Finding Technologies at CEDIA EXPO That Will Impact Your Business

When a major trade show approaches, one of the questions you hear asked most frequently is, “What are the new things that I should be on the lookout for?”
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There’s a lot to look for at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, when CEDIA EXPO comes to town this month. When a major trade show approaches, one of the questions you hear asked most frequently is, “What are the new things that I should be on the lookout for?” That is certainly a valid question and it is one of the key reasons people go to events like CES, InfoComm, NAB, and the many regional manufacturer and distributor-driven events. With this year’s CEDIA EXPO, September 11-13, in Denver, the question will be asked again. In planning your visit, however, we suggest an alternate, overarching question: “What will be on display, discussed, or be the subject of training that I need to find out about that will have an impact on my business?”

By now it is safe to assume that everyone has heard about the new object-based audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, AURO-3D, and others, but to date the details are slim as the concept evolves. We’ll certainly unearth more about that side of the market in Denver.

What, if anything, will be announced with regard to distribution plans for 4K content via streaming, optical disc, satellite, or something else? How will the traditional suppliers of automation systems respond to the challenge from DIY and app-based systems? What will we see in terms of lighting, shades, and similar that help push the energy reduction agenda? Pick almost any area of practice and there is something that might be announced at EXPO that we’ve heard of, but that isn’t on our maps yet and might turn out to be a treasure.

What other treasures we think might remains to be seen, but here are a handful of possibilities.

4K/Ultra High Def

UHD displays are available, the content is here and more is coming, and the in-home and external delivery systems are taking shape. We can certainly expect to see more UHD displays at EXPO, but will they continue to be flat-panels, or will we see more true 4K projectors? Will we finally see something concrete about 4K native content availability from cable or satellite services? Will there be any hints about 4K content via optical disc? Will there be any new streaming devices to deliver 4K content services using something other than the apps built in to a smart TV? Remember, while virtually all of the UHD flat-panels have Netflix and H.265, you won’t find that, at least for the moment, in a front projector.

Presuming that we do see some 4K content delivered via a scheme that requires a set-top box or optical player, the subject of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 rears its head. To date some AVRs have one or the other, but a scant few have both. Will EXPO bring more products capable of handling both the 600MHz bandwidth required for full carriage of 2160p/4:2:2/12-bit or 4:4:4/8-bit content AND the HDCP 2.2 content protection surely to be demanded by the studios? Indeed, it will be worth looking around the EXPO show floor to see if there will actually be and native 4K content at 60p, 10- or 12-bit color and greater bit depth for these systems to carry.

HDMI Alternatives

Of course, while HDMI has a commanding market share lead with regard to digital content distribution, everyone should take the time to see what is new from HDBaseT, from the various wireless video schemes, and maybe something not on the map right now will be uncovered in the same category of alternatives to HDMI. For example, check for products compatible with MHL, Display Port, Thunderbolt, and other methods of connecting computers, phones and tablets to displays, audio processors, and distribution networks.

New Video Displays

When it comes to technologies and applications for high-resolution video, the display is at the center of everything. One thing we’ll be looking for is to see if there will be any announcements of hard delivery dates for products with High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology including Dolby Vision and similar systems. It is important to remember that HDR is something that can benefit conventional HD as well as UHD, so keep your eyes wide open in this area. HDR has significant potential to improve video quality, and if it is available, it should be high on your list of things to use as a discussion point for client upgrades.

Also on the map for displays, will we find more OLEDs, and perhaps more importantly, UHD OLED sets? Curved flat-panel screens are getting a big push from some manufacturers, and EXPO will be a good place to gauge their market acceptance depending whether or not we see more of them, as many suspect will be the case, or will that be a “flash in the pan” trend? Will we see more use of full backlit LED arrays with local dimming for better contrast? Will the commercial AV market’s laser-based projection systems discussed in the August issue make it to EXPO? Will they, in turn, begin a trend to short-throw, laser-driven projectors along the lines of what we expect to see from Sony?

An Audio Evolution

CEDIA EXPO 2014 is likely to be the major formal introduction point for Dolby Atmos and, to perhaps a lesser degree, AURO-3D. At press briefings in mid-August, Dolby stated that EXPO will be where they make public more of their roll-out plans for Atmos, particularly with regard to when there will be Atmos-enabled content via streaming, traditional satellite or cable distribution, and/or optical disc. We’ll certainly see–and hear–more “Atmos-enabled speakers” to use in applications where in-ceiling speakers are neither possible nor desirable.

We heard demos of those speakers at the August events, and can report that they delivered the desired results in terms of creating the fully enveloping sound field. In fact, to a large number of the attendees, they sounded better than ceiling-mounted speakers. At EXPO, you will be able to see what brands are offering what types of electronics and speaker products for Atmos (and the other object-based audio formats). We urge you to check them out.

More importantly, many of the current questions about Atmos involve configuration and installation questions to which we currently don’t have answers. Dolby is working on a white paper specifically aimed at answering the questions now being raised by the custom community. Beyond Atmos, it will be critical to look at their competition from AURO-3D, and perhaps others. Will DTS or others introduce more? That will be something to explore.

At the other end of the audio world, far away from multi-channel/objectbased audio is traditional “two-channel stereo” audio. This is the year where we know that there will be a big effort to support the overall concept of “High Resolution Audio,” or “HRA.” The industry as a whole, including manufacturers, content providers and trade associations, is getting on this bandwagon, and it’s a great thing to support and promote. If you haven’t looked at full-range speakers, high-end DACs and similar products in a while, these are the types of things that are central to HRA, and you should be sure to take advantage of what will displayed around HRA at EXPO.

Control and Automation

Audio/video products and their application is only part of what EXPO is all about, and this year the control and automation side of the world is definitely a place to look on a number of fronts. Most critically, how have these companies positioned themselves against the increasing competition from the likes of Iris, Digital Life, Xfinity, Digital Home, Staples Connect, and the packages of products and the growing array of app-based services from major retail and utilities. It is critical to get the product information and training/education needed to properly position your business in the face of not just competition from other custom installers, but from these other forces, as well.

Competition for mindshare and business in the home control/automation space is already here, and EXPO is where you can refresh your portfolio of products and services to combat it. Part of that effort involves, a better understanding of networking and infrastructure technologies and techniques. There, your ability to provide enterprise-grade, high-reliability, high-bandwidth, managed networking is something that the consumer can’t match on their own. Take a deep dive into this growth area. Based on previews we’ve seen of products that are still unknown to the general community, you will find many new innovative opportunities ahead, not only for product sale and installation, but for a means to reach the holy grail: reliable recurring revenue.

Home Health

Home health services are at the intersection of systems integration, networking, cloud/big data, and the Internet of Things. As Baby Boomers age and health care delivery in general remains as a hot news topic, the use of home health monitoring and reporting systems has huge potential. It is more than just monitoring; it is the proper use and installation of the right sensor for the right task. Who does the monitoring? Who does the data go to so that prompt action is assured when needed without getting on the wrong side of HIPAA and potential liability issues? Use EXPO as a place to find out what your best strategy for engaging in this challenging new category.

Apple plans to make its new product announcements one or two days before EXPO opens. What impact will the new phones, tablets, and iOS extensions like Home Kit and Health Kit have on the custom world? Will they finally introduce an “iWatch” that has implications not only for home health, but for systems control? Will there be a new AppleTV, and what will that mean?

These are just a few things that you should look into while at EXPO. But CEDIA is not only where you find the high-profile products, but the obvious, yet “background” items, as well. Central vacs, specialized workplace tools, screens, mounting products, business management software, and much more are known to be there, as are those unknown buried treasures that we never expected to find.

Use these suggestions as a guide to your EXPO visit and seek out what you need to know to push your business forward in the year ahead. Whether you make it out to Denver or not, Residential Systems is the place to find out all you need to know about what happens at EXPO. Be sure to follow our online coverage at www.residentialsystems.com/cedialive for up-to-the-minute reports from press conferences and the show floor, as well as in-depth coverage in print in the months to come. After all, our goal is for you to get the information you need to create some business treasure of your own.

Sherman Oaks, CA-based Michael Heiss is a contributing editor to Residential Systems and a CEDIA Fellow.

CEDIA EXPO Product Preview

One of six new products at EXPO, RTI ’s T3x remote control combines a 3.5-inch color LCD touchscreen with programmable “soft touch” hard buttons for quick access to common control functions and four buttons with interchangeable keycaps. The unit’s edge-to-edge touchscreen provides users with improved screen swiping, while haptic feedback delivers a subtle vibration as a tactile confirmation when pressing touchscreen buttons.

Stealth Acoustics will unveil its Stealth Patio Theater (SPT) customizable outdoor entertainment solution, consisting of scalable, large-format, high-luminosity, motorized LED screens accompanied by Stealth’s outdoor speaker and amplifier technologies. Everything is modular in SPT, from screen sizes and resolutions to speaker, amplifier, front-end and content integration choices

D-Tools will unveil SI 2015, which is a complete estimation, design, and project management software solution. New features and enhancements include mobile-installation management, Quick- Books integration for seamless interoperability, and drawing enhancements.

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Vanco’s Ultimate HDMI adapter Super Flex HDMI male-to-female flex cables relieve stress on HDMI ports when used as a strain relief between the equipment and longer, heavier HDMI cables. This cost-effective solution allows for the ability to accommodate any HDMI port locations on displays because of its flat and flexible design with low-profile HDMI connectors. The Ultimate adapter supports active and passive cables, 4K x 2K resolutions, data speed transfer of 18 Gbps, Audio Return Channel, 3D, IP based applications, and it is UL listed.

WyreStorm will give a first look at its two-tiered range of professional NetworkHD IP solutions based on JPEG2000 compression and the newly announced NetworkHD-PRO range of H.264 platform encoders and decoders, for modular HD distribution over a network.

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Crestron plans to show how its DigitalMedia system can provide an “end-to-end 4K-certified distribution solution” for its dealers. To help integrators design and deliver ultra-reliable matrix switched systems, Crestron has introduced the Crestron 4K Certification program. A scaled version of the massive Creston DM Lab will be at CEDIA EXPO to give visitors a look into the certification testing process. The company will also showcase its V-Panel 20- inch HD Touch Screen (TSD-2020) with capacitive touch technology and HD video, its CEN-NSP-1 Network Stream Player, and its DMC-STR Streaming Input Card and Type 7 Streaming Output Card that enable DM switchers to send and receive efficient H.264 streaming video.

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Minuteman Power Technologies has upgraded its Enterprise Series with the EnterprisePlus LCD UPS products. These updated battery backup systems protect networking, security, and communications equipment from all power problems. Upgraded features include an LCD status display for monitoring power and system status, separate standard and extended runtime models, additional outlets, and Energy Star certification on select models.

Having been established in the British market, HDanywhere is coming to Denver for the first time with its Modular 4K series of customizable high-performance HDMI matrix switchers for the switching, routing, and distribution of high-bandwidth signals up to and including 4K Ultra HD. A patented system of interchangeable input/output (I/O) modules, enables integrators to specify which signal transmission technology is used for each display location.

Pakedge Device and Software Inc. is releasing a suite of software visualization tools to help simplify wireless network deployments for resellers. The first tool, the Pakedge WAP Map, is an interactive web-based “heat map” planning tool that lets installers estimate the number of wireless access points (WAPs) they need, the approximate coverage area of each WAP, and target placement locations.

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NAD has added the C 510 direct digital preamp/DA C, which combines a digital preamplifier with reference- quality DA C to create a blend of audiophile separates.

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OmniMount is showcasing the OE120IW, in-wall TV mount with in-wall box and pre-assembled full-motion wall mount for high-end installations. The company is also introducing a three-in-one stand for iPads, and the OWS60, which is an extra-wide AV wall shelf that comes with a storage cubby and cable management for holding components.

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Origin Acoustics, founded, by former SpeakerCraft leaders Ken Humphreys and Jeremy Burkhardt, will make its debut with the Director Collection of in-ceiling speakers. The 13 models, ranging in MSRP from $400 to $5,000 per pair, were designed for wider dispersion and deeper bass from a smaller speaker.

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Striking a balance between peak audio design and décor, OSD Audio’s new Black Series of architectural loudspeakers comprises 18 models, including ceiling, wall, LCR, and dual-tweeter units switchable for single-point stereo and surround applications.

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Platinum Tools will introduce the Maxim 6 Self Adjusting Wire Stripper 24-10 AWG (p/n 15310C) for use with round, oval, and flat wire cable. The Platinum Tools Maxim 6 is a heavy duty, self-adjusting wire stripping and cutting tool with an ergonomic handle designed for comfort.

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CINEAK’s new CIC automation module allows easy control of a dual-motorized recline/incline mechanism and the motorized articulating headrest via a home automation-control system. The CIC automation module consists of an intelligent control box, which is mounted inside the CINEAK chair, controlling the motors and drivers, interacting with the control system or any other control components used in the chairs.

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Elite PrimeVision’s PolarStar-eFinity fixed projection screen has an internal aluminum framework that is enclosed in a wrap-around material design to create an “edge-free” effect where the traditional “frame edge” is removed from the picture.

Severtson Screens has added a Bright White Acoustically Transparent (BWAT ) screen material option to its Legacy Series line.

Steinway Lyngdorf will offer a look at the Model P2, the next-generation fully digital surround sound processor, which was designed to support multiple speaker setups for Dolby Atmos and AURO-3D in a single unit.

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Tablo will be demonstrating the Tablo DVR for cord-cutters. Geared toward consumers using HDT V antennas to access free broadcast over-the-air TV programming, Tablo enables users to browse, record, and stream live and recorded HDT V content on all their connected devices. For viewing on big screen TVs, Tablo streams content through popular devices like Roku, Chromecast, and AppleTV.

Center stage at the Yamaha booth will be the 11-channel demo room, featuring the AVENTA GE RXA3040 network AV receiver and MX-A5000 amp, that will give you the opportunity to experience ultimate home theater audio with Yamaha’s proprietary CINEMA DSP HD3 to reproduce the accurate height of sound images, as well as Dolby Atmos.

SpringDeck is an app for manufacturers and dealers that offers a search function to quickly pinpoint products, in-depth analytics for tracking customer response and product popularity, communication tools for streamlining the client experience, and a centralized dashboard to easily manage content.

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