Control & Automation

Top 5 Home Tech Trends and Opportunities for 2017: From Voice Control to VR

CE Pro presents the Top 5 trends for home-technology integrators to watch for 2017: voice control for home automation, virtual reality and augmented reality, device discovery and data collection, new models in tech deployment, and fiber in the home.

Top 5 Home Tech Trends and Opportunities for 2017: From Voice Control to VR
CE Pro's Top 5 Home Technology Trends for 2017 are ... voice control for home automation, virtual reality, device discovery and data collection, technology deployment models and fiber prewiring.

Julie Jacobson · February 15, 2017

4. New Models in Tech Deployment  |  jason knott

The traditional models for how home technology is purchased and then installed by consumers were turned upside down in 2016. There used to be just a few options available. Consumers could:

  1. Buy products online or at a local shop and try to install it themselves.
  2. Hire a mass-market provider such as the Geek Squad, Comcast or ADT.
  3. Commission a custom integrator to design and install a system.

Suppliers Mix it Up, Too

Consumers aren't the only ones seeking modern-day shopping experiences (e-commerce) and painless delivery processes.

The digital revolution is also taking hold at the business-to-business level. Companies like SnapAV and Sonance led the way with portals for dealers to purchase products across a broad range of products and track their orders.

Control4 followed suit, and then Core Brands. After just one year, about 60 percent of Core Brands purchases now come through its portal. 

AVAD announced recently it would be less centered on its 23 physical locations and shift to a model focused on centralized hubs. And Russound recently outsourced its inventory to a third-party logistics company, reducing the need for a warehouse (that needs to be heated during New England winters).

Today — inspired by Millennials and the larger on-demand economy — new choices have emerged for deploying both DIY and pro-centric solutions. Providers now offer same-day delivery, on-demand installs, remote commissioning, pay-as-you go security monitoring, leased equipment, corporate brick-and-mortar stores, and “free” gear from utilities, homebuilders and other self-interested parties.

Popular websites that offer “Do It For Me” installation service are,,,,, and Some integrators are embracing the new paradigm, and finding success.

Richard Berrie, president of iHummingbird in Delray Beach, Fla., is aligned as an installation resource for several of the online referral services to garner leads.

“What I realized is that you need to be in front of your customers in any way you can,” he notes. “ came out one year after I did. They ripped off some of my concepts. I take that as a compliment.”

Hand in hand with these new lead-gen sources is the need for transactional-type websites. iHummingbird designed its company website to cater to the on-demand generation with a fully transparent menu of entry-level name-brand products with labeled installation prices; however, it does not handle e-commerce.

“I wanted people to feel that home automation is something that they can afford,” says Berrie. “There are no hidden fees, so I post the install prices for those simple devices. I want them to get a taste of the type of service that we provide. Once they get that experience, they are going to trust us for everything else. And they do. They always want a whole bunch more stuff and they refer us to their friends.”

But while the website menu shows Nest, Sonos, Apple TV, Ring, August and other recognizable consumer brand names, the company is not aimed at entry-level customers. Indeed, iHummingbird’s average installation is $35,000, but consumers can still access the company for installation for less than $1,000. The company offers a basic service level in which devices are installed but not integrated, and an elite level that connects devices using Savant.

The company does not install any hardwired audio or video distribution, DVD players or receivers.

“When I started iHummingbird, everyone told me I was crazy … that these products offered no margin and I was turning my back on the industry,” comments Berrie.

He’s not alone. Integrator Refresh Smart Home in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has taken it to the next level by allowing e-commerce on its website for installation. Homeowners can order packaged installation solutions for security, indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

According to Mike Ham, VP of business development, Refresh Smart Home is selling and installing about 150 Nest thermostats per month from its website leads.

5. Fiber in the Home  |  bob archer

Increasing bandwidth needs driven by 4K with HDR boost demand for fiber in the home. Wireless, not copper, is the biggest inhibitor to fiber deployment.

“There is no such thing as ‘future-proof’ in our industry. We don’t use the word anymore,” says Dennis Sage, president of CE Pro 100 integrator Dennis Sage Home Entertainment (DSHE) in Phoenix.  His statement sums up the challenge integrators face with ever-increasing demand for more bandwidth in the home. It’s one reason DSHE now installs conduit to accommodate fiber whenever possible.

Robert D’Addario, president and managing director, Cleerline Technology, echoes that, saying that in addition to A/V, emerging markets like the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving interest in fiber.

Terminating Fiber Onsite

Terminating fiber in the field used to be daunting, but not anymore.

“It takes 20 seconds to terminate fiber,” says Marty Hayse, director of purchasing at Dennis Sage Home Entertainment. “It’s not an issue.”

In the past, fiber termination equipment was expensive, it was a slow process, and the cable was fragile. It was also potentially dangerous for technicians, who were susceptible to getting micro-particles of glass in their eyes.

Today, affordable termination kits allow techs to terminate both single-mode and multi-mode fiber efficiently and much cleaner. Installers will need a fiber-optic cleaver, visual fault locator, fiber strippers and Kevlar shears.

DSHE takes the cable service providers’ signal and typically drops five to six fiber runs in a home, at a cost of only about $400 to $600. Hayse says the only drawback that remains is pulling the cable, which can stretch. Using conduit can help avoid that problem.

“What works today might not work tomorrow. I’m a big advocate of putting in an infrastructure that you know you’ll be able to utilize regardless of the format of the future,” D’Addario explains. “Traditionally that was coax, then Cat 5e, then Cat 6, but now we’re saying emphatically fiber.”

4K with HDR is a perfect example of the dilemma dealers are facing. While standard passive HDMI cable is still viable for single-room applications as much as 30 feet, fiber may become the de facto solution to routing full 4K@60Hz with HDR at a 4:4:4 chroma subsampling rate to multiple displays, or when simply connecting between component racks to displays, projectors, satellite dishes, and even access points.

For integrators, it’s problematic because when incompatibility issues with HDMI crop up, the signal goes black; but with 4K the homeowner might still view images, just not with HDR.

Imaging Science Foundation’s Joel Silver says the current Ultra HD Blu-ray players are outputting data rates of roughly 13.5Gbps. Once these signals hit an A/V receiver or switcher, they get squeezed down to about 9Gbps and the HDR is gone.

The bottom line, Silver says, is the performance falls short of what clients are paying for when contracting with installation professionals. “The information that came out for years with HDMI is that it was proposing you would get the picture, but it’s not the picture you are paying for,” he says.

Fiber has become a solution to the 4K with HDR problem.

“Fiber is laughing at our HDMI signals,” says Eric Bodley of Future Ready Solutions, noting fiber is certified to send signals at 100GB speeds, while the consumer electronics industry is only asking for 18GB.

Fiber is still more expensive, but the prices have come down. According to Marty Hayse, director of purchasing at DSHE, the cost of fiber is not an issue, especially when compared to Cat 7 or Cat 8 cable.

“The biggest competitor to fiber deployment in the home is wireless, not copper,” he notes. DSHE installs fiber in about 10 percent of the new custom homes it deploys, but the rest of the time it is still a battle with builders and homeowners who are convinced everything needs to be wireless and shun all infrastructure wiring.

Meanwhile, manufacturers like Metra Home Theater Group, Celerity, Tributaries, DVIGear, Cleerline and Straight Wire among others are examining the capabilities of fiber and rolling out products.

Top 5 Home Tech Trends: Looking Back

2016  [read]
  • Audio and Video Analytics
  • DC Power Distribution
  • 4K Ecosystem 
  • The Front Door 
  • User Empowerment in Home Automation

2015  [read]

  • Production home building
  • Immersive home entertainment
  • Engaging home automation
  • The aware home
  • Cloud-based networking 

2014  [read]

  • High-Resolution Audio
  • Mass-Market Home Automation
  • Cloud Video Surveillance
  • More Sensor Opportunities
  • Automated Door Locks

2013  [read]

  • Enterprise-Grade Home Networks
  • Headphones
  • Wireless Audio
  • Motorized Shades
  • 4K Ultra HD TV

2012  [read]

  • Self-contained security/automation
  • LED lighting
  • Computer audio
  • Voice, gesture, alternative controls
  • The cloud

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

Control & Automation · Automation · Whole House Control · Networking & Cables · News · Business · Amazon · Echo · Fiber · Google · Top 5 · Voice Control · All Topics
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