ISE 2018 Report: Personalisation, multi-room audio and ambitious displays shine at the RAI

residential installer looking at prodcuts at ise at control4 booth

Walking around the halls of the RAI this year, dodging the crowds at the Panasonic stands, getting lost trying to find the elusive smart building Hall 9 powered by only Stroopwafels and that extra strong coffee, it’s easy to ponder how commercial ISE is.

The stats don’t lie – last year 34% of attendees said their interest spanned both commercial and residential sectors, with just under 11% purely interesting in residential solutions, but by no means did this deter the presence of the home technology this year. From the Smart Building Conference until the last day of the show, the sector’s good health and continued growth as the lines between consumer and pro increasingly blur was evident. And the rapid development of the show (in case you missed it, we’re referring to almost doubling attendance in 5 years from 44,151 to 80,923…), can only be a good thing, as more and more installers look to expand their revenue by dipping their toe into commercial, and an increasing number of products cross both industries.

And from Crestron’s devoted residential zone to the demos of some of the outstanding home cinemas at the show, we showed that yes, we may be small, but we are mighty.

CEDIA reports an industry in good health

Where best to start with what we learnt at ISE this year with the bright orange stand that greets your entry into Hall 1 each day? CEDIA reported having a great show, with over 20 new member sign ups directly at the show and the stand often abuzz thanks to the successful continuation of its series of ‘Talks’ (this year exploring talking points such as cryptocurrencies, opportunities in assisted living the growing importance of BIM (Building Information Modelling)). Yet arguably one of the most important talks unveiled the results of its 2017 state of the industry UK report, shared by Futuresource’s Jack Wetherill – findings including the below (plus highlighting security, voice control and maintenance & aftercare as key areas of growth) show an industry in good health.

  • Average total gross annual turnover per installation company was £1.3m in 2016, up by 33% on 2012. Participants projected this to rise by a further 17% in 2017.
  • Projects costing £50K or more accounted for 26% of projects in 2016, compared to 19% in 2013.  In contrast, installations £3K or below have fallen by one-third and in 2017, it is expected to be 7%.

HiddenWires also had a chance to sit down with CEDIA’s newly appointed CEO, Tabatha O’Connor, and discuss what the association will look like under her reigns, as well as how the industry can inspire more women to get involved in the sector – look out for the full interview next week.

Home automation heavyweights show laser focus

Meeting Crestron’s VP of residential, John Clancy, for a tour of the company’s large dedicated home technology area on its booth (a clear affirmation that it is serious about its significant residential push) it was clear the company has had a lot going on regarding customising products. The manufacturer’s shades line may be nothing new for any US installers at the show, but it was the product range’s – deadly quiet and available in a number of textures and materials – first outing in EMEA. In touching distance from the variety of shades options for clients was a number of button finishes debuting at the show (including a blingtastic diamante-finished version) and crucially, the company’s two new remotes.

A remote may seem like a fairly simple thing to design, yet Clancy explained that a serious amount of work went into planning the HR-310-I and TSR-310 handheld touchscreen remotes (the latter has a nice touchscreen), and it shows. Both look sleek and are nice to hold, and running off either AAA batteries/a battery that lasts 3 days (TSR-310) and having up to nine custom-engravable button adds that little bit of luxury whilst still being easy to own.

Although the remotes can be voice controlled, it was interesting to see the contrast in how Crestron (like many others) – a manufacturer that dedicated a significant amount of space to its voice demo room last year – presented voice in a much more subdued manner this year. Of course, priorities change year-on-year but the presence voice was considerably (and ironically) quieter this year. Voice wasn’t completely forgotten however, with industry heavyweights including HDL and Legrand/Vantage showcasing their newly announced integrations.

Demos of Pyng video in ‘day-in-the-life’ setting drew crowds throughout the day and looked impressive – though it’s not available yet

Products aside, something to look forward to in the near future is Crestron dealer events coming this side of the Atlantic. Clancy told HiddenWires that potentially both an event in the UK and Europe are in the works, and with ISE its number one event (more on that below) for engaging with its dealers in EMEA it makes perfect sense.

Meanwhile, at the Control4 both, talk surrounded the CA-1 – essentially, a product answering the prayers of those looking for an easy introduction to IoT-based automation to present to new clients, or those working in the hotel and building industries. The CA-1’s price may only be US $350, but it packs in bang for your buck as it can do everything an EA system (minus handling AV systems) can – including supporting Wi-Fi and ZigBee, with Z-Wave optional via a slide-in module.

Continuing on the home control front, ELAN has been busy (in spite of Core Brand’s takeover by Nortek Security & Control) and debuted the latest iteration of its software (8.2) and most importantly, how it offers 2D/3D floorplan view of a property to a user, as well as auto-discovery of all compatible devices on the network.

High end audio shines (like a diamond)

For a demonstration on a stand and not in one of the assigned, tucked-away-out-of-sight demo rooms of the RAI, Bowers & Wilkins created a seriously impressive sound at its ‘800 Diamond Theatre’. Demo of the show has to go to the UK-based manufacturer for the clarity of sound (across movies and music) delivered by CI800 Series Diamond system, accompanied by Trinnov processing, JVC projection, Kaleidescape, Lutron, and more. Debuting at the show was B&W’s 700 Series of loudspeakers – boasting the same ultra-transparent Continuum midrange cone technology as the 800 Series Diamond, as well as packing in bespoke Aerofoil profile bass drivers – and its DB4S sub.

image from back of bowers and wilkins ise 2018 demo home cinema featuring 800 series of loudspeakers

Elsewhere the specialised audio focus was ramped up by the likes of Stealth Acoustics and Origin Acoustics. Stealth showcased its patented, highly impressive LRx83 invisible speaker, with 300W for robust output and flat-front FidelityGlass radiating surface which Stealth say has two-times the area of a 15-in woofer. Expanding its all-weather focus was Stealth Acoustics who gave a debut to its Explorer Collection of in-wall speakers, which can be installed (and uninstalled) as easily as one click. Speakercraft also got in on the outdoor action over at the Nortek booth, introducing its weatherproof Landscape Series spanning two satellite speakers and two in-ground subwoofers.

Multi-room audio continued to be a focus among both players old and new. Legrand catered to the local market with the introduction of its first ever DIN rail standard for mounting electronics from its Nuvo Player Portfolio. The P600 player is compatible with other amplifiers in the manufacturer’s ecosystem of Nuvo streaming players, and supplies up to 40W of power to a single zone, with support for up to allow 16 players and 16 simultaneous, independent streams from the likes of Spotify, Deezer, and more.

HDanywhere were also highlighting the final outcome of its new foray into multi-room audio by giving an official debut to its uControl-ready mHub Audio matrix amp, a 4-zone matrix-amp with DSP EQ and integrated 55W amplifiers, at the OneAV booth.

Finally, Meridian introduced a very cool streamer (the 210) designed to bring, Apple Airplay and Spotify Connect to Meridian products, lining up against the company’s recently launched controllers and a new UHD audio processor (the UHD722).

Certainly bright though considerably quieter to operate than the above was the latest offerings at Lutron’s booth. The lighting industry stalwart was demonstrating two-channel lighting – essentially, providing the ability to manage both colour temperature and brightness at the same time separately. At the manufacturer’s booth it explained how the two provide the perfect combination to satisfy residential and commercial client’s growing interest on how light and dim level can affect health and productivity at different times of the day.

Now you see them

No longer a fad now there is some seriously impressive technology powering some of the latest transparent and mirror products seen at ISE – one of which that ticked both boxes when dealing with ‘big is best’-type client was Agath’s 98-in mirror TV (see below). And it may be a product being pitched at retail and other commercial environments for now, but many were drawn to LG’s stunning 55-in OLED transparent display whatever side of the industry they work on. There’s no reason why this type of display will make its way into homes one day, acting as the next step up from the mirror display for customers that can afford it. The 0.8mm self-adhering film version incorporating LG’s transparent technology wasn’t bad either.

The same goes for the commercial version of ‘The Wall’ from Samsung seen at the show (powered by Samsung’s MagicInfo content management platform this time) – with a screen size of 146-in, the modular MicroLED panel was always going to be a crowd-pleaser on European shores after debuting at CES earlier this year.

Whilst on the topic of admirable visual displays, a shoutout must be given to Barco, who continue the blur the lines between what’s a commercial and residential offering with its digital canvas demonstration, also seen at CEDIA last September. Its partnership with Niio (the provider of the artworks) was celebrated with a number of aesthetically pleasing glare-less, interactive pieces across the show. Though most talked-about display presentation must go to Digital Projection’s seriously powerful (and seriously costly) 8K projector. The INSIGHT Dual Laser 8K projects a 7680 X 4320 resolution of 33 million pixels, with 25,000 lumens of brightness, and although may have been on-stand mainly as a showpiece, word is DP were receiving multiple enquiries about purchasing the 6-figure projector.

ISE 2019 will come to RAI in Amsterdam from 5 to 9 February, 2019 – where the show will take us is 2020 remains to be seen, with many speculating the show’s ever-increasing footfall may force a move elsewhere in Europe, and with some not keen on its temporary hall set-up. Watch this space.

Until next year, everyone.


Charlotte Ashley is editor at HiddenWires and InAVate magazines

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