CEDIA 2018: 8K, KNX and natural light lead the way in San Diego

The 2018 edition of CEDIA expo opened its doors with a new look but the same great offering of home technology to talk about at the San Diego Convention Centre.

HiddenWires attended this year’s event with a healthy amount curiosity – primarily, as to what CEDIA would look like under new ownership (seasoned exhibition host, Emerald Expositions), the organisation’s focus following the sale (and subsequent purchase of The Cinema Designer company), and what footfall would be like at the event taking in all of the above.

The team (*editor*) may have walked a little slower to the picture-perfect, quayside setting of the Convention Centre this year with being the event’s last in the San Diego sunshine, so please accept our post-show apologies again for being a few minutes late for those 9am meets.

Penney for your thoughts

john penney, 20th century fox, giving cedia 2018 keynote at san diego convention centre

CEDIA 2018 got off to a great start – kicking off with a keynote that unlike others in the past did not challenge the concentration of those of us who had crossed the pond to be there. John Penney of 20th Century Fox highlighted the opportunities available to integrators as a growing number people cut the cord and opt for subscription-based content providers such as Netflix or Amazon, as the lines between IT and entertainment increasingly blur.

The facts back it up – Netflix has more subscribers (50.85 mill) than cable TV companies (48.61 mill) thanks to strong consumer relationships and honing its offering through the “new oil” of data feedback (via tracking and reacting to viewing habits). He outlined that the opportunity for installers is being the one to handle connecting all the new devices and subscription surfaces that are going to be entering the home in one easy-to-control, mobile-friendly interface and the added benefit of higher quality video resolution and improved audio. Penney forecast that 55 million will be “cord-cutters” by 2022, and said installers should look to take on a subscription-based business model to ensure future success; "We are entering a golden age of content and technology, and you are ideally positioned to take those spoils of war."

Our 5 key takeaways from the show floor:

  1. We need to talk about 8K/ “big-ass” LED displays

    You really couldn’t miss Samsung’s ‘The Wall’ or Sony’s Sony Crystal LED Display System (CLEDIS) – and just in case you did miss the latter, coming in at 9.8 m x 5.5 m (32ft x 18 ft), timely presentations would take place throughout the day highlighting just how much of a big deal Sony think the CLEDIS is. Sony’s scalable 8K x 4K is worth the hype however, offering stunning clarity and motion, even if a pipedream for anyone outside the world’s top 0.1% to own.

    sony cledis displayat cedia 2018Keeping with the modular display theme, Samsung’s 146-in microLED The Wall’ display naturally attracted a fair bit of attention over at the Samsung stand (although now rivalled by LG MicroLED offering). Samsung confirmed that configurations of 4K 146-in diagonal and 8K 292-in diagonal are supported, and like the CLEDIS the cost will come in at a six-figure sum. Although the booth was set up to create some distance between the display and the viewer on close scrutiny the black edges of the panels are still visible, as the case with showings of The Frame earlier in the year…

    samsung 8K qled TVs at CEDIA 2018Samsung’s 2018 line-up of QLED 8K TVs have to be mentioned too – whilst some fell in love right there on booth #4420 of the show floor, some commented it’s maybe looked too realistic. Whether a fan or not of the flagship 85-in Q900FN 8K TV (and a 75-in model only for Asia and European release) the winning feature has to be the support the upscaling of content to 8K, provided by an AI engine in Korea continually updated with new content by Samsung. There’s also Ambient Mode, 4,000 nits of brightness and voice control if that’s not enough to sell it on.

    8K was also a prevalent trend on the projection side, with JVC’s first 8K ‘e-shift’ home cinema projector leading the way and staking the claim for the “world's first home theatre projector that can achieve a 8K display.” ‘E-shift’ technology (essentially working to shift pixels diagonally 0.5 pixel) works together with native 4K D-ILA devices to produce an 8K image on the screen and upscale where necessary. 4K projectors were introduced too – with JVC (launching 4)and Sony (introducing 3) battling for glory the Thursday morning with launch events a mere half an hour apart (…the former took the spoils).

  2. KNX is the word (well, acronym)

    It’s no secret that KNX adoption is nowhere near as big in the US as it is in Europe (where markets like Germany and the UK are thriving) – so, it was a surprise to be having multiple conversations about the protocol at such an America-focused show.

    At CEDIA Control4 gave us the low-down on not one, not ten, but over 100 new KNX products across lighting, HVAC, blinds and rollers, keypads, frames, and bus management. Products will be available from dealers in Germany, the UK, Singapore, China and Australia, with the Control4 KNX Network driver (supported in the latest Control4 OS release) natively connecting to existing KNX devices in the home, removing the need for 3rd party integration. We also have it on good authority that Savant will be ramping up its work with KNX, with finer details expected later this year/Q1 of 2019, meaning nearly all the home automation heavyweights have backed KNX in a big way in the last couple of years. With CEDIA also recently increasing its dedicated education on KNX integration it will be interesting to see how the protocol landscape changes in the coming years.

  3. Let there be light (and let it be really cool)

    Demo of the show has to go to Lutron and Ketra and their Josh.ai-powered luxury room. We may have caught the demonstration a little bleary-eyed on the final day of the show, but it was nonetheless impressive. Some were surprised to see Lutron make an acquisition, but the synergy between the two was evident (only 5 months in). During the demo, Lutron showcased how it has combined the powers of HomeWorks Q and Ketra Design Studio, to bring white, pastels and saturated colours across different parts of the space, and even used to highlight the specific colours in an artwork or flowers. Amazing stuff.

    Runners ups have to be Wisdom/Trinnov-powered 9.4.6 immersive audio demo and Steinway Lyngdorf’s large Dolby Atmos theatre, marking its Model LS’ return to CEDIA in the form of 8 boundary woofers with a total of 16 x 12-in drivers for exemplary showcases of what a luxury home cinema should sound like.

    speakers and screen at steinway cedia 2018 demo room, san diego convention centre

  4. Partner up

    There were more partnerships announced at CEDIA 2018 than one can list (or at least it felt that way – in a good way…). Whether Sonos and Sonance, Sony working with IMAX and Netflix partnerships, Stealth working even more closely with Audiocontrol or the ever-impressive and forward-thinking Josh.ai seemingly firming up partnerships with everyone that matters, the overriding message was this: play nice or get left behind. Personally, coming from the commercial AV background, it’s nice to see the resi world really get behind this – it feels necessary for the industry’s future growth, but it nonetheless creates a different kind of show buzz to other trade shows.

    crestron, control4 and elan display at sonos loft in san diego during cedia 2018On another note for Sonos, it was refreshing to see CEO Patrick Spence sit down and answer questions from CEDIA members at a special expo event. Love them or hate them, you can’t fault a company for trying (& taking the first question: “With such a focus on direct-to-consumer sales, how will you avoid cannibalising opportunities for the channel?”). The recently announced open-platform  Sonos amp – the fruits of working with dedicated CI councils over several years – and its hipster-filled “loft space” being a celebration of its integration with Crestron, Control4, Savant, RTI and others, were further signs its invested in the channel (though we’ll leave it to you decide this a necessity for them or not, though).

  5. One-stop shop?

    Some home automation companies were keen to affirm that they are not trying to be the above (but hey, ‘some big home automation brand launched some new products in different categories’ isn’t as catchy of a heading). Regardless, significant launches from the likes of Savant and Nortek (ex Core Brands) show providers are far from holding back. The former was showing the fruits of its acquisition of Artison by debuting three self-powered PoE in-ceiling speakers and an IP (AVB-networked) 200W soundbar among new voice skills, additions to its AV over IP line-up, updated to TrueImage lighting software and Savant Central Management and Savant Central Management & Savant Studio (what Savant founder refers to as “the next leap forward in cloud-based integration software”), at its lively stand at the show

    A busy Nortek booth had more launches than you can shake a stick at (spanning ELAN doorbells, surveillance cameras, remotes, Furman power distribution and SpeakerCraft Terrazza speakers). The company’s ELAN intelligent touch panels were a particularly interesting launch – available in 8-in and 10-in models, the panels incorporate both voice control and facial recognition (powered by IntelliVision technology Nortek acquired in May 2018). The introduction SpeakerCraft Terrazza speakers signalled a wider industry shift towards R&D budget being dedicated to developing more outdoor lines prevalent in recent years.

Final thoughts

Some of the technology at CEDIA wowed us, even if products may be a long way off being a reality just yet. The show, although not big on numbers for Europeans/EMEA visitors due to its heavy US focus, provides a valuable opportunity to connect with old friends and see consumer versions of products where elsewhere (i.e. ISE) you may typically be presented with only the commercial version.

We don’t have official attendance figures for the show, but there was strong feeling that footfall was down (and Saturday, sadly, was a ghost town – in stark contrast to a show like ISE which is still abuzz, even if quieter, on its last day). Numbers were likely down despite a big push from organisers for the design world to attend and engage with events at the show (e.g. with dedicated networking events and design tours organised to introduce specialists to new technology), and a partnership with the National Kitchen & Bath Association. With this in mind, it's interesting to hear that word organisers want more cash for exhibiting next year.

CEDIA 2018 was the expo’s last year in San Diego before moving to Denver, Colorado. Next year’s event will take place from 10 to 12 September, 2019, at the Colorado Convention Centre.

Goodbye craft beer and sunshine, hello pre-show breakfast burrito and Rocky Mountains.

panoramic image of cedia 2018 showfloor from control4 booth at san diego convention centre