Sure, the Smart Home’s getting Smarter and the IoT is growing by leaps and gigs. Those trends seem like gimmes as 2016 comes to a close – stuff one could’ve predicted back at the start of this very strange year.
But what went down that we didn’t see coming – or had an even bigger impact than we might’ve expected?
Here’s our suggestions for the Top 10 Developments of 2016: 1. VUI is the new GUI.
We knew Amazon’s Alexa program was improving to the point that poor Siri had begun to look as relevant as a Commodore 64, but the leap that voice has taken – with assists from both custom integrators and big guns like Google – is nothing short of astonishing. As recognition software moved well beyond the (notoriously low) threshold of consumer frustration, Amazon’s Charlie Kindel turned up at CEDIA 2016 in Dallas
to announce partnerships with Lutron, Crestron, and Sonos. With Google Home joining the push, the number of voice-user-interfaced devices will grow exponentially – along with the attendant issues of interoperability. (And after VUI comes … NOUI. Check this recap
from Dallas.) 2. Machine Learning Took a Big Leap – Quietly.
While Uber was busily testing its self-driving rides, the folks at Google’s DeepMind gave the world a pretty startling demo of a program called AlphaGo
. Google’s machine managed to beat the world’s top player at the ancient game of Go four games to one. (For the uninitiated, Go is an ancient contest that’s vastly more complex than chess – and requires a level of deep neural learning that machines hadn’t previously been able to achieve.) As the virtual mind become thoughtful, everything from “memory prosthetics” to “basic guaranteed income for us redundant humans” will enter the zeitgeist in 2017. 3. The IoT is Even More Vulnerable Than We Thought.
OK, this might be a bit hyperbolic – the Big Brains have been warning us for a while that the more connected we become, the more virtual security becomes key. The big DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack of 2016
weaponized cheap webcams that were using sub-par default passwords and flooded a domain name server with requests, knocking out everything from Netflix to Twitter in a single, massive event. Was that attack a trial run? Here’s hoping someone (or more likely, several someones) at Langley and elsewhere are filling their days with the idea of securing the grid. Meanwhile, the home technology professional will see demand for digital security (including third-party monitoring and troubleshooting options) as both a client expectation and way to generate recurring revenue.
4. DIY – Challenge AND Opportunity.
Wi-Fi solutions. Smart thermostats. Smoke detectors. Video doorbells. Wireless audio. Name it – everything one can think of in a smart home has a kid-sibling in the do-it-yourself aisle. Did we mention interoperability and security already? Yep, we did. All of this tech has the potential to get sideways in a hurry when installed by the Average Joe, and that means the potential for “IT Expert for the Home” becomes an ever-growing market segment. 5. About that Wi-Fi – Meet Mesh.
The world of mesh Wi-Fi arrived rather suddenly in 2016, and we saw a bevy of products that – although pricey – blew simple extender solutions right out of the water. Does this portend a wire-free future? Well, not completely – but there will definitely be an impact. Meanwhile, the best solution when it comes to that notorious concept of “future proofing?” It’s still conduit.
As color gamut and lights and darks improve, the high-res visual experience is moments away from Truly Astonishing.
6. VR is Really Here.
Anyone who’s tried virtual reality goggles in their most recent incarnation knows the possibilities for gaming (especially first-person shooters) and entertainment (especially … well, um, THAT kind of entertainment). But beyond the novelty, several wise people in the CEDIA channel have begun using VR as a sales tool:
Want to imagine what this rec room would look like when it becomes a custom home theater? Put on the headset and dream big. 7. And AR is Here, Too.
Pokemon Go’s augmented reality – adding virtual gaming characters to real-world settings – faded as quickly as it arrived. That doesn’t mean that AR will stay gone – you can bet the next iteration will bring us an even flashier fad. 8. High-Res Got Even Higher.
Yep, those 4K screens are just beginning to see enough content to justify the hype – but as color gamut and lights and darks improve, the high-res visual experience
is moments away from Truly Astonishing. Add to that the growth in immersive audio in home theater and lossless streaming formats, and you’ve got a sound experience that’ll fool the biggest vinyl purist you can find. 9. The Market Flattened – but the CEDIA Channel is Still Growing.
As we learned in the most recent CEDIA Size and Scope report (yes, that’s a shameless plug), there was an (expected) pop in growth when we emerged from the last recession and an (expected) flattening in demand after that bump. Some of the numbers, though, showed some big reasons to be bullish about where the CEDIA channel is headed. One example: The median revenue for home theater/media room projects took a big leap. 10. The CEDIA Tech Council Saw the Future.
Lastly, 2016 saw a meeting of industry experts, and after much garment-rending and gnashing of teeth, they came up with 100 Predictions for Tech in 2020. The look into the Council’s crystal ball starts here
with 1-10 (with links to the other 90 at the bottom).