Following part 1 of CE Pro Europe’s ISE show report, covering all things home cinema and loudspeakers, part 2 brings you some of the key control, home automation and video distribution launches from the exhibition.
CE Pro Europe grabbed a few minutes with John Clancy, vice president residential for Crestron to talk about programing platform Studio v 1.6 as well as Sonos and Alexa integration.
John explains the reasoning behind the timing of the company’s natively integrated Sonos functionality: “Before the new arrangement we would never have risked reverse engineering something, that’s way too risky for us; it always has to be reliability first. We can run the Sonos App natively within our own system, search specific songs – the App runs right off our panel. There is also real value in having an always-on, hardwired dedicated controller as opposed to a mobile device, so users can avoid annoying app-hunting.”
“To further integrate the Alexa platform, the obvious move is to license Alexa and built it right into our own products; we are looking at that” – John Clancy, vice president residential, Crestron
As for voice control, John argues: “For us, Alexa integration is at this stage complementary. The skills are finite so currently speech is somewhat unnatural. We have custom skills so you can speak more naturally, but you do have to tell Alexa to tell Crestron to carry out the command, but that will change. We will add more compound commands; creating more macros is definitely the way forward. So far the functionality has been well received in the US. We can provide lots of support on how to get it right. The trick here is to manage the expectation.
“I would keep voice control limited to 6-10 commands at the completion of a project and provide the customer with a list as they likely to forget whilst they get used to it. Then return after the system has bedded in to tweak and perhaps add more. To further integrate the Alexa platform, the obvious move is to license Alexa and built it right into our own products; we are looking at that. New functionalities always start slowly like this; voice control will be very different in a few years.”
So how is the introduction of Studio v 1.6 going? John explains: “I personally pushed hard for the new platform. As an ex-installer myself, I knew exactly what we needed. We wanted to deliver a quicker and repeatable way of creating projects, whilst still delivering the opportunity to add bespoke functionality. Installers have really embraced it. After the new two-day course, technicians can be ready to deploy Crestron right away. The project is part of us reclaiming the domestic space from some of our competitors, in building a project, days now become hours, hours becomes minutes.
“Ultimately, it allows installers to do their jobs better. The basics are much quicker and easier to create, but you still can get creative, the system can deliver two levels with less experienced technicians handling the basics and the more experienced adding those really special Crestron personal touches. Tasks like swapping products in and out are also easier, as is dealing with issues like software updates from other brands.”
URC also had some new tricks to show off including the ‘now shipping’ TKP-7600 touchscreen. Stuart Tickle, MD of AWE, supplier of the brand into the UK, is one of the many industry figures championing the renewed vigour of the dedicated controller, citing the user friendly always on, always locatable, always robust nature of the concept. There is also a desktop version, the TDC-7100, available from April.
Designed to deliver whole-house control of entertainment and smart home products, both offer a seven-inch colour touchscreen, built-in camera, microphone and intercom. The tabletop version includes an integrated inductive charging base and the two new products also deliver faster performance, enhanced graphics and sensor-based wake-up function. With network cameras, the TDC-7100 and TKP-7600 can display live video for surveillance.
Stuart was also keen to draw attention to the new ability to create custom interfaces within URC that will be delivered in Q3 of this year, and the fact that the URC Total Control platform is now also able to interact with Amazon Alexa.
Also getting lots of attention on the stand was the MX HomePro system from URC. Key here is that the automation platform is intended as an entry-level system; it’s basically a cloud-based single room AV integration set-up, but it’s still a pro product, needing a professional to install it. MX HomePro incorporates a smart hub, remote control and mobile app and delivers one-touch control of home entertainment and IoT devices, including lighting, thermostats, security cameras and Z-Wave products.
CE Pro Europe also had a good chat with Sam Woodward, customer education leader, Europe and Africa at Lutron electronics. It’s a busy time for the company at the moment, as Sam explained that Lutron is about to open its new experience centre in London, 6,5000 sq-ft of prime CI real estate right next door to Liverpool Street Station. The centre will feature residential and commercial lines and will be very much a hands-on chance to experience Lutron.
Sam explained: “We want to target installers, but also ‘creatives’ from the worlds of interior design and architecture and get them excited and engaged with what we do and can deliver for them. Other companies have solutions; we have experiences, and we really want to get that across. We are also moving our training centre into the new building targeting installers and other trades too.”
New courses will include the fundamentals of lighting, looking at the nuts and bolts of how systems work, but also considering ‘what is light, and how does it affect people and situations to make it easier for installers to understand and create strong systems?’ Other introductions will include an LED ‘Deep Dive’ day, taking a close look at the technology, exploding some of the myths and looking at how it works and how to make it work for installers.
From March, the Lutron Connect Bridge will support Apple HomeKit, enabling homeowners to control Lutron systems using the Apple Home app, Siri, or third-party HomeKit apps
Lutron was also showing quite a bit of new functionality, offering integration with Sonos and HVAC systems too via its new Palladiom Thermostat. Sam said: “We are known for controlling ‘pleasantness’ – we already control natural light, so heating is not that big of a stretch. Our new thermostat helps us achieve that, and it’s a great looking product too. It does not look techie, it has attractive large big buttons and interior designers love them. The range also comes in a big choice of finishes.”
“As for Sonos, yes sometimes the user wants the full experience of the app, however sometimes they just want to click play or skip on the wall; we are giving them that always there, always on experience.”
The company also showed off its Alexa integration with simple control phrases such as ‘Alexa turn the lights on’, as well as the ability to create macros. The company also announced that from March, the Lutron Connect Bridge will support Apple HomeKit, enabling homeowners to control Lutron systems using the Apple Home app, Siri, or third-party HomeKit apps. The Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Sonos are available on both the HomeWorks QS and GRAFIK RA 2 systems.
Control4 was also underlining its voice control credentials, being the first to deliver Alexa functionality to the UK. The manufacturer is also very proud of getting rid of some of the ‘clunkiness’ of voice control, promoting a natural way of interacting with the system.
Brad Hintze, director product marketing at Control4, told CE Pro Europe: “Voice control does not suit every situation, you have to build in the functionality that people want. If they are relaxing at home close to their dedicated or handheld device – not so much, but when coming in with shopping bags and children to cope with, then it starts to get interesting: getting the lights on, waking the house up etc. You need to think in scenes as that is how consumers think.”
“Voice control does not suit every situation, you have to build in the functionality that people want” – Brad Hintze, director product marketing at Control4
The company was also showcasing the introduction of BakPak functionality into the brand’s offering. Brad said: “If someone calls you, they are already mad, right? So the trick is to prevent that in the first place. Putting BakPak remote access and maintenance tech into the Pakedge NK-1 wireless access-point controller and now the RK1 routers makes complete sense and installers are loving it. We are definitely looking at adding the same functionality into other products, perhaps managed switches.”
The new functionality has been available in the NK-1 controller since last year and is now on the RK1 routers either by purchasing the new lines or via a firmware update for legacy products. BakPak manages both the IP network and connected smart devices (including those connected via ZigBee, Z-Wave, Ethernet, and WiFi), delivering real-time visibility of network health in one interface allowing diagnostics and troubleshooting.
ELAN was also using the exhibition to unveil its new software to the European market. Available now, ELAN 8 adds a new user interface, voice control of all event maps via Amazon Echo (which is rolling out now), a new integration with the Denon Heos wireless sound system, and new user-managed features.
The ELAN 8 software is now available worldwide, and at CES 2017 it was named the ‘Human Interface Product of the Year’ at the Consumer Technology Association’s Mark of Excellence Award Ceremony. With the new ELAN 8, custom installers can now integrate voice control through the Amazon Echo to access ELAN’s common control functions. Already established in the US market, Alexa is now rolling out across Europe.
“Voice control through Alexa gives users one more intuitive way to interface with their ELAN system” – Tom McKeon, Core Brands software product manager
“The ELAN 8 software update allows custom installers to integrate more devices into the system than ever before,” said Tom McKeon, Core Brands software product manager. “Voice control through Alexa gives users one more intuitive way to interface with their ELAN system. And of course, this functionality can be used to update existing systems as well as new installations.”
The ELAN 8 software includes a new calendar feature that enables the integration of Microsoft Outlook, Google Gmail and Apple iCal into the ELAN calendar module, plus enhanced security functionality with a new video transcoding feature that enables ELAN to pull high bitrate video from popular cameras and door stations, and transcode those videos in real-time.
“Security is an essential element in the connected home, so we’ve worked to make video monitoring even more comprehensive,” Tom added. “In addition to the new high bitrate video transcoding, ELAN’s new virtual TV monitor feature enables the routing of encoded video directly to an ELAN gTP4, gTP7 or gXP12 touch panel. Additionally, a new ‘door control node’ feature allows homeowners to activate their garage door and receive the status directly on their devices.”
Meanwhile, Core Brands’ Niles announced the European market introduction of Niles Auriel 2.0 at ISE, bringing streaming audio, climate and lighting control, plus remote access features to the multi-room audio control platform. Lighting control devices and wireless thermostats now connect to the Auriel Controller, providing simple access to lighting scenes and climate scheduling with a few simple clicks on a Niles handheld remote (nHR200), wall-mounted touch panel (nTP4, nTP7), or the Auriel app for Android and iOS mobile devices.
Not stopping there, Auriel 2.0 now has Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn and various Internet radio services built in to the MRC-6430 chassis. One chassis delivers audio to six zones through seven distinct input sources, while for larger homes, two chassis can be linked together to create a 12-zone system.
“It’s built on the ELAN Control Platform, so it’s a natural progression for Auriel to expand into smart home control,” explained Core Brands software product manager, Tom McKeon. “And conveniently, the new software update enables any existing Auriel system to easily upgrade to the additional control features, so everyone wins. With the ELAN engine under the hood, Auriel delivers an easy-to-install, entertainment-centric solution that is ideal for entry-level control and multi-unit installations.”
Amazon Alexa could be seen everywhere at ISE 2017, and that’s something Legrand’s Vantage was keen to showcase too. Unlike some other brands, Vantage was taking a different approach to Alexa integration altogether.
CE Pro Europe recognised the different ways that some home automation companies have gone about integrating Alexa with their products. Control4 took the standard smart home approach, where users have some control – but it’s not completely customisable. That meant users needn’t worry about learning complicated commands, but it also meant certain functions couldn’t be controlled using voice commands.
Crestron on the other hand took a different approach. It decided to build a custom skill, which facilitates advanced controls of its home automation systems, but requires users to utter the phrase word ‘Alexa, ask Crestron to turn on watch movie’, rather than simply ‘Alexa, watch movie’.
Vantage is doing a bit of both. It will support the simple commands using the smart home functionality, but it will also have a custom skill to enable more advanced control. Rather than creating a catch-all approach, the company is working on a system that will allow installers to customise how their clients interact with Alexa. That means some customers will be able to use the simple Alexa smart home communication method, which doesn’t require learning all new commands, while some will be able to use more advanced commands if they’re comfortable with learning those commands.
Smart blinds are something a lot of people want, and that’s exactly what Q-Motion was showing off at ISE 2017. The Legrand-owned company appeared to be bang up to date with all the latest trends, with the manufacturer showcasing how users can interact with Alexa to tell the blinds to rise or fall.
Unlike other smart blind manufacturers, Q-Motion’s technology allows users to still interact with blinds the way they would with standard shades. That means a small tug to cover a window isn’t going to damage the electronics or burn out the motor, like it would in some others.
The big new launch for ISE 2017 was Q-Motion’s Qadvanced Intelligent System, which utilises the Zigbee Home Automation v1.2 operated two-way wireless control solution for the company’s range of hardwired motorized roller shades.
There was also a new Honeycomb Shade fabric option. While this will predominantly have an aesthetic appeal, it also allows users to regulate the lighting level by moving the honeycomb structure. That means there’s no need to raise the shades just to let a little light in.
Control brand RTI was showcasing and offering training on its newly enhanced Integration Designer APEX programming software. APEX is now faster while maintaining the ease of customisation, says the manufacturer, which is now offering automatic generation of the graphical user interface and programming, a new IR library, multiroom programming and advanced graphic resising.
RTI also displayed new KX10 in-wall and CX10 countertop/under cabinet user interfaces. Both feature a large fully customisable 10-inch LCD touchscreen along with direct control options and HD video capabilities. The new CX10 is designed for flexibility, enabling it to be set on a countertop or inverted and mounted under a cabinet with a wide tilt range to provide the best viewing angle. Both touchscreens double as HD displays where users can watch video via the HDBaseT video input and also feature video intercom.
ISE gave WyreStorm the chance to let installers get close to the new H2X Series HDBaseT 4K HDR Matrix Switchers, which also offer audio matrix switching. Coming in 16×16 and 10×10 Class A HDBaseT 5Play Matrix versions, the units support 4K HDR, HDCP 2.2 and 18Gb/s HDMI, along with integrated audio matrix switching up to 48×16.
Designed for large scale domestic as well as commercial projects, the products have also been created to be able to cope with projects which mix 2K and 4K via WyreStorm’s SmartEDID feature which detects and reacts to display and source capabilities to output the highest possible resolution for each individual source. 4K-2K scaling and frameless switching is also available using the WyreStorm RX-70-4K-SCL HDBaseT scaling receiver, also launched at the show.
For the audio performance, the H2X has an integrated audio matrix with three possible source inputs per zone in the form of audio de-embed of HDMI video sources, ARC from zones up to 5.1 and adjustable line-level audio only sources via S/PDIF audio input, a useful option for digital audio streaming on Sonos, Apple Airplay and DLNA devices. Installers are able to cope with 30 potential separate audio inputs on the 10×10 model and 48 individual audio inputs on the 16×16. An integrated DSP means gain, EQ and delay per zone can be controlled. The products also support CEC to manage power of both source devices as well as TVs and projectors.
Atlona took the issue of coping with 4K HDR systems head on at the show with new solutions to support HDR formats and 4K/60 4:4:4 video. Two new products, also able to cope with 4K/UHD @ 60 Hz with 4:4:4 chroma sampling, came in the forms of Etude Sync (AT-ETU-SYNC) and AT-HDR-M2C. On-hand to resolve AV system design and installation issues often encountered with audio and video format compatibility, signal integrity and EDID communication, both products are HDCP 2.2 compliant and support HDMI 2.0 data rates up to 18 Gbps.
The Etude Sync provides EDID emulation and Hot Plug Detect communication between HDMI sink and source devices. It detects and corrects for signal integrity issues associated with cabling or connections and can resolve compatibility problems between a source and destination.
In addition to addressing HDMI signal and device-related issues, the Etude Sync reports HDCP compliance at the source and sink. It can manage EDID communication with the source by delivering EDID from the display or the Etude Sync’s internal memory. The Etude Sync can be powered via USB by the included power supply, a laptop, or any available USB port nearby.
The AT-HDR-M2C is an audio converter for extracting and downmixing multi-channel PCM, Dolby, and DTS audio from HDMI sources. It is well suited to applications requiring playback of multi-channel source content over displays, distributed audio systems and whole-house audio systems.
The HDR-M2C features an HDMI input with pass-through and delivers stereo downmixed audio over HDMI, two-channel analogue unbalanced audio and TOSLINK digital audio outputs. The HDR-M2C is compatible with all Dolby and DTS formats and de-embeds HDMI audio with or without connection to a display or other destination. The converter includes EDID management features as well as audio volume and bass/ treble controls, all available via Ethernet through the Atlona Management System (AMS), the web GUI, or a control system. The Etude Sync and HDR-M2C begin shipping April 2017.
Designed to give Savant integrators an advantage by enabling them to deliver premium distributed A/V content to residential and commercial clients, Savant unveiled an ultra-high-performance ‘pixel-perfect’ 4K video over IP switching platform during the show.
Shipping in Q3, the new product line delivers 4K/60 4:4:4 HDR video distribution over IP with zero frame latency, and Savant is confident that integration professionals will appreciate the convenience of a centralised 10GbE switch, enabling Ethernet connectivity throughout the project with both fibre and copper options.
According to the manufacturer, the video and audio distribution capability of the switch cost effectively meets the demand for the highest quality experience across any job size, with the added advantage of scalability only limited by the size of the network, allowing installations from 2-128 zones or more.
tvOne had an interesting concept amongst all its video and multimedia processing equipment with its ONErack line. It’s always good to see a company come at an established concept from a totally new angle. ONErack has been designed to revolutionise the humble 19in rack approach.
Andy Fliss, director of sales and marketing in the Americas, was very enthusiastic about the product, saying: “This literally has no competition, it’s totally new and totally unique and could save installers huge amounts of time and money.”
So what is it? ONErack is designed to solve rack mounting issues with a universal modular solution with integrated power and cooling that can accommodate disparate products of different needs and sizes. Actually launched last year, ISE saw additions to the platform including an optional dual redundant power supply, which is hot swappable and removes a potential point of failure. The new power option adds surge protection, DC power conditioning and load sharing.
ONErack provides access to the front and rear of products, uniform cable management, making maintenance or cleaning simpler than with a conventional rack. ONErack allows high density mounting in three different chassis sizes, provides seven different voltages and cools all within the same product. Seeing it in action, CE Pro Europe thinks it really does move the concept of how to store and protect products forward, and looks set for a strong future.
D-Tools used ISE as a platform to announce that is has expanded its presence in the EMEA, naming Westhill Europe B.V. as its reseller partner in the Netherlands.
In addition to this news, D-Tools was previewing the upcoming release of System Integrator 2017 (SI 2017), which provides enhancements such as dashboards to visualise and track business operations, the ability to publish proposals and other client documentation to the Web, and a number of other features designed to improve productivity.
Ihiji is facing an increasing number of competitors, thanks to newer entries from the likes of Domotz and Krika. That doesn’t mean the company is resting on its laurels, and at ISE 2017 the company was showcasing its new hardware platform. Having previously offered two variations of hardware, Ihiji now offers just one SKU. While that does mean there’s no longer a low-end and high-end model, Ihiji believes it has reached a happy middle ground – a slight price increase from the low-end box, but with a bunch of features that should make everyone happy.
The other big push from Ihiji is in its manufacturer partnerships. Two CEDIAs ago the company announced that it had signed up Sony to embed some of its code into its firmware, giving Ihiji users more information about Sony devices than had ever been made available before. At ISE 2017, those partnerships have gone even further – with eight companies now working with Ihiji directly, including: Acurus – Indy Audio Labs, American Power Conversion (APC), AudioControl, Core Brands, Panamax, Russound, Sony, Surge-X and WhyReboot.
They weren’t the only announcements to grace ISE 2017 from Ihiji either. The company also debuted advanced remote power management at the show, and even launched a new app. Stuart Rench, Ihiji CEO, admitted that it’s not always easy to get people to spend money on features, and that’s why certain functionality is offered free-of-charge. That includes the ability to remotely reboot IP-based Power Distribution Units, Uninterrupted Power Supplies and Managed Power over Ethernet switches.