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Hot Home Market Drives Custom, CEDIA Expo

New suppliers, technologies and products will proliferate at September’s CEDIA Expo at a pace reflecting the custom industry’s double-digit percentage growth, driven largely by a sizzling new-home market and by growing awareness among consumers, architects, home builders and interior designers, marketers contend.

The bulk of custom installs are performed in new single-family homes under construction, and the number of single-family home starts grew by 7.3 percent in 2004 to an all-time high of 1.608 million, according to Census Bureau statistics. During the first half of 2005, the number of single-family starts grew by 6.7 percent to 1.01 million, putting the housing and custom-install industries on track for another record-setting year.

CEDIA’s Indianapolis Expo will also shatter some records. The exhibitor count is expected to hit a record 562, up from last year’s 438, and to accommodate them, CEDIA rented exhibit space in a hotel ballroom for the first time. The space is at the Marriott Downtown. Net square exhibit-space footage will rise to 260,000, from 249,000. Actual gross square footage will be 550,000. Last year’s gross square footage was officially put at 565,000, but that figure was only an estimate, CEDIA admitted. As of mid-August, preregistration numbers ran ahead of last year’s mid-August numbers, raising the potential for attendance to exceed 2004’s record 24,500, CEDIA officials said.

Growing attendance is due in part to such first-time exhibitors as Intel and Hewlett-Packard. “They get it,” said CEDIA president Ray Lepper. “CEDIA integrators will pave the way for the adoption of IT-A/V convergence,” he said. “Early implementations will be far from plug-and-play and will need someone to bring it all together and train clients.”

The attendance figures will also reflect a concerted effort by CEDIA to attract educators and trade-show managers from three allied trades: architects, home builders and interior designers. For the first time, CEDIA developed events, presentations and a show tour for representatives of these industries, said CEDIA’s VP Andy Willcox. The effort is a prelude to a more aggressive push in 2006 to reach out to these industries to promote custom A/V installation, he said.

Rising Expo attendance also reflects a continuing surge in the number of installation companies, which is putting sales and margin pressure on incumbent installers, said Lepper. “Many more small companies are entering the market.”

Whatever their impact, freshly minted installation companies will mingle with established companies during the Sept. 7-11 Expo, where they can seek out education seminars that will help them manage growth and competition and scope out product innovations that will help them gain an edge.

Some of those innovations will include products designed specifically for multiple-dwelling units (MDUs), such as condominiums and townhouses, whose construction also hit new highs in 2004, suppliers said.

Also at the show, dealers will find the following:

  • Expanded selections of HDD media servers and DVD-management systems from established suppliers such as Imerge and Escient and from such relative newcomers as iMuse and CodexNovus. The first models from start-up CodexNovus and an expanded line from start-up iMuse will be displayed, In addition Imerge will show its first DVD-management system, which connects to up to four 400-disc Sony CX777ES DVD megachangers;
  • More wall-hanging multidriver, single-speaker solutions with built-in amplification and DSP to deliver 5.1-channel surround sound will debut;
  • • More companies are expected to unveil their first distributed-audio infrastructure gear, including M&S and MTX. The latter will unveil an A-BUS-equipped system, which distributes audio, power and control signals to amplified in-wall keypads that power connected in-wall or in-ceiling speakers;
  • There will also be more suppliers expanding their selection of distributed-audio systems;
  • The first iPod-controlling audio components from at least five major electronics companies are set; speaker supplier Monitor Audio will show its first amplified iPod docking station;
  • At least two other audio suppliers showing their first XM-ready audio components, with at least one more company joining Denon in expanding their current selection of XM-ready home components; Two other companies, including NuVo, will show their first XM tuners;
  • At least three other suppliers displaying their first Sirius satellite tuners;
  • At least two more suppliers unveiling receivers with HD up-scaling HDMI outputs. Their units will join a pair of receivers from Samsung and Denon;
  • More universal DVD players with up-scaling HDMI outputs, including an expanded selection from at least one company and the first such models from another are expected;
  • Also there should be more universal DVD players and DVD-Audio players with HDMI 1.1 outputs to deliver a single-cable DVD-Audio connection between the players and receivers; they’ll include the first such universal models from at least one company;
  • What are said to be the first multi-zone stereo receiver that accepts multiple source cards, including XM, Sirius and AM/FM cards as well as cards for integrating iPods and legacy sources into a distributed-audio system;
  • And a growing convergence between intercom systems and distributed-audio systems will be on display, with Russound and M&S showing such converged systems.

In another major launch, UStec plans to demonstrate what could be the industry’s first converged A/V-IT network to share PC data, voice and standard- and high-definition video from multiple video sources over one CAT-5 cable. It distributes up to 16 independent HD streams simultaneously (see story below).

Peak Years For U.S. Housing Starts