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2019 Companies to Watch

A look at some of the custom integration successes from the past year — and how they set up the industry for next year.

I find that the older I get, the quicker the years seem to move, and 2018 was no different — flying by at a breakneck pace from the start of the year and CES to the moment you read these words. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the Residential Systems traditional December issue recap of the year’s success stories, which lets us collectively look back on the wins of the past 12 months while we plan for the 12 ahead.

We asked the industry for their 2018 success stories, and they responded with enthusiasm — and volume! So I hope you enjoy this collection of wins from the year gone by.

Access Networks: Consisting of enterprise-grade access points and a wireless controller, Access Networks Wireless offers integrators a product line that will increase both the performance and profitability of their residential network deployments. Access Networks Wireless components are made by Ruckus Networks and come with four years of Access Networks standard support for no additional charge. The wireless controller includes eight access point licenses and additional licenses are available for purchase one at a time.

AVPro Global: In 2018, AVPro introduced products from their AVPro Edge brand with the 8-channel downmixer (AC-AVDM-AUHD) and the live streaming device Impulse (AC-IMPULSE), as well as deliver HDMI and HDBaseT matrix switchers and extenders. As their business grew, so did their operations with a new building in Sioux Falls, SD. With the new building, they have an expanded warehouse and technical lab that gives them the opportunity to expand their commercial line up of products.

Azione Unlimited: Azione experienced its biggest growth-year ever. Now boasting more than 200 dealer members equipped to contribute to the group’s networking events, idea-sharing, and sense of community while taking advantage of educational offerings and dealer incentives, the group’s rapid growth is a testament to its innovative initiatives and events. The past year brought several highlights, including the introduction of interactive Experience Rooms at the Spring Conference and Azione’s formal entry into the lighting market to give dealers a lucrative opportunity backed by training and support. The Key Leaders Conference further excited and inspired those on the front lines with roundtable discussions, presentations, and the camaraderie members expect from Azione.

BenQ: Releasing in Q4 2018, the CinePro HT9060 4K UHD HDR projector is designed to recreate the cinema experience at home, starting with the latest DLP chipset that’s used in many digital and IMAX theaters. This chip eliminates pixel shifting and blending, producing 8.3 million distinct pixels for true 4K UHD HDR performance, according to BenQ. The HT9060 combines CinematicColor with Philips ColorSpark HLD LED System to reach the American film industry’s super-wide DCI-P3 color space. As a result, viewers never have to hassle with lamp replacements that can lose any brightness over time.

CEDIA & CEDIA Expo Update
CEDIA: At the beginning of 2018, CEDIA released a new three-year strategic plan that outlines significant advances and leadership in three key areas: education; increasing professionalism through standards, guidelines, and best practices; and deeper engagement and partnership with the design and build community. 2019 will see the organization fully focused on implementation. In January, CEDIA will launch 13 new online courses with 70 available by the end of 2019. The courses are set up to guide a user through an education pathway that prepares individuals for CEDIA Certification. All of these new courses will be housed in a new learning management system (LMS) offering a more streamlined user experience for those taking online training.

CEDIA Expo: CEDIA Expo returns to Denver September 10-14, 2019 at the Colorado Convention Center. Teaming up with CEPro, TechTalks will kick start the Smart Stage in 2019. TechBites, a one-day event to highlight new products and services hitting the market, will also continue the Smart Stage. Nearly 70 percent of exhibitors launched products exclusively at CEDIA Expo in 2018, and the show will continue to look for new ways to expand the non-endemic media coverage. Efforts are underway with the show agency partners for specific media outreach strategies.
Nominations are now open for Innovation Alley! CEDIA Expo is committed to the growth of the residential tech industry, and Innovation Alley is the cost-effective opportunity to mass-market at the leading event in home technology and automation. Nominate a company using the application here.

CEDIA Expo debuted the Design+Connection tour series in 2018, successfully increasing awareness of the importance of the home technology integrator for the design/build community. Attendee categories including designers, architects, and builders increased 700+ percent over 2017, and CEDIA Expo 2019 will expand upon the tour series in efforts to continue highlighting the integrator in home projects.

Technology & Business Summits: The Technology & Business Summits powered by CEDIA celebrated its tenth anniversary with record attendance at its series of regional manufacturer rep events, an expanded schedule, and unprecedented growth. Acquired by CEDIA this year, the Technology & Business Summits maintain their format as local, focused, education-oriented events, highlighted by exhibits from top manufacturers in the AV, control, and technology industry. 

Cloud9 Smart: Cloud9 Smart has positioned itself as a leader in custom home installations and a trusted advisor to architects, designers, and builders. Holding its Third Annual AIA Continuing Education Summit in October, Cloud9 Smart gave architects and designers opportunities to learn about technology in a hands-on environment. More than 100 attendees earned more than 223 total CEU credits, making it Cloud9’s biggest AIA event to date. On the cutting-edge of industry trends, Cloud9 brought together top industry manufacturers to present an eclectic mix of sessions designed to interest architects and interior designers and explore how today’s technology can elevate effective design.

Control4: Much of Control4’s recent success can be attributed to the opening of more than 150 Control4 Certified Showroom locations worldwide timed with the launch of #C4Yourself Day in May. Control4 Certified Showrooms give consumers, architects, designers, and builders the opportunity to experience a true smart home in a real life-like environment and test out products and scenes with Control4’s ecosystem of over 12,000 interoperable devices. A second #C4Yourself Day was held in October, which is expected to grow their total Certified Showroom locations to over 200 Certified Showrooms locations globally by the end of 2018.

Crestron: Available in early 2019, Crestron Home, powered by OS 3, is a new high-performance user interface for mobile devices and Crestron TSW touch screens. In tandem with Crestron hardware, OS 3 unlocks the full potential of the Crestron smart home, giving clients a user interface like they’ve never seen before: spectacular page designs, exceptional dynamic room controls and icons, and new features such as guest access, support for multiple homes, and more. OS 3 enables set up and deployment of a complete smart homes on any scale in a fraction of the time of traditional methods – no programming needed.

D-Tools: The introduction of D-Tools Cloud in 2018 changes how the D-Tools offering is implemented and used by residential integrators. The biggest product introduction in D-Tools’ history since the System Integrator (SI) platform launched in 1998, D-Tools Cloud is a powerful yet easy-to-use, multi-OS, Software-as-a-Service application. Just as the SI platform has done for 20 years, D-Tools Cloud streamlines the design, sale, and procurement of low-voltage systems, guiding users through every stage of the process. Soon to be released for commercial and security integrators, D-Tools Cloud has been completely re-imagined, capitalizing on the capabilities made possible by cloud technology.

Related: Planning for 2019 — Start Here

DISH: In 2018, DISH continued leading the TV industry in voice control by becoming the first provider to offer direct compatibility with the Google Assistant. The company also rolled out new commands for Amazon Alexa, building on the initial capabilities that were launched in May 2017. Additionally, DISH has been focused on delivering 4K content to customers, including live college football, college basketball, and MLB games from FOX Sports, and 4K HDR broadcasts, like the 2018 World Cup and Winter Olympics. These efforts helped DISH add more than 100 dealers to its Custom Integration Program this year.

HDMI Staffing: Now in business well over a year, HDMI Staffing has established a service that helps both the integrators and industry professionals of all skill levels from technicians to operations managers by placing great people into great companies on a full time basis. By personally meeting all its clients at their place of business, HDMI Staffing was able to successfully place industry personnel in markets of all shapes and sizes. They worked with clients from New York to the Hawaiian Islands, as well as places like Medford, Oregon, Bozeman, Montana, Fargo, ND, Kansas City, and Miami to name a few. Along way helping integrators grow their business and industry personnel find that career home they’ve been looking for.

HTSA: Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) announced at their Fall Conference that the American Lighting Association (ALA) has certified dozens of HTSA members as Lighting Specialists, a certification that was based on their participation in a specialized lighting curriculum offered by the lighting trade group. To achieve certification, participants must take part in ALA-sanctioned classes utilizing an approved curriculum — and complete a comprehensive final examination, earning a passing score. According to Jon Robbins, executive director of HTSA, “We anticipate an exponential leap in revenues as we continue the membership’s transformation into becoming the leading providers of lighting and AV home automation solutions in their local markets.”

Just Add Power: The company had a number of product launches this year, but, for the residential market, the VBS-HDIP-3G 509POE daisy chain power-over-ethernet receiver was the most successful. The daisy-chain receiver allows installers to add multiple network devices at the endpoint or more receivers for highly customized installations. The port also passes PoE to power to connected PoE devices. The receiver was at CEDIA Expo, which was also the site of J+P’s highly successful Queen Nation concert at the House of Blues — another 2018 highlight for the company.

LILN: The LILIN DeviceHub, introduced in August, uses the LILIN Device Cloud to store IP camera and NVR recording status, online status, and operational status. It gives the user access to this information on their mobile device. Installers benefit by having a tool to take a proactive approach for their end-user installed systems monitoring. Dealers are able to perform a remote reboot of an NVR or camera via the DeviceHub and check connectivity network status, eliminating the need to visit the client site related to initial troubleshooting. Also, the DeviceHub can be integrated with Amazon’s Alexa Dot devices for voice control of LILIN IP devices.

Lutron: Earlier this year, Lutron acquired Ketra, maker of high-performance fixtures and controls. This acquisition is important for dealers, as Lutron sees high-performance fixtures as the next big business expansion opportunity — it’s the logical next step in their business evolution. Lutron introduced lighting control and motorized shades to the CEDIA community. Lutron will spend the next year helping dealers prepare for this exciting new revenue stream, but in the meantime, get trained in lighting design and align with people locally, including architects, interior designers and electricians, as well as local chapters of trade associations.

Luxul: Releasing in Q4, the Luxul Easy Setup App will allow integrators to install a Luxul wireless router and up to two wireless access points (APs) — at the same time — from the convenience of a mobile phone. The app will greatly speed up the installation process and will ensure that key installation points are covered. It will be available as a free download from the Apple and Android stores when released. The new Easy Setup App is a simple-to-use mobile application that not only speeds up installations, but ensures the network infrastructure is installed with the appropriate settings and the latest firmware. The result is lower costs for integrators and their customers and a seamless wireless network that provides outstanding performance.

Middle Atlantic Products: MAP’s most successful product introduction this year was the High Power DC Power Distribution, which designs out unreliable wall warts and is equipped with the highest available power in the market, superior current capacity, and an industry-leading quantity of outputs, according to MAP. The DC Power Distribution lineup eliminates power constraints while offering a broad range of solutions for extreme voltage flexibility to maximum power capacity.

miniDSP: miniDSP’s 2018 highpoint came with the introduction of the SHD (Streaming High Definition) Series digital audio processor, which incorporates Dirac Live. The Dirac Live Calibration Tool walks the user through simple steps to get good measurements for great room correction. Dirac Live provides a balance of automation and control as an interactive control graph allows the user to set limits on the frequency range of correction and tailor a target curve to the listener’s own sonic desires.

Noon Home: Exhibiting at their first CEDIA Expo in 2018, Noon Home products coordinate all of the light in a room to create custom lighting designs that are controlled with one-touch via switch, app, or voice commands. At installation, sophisticated bulb detection technology uses machine learning algorithms to identify bulbs and fixtures in the room and automatically create customized lighting scenes — no programmer needed. Noon’s universal dimmer works with existing bulbs and fixtures, eliminating the need to purchase any new equipment.

OneVision Resources: OneVision’s service-centric solutions and membership offerings have taken root with the integration community in 2018, as home technology professionals embrace OneVision’s role as a director-of-service within their organization. The company works alongside company ownership to help lead and manage the service department. This model enables residential integrators to become technology managers for their customers, building long-term relationships that lead to continued success and recurring revenue. New membership programs include an enterprise-level cybersecurity offering, white-glove concierge-level services, and personalized 1-on-1 technology reviews for clients.

Platinum Tools: Platinum Tools had a win this year with the introduction of their ezEX-RJ45 shielded connectors. “Our new shielded ezEX-RJ45 connectors are designed for larger cables and conductors,” says Lee Sachs, Platinum Tools, Inc. president and general manager. “They feature a unique integrated Hi-Lo stagger load bar and allows ‘big’ conductors to pass through the front end of the connector, making it easy to verify the wiring sequence before terminating.”

Powerhouse Alliance: Throughout 2018 the PowerHouse Alliance experienced considerable growth by adding new vendors, products and categories, and distribution centers to make it easier for dealers to take advantage of its services and trainings, as well as stock the products needed for all kinds of jobs. In 2018, the PowerHouse Alliance welcomed its newest distributor member, Pioneer Music Company (PMC), to serve dealers in the Midwest, and also added new product categories to its A2V exclusive house brand of products. Dealers can now choose from racks, TV mounts, in-wall and outdoor speakers, certified HDMI cables, and subwoofers. In 2019, dealers can expect more growth from the A2V line and a continuous stream of trainings on the latest products from key vendors in the space, plus special events from the distributor members.

ProSource: ProSource is celebrating the success of their members, some of whom had big 2018s by rejuvenating their business through remodeling or expansions. Some examples include Logic Integration, Lone Tree, CO (moved to new office/showroom); Audio Video Intelligence, Easton, MA (expanded into Cape Cod); ReelTime Sight & Sound, San Juan, CA (new showroom – a home inside of a building); Wipliance, Seattle, WA (expanded into Scottsdale, AZ); Zio, Winter Park, FL (expanded into Atlanta, GA and Boston, MA); and Stereo East, Frisco, TX and Desert Valley Audio Video, Scottsdale, AZ, both of which had a major showroom renovation with the inclusion of Color Beam Lighting.

Rayva: Enabling integrators to “Bring Their Own Gear” to any Rayva project and adding reps to support dealers throughout the U.S., the world’s first supplier of engineered and fully personalized turnkey home entertainment solutions is making home theater easy with a new offering and simplified approach to the category, according to the company. Integrators can now sell and install products they know and trust while utilizing Rayva’s online Configurator and in-house architecture, design, and engineering services to reduce the time they spend on projects. Fourteen interior design options are now available that can be fully personalized to complement surrounding decor.

Roon: Roon had a big 2018. After three years with a software product, they started shipping Nucleus and Nucleus+ home audio distribution servers, which were co-developed with Intel. Roon’s interoperability means that Nucleus streams to Airplay, Chromecast, Sonos, and Roon Ready devices, and they also introduced Control4 and Crestron integration. There are now over 70 brands in the Roon ecosystem.

RTI: A significant launch for RTI in August 2018 was the RTiQ intelligent remote monitoring solution. A complete remote management solution for RTI systems, the cloud-based RTiQ makes it simple for dealers to monitor their clients’ AV installations, get real-time notifications of failures, and quickly resolve issues with the touch of a button. RTiQ can be configured to monitor RTI control ecosystem and components controlled by an RTI XP control processor. Dealers can monitor the status of these devices via a dashboard from anywhere in the world and receive email and text notifications that alert them if a failure occurs. In late August and after being live for only a few weeks, RTI had more than 1500 systems reporting into RTiQ.

Severtson Screens: Severtson Screens is proud of their new Motorized Electric Floor Projection Screens. The custom line comes available in a choice of four of Severtson’s signature projection surfaces and seven sizes (92-inch to 150-inch diagonal) or additional custom options up to 180 inches (diagonal).

Stewart Filmscreen: Stewart introduced an enhanced version of its legendary Director’s Choice four-way continuous masking system this year, the same year and during the same show (CEDIA Expo) where its prior Director’s Choice model was inducted into the CEDIA Hall of Fame.

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SureCall: SureCall had a major success fixing poor cellular service for a family in Carmel, IN. The average signal reading inside the building was worse than -105 dB, even with the original booster running (any signal lower than –100 dB indicates very spotty to unusable cell service). The outside signal was strongest on their front patio, right above where the family had placed their patio furniture, and that signal was measured at -79 dB, which provided enough signal to benefit from a well-engineered cell phone signal booster. Working with The Premier Group, who installed the SureCall Fusion5X 2.0 signal booster, five inside panel antennas, and one outside omni directional antenna, a final signal reading was taken and showed the home had an average cell signal reading of -85 dB, which meant their client had reliable Verizon cell service for calling, texting, and 4G LTE data in the majority of their home.

SurgeX: This year has been an important year of growth and development for SurgeX. At InfoComm 2018 SurgeX introduced the new Defender Series, a suite of power protection products deigned to safeguard everyday applications. This past year, several new partnerships, including an exclusive commercial distribution agreement with Herman ProAV and a distribution partnership with Amber Technology to provide SurgeX power protection products to Australia and New Zealand, were brokered in 2018. Finally, SurgeX remains committed to continued dealer, integrator, and installer education and offered a training and certification course at CEDIA Expo 2018 on diagnosing power problems with a focus on how those affect system performance.

Theory Audio Design: At CEDIA Expo 2018, Paul Hales, president of Pro Audio Technology (PRO), debuted Theory Audio Design, a new company offering customers large-scale, life-like sound, in contemporary form factors to suit any décor. Theory’s new in-wall and on-wall loudspeakers, soundbars, subwoofers, and amplified loudspeaker controllers deliver the same acoustic signature that installers and customers have come to know from Theory’s sister company, PRO, but in smaller and sexier form factors. Thanks to their uniform acoustic signature, Theory and PRO products can be combined to create system configurations ranging from a single soundbar to large multichannel Dolby Atmos systems depending on the application, budget, and end-user preferences.

Torus Power: Torus Power introduced the benefits of toroidal isolation to the mid-range market this year with the launch of its lightweight POWERBLOCK Series. Available in two models, the PB10 and PB5, POWERBLOCK series transformers have a smaller footprint, dramatically reducing rack space requirements. Weighing just 35 and 25 lbs., respectively, the PB10 and PB5 are easy to install and, unlike prior models, can fit easily in any installation without being relegated to the lower half or bottom of a rack due to size and weight. Compact and rugged, the PB Series improves AV system performance and provides protection for small yet sophisticated installations.

Trinnov: A big part of Trinnov’s 2018 success came from its use in a number of high-end showcase home theaters throughout Europe, including ones in England, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Luxembourg install was for a music and movie buff who wanted audio excellence in all its forms and chose a Trinnov Altitude 32 processor as the solution.

Vanco International: In 2018, Vanco International had one of their most successful years in the company’s 60+ year history. Experiencing tremendous growth between its four brands, including Vanco, Evolution, PulseAudio, and Beale Street Audio, the company introduced 90 new products. Two of the newest products, Spot for Dot and EVO-IP, completely wowed dealers and swept industry award categories throughout the year. Both products have been recognized repeatedly for their innovation and clever patented designs that improve residential and commercial installations alike. Vanco is on a path for persistent growth in 2019, including a very exciting product roadmap.

Z-Wave Alliance: As of November 2018, the Z-Wave wireless protocol, supported by the Z-Wave Alliance, can be found in over 2400 certified smart home devices and shipped in over 100M products. Since 2015, the Alliance membership has grown by over 60 percent, including growing interest from integrators and builder/MDU brands that are building Z-Wave into their smart home installations and new construction projects. In 2018, the Alliance participated in dozens of industry tradeshows including CES and CEDIA, hosted two member Z-Wave Summit events (one in Europe, one in the U.S.) to bring together members and key-players in the smart home industry, and launched initiatives to support the integrator community, like the PlumChoice ConnectedHome Expert program.