That’s a lot to
handle for someone who has nearly 550 accounts. Now, he can do
everything from off site.
3. Adds revenue.
In March, Keith Zars began offering his customers the option of
using a smartphone or tablet as a controller for their automation
systems. Of the 44 pools his firm sold that month, 36 will feature
this technology. So far, the crew at Keith Zars
Pools, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder in San
Antonio, has installed only three of the systems, but Zars says
they are working as expected and with no complications.
“It’s what’s selling the pool,” he notes.
“We’ve increased some sales because of it. The
customers like it a lot. It has great sales appeal.”
Of course, the homeowners are attracted to the unlimited control,
but they also enjoy the simplicity of the installation, yet another
selling point for the builder.
“The older units were hardwired, and you had to mount it so
the customer could use it, and there were issues like line of sight
problems,” Zars recalls. “Now we don’t have to
drill the walls.”
Instead, a contractor plugs a manufacturer’s protocol adapter
into a home’s WiFi modem and connects a user’s
hand-held device to the pool’s automation system via an
“app.” The homeowner then can access his pool and spa,
home theater equipment, security cameras, landscape lighting and
other backyard functions from anywhere in the world.
Others are taking advantage of the system’s monitoring
capabilities to add a new revenue stream to their business. Though
it’s still a relatively new control system option, Cucinotta
has recently started charging his customers $12 a month to keep
tabs on their backyard’s many features. If a customer is out
of town and wants to return home to a warm pool, for example, they
can call him and he’ll take care of it from afar. Or, if the
pool’s salt levels are off, he can contact the client and
offer to take care of the problem.
“It’s in the beginning stages, but I’m not
meeting any resistance,” he says. “In fact, what I am
finding is my customers look at me with a whole different profound
“It’s a no-brainer. Why anyone wouldn’t want it
is beyond me,” he adds.