The second-most-often-uttered question at trade shows is, What have you seen thats hot? My answer this year at CEDIA EXPO in Denver was, Not much, and thats a good thing.
For the second year in row, my sense at CEDIA was that while we were once witnessing monumental shifts in technology on an annual basis, now weve reached point where incremental improvements are the norm. The reason that this is not a bad thing is that now we might finally start to make things work for consumers, instead of frustrating and scaring them with bleeding edge gear that has not been debugged.
Im sure that this is a welcome trend even to professional integrators who love to sell the latest and greatest high-tech toy to their customers. For years, Ive heard the complaints that the CI channel is treated as an unintentional beta test bed for new products. While this may still be true in some cases, it seems that much more of what is being developed and sold in the channel is based on established designs and technology principles, instead.
This is not to say that I did not observe developing technology trends at CEDIA EXPO. On that score, I took note of a more references to IP-based solutions that appeal to the Netstreams sensibility. I also heard a lot about developing solutions for long-distance, multi-room distribution of 1080p signals over powered HDMI cables or Cat-5 wires using the latest authentification software and switching technology.
Additionally, just about every control systems manufacturer now boasts of iPhone integration and its availability through Apples Apps Store. I remember once pondering a future where our homes could be controlled via cell phone interface and that time has arrived, indeed.
A relatively small trend involving three of the big guys in control systems, as well as relative newcomer Life-ware, was their integration with Zigbee- and Z-Wave-enabled Baldwin door locks from Black & Decker. This little development makes it possible to integrate the front door lock with a security system so that arming the alarm also locks the door, and it allows a home owner to remotely unlock the door after checking a security camera to let in a guest or even a service professional while away from home. Pretty cool.
Another observation was the growing number of Green-focused manufacturers in the industry. Perhaps the most potential for positive improvement comes from this area, as many companies I spoke with mentioned their plans to reduce shipping materials and to drive down the amount of energy required for their systems to function properly. Not a lot of manufacturers have implemented their plans, but almost all of them are talking about it. Thats a good thing.
Last but not least is a trend that comes as a direct result of the current U.S. economic recession, weak currency, and housing downturn. Nearly everyone I saw at the show noted the success of their international business. What was once a market 10 years behind the technology curve of the U.S., one manufactuer told me, is now at most three years behind us. Our overseas peers are catching up with us and are hungry for new technology to serve their increasingly wealthy clientele. During one booth appointment at CEDIA my small talk with the exhibit was abruptly interrupted by a rude integrator from Dubai (apparently that part of the world doesnt have an equivalent phrase for excuse me.) After resuming our conversation I was told, one palace in Dubai can mean a sales of more rock speakers than I sell in the U.S. in one year or something like that. I was too annoyed to write down the exact quote, but you get the idea.
The most notable effect of this trend is the addition of international languages support on control systems used in our industry. Several companies acknowledged this trend, with Netstreams most notably supporting a whopping 16 languages, out of the box.