Every year in September thousands of home systems integrators from across the country and abroad meet at the CEDIA(Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) Expo to explore some of the newest smart home devices and systems to hit the market. Manufacturers commonly keep many of their products under wraps until the Expo, using it as their launching pad for some of the most innovative, exciting, and ground-breaking new products on the planet. Here are a few of my favorite finds at the show, mixed in with notable trends that will definitely shape how your home performs in the future.
1. Alexa Everywhere!
“Alexa, Good Night.” Going forward, this simple voice command is all it will take to launch a string of signals to a variety of smart home products so that the lights, shades, thermostats, and electronic door locks all go to their respective good night settings. In the past, to accomplish this housewide sweep required verbally instructing each device individually. But now that manufacturers of complete home control systems, including Crestron, Control4, and Lutron, have integrated the popular voice control software into their products, homeowners who own these systems will be able to streamline the control of their home … to just a few simple words.
2. Invisible TV?
I admit it: when I received information pre-CEDIA Expo from SIM2 about its new SIM2xTV, “an invisible high-performance video solution,” I was confused. Eager to investigate, the SIM2 booth was one of my first stops of 2-day tour of the CEDIA Expo. Once I saw the “TV,” it clicked. Yes, it was invisible … sort of. And yes, it introduced new way of thinking about big-screen viewing in the home.
Leveraging its years of expertise as a premiere manufacturer of video projectors, SIM2 created a solution that isn’t exactly invisible but will go undetected as a video projector. The SIM2x TV is a short-throw video projector designed and engineered to be built into any piece of furniture, rending it “invisible.” Delivering 2,900 lumens and employing a hybrid laser light engine, the 1080p short-throw projector is intended to sit close to the front wall of a media room and project images onto a screen or even a blank wall. Two different models are available: the projector designed to be built into a piece of furniture ($18,000) and a standalone unit ($15,000).
3. Smooth as Glass Door Lock
Electronic door locks were everywhere at the Expo, but the Obsidian from Kwikset sports a truly unique design. In fact, it doesn’t resemble a lock at all. The definition of Obsidian is “a hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization.” It’s a fitting name for an electronic lock designed that shines like glass and has the promise of being “hard as a rock” impenetrable.
Omitted from its design is the keyway that most other smart locks include in case users need to use a traditional key to unlock and lock the door. The removal of the keyway results in a touchpad-based electronic lock that’s sleek, modern and precludes the threat of lock picking and lock bumping. Moreover, the Obsidian’s SecureScreen technology can help mask smudge attacks, in which passcodes can be potentially jeopardized by detecting frequently used numbers from the oily residue on the touchscreen surface.
4. Slick Mounting Solution for Sonos
I love Sonos. It’s simple, affordable, touches every room, and the music selection is out of this world. There’s just one problem: Finding a (safe) spot for the speakers. Sure, you can place the speakers on tables, countertops, bookshelves, and credenzas, but this approach lacks the elegance many other whole-house audio solutions offer through speakers that can be built into the walls and ceilings. Faced with this challenge of Sonos speaker placement in the homes of their many clients, the home systems integrators from Richardson, Texas-based Honest Install decided to do something about it and developed a line of mounting products called PlayBox.
Launched under the company name of Thenos, PlayBox is in a nutshell an enclosure that sinks into the wall and holds a Sonos Play:1 speaker. A few models are available, starting at $139. If you prefer to have your speakers recessed into the ceiling, a ceiling-mounted PlayBox is under development, as are enclosures for Sonos Play:3 speakers and subwoofer.
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5. Amplifier … Gets out of the Rack and Into the Wall
When I think about an audio amplifier, I usually envision a black box stuffed into a shelf in an A/V cabinet or rack. This is never a bad thing, but ChannelVision offers an amplification solution that can be mounted into the wall, right where you need it. Rated at 100 watts, the A0350 In-Wall amplifier fits into a standard 2-gang wallbox; it also features Bluetooth (4.0) streaming capabilities.
6. Super Shading Solutions
Motorized window shades have for years been an afterthought of many home tech projects. But no longer. Now widely recognized for their many benefits like enhanced energy efficiency, lighting control, and security, home control manufacturers are collaborating closely with shading manufacturers to simplify the integration of the two smart home amenities.
Additionally, a relative newcomer to the smart home industry, Axis, has developed an innovative way to motorize and automate standard pull-cord operated blinds and shades that costs less than $200 to implement. A small wand-shaped motorized assembly attaches to the inside of the window frame; the pull cord thread through it, completing the installation. Using the free Axis mobile app, the attached shade can be controlled remotely. What’s more, the motorized unit is powered via solar energy, precluding the need for an electrical outlet or batteries (back-up battery power is available, however, for cloudy days). Several models are available, starting at $199.
7. Security Camera Controls Your TV
Yes, you read that correctly. The Remocam gets a nod from me for tacking on a feature that differentiates if from the huge pack of wireless surveillance cameras available today. There may be few instances where the ability to turn off a TV or infrared-controlled device through the remote monitoring capabilities of a surveillance camera would be come in handy, but it’s the feature is unique, nonetheless.
8. Pretty Wi-Fi Routers
For years we’ve been stuffing routers into the far corners of our homes where their unattractive looks could go unnoticed—usually in spots where the Wi-Fi signal strength is compromised. A handful of manufacturers at the CEDIA Expo, including eero, Luma, and Securifi, introduced routers packed with power and lots of cool features (comprehensive parental controls were the trend), and with attractive housings that you won’t be embarrassed to keep right out in the open for everyone to see.
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