Written by:

Anne Marie Rouse, Senior Consultant
Mary Miller, Senior Consultant
Robert Heiblim, Partner
David Kaplan, Partner

 

The recent CEDIA Expo provided ample food for thought, even if many (most) of us weren't able to attend. Naturally, when we can't get together in person for a trade show, a lot gets lost. We regret not being able to have live conversations, be able to read body language, ask our own questions – often difficult ones – while seeing with our own eyes and touching with our hands. Still, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, CEDIA 2021 was rewarding for us.

 

Mary Miller, Senior Consultant

CE Pro Editor Jason Knott invited the bluesalve team to judge the submissions for the CE Pro Home of the Year awards, which were announced at CEDIA. In the weeks leading up to the presentations at the Indianapolis Convention Center, I and my colleagues had pored over many incredible submissions of creative, innovative and downright stunning installations. I was struck by some of the emerging themes that were becoming more dominant in this year’s entries. In addition to the expected home automation and entertainment features, many of these homes included WFH zones and optimized Zoom areas. Touchless controls featuring voice interface were also on the rise. Not surprisingly, there was more interesting outdoor integration around pools and patios, with glare resistant screens that disappear into the landscape when not in use.

 

They say necessity is the mother of Invention, yet I couldn’t help but be awed by the unique solutions driven by this new normal. Data had already told us that consumers were spending more money on home improvement during the pandemic. Even so, I have to applaud the integrators and their staffs for overcoming what must have been obstacles never before encountered in the field. There's some amazing work going on these days to produce these magical environments. They make working from home easier while providing the comfort that helps make homes a place to feel safe and relaxed in.

 

Robert Heiblim, Partner

Clearer measures from the exhibition firm might have retained more attendees or exhibitors for this year's show, particularly when it began hemorrhaging exhibitors. That said, speaking from today’s WFH world, where was the virtual component of the CEDIA expo?

 

Why could we not have experienced some of the keynotes, panel discussions and training sessions that for many of us are the real value of trade attendance – not just from CEDIA but other conferences as well? Having just attended the "Works With" conference held virtually by Silicon Labs, we learned a lot about topics and themes where CEDIA wisdom was not only desirable but necessary, such as Matter, HomeKit, wireless innovations and more. Naturally, we would have preferred to have been at that event in person too. However, even from home we were able to ask questions and get the information we needed.

 

Many integrators and small vendors that got caught in this year's CEDIA's meltdown will not have another chance for direct contact and discussion for some time now, which is a shame. That's especially true because we see that hybrid and pure virtual trade events are thriving elsewhere, in physical and social atmospheres that will remain unclear for the foreseeable future.

 

Anne-Marie Rouse, Senior Consultant

It's unfortunately true that many companies bailed from this year's CEDIA and the show was not well-attended. That said, the absence of the big guys ironically seemed to enhance the quality of the interactions during booth visits. With the flashiest "distractions" removed, the professionals who did attend seemed to have more time to really listen to the pitches and presentations. It seemed that in this less-rushed atmosphere we were able to have more meaningful conversations, albeit fewer of them.

 

As always, the Z-Wave Alliance booth was a hub of activity and one of the most well attended exhibits at the show. Positioned right next to the hospitality area and Smart Stage, and fully stocked with new and innovative products, it was the natural stopping place for anyone in attendance. Of particular interest there was the Den SmartStrike lock, the new ezlo Secure hub and the sleekly designed suite of Sensative 700 Series Z-Wave sensors.

 

David Kaplan, Partner

When I registered for CEDIA Expo 2021 way back in June, my expectations were nothing more or less than going to a giant reunion of 14–15,000 of my closest friends. Clearly those expectations weren’t met. I’ve heard a lot of sniping at what should have been or could have been, mostly from folks who weren’t at the show. I’ve yet to attend a truly satisfactory virtual trade show, and my experience has been that creating a virtual booth can be quite time-consuming, so I don’t blame anyone for not adding a virtual component at the last moment or for not anticipating the need for one.

 

But man-o-man I wish more of you had shown up. Despite the light attendance and missing the big booth vendors, I had a successful show and a blast being there.

 

This was the first opportunity for bluesalve client DEN Smart Home to show a final design version of its truly disruptive innovation in access control – the DEN SmartStrike. DEN’s founder, Marijn van der Wal, managed to get to Indianapolis all the way from his home in the Netherlands and believe me, that was not easy in this era of travel restrictions and quarantine.

 

We leveraged placement on the Interop Wall in the Z-Wave Pavilion and had many quality meetings with dealers, distributors, and the press. Their feedback (and encouragement) was invaluable, and I think if you asked Marijn “was it worth it,” he would say ‘Yes.”

 

While I thought some of the announcements and presentations from vendors such as Audio Control and Josh.ai were significant, the start-ups often tell you more about where the industry is going. If I didn't go to the Expo, I would not have stumbled into cool new products from folks such as Autoslide, GuardDog and Juke Audio. Not if the show had been a virtual, or even if it were a more crowded live show.

 

You shoulda been there.

 

All of us at bluesalve Partners look forward to CEDIA 2022, whether in person, by desktop or a combination of the two!