Heather L. Sidorowicz is a technology integrator who attended the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo in Denver, where she scoped out the latest in home automation trends for NewHomeSource.
The CEDIA Expo used to be filled with video. It was the first place most of us industry professionals experienced high definition. In that respect, CEDIA used to be a more glamorous show, much more visually stunning.
That has very much changed in the last few years. No more LG, Samsung, Panasonic or even Sharp. (I remember seeing Sharp’s 92-inch” LED for the first time at CEDIA). It’s evident that the housing downturn affected the home automation business as attendance at past expos plummeted. But this year, the boys — and gals — are back in town!
Registration at this year’s expo was up more than 50 percent. (Official numbers from the show have yet to be released.) Why is this important to you? Because as my industry gets stronger, you’ll start to see more offerings from those manufacturers that have fallen off the grid a bit.
What’s Better Than High Def?
One such company that is still making waves at the expo is Sony. It’s important to understand that Sony creates technology — more than you know. We have a lot to thank them for, even if they were unable to bring them all to market. (Anyone remember beta tapes or Super Audio CDs?) Did you know Sony was the creator of Blu-ray technology? This year (and for the last two years), they’ve been pushing 4K, also know as Ultra HD.
4K is the next stage of high definition, hence the term “Ultra HD,” as the Consumer Electronics Association would prefer we call it (you’ll hear both for the next few years). Ultra HD is four — yes, four! — times the picture quality of standard definition; high definition is only twice the resolution of standard.
Ultra HD is beautiful and bright and Sony wants to bring it to your household. The biggest issue right now is that there is no real content (and it’s pricey). While this could take years to become the standard, it’s important to keep in mind that HD was created long before it was ever available to consumers.
Not only does Sony want to bring a better picture, they want to improve the quality of your audio as well. Since the advent of the iPod, music quality has taken a hit. Music we download or stream is compressed, which means “parts” have been taken out to make the file smaller. This allows for faster download times and quicker streaming rates. These accessible ways of listening to music may sound good enough for most of us. But if you heard what you were missing, chances are, you’d want more.
Sony’s new high-resolution (coined Hi-Res) players will not only improve the quality of your music collection, the players will also include an extensive library that will allow for download and playback of hi-res songs. Of course a system is only as good as its weakest link, so Sony built in amplifiers (power) to these units to allow for direct playback on a pair of speakers. They can be stand alone units or incorporated into a larger system. The best part is that they can be controlled via iOS or Android apps.
Who Needs Flat Screens When You’ve Got Curves?
Rounding out Sony’s offerings was an audio video receiver and flat panels. Most notable was a 65-inch curved LED screen. Why would you ever want or need a concave flat panel TV? For one it gives a greater depth to the picture (think 3Dish, without the glasses). Second, it greatly improves the viewing angle for those seated around the room. Finally, the curve allows for extra depth, both in picture and sound. This set is a full package for someone looking for a sleek, modern all in one system. I give Sony credit for wanting to improve the experience and moving on from features that aren’t capturing the public’s attention (3D).
This year’s CEDIA was a hopeful glimpse that economic stability is returning. While the expo is not the litmus test for the state of the U.S. economy, it gives me confidence that the home tech industry is looking to create products that are affordable and easy to use, as well as aiming to improve people’s lives through truly thoughtful and life-changing technology.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is a technology integrator (tech speak for someone who knows how to install really neat tech stuff in your home and makes it look easy to do) and a blogger for a home electronics trade magazine.