There’s no doubt that the convention and conference scene has been experiencing something of a resurgence since we’ve returned to in-person meetings. But the buzz that was present during the three-day CEDIA Expo in Dallas last week was absolutely palpable. Perhaps no event benefitted more from the time away than this show, which tried to bring it together last year only to be hit with the massive Delta variant wave just weeks before it was scheduled to open.
From the packed conference rooms to the traffic between booths on the tradeshow floor, CEDIA Expo was quite literally back in full force.
In walking the floor exploring booths and bumping into industry friends over the course of the show, two things became apparent. Let’s dive into them.
The CI Channel Didn’t Slow Down During the Pandemic
Specifically, innovation didn’t slow down. Despite various challenges that hampered the supply chain — from chips to ships — or perhaps due to those challenges, the vendor community had plenty of time to look at their product portfolios and prepare some major launches for this show. Of course, in an industry that’s used to annual upgrades and product launches, three years is essentially a lifetime. Nonetheless, integrators were met with a bevy of new product introductions in Dallas and some seriously innovative experiences and product demonstrations.
Among them, Nationwide Marketing Group’s Tiny Home was on hand, showcasing the possibilities of a fully automated home packed into some 300-square-feet of space. Complete with automated shades, smart appliances, a home theater-esque living room setup, smart lighting and a connected security system, the Tiny Home is the perfect example of what’s possible in the smart home space — and the importance of including a custom integrator in the installation process for the consumer.
Elsewhere on the expo floor, a truly unique home theater demo was on display that featured a who’s-who of luxury manufacturers in the CEDIA space — including Barco, Kaleidescape, Seymour-Screen, and Trinnov. But the setup, which featured an 11.12.6-channel Dolby Atmos system built by Officina Acustica, was anchored by a massive 19-amp McIntosh system. Attendees were treated to a truly impressive demo that kept the line long for pretty much the duration of the show.
There were countless new introductions in the AV, automation, health and wellness and lighting categories as well. Crestron made its long-awaited return to the show. Streaming media drove plenty of discussions throughout the show. SnapOne debuted their Vibrant Linear Lighting products. There was way more than we could really keep up with throughout the show, despite our best efforts to cover it all on our CEDIA Expo Live platform and our live streams over on the Nationwide Marketing Group Facebook page.
Growth Opportunities are Boundless for Custom Integrators
Products are, of course, the heart of a trade show like CEDIA Expo, but there were plenty of other things happening at the show that were arguable just as important for the custom integration channel. Namely, the panel discussions and educational courses that went off in Dallas offered a glimpse at just how much potential this industry still has for growth.
Zeroing in on the smart home segment, the numbers speak for themselves. Ownership in the category has traditionally been dominated by the smart TV and smart speaker segments. Nearly 75 percent of U.S. consumers report owning a smart TV, and roughly 45 percent say they own a smart speaker. After that, ownership rates of the remaining smart products dips below 35 percent — from smart lighting to smart hubs, smart plugs to smart security systems and locks. Smart kitchen appliance ownership is still below 10 percent.
What I learned at CEDIA Expo in Dallas is that, as technology continues to extend into other areas of the home (lighting, shading, health and wellness), the home builder and designer communities are becoming increasingly more aware of and comfortable with tapping into the integrator communities for assistance. In fact, the CI channel is positioning itself as not only a trusted partner of those communities but an essential resource to help complete successful projects.
CEDIA the association is out in the field advocating on behalf of its members and the channel at large, as we learned in a conversation with Global President and CEO Daryl Friedman. And the group is also working to assist integrators in their efforts to find, recruit and educate new integrators — our own partnership with the association being a great example of spreading access to their education platform.
But it also behooves the custom integrators out there to step outside of their own comfort areas to explore those opportunities. Are you offering a shading option to your clients? Have you dabbled in lighting yet? Have you found a way to work health and wellness technology into your projects? For a channel that has long been associated with the home audio/video experience, the proverbial walls of the home theater have been broken down, and the time is ripe to begin exploring other areas of your clients’ homes that you can play a role in.