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13 Predictions About How Industry Will Look in 20 Years

Will big racks disappear? Will consumers be able to subsidize home theaters? Jason Knott looks into his crystal ball.


CE Pro editor Jason Knott in 1991. Does it surprise you that he was a geek even back then?
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Move over Amazing Kreskin. As CE Pro marks the start of its third decade serving the custom electronics industry, I decided to gaze into my crystal ball and foretell what the industry will look like 20 years from now.

Am I crazy? So much in the industry has changed since CE Pro’s inception in 1994. No one could have predicted the technological developments of the past two decades. I mean, we have a tough time picking the Hot Technologies to Watch for 2013, let alone trying to predict what things will look like in two decades. But here goes:

Entry-level Home Automation Will be Prevalent: We are already seeing successes from integrators like ADT and Vivint with their minimalistic lighting/security/HVAC control combination. This approach will continue to grow. I predict there will be 30 percent to 50 percent household penetration of home automation by 2033.

Big Racks Will Disappear: As more cloud-based systems develop, the need for big racks of equipment will go away. This will mean that home networks will be the basis of your business, not A/V.

No More A/V Retail: Custom will be king. With the continuing growth of the Internet, it will be too difficult to maintain the overhead on a retail storefront.

Cameras Everywhere: As much as audio and video have become staple categories for integrators, I expect surveillance cameras to be nearly as strong. They will be ubiquitous 20 years from now.

Projectors Continue to Grow: Remember in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” how homes had one-, two-, and three-walled home theaters? It will be here in 20 years for sure.

Subsidized Home Theater: It’s only a matter of time before finance companies wake up to the fact that custom integrators will sell a lot more home theaters if consumers could make monthly payments.

Thriving Independent Installation Channel: Back in the 1980s when Brink’s created the low-cost alarm system and the Regional Bell Operating Companies were invading the security industry, everyone predicted the death of the independent installer. It didn’t happen then and I don’t see it happening by 2033. I believe certain consumers will still gravitate to professional installers.

Installation Codes Will Develop: Currently, residential fire alarm systems are the only low-voltage area that must be installed and inspected by municipal code. By 2033, I expect the government will want to get permit and inspection fees for installations of burglar alarms, home automation systems and even home theaters.

Apple Will Pay More Attention to Custom: If Apple wants to continue to be considered a high-end product, it will have to lend even more support to Mac-based automation and control systems, not to mention A/V.

Integrators Will Sell and Deploy Household Robots: It will start with robotic vacuum cleaners and progress to interactive robots that will take commands for an automation system.

Related: Introduction to Reselling Household Robots

CE Pro Will be Digital and Online Only: The publishing industry is already seeing weaker publications go to digital-only formats. As more integrators become accustomed to getting their news via tablets, smartphones and laptops, the print edition will eventually go away. (I hope I keep my job for that prediction!)

Integrators Will Do Electrical Work: The market conditions will require low-voltage integrators to do line-voltage also. If you don’t it will be tough to survive.

Bonus Prediction: Justin Bieber will not be President, but only because he is Canadian.

For those of you who plan to still be in the custom installation business in 2033 and are devoted enough to save this column until then to see how accurate (or inaccurate) my 13 predictions were, God bless you.

Well, where am I wrong or right, and what’s missing?



  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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