12 Smart-Home Predictions for 2017: VR, Voice, Sound, Homekit, More

How will we see virtual reality, voice control, Apple HomeKit, video steaming and immersive sound evolve in the next year? 12 home-tech pros, some dealers and some manufacturers, offer predictions for 2017.


2016 has been called the break-out year for voice control, virtual reality and IoT in the home.

We've seen a huge increase in Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D-enabled audio products, and even the possible beginning of immersive sound cooperation.

We've spoken to several integrators making huge headway in the elusive field of recurring revenue.

The question is, where will we find ourselves in 2017?

CE Pro caught up with dealers and manufacturers across the industry to ask their predictions for the year ahead. Some are natural progressions of what we're already seeing, some are controversial, and some we'll be looking back at in a year thinking, wow — that one was on the nose.

Home Technology Will Become Easier to Use, Smarter and More Secure

For consumers, ease of use and security (of the system) remains one of the top driving factors for the adoption of smart home technology. We predict that ease of use will continue to be a key motivator for home automation, and we will see increased efforts around encryption and authentication of physical security and home automation systems in the market in 2017. 

Given the adoption rate of in-home security cameras, we expect video and audio analytics will become a trend with profound impact on the market in 2017 and beyond. Smart home sensors will be able to monitor for more data variables and detect nuanced changes in the environment, and increased analytical power will be the first step towards enabling systems to make limited conclusions to offer suggestions back to the user to create new rules or policies. 

We expect more hype around voice-controlled devices, such as those offered by Amazon and Google, as well as others. These devices as well as the underlying Natural Language Processing (ability to understand context and synonymous terms) will make it easier to operate security and home automation systems. — Robert Beliles, SVP product management and marketing, Nortek Security & Control

Streaming Will Rule Home Entertainment

In home entertainment, we’re seeing a few shifts happening. More and more customers are opting out of having a cable box, and are choosing streaming services and apps such as a smart TV, Roku or Apple device. It’s a mega-trend, and cable companies are responding to it by focusing more on their internet service than the cable channels.

With that comes internet speed that has increased this year, and now we’re able to sell better networks. Before people weren’t looking to spend a lot on networking, and now it’s becoming more popular, which is helping us as a dealer when interest drops in other categories.

HDMI matrix switching is an example, where the smart TVs and streaming apps are becoming the new trend. We’re combating it by focusing on providing high-quality audio. Because the prices of TVs and projectors are coming down, it leaves room for customers to focus on high-quality audio and automation.

We provide Control4 automation systems which, with the new controllers, provides significantly better sound quality than most other services. So we’re trying to switch everyone to using Control4 for streaming audio, where they can also incorporate automation. — Gene Crawford, president, Crawford Entertainment

We'll See Breakthroughs in Immersive Sound

Moving forward, we see advancing breakthroughs in 3D surround, and the way in which sound is applied to home cinema in general. 

Continuing to work with our alpha level partners like Dolby, DTS and Auro, we look to spearhead building better theaters based not only on 4K and HDR, but also by leveraging how sound impacts the emotional states of end users, creating a greater overall experience. We may even have some surprises up our sleeve, in this regard, for 2017. — Richard Fairbrother, director of sales for North America, Datasat

Do-It-With-Me Will Grow; Media Rooms Will Move In on Home Theater Terrain

Through the end of this year we’ve seen a few things happen in home theater and automation. Millennials are driving interest in DIY product, where they buy devices through retail and online, and want assistance for setup – the do-it-with-me approach.

In our business in 2016 we’ve seen a downturn in the primary home-theater market, but interest is growing in media rooms that serve the general purpose of a living room, equipped with surround sound and flat screens.

The interest in automated home products is growing overall, and Technology Design Associates has seen business grow for security cameras, both interior and exterior. — Ron Wanless, President, Technology Design Associates

Virtual Reality Will (Finally) Come to Home Theater

As we head into 2017, I see an increase in use of Virtual Reality, larger screens and a return to dedicated home theater spaces. We’ve already seen the tip of the iceberg in Virtually Reality; expect to see more companies leveraging this technology as we move from 2D CAD files, to 3D renderings onscreen and now on to VR headsets to show consumers exactly how things can look.

As newer, better projectors have come to market, I see consumers going for the same experience they had in the movie theaters in their home with larger and larger screens, think 160” and larger. And those larger screens will be part of more and more dedicated home theaters. After all, long after the latest Star Wars movie is gone from the theaters, fans are going to want to watch it again at home and what better way to watch it again is in your own home theater on a truly BIG screen. — Robert Keeler, VP of sales, residential market, Stewart Filmscreen

Expect a Networking Category Boom

With the growth of the home automation category, more and more connected devices are being added to the home network causing it to slow down and be less reliable. I predict that the networking category will grow substantially in 2017, with integrators upgrading and building more robust networks for their clients.

I also see security surveillance in the home increasing. As consumers continue to cut the cords while adding more wireless devices in and around the home, wireless networks and supporting products will need to be stronger than ever. — Dennis Holzer, executive director, PowerHouse Alliance

The Immersive Audio Channel Count Could Double

I predict that with the introduction of new, more powerful DSP chips, we are going to see the introduction of surround sound preamplifiers capable of processing a greater number of immersive audio channels beyond today's 12 channel (7.1.4 or 9.1.2) limitation. The channel count could easily double, and this is exciting! — Paul Hales, president, Pro Audio Technology

Recurring Revenue Will Solve Network Issues

It’s not the tools, resources, clients or pricing that prevents dealers from finding success with Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR); it’s finding the time and making the commitment. The good news is that there are more solutions, services and opportunities than ever to save dealers time and make RMR a reality.

In 2017, dealers will still struggle to find time to make RMR a meaningful part of their business, but they will make solid headway. With recurring revenue, the earlier you start, the more you’ll have to show in following years. Progress with RMR in 2017 will tee up a meaningful recurring revenue stream for 2018 success.

2017 is the year of network nightmares, but don’t worry, there is hope! Here are a few numbers to think about: 150Mbps, 300Mbps, 1,000Mbps. These are new ISP speeds hitting the market nationally that share one thing in common — they’re all greater than 100Mbps. 

What does this the mean for integrators? It’s time to overhaul those old networks by upgrading wiring, switches, routers and sluggish Wi-Fi! There’s a catch — how do you know when your client networks aren’t performing or which clients are due for an equipment upgrade? That’s where Remote Systems Management, device monitoring, network discovery and solid documentation come in. Unlock a huge revenue opportunity by helping your customers solve their network nightmares. — Mike Maniscalco, co-founder, Ihiji

Apple Will Become Major Player, More Mergers & Acquisitions On the Way

Apple HomeKit will finally become a player in the smart home race, with voice control (Siri) and a rapidly growing ecosystem (see our HomeKit/Z-Wave technology demo at CES 2017).

There will be less appetite from investors and larger companies to invest in early stage companies, resulting in sudden and unexpected mergers & acquisitions. Many of the smaller startups at CES won’t be around next year as they discover that hardware and consumer adoption is hard work. 

Meanwhile, service providers will make a huge dent in consumer acceptance in smart homes as Verizon and Comcast battle for mind-share.

Standards and platforms will continue to announce new versions, continuing to fragment the industry without necessarily delivering on the promise. Z-Wave will quietly continue to grow its dominance in smart home adoption and ecosystem. — Mitchell Klein, executive director, Z-Wave Alliance

Voice Control & Network Management Will Be Essential

This year we saw the trend of voice control grow. Voice control opens the door to more convenience and will become a control mechanism that consumers rely on and even expect in 2017. Whether it’s control of one single light, to entire scenes that can control multiple devices in unison — such as thermostats, shades, music and more — we see voice control as the next big feature of a truly smart home.

We’ve seen increased interest from consumers in high-resolution audio and streaming music and believe that’s going to continue to grow in 2017. As consumers continue to add more and more devices into their system, network management is also going to become even more crucial. That makes network management even more of a necessity for dealers because more homes are relying on connectivity, even without home automation systems.

More than ever, dealers are going to need to be able to tap into the system remotely to see the status and performance and diagnose or fix issues on the network in real-time. Network management will become an expectation from more consumers, whether it’s just a part of the regular service provided by a dealer or part of a monthly maintenance fee. – Brad Hintze, senior director product marketing, Control4

Home Technology Market Will See Significant Growth

We have seen steady growth for the past few years and we expect that trend to continue through 2017. Demographics suggest that we are in a period of sustained, low to moderate growth for the overall economy in North America.

In the home technology space, I believe that voice command, higher quality wireless technology and overall system affordability will fuel the growth to a level beyond what we have seen in recent years as we reach a broader range of consumers with these technologies. 

In the high performance home technology segment, we are also seeing more confidence in the economy that is contributing to moderate growth in the segment and in our overall business results.  We expect growth in this segment within the range of 6 percent to 12 percent in 2017, and we are planning for our business growth to be within the range of 20 percent to 35% percent in the coming year. — Kevin Main, president, Torus Power

It's Time to Stress Power Protection & Remote Monitoring

The need for power is the common thread that connects the systems and technologies we rely on daily. From systems that keep us safe and make our lives easier such as home automation and security systems, to the AV systems used daily to entertain, or the sensitive electronics that make us more productive at work, power connects them all. As more of these systems come online every day, the technologies that back up and protect these devices need to be stronger than ever.

In 2017, we’ll see dealers stressing the importance of a solid power foundation to safeguard their customers’ investment in any system, and renewed focus on remote monitoring on the power level. This will gives dealers the ability to investigate power problems in clients’ homes and job sites without rolling a truck, and will start to shift the way service calls are conducted. Because of this, in the next year we’ll see dealers start to have even better relationships with their customers. — Rick Komendera, sales manager, AMETEK Electronic Systems Protection