This year I got a really unique opportunity at CEDIA to check out a lot more of the show floor than is typical for me. One of my favorite things to do is network with other integrators and media at the show to find out what they see that is hot and exciting. I spent a lot of time with Rich Fregosa (Fregosa Designs), Tim Albright (AVNation), John Sciacca (Customer Theater and Audio and Resi Systems) and Mark Feinberg (Home Theater Advisors; we do the show together every year and visit pretty much every booth together so we’ve hashed many of our thoughts out as a team on this year’s show).
The biggest news this year seemed to be Alexa integration with Control4 and Crestron and Sonos integration with everyone (Lutron, iPort, Crestron, Control4, Savant, et al). I guess you could say the big themes this year were DIY products/integration and voice control.
I also spent time with Sabine from Sabine’s New House (sabinesnewhouse.com). She did a great live Facebook feed from the show floor with a very interesting take on what she was seeing. It was enlightening to get the perspective of someone outside of our industry, but who is also very knowledgeable in the home remodeling space, seeing CEDIA for the first time.
Through all of my interactions with my peers and colleagues and walking the show floor, talking to dozens of companies and sales reps, I didn’t sense any major dislikes or fears like in years past—particularly when it comes to DIY product. I’m not sure if it is acceptance or resignation, but most dealers seemed at peace with the hold DIY is taking in our clients’ homes, as evidenced by all of the excitement and news surrounding Alexa and Sonos. There were even booths from Amazon and GoogleCast at the show. With the control system integrations, maybe dealers are feeling more comfortable that they can offer these solutions to clients and make it a part of the integrated system. Homeowners are familiar with these brands and products and often ask for them by name, so being able to offer them in conjunction with a Crestron or Control4 system eases the sales pitch a bit.
My opinion is that unless you serve an uber-wealthy clientele that doesn’t care about price, then you need to start embracing some of these consumer-grade solutions. Things like Ring doorbells and Nest Dropcams and thermostats are easy to install and a great solution for many clients.
The only non-DIY product I saw that bridged the voice interface was Josh.ai. Josh is a voice-controlled home automation system. I equate it to the user ease of Clare Controls, combined with the voice control of Alexa. The upside to Josh’s voice control is that it is much more capable of recognizing natural speech patterns and isn’t as stilted as Alexa. However, you do have to open the app and “push to talk” to do anything, whereas Alexa is always listening and when integrated with a control system gives a pretty impressive experience, if a little slow on the responses.
Right now, voice control is a cool toy and might replace some small user interfaces like a small bedside button to turn off of the house, but overall it isn’t ready to replace most of the user interfaces we program and install every day, but it is a solid supplement, especially for tech-savvy clients that want the latest and greatest. We will live with it for six months in our homes and then start to discuss it with clients if we feel highly confident it won’t cause way more problems than it is worth.
I really did enjoy having so much extra time this year at the show and thought the integrations with the DIY products were pretty interesting and might be something we can incorporate into our own business model in the future. What did you like at this year’s show and why?