August '18

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52 • RV PRO • August 2018 rv-pro.com O R I G I N A L E Q U I P M E N T some of the higher-end RVs are putting multiple technologies and multiple prod- ucts on at the factory." A good example is the agreement Win- egard reached last year with Thor Motor Coach to install its ConnecTV package as standard in Thor's Tuscany line of coaches. Meanwhile, early this year, the company unveiled a special option of its ConnecTV 2.0 for the OEMs that offers an expanded version that includes a hot spot with Wi-Fi and 4G LTE, as well as an upgraded HDTV antenna and FM radio. The package is available for both Verizon Wireless and AT&T customers. "It used to be people wanted to be able to watch TV while they were on their camping trips," Whipple says. "Now, we're adding Wi-Fi and 4G LTE because surveys show it's becoming just as important to send photos or check emails. "We really see the wireless technol- ogies becoming more and more of a standard in the next few years," he adds. The Word Is 'Connectivity' Whether the company's products are being installed by the OEMs or sold to RV owners through dealers, an important part of Winegard's job is edu- cation. Wibben estimates the company has trained a multitude of OEM staff plus as many as 3,000 to 4,000 dealer- ship personnel on the use of its products. "That's why we have such a good rela- tionship with them," Wibben says. "We are the experts; we know what the con- sumers are looking for and what's going to sell. They don't have to understand that. We have an impressive network of sales reps in the field who communicate those technologies, make sure they know what the coming things are, and they under- stand the technology they're selling." And, how does Winegard keep on top of the next big trends in its markets? It starts with consumer research, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. "We have tight relationships with the cellphone carriers, and with the telecoms of the world," says Whipple. "We produce products for them. For instance, we design and manufacture satellite dishes for some of the largest satellite telecoms in the world." Whipple adds that those businesses are the companies that are behind the still-upcoming 5G networks and the technologies that are going to be pow- ering them. "By working hand-in-hand with those telecoms, that allows us to see the future," he says. "Then, by bringing those products to specialized markets – like RVs – we can make the design changes to allow them to be rugged and withstand the rigors of being on the roof of an RV, for instance." The company is justifiably proud of its entire R&D operation (and of the 90 some patents the company holds), but Whipple says an added benefit to Winegard's customers is its complete environmental testing lab. "We have hot and cold chambers, salt- spray chambers, and we test for humidity and rust, as well as vibration," he says. "We want our products to be able to with- stand the sorts of conditions they're going to experience going down the road. We're not only looking at R&D on new types of antenna technologies, but also constantly developing those that will withstand the worst case in different environments." While 5G is certainly the brightest star on the technology horizon, it's defi- nitely not the only one. Whipple says Winegard also is focused on something called ATSC 3.0, which will move over- the-air antennas to more of an Internet protocol base and will give users 4K resolution and perform other types of interactive features like a cellphone. The company also is working on new satellite technology that will deliver what he calls "5G-type speeds." For now, however, the company's most-popular add-on is its low-cost sat- ellite dish, known as the Playmaker, which automatically finds the proper satellite and signal when an RV user changes channels. "It's the lowest-cost portable ever developed for satellite TV," Whipple says. "It's been a real breakthrough and people have been very excited about the performance it gives them. It's been extremely well-received." Regardless of the product, however, Winegard executives agree their mar- keting is helped by an extensive dealer network, trained technicians – and the simple fact that it's a company that's been Winegard products are displayed at Winegard's Mount Pleasant Street, Burlington, Iowa, location. Engineering prototypes can be made at the facility using a Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer, which has the ability to print up to a 16-inch by 14-inch by 16-inch object.

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