CES '13 Product Launches Cut Out Custom Installers

1/7/2013 10:49:00 PM
As I write this, it’s the middle of press day at CES 2013—the second day of the show for me, after last night’s Unveiled event—and I’m already getting a strong sense of this year's theme.
 
In previous years, glasses-free 3D, 4K, and bigger, badder, thinner flat panels have risen to the top of the show buzz. And those techs are still right on the tips of almost every tongue this year. But more than anything else, the thread that seems to be weaving through this year’s show chatter is an almost palpable hostility toward the custom market. Not just an apathy. We’re used to that. I’m talking about genuine dismissal of the market we hold dear.

Belkin’s new WeMo wireless light switches deliver full lighting control via an Android app, without the need for a centralized server box.
 
 
It started at Unveiled last night with Belkin’s new WeMo wireless light switches. The $50 switches deliver full lighting control via an Android app, without the need for a centralized server box. It’s all Wi-Fi driven, and even ties into the existing WeMo architecture for expanded functionality. I asked Belkin representatives if some sort of compatibility with full-fledged home automation systems like Control4 or URC Total Control might be in the works in the future, and received a sort of waffling “maybe” that translated into a “no” in my mind.

Allure Energy’s EverSense 2.0 climate control system.
 
Same goes for Allure Energy’s EverSense 2.0 climate control system—a sort of Nest on steroids, with RFID tech that lets you activate wakeup and good-night modes just by setting your NFC-capable phone (Androids, in other words) on a little coaster of sorts—called SyncPads—which trigger sophisticated macros (including streaming music playlists) without even touching a single button. Again, Allure Energy reps weren’t outright grumpy about home automation integration the way the guys at Nest Labs seem to be, but almost acted as if cooperation with the likes of Control4 and Total Control just wasn’t on their radar at all.

Then, today, came news that AT&T is launching a service similar to Xfinity—you know, the sort of telecom-provided, subscription-based home automation systems we’ve seen popping up lately that seem to circumvent the custom market completely by going directly to the consumer.

Acoustic Research’s new Steam Wireless Home Audio System.

The most egregious case of custom market aggression came from the Voxx International press conference today, with the announcement of Acoustic Research’s new Steam Wireless Home Audio System, which was introduced as “whole home music via Wi-Fi and iTunes, without the mess and expense of custom.”

Is that really how our industry is being summed up? Mess and expense?

I think we all get rather used to the kumbaya mentality of the CEDIA Expo, where our market is celebrated and our backs are patted. CES seems to be the exact opposite of CEDIA in every way—but especially in the outright negativity directed at the custom installation market.
 
 
 
Dennis Burger has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics since 1999. He and his wife live in Montgomery, Alabama. 

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