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Julie Jacobson’s CEDIA 2015 Post Mortem: Trends, Opportunities & Standouts

CE Pro founding editor Julie Jacobson recaps CEDIA Expo 2015, highlighting technology trends and a few “winners.”

Photos & Slideshow

The thing about CEDIA Expo is that it keeps on giving. One or two months after the show, trends start to gel and new products begin to make sense. This piece first appeared in the December issue of CE Pro (Industry Insider), which means I wrote it in early November, just a few weeks after Expo 2015. I've added a few tidbits to it, but mostly I think it holds up nicely two months after the show. But … I have not yet gotten around to featuring a few important game-changers at CEDIA: Clare Controls, Roomie Remote/Simple Control, SnapAV OvrC and Comcast/Xfinity (what?!). Coming soon, I promise. – JJ

It's hard to pack CEDIA Expo into three days, much less a short blog, but a girl can try. Here's my take on trends and opportunities from CEDIA 2015, with a few “JJ awards” for the standouts.

I counted over a dozen exhibitors showing motorized shades (see videos) – way more than usual – with Crestron taking the JJ prize for two innovations: 1) an Angled Coupler that joins two shades in and around corners, leaving a mere two-inch gap between them, and 2) a duh-I-should-have-thought-of-that system that turns manual into motorized shades with the simple insertion of a motor.

ShutterEaze gets an honorable mention for its motorized shutter mechanism.

Also in the window-treatment category, BTX exhibited for the first time in many years, showing a complete home-automation system (including BTX motorized shades) based on Bluetooth (BLE) mesh network technology.

Elsewhere on the show floor, Ilumi showed smart bulbs with BLE mesh. Is this the beginning of BLE mesh as a viable home automation protocol? Yes, yes it is. The spec should be ratified in 2016.

But as far as home automation standards go, Z-Wave takes the JJ prize for CEDIA. Now led by former integrator and CEDIA chairman Mitch Klein, the Z-Wave Alliance launched a dealer-certification program and presented three training sessions that were packed solid. Z-Wave is supposed to be soooo consumer friendly, but it takes some training to make it work flawlessly. #HireaZPro

As with window coverings, motorized TV mounts came out swinging this year (get it?). At least a dozen companies showed mounts that flipped up from under the bed, down over the bed, out over the fireplace, around corners and up into the atmosphere in the case of Stealth Acoustics (videos below). This category has become a huge opportunity for integrators. I, for one, must have a motorized articulating mount.



10 Big Home Automation Trends at CES 2016

Free Webinar, Dec. 16, 2015, presented by CE Pro's Julie Jacobson

Since it will be featured in the January “Trends” issue, I won't harp on the emerging 4K ecosystem here, but CEDIA 2015 will be remembered as the year it all started coming together – content, HDCP 2.2-compliant hardware, the HDR wow factor and a quorum of HDMI cable-certification bodies (first DPL Labs, now UL and HDMI LLC).

Sony takes the JJ prize for the $60,000 VPL-VW5000ES projector that had CEDIA folks waiting in line for a glimpse of the demo all day every day. Kaleidescape grabs an honorable mention for giving our channel the best possible 4K movie-viewing experience with the new Strato Ultra HD player.

Complementing 4K at CEDIA was immersive audio (Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D), especially new solutions that don't require in-ceiling speakers. SpeakerCraft showed those sleek upward-firing in-walls for the JJ prize, and Yamaha launched an Atmos-enabled soundbar just after the show.

Also in the audio department, we saw some traction around Play-Fi, the DTS whole-house wireless protocol that kind of competes with Apple AirPlay. The custom industry needs it. We have proprietary wireless solutions from Sonos, Denon (Heos) and Yamaha (MusicCast), but Play-Fi is open to all.

At CEDIA, we saw Play-Fi-enabled speakers, soundbars, amps, streamers and services from Paradigm, MartinLogan, Definitive Technology, Polk, Wren, Arcam, McIntosh, Tidal, Spotify Connect and more.


For the JJ prize, the Play-Fi Server ($999) from Fusion Research enables Play-Fi audio components to integrate with third-party home control systems including Crestron, Control4, RTI and URC.

Oddly enough, intercoms are making a huge comeback, as we'll highlight in January's Top 5 Trends.

Elan made the category a centerpiece of its CEDIA display. RTI enabled the intercom feature on its T3x remote. Control4 announced its fancy new door station. Yale introduced a sweet peephole cam with Z-Wave and ZigBee. Long-time category leaders Channel Vision and Holovision keep cranking out new video intercom systems that integrate with third-party controllers. And so much more.

We have discussed on CEPro.com the emergence of DC power distribution solutions from the likes of Rosewater Energy (giant batteries), as well as lower-voltage lighting systems from Innovative Lighting, Rimikon, Illumadrive and Coastal Source. We'll cover this category in depth in January.

None of this even touches on one of the hottest new categories at CEDIA: software and services for business and project management. I counted more than 20 exhibitors with tools for designing systems, bidding and selling jobs, buying equipment, tracking labor and generally running more efficient and profitable businesses.

Furthermore, manufacturers themselves are overhauling their dealer portals to improve the spec'ing and shopping experience.

Core Brands launched a portal for all of its brands. HTSN and HTSA announced an e-commerce site for members of their buying groups. Control4 continues to add product lines to its online store (Denon was announced after the show). And SnapAV continues to set the standard. Expect much more on this category in a future issue of CE Pro.

And still, many will complain, “There was nothing new at CEDIA.”


JULIE JACOBSON image image image image

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

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


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