Spotlight on InfoComm


7 Commercial Market Takeaways from CEDIA 2016

Tim Albright highlights the major themes of residential-focused CEDIA, including Amazon Echo’s voice control and networking for AV, and why commercial integrators need to know about these trends.

Tim Albright
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Even before CEDIA 2016 opened its doors on Thursday morning, there were announcements and press releases of disparate companies working together like one big happy family.

1. Sonos for Everyone

The week before CEDIA, Sonos kicked off the “let’s all get along” theme by announcing a number of partnerships. Crestron seems to have the deepest integration in that a few of their touch panels can also act as receivers. Lutron, Control4, Amazon Echo and other control systems have Sonos integration.

2. Speaking of Alexa

Everyone’s friend at CEDIA was Amazon Echo, or “Alexa” as that is the default start command. Alexa is a voice controlled interface to play music, order items from Amazon, connect with other IoT devices, and now control your home or conference room in conjunction with other AV control manufacturers.

Photos: 7 CEDIA Products Bound to Impact the Commercial Market

As part of Alexa’s setup process, there are “skills” you have to enable. When you enable a skill, this allows the user to say “Alexa, do this.” For most of the skills that involve other companies, you’ve needed to tell Alexa to access that device. So, to control your Nest thermostat you’ve needed to say “Alexa, tell Nest to make it 70 degrees,” and your Nest would adjust the temperature.

3. Control4 Skills

What makes this new announcement significant is the native skills from Control4. Once the skills are setup you can say “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” and Alexa will then natively interface with them to make that happen.

This is a significant step forward in voice control. One of the stumbling blocks to voice control integration is the non-natural phrases you have to learn and say. This announcement eliminates a major hurdle to making voice control a real player in residential control systems.

4. Crestron’s Spin on Voice Control

Crestron also has some non-native phrases that puts a different spin on voice control. Users have the ability to say “Alexa, tell Crestron it’s dark in here” and that will begin an automated process to turn on certain lights.

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Another example is “Alexa, tell Crestron it’s cold in here” and that will adjust the HVAC system. This may differentiate Crestron enough that it becomes a positive selling point. Or, those extra words to remember and say may turn out to be a stumbling block for users that makes it less likely to use. Once a system has been commissioned and used, we will have more insight on the real world uses.

Control4 also announced integration with Z-Wave. This is a sign that Control4 is making more inroads with others. Now that its purchase of Pakedge is complete and the assimilation of the networking company is pretty complete, Control4 is expanding its borders.

The Z-Wave products are only a handful to begin with, but once the dealers have a feel for how they all work together, look for more Control4/Z-Wave products.

5. Z-Wave’s Philosophy

Speaking of Z-Wave, Mitch Klein, the head of the alliance, spoke a phrase to me that has stuck with me—“Do it with me.”

Klein says there have been two types of clients; “Do it for me” and “Do it yourself.” This third category has the potential to allow the residential dealer to provide value back into the relationship with their clients.

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There will always be some form of DIY product in the home AV market. It’s when the home owner tries to install them that they realize it is a more complex operation. That is when they call you, their trusted technology advisor.

You have the opportunity then to walk them through the process, demonstrate the value of your knowledge, and charge them a small fee for helping them. It could be a one-time fee or a yearly “subscription” to your knowledge bank.

6. What Josh.Al Brings to the Table

Josh.AI made some significant noise for a small booth on Rookie Road. On the face of it, Josh.AI is another voice control system. It can be its own stand-alone control system. What really sets it apart from other control platforms is that it will also work with others as a top layer.

Imagine if your client had an existing control system but wanted to add voice control that wasn’t the aforementioned Alexa. You would add Josh.AI to the system and interface with their app. The voice control runs through their app and the speech recognition is quite impressive.

Networking was also a major theme of CEDIA 2016. In a recent interview with Hagai Feiner of Access Networks, Feiner said that the network has become the center of the residential AV system—not just control or lighting, but the center point of everything. He couldn’t have been more right.

The residential audio visual integrator has more responsibility when it comes to the network than their commercial counterparts. In most cases they are the IT and AV expert on the job. This makes components like Access Networks, ihiji, Pakedge, and others incredibly important to the residential dealer. In addition, CEDIA is offering up more classes on the subject of networking for AV.

7. Origin Acoustics’ Impressive Story

Finally there was the Cinderella story that is Jeremy Burkhardt and Origin Acoustics. The former SoundCraft head introduced the channel to his latest endeavor, Origin Acoustics.

At this year’s CEDIA they had a number of pretty remarkable announcements. First is the fact that OA has passed $100 million in sales in just two years. Think about that. A brand new company that is just two years old has passed $100 million in sales.

In addition, they have a new partnership with Bang and Olufsen. Origin will make the speakers and B and O will turn them into “speaker jewelry” as Burkhardt called it.

CEDIA 2016 was a fairly good success. The booths seemed busy, the walkways were crowded but not impassable, and the overall energy was good.

Last year Vin Bruno had just been hired as CEDIA head, so we can safely call this one the first one that had his stamp, and you could tell. From the energy to the announcements to the inclusion of the types of technology, it was, indeed, a great show.