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4 Trends I Plan to Investigate at CEDIA 2016

Forming a plan is easiest when looking at the show through the lens of a few key themes. For me, these are voice control, "differentiating with luxury," DIY players looking for help from the pros, and advances in remote systems management.

With the opening of the CEDIA show floor just over a week away, energy is building for the industry’s most important event. The biggest challenge that the show presents lies in its sheer scale. Between walking the floor, scheduled booth visits, trainings, and parties to attend, planning for the show can be overwhelming. Having a game plan is critical to getting the most from your trip to Dallas. And forming this plan is easiest when looking at the show through the lens of a few key themes. Here are the four most important trends I’ll be looking at during this year’s show…

1. The Year of Voice Control. The idea of voice control in the smart home is not a new concept. However, 2016 feels like the year when this nascent control method is finally turning the corner from being just a fringe technology. Credit, in large part at least, has to go to Amazon’s Echo, whose stationary, always-on form factor has finally provided the convenience needed to make for a compelling user experience. I expect to see dozens of exhibitors featuring their Echo integrations on the show floor. And, in what is surely a sign of the times, Amazon will be featuring Echo at its own booth (2510), as well. Amazon at CEDIA. Crazy right?

Amazon Echo leads the Year of Voice Control at CEDIA 2016 

Echo is, of course, not the only player pushing voice control forward. (Booth 4150) will be exhibiting its CEDIA-focused voice control platform. I expect their booth to be busy, with plenty of integrators keen to check their solution, if for nothing else than to see if their high-priced, CI-focused solution is the real deal. Savant (Booth 4132) will no doubt be touting the voice control feature of its new remote. Comcast (Booth 2905) will be encouraging visitors to check out its Xfinity voice remote, which is a solution that I’ve been slow to check out but have had more than one client speak fondly of. I’m also curious to have a quick look at Dish Network’s (Booth 3410) new voice remote to see if they’re doing anything compelling in the space.

2. Differentiating with Luxury. Over the last couple of years, we have heard much conversation surrounding the increasing presence of DIY and consumer-focused products on the CEDIA show floor. I shared my thoughts on this important topic recently. But for all the attention that these technologies get, they still represent a very small portion of the floor.

It’s worth noting that CEDIA is still very much a show about high-end technology for high-end homes. With all of the competition that home tech pros are facing from down-market products, there is no better place than CEDIA to find the luxury gems that will help cement our value proposition in our respective markets for years to come. High-end theater/media room components, fully integrated lighting/shade solutions, and all manner of design-centric AV and control solutions are arguably more important to our businesses now than ever. And with the sheer number of luxury exhibitors present at the show, I’m confident that I’ll have no problem arming myself for the next 12 months of designer and architect lunches.

3. DIY Players Look for Help from the Pros. While it’s critical to focus on luxury at the show, it’s dangerous to completely ignore what’s happening in Innovation Alley (Check out John Sciacca’s blog here). Admittedly I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about CEDIA pros needing to adapt to the changing market conditions that new market entrants represent, but we’re starting to see that many of these consumer-focused companies (the smart ones, I’d argue) are realizing that they’d be well advised to meet us in the middle. As home tech pros we have decades of hard lessons under our belts.

These new companies, which are starting to realize that the smart home is actually really hard to manage, would be crazy not to try and leverage that experience. To that end, Eero (Booth 7408) has entered a partnership with Access Networks (Booth 5112), Plex (Booth 8501) just announced a dealer program, and Sonos (Booth 4721) has a whole new attitude about integration. This spirit of collaboration between CEDIA stalwarts and market disrupters is a phenomenon that I expect to see emerge prominently from this year’s show, and continue in the years to come.

4. Advances in Remote Systems Management. Last but not least is the burgeoning market for remote systems management tools. Ihiji (Booth 5712), a pioneer in this space, has some really great developments coming, including the release of a mobile app (yes you read that correctly, Ihiji will finally have an app!). And while Ihiji has been at it since 2009, it’s only in the last year that we’ve really seen this market start to develop.

This space is a personal favorite of mine, as I believe deeply in the long-term value proposition that these companies represent. In addition to a long chat with Ihiji, I plan to block off plenty of time to check out solutions from newcomers like Krika (Booth 1700), Domotz (Booth 4146), and Digital Butler (Booth 4173). Also, while they won’t be exhibiting, the team from Greenlight Control will be in Dallas and might be considered for your “guys-to-have-a-beer-with” list, as they’re certainly doing some interesting things in this space. Lastly, I think a hard look at OneVision Resources (exhibiting with Ihiji at Booth 5712) is a must, as they are taking a really unique approach to technology support. I suspect we’ll look back on 2016 as the year that remote systems management technology finally arrived in a prominent way.

With so much to see, and only a few days to do it, you can bet I’ll be wearing comfortable shoes. But in spite of an aching back and sore feet (and most likely a headache), I expect to fly back to Denver feeling inspired and ready to do big things in the coming months.

Have ideas about key themes or trends that I missed? I’d love to hear them. Let me know what you’re thoughts with a comment below…