Headlines – Summer 2017

From the desk of Len Wallis

Recently I had the good fortune to attend the 2017 CEDIA (Consumer Electronic Design and Installation Association) Expo in the US. This is a large show, with around 18,000 attendees and over 500 exhibitors. There were hundreds of training courses running over five days, and plenty of opportunity to mix with (and learn from) your peers.

It is also an opportunity to discover the latest technologies, and more importantly to see where the industry is headed.

Not surprisingly one of the strongest themes running through the show revolved around networking. Almost everything at the show would connect to your local network, and unless that network is rock solid it will not cope with the demands that we will be asking it to cope with in the future. At LWA we have been banging that drum for a long time now, but it was certainly reinforced at the show. The days of cobbling together a network from your local electronics outlet and expecting it to cope with Hi-Res music and video streaming, security, automation etc. are long gone.

Automation was the other dominant theme. However, in this case the message was somewhat disjointed. It appears that the current definition of automation encompasses everything from the simple implementation of voice control via the likes of Amazon Alexa (which had a huge presence in one way or another at the show) and on through to full-on bespoke automation installations from the likes of Savant.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a popular topic on the show floor, but it is still early days. There was no doubt, though, that automation in one form or another will be the growth area of the future.

With so much now happening in the home, remote support was also a strong theme. There are a number of companies that have sprung up allowing support for the home infrastructure from a remote location, meaning that many of the issues that traditionally require a home visit can now been done from our office. Again early days, but something that we are looking into.

As always there were some very impressive demonstrations (interspersed with some rather mediocre ones). One of the best was the Meridian Theatre using their in-wall range of digital active speakers. Great sound, and unobtrusive. Visually they were using a Barco 4K projector, and while this is not a brand that we do much with, I must give credit where credit is due – it looked stunning.

I also had the opportunity to visit an off-site display by James Loudspeakers. This is a company that we do a considerable amount of business with, mainly because they will custom-build speakers. For example we use their soundbars because they will build them to the exact width of the TV we are using them with. They also manufacture one of the best sounding (albeit expensive) outdoor speakers on the market. However the highlight of this visit was understanding that this is a company of engineers, dedicated to finding solutions when off-the-counter products just won’t do the job. It was refreshing, and great fun, talking to these guys.

And I think that summed up the spirit of the show in many ways. There is a ton of products and options out there. Some of them will be suitable for your project, many will not. There was a genuine buzz at the show, and much of it revolved around the idea of putting together a combination of products and sub-systems (audio, vision, security, lighting control, automation etc.) that is going to work together, be reliable, be intuitive to use, and most importantly improve your lifestyle.