High Hopes for CEDIA 2014

high-hopesOn a random side-note, has anybody really read Frank Sinatra’s lyrics to “High Hopes”? They are weird. For instance — a ram trying to destroy a hydroelectric plant?

I’m coming to CEDIA this year with an open mind — and like many attendees, I really want to be blown away with a clear winning product or technology to write about. But, I think in looking for the one wiz-bang product and technology for the show we often overlook the less sexy improvements on products and services that really improve integrators’ jobs and customers’ experiences. As I shoot videos on the floor and talk to venders, I’m planning on blogging about those unsung features that make everybody’s lives easier.

I do think that 4K is going to make a big showing, for better or worse. We’ll see if there are many more 4K Shenanigans where products are sort of 4K by playing with the numbers or linking products that have low pixel density, but together make a huge 4K display. I also think tiny displays that are viewed at a distance in 4K are useless as well – I’ve heard rumors about a 27″ 4K floor projector from Sony that sounds a bit ridiculous. Another issue is going to be, well, quality. As we learned with consumer and pro-sumer cameras — resolution isn’t everything. What’s the refresh, compression and bit-rate of this video? Everybody is going to have SOMETHING in their booth that is 4K. That’s not a bad thing – I actually think it’s going to be a real technological leap forward in the HomeAV industry when compared to 3D and this year the technology has matured a lot from the early adopter models we saw at last year’s CEDIA Expo.

I think HDBaseT is going to be more prevalent than ever. I’m interested to see how companies are dealing with compatibility issues and adherence to the the standard. Can you — as a manufacturer — guarantee that the power running over the HDBaseT (PoH) system won’t brick my projector? I think it’s become much more realistic that most of the components in an entire HomeAV integration can be carried over just Cat6 cable. HDMI, and even long runs that use optical, are not going anywhere for a while yet. Even though it’s still early, this could be the year where you could think about just using category cable for 95 percent of an install.

I’m curious about the state of whole-house audio, and where it stands in this age where everybody has a wireless media server in your pocket. People don’t want to interact with AV components or even really wall keypads. They want to pull out their phone and send audio to the room they are in or several rooms they are wandering throughout. Things have changed from an install point of view as well, with less need for analog connections to keypads and ceiling speakers. Look at the ProAV world. There are speakers with DAC converters running AVB that are individually IP addressable and even Powered over Ethernet (PoE). There are still big advantages HomeAV integrators can bring to the table over consumer-centric solutions and whole-house audio is still very relevant. In fact – stop by rAVe sponsor Stealth Acoustics to check out its legitimately amazing in-wall hidden speakers. It’s that kind of touch that can really set your custom services apart from a Bluetooth speaker any consumer could get at Best Buy.

I also want to see what progress has been made in the smart power arena. Last year I threw down the gauntlet and described my high standards for real smart power. Something that can measure breakers, with individually addressable installed sockets and RFID tagging for appliance cords. We’ll see how far things have come and I’m pretty excited about seeing this important facet of home automation improve.

Projection should also be pretty interesting — two big players in the Pro market, Christie and Barco, are moving into resi for the first time. They can bring power to the most demanding large and/or bright room installations.

As some of you may know, I write a column about home theater gaming. I’m really keeping my eye out for vendors that embrace gaming and provide interesting gaming integration products and accessories. There are almost always golf simulators, but I’m particularly interested in seeing accommodations for PC and console gaming.

I’m going out on the floor with the rest of the rAVe team to bring you all OnDemand coverage through shooting videos on the floor, as well as blogging. Have something you think I need to see in particular? Please drop me a line anytime at matt@ravepubs.com or Tweet us @ravepubs. See you on the show floor.