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Exploring EH Expo

Jun 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Chris Steinwand


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The Electronic House Expo (EHX) — which took place February 27 through March 1 in Orlando, Florida — is a biannual trade show and conference that services the $15 billion connected home industry. The trade show and conferences provide a forum for information exchange, education, and new product demonstrations from leading home networking, automation, entertainment, and security manufacturers and service providers. EHX is produced by EH Events and Education and sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

You might wonder why S&VC would cover a home automation show in a commercial system integration magazine. The answer is: just as the lines between the audio, video, and lighting contracting industries are blurring, so are the lines between commercial and residential applications. Residential system integration is a growth market (which is always a good thing) and may quickly become much larger than the commercial market.

The largest single stumbling block in the residential system integration market today is lack of knowledge from both the home owners and the contractors who design and build the homes. To help increase awareness of home-automation technology and products available to contractors and home owners, a group of manufacturers have joined together to form the Distributed Audio Alliance. This alliance of companies includes Russound, Bose, Niles Audio, OnQ Technologies, Sonance, Elan Home Systems, and Polk Audio. The partnership also includes other industry organizations such as Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) and Professional Audio Video Retailers Association along with the CEA.

Peter Hoagland of Russound chairs the group. I spoke with him at the show, along with representatives from several of the other member companies, and I was impressed by their vision and common goals. Though they are competitors in some cases, they all seemed to recognize the “greater good” of their cooperative efforts, and their mission does not appear to be the forming of a coalition that will control the home automation market but rather to simply increase awareness of the technology.

The organization has partnered with the CEA on a major consumer education initiative. CEA President Gary Shapiro says, “We see tremendous potential to increase penetration not only in the luxury custom market but also in moderately priced new home construction where distributed audio is often overlooked. We are sending a clear message that the Consumer Electronics Association and our membership recognize the valuable market growth opportunities made available by promoting distributed audio in the home.”

The alliance partnership's primary focus is on hardwired, professionally installed systems for new construction and multiroom renovations. Core product areas include multiroom/multisource controllers; distribution amplifiers; in-ceiling, in-wall, on-wall, and outdoor speakers; infrared distribution systems; music storage and management systems; racks and mounts; structured wiring and enabling systems; user interfaces; and specialized audio content.

The show itself offered many seminars and workshops. The EHX boot camps provided attendees with full-day, in-depth training on specific connected home topics, from distributed audio to lighting control and high-end custom integration, and a chance to learn from industry professionals the ins and outs and tips and tricks of delivering the connected home to consumers.

The EH Expo also offered more than 50 conference seminars for all levels of connected home professionals, including CEDIA regional training. The trainings gave new hires an opportunity to learn the ropes and industry veterans the chance to stay abreast of the latest trends, installation techniques, and technologies.

The new CEDIA regional training came as a result of a partnership between EHX and CEDIA designed to provide the latest and greatest in connected home education. CEDIA — sponsoring the Home Theater, Distributed Audio, and High-End Custom Integration tracks — was able to bring the best of its regional training programs to EHX Spring 2003 Orlando.

There were also several manufacturer training classes presented at the show that were free to all attendees. These 90-minute sessions allowed manufacturers to provide product-specific training to the attendees. Topics covered included new product releases, specific product training, technical training, questions and answers, troubleshooting, and sales and marketing tips.

S&VC's own contributing editor Bill Whitlock gave an excellent presentation on grounding and interfacing for quiet and safe A/V systems. He explained how methodical troubleshooting can precisely locate the problem interface; how hum, noise, and interference can actually couple into the signal path; and how to fix the problem without compromising performance or safety. Whitlock is S&VC's resident expert on signal path issues, and he can regularly be found giving seminars on these topics at trade shows around the world.

Another value-added option at the show was CEDIA Certification. CEDIA Professional Certification delivers a range of benefits to individuals, consumers, and manufacturers. By defining a series of benchmarks for designers and installers, CEDIA Professional Certification promotes professionalism and growth throughout the industry. At EHX CEDIA offered Installer Level I, Installer Level II, and Designer Level I certification classes.

There were more than 140 exhibitors on the show floor — not a very large show compared with many of the trade shows in the industry. But the quality of the show was higher than some of the other trade shows precisely because of the smaller size. The tie-ins with other organizations and the training seminars offered really made this a valuable show to attend. The atmosphere was positively charged, and the show was small enough that I could not only see everyone whom I wanted to see, but I could actually spend good quality time with them. This show has been around for only a short time, and it is growing year by year.

It is one of the most valuable shows in the system integration industry right now because of its smaller size and because of all the classes and workshops it offers. Hopefully, as it grows, it won't lose focus of what gives the show its value.

The next EH Expo is scheduled for November 10 through 13 of this year in Long Beach, California. Don't miss it!


Chris Steinwand is a marketing veteran of the pro audio/video industry, a freelance writer, and the director of Stonejam Consulting. You can reach him through e-mail at chris@stonejam.net.

CEA's TechHome Division

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) represents U.S. companies involved in the design, development, manufacturing, and distribution of consumer technology. CEA helps to grow the industry through technical training and education, industry promotion, engineering standards development, market research, and legislative advocacy. CEA's TechHome Division, which is the result of the Home Automation and Networking Association (HANA) merging with CEA, is the official association sponsor of EHX. Created in January 2002, the TechHome Division represents 500 former members of HANA, including manufacturers and integrators, and will strive to increase sales and support of consumer electronics products by professional integrators. The new division will continue to offer its members all of the services that HANA was known for, combined with CEA's industry leading resources: Visit www.ce.org/techhome or call (703) 907-7466 for more information on CEA and its new TechHome Division.



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