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The Best of CEDIA Expo 2011 (Or... how I spent my trip to Indy)

Posted on Sep 13, 2011

Just returned from my annual trip to the CEDIA Expo.  For those of you who are not familiar with the CEDIA Expo, it is put on each year by the friendly folks at CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association).  CEDIA is the trade organization to which Interior Technologies and quality companies like ours belong.  They educate, set standards and provide certifications to designers, installers, engineers, etc.

CEDIA Expo 2011 was held in Indianapolis last week from September 8th through the 10th.  In addition to training classes, great industry networking, parties and events, CEDIA Expo hosts a huge trade show floor at the convention center where just about all of the manufacturers and vendors in our industry display their wares, including both their latest product offerings and sneak peaks at new products and services to be released in the coming 12 months.

Unlike larger trade shows such as CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) which is held each January in Las Vegas and draws over 100,000 in its slowest year, Cedia draws just under 20,000 visitors and is only attended by those in the industry.  It is not open to end users and consumers.  As a result, the smaller, more intimate nature of the show gives us a chance to talk directly with manufacturers, their design, engineering and sales teams.  We learn straight from the people who design and produce the products we install as well as get a chance to provide them with real-world feedback about how their offerings perform in the field.

Aside from the great parties such as the classy soiree Control4 threw at the Indiana State Museum), one of my favorite parts of CEDIA Expo is checking out what’s new and coming in the world of home and commercial technology.  I typically come back from CEDIA Expo, gather the staff (as I did this morning) and brief everyone on what I saw and share my favorites.

This year, I’ll be starting an annual tradition of sharing my favorites with all of you: The Interior Technologies Best of CEDIA Expo.

Now for some disclaimers:  Our least favorite thing to sell to our clients is a brand new product. In fact, we have certain formal rules against doing just that.  While our best vendors create some incredible techno-fun, we have learned that it is best to let these new products ferment a bit before diving right in.  We make sure to purchase demo units, test them in our demonstration house/lab and let them go through at least a cycle or two of firmware upgrades before we unleash them on the world.  As we always say, we don’t make guinea pigs out of our Clients. So for many of the items on our list, please keep in mind they are not currently available, may never become available or if they are just about to be released will likely not be available from a quality installation company like ours until we have had a chance to test them.

On with the show…

This list is in no particular order.  Just a group of our 5 favorite:

Favorite Five Technologies from CEDIA Expo 2011

Lutron Wireless, Battery Operated Cellular ShadesLutron Battery Powered, Cellular Shades:  Coming this fall at prices starting at just $299 plus tax and installation for a 3’x5′ Window, these shades are both beautiful and a game changer.

Absolutely no wires are required as they are powered by standard D batteries which are end user replaceable. Battery life will be approximately 3-5 years depending on size and usage.

At a slightly higher price point, these cellular shades come in versions that can be integrated with RadioRA2 & Homeworks QS Lighting Control Systems as well as third party control systems including Control4, Crestron and Savant.

Over 50 designer fabric options including light filtering sunshades, double cell privacy shades and room darkening shades will be available in just a few weeks.

Amazing to believe, but now,  for the price of a manual shade, you can automate.  Lutron does it again.

 

Totem Acoustic Element Speaker - Fire- in DuskTotem Element Speakers:  At CEDIA Expo each year, the show floor is a cacophony of sound.  The miserable acoustics of a convention center ring your ears with a mix of badly mic’d presentations, crowd noise and an endless number of audio booths blaring conflicting sound.  There can not be a worse place to demonstrate quality speakers.

And every year, like a ship following a lighthouse beacon, I am called by one beautiful sound cutting through the fog of slap echoes and boom-less base.  Each year, I follow that sound and discover it is coming from the Totem Acoustic booth.  (This of course is how I discovered Totem in the first place many years ago at CEDIA Expo).

This year, that great sound was being made by Totem’s Element series speakers.  Gloss cabinets in Dusk (black) and Ice (white), 7 inch torrent hand assembled drivers personally designed by Vince Bruzzese the genius behind Totem, these revolutionary speakers live up to their looks and their heritage – a perfect balance between form, function, art and technology.

As I always say, they are as beautiful to look at as they are to listen to.  Totem does it again.

 

Crestron MLX-3 Handheld Remote ControlCrestron MLX-3 Color LCD Handheld Wireless Remote: We have been offering the Crestron ML-500/600 handheld remote for as long as I can remember.  Likely as long as we have been offering Crestron at all.  It is a staple in my home and our Client’s homes.

And while some had believed that time had passed it by and its looks scream “2005,” it is truly a reliable and functional workhorse.  Ergonomic, plenty of hard buttons, easy to use, easy to program.

For years Crestron has tried to outdo itself and introduced 3 or 4 different remotes, each designed to take the place of the venerable ML-500/600.  Each of those has a special place in the bottom of our drawer of unsold remotes.  Each offered innovation, but none moved us to move on.

The MLX-3, first shown to us by Crestron at last year’s CEDIA Expo is now finally available.  For the first time, we believe that Crestron has released a true replacement for the ML-500/600.  Beatuful, color, LCD screen at the top with icons (not touch), plenty of hard buttons, great ergonomics and two-way feedback.  Best of all, it comes in at about 30% less than its predescessor.

We’ll be getting a hold of a demo unit shortly and we’ll know for sure if Crestron has done it again.

 

Control4 7" Portable TouchscreenControl4 Portable  7” Touch Screen: To be frank, we were not a huge fan of Control4’s previous wireless/table-top touch panel.  It worked well enough, but like many of our Clients, we had a hard time justifying it over an iPad.  We had heard rumours that we were not the only ones.

Well, Control4 has apparently heard that feedback as well.  At CEDIA Expo 2011, they showed the new 7” Portable Touch Screen.  Every bit as sleek and gorgeous as the 7” InfinityEdge In-Wall version we’ve been offering for almost a year, the new portable model takes functionlaty a step further.

With a gloss black charging station, wireless connectivity and a built-in video intercom camera, the new touch panel has solved all of our concerns of its predesessor and then some.

Likely available early next year, we are anxious to get our hands on our demo unit and put this baby through its paces.  Whether it makes sense to purchase a dedicated touch panel like the new 7″ vs. using an iPad is still a practical debate and for another blog.  But for now, this new unit from Control4 definitely makes the conversation worth having.

First the 7″ InfinityEdge In-wall and now the 7″ Portable.  Control4 is about to do it again.

 

Runco LightStyle LS-100d ProjectorRunco LightStyle LS-100d Short Throw, LED, Lampless Projector:  There has yet to be a CEDIA Expo in recent memory where Runco has not blown us away.   This year, they held true and impressed us again.

The LS-100d is a first-of-its-kind short throw, DLP entertainment projector.  The unit is not much bigger than a blu-ray player measuring only 18” deep.  You can sit it on a credenza next to the wall or mount it on the ceiling right next to the wall.  It projects a 92” image onto a screen right next to it.

No more mounting a projecotr across the room, no more hush boxes, no more shadows from people’s heads in the back row.  This compact, quiet and lampless gem is great for playing Wii or Xbox Kinect as you stand up but do not cast a shadow on the projected image.

Best of all , it’s a Runco.  the LS-100d uses Runco’s DHD outboard video processor to create a stunning image and provide all necessary connectivity even if your equipment needs to be across the room or in another part of the house.  The long lasting, extremely color accurate LED light source provides for  lampless, low noise, low heat amazement.

This projector is truly an innovation that will change how we think of projection based systems.

Honorable mention from Runco is the new LS-1.  At under $4k,  this single chip DLP projector can produce an image up to 106” (though you might want to go a bit smaller in brighter rooms) that is fantastic.  The new little brother to the LS-5 and LS-10, the LS1 offers tremendous bang for the buck in a great, low noise, low overhead, low cost package.

If you would like to hear about the other great, new products and services we saw at Cedia or for more information about our Favorite Five, become a Fan of Interior Technologies on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter or drop us an email.


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