CEDIA celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, not by dwelling on the good-ol’ days with a lot of weepy sentimentality or overly rhapsodized reminiscing of what once was, but by hosting a convention where actual product innovation was on display from manufacturers new and old that were clearly re-invigorated and re-energized by their once-again busy dealer partners.
No longer are we fixated on attendance numbers from our bellwether EXPO trade show, a lack of exciting new products, or even the quality of restaurants and hotels in our host city because the show floor was busier, technical training and business classes were often sold out, and manufacturers were happy with their quality leads and business prospects.
It was a relief to finally return to business and product conversations that focused on the promises of the future, rather than worrying about what had been lost. There will still be questions, for sure, as traditionally high-end AV-centric integrators try to figure out their place within a world of mass-market internet of things apps and devices, and as IT network design and implementation remains a prerequisite in the integrated home. But with business picking up for integrators around the country as homebuilders get back to work building homes, and banks loosen up credit lines for small businesses and product developers, there’s a refreshed enthusiasm for innovative tools, toys, and technologies that cater to the CI channel.
For me, there were finally more stories to tell as well, about new surround sound formats for home theaters and massive flat-panel TVs and commercial-grade laser projectors. Video was back on the EXPO show floor! Whereas last year felt like a gadget show where exhibitors were touting black boxes that solved problems for technology that wasn’t fully cooked, this year was much more technically diverse, with equal bits high-end audio and video vying for attention in demo rooms around the convention hall. There also was a clear resurgence from veteran companies that offered refreshed designs for established product categories such as in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, and excitement as new companies entered the mix with fresh ideas and traditionally commercial focused projector companies entered the channel seeking new opportunities in what they see as a growth market. Wow! CEDIA as a growth market again.
The 25th birthday of CEDIA also afforded time for nostalgia as the association honored one of its pioneers, Frank White, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. White didn’t disappoint during his Awards Banquet acceptance speech, with his irreverent stories of the early years and gratitude toward all who have made this industry what it has become. But as much as White reminded the audience to thank those who built “custom installation,” he also represents the business of today, as he continues to engage with manufacturers and service providers as a consultant, remaining active in the industry that may be as exciting today as it was a quarter of a century ago.