Top 5 Home Tech Opportunities for 2013
Our annual prediction of five technologies for integrators to watch (and make money from).
Wireless Audio: Big Growth from Old Category
By Julie Jacobson
2013 promises to be a breakout year for wireless audio in the custom installation channel. The category is a relatively old one, but it hasn’t really caught on among professional integrators.
For more than a decade, Sonos has dominated the channel with high-quality, easy-to-use wireless multiroom audio systems. The category only grew stronger since the housing bust, with more integrators moving into the retrofit market. More than one dealer has intimated that “Sonos saved my business.”
In 2012, more integrators (38 percent) used Sonos products in the past two years than any other multiroom audio system, including the most popular hardwired brands. Furthermore, 18 percent of integrators said Sonos was their most frequently used brand of multiroom audio, topping the charts of the CE Pro research.
During CEDIA Expo 2012, virtually every major brand in home audio demonstrated some type of wireless solution, both for home theater and multiroom applications. Our channel now sees wireless in places it hasn’t gone before: in-wall speakers (WASP audio), commercial (Eos), voice-controlled systems (Voco), outdoor speakers and high-end DACs, just to name a few.
One of the most anticipated products of the year comes from NuVo Technologies, which is now shipping a multizone solution that includes amplifiers and a tablet interface.
NuVo president David Rodarte says newer technologies have spurred the rash of new offerings in wireless audio, especially high-performance solutions tailored to the custom channel.
“We certainly didn’t have the tools to draw upon the last couple of years,” he says. “How do you get the audio synchronized? How do you get it packetized?”
But it isn’t just the newer technologies that are making wireless audio palatable - indeed, desirable - for integrators and their customers.
NuVo is one of several manufacturers ready to challenge Sonos as the dominant player in wireless audio.
“I really think it’s a lot more about access to content,” Rodarte says. “The content has changed: streaming content, mobile content, cloud-based …. The delivery system is key.”
He also suggests that a move to more decentralized music systems – versus homerun centralized products – has been a “key driver” for wireless audio.
There’s yet another compelling case for wireless audio: AirPlay. Custom-friendly manufacturers from Russound to Crestron are building the Apple technology into their speakers and sources, and mass-market products abound, making AirPlay a household name for virtually any Apple adopter. Other key players in the category include Proficient and Monster.
Selling Wireless ‘by the Tons’
Elite Media Solutions, a relatively high-end integration firm in Wellesley Hills, mass., has thrived on sonos for years.
“We literally buy them by the tons,” says Elite field manager Frederick Paradis.
Now the company is making room for tons more business in wireless audio, thanks to the introduction of NuVo’s new Wireless Audio system, which can be more easily integrated into a whole-house entertainment and automation system. Previously, the company kluged together an Autonomic mirage media server with wireless squeezebox devices for retrofit applications.
Unlike many integration companies that shy away from wireless audio, Paradis says Elite is “not at all” reluctant to spec such products. in fact, he says, the company enjoys additional profits from sales of robust networking solutions that stabilize wireless audio.
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 email@example.com
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