Having participated in 25 CEDIA Expos in a variety of roles — attendee, installation business owner, instructor, exhibitor and press, I have many stories to tell. What began as small get-togethers in the early years with fewer than 1,000 attendees eventually grew to the extravagant events, awards banquet and late-night parties we now see. With amazing new technologies, CEDIA Expos never disappoint. 

This year’s CEDIA Expo once again drew attendees from around the world. This year’s show attracted 18,750 attendees and technology lovers with anticipated product announcements, new revenue opportunities and some innovative surprises as well. Attendance was slightly above last year’s 18,700, with 500 exhibitor booths, a quarter of them new.

So what were my key takeaways? They fall into five main areas: the network, mainstream offerings, today’s trends, looking ahead, and interesting surprises and gadgets. Let’s take a look at each of them.

It Starts With a Strong Network
The network is the backbone of the integrated home. But now, it’s not only the skeletal structure, it’s the nervous system, continually sending and receiving signals in, around and outside the home. It’s also the circulatory system maintaining homeostasis, defined as “the maintenance and regulation of the stability and constancy needed to function properly,” in the connected home for our connected lives. The adage is true: “Own the network, own the home and own the customer,” and there were plenty of products and services available to help ensure a healthy network, including Wi-Fi streaming devices, wireless routers, bridging outdoor access points, network monitoring and management devices, technical support services, and even a social network to connect professionals who need assistance with other professionals.

New Technology Becomes Mainstream
Next, many systems have moved from new technology to mainstream offerings. Lighting control technologies and products are now affordable and reliable, with many options to select from. Consumers continue to embrace distributed audio as it expands with wireless streaming offered by well-known companies and newcomers. Home control systems are robust and mature. Features increase as price, installation time and programming complexity decrease. Thermostat control is the norm and well-received in the consumer market.

What’s Trending Today
Today’s trends will be moving to mainstream in the next few years. Excitement around 4k is strong with remarkable images, larger 4k video displays and 4k projectors. The excitement is strengthened as 4k content choices increase. Remote control door locks are widespread as brands and models continue to expand. Surveillance camera choices abound with innovative features and extraordinary resolution. Natural lighting control, commonly known as motorized window treatments — drapes, blinds and shades — is quickly gaining popularity and ease of integration into home control. New business software solutions have emerged, along with major enhancements to existing industry software programs.  As the industry matures and the market grows, dealers and companies delivering installation and other services must up their game to succeed.

Looking Ahead
Looking ahead, energy monitoring, quality and management will be valued, and each creates an opportunity for dealers to diversify and expand their businesses. RMR opportunities for the connected home are on the rise. RMR services are available for remote access and control, video monitoring, real-time alerts, energy supervision, system maintenance and updates, network monitoring, password administration, and content management — and that’s just the beginning. This is one of the biggest opportunities for dealers to solidify their business revenues — and there’s no one who knows this better than the security industry. 

The New & Notable Gadgets
As I walked the show floor a few interesting surprises and gadgets caught my eye. HDMI signal transmission on optical fiber is happening. There’s now a Z-Wave testing tool designed to make building a strong mesh network quick and easy. Game simulators have expanded beyond golf: you can now virtually play baseball, cricket, soccer, hockey, basketball, rugby and even bocce. Want to watch the news but there’s no TV in the room? No problem, just “turn on” the window — a translucent display built in to a triple-pane window. 

The biggest surprise, and something this industry veteran has been waiting for since attending one of the first CEDIA Expos 25 years ago, was in User Interfaces (UI). Simple and spontaneous UIs are finally here. UI has taken a turn from the typical keypads, remotes, touchscreens and mobile apps. If none of these are close by, a simple, single button can be placed anywhere and do whatever you would like; or a simple gesture can trigger an action. 

The most instinctive and natural user interface is voice control. Today, voice user interface is here. It works extremely well with 95 percent accuracy and will reach 99 percent in the next two years. This is a game changer. Everyone knows how to talk (some more than others), and there isn’t a more intuitive way to interact with smart home technology.

In summary, CEDIA Expo confirmed home automation has become a genuine industry with huge opportunities. Big players are in and shifting the rules and direction of the market. The security industry opens the door wide for delivery of the smart home and clearly recognizes the value of RMR. Carpe Diem.