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Back to the Future

While teleportation wasnt on the menu of the Future Technology Forum at last weeks CEDIA Management Conference in San Diego, I was still amazed by the technology coming down the innovation pipeline.

While teleportation wasnt on the menu of the Future Technology Forum at last weeks CEDIA Management Conference in San Diego, I was still amazed by the technology coming down the innovation pipeline. How these future products may impact the custom installation business is an issue worth exploring.

A distinguished panel of industry luminaries including Michael Stein of Russound, Mitchell Klein of Universal Remote Control, Herman Cardenas of NetStreams, Rich Green of Rich Green Ink, and consultant/author Michael Heiss weighed in with their opinions and predictions on next-gen technology and how it will affect the CEDIA channel.

Many panel topics revolved around IP. As a pipeline (or utility) it offers CEDIA professionals with real revenue potential. As broadband continues to proliferate and increase in bandwith so too will the applications for high-quality applications in a multi-zone environment. Advancements in digital content access such as AppleTV, IPTV, and some Windows Media Center-based applications may also change the rules of the game.

High-definition gaming (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, etc), Blu-ray, kludging a wireless infrastructure, and the digital transition all offer custom installers new sales opportunities. Heiss suggested that of all future technologies it is the digital transition that offers the most immediate avenues to business growth: Whos going to install all the new tuners and replace the antennae? he asked.

The bottom line was that no matter what products make it off of the production line, the true value of a project is the integration, ease of use, and overall experience. Anyone can sell a box, no matter what the product is, or when. The true artistry is in a seamless design that will help a system grow as technologies evolve and homeowners grow – a system that becomes a lifestyle enhancement.

Speaking of tech of the future, Im also interested in harnessing the power of adaptive sensing technology to monitor in-home power usage and help homes become more efficient. Rich Green addressed some of these points in his presentation.

If we can give in-wall speakers an IP addressable node, why cant we give each light bulb an IP address, integrate sensors onto electrical outlets, appliances, and water fixtures to ascertain how we are interacting with our resources. What about power-hungry amps and the homes chargers for cell phones and computers? Even when they are plugged in without devices, chargers soak up current. Some sort of intuitive platform to fold these disparate parts into one interface would be brilliant. Control and lighting companies like Lutron already offer energy-efficient pre-set scenes. Id like to explore what manufacturers are thinking about for the next phase of green home control.

Back in January, the circus known as CES in Las Vegas devoted myriad panels to the topic of future technology and business, as well as new tech’s impact on education and the environment. In the industry insider program, Advancing Development Through Technology Investment, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab and the One Laptop Per Child Project, shared his goal of eliminating poverty in third-world countries. His organization is behind the XO laptop for use in countries with electricity shortages. The XO device operates on less than two watts of energy and is hand-crank powered. (WiMax and WiFi networks provide wireless Internet access to the XOs.)

Also at CES, President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda discussed the impact of new technology on his country and the entire African continent. According to CES reports, president Kagame believes that technology has the potential to bring jobs and financial stability to his country, and that an open government-business relationship is
necessary for economic growth.

Freeplay Energy is another intriguing company devoted to self-sufficient energy products such as solar and human-powered technologies. Meraki Networks is taking a daring approach to wireless networking by bringing access to local communities anywhere in the world. The Senegal-based mobile data services operator Manobi is
creating solutions to improve market access and increase revenue for African farmers with situation-specific content.

Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, described his company’s Wireless Reach program which connects governments to internal health care and education systems, and is devoted to sustainability through community fundraising and teacher training (in concert with NGOs and local governments).

From advancements in Dash Navigation to adaptive learning sensors to the Eye-Fi (a wireless memory card that automatically uploads pictures from your digital camera to your PC or Mac), future technology is exciting. I cant wait for it.