The Lebanese are known to seek out and import the newest and most advanced products. The technology segment is certainly no exception, especially if the product serves a purpose to entertain, shock or pump up the egos of those who buy them, whether clients are in the hospitality industry or homeowners.
For Beirut-based Triangle Sound & Image and Triangle Entertainment Services, one of the major distributers and installers of audio and lighting systems, the tides are changing as the Middle East and North Africa region builds its hospitality market. “[Our portfolio] used to be 80 percent residential versus 20 percent commercial and staging. Now, it is 45 percent residential versus 55 percent commercial,” says Triangle’s managing director Zahid Elian. As installation and design requests roll in from as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Mumbai, Istanbul, Las Vegas or even Paris, current work continues on 11 major commercial projects in the region, most notably the installation of the systems in the upcoming Palais Maillot club (of Parisian fame) in Beirut.
James Bond control
The action going on behind closed residential doors can rival that of the hospitality industry. Nowadays, controlling all electronic systems in a suburban home from the owner’s overseas iPhone is an old trick. And since Lebanon’s Energy Ministry is lagging in energy solutions, remote-controlled systems, promoted as energy-cost savers, are rising in popularity; several Lebanese distributers are now selling these technologies through different global brands.
Zoom Tech Electronics, for example, is the exclusive distributer in Lebanon for the American brand Lite Touch, which controls lighting, security alarms, television, air conditioning and any kind of electricity in your home on a single remote or iPhone, at a starting cost of nearly $6,000.
For entertainment, some private clients relish in confusing their guests with American-made Stealth Acoustics invisible speakers (hidden within the walls) or customized mirrored televisions, which will set you back nearly $5,000 for the 37-inch TV and up to $31,779 for a 65-inch screen. So far, the 15-year-old company has installed roughly 500 of the latter in Lebanese homes.
“Imagination is the limit; the budget is the response to that limit,” says Triangle’s Elian. In Lebanon, it seems the budget doesn’t have the same constraints as it might elsewhere, as another imagination-fulfiller offers.
“Knowing the Lebanese, they like to be the first to have the best products. They are willing to pay for and ask for the most advanced ones,” says Jean Gemayel, managing director for Lebanon and the Gulf for Algeco, a Roumieh-based engineering consultancy that builds aluminum and glazing structures. Though their automated glazing systems can, for example, create an indoor/outdoor pool area surrounded by retractable glass, a newer eye-catcher is picking up in residential popularity. In the last three years, they have installed approximately eight $25,000 steel retractable roof and waterfall systems (see picture) and in May they were commissioned to install a retractable roof with a waterfall over a 2,000 square meter terrace in Le Mall shopping mall in Saida.
Cost of sophistication
As many predicted, the iPod has become a tool and a base around which many other products, systems and services revolve, as demand and know-how grows for digital wireless multimedia streaming, wireless control and the programming of lighting. A major burden on distributers like Triangle is actually finding enough skilled people to install high-end audio and professional light and sound. Add to that the cost of importing foreign systems, and clients should be prepared to pay a premium, as manufacturers must cover the cost of research and development for new innovations, not to mention Lebanon’s import taxes.
Although expensive, such technology offers a long-run investment, including the complete concept and system offered, from the pre-design stage to installation and after-sale services. Just ask the club owners who keep going back to their same supplier when a new product is available.