If there’s one thing we can all count on in this rapidly changing connected-home world, it’s that conventional wisdom is no longer conventional. Capabilities and technology that may seem like a look into the future become current trends very quickly—and the move from passing trends to expectations from end-users and installers alike happens almost as fast.

Voice Control is the Norm

Take voice control, for example. Just one year ago we were all drawn to the Amazon booth at CEDIA 2017 in San Diego, and excited to experience the love that our Alexa-focused potential business partner showed for the CE channel. Only one year before that, many of us were unconvinced that voice control was ready for prime-time; now our customers demand it and our favorite control companies are all accommodating it. Voice control in the smart home has grown, from a maybe, to a trend, to a must have. Really fast, too.

Not to be outdone, Google dove in with open arms and ready-support to help manufacturers launch “OK Google” in homes and commercial space across the world and have taken Amazon’s place at the annual integrator gathering in San Diego next month (well, OK they’re co-locating with Nest—but point made!). And let’s not forget Josh.ai with their advanced voice recognition platform focused on the integrator channel.

Still not convinced? New research out this month from NPR and Edison research reveals that 39 million Americans (one in six!) now own a smart speaker—a figure that’s up 128 percent from January 2017. Yet as much as voice control has become a necessary component of almost every connected home project, we’re already looking beyond voice and at the next ‘it’ technology for the smart home.

Want to learn more about CEDIA 2018 trends? 15 Things You Can't Miss at CEDIA 2018.

What could possibly be beyond voice? Consider the next move into the smart part of smart home—beyond the connected home and changes to the user experience on a large scale. Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is now the hot discussion amongst folks in the integrator and developer community. These systems will learn, perhaps continually, from user patterns and outside stimuli, and create their own macros; thus an away mode would become self-aware enough to ensure the correct lights are off or on (using time and weather variables), the temperature set, security system armed, cameras set to record, and so on. Users will no longer have to create or modify these scenes; they will be created simply by learning usage patterns. There are trainings for developers everywhere on AI and all your favorite control companies are already well on their way in their own product development. Stay tuned—we may just see AI be the next hot trend at CEDIA 2019 or 2020.

Builders Move on Up

Another big trend seen at CEDIA is the increasing prevalence of the builder community at the show. Last year we found that builders were beginning to take notice of consumer demand for connected homes. Now, smart home is becoming standard in new homes and retrofits±and the trend isn’t slowing down. 

In May of this year, Lennar partnered with Amazon to provide Alexa-controlled smart home capability for all of its new home builds. In June, Toll Brothers, the nations’ largest builder of luxury homes, announced a host of smart devices that are now standard in all its new homes as of July 1, 2018, with available upgrade packages from Alarm.com and Control4. Also this year, Control4 announced its new Certified Showrooms initiative in dealer showrooms across the globe, meant to give consumers a place to check out smart home tech in a practical, hands-on environment set up to replicate different rooms of the home.

Integrators have become an increasingly bigger part of the builder conversation and can offer services to partner with builders to provide smart home standards and upgrade consultation and installs during the home build process. More important to both builder and homeowner, integrators can and should provide ongoing support after the homeowner has moved in, which is a major point to be made.

Other Trends: Security, MDU, Millennial Homebuyers, and Hi-Res Audio

There are other items that have moved from 2017 trends to 2018 standards; think doorbell cameras. From popular brand offerings such as Ring, Nest, and Skybell to every control and camera company, doorbell cameras are ubiquitous and a necessary demand item in the smart home.

Let’s not forget security—the entire burglar alarm category has exploded from the lowly numeric keypad on the wall to a fully integrated, must-have system in all modern smart homes. Demand may have seemed flat for a while, but last year’s introduction of numerous DIY alarm products has greatly increased consumer awareness and brought new functionality to burglar alarms with a host of smart-home devices.

Millennials are the new largest demographic and they’re buying homes. This represents a huge opportunity for integrators to take advantage of their preference for tech, such as the smart home. Even those not buying represent a huge opportunity, as many smart devices do not require wiring or permanent installation, thus may be taken with them as they move from home to home. We still have some work to do in identifying the way we communicate smart home to millennials, but as this demographic continues to mature and grow, we should expect to see the conversation become more prevalent amongst the smart tech community.

What about taking smart home outside of the home and into apartments? MDU properties are not to be left out—this is a big trend, where condos as well as rental units are also feeling the smart home love. MDUs are a huge opportunity for integrators to promote and champion for smart home tech—just take a look at the various companies that provide both the renter/owner, as well as property manager, the ability to monitor and maintain their properties. Companies such as Rently Keyless and Parakeet will be showing their platforms at CEDIA and are worthy of a look.

Another growing—and profitable—trend? Think high-res audio. A host of upgrade audio components, speakers, streaming services and wireless audio products are gaining traction, and turntables really are back with Millenials enjoying the improvement in sound, as well as the fun collecting and listening to albums. Even my son’s college friends are hanging out in the dorm and playing records!

Technology for the smart home continues to provide real opportunities for all, as trends that come on fast and rapidly become expectations for consumers. This is really a great time to be in this business—make sure to keep your eyes and ears open at the upcoming CEDIA and be ready to pounce!

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