Smart Home at CEDIA Expo 2018
Last week AppMyHome attended the CEDIA Expo in San Diego, the annual gathering of professionals in the $14 billion home technology industry. This event has traditionally been targeted at high-end audio/visual providers but as the smart home industry grows, there are more and more products available for the do-it-yourself market as well as professional integrators, making it a great place to see new and innovative solutions. Plus it is a lot more manageable than the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Here are our smart home takeaways from our visit.
Growth potential in the US mid-market
While there were plenty of high-end entertainment and technology solutions highlighted at CEDIA Expo, all of the growth looks to be at the mid-market and the manufacturers are going after it. In a clear indication of the shift, the Expo featured a Smart Home track complete with a stage on the show floor with continuous vendor and industry experts speaking throughout the day.
In his opening keynote speech, John Penney from 20th Century Fox highlighted how much the industry has changed with streaming services growing rapidly and content providers like Fox (and Disney) looking for ways to reach consumers directly to reap the benefits of on-going subscriber revenue. With 42 million US households making $75K or more per year, there is a big opportunity to get directly into their wallets for the content they want.
Penney also predicted that more and more consumers will want the best technology solutions from multiple providers in their home – good news for competition but it will mean that professionals will have to be able to adapt and continuously integrate new products into their portfolios. This aligns with our experience in the home tech market – five years ago we imagined we would eventually become an all Apple smart home but we know now that there is no one company who provides everything we need – and even if there was, we would not be willing to settle for good enough instead of the best products we can find.
On the Expo floor this theme continued – there were huge booths and investments from consumer smart home solutions like Nest/Google, Ring, and Sonos. Google Home with Nest had a huge presence with lots of signage, free t-shirts and a happy hour for all the attendees the first night. Even though a lot of these products are relatively easy to install, these companies know that a lot of consumers will want someone else to do it and they need a professional channel to help them reach everyone.
Samsung had their usual incredible televisions and home entertainment solutions on display, but what caught our eye was the integration of the living room TV with the smart home powered by SmartThings. On the big screen you can have complete control of your smart home, from cameras and sensors to lighting and thermostats, making smart home more accessible as part of normal daily life.
We also found it interesting that ABB, a Swiss global industrial technology leader, chose to launch their well-established line of smart home products, ABB-free@home, in the US with a big show presence and party at CEDIA Expo. They are not selling direct-to-consumer just yet, but they have made an effort to try to make their products really easy to install and manage for professionals and price them competitively to try to reach mid-market homeowners and remodeling contractors.
With over 15,000 ABB smart homes in Europe, they are courting US home builders and established dealers. They also have integrations with Sonos, Amazon Alexa and the Nest thermostat available at launch. Even though they have their own award-winning thermostat, they want to make sure they can give US customers what they expect. When a global company with $34B in revenue makes the investment to enter the US market, you know they still see huge potential for growth.
Design and Style
Design was another theme at CEDIA Expo. There were several designers sponsored to attend the show and a collaborative panel discussion about working better together in the early phases with a customer to get them the best technology and the best design for the home. Kitchen and bath professionals understand that smart lighting especially is critical to get right at the beginning and that their customers are asking for more and more technologies to make their spaces more efficient and convenient without sacrificing style.
We saw a lot of products with beautiful designs – from the stunning stone Black Nova Sensors to the Seura smart mirrors for the dealer market to the Noon Lighting System and the Brilliant Tech integrated panels for both dealers and do-it-yourselfers. For outdoor lighting, Maximus Lighting had their attractive smart security lights with powerful artificial intelligence features. We hope this trend continues so we will be able to find innovative and attractive devices to add to our home.
Water Leak Solutions
Another significant trend at the show was smart solutions to prevent and stop water leaks. In the US alone, an estimated 14,000 people a day experience some kind of water damage emergency and the homeowners insurance industry spends $2.5B every year on water and mold claims. Plus, some insurance policies will not cover the damage if the system has not been properly maintained.
These kind of risks and dollars are obviously driving innovation because there were nearly a dozen solutions we saw at the show. Two of our favorites that don’t require a plumber to install were Guardian by Elexa, which provides simple water sensors you put on the floor and automatically shut off the water with an easy to install device, and Streamlabs, a clamp-on device which uses advanced ultrasonic technology to monitor your water system thru virtually any type of water pipe to detect problems by analyzing your usage. With Streamlabs you can discover potential water leaks before they are visible. Be sure to stay tuned to AppMyHome as we plan to test some of these new products soon.
Another European company making a big splash at the CEDIA Expo was Sonnen, with the launch of their EcoLinx, an energy management and storage system tailored to home automation.
While many homeowners, especially here in California, are adding solar panels to their homes, increasingly power companies are no longer accepting excess capacity onto the grid and consumers are not seeing the big monthly cost savings they were expecting.
The Sonnen EcoLinx system integrates with home automation systems and intelligent circuit breakers to optimize a home’s energy system – harvesting and storing energy to take advantage of either solar or lower-cost off-peak energy rates to power your entire home as needed 24-hours a day. Right now Sonnen integrates only with Crestron and Control4 systems but we are hopeful the tech will evolve and mature and eventually become available to work with more DIY-friendly platforms.
We love visiting Eureka Park at CES and seeing the incredible ideas from startups. CEDIA Expo made an effort this year to highlight this community with Innovation Alley, a few rows of smaller booths. We met a few companies there with some great ideas on display.
The Bond is a small add-on to your smart home that allows you to control IR based ceiling fans and other simple IR based remote devices with their easy-to-use app or with voice control with Alexa or Google Home. Simply pair your existing remote to the Bond and then put it back in the drawer forever. Ceiling fans are their first focus but soon they will be adding gas and electric fireplaces, window air conditioning units, and motorized shades.
Mysa brings smart thermostat technology to the thousands of homes with high-voltage baseboard or fan-forced heating. Just install one or more Mysas and you can control your electric heat from anywhere in the world with their app or on a schedule. The smart thermostat also works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit (one of the few devices we saw promoting HomeKit at the show). This type of heat is not common in our area but we have lots of friends who do use it and will now be able to take advantage of this to save energy and money.
CloviFi is a solution to easily transmit audio wirelessly from your TV to your mobile device so one or more people in your home can listen to their favorite programs without disturbing others. It works with one or more listeners and has multiple types of audio inputs, so it can work with virtually any tv or other audio device. Creator Vitaly Kirkpatrick has had an epic journey from an orphanage in Ukraine to three university degrees and a 2018 CES Innovation Award and we have no doubt he will succeed.
CEDIA Expo Favorite
While we were walking the show floor, the Meural Canvas stopped us dead in our tracks. At first we were wondering why Netgear had a VanGogh painting in their booth when suddenly it changed. Turns out Netgear just acquired Meural and their TrueArt technology to add to their growing portfolio of connected devices.
The Meural Canvas is more than just a digital art frame. For about the price of one professionally framed art print and a subscription to their service, you get access to thousands of beautiful art works from old masters to emerging contemporary artists, or you can upload your own images. The Canvas renders the art so well you can see the brush strokes and the crackling of original oil paintings. Watch our video to see the Meural in action.
CEDIA Expo is still primarily an event for the audio/visual dealer and custom installer community. There were plenty of high-end, dealer-only home theatre vendors throughout the show and there is no doubt that wired-in audio definitely sounds best and earns these professionals the most money today.
But in addition to all those traditional quality speaker solutions, Sonos, Bose and others had lots of wireless and easy-to-deploy consumer audio and the breadth of technology on display prove that the market for mid-range consumers continues to grow beyond home theatre and window coverings into solutions for the entire home. We look forward to seeing it continue to evolve.