Full house for first CEDIA Tech Forum of 2018

CEDIA’s 2018 Tech Forum kicked off at the busy tech hub, Code Node, in London last month – bringing together CEDIA members and manufacturers for a full schedule of of educational talks and networking opportunities.

UK's largest venue dedicated to technology events played host to speakers from the likes of Meridian, LG, Lutron and AWE for CEDIA’s first Tech Forum of 2018 – with each talk at full capacity until the event’s close.

The free-to-attend day opened with insight from Meridian’s Hugo Fitzjohn, accompanied by Andy Dowell, director of licensing for MQA, into how installers can tackle the obstacles faced when delivering hi res audio to client, and the importance of having a capable system from end to end.

Dowell was keen to point out that “content is king” when it comes to hi res audio, and that MQA is working hard to ensure is not just evergreen content being prioritised at the company, but music of all genres. He also teased that one or more of the key streaming players is not far off joining the likes of Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer and others in supporting hi res playback and very much has the technology in its “crosshairs” to possibly launch as soon as 2019.

He further pinpointed that the key audience to sell the “hi res experience” to was the type of clients who consider themselves at the forefront of new technology and pride themselves as early adopters. With such clients, installers can “create a sales proposal differential” by giving a discernibly better listening experience and something to show off, which can be pitched as having the “Full HD/4K” experience for the ears.

This was followed by LG’s Dean Little, who explored the components of LG’s OLED technology in-depth as well as discussing what differentiates its 2018 line up – incorporating its Alpha 9 processor, bringing with it Dolby and AI support. He added that LG’s most recent developments to sharpen its AI technology will lead the way for being able to “talk to the TV in a much more natural way” (e.g. being able to give instructions such as “turn the TV off when this programme ends”) and that the company expects to OLED sales to double year-on-year in 2018 beyond to the “great growth potential” the manufacturer has carefully nutured. Particular of interest for CIs is LG’s new partnership with Control4, which will be followed with collaborations with Crestron and Savant.

Another highlight was James Drummie and Stuart Tickle of AWE’s take on the future of smart home design. Citing CEDIA’s recent market research into the home technology market, they outlined how the entry-level – mid market is “growing massively” in the residential sector, and that the modern-day client prioritises convenience over performance. Outlining how many “future” predictions for the “smart home” are already here (i.e. wireless infrastructure and distributed designs), they forecast that the next big development for the home would be AI and deep learning, as it becomes increasingly important for a home to “expect what’s going to happen.”

A big talking point during the talk was the topic of ‘DIFM’ (Do It For Me) opportunities and how CIs can capitalise on growing consumer awareness of products marketed as ‘DIY.’ AWE stressed that this development means it’s never been so critical for installers to “understand the evolution of the market and the value they can bring” and how CEDIA members can no longer just primarily target the “exclusive” market anymore.

Tickle affirmed: “Plug and play is going to happen, but it’s not always going to work so our industry needs to be a watch dog” – crucially, by knowing how off-the-shelf devices work, what their weaknesses are (particularly when it comes to net security), and how to profit from working with them by selling their own expertise.

The forum culminated with a keynote (exclusive for the event) from the British Standard Institute’s (BSI) business development director for IoT, David Mudd, titled “IoT: Why & how to engage with it and avoid the pitfalls?’ Mudd explained how IoT is both a “huge opportunity and risk for the industry” when it comes to taking advance of the trillions’ the IoT industry is forecast to be worth by 2025. He outlined security, cost, interoperability, the battle of technologies and lack of IoT skills as the key issues holding back mass adoption of IoT technologies, underlined by confusing “expectations vs reality” when it comes to what they can actually do for residential and commercial environments. He added that asking “why” IoT devices are being deployed as being key to ensuring their as effective as possible, with too many clients having an “embrace or die” approach.

When it comes to smart home automation, Mudd stressed that IoT has three key benefits: making things easier, allowing clients to do new things or effectively use data (the “new oil”) for an improved living experience. He added that installers can benefit from knowing more than the manufacturer when it comes to making technology either useful, easy and/or having the “wow” effect.

Recent widely publicised hackings and data breaches have made IoT a harder sell, however, and Mudd explained that the upcoming GDPR regulation on data protection and privacy means it is now essential installers think about what they are doing with data and whether it is secure. “We can’t have nice stuff like customer data, but not have accountability,” said Mudd, adding regarding GDPR, its necessary to appoint someone to handle it, then work out what data is coming in and out and then work out what to do with it (through risk assessment and working out how serious data captured is).

This sparked an interesting debate in the room, with installers and manufacturers taking opposing viewpoints when it came to viability and what actions exactly were necessary when it came to disposing of and retaining clients’ personal information. Mudd concluded that recent developments means that installers’ process for selecting IoT suppliers must be stricter than ever – with questions regarding installation, interoperability, legacy systems and platform support imperative to ask at the early stages of a project.

Exhibiting sponsors Energenie, Focal, Gallo Acoustics, LILIN, OneAV, and Redline also showcased their latest products to attendees at the forum.

The remaining Tech Forum 2018 dates are as follows:

Bristol – 22nd May

Edinburgh – 12th June

London – 16th October

Leeds – 13th November

For more information on any of the events and to book a place, please visit www.cedia.co.uk/cedia-events.