Best Practice: Getting the Most out of CEDIA Expo 2015

This year’s CEDIA circus is moving to Dallas, Texas, for the 2015 Expo. Though attendance numbers are still down from the Halcyon days of the mid ‘naughties’, it remains the most important show globally for our industry. 

Combining a very large show floor dedicated to residential technology, with an excellent and comprehensive training programme, CEDIA Expo has been on my calendar for well over a decade now. Last year’s show was dominated by 4K over HDMI 1.4, immersive audio formats, and a large number of distributors all competing in the ‘race to the bottom’ with pricing. This year, the following should be leading the trends: 

HDMI 2.0 / HDCP 2.2 Compatible Distribution
4K content is now a reality (Netflix, Roku, Amazon and Sky very soon). The caveat? The entire HDMI chain needs to support HDCP 2.2. Whilst there will be some widgets at the show floor that can possibly circumvent this, my recommendation is always to keep designs 100% legal and not try and strip out or down convert HDCP. This year will see the release of HDCP 2.2 compatible HDMI distribution product from a number of manufacturers. This is significant as we will soon see existing customers have issues with existing systems when they try and plug in an HDMI 2.2 device into a legacy distribution system

4K content is now becoming widely available. Manufacturers of cables will be plastering ‘HDMI 2.0’ all over the packaging. It will be interesting to see how they back up their claims with credible testing, and what lengths of cable they claim will work at the full 18Gb/s HDMI 2.0 speed. I suspect that we will all have a steep learning curve ahead when 18Gb/s silicon arrives to drive the hopefully 18Gb/s capable cabling we are now installing. 

Immersive Audio Matures
Whereas last year many people were experiencing immersive audio in the form of Dolby Atmos and Auro3D for the first time, this year it will be nothing new to most people. Processor manufacturers will be trying to differentiate themselves from the competition. I’m looking forward to seeing how processor manufacturers propose to support larger speaker arrays than the 7.1.4, which is the current Atmos norm. Support of more rendered object-based channels allows us to sell more amplifier channels and speakers into higher end projects.

APPs and APIs Abound
It’s now an inarguable reality that a large part of our future is ‘Hanging APPs on Walls’ (© Rich Green for that phrase). Equipment manufacturers either need to embrace this, or become ever more marginalised in today’s very competitive marketplace. We will see both a proliferation of APPs to control products, as well as a greater emphasis on APIs (Application Programming Interface) as the way forwards for systems integration. One announcement that we will see sooner or later is the result of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts having invested $90 in Savant and $135 in Sonos. This inexorably links the fortunes of these two companies both commercially and technically. Look to Dallas as the first showing of these two ecosystems coming together with what they hope ill be the ‘One APP to rule them all’.

APPs are not just for control
A sure sign of the levels of maturity that our industry has reached are the amount of software applications to help with sales, design and operational processes. As many companies reach a level of technical competency that allows them to deliver a high level of user experience, it’s now time for those companies to focus on becoming even more efficient and thus profitable. At the show, companies will be showing software for generating proposals, managing stock, tracking technicians, invoicing and many other essential business activities. As ever with a big show, a little planning will get you a long way towards maximising your time:

  • Make appointments in advance as exhibitors will be very busy during the show. I tend to pack all my appointments into one day, leaving a whole day to wander around the show unencumbered with having to be anywhere specific.
  • Have some specific research objectives in mind. Knowing what you are looking for makes you a lot more focussed when at a show. Think of two or three holes in your current product or solutions set and use the show to specifically search out ways of filling those holes.
  • Take some courses. CEDIA’s expo has the highest concentration of industry specific courses of any Global event. Some of these courses are only delivered once a year so take the time to look through what’s available from both CEDIA and manufacturers. CEDIA’s ‘Emerging Trends’ courses are excellent for keeping up with how current trends will influence both your technical and business practices.

Though CEDIA Expo in The U.S. has been getting fewer visitors from the EMEA region of late, it remains the most important annual global platform for products and solutions targeted at residential and personal technology companies. I’ll come back next month with a mini write up to see how many of my predictions come true!

Peter Aylett is a world-renowned speaker and lecturer in residential technology, and the Technical Director at Archimedia, a multinational high-end residential integrator in The Middle East. He is also currently Chair of CEDIA’s International Technology Council Applied Content Action Team, and a regular contributor to HiddenWires.

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