Once again nearly 20,000 professionals zealous about audio, video, smart home technologies, and electronics in general, converged September 6-8, at the San Diego Convention Center for CEDIA Expo 2018 (estimated attendance based on last year, numbers not yet released). This was the first year Emerald Expositions ran the show since the company purchased the trade show from CEDIA last year, and reviews from the exhibitors (of which there were more than 500) and attendees were mixed; no clear win/lose takeaway about the new show management.

In the sale of the show, CEDIA retained education and delivered more than 110 sessions — 35 of which were new — down from 140 last year. I didn’t attend any, but I did hear that the belle-of-the-ball when it came to training was networking — considered the holy grail to making all of this technology work in the home. There was only one keynote this year, down from three last year including the behemoth, Amazon, who sponsored CEDIA education in 2017. This year Amazon didn’t even have a presence at the show, except for Echo dots popping up everywhere.

The keynote delivered by John Penny, executive vice president of consumer business development and strategic partnerships for 20th Century Fox, focused on content and I found it informative, but different to not have someone directly involved in the industry. He shared that consumers crave simplicity and need CEDIA members for installation. But really? Today’s content serves the masses and these consumers (possible CEDIA customers) most likely have kids, family members, or neighbors who are tech-savvy enough to hook up displays and media streamers for all that content. There is a play for discerning installation companies focused on being the trusted concierge for media management; the typical CEDIA integrator.

General observations indicate the industry has finally come of age with a diverse selection of mature, dependable products. Opportunities to make money abound as the mass market has embraced smart home technologies. With so many new companies and products over the past 10 years, along with market growth, acquisitions and consolidation were evident at the show. It’s now about running a business, not just boutique companies based on the geeky interests of the founders. Products and services that used to be time-intensive and high-end, are now mainstream with DIY, automation/integration, and voice control. Comcast even had a huge booth marketing their premier support service for custom installation companies.

Video was everywhere with 4k displays and projectors, along with the latest high dynamic range (HDR) — technology delivering amazing images. Size is no longer is an issue with displays up to 200 inches and the latest video display technology made into tiles so literally any size, or the entire wall, can become a display. There were some pretty cool short-throw projectors delivering good-quality images, such as Sony and Hisense, along with custom cabinetry to house them.
Hot product categories included networking devices and monitoring services, along with smart lighting control with artificial intelligence (AI) and tunable/human-centric lighting; check out Brilliant, Noon, Colorbeam, and Ketra by Lutron. Shade control continues to expand, along with furniture maturing to include automated control; and, of course, massage chairs for the high-end client who just has to have the latest technology in their home. Power is the next big opportunity for CEDIA-type integrators, whether it be protecting, managing, harvesting or delivering it. Rosewater Energy has been the leader in this field at past shows, and this year Savant announced energy management products, along with Sonnen, a leader in the European market, now entering the U.S. market.

Service is the next “gold” to be discovered and the lowest-hanging fruit is the network, something I’ve been preaching for quite some time. See my other articles in SDM: “How to Build Your Average RMR with New Services,” “Own the Network = Recurring Revenue,” and “Lesson for Today: Work 20 Years Ahead” at www.SDMmag.com/topics/5598-smart-insights. The health of the consumer network is the biggest problem — and opportunity — facing the industry. Just think about it, the IoT is exploding and network monitoring devices cost less than most other devices connected to the network. So why not offer network monitoring as a service and increase your RMR? Smart Home as a Service (SHaaS) emerged last year at the show, and is now an integral part of many integrators’ businesses.

As the market expands and demand grows for installation at all levels — not just the high-end — the need for qualified technicians is huge. Installation service networks are coming out of the woodwork to serve niche markets and may be an opportunity for your company to keep installers busy and build your business. There’s a weak link between the retailer, or builder, or developer, and the end-user/customer/consumer when it comes to installation, which has created this new business opportunity. Check out companies such as HDMI Staffing, InstallerNet, Level Up Your Home, AV Junction, and SmartRent.

So, what does this all mean for your business? Good news; opportunities are everywhere. Do some research, weigh the risks and rewards, and leverage technology to deliver exceptional experiences to your customers through trusted relationships and good, honest work.