CEDIA Expo 2022 Thoughts from Someone Who Didn’t Go
I didn’t go to CEDIA Expo 2022 in Dallas. But like both ISE and InfoComm this year, I acted as the editor in charge of rAVe’s product videos from afar, and therefore watched all 573 videos that the team shot on the show floor over the past few days. I missed seeing industry friends and didn’t hear what the buzz on the show floor was, but “seeing” the show floor in this way allows me to form my own opinions on what’s going on product and technology-wise in the industry without being influenced by talking to colleagues who were there. I was surprised by what conclusions I came to when all was said and done, the biggest of which is that I’m not sure CEDIA Expo is really an AV show anymore.
After watching, quite literally, thousands of ISE and InfoComm product videos, I expected to see two things at the CEDIA Expo show this year: a heavier focus on commercial, in particular solutions for UCC and remote/home workers, and a lot more AV-over-IP products.
I was wrong on both counts. Resimercial may have been a buzzword on the show floor (or so I heard), but it wasn’t reflected in the actual products that were brought, or at least that exhibitors chose to shoot videos on for rAVe. I tracked every single commercial product there was a video of and came up with about 30 out of the 573 videos. There were a few more that could have gone either way, but not as many as you’d expect, and they were mostly distributed audio system products or signal processing, like video wall processors that enabled fantasy footballers to watch multiple games at once.
Poly and Jabra were both there with UCC wares, and a few companies playing in both spaces had a UCC product or two, but CEDIA Expo was just not the home conferencing fest that I expected it to be. I think I actually saw fewer headphone sets this year than in years past. I also saw only one, lonely dedicated personal videoconferencing display (from Poly) after seeing 10+ at ISE and InfoComm. I’m not sure why there wasn’t more UCC at CEDIA Expo, but I’m interested if anyone else has thoughts.
At ISE and InfoComm, it felt like there had been a real shift in the AV-over-IP discourse, like the industry collectively had finally agreed that “ugh, fine, we’re definitely doing this now so let’s just figure it out together.” I kind of expected to feel at least some of this shift at CEDIA Expo, and was curious to see how it would play out. While there were, of course, AV-over-IP products at the show, it did not permeate the show floor at all, and now I think I know why I got it wrong. While the commercial market has been moving towards AV-over-IP, the residential market is moving more towards fewer cables altogether, with more signals than ever being sent wirelessly, and more devices being PoE. There were indeed AV-focused networking products, but for the most part they just enabled more robust wireless networks, like wireless access points and mesh network products “designed for AV.” I can understand why resi installers drift over into light commercial, but it seldom goes the other way—no one hates AV stuff on their wireless networks more than in-house tech managers at universities (just ask them about it).
Lighting & Wellness
On to what I did actually see at CEDIA Expo: lighting. The number of lighting and lighting control products at CEDIA Expo this year was incredible, as was the diversity of solutions. I saw lighting combined with other AV product functions, such as LEDs added to acoustic panels, like this one from Acoustic Innovations, and lighting added to outdoor speakers, like this one from OSD Audio and this bollard-style speaker with optional light caps from Leon Speakers. Snap One even introduced a new combination low voltage lighting and outdoor speaker system called Radiance. It’s an indoor product, but K-array also showed KSCAPE, its combination track speaker and architectural lighting solution, which was one of my favorite products from ISE this year.
Architectural lighting also showed up in a big way — not just beautiful pendant lights, which have been at CEDIA Expo before, but lights used to highlight art collections, like this one from Crestron, and high-end LED strips or tubes that can bring soft, subtle illumination under cabinets or baseboards — Enviromental Lights’ accent lighting and Lighting Leaf’s LED tape, for example. There were light panels, like these, also from Environmental Lights, that can be used on floors or underneath semi-opaque building materials to highlight beautiful patterns, or these Proluxe canvas light sheets from American Lighting. Elemental LED also has this new product called Graze X — it looks like a lit acoustic panel, but it’s not. The company describes it as an LED light with “precise narrow optics” so it has something to do with the angle of the light, but I’m unclear on the specific applications. But still! Companies are debuting new and cutting-edge (and patented!) lighting products at CEDIA Expo.
The most noteworthy trend, however, was towards using technology for health and wellness, with lighting and circadian rhythms being front and center. So many of the new LED lighting products are RGB tuneable now, such as these recessed lights from AiSpire, these LED tapes and light fixtures from Proluxe by American Lighting, the art-highlighting Crestron lights and tuneable outdoor landscape spotlights from Colorbeam. As anyone who ever bought a Philips Hue product knows, tuneable lights are fun to play with for a bit, but the possibilities can quickly become overwhelming — and that’s where scene control comes in. Some lights, like these “cloud intelligent” recessed lights from PoEWit have built-in software that allows the lights to change with the time of day in a way that’s optimized for humans’ circadian rhythms, even without a separate lighting control system. AiSpire’s recessed lights take this a step further, adding sunset- and sunrise-based scenes, as well as other preset scenes that are for relaxation or exercise. FX Luminaire’s flagship light controller has numerous lighting scenes built in. Legrand has a new product called LHUMAN from its subsidiary company, Vantage, that combines both tuneable lighting and shade control to maximize circadian health, also scene-based. Hunter Douglas previewed a lighting-shade combination product called Aura Illuminated that adds LED strips to the shades the company is already known for, which can be set to simulate different times of day.
Besides scene control and tuneable lights, there were also several products designed to reduce or limit exposure to blue light, such as EcoSense’s zero blue light bulb and Korrus’s Max Blue circadian technology for modulating blue light. I have often found myself wondering what we are currently doing to our bodies that future generations will have trouble believing we didn’t know was horrible for us — like smoking, or lead or asbestos. Is blue light one of the possibilities? Blue light glasses seem like a scam to me, but what do I know? If Diet Coke does turn out to be terrible for you, then I’m already dead.
In addition to the circadian rhythm improvements now available to consumers, technology can now also now maximize the healthiness of both air and water quality in a home. Elite Water has what is essentially a whole-home water filtration and treatment system, while Delos Wellness Solutions has more modular options for both water and air filtration. Panasonic has a home ventilator system to improve home air quality and Broan has a very CI-friendly system for indoor air quality monitoring and filtration. Airzone adds zone-based control of HVAC and air filtration systems that can be controlled by all the usual AV control companies.
Integration of Consumer Products and Interfaces
While consumer products (i.e., products that don’t need to be purchase through the channel) have been coming to CEDIA Expo for years now, and even integrated into larger systems, this year it felt like things clicked more. It seemed less like consumer products being forced, like a square peg in a round hole, and more like designers had figured out how to take the best parts of the consumer products and integrate them more seamlessly into complex systems. This will be of huge benefit to consumers, who should find it easier to use their systems via familiar interfaces.
One of the biggest ways this was reflected was in the number of products integrating popular apps and even the Google Play store natively, so customers can for example, use the actual Apple Music or Spotify app interface on a touch panel or remote, instead of using a version of it that has been integrated into a larger control system via API. (If I had to pick one word that I kept hearing over and over in product videos, it might just be “native.”)
One of the most clever companies doing this is a company called AVA, which is building touch-based remotes with the Google App store built right in. In hindsight, this is such an obvious solution that I can’t believe someone hadn’t already done it, but AVA is doing it very well. Instead of reinventing the control wheel, they have essentially built a touch-based remote that works like a smart phone and controls your system. You can download all the control apps from the various control companies, like Crestron, in addition to the native content apps that consumers already know how to use. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware, though it looks just like a phone.
AVA also built a rackmount audio streaming module (a beautiful piece of hardware in and of itself), which comes with its own remote that works the same way.
Other examples of native app control came from URC, Russound and Savant, among others.
There was also a lot of integration of voice control, mainly through (of course) Amazon Alexa. The company doing this the best is, far and away, Josh.ai. The company’s Josh Nano architectural mic was one of my favorite products at the show. The Nano is a miniature mic-only monitor for voice control that connects to your larger whole-home system so instead of it feeling like you’re talking to a $30 Echo Dot, it feels like you’re literally talking to your house. The system is also room-aware, so if you give a command like “turn on Spotify music” or “open the blinds,” the system performs that command for the room a person is in. (If you’re concerned about the potential for security problems related to essentially bugging every room of your own house, each Josh Nano has a physical on/off switch so you can be assured the mic is off if you want it to be.)
Josh.ai has another intelligent mic solution for voice control that’s a bit less high-end than the Nano, but still a nice option for those who want to integrate it into their homes. Snap One also has a new remote that integrates native voice control via a “push to talk” interface that should be familiar to customers that have used the newest versions of the Apple TV. I liked this solution from Smart Audio Solutions with a mount for Amazon Echo Dots, which not only has power for the Dots, but also takes the audio out and runs it through a larger whole-house system.
Similar to native integration of Siri and Alexa, many security products and systems are now integrated with the popular Ring product line, now owned by Amazon, including those from Holovision, URC and Lutron. Ring itself showed new job site security solutions and an expanded camera offering, including ONVIF compatible options. Google was also exhibiting with solutions from its Nest line and how they can be incorporated into larger security systems and home automation systems.
Security was also an area in which I did see some crossover from the commercial side, mainly through analytics appliances and AI/machine learning that can improve video-based surveillance and security, even in residences. Here are some examples:
LILIN’s end-to-end security offering that includes cameras, recorders and AI software offers people and vehicle recognition
Monitoreal offers an analytics appliance with object detection, so if a particular thing or person is detected on a security video, an action is triggered
ENS Security’s Emerald line of IP cameras uses artificial intelligence to reduce false alarm calls by over 90% (or so they say)
IDView’s people-detecting thermal cameras
While display tech didn’t dominate the show like it definitely did at ISE and InfoComm, there were still some things I want to call out. I was very sad that I couldn’t see in person Samsung’s new matte TV, which I’m definitely interested in learning more about. LG debuted its flexible OLED 42” gaming monitor, the OLED Flex, which allows gamers to mechanically change the curvature of the display in order to create a more immersive experience. This product was actually debuted at this year’s CEDIA Expo, despite being something that may have made a bigger splash at CES. (Then again, the list price is $3,000, a number that sounds a lot more palatable when it’s sharing a show floor with Samsung’s The Wall, Sony’s CLED and even Christie’s Eclipse projector, though technically that was just in a demo room.)
Digital Projection introduced a residential version of its Satellite HIGHlite Reference Laser Projection System, in which the laser source and processing are “offboard” and can be up to 100m away from the projection head, connected via a fiber optic cable. Leon Speakers also brought its LiquidView virtual window solution, which is a vertically oriented, commercial Sony display set up as a digital window with 24-hour loops of built-in National Geographic content.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to see all-in-one direct-view LED displays, which have become popular in the commercial market for conference rooms and a few other applications, come to CEDIA Expo, but there were a few surprises. Sony brought a new 4K 85” miniLED TV in its high-end BRAVIA line, though I’d love to know how 75” and 85” LED TVs are really 8K, as that would make the pixel pitch just a bit above .2mm. They also brought the still fairly new C-Series and B-Series, based on the CLED technology. Samsung brought 110” and 146” all-in-one versions of its microLED display, The Wall. I did not expect to see Leyard Planar at CEDIA Expo, even though the company is definitely a leader in direct view LED, but the company was there with a 5K 205” microLED video wall. Digital Projection also debuted its Radiance all-in-one 1.2mm 180” microLED TV.
Smart Homes Are Very Smart
I think the biggest takeaway I had after watching all our videos was that while CEDIA Expo felt like more of a channel show than it has in recent years, it felt like much more of a “connected home” show than an audiovisual one. Audio was still a significant chucnWhile audio was still a big part of things (although nothing blew me away on the audio innovation front), the number of lighting, security and control products far surpassed the number of new TVs and projectors that were introduced, or even displayed.
A trend that I think we’ll see more of going forward as part of services CIs can add to their service portfolio is power management and energy automation. I’m not talking about power conditioners or UPS products, but whole home energy management with data analytics support, in particular for homes with alternative energy sources like solar panels and/or whole-home battery systems. Savant demonstrated a new power management solution with an energy dashboard meant to help homeowners that have a backup battery system allocate power appropriately when there’s an outage of the main power. A new company started by CI dealers called BrightVault brought its custom energy storage and management system that takes data from the client’s energy usage, weather satellites and more data sources to help homeowners decide how to allocate energy loads to different parts of their homes. Finally, Rosewater Energy, which isn’t new to CEDIA Expo and actually celebrated its 10th anniversary this show, brought its home battery backup and distribution system.
There were a number of other things that came to the show that can be integrated into home control systems that had nothing to do with AV, though many of them need to be installed or integrated by a dealer. Here are some examples:
This smart door that has the usual smart lock feature stuff built in, BUT ALSO has a tag that can be put onto your dog’s collar so that when he/she comes to the door, it will automatically open half-way to let them in or out. (Don’t worry, it can be turned off when you’re not home, if you don’t want your dog to let in burglars.)
Natufia has an indoor hydroponic gardening solution with watering and grow lights that can be controlled from anywhere
PantryOn has a system that can measure how much you have of any particular thing left in your pantry (using mats that determine the weight) and remind you to get more (or in my case, to tell me that I do not in fact need to buy more ketchup or cat food)
PipeBurst Pro will tell you if you have a water problem anywhere in your home
A smart thermostat with its own embedded web server
There were numerous motion detectors and room sensor products so certain things would happen if a person walks in a room, or if using voice control, a system can auto-detect the person’s location and make the appropriate choices.
Blackdove is a subscription service bringing independent artists’ work to your display
Kew Labs has a product in which wireless charging (mainly for phones) can be integrated into any surface, such as a marble kitchen counter
Savant has a smart companion breaker module that can make individual breakers on your electric panel remote-controllable and “smart”
Innovo showed its new Magic Cube product, a middleware IoT device that can make other products “smart” and therefore controllable
A racing simulator from Simcraft, a skiing/snowboarding simulator and smart punching bag from SkyTechSport
If you went to CEDIA Expo (or didn’t and just have thoughts), let me know what you think at email@example.com.