Last week CEDIA unveiled the finalists for 2016’s Best New Product award. As in years past many of these finalists represent high-end, integrator-focused offerings. From an in-ceiling drop down TV lift, to a $15k laser projector, and an ultra high-end theater speaker array, many of the products up for the award serve a segment of the home technology market where budgets take a back seat to performance. However, the product mix in this year’s finalist list also includes a number of low-cost products aimed squarely at the mainstream consumer. Amazon Echo, the Eero WiFi System, Lutron’s Connect Bridge, and the Sonos Play:5 are a handful of the most obvious examples.
Amazon and Lutron represent DIY at CEDIA.
The presence of such products in the contest should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of our channel. The CEDIA show floor has been comprised of an increasing number of DIY products over the last couple of years. CEDIA’s recently announced selection of Amazon’s director of Alexa Smart Home Charlie Kindel to give the Friday morning keynote is a solid indication that the organization is unapologetic about this new reality. It’s a wise move.
Throughout my years of work as a home tech pro, podcaster, and part-time writer, I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with more than my share of industry peers. I know many that are put off by the DIY convergence taking place at CEDIA. The train of thought amongst this faction is that DIY products have no place on the show floor. Some trepidation is natural. After all, these consumer-focused offerings do represent a direct threat to the healthy product margins that have allowed many companies in our industry to thrive.
Zooming out from the one-week show in Dallas, however, it’s easy to see that the DIY convergence is more than a trade show phenomenon; it’s the new market reality. That this trend represents a threat to the status quo is undeniable. But as is the case with most threats, there are accompanying opportunities just waiting to be exploited.
Low cost and DIY-focused products are creating an unprecedented level of awareness and excitement about the smart home for end users, builders, and developers. Creating profitable business models around these low-cost products will not be easy. But home tech pros who get that formula right will be well positioned for the foreseeable future. Meeting this challenge will require us to adopt new tools, forge new connections, and define new ways of thinking about our value proposition. I can think of no better place to seek this inspiration than at our industry’s largest annual event.
CEDIA’s number one responsibility is to look out for the long-term business interests of its constituents. As the smart home DIY convergence continues its unstoppable advance, it is vital that the organization play an active role in helping the industry evolve to meet the challenges ahead. With that in mind, it’s hard to argue that CEDIA should not welcome DIY products to the trade show floor. In fact it would be negligent of them not to do it.