5 key takeaways from ISE 2017

Over 73,000 people and more than 1,000 exhibitors descended on the RAI in Amsterdam earlier this month to attend a record-breaking ISE exhibition. We’ve navigated the array of new products, educational talks and industry discussions to pick out five over-arching themes from the show floor currently impacting the residential world.

  1. Voice divides the show floor


    From home automation heavyweights like Crestron, URC and Control4 – the latter showcasing the UK release of its Alexa smart home skill (Germany will follow, but it’s not yet on the horizon) – to individual control of QMotion blinds, there was an Amazon Echo quietly nestled at over half of residential stands at the show. Yet attitude of “we’re integrating with voice products, but we don’t necessarily recommend it” was prevalent at number of booths at the show. This reluctance comes from key security issues (i.e. “How do I stop my child controlling something I don’t want it to in my home?”) put to Amazon currently remaining unresolved. In fact in response to that very question, Amazon’s Dan Quigley said that Alexa technology was still a “work in progress” – it’s probably safe to assume that not even Amazon itself being prepared for the popularity of Echo and Dot means it still very much playing catch-up when it comes to meeting consumer expectations of the technology.

  2. HDMI-over-IP takes centre stage

    The shift in 2016 towards distributed networking continued, with an abundance of HDMI-over-IP offerings on display in Amsterdam from the likes of Wyrestorm, Just Add Power and Atlona (debuting its Ominstream product family at the show).

    With HDR awareness still considered to be largely lacking in the industry, Wyrestorm focused on demoing support lossless 4K UHD video with HDR and multichannel audio (up to DTS:X and Dolby Atmos) with a demo of its NetworkHD 400 Series 4K encoder and decoder. Atlona added to the conversation by showcasing the benefits of its EDID emulation, audio conversion, switching and distribution offerings at the show.

    Incorporating a new Arria 10 chip developed in collaboration with Intel, Crestron’s newly introduced DigitalMedia NVX Series – making it possible to transmit 4K60 4:4:4 HDR video over standard 1 Gigabit Ethernet with “zero” latency – was naturally a key talking point across both residential and commercial industries, though some were sceptical about compression.

    WATCH: HDR is huge for the industry, but awareness is currently lacking

  3. Consumer audio brands investing in winning approval of installer

    The increasing crossover between DIY and professionally installed systems continued into the audio section of the show. A busy Bang & Olufsen booth was used to send a clear message that it wants to change the perceptions among CIs that the manufacturer’s platform is difficult to work with. It’s newly introduced BeoLink SmartHome system opens up its platform and allows users to connect its proprietary systems with other products in the home, including full direct IP control with automation systems from Crestron, Control4 and Savant. Its evident B&O hopes to position itself alongside the likes of Sonos as a brand that can convert is mainstream popularity into the professional channel. Crestron’s latest generation of TSW touch screens offer full Sonos support (as well as an improved processor and ambient light sensor). Crestron say they plan for more and more native apps to be accessible via touch panels in this way in the near future.

    Elsewhere at audio booths at the show there was clear focus on advancing immersive and invisible offerings in the marketplace, perhaps best exemplified by the constant stream of people visiting Storm Audio’s immersive audio demo room powered by Triad speakers throughout the day. AudioControl focused on showcasing the DTS:X and DTS Neural Sound capabilities of its Convert AVR-7 and AVR-9 home theatre receivers. DTS Neural Surround can up-convert stereo sources and TV broadcasts into 7.1.4 immersive format, as well as 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. Invisible speaker offerings for in-wall and in-ceiling applications included Monitor Audio’s IV140 speaker incorporating a large low-frequency exciter for high power bass – its back box design furthermore works to isolate sound and limit low frequency below 75Hz. Amina’s Edge7 from its latest range can handle 75W of continuous power, with maximum achievable peak Sound Pressure Level just under 115dB at 1m.

  4. RSM continues to establish itself in the marketplace

    The increased growth of the remote systems management (RSM) market evident at CEDIA in September continued in Amsterdam, with Domotz showcasing how it is now working with with D-Tools to streamline setting up a new network with Domotz PRO, and facilitate ongoing maintenance of systems designed in D-Tools SI. The recent availability of BakPak management software on Pakedge RK-1 routers and NK-1 wireless controllers (at no extra license or subscription fee) now also allows Control4 dealers to manage the home network remotely (and see the strength of Z-Wave or ZigBee devices). Other integrations (including between Krika and networking company Niveo) and Ihiji’s recently added monitoring protocols designed to work closer with manufacturers, suggests RSM is gradually becoming a standard for the industry, providing crucial extra revenue opportunities in the age of DIY.

  5. In the age of DIY, branding is key


    At a time when awareness of Amazon’s voice-controlled offerings is an all-time high and Apple continues to bolster its HomeKit offerings, there was an underlying worry about the fate of the custom installation channel on the show floor and at the Smart Building Conference preceding the main event. Amazon’s Charlie Kindel was keen to reassure attendees to the conference that the company is passionate about collaborating with the community, yet its recent foray into smart home consultations (via Amazon Home Services) pushing Philips Hue and Fire TV  suggests that they very much want to take their piece of the pie.

    An interesting take on how to navigate the modern-day marketplace as a home technologists able to integrate complex systems was provided by Peter Aylett, technical Director at Archimedia Middle East, who reinforced the critical importance of selling your abilities in a landscape dominated by marketing from the Amazon’s and Apple’s of the world.

    WATCH: Peter Aylett on how to optimise your business model in 2017

    One more note…

    As a side note, it’s interesting with regard to the battle of home automation providers and the incredible figures that have recently come out of Control4 (i.e. announcing record revenues of over €198.7/£167.6 million and Crestron (reportedly match Control4, yet residential only a fraction of its €1.4/£1.2 billion revenue) HQ, to hear that the latter will be and are currently investing in dominating in the space even further. Some may have questioned Crestron’s commitment after it separated itself from the CEDIA Expo, but with the special appointment of John Clancy and a dedicated residential space planned for ISE 2018 it will be interesting to see how 2017 unfolds.


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