Residential Systems - December 2020

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VOLUME 21 NO.12  |  DECEMBER 2020

Residential Systems ResidentialSystems.com

• What You Need to Know About CEDIA’s Propel Affinity Program • Tech Showcase: AV Receivers • Guide to Buying Groups

COMPANIES TO WATCH 2021 Review: Control4 Chime Smart Doorbell

A look back at the wins of the past year and what it means for the next 12 months.



TableofContents

columns 12 CEDIALine An Interview with Michael Heiss A conversation with the 2020 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient — longtime CEDIA volunteer, board member, and proud owner of that Outrageously Wild Jacket. By Ed Wenck

14 Back to Business Simplification Through Specialization Try to be more purposeful about who you are and who you aren’t in an effort to attract your ideal customer By Henry Clifford

15 Home Theater Design Illuminating Ideas for a Better Home Theater Design Lighting plays a leading role in the look, feel, and performance of a home theater, so make sure to give it serious attention. By Lisa Slayman, ASID, IIDA, Principal of Slayman Cinema and Slayman Design Associates

34 Going Forward SKAA’s the Limit Meet the wireless audio standard that promises near-zero latency and eliminates compatibility issues. By Anthony Savona

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features 16 Companies to Watch 2021

gear 30 Review Control4 Chime Smart Doorbell Meet the new Chime Video Doorbell, which Control4 calls “the first video doorbell solution designed to leverage all of the capabilities of the sophisticated Control4 OS3.” By John Sciacca

A look back at the wins of the past year and what it means for the next 12 months. Compiled by Anthony Savona

24 Tech Showcase: The Latest AV Receivers This home AV stalwart is now in demand, and here are some of the newest models on the scene. By Resi Staff

26 Integration Guide to Buying Groups Buying groups step up for their members during the continuing pandemic. By Karen Mitchell

on the cover: Celebrate the year just past and look toward the new year with our feature on “Companies to Watch 2021.” Illustration by z_wei/Getty Images

departments Editor’s Letter.......................... 6 Resi Briefs................................. 8 New Products.........................33

ClickThrus Join the online Residential Systems community on Twitter (resisys), LinkedIn (/company/residentialsystems), and Facebook (facebook/ resisys). And visit www.residentialsystems.com to read the interactive Digital Edition of this and past issues.

Get More Industry Information from Web: www.twice.com Twitter: @TWICEonline

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Residential Systems December 2020 Volume 21, Number 12

December Issue

Contributors

JOE WHITAKER Joe Whitaker is the president of Thoughtful Integrations, the host of AV Nation’s “The Thoughtful Home” podcast, and member of CEDIA’s Board of Directors.

HENRY CLIFFORD Henry Clifford is president of Livewire, an integration firm in Richmond, VA. He also serves on the CEDIA Business Working Group and writes a bi-monthly blog for www.residentialsystems.com

LISA SLAYMAN With more than 20 years designing luxury home theaters, Lisa Slayman of Slayman Cinema is a valuable resource for integrators. Slayman Cinema has won several awards, including the International Best Overall Home Theater from CEDIA.

KAREN MITCHELL Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO. She has written about the AV industry from both sides now — residential and commercial — for several years and still finds it most intriguing and fast paced.

JOHN SCIACCA John Sciacca is a principal with Custom Theater and Audio, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In his free time, he blogs prolifically about the CE industry. johnsciacca.webs.com

Announcement: Residential Systems now has a brand page on LinkedIn! Please follow us at www.linkedin.com/company/ residentialsystems/ for business and technology insights, as well as discussions on the articles that appear on residentialsystems.com.

Residential Systems (ISSN# 1528-7858) is published monthly by Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036 Periodical Postage Paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address changes and inquiries to Residential Systems P. O. Box 1067 Lowell, MA 01853. Subscriptions: US: 1-yr $56, 2-yr $100; Canada: 1-yr $104, 2-yr $196; Foreign: 1-yr $156, 2-yr $300. Back issues are $8. Copyright 2020 by Future US, Inc.

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Editor’sLetter

Our Penultimate Moment BY A N T H O N Y S AV O N A Like most people in the privileged world these days, I have been binge-watching television shows at a ridiculous rate. Because I tend to consume a lot of TV on a regular basis, I’ve been looking for shows that have an end, because, when things eventually get back to normal, I don’t want to have a bunch of new programs to keep up with. Plus, I’m a completist, and find genuine joy in finishing any story regardless of how it’s told. As most creatives will tell you, endings are hard, and while most of the ones I’ve watched have been satisfactory, they rarely nail it down completely. (For what it is worth, The Good Place had the best series finale I have seen in years.) So, while I love completing a show, I’m typically left somewhat underwhelmed. However, I have been nearly consistently floored by the penultimate episodes — the ones right before the finales where all the players are in place, the plot twists are revealed, and you get that post-credit feeling of, “I can’t wait to see how this ends.” You spend the time before watching the finale dissecting what you’ve seen so far, and wonder if your favorite characters are going to be all right by the end. The urge might be to dive straight in to the finale and get all the answers you’ve been seeking, but I’d advise to take a moment to bask in the well-done penultimate episode that got your mind racing. After all, sometimes the answers aren’t all they are promised to be. To me, it feels as though our industry is having a penultimate moment right now. We’ve been living with Covid for nine months, the election is over, and custom install businesses have ridden the wave of a business shutdown to hyper-increased client demand. All the players are in place; the plot twists revealed. In this issue’s “Companies to Watch 2021” feature, we look at the wins from the past year and see how they position us for the next one. In reading it, you can find numerous stories of surviving and thriving in adverse conditions, leading to what should be a vibrant 2021. Ups and downs; sudden adversity leading to minor successes — sounds a bit like a season of Ozark (but without the scary mobsters and with more hope). How will it turn out? It is here that the

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analogy loses some of its fit. Yes, it feels like a penultimate moment, but we don’t know when the climax will happen or what it will look like, although a vaccine will more than likely be involved. How long can this moment last? Can we achieve a palatable conclusion before moving on to the next season? Truthfully, we probably won’t even be aware we had the climax until we are in the denouement and looking back. Things will eventually get back to normal, and that will be fantastic. But you will look back at this time, when you were in thick of it, helping families stay connected and sane, and realize that we are all thinking the same thing: I can’t wait to see how this ends.

Find me online... anthony.savona@futurenet.com residentialsystems.com twitter.com/resisys facebook/resisys company/residentialsystems

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What You Need to Know About CEDIA's Propel Affinity Program What CEDIA Propel is, how you can get started, and how it can help your business. By Joe Whitaker, President, Thoughtful Integrations Nearing the end of 2020 (thank God), CEDIA has announced the Propel affinity program. Propel is the brainchild of CEDIA SVP member success and sales Giles Sutton, and the latest initiative by CEDIA to be different and provide impact for CEDIA members throughout the buying chain from manufacturer to Integrator. In its press release, CEDIA states, “CEDIA Propel is an affinity program designed to connect members to new brands and products in emerging categories. CEDIA’s integrator members will receive preferential pricing and product training across all brands enrolled in Propel. The Propel program will enable current CEDIA manufacturer members to drive adoption of their most innovative products and services, while also attracting new brands to the CI channel. Propel is open to all manufacturer members, existing and new, providing a whole new platform to connect and engage with CEDIA Integrators.” This is the first-ever initiative by CEDIA that will actually have immediate impact to a CEDIA member’s bottom line. “Since we rolled out our CEDIASTRONG campaign, which we launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been interacting with our integrator members at a whole new level,” says Sutton. “A recent survey found that 47 percent of our members are seeking new products and services to add to their portfolios to bolster revenue potential, but more than 50 percent were struggling to make those connections and negotiate new deals. We prioritized creating a business affinity program that will connect manufacturer members, as well as new brands, with our CEDIA integrator members, aiming to raise the tide across the industry as a whole. When Propel is coupled with CEDIA’s vast education and workforce development initiatives, we see significant economic opportunities that can impact the entire channel.” So you may be thinking, “This sounds like a buying group?” But there is a big difference. Whereas a buying group is an assembly of paying member companies that leverage overall buying power to reduce the cost of goods and services to its paying and “approved” members, affinity

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programs are business partnerships in which a company offers special rates or services to association members in an effort to increase revenue for all organizations in the value chain. While a buying group is all about “group buying power,” an affinity group is all about leveraging the relationships of an association to grow the business of all participating from top to bottom with some “special sauce.” I’ll get to that special sauce shortly. Big, Different, and New Who are the launch partners and why is the mix important? Think “Big, Different, New.” Big: Amazon & Ring. Need I say more? By working with two big names in connected technology, everyone can grow. “How,” you ask? The exposure and public-visible partnership between our companies and CEDIA itself with two of the biggest consumer-recognized names is a huge game changer. This gives our companies visibility and a sense of “consumer trust” with large established brands. But that’s just a starting point. These are products that our clients are asking for — and, in some cases, demand. But up until now there was little-to-no margin for this to look attractive to us. Yes, you heard that right — there will actually be margin now, and technically you don’t have to change anything if you are a CEDIA member. If you are about to say Amazon doesn’t pay attention to us or care, I beg to differ. You may have not been paying attention. Amazon launched a “Pro Program” for the integration industry (the Propel Program is better) and Ring recently released its “Professional Installer Program.” If you get a chance, check out the Ring program — it has actual training and certification

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An Immersive Gym installation

that goes through the tech and install of every single Ring product. (I know because I took it!) The cool thing is you actually get client referrals from this program, as well. I got my first one five days after completing the program. Check out the Ring program at ringpartnerprogram.com. I want to personally thank Ring GM, installed services, Andrew Vloyanetes for always supporting the CEDIA community and for nudging me to really look into the Ring program. Do Amazon and Ring care about us? I absolutely answer, “Yes!” And you all know why: We know how to make technology work! “Our vision is to make Alexa-enabled smart homes accessible to anyone,” says Scott Harrington, director of device sales at Amazon. “For professionals that serve customers that prefer a whole-home solution, we want to ensure that they have access to support and training to help them find success. We are excited to work with integrators who are new to, or already using, our devices as part of their solution for creating smart homes and building their business. CEDIA Propel is our next step in supporting the channel.” Different: Bryte. Bryte is a manufacturer of what they call (and I believe) is a “Restorative Bed.” This has got to be the smartest bed I’ve ever seen; it’s packed with tech. But is CEDIA saying you can sell beds now? I asked the same question, as one of the reasons I left a certain buying group a decade ago is because they started pushing beds and washers and dryers on me. Yuck! What CEDIA is offering through Bryte is a rewarding referral program. Make a recommendation, and if they buy you get a “cut.”


ResiBriefs But that’s only one of the reasons I label this one as different. The bigger reason is wellness. Let’s face it, even a lot of our own beds suck. We spend up to a third of our day in bed. We all understand this, but what we understand even better is how to spec, install, and recommend technologies that improve life. We all know wellness is our next frontier, but very few have figured out how to monetize it. Here’s a first step for you, courtesy of CEDIA. “Restorative sleep is a force-multiplier for our health and wellness,” says Ely Tsern, Ph.D., cofounder and CEO, Bryte. “By maximizing our restorative sleep, our bodies create immunity, fight infection, heal from injury or exercise, and nourish our emotions and mental acuity. So, as we all witness an increase in consumer demand for smart wellness solutions, we are delighted to offer the Restorative Bed to CEDIA integrator members as the centerpiece of their wellness portfolios.” If you want to check out the huge amount of tech in this bed, go to https://www.bryte.com/ how-it-works. New: Immersive Gym. We’ve all created amazing spaces, theaters, media rooms, and even the occasional outdoor oasis. We’ve talked about our dreams of creating VR/AR rooms. We’ve even designed and installed sports simulators for golf, football, soccer, and more. But what have we done in the gym? Connected a data cable or Wi-Fi to a Peloton? What if we could combine all the things we do and dream of into the gym experience? That’s where Immersive Gym steps in. They combine the best of today’s trends in fitness and wellness into an end product that is uniquely aligned with our key proficiencies. You are going to have to check this out for yourself at https://www.immersivegymco.com/ to really understand how this experience is perfectly suited for what we CEDIA Integrators do, but believe me, I am personally excited about this one! “Our aim with Immersive Gym was to turn an uninspiring home gym or studio from one of the least-used rooms in the house to one of the most-used rooms,” says Charles Pearce, founder of Immersive Gym. “By connecting unique ultra-wide content to hardware such as rowing machines, treadmills, and bikes, users can train fully immersed in their favorite environment, taking them beyond the home to anywhere in the world." Special Sauce What about that “special sauce” I was talking about? You see who the initial brands are, and, yes, there are more coming, but these brands are bringing more than just “preferential pricing” to the table. Each Propel Manufacturer or Service Partner will

be offering training and guidance specific to the CEDIA community. This was not only offered enthusiastically by the first wave of partners, but it is also a requirement to be a Propel Partner. Now I know what you’re saying: “This all sounds great, but it seems like a lot of work to get started.” This is another big difference from the other programs out there. One of my early thoughts about this program, which I have said more than once, is that this is a program I can participate in to make more margin and get cool new products without putting in much work or changing a single thing on the business side. I’ll give an example of the Amazon/Ring portion, as I’m sure that is the one you are assuming is the most difficult to get started in. It’s a two-step process! • Step 1: CEDIA members opt into Propel from their account on the CEDIA website. • Step 2: Fill in an opt-in form, which includes signing up for and obtaining an Amazon Business ID. At that point CEDIA notifies Amazon of those who have opted in (automated process), and Amazon will enable their account for the Propel discount (also an automated process). Once done, CEDIA will send a confirmation email to the member letting them know their account has

been set up with the discount. Can you imagine if everything was that easy? Compare that to everything else you sign up for. And you don’t have to change a single thing in your day-to-day operations, sales, or management. If you are a CEDIA member, you just opt-in! Participation in the Propel program is open to all CEDIA members. Companies interested in learning how to participate in the program should reach out to the CEDIA membership team at member@cedia.org or by phone at 800-6695329. Visit the CEDIA website to register at www. cedia.propel.com. There you have it. A program that benefits CEDIA members from top to bottom. Propel is an innovative program that was created so that we can all be more successful and continue on in our businesses from 2021 and beyond. n Joe Whitaker is the president of Thoughtful Integrations, the host of AV Nation’s “The Thoughtful Home” podcast, and member of CEDIA’s Board of Directors. [Note: Comments or opinions in this article unless otherwise noted are my own and are not direct comments, opinions, or statements of the CEDIA Board of Directors or the CEDIA Association and any Affiliates.]

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RESIDENTIAL SYSTEMS

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CEDIALine

An Interview with Michael Heiss A conversation with the 2020 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient — longtime CEDIA volunteer, board member, and proud owner of that Outrageously Wild Jacket. BY ED WENCK

What got you interested in this business in the first place? MICHAEL HEISS: It started in high school — I was on the AV Squad. Today it would be the Nerd Herd. Eventually I landed at Computer Television, which was the inventor of in-room hotel movies. At that point, pay-TV was in its infancy. We hardwired 15 Hilton hotels, including the Conrad Hilton, now the Chicago Hilton, which was then the largest hotel in the world. We ran RG 59 coax to every one of the 3281 rooms in that hotel. Thankfully, I didn’t do the installation, but the planning helped me learn to make sure that the union installers didn’t drill through the marble floors or the woodwork. That’s served me well. In order to do the other part of that job, I did film-to-tape transfers. I worked in conjunction with one of the local production houses in New York and supervised the film transfers. Then they offered me a job and said, “Hey, you know this, you want to help us start a home video company?” After my time there, a friend of mine from college offered me a job in the advertising and promotion department of NBC. You joined Harman in 1988. CEDIA essentially begins with the first show in Florida in 1989. You were there at the beginning, right? Well, actually, before that — the first formative meeting was at the old Summer CES (Consumer Electronics Show). Amelia Island was the first CEDIA Expo. It was mostly table-tops. These two things dovetail into each other, right? Your experience at Harman and your experience with CEDIA? What I did for CEDIA, even though I was one of the educators, I learned stuff that I was able to take back into my roles when I ran Harman Video and later as the vice president of marketing for Harman Kardon. It was definitely something where CEDIA was a benefit to me, both where I helped CEDIA and the things I learned at CEDIA were able to help me make better business decisions. Not as a designer/installer, but as a product manager — I was able to learn from the CEDIA members that I dealt with to give them the merchandise and products that did what they wanted so that we could all make money.

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You’ve spent a lot of time as a volunteer with CEDIA and you have spent time on the Board. What accomplishments throughout that experience are you really proud of? During the time that I was on the Board, as well as my continued involvement in CEDIA, we went back and forth across the way the organization was organized, where we had separate, regional associations: CEDIA this, CEDIA that, and CEDIA somewhere else. That was cool because I got to go to a lot of places. But the international expansion with CEDIA — which I was part of in a very small degree — was important. There were things that we did that people laugh at now. Fortunately, not too many people remember the CEDIA Dome. The idea for that was, “Let’s have an outreach to designers and architects.” That exhibit didn’t work out in terms of its impact the way we wanted it to, but it proved that we had to reach out to the home builders, the architects, and the designers. It laid the foundations for the outreach that CEDIA does do now to those communities, which has been very successful. The other thing is the Tech Council. I’m a big fan of letting people know what they need to know as soon as they can possibly know it, from root sources. I think the Tech Council and the way that it helps keep the membership informed is maybe one of the most important things I’ve helped achieve. How has your family shaped your trajectory through this career? I have a very understanding wife. In fact, my wife Leslie is an architect. As an architect, a member of the AIA, she was very familiar with the awards process and she helped CEDIA get their judging system to where it is today. I benefit by having her at my side and so does CEDIA. For more information, visit michaelheiss.com and follow Heiss on Twitter at @captnvid.. n

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BacktoBusiness

Simplification Through Specialization Try to be more purposeful about who you are and who you aren’t in an effort to attract your ideal customer. BY HENRY CLIFFORD

When I started my custom installation business, we’d do pretty much anything for money. Run network cabling? Sure! Troubleshoot your computer? No problem. Hang pictures and curtains for $150 an hour (true story)? All day long. As demand grew, I had more work than we knew what to do with and had to reckon with the question: “Who are we?” If I couldn’t define that for myself, what were our customers thinking? The last thing I wanted was to be perceived as a jack of all trades, master of none. Ayn Rand writes about two extremes in her book The Fountainhead. At one end we find Howard Roark, a principled architect who won’t do any work that isn’t perfect. At the other end we get to know Peter Keating, a promising young architect who will take on any work that comes along. Both are unhappy for different reasons, but the book does an amazing job of helping inform one’s own perspective. You can’t help but look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Am Roark or a Keating?” In our early years, I was an unintentional Keating, fearing if I didn’t take everything that came along, I’d starve and wouldn’t get any more work. It was only after a few years that we built up enough critical mass to become more Roark-like. Anyone can be a Roark during boom times. There’s so much work that it forces us to choose only what’s most profitable and enjoyable. What about the lean times? That’s where having a well-thought-out mission, vision, and set of company values comes in handy. If you’re making a Keating decision in a Roark company, at least you have a true north to look at and force yourself to acknowledge a deviation from your values (hopefully for a good reason). During these boom times, why not try to be more purposeful about who you are and who you aren’t in an effort to attract your ideal customer and place yourself along the Roark/Keating continuum? Defining Ideal Customer Personas Have you thought about your ideal customer? What’s his/her name? How old are they? What kind of car do they drive? We worked with a marketing agency to develop ideal customer personas and ended up with a prototypical husband and wife we call “Gene & Jeannie.” Gene is a C-level executive in his 50s with a ton of disposable income, an affinity for luxury goods, and values his time above all else. Jeannie hates technology and doesn’t want any wires cluttering up the house. If she had it her way, there wouldn’t be any visible TVs or sound in the house at all.

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We didn’t just make up Gene & Jeannie. We interviewed 10 of our favorite clients and asked them a bunch of questions. One finding that really sunk in was how much of a premium they put on trust. Ever since we started intentionally marketing to Gene & Jeannie, we’ve been getting more referrals and leads from people just like them. It also became patently obvious when we weren’t talking to them. We slowly started to trust that there were enough Gene & Jeannies out there and it became easier to politely encourage price-focused prospects to look elsewhere. Do you understand your customer’s big value drivers around their buying decisions? Picking Products and Services Once we knew who our customers were and why they worked with us, picking out products and services that appealed to them became much more clear. If it was simple and saved them time, it stayed. If it didn’t, we cut it. This meant we moved away from complex control systems and started emphasizing best-in-class subsystems that could be tied together with a control system if our client wanted it later (they seldom did). Fighting the Battle of the Home Page As with most things, the road to hell is always paved with good intentions. We’re often approached by vendors or field suggestions internally about new products. We always try to keep Google in mind when we do. There was a time when there were dozens of search engines. Why did Google attract visitors? They had a simple user experience when compared to their top rival at the time (Yahoo! — a Keating style “everything-to-everyone” portal) and delivered meaningful results. Even today, when you go to google.com, you’re still presented with the Google logo, a search box, and two buttons. With all that Google does, how on earth have they kept their home page so clean for 20+ years? They do it by constantly battling their employees, board members, and customers with “could you just add a weather ticker?” requests on a daily basis. At the end of the day, Google defined that they wanted a clean, simple home page and stuck with that maxim. Our businesses are no different. The road to complexity and bad system design is paved one compromise or poorly researched decision at a time. What are you doing to fight “The Battle of the Home Page” inside your business? Once we studied our favorite customers and named their personas, becoming more Roark-like became a lot easier and less fear-inducing. We’ve felt more in control of our own identity and destiny with a solid mission, vision, and values statement for us to align around. If we’re screwing up, we know it quickly — chances are it’s because we’re not living our values. Are you a Roark or a Keating? n

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HomeTheater

Illuminating Ideas for a Better Home Theater Design Lighting plays a leading role in the look, feel, and performance of a home theater, so make sure to give it serious attention. By Lisa Slayman, ASID, IIDA, Principal of Slayman Cinema and Slayman Design Associates In a home theater, lighting can evoke a sense of drama and excitement, enhance the overall design theme, and direct attention to the big screen when appropriate, as it downplays the appearance of other components and accouterments. Be it sleek and modern or classic and sophisticated, every aspect of a home theater can benefit tremendously from a well-designed and choreographed lighting scheme. Most luxury home theater designs are influenced by a particular style or genre — Art Deco, Old-Hollywood glamour, Gothic, Italian Tuscan, Modern/Contemporary, or fully thematic — the sky’s truly the limit. Materials, furnishings, and fabrics help impart the intended look and feel, and so should the lighting. In fact, when applied appropriately, lighting not only fits into the chosen design scheme, but emphasizes and accentuates it. Colors are more realistic, textures are more defined, and depth and space take shape, making the whole room feel more authentic. Through a combination of design and lighting, the room elicits an emotional response from visitors the second they step inside — the perfect segue for the AV experience that’s about to unfold. AV, Design, and Lighting: A Trifecta Effect In the custom installation world, there’s a propensity to do things oneoff; to do as much of the work as possible in-house. That’s been a great way for integrators to do business for a long while, but in today’s world — where margins are diminishing and timelines are expected to be short — why not focus on what your firm does best and bring in pros from adjacent trades to execute the overarching vision? Certainly, professional interior and lighting design adds cost, but when presented with the possibilities, homeowners craving a luxurious and one-of-a-kind entertainment environment appreciate and are often willing to expand the budget. Elevations, sightlines, and equipment and seating locations, as well as finishes, fabrics, materials, and other extras, are all considerations that interior and lighting designers together will incorporate to specify the appropriate fixtures and locations, as well as color temperatures and brightness levels to enhance the room’s visual appeal. Here’s an example of this level of professional collaboration, based on a recent project by my firm, Slayman Cinema: By coordinating efforts with a lighting designer we were able to create the illusion of a room lit only by candlelight for a home theater intended to make guests feel as if they were entering a castle of the 1800s. Fixtures were concealed within the room’s architecture and the color temperature was dialed down to 1200K. The effect transported viewers to a different

time and place — even before the movie started. Moreover, the subtle glow emitted by small LED tape lighting placed around the perimeter of arches brushed over authentic horsehair fabric covering speakers. For added visual appeal, indirect illumination from LED strip lighting grazed the theater’s stone walls, emphasizing the color and texture of each rock. Throughout this process we worked in lock-step with the AV integrator to make sure our designs would mesh with his. By tackling these three pillars — interior design, lighting, and technology — as a whole rather than separate parts, we created a cohesive solution for a stellar home theater experience. Illumination is more than just a mood setter. It can take a home theater to the next level by imparting a host of special effects, as well as practical benefits. For example, LED strip lighting tucked beneath the nosing of steps can lead guests to their seats, and lining a ceiling cove can provide soft, diffused general illumination. Meanwhile, colored LED lighting can make the space feel more festive, cool, and modern, or warm and inviting, depending on which hue or temperature you choose. And think about how the lights in a Broadway theater can turn a bare wall into a lively cityscape. What once required a mural to convey can now be accomplished with lighting. These and other effects are possible to portray in a home theater, as well, offering a unique way to differentiate your theaters from others. Creating the Illusion When most people think about lighting, sconces, recessed cans, and other conspicuous sources spring to mind. These components, unfortunately, can prove a visual distraction in a home theater. Fortunately, today’s lighting technology enables light sources to be recessed into walls, ceilings, and other parts of the room, rendering only the projected light visible. Illumination magically appears to sculpt the seating, graze the walls, and lead eyes to the main attraction while transporting movie-goers to a different time and space. The addition of a professionally designed lighting system can take a home theater to the next level of luxury and sophistication and differentiate your home theaters from your competition. To learn more about the role of a lighting designer in high-end home theater projects or to find a lighting designer in your area, give us a call, drop us an email, or reach out to industry associations such as the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and the American Lighting Association. n

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ILLUSTRATION BY Z_WEI/GETTY IMAGESDIALINE

COMPANIES TO WATCH 2021 What a long, strange trip 2020 has been. At the end of each year, Residential Systems looks back on the industry successes during the past 12 months with an eye toward the push those achievements give us into the new year. It seems particularly important this year, where we went from survival mode to crazy busy with not much time between the two. Here is our look back at our almost impossibly successful 2020, and what it means for 2021. abode: abode’s iota and smart security systems offer out-of-the-box support for virtually any smart home device on the market, including HomeKit, Amazon Echo, Google Assist, Zigbee, and Z-Wave. In late 2020, abode announced the availability of the new Outdoor Smart Camera and new video services, updating performance across the entire abode ecosystem. abode looks forward to continuing to innovate in 2021 providing homeowners with

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A look back at the wins of the past year and what it means for the next 12 months. Compiled by Anthony Savona

the best way to easily secure their home and keep families safe. Access Networks: Catering to one of the hottest categories in the business and facilitating the future needs of the integration community and consumers alike, Access Networks was the first to deliver residential Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points to the CI channel. With a comprehensive lineup now available, the company is paving the way for integrators and consumers to reap the rewards of faster, more reliable, residential networking solutions for work-from-home, e-learning, entertainment, and more. Newly enhanced client services and consumer marketing assets provide authorized dealers the support they need to sell and support enterprise-grade solutions. Amber Solutions: Amber Solutions entered 2020 with the goal of, quite simply, disrupting global electricity. Backed by six patents secured

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this year, they have crafted a method for integrating advanced artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things (IoT) connectivity directly into the architecture of buildings. Knowing that, it’s no surprise that leading global electronics manufacturers took notice. In 2020 alone, the company signed nine memorandums of understanding, including six during the Covid-19 pandemic. Arlington: Arlington’s TVBU810 TV Box is designed for installations of wallmounted TVs in new work or retrofit projects — like home theater systems — where several connections are needed for sound systems, satellite TV, cable TV, DVRs, and more. It is UL/CSA listed, and there's lots of room in the box for multiple low voltage connections, and it installs horizontally or vertically. Atlona: Atlona’s new Opus series of HDBaseT matrix switchers starred in a recent luxury home AV installation for the Singleton family in the Huntington Beach, CA. Installed by Long Beach-based Digital Installers, the project delivered a multi-room system with a centralized AV core. The AV is distributed to a large and diverse group of spaces over two stories. The Atlona AT-OPUS-810M matrix switcher is the heart of the system, with an 8x10 capacity. The matrix switcher feeds Atlona AT-OPUS-RX receivers in rooms with new 4K UHD displays. HDBaseT connectivity eliminated the need to integrate Apple TVs or DirectTV Boxes in each space. Audinate: Audinate’s Dante AV-over-IP platform is increasingly headed into the residential space. Dante is licensed to manufacturers of professional audio equipment the world over and utilizes the Ethernet network that already exists in the home, eliminating the need for more bulky, bespoke point-to-point AV connections throughout the property. Dante delivers uncompressed digital audio, eliminating the noise of analog and the lossy artifacts of compression that plague so many homes today. AudioControl: AudioControl’s Director 2.0 firmware adds new features and an easier-to-navigate graphical user interface (GUI) for the company’s complete line of Director Series and RS Series DSP amplifiers. The new 2.0 firmware adds important functionality and improves efficiency for integrators. Azione Unlimited: In a year of uncertainty, new normals, and volatility, Azione Unlimited supported members with proactive business navigation, digital conferences, and timely vendor communication. As the organization continues to see record-setting revenue months, it is preparing for 2021 with stronger programs, industry-specific education, and cutting-edge initiatives.

CEDIA SUCCESSES CEDIA: In 2020, the pivot from expositions to industry support and education proved prescient as CEDIA launched a series of global virtual events in response to Covid-19. The CEDIASTRONG series of webinars, roundtables, and event has engaged thousands of CEDIA members since April 2020 and resulted in a wealth of new resources for the residential custom integration community, including the new CEDIASTRONG Scholarship Fund. Recently, the association announced CEDIA Propel, an affinity program designed to connect members to new brands and products in emerging categories. CEDIA’s integrator members will receive preferential pricing and product training across all brands enrolled in Propel. The program launched with four partners: Amazon, Ring, Bryte, and Immersive Gym. CEDIA Expo: The CEDIA Expo virtual experience, held in September, propelled the industry forward with one of the CI channel’s first virtual trade shows for 2020. The show featured 7600 trade attendees with 1000 being international attendees from 100 different countries. Exhibitors, 110 in total — including Sony, Crestron, Delos, ADI, and more — launched new products and took advantage of a largely new audience of integrators, dealers, builders, and designers. All virtual programming and exhibitor booths will be available on cediaexpovritual.com until December 31, 2020. The next CEDIA Expo is scheduled for September 1–3 in Indianapolis, Indiana, home to CEDIA the association.

buying power. Also, the Catalyst AV initiative with HTSA, which was started with manufacturers AVPro and Cleerline, has proven to be a great success. The idea is to service the members of HTSA and provide local inventory and profitability to the dealers. Chief: The Fusion Extra-Large Pull Out Accessory allows users to extend displays 11.54 inches from the wall while maintaining the same depth as previous Fusion pull-out mounts. The unit is compatible with Fusion ExtraLarge Micro-Adjustable Static and Tilt Mounts for installation of 80-inch+ displays up to 250 pounds. Control4: Bringing the power of a Smart Home OS to the front door, SnapAV has unveiled the Control4 Chime Video Doorbell — the first video doorbell solution designed to leverage all of the capabilities of Control4 OS 3.

Brilliant AV: Integration firm Brilliant AV (BAV) developed and executed a highly successful client care membership program in response to the pandemic. The program included a remote diagnostic approach called Virtual Service. BAV technicians engage with clients remotely using a combination of networking tools, remote reset devices, and video chats to diagnose and resolve issues before sending a tech on-site. The membership program has already paid for two full-time support technicians. 2021 promises more service and support capabilities as BAV continues to lead its growth with service. Catalyst AV: Building on double digit growth in 2020, Catalyst AV embraces strategic partnerships and works to form alliances such as the achievement in 2020 with the The Edge Group, which has more than $1.2 billion in annual

Crestron

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Crestron: 2020 has brought many changes to the smart home as homeowners shifted work and other activities into their homes full-time. Crestron quickly adapted to support their new smart home needs, releasing Crestron HomeTime followed by an entire portfolio of home conferencing solutions to suit a wide range of office needs. Crestron also returned to CEDIA Expo virtually, and introduced a new integration with Delos to support the growing demand for wellness experiences. D-Tools: The labor shortage has been a topic of conversation among the home systems industry for some time, and it shows no signs of improvement. Streamlining business operations, therefore, is imperative to the livelihood of an organization. Through several advancements of its business software, including both on-prem and cloud-based services, D-Tools helps integration firms around the world maximize workflow efficiency and thrive during uncertain times. Da-Lite: The new Screen Surface Selection Calculator provides an intuitive user interface that makes navigating the Da-Lite screen surface technology portfolio and choosing the right surface for the environment a painless process. Denon: Denon announced four new products in honor of the brand’s 110year anniversary. These include the Denon AVR-A110 AV receiver, PMA-A110 integrated amplifier, DCD-A110 SACD player, and DL-A110 MC phono cartridge. Each new anniversary edition product features an exclusive silvergraphite colorway, 110 Anniversary logos on the front panel, and were tuned by Denon Sound Masters to set them apart from their standard counterparts. DISH: In 2020, DISH continued to lead the industry in technology innovation, particularly through the addition of several new video and smart-home apps. The Amazon Prime Video app is now fully integrated on Hopper 3, joining Netflix and YouTube to the Hopper platform. DISH launched native integration with Google Nest, offering customers the ability to monitor their indoor and outdoor camera feeds directly from their TV, building on the Nest Hello video doorbell integration launched last year. The company also launched Gallery by DISH scapes, a collection of HD and 4K nature scenes, fine art, and original DISH scapes. Control partners Crestron, URC, and Logitech also upgraded their Hopper integration modules in 2020. Finally, over the past 12 months, dealer participation in DISH’s Custom Integration Program increased by more than 40 percent. DMF Lighting: The DID Series is a lighting system that offers enhanced LED capabilities such as 93+ CRI, high performance dimming to 1 percent, and compatibility with most lighting control systems. The DID Series includes integrated power systems for simplified installation and maintenance, and the modular design offers field-changeable optics and accessories. Eleven Engineering: SKAA is the new wireless Hi-Fi audio standard developed by Eleven Engineering, Inc. SKAA transmitters work with iOS and Android mobile devices, Mac and Windows computers, televisions, and just about any product with a line output or a headphone jack. SKAA is also available as a built-in technology not requiring an external transmitter in purpose-designed partner products, which are featured at SKAA.com. In environments laden with heavy Wi-Fi and Bluetooth traffic, SKAA navigates through these hostile environments with high reliability. SKAA also allows for uninterrupted audio signals that are delivered to all speakers without the latency that is inherent in some other wireless solutions. Elite Screens: The Elite Screens Yard Master Electric Tension Series is

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Hunter Douglas

an electric screen with 2-way projection material that is IP33 rated for wind/rain penetration for outdoor applications. The tab-tension design supports a front/rear projection surface with perfect uniform flatness. This allows you to use either standard, short throw, or UST projectors. The WraithVeil Dual material provides image clarity from in-front or behind. The screen comes with a RF remote control that doubles as a wireless 12volt projector trigger that coordinates the screen’s drop and rise with the projector’s power cycle. Enclave Audio: Enclave Audio designs, engineers, and manufactures immersive wireless audio solutions for single-room, high-performance home entertainment systems. Now featuring Roku TV Ready certification, the Enclave Audio CineHome 5.1-channel surround sound systems provide users with an audio experience across a 360-degree field of sound. As consumers continue to upgrade their at-home setups, Enclave Audio provides a streamlined audio system that allows users to bring the best movie watching and streaming experience to their home. Epson America, Inc.: As families nationwide looked for new ways to stay entertained at home in 2020, Epson was committed to delivering complete entertainment solutions with its new EpiqVision line. The new solutions include options with built-in Android TV and custom sound by Yamaha combined with Epson’s advanced laser-array projection technology. Exertis (Stampede): The AV distributor started the year as Stampede, but ended it rebranded as Exertis, aligning with other DCC Technology-owned companies around the world. The process began with Exertis ProAV, which operates a series of specialist Exertis brands focused on the ProAV and Mobile Living channels. Look for more to come in 2021. Flex Automation: A Brazilian company that for 17 years innovated bringing Z-Wave to Brazil. Present in more than 10 countries, Flex has open crossplatform solutions that enable integrations with the most well-known systems in the world and solutions that fit any size of project. Harman: Harman Luxury Audio launched the new JBL Synthesis Certified System and Certified Elite System certification programs in 2020. The programs certify five JBL Synthesis system templates ranging in scale from $35,500 to $180,000, and mandate specified calibration services and processes with a prospective expansion that would include dealer marketing initiatives and online assets. The JBL Synthesis Certified System program is for less

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Home Technology Association: Integrators have long struggled with being brought onto construction and remodeling projects too late but, sadly, when tech is addressed too late, technology and aesthetic compromise are an unfortunate result. Therefore, creating a meaningful connection with the design-build community is critical to integration firms, and the HTA (Home Technology Association) is actively on the case. Developing programs for HTA Certified integration pros and the brands who support the community to align designers, architects, and builders have been noted as the organization’s #1 priority in 2021 and efforts are already well underway with several successes soon to be reported. HTSA: HTSA has created a centralized resource for all group-created and vendor-created training and educational resources called The Vault. The Vault makes one easily accessed resource where members can find all materials from all sources, including videos, e-learnings, webinars, sales videos, and more. Members no longer need to chase vendors looking for needed training materials — they now simply go to The Vault and it is all there on demand. The Vault also includes a simplified and consistent graphical user interface, tracks users’ progress, and provides HTSA with data on program completion and accomplishment levels. Hunter Douglas: Dealers and integrators are leaning into the opportunity to grow their business and profits with automated shading. In 2020, Hunter Douglas added new technologies for dealers to offer homeowners through their Custom Integrator Program, which gives dealers access to the portfolio of over 20 customizable shade styles. They introduced PowerView+, the new hardwired control solution ideal for new construction projects, and the new Rechargeable Battery Wand for convenient, long-lasting shade power in retrofit projects. IOOOTA Srl: Jarvis is a plug-and-play IoT Z-Wave solution for smart buildings that enables energy efficiency, comfort, safety, and automation with a single point of control and management, even remotely. iRoom iO: iRoom iO unveiled its newly redesigned touch Dock in-wall iPad docking and antitheft system with motorized release mechanism for all iPads with a 10.2-inch screen or larger. The built-in control processor and the touch keypad connect to all major third-party control systems. Plus, the new iO Smart Control relay interfaces turn any light or shade switch into a smart switch. Josh.ai: Josh.ai announced that it had raised $11 million in funding back in April, and followed up with a series of announcements featuring new partnerships and integrations, but its biggest news came at the end of the year. After announcing its new Fiji OS at CEDIA Expo, the company held its first keynote event in November where it introduced the industry to Josh Nano, an architectural microphone, and Josh Core, the rack-based processor that lets the Josh Nano be practically invisible. Just Add Power: Over the last few years, Just Add Power focused on enhancing its Ultra HD over IP platform with audio functionality to simplify installations. It began with the introduction of the 3G+ 767 Dante Enhanced Sound System transmitter in 2019. This was followed by another solution in DECEMBER 2020 | RESIDENTIAL SYSTEMS

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2020: the 3G 708POE transmitter, which allows installers to cost-effectively add a stereo analog audio output to its Ultra HD over IP systems. Looking ahead, the company is committed to turning the dial up to 11 on unmatched audio functionality in 2021. Legrand BCS: Legrand Business Control Systems (BCS) continues to promote its commitment to the benefits of human-centric lighting (HCL) by pairing its Vantage EasyTouch Glass modular keypad station with its QMotion line of fabric shades. Not only does EasyTouch Glass add a touch of elegance to any smart home, but it also allows users to control the lighting, automated shades, garage doors, and more with one touch. QMotion has introduced 80 new fabrics in a variety of colors and textures for complete light blockage, minimal lighting filtering, and glare control. Lutron: Lutron announced several new integrations this year with the likes of Josh.ai, Crestron, URC, and Ring, as well as its new Alisse wall control for use with its HomeWorks whole-home automation system. Leon Speakers: In 2021, Leon Speakers will continue the expansion of its audio and technology concealment offerings through several new partnerships with top tech collaboration companies like Logitech and others. As a manufacturer of design-forward resimercial solutions, Leon wants to make concealing technology even easier for the integration community. This builds from their successful partnership with Sonos, and comes at a particularly opportune moment as consumers and business owners seek ways to implement a wide variety of technologies that facilitate e-learning, work-from-home, and digital entertainment lifestyles.

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still built using Modus’ in-VR tools, integrators can now export line drawings, renders, and even panoramic images in seconds using three new tools launched this year.

Sonus faber

LG: Although the company deservedly gets a lot of attention for its OLED 8K televisions, LG also focused on audio this year, with a whole line of well-received soundbars that had several models featuring Dolby Atmos. Luxul: With the pandemic, the network became a key player in ensuring a successful work-fromhome environment. Luxul released its highly anticipated Epic Mesh, the first wireless mesh solution designed for the integration channel. Additionally, the ProWatch cloud management solution was introduced, allowing integrators to monitor and manage every device on a client’s home network and proactively respond to issues while avoiding truck rolls for simple system management tasks. Marantz: The new Marantz SR-Series AV receivers take advantage of the latest HDMI technologies, including a dedicated “8K” HDMI input that enables 8K/60 Hz and 4K/120 Hz video passthrough, new HDR format support, including HDR10+ and Dynamic HDR, and a new HDMI feature called Quick Media Switching (QMS), which allows a source to instantly switch frame rate to eliminate screen blackout. The latest SR Series models still support HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), and Dolby Vision, as well as 4:4:4 Pure Color subsampling and BT.2020 pass-through. Middle Atlantic Products: Middle Atlantic has extended the C3 Credenza Series to now include a “Frame-to-Furniture” offering featuring optional integrated display mounts co-developed with Chief. Next, Forward is designed around an rackrail and Middle Atlantic’s patented universal mounting pattern for quick, tool-less installation. Forward includes cable management solutions; blank and vent panels; and more. Modus VR: In 2020, the Modus VR team focused heavily on enabling integrators to rapidly create high-impact client deliverables. While projects are

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MSE Audio: In 2021, MSE Audio foresees tremendous growth in home theater. The pandemic closed theaters and the industry is already seeing an increase in loudspeaker demand for quality theaters and multi-use rooms. MSE’s Phase Technology speaker line continues to offer speakers designed for clients’ needs and lifestyles with new models such as the CI140 in-ceiling angled speakers for optimizing front channels. dARTS Theater all-digital products ensure that installed speakers perform in the real world as they were designed in the lab. NAD: NAD Electronics launched the T 758 V3i, a performance update to the T 758 AV surround sound receiver, in August. The affordable surround sound receiver ($1499 U.S. MSRP) will now come ready with Dolby Atmos, DTS Master Audio, BluOS high-res multi-room audio, Dirac Live, 4K UHD Video, and Apple AirPlay 2 all built-in. Nationwide: Retail was hit especially hard by the pandemic, and Nationwide’s ShopSafe Promise was designed to help them get back to business. Provided at no cost as a service to the independent retail channel, the ShopSafe Promise makes shopping safer and more convenient for consumers of appliances, electronics, furniture, bedding, and outdoor entertainment products. By taking the ShopSafe Promise pledge, dealers agree to adhere to recommended Covid-19 safeguards designed to make the shopping and delivery experiences as safe, convenient, and professional as possible for consumers. Nice Group: Nice is an international leader in smart home and building automation with the aim of combining functionality and design to simplify people’s daily gestures. Nice solutions are used worldwide and include abode, Elero, Fibaro, and HySecurity brands in its portfolio. Nortek Control: Fueled by a focus on technology and analytics, Nortek Control intuitively met the unique needs of a challenging 2020 marketplace with its brands, including ELAN (launch of IP-controlled multi-zone audio distribution platform with Dante audio networking) and Panamax (BlueBOLT-enabled power conditioner) both ideally timed as the world situation forced more people to remain home. Nortek Control continues its march toward an evolutionary

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rebrand as their business groups evolve from a manufacturing-focused company to delivering connected technology solutions for all customers. Nuvo: Nuvo P600 DIN rail player is the first streaming audio player designed specifically for DIN rail installations. The P600 provides any room with instant access to endless music options — from networked collections to a variety of internet radio and streaming services. Nuvo is also now offering Apple AirPlay 2 support for select Player Portfolio models running software version 2020.2. On-Q: The new On-Q Dual-Purpose In-Wall Enclosures are designed for use behind a TV to bring power and store small devices. Available in 9- and 17-inch form factors, the solutions are made with Wi-Fi transparent ABS plastic to support routers and switches, including a flush, Wi-Fi transparent, removable cover with venting and cable access. OneVision Resources: OneVision’s team of business experts sees a bright future for those in the industry who are willing to expand their business model to profit from projects and service. OneVision works closely with integrators to modernize their operations and fully capitalize on the growing demand for exceptional client service. OneVision’s comprehensive platform covers everything from hiring to organization design, accounting to systems, and marketing to service operations. Each operational pillar is re-engineered from the ground up to take the business to the next level. Platinum Tools: Platinum Tools has been adding NSi Industries’ products to its own product offerings, including the complete WarriorWrap line of electrical tape and complete RHINO Safety Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) line. The Platinum Tools product portfolio is entirely complementary to NSi electrical solutions and adds category depth. Platinum Tools’ portfolio includes cable management solutions, structured wiring products, tester kits, cutters, crimpers, and other products for electrical, industrial, security, audio/video, commercial, residential, datacom, and telecom applications, which expands NSi’s market reach. Portal: Throughout all of 2020, despite the pandemic and economic downturn, Portal.io has continued to experience month-over-month user growth and record proposal activity. Portal. io has been focused on adding the most requested


work, learn, exercise, and entertain at home. Rayva reacted by developing acoustical paneling packages that help integrators convert basements, bedrooms, dens — practically any space in a home — into a home theater, home office, home gym, meditation studio, or to enhance the health and wellness benefits in a bedroom.

Theory Audio Design

features to its web-based proposal tool for dealers. This summer Portal launched “Payments,” allowing dealers to collect ACH and credit cards from customers the moment they sign and accept their proposal. PowerHouse Alliance: The industry has been presented with many challenges this year, but, through it all, PowerHouse Alliance distributor members across the country continued to provide dealers and integrators with customer support and safe access to over 250 AV, networking, smart home, and security brands whenever they needed it. As a group, the PowerHouse Alliance has adapted and grown, adding seven new distribution warehouse locations, increasing access and pick-up options for dealers and integrators across the country. Pro Audio Technology: In 2020, Pro Audio Technology had the best year in the high-end loudspeaker company’s 16-year history. Across the globe, people have been encouraged to stay inside, and as a result, homeowners are more willing than ever to invest in more satisfying ways to entertain and to be entertained within their homes — PRO is making this a reality for them. By installing high-channel count Dolby Atmos (Dolby Certification available) surround sound systems, PRO’s group of integrators around the world are recreating the sheer size, scale, and quality of audio only experienced in a movie theater within their clients’ dedicated home theaters and media rooms.

RoseWater Energy Group: RoseWater Energy is excited about 2021. As awareness of power quality issues increases, RoseWater is seeing substantial growth in its HUB Energy Management solution for luxury homes and commercial applications. RoseWater works closely with dealers to help properly spec the product, close the sale, and manage the installation to ensure everything works properly. Once installed, clients will only know that power anomalies occurred from viewing the event log. RTI: In February, RTI announced that Joe Roberts was joining the company as CEO. Roberts amplified the successful focus on resimercial solutions that were added to the company’s expanding portfolio in 2019. Most recently, RTI introduced the VXP-82 all-in-one control processor and presentation switcher, a singlebox presentation solution ideal for conference rooms, meeting spaces, classrooms, and lecture halls. Roberts brought in new sales and marketing leadership and relaunched the Pro Control brand, focused on its single-room solution. Salamander Designs: Salamander Designs significantly expanded its AV furniture and global footprint in 2020, supporting integrators in residential and commercial markets. In 2020, new products included Unifi Conference Tables with social distancing configurations and antimicrobial surfaces, new Huddle@Home video conferencing work/learn from home systems, Zoom, Microsoft, and Cisco Certifications, and Integrated Cabinets for Epson’s LS500 UST Laser Projection TV.

ProSource: As the industry is experiencing unprecedented growth due to current conditions, ProSource University (PSU) is needed to help facilitate this expansion by providing the industry’s first platform that offers exclusive ProSource training, and a comprehensive repository of vendor trainings, as well as access to CEDIA educational content. ProSource recently announced that free access to members has been extended through September 2021.

Samsung: Samsung turned heads this year with the introduction of its first outdoor television. The Terrace is an outdoor 4K QLED TV and accompanying soundbar. It is a Samsung Smart TV that’s specifically designed to bring the full indoor entertainment experience outside. Available in 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models, The Terrace is designed with weather in mind — with an IP55 rating, the Terrace’s display boasts weather-resistant durability against water and dust.

Rayva: Integrators have been presented with new opportunities to cater to consumers as they

SANUS: SANUS released the Soundbar TV Mount and Extendable Wall Mount for the

Sonos Arc. Whether attaching the soundbar to a TV mount or directly to the wall, the flexible solutions allow you to fine-tune their height and depth to ensure optimal performance for the Arc’s Dolby Atmos capabilities. Compatible with most displays from 50 inches to 90 inches, the mount attaches directly to TV mounts, allowing the sound of the Arc to move with the display. Savant: Savant received a lot of attention for its acquisition of GE Lighting this past summer. It was the third lighting acquisition for the company, first with LiteTouch in 2012, then NOON in January 2020. “The thinking behind [the GE Lighting acquisition] was because we needed a large catalyst to move the industry to this idea of smart, healthy living, and the need to build a company that could provide that from all aspects of the ecosystem,” says Savant president JC Murphy. Screen Innovations: SI’s ongoing development of new U.S.-made products, designs, and technologies are not only redefining what’s possible and simplifying the installation and integration of both motorized and manual screen and shade offerings, but establishing them as a valuable enhancement to home and business interiors in a way the integration community is now rapidly capitalizing on. SI has developed solutions that integrate global standards like Zigbee 3.0 protocols and mesh networking topologies. In 2020, SI added smart outlets and deepened its corporate commitment to reduce waste through the implementation of lithium battery-powered solutions. Severtson Screens: Severtson Screens partnered with CES+ to provide projection screens for CES+’s new InstaCinema inflatable outdoor cinema screen, just in tome for families sheltering at home. Now InstaCinema has been designed as a high-quality viewing experience that is to be used in large open outdoor venues, such as fields, parking lots, etc. as well as in larger outdoor residential applications. The InstaCinema inflatable outdoor cinema screen is designed using durable PVC material and is available in 20and 40-foot standard widths with larger sizes to become available in the near future. Slayman Design Associates and Slayman Cinema: Slayman Design Associates and Slayman Cinema’s Lisa Slayman (ASID, IIDA) shares that while home theater interior design has never been more at the forefront than it is today, it’s not for the obvious reasons — reasons that offer integrators

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Torus Power: Torus Power has emerged as a leader in clean power delivery for high-performance audio video and control systems with the launch of its new Torus Power ELITE series. Monitoring, control, and power reporting are all handled through the Torus Power Connect cloud control server while the Torus Power unit provides the protection and reliability.

new opportunities. While some homeowners are investing big bucks to make their home feel like an escape from the world, others are focused on the pursuit of better lighting, seating, more luxurious materials, and the latest technology to enjoy movies, concerts, gaming/e-sports, and more. Acoustics are a critical element now, too, as people recognize the benefits of good acoustics to daily living. SnapAV: This year SnapAV decided to hold its own event, Snap Pro Live!, which featured a forwardlooking, state-of-the industry keynote, 35+ training and panel sessions, and 2-1/2 weeks of post-event ondemand content.

Wall-Smart

Sonos: Shortly after the pandemic shut down most of the country, Sonos introduced its new Sonos Radio — a free, ad-supported streaming radio service, exclusively available to customers in more than 10 million homes globally. Then, shortly after that, came the big news — Sonos Arc, which was the company’s first soundbar with Dolby Atmos. Sonus faber: Sonus faber is an Italian manufacturer of handcrafted speakers, and other high-end audio equipment. The brand most recently launched the Lumina Collection, a group of luxury speakers conceived on the notion that it is important to savor time for ourselves and celebrate life’s precious moments. Lumina collection comprises the core values of Sonus faber and its materials, such as real multilayer wood, leather, and the natural composition of drivers. Sony: Each year, Sony has a spate of products for the CI channel, and this year was no different, with several new projectors, soundbars, and displays making the scene. But perhaps the biggest news of 2020 was the return of Jeff Goldstein to Sony, this time as head of sales to the custom integrator channel. Look for more of Goldstein’s impact throughout 2021. Stewart Filmscreen: Stewart Filmscreen released the latest evolution in its Director’s Choice screen system — the Director’s Choice EVO. Now with a smaller 6.5-inch border and a 30 percent bigger image, EVO is available in a choice of reference screen materials, including SnoMatte 100, StudioTek 100, StudioTek 130 G4, and FireHawk G5. EVO is available in sizes up to 96x192 inches (up to 215 inches diagonal). Additionally, all masking is completely hidden behind the 6.5-inch fascia. SurgeX: SurgeX is disrupting the power management status quo with Squid, a solution that packs an array of power quality features into a single compact chassis to fulfill the unique power management and monitoring needs of the growing number of tight AV installs, like home theaters and home offices and corporate meeting spaces. Theory Audio Design: Theory started shipping its first seven products in 2020 with the mission to elevate the performance of residential surround and distributed audio systems. As families look for more satisfying ways to experience movies, TV shows, gaming, and back and foreground music, they are upgrading their AV technology. Offering soundbars, subwoofers, inwall, in-ceiling loudspeakers, and companion Dante-enabled network audio mixing amplifiers, Theory defines a new category of audio components for residential installed sound, both indoors and out.

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Vanco International: The entire team at Vanco International worked hard to continue to innovate and introduce new products and solutions for AV dealers under each of Vanco‚’s four brands: Vanco, Evolution, PulseAudio, and Beale Street Audio, despite challenging market conditions in 2020. The company also launched an online training center for distributors, reps, dealers, and integrators, providing access to its library of training resources. Video Mount Products: Video Mount Products (VMP) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as a provider of mounting solutions for the AV, communications, and security industries. VMP’s product offering continues to grow by adding mounting systems to address growing segments across many markets. Wall-Smart: As many people stay at home due to Covid-19, homeowners became even more conscious of their home interior design. Considering this, Wall-Smart continues to support the residential and custom install markets to ensure each new device has a custom flush mount. In 2020, Wall-Smart launched many new products. Among them are flush mounts for Control4 T4 touch panels, Crestron new TSW-X70 touch screens, Savant Echo keypads, IC Realtime cameras, Honeywell 6290W touchcenter, Legrand Adorne receptacles, iPad Air 4, new iPad Pros, and Araknis APs. WhyReboot: WhyReboot has many reasons to celebrate in 2020. Named HTSA’s 2020 Growth Partner of the Year, WhyReboot has had a strong year with the increased demand for networking and WFH applications. WhyReboot supports the custom installation industry with partnerships with D-Tools, Jetbuilt, Portal, and BlueDog Group. WhyReboot manufactures the Paramount access point mount designed for integrators to ensure networks are not only technically set up, they also meet the clients’ aesthetic needs. Wilson Electronics: Wilson Electronics' latest cellular signal booster product, weBoost Installed Home Complete, features professional installation through OnTech by DISH. weBoost Installed Home Complete delivers the strongest indoor cellular signal for all cell phones, tablets, hotspots, and cellular-connected devices on all U.S. carrier networks. Zappiti: When home systems integrators started exploring new ways to provide engaging entertainment experiences to families sheltering at home, Zappiti delivered with a suite of products that combine the best of past and present technologies. Zappiti media servers offer integrators a unique opportunity to integrate customers’ physical media into a digital 4K entertainment platform that’s ISF-certified. The digitally stored optical discs are presented in 4K; a library of up to to 3000 Blu-ray discs can be navigated on Zappiti players via a menu system, providing integrators and consumers an entertainment solution that efficiently resurrects existing media collections and breathes new life into a media room. n

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The Latest AV Receivers

This home AV stalwart is now in demand, and here are some of the newest models on the scene.

Last issue’s state of the industry report saw a rise in demand for AV receivers, as clients continue to upgrade their home systems. Some of the latest features include 8K compatibility and all the current immersive formats. Here is a look at some of the newest models on the market. Denon AVR-A110

Denon’s flagship AVR-A110 13.2-channel 8K AV receiver combines all popular 3D formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhanced, Auro-3D, and more. Providing 8K/60 Hz pass-through or upscaling, 4K/120 Hz pass-through for gaming and support for the latest HDMI specifications, the AVR-A110 enables enthusiasts to build the best 4K home theater systems while incorporating 8K compatibility to accommodate future upgrades more easily. For cutting-edge gamers, the AVR-A110 offers Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and Quick Frame Transport (QFT), minimizing lag and latency while eliminating frame tearing for more fluid gameplay and enhanced gaming thrills. The AVR-A110 creates a lifelike cinematic experience thanks to its monolithic amplifier design, hefty 18-pound high-current power transformer, and custom 22,000 uF/80V audio capacitors, delivering 150 watts per channel (8 ohm, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.05% 2ch Drive). It features HDMI connectivity (8-in/3-out), including a dedicated 8K input along with the latest dynamic HDR standard. The eARC HDMI feature (through the main HDMI output) enables uncompressed and object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to connect directly from a smart TV app to the AVR-A110 for lifelike audio performance. Yamaha RX-V Line The Yamaha RX-V line introduces two new models — the RX-V4A and RXV6A — offering five and seven channels of support, respectively. Whether you’re 4K-ready today or preparing for 8K to come, both models are built to support and pass through the highest resolution content available. There are three 8K HDMI inputs on the RX-V6A (seven inputs total) and four on the RX-V4A.

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Features include HDMI 2.1 compatibility, which provides uninterrupted entertainment and gameplay with auto low latency mode (ALLM), variable refresh rates (VRR), quick frame transport (QFT), and quick media switching (QMS). This is especially helpful for compatibility not only with Ultra HD TVs and emerging 8K setups, but also in preparation for the latest gaming platforms arriving this fall. In fact, to support the use of powered HDMI cables for longer wiring needs, Yamaha has boosted the power supply from HDMI outputs to 300mA. NAD Electronics T 758 V3i NAD Electronics’ T 758 V3i is a performance update to the T 758 AV surround sound receiver. The surround sound receiver will now come ready with Dolby Atmos, DTS Master Audio, BluOS high-res multi-room audio, Dirac Live, 4K UHD Video, and Apple AirPlay 2 all built-in. Popular surround sound formats, including HD formats Dolby Atmos and DTS Master Audio, are decoded using the latest generation of highspeed multicore DSP. Stereo source material can be converted to surround sound using NAD’s EARS surround mode. With full support for high-res audio formats like MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) included in the BluOS Player, the T 758 V3i also includes NAD’s PowerDrive amplifier, which features high current combined with high Dynamic Power to bring out the very best in any speaker. The T 758 V3i offers high performance with the latest digital video technology, including Ultra video at resolutions up to 3840x2160 pixels at 60 frames per second with 4:4:4 color gamut and High Dynamic Range support. Analog video sources are also supported on HDMI for simple

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one wire connection to a flat screen or projector. NAD leaves the video processing where it belongs, in the display, avoiding multiple format conversions. It also includes popular HDMI features, Audio Return Channel (ARC) and Consumer Electronic Control (CEC). Marantz NR1711 The Marantz NR1711 is a slimline 8K Ultra HD AV receiver. A high-current discrete power amplifier section produces sound for movies and music. Identical power is provided on all channels (50 watts per channel: 8-ohm, 20 Hz–20 kHz, THD: 0.08%, 2ch. drive) with low-impedance driver capability. Every Marantz product is extensively tuned and tested by Marantz sound masters to ensure the iconic warm, detailed sound is maintained. The NR1711 enables users to transform and upgrade their home cinema experience with its support of multidimensional object-oriented audio formats including Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS:X, and DTS Virtual:X. The NR1711’s Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology and DTS:X Virtual give users a 3D listening experience without the need for dedicated height or surround speakers. The NR1711 includes six HDMI inputs with one output to cover all users’ favorite sources. In addition to 8K upscaling, all six HDMI inputs support Dolby Vision, HLG, Dynamic HDR, HDR10+, 4:4:4 Pure Color subsampling, and BT.2020 pass-through, as well as the latest HDMI features VRR, QFT, ALLM, QMS, and current HDCP 2.3 copy-protection standard. One dedicated 8K HDMI input delivers the latest HDMI specifications. Enjoy movies in 8K with 8K/60 Hz pass-through or upscaling as well as the latest in HDMI technology like Dynamic HDR for best contrast and colors and Quick Media Switching (QMS), which is used to avoid blank screens while switching sources. The new Marantz NR1711 also provides a lag-free gaming experience with 4K/120 Hz pass-through, as well as Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). McIntosh MX100 AV Processor The McIntosh MX100 AV processor is designed for today’s home theaters that only need digital inputs and don’t require any legacy analog inputs. It has four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, with all being HDCP 2.2compliant. Each HDMI port also has 18 Gbps of bandwidth to support High Dynamic Range (HDR) formats Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG; 4K Ultra HD at 50/60 Hz; 4:4:4 color spacing; Rec. 2020; and 3D video pass-through. Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) functionality is included on the HDMI output. eARC offers improved bandwidth so the MX100 can receive higher resolution audio from a TV. Two coax and two optical digital audio inputs are also included. For outputting audio, the MX100 has 11.2 (or 7.2.4) discrete audio

channels and 13 balanced (XLR) connectors. Seven premium 32-bit digitalto-analog converters (DACs) provide audiophile-grade processing. The MX100 is compatible with leading home theater surround sound and object-based 3D audio formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It’s also fully compatible with 4K Ultra HD video sources. The MX100 can be finetuned to each home theater’s unique acoustical properties via the builtin Audyssey MultEQ XT32 calibration software that has more than 10,000 individual control points, allowing finer details of the room’s problems to be captured and corrected. Integra and Onkyo Work with Sonos Integra and Onkyo have both announced firmware updates that allow select products to work with Sonos. The new firmware update enables select Integra, Onkyo, and Pioneer ELITE receivers to utilize Sonos Volume Pass Through capabilities. The update allows users to control the receiver’s volume through the Sonos app on their phone or other device. No more need to worry about presetting volume levels on the receiver or potential issues related to the presence of multiple volume controls, and owners can control the volume from anywhere in their house. The new firmware update is supported by the following Integra models: DRX-3.3, DRX-4.3, and DRX-5.3. The following models will be automatically upgraded with the new functionality: • Onkyo Models: TX-NR696, TX-NR797, TX-RZ740, and TX-RZ840 • Pioneer ELITE Models: VSX-LX304, VSX-LX504, SC-LX704, and SCLX904 AudioControl Director 2.0 Firmware AudioControl Director 2.0 firmware is now available. Director 2.0 adds features and an easier-to-navigate graphical user interface (GUI) for the complete line of Director Series and RS Series DSP amplifiers. Integrators will appreciate that the new user experience offers a clean look, providing easy accessibility to all features from a single page. The new GUI is also a responsive web page, making it easy to view on a variety of devices and screen sizes from phones and tablets to computers. The new interface is compatible with Apple and PC computer platforms as well as both iOS and Android mobile devices. The SDS switching (Signal Detecting Switch) enables users to interact with the highly popular smart doorbell devices, command prompts from voice assistants, and other devices, muting entertainment content until the event has passed. Along with creating a GUI that is easier and more efficient to navigate on any device, AudioControl has added six additional parametric EQs for enhanced system tuning capability, channel metering for visual confirmation of signal levels (at the amplifier’s output stage), and a touchsensitive webpage, enabling full system configuration from a phone, tablet, or other touch-enabled devices.

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BUYING GROUPS

A SUPPLEMENT TO

MAGAZINE

THE INTEGRATION GUIDE TO

BUYING GROUPS SPONSORED BY HTSA

SUPPORT FOR SLOWDOWNS AND SPEED UPS Buying groups step up for their members during the continuing pandemic. By Karen Mitchell For proof of AV resiliency in this demanding time, look no further than to the growing success of buying groups. From introducing new platforms, increasing training, and ramping up vendor and dealer communication, these groups are taking the necessary actions to meet current challenges and up the sales numbers for their members. “At the beginning of the slowdowns, we created a series of webinars on subjects like managing cash flow, how to get a PPP loan, and buying in difficult times,” says Richard Glikes, president, Azione Unlimited. “We’ve also created a series of Vendor Fireside Chats, intended to give supply and business updates. “Lately, because of the tremendous amount of demand on our dealers’ time and resources, we have concentrated on vendor interactions only, as opposed to trainings and product-orientated promotions,” Glikes adds. “We think it’s crucial that dealers are buying smarter and utilizing association benefits to their full potential. Our communication has gone up dramatically, and has been focused on growing business in difficult times. The results have been overwhelmingly positive as dealers have been overtly thankful for our efforts exuded on their behalf.”

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The HTSA held Zoom Town Hall meetings to address the issues their dealer and vendors members were facing early on in the pandemic.

Hank Alexander, director, HTSN (Nationwide), says his company has learned a lot during the last eight months, “but our approach has always remained the same — putting our members’ needs at the forefront of everything we do. We keep executing on behalf of our members, doing whatever we can to help them stay safe on the front lines during the pandemic and support their communities.” In terms of day-to-day operations, Nationwide has increased its Zoom, Teams, and WebEx conference and video calls. “We’ve also used these technologies to create new opportunities that benefit our members,” he says. “In fact, we recently finished our firstever Virtual PrimeTime, where we offered

three days of video conferences, presentations, and training to our members and guests, all for free. And we saw a tremendous response in terms of both attendance and engagement.” Deeply challenged when the global pandemic disrupted business in early 2020, HTSA’s Board of Directors and leadership developed a strategic plan of action to help the entire HTSA family get through the impact of Covid-19 from a health and business perspective, says Jon Robbins, executive director, HTSA. “There was a bit of a fear factor in the early days of Covid, as everyone struggled to understand the coronavirus, its nature, and its impact, as well as how to adjust operations in the face of the ever-changing recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and a plethora of state and local health officials,” says Robbins. “Early on, we sought to address these concerns and keep members focused on their businesses. In the early meetings, we helped members move beyond the risk of being frozen by fear and helped them see that, in any time of change, there is opportunity. We suggested that they seize the day by looking at this event not just as a new set of challenges, but also as a unique


BUYING GROUPS opportunity, for example, in stepping up talent acquisition.” HTSA’s expanded management roster, including director of new technology Tom Doherty and chief learning architect Keith Esterly, has given the company leadership a full-time SWAT team of sorts, in place to create new tools and key initiatives. “In the early stages of the pandemic we recognized the opportunity to address one of the biggest challenges faced by all tech industry dealers and integrators — a severe labor shortage,” Robbins says. “Keith [Esterly] developed a powerful set of tactics based on his Relationship Science course, helping members optimize recruitment practices to reach out to the many newly available top candidates furloughed by other less-fortunate operations. As a result of this talent acquisition initiative, most HTSA members have experienced a net increase in manpower.” Doherty spearheaded an initiative to regularly collect business-level projections from a large group of members that were then shared with HTSA vendors on a monthly basis. The data was detailed, presented on a rolling three-month basis, and updated each month compared to the previous month’s projection. ProSource made it a point to use this shutdown time to increase contact with members, says its CEO/president, David Workman. “We are facilitating mechanisms within the group to allow the dealers peerto-peer best practice idea exchanges on topics that are top-of-mind for them in this current environment.” The centerpiece of ProSource training efforts is through ProSource University. Launched in May 2020 to meet the changing educational and training needs of members during the pandemic, it offers a unique course curriculum including video clips. “Our vendor partners have been very proactive in providing web training sessions to the point where there is more available than time allows,” he says. “ProSourceU is an industry-first LMS platform that includes custom created content, including our Lighting Technology Certification, Project Management Certification, vendor/product training and webinars, and the entire CEDIA Course catalog."

Nationwide recently hosted its first-ever Virtual PrimeTime, where they offered three days of video conferences, presentations, and training.

ProSource offered training webinars as part of their ProSourceU initiative.

WHAT DEALERS WANT “Dealers have been asking for help with supply chain issues, effective training to train new employees, and help entering the hot new categories such as lighting,” Workman says. “As the pandemic continues to roll on, it has become clear that our customer base is investing in their homes and, as a result, unlike many other industries that have been negatively affected, our business is booming. It has also become more and more clear that dealers need a best-in-class digital campaign to reach out to their existing client base along with growing new customers, as there is less social interaction to foster word-of-mouth referrals.” “Most Nationwide dealers need help with digital marketing, websites, and getting enough inventory to keep the sales channel active,” says Alexander. “Our communication efforts started on day one. We began by sending our members weekly and monthly surveys to help identify what kinds of help they needed as the situation continued to unfold. Then we created a comprehensive ‘Back to Business Hub’ to address those needs and share critical information, whether that was about PPP loans, staying open in

accordance with state and local guidelines in an ever-changing environment, or in how to communicate their open status to their customers — letting them know that they are available to help and could even come to a customer’s home to service an issue and do so in a way that keeps everyone safe.” Nationwide worked with a distribution partner to secure access to affordable PPE gear for members’ employees and staff, as well as cleaning supplies to help them keep their stores and offices open. “And we helped our members set up transactional websites that could help keep sales going and give them another avenue with which to communicate with their clients,” he says. “We didn’t over-communicate, but we talked, emailed, and responded to our members’ needs on a daily basis,” says Alexander. “As speedups began, we worked with our vendor and distribution partners to help get much-needed products into our members’ hands. The supply chain, by all accounts, is still a challenge, and most likely will be for the next few months or, in some cases, quarters. But Nationwide will continue to fight for the inventory, the trucks, the deals, and the financing opportunities to help our members separate themselves from the competition.” At Azione, the first unexpected problem was just how severe that lack of product problem became. “The impact of a March forecast from vendor partners resulted in major product shortages in the June-to-July timeframe,” says Glikes. “The worst of which seems to be receivers, as there has been a dearth of product coming out of Malaysia. The second problem, one that we hear about often, is a lack of labor in our industry. There’s more work than there are individuals to install. We are doing everything we can to support dealers on both fronts as we continue to endure this unique situation." September was the best month ever in the nine-year history of Azione Unlimited, Glikes says. “We have a number of initiatives launching in 2021 to aid the dealers to easily do more business. As a side note, we are getting approached by a large number of dealers who would like to join, and we are quite flattered by their level of interest. Our Canadian numbers are growing quite nicely as well.” n

[27]


BUYING GROUPS

ADVERTORIAL

Home Technology Specialists of America HTSA is the industry’s leading international trade consortium with nearly 100 members across North America. With a compelling mixture of market-leading dealer and integrator members, coupled with a proactive Board of Directors and an innovative leadership, HTSA has successfully navigated ever-changing and often challenging business environments — such as 2020’s Covid-19 crisis. How does HTSA remain the perennial industry leader? First, by creating powerful group resources that are continuously updated as market conditions or technology changes. HTSA has the industry’s finest technology experts and educators on staff and available to members full-time. They are charged with creating powerful educational initiatives that drive member success. Second, a bold management team — in conjunction with the Board — continually assesses technology and market opportunities to target those areas most likely to drive member growth and profits. HTSA was the first organization to lead the industry into an expanded lighting segment offering, made up of lighting control, fixtures, and design services. HTSA also led the charge into the rapidly growing residential wellness segment. HTSA does not chase opportunities…it creates them.

“In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it is simply not good enough to be fast — you also have to be smart. Simply being fast can leave you running in circles,” says Jon Robbins, Executive Director of Home Technology Specialists of America. “I’m incredibly proud of the smart team of technology experts and educators we’ve built at HTSA. With our industry leading education, powerful member and technology brand partnerships…HTSA will continue to conquer any business challenges that arise.”

Based in Chicago, IL, HTSA is proudly member-owned and offers members industry-best programs with top technology brands. Learn more at: www.htsa.com

[28]

Jon Robbins delivers the State of the HTSA Union at the HTSA Virtual Fall Conference 2020.

Tom Doherty offers members tips on how to succeed in lighting at the HTSA Virtual Fall Conference 2020.

Keith Esterly delivers a humorous and impactful keynote presentation titled Let Go of the Vine at HTSA Virtual Fall Conference 2020.



By John Sciacca

Control4

888-400-4070; Control4.com

Chime Smart Doorbell

Kudos Great image quality; easily share/save videos/ snapshots; simple installation/setup

Concerns None

Product Specs 4 Smart doorbell solution designed for Control4 OS3 4 Available in PoE and Wi-Fi versions 4 Offered in Black and Satin Nickel metallic finishes 4 5 MP camera (2560x1920) with 180-degree field of view 4 Five selectable motion detection zones allow for notification or event triggering in Control4 programming

Take a walk through a typical neighborhood and you’ll quickly notice that one of the leading smart home accessories is the smart doorbell. Instead of the dumb push-to-contact relay and ding-dong chime people have lived with since…I don’t know…the dawn of time, many homeowners are adding smart devices to their front porch from the likes of Google, Ring, Arlo, and a host of others. Even security companies like Vivint, ADT, and SimpliSafe are offering solutions. Undeniably, the smart doorbell is a hot category, but you know what all of these lack? Any kind of deep integration with the automation systems that we’re installing. Or, as Control4’s senior director of product marketing Kordon Vaughn said, “Video doorbells let you see and talk, but not do.” Roughly two years ago, Control4 launched

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its new DS2 Door Station. This device screams luxury all the way, with a gorgeous faceplate available in three solid metal finishes that fit right in outside a million-dollar home and offers solid Control4 integration, as well as the addition of a new Control4 feature, “Intercom Anywhere.” But, at nearly $1200 for the flush-mount version, it can be a tough sell for many customers,

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4 Motion events, video clips, and snapshots stored in Cloud for seven days and can be shared or saved to client device 4 ONVIF video stream can be added to NVR for recording/playback 4 Intercom Anywhere and cloud video storage requires 4Sight subscription 4 Dimensions: 5 x 1.5 x 1 inches (H x W x D)


ProductReview especially when there are plenty of DIY options available for under $200. And, even at that premium pricing, the DS2 had a pretty meager 1280x960 (1.2 MP) resolution camera compared to many competing products, didn’t capture/record any video clips, and required a hardwired Ethernet cable for PoE power, meaning retrofit was often out of the question. Due to this, it’s likely you’ve been incorporating other products with third-party drivers (nod to Blackwire Designs!) into your Control4 projects to get some kind of smart doorbell integrated with your installs, even if it meant the customer bouncing between apps. Control4 has heard your cries and feels your pain, and, better yet, they are doing something about it! Meet the new Chime Video Doorbell, which Control4 calls “the first video doorbell solution designed to leverage all of the capabilities of the sophisticated Control4 OS3.” First Impressions Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Chime is way cheaper than DS2. While not cheap at $400, it is far more affordable, and comes with the kind of dealer margin you’d never dream of getting with DIY stuff. Chime also comes in two versions: PoE for new installs and Wi-Fi for retrofits, both offered in black or nickel metallic finishes. Taking Chime out of the box, my first thought was, “Man, this is dinky.” Chime measures a scant 5 x 1.5 x 1 inches (H x W x D) — about 60 percent the size of a dollar bill — and it’s pretty light. Visually, it’s modern and attractive, but it definitely doesn’t exude the weight and gravitas of the DS2. (But if you’ve got a customer who is really sensitive about the look at the front door, the DS2 is still available!) Chime’s front is basically divided into two halves, with the camera lens on top and the button on bottom. The button is ringed with a soft-lit LED that is white during regular operation, making it obvious where to push. If enabled, two red LEDs glow on either side of the lens at night to enhance dark viewing. It comes with a simple metal mounting bracket that attaches to the wall with two screws, and then the Chime clips and secures into the bracket with an Allen-screw into the bottom. Since I was replacing a DS2 with an existing hardwired Cat cable connected to a Pakedge PoE switch, I opted for the PoE version. For retrofit installs where you’re replacing an existing doorbell, the Wi-Fi version will likely be your go-to since it powers via the existing doorbell’s transformer and 2-wire connection. (The PoE version also has the ability to connect to an existing door chime or contact sensor.) If you go with the PoE version, be aware that it has a pretty thick waterproof Ethernet connector hanging off the back that requires some fair wire management space behind it, and mounting this to a solid surface like brick or concrete will mean chiseling out a pocket for this wiring to recess into. Control4 will offer a new construction box that is a half-gang size that accepts the Chime mount, as well as an adapter plate for single-gang wall boxes. There isn’t a flush-mount option with Chime. For my install, I fabricated a piece of plastic to cover the existing DS2 opening, with a hole for the wiring to tuck through into the DS2 recessed mount, and simply attached the Chime mount with a couple of screws. With the PoE version, that’s it for the install. With the Wi-Fi version,

once it is wired and powered up, you need to connect it to the home’s WiFi. Chime creates an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network you connect to — navigate a web browser to 192.168.1.1 and you’ll enter the default password and then scan and connect to the home’s Wi-Fi. Chime supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz signals, and Control4 recommends a target signal of at least –65 dBm at the door station for reliable performance. Once on the network, you open your new version of Composer OS3.2 and Chime announces itself via SDDP. Drag it into your project, and, after it performs any firmware updates, you’re instructed to change its admin password before you can proceed. In Use After that, you have access to the Chime’s properties, which are far more extensive than what the DS2 offered and don’t require opening a separate web page to access. Here you can adjust things like what call group it notifies when the doorbell is pressed, make image setting adjustments (white balance, brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness), night mode and exposure settings, set the resolution of the camera’s video stream, configure network settings (including whether to use DDNS), create up to five separate motion zones, set privacy masking, and select what kind of events to capture during motion or when the button is pressed. Immediately noticeable is the vastly improved image quality of Chime’s 5 MP (2560x1920) camera compared to the DS2. Where images on the DS2 were a bit flat and soft, Chime captures sharp, vibrant, saturated, and detailed snapshots and videos. Chime currently captures video clips for Control4 interfaces at resolutions up to 1600x1200 (or 1024x768 for on-screen), but you can see its full image quality by either logging into its Web GUI or linking it to an ONVIF-capable NVR for higher-resolution (and full-time) recording. The camera boasts a super-wide 180-degree field of view that will likely cover most installations, but Control4 will offer two mounting wedges to further angle/aim Chime if need be. The microphone is also quite sensitive, not only perfect for two-way conversations with whomever is on your doorstep, but also picking up the sounds of chatter and kids playing out in the street. With OS3 integration, the home can now automatically react when Chime senses motion or when the doorbell is pressed, with all the programming and if/then customizations you want to employ based on things like time of day, whether the security system is armed or not, if the home is in stay or away mode, etc. The five configurable motion zones can be independently programmed for different actions per motion in each zone; say the driveway motion turning on floodlights if it is night time and arming the security system if it is after a certain time of day, and have the porch motion turning on porch lights and making sure the door is locked. You can also have push notifications sent to a device when motion is sensed in any zone. For example, I often get packages delivered where the driver never presses the doorbell button, but now I’m notified there was motion at the door and I am prompted to check who/what caused it. (We captured one late night video of a gnarly Kaiju cricket slowly crawling past Chime’s lens.)

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Residential Systems Vol. 21 No. 12

DEMEMBER 2020

residentialsystems.com FOLLOW US twitter.com/resisys facebook/resisys CONTENT VP/Content Creation Anthony Savona anthony.savona@futurenet.com Contributors: Llanor Alleyne, Dennis Burger, Sam Cavitt, Henry Clifford, Dave Donald, Tim Fitzpatrick, Ted Green, Jason Griffing, Anthony Grimani, Karen Mitchell, Todd Anthony Puma, John Sciacca, Heather Sidorowicz, Gordon van Zuiden Production Manager Heather Tatrow Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban Design Director Marc Miller ADVERTISING SALES VP/Market Expert, AV/Consumer Electronics & Pro Audio Adam Goldstein, adam.goldstein@futurenet.com, 212-378-0465 SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to residentialsystems.com and click on About Us, email futureplc@computerfulfillment.com, call 888-266-5828, or write P.O. Box 1067, Lowell, MA 01853. LICENSING/REPRINTS/PERMISSIONS Residential Systems is available for licensing. Contact the Licensing team to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of Print Licensing: Rachel Shaw, licensing@futurenet.com MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, B2B Rick Stamberger Chief Revenue Officer Mike Peralta Vice President, Sales & Publishing, B2B Aaron Kern Vice President, B2B Tech Group Carmel King Vice President, Sales, B2B Tech Group Adam Goldstein Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive FUTURE US, INC. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036

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One of OS3.2’s great new features is a new “History” icon that gives you information about security events around the home. This presents a timeline of when the doorbell sensed motion or the doorbell button was pressed, what time doors locked/unlocked, and when the security system armed/disarmed. Doorbell videos and snapshots are stored for seven days, with all other history saved for 14 days. (4Sight subscription is required for the 7-day cloud video storage.) You can also easily share or save an event, snapshot, or video by pressing and holding it; making it simple for a homeowner to archive or share something with the authorities. Also nice is that you can enable a time/date stamp for all snapshots and recordings. The separate Intercom Anywhere app was introduced with the DS2, and you’ll recall it freed your phone from the doorbell, letting you also take calls from touchscreens, and letting you call touchscreens from phones when away from home. Another boon of OS3.2 is that the separate IA app is going away, now merged in as part of the Control4 app. (Note: Merged apps will be available for Android devices at launch; iOS version is awaiting final approval from Apple and will launch later this year.)

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An intercom icon in OS3.2 brings up all of the intercom features, letting you control everything from within one app. Another recent update treats incoming intercom calls as a regular phone call, letting you answer audio only, or jump straight into video intercom mode. OS3.2 also features improvements to let Chime work with multi-home systems, correctly contacting you from any location. Chime is also now OvrC-enabled, giving pros the ability to remotely monitor system status, receive notifications, and reboot it if required from the OvrC web or mobile app. (An OvrC Pro device — like an Araknis router or OvrC Pro Hub — is required for remote access.) Charlie Kindel, SnapAV’s chief product and technology officer, perfectly sums it up by saying, “Chime marries security and automation to a level that has never been done before. It’s entirely customizable, transforming the doorbell’s role in the smart home to deliver the experience homeowners want.” In other words, Chime will likely become the de facto smart doorbell solution on your Control4 projects going forward, as well as offering a terrific conversation starter to add killer integration to any existing jobs. n

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NewProducts Lutron Alisse Wall Control

Josh Nano and Josh Core Josh.ai has introduced the Josh Nano and Josh Core, the company’s new product ecosystem that works together to provide an integrated voice automation experience. Josh Nano is an architectural microphone that seamlessly blends into any design aesthetic. Josh Core is the whole home processor, doubling down on local processing to ensure that every client’s data is private and secure. Measuring only 0.1 inches thin and 1.6 inches in diameter, Josh Nano is installed flush on a wall for a discreet voice experience. With an optional paintable cover, Josh Nano becomes practically invisible as part of the home’s interior design. It is equipped with a four microphone array featuring advanced far-field listening, a privacy switch that physically disconnects the microphones when toggled, and a capacitive touch sensor for contextual touch control. There is also a full RGB LED light ring that disappears when not in use, and a remote temperature sensor that can be used to trigger advanced automations. A server that acts as the central brain, Josh Core communicates with all of the connected devices and localizes control processing.

Crestron 70 Series Touch Screens Crestron has announced the launch of its next-generation 70 Series Touch Screens. Available in wall-mount and tabletop options, the Crestron 70 Series offers a sleek design with more screen and less bezel. With an array of enhanced features, Crestron’s 70 Series Touch Screens are Wi-Fi enabled and are available for both custom-programmed and Crestron Home projects where previous infrastructure requirements may not have been available. A Crestron 70 Series Touch Screen can be placed on kitchen counters, coffee tables, nightstands, and anywhere throughout a home. The addition of proximity sensors also allows for the touch screen to automatically wake when in close range without physical contact.

Lutron Electronics has announced the launch of the Alisse wall control for use with its HomeWorks whole-home automation system. Lutron reimagined every detail with the Alisse wall control — starting with its thin profile, broad range of hand-crafted finishes, and subtle illumination around the buttons — allowing it to complement any décor. Lutron uses a hand finishing process to bring out the dimension and hues of the genuine materials and offers a range of signature metal finishes that stretch across the style continuum. Each finish is matched with engraving filled with carefully coordinated ink as well as a complementary thin, glowing halo around the buttons to complete the look. The Alisse wall control’s plate form is balanced, featuring a sleek, thin profile that protrudes less than 1/8th of an inch from the wall.

abode Outdoor Smart Camera abode systems is now taking pre-orders for the abode Outdoor Smart Camera showcased at CES 2020. The company also announced en­hance­ments to video performance and all-new video services with immediate availability to all abode customers. Modular by design, the new abode Outdoor Smart Camera can be deployed using included mounts to optimize installation flexibility and provide advanced video coverage. The new video camera features a PIR motion sensor that enables person detection, an IR LED for low-light vision, a built-in microphone for two-way communication, a light sensor, and a wide-angle lens that is capable of providing BUSINESS SOFTWARE a 1920x1080p video across a 152-degree field of view. Featuring an IP65 weatherresistance rating, the abode Outdoor Smart Camera can withstand a wide variation of outdoor temperatures and environmental Professional Proposals conditions.

DECEMBER 2020 | RESIDENTIAL SYSTEMS

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GoingForward

SKAA’s the Limit

Meet the wireless audio standard that promises near-zero latency and eliminates compatibility issues. By Anthony Savona Once taboo due to quality issues, using Wi-Fi for audio has come a long way thanks to high-profile systems such as those from Sonos. Still, though accepted, there are good reasons to avoid it where possible, including compatibility issues, latency concerns, and Wi-Fi bandwidth limitations. There are times, however, when wireless is the only option, and to combat those concerns, semiconductor manufacturer Eleven Engineering has created the SKAA wireless standard, which either comes as part of the audio equipment (certain speakers from Atlantic Technology, for example) or as a dongle that can added to nearly any audio component. “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do a million things, right,” says Rex Whitehead, EVP, sales and marketing for Eleven Engineering. “They do some things spectacularly and they do some things horribly, including audio. We do one thing, and that’s wireless delivery of audio.”

Rex Whitehead, EVP, sales and marketing, Eleven Engineering

it’s never absolutely locked. SKAA is absolutely locked to all the speakers, and our speaker-tospeaker sync is less than 40 microseconds. We are a wireless solution that’s perfectly suitable for use with video and with gaming.”

SKAA In Use The true test of a wireless audio system is how it KAA-compatible Aquarius Wireless Speaker System functions in the home theater. “We’re fast enough Why SKAA? from Dillinger Labs that you’re not going to have any bad experience “SKAA is the RCA cable of wireless audio,” says Whitehead. “With an RCA cable you could connect a CD player or a due to latency,” says Whitehead. “As mentioned, you can have several VCR or pretty much anything to an AV receiver and it would just work. ecosystems running concurrently. For a 7.1-channel system, you would need two transmitters either embedded in the AVR or on a dongle SKAA does that for wireless audio.” A SKAA dongle can be added to any product if it is not already inserted into the device.” Additionally, for a media room, SKAA can offer some flexibility for built-in, which can end compatibility issues and also provides another advantage: “The same SKAA-enabled headphones that I’m using at the homeowner. “Let’s say you had a 3.1 soundbar, and that’s what you home for home theater can go on the plane with me or can be used in listen to all week,” explains Whitehead. “Then Friday night rolls around and you want to really kick it up a notch and you have these SKAA the back seat of my vehicle for the kids.” That takes care of compatibility, but what about the bandwidth and speakers in your game room. You can bring them and temporarily set latency limitations. SKAA was designed to alleviate both of those issues. them up in the back of your media room for movie night, and they “As far as bandwidth goes, SKAA goes from one transmitter to four would automatically connect. We put profiles in SKAA where that basic receivers, and we call that a cell, and we could have five cells going 3.1 soundbar would say, ‘Ooh, the rear channels just connected to me. at one time without having any conflict,” says Whitehead. “We take I’m going to reconfigure now. I’m no longer 3.1. I’m a 5.1.’ So the user up about 5 percent of the footprint of what’s available in the 2.4 GHz doesn’t have to change it.” range. We’ve got this tiny footprint and we’ve got plenty of channels that we can use. We actually created our own frequency hopping so at Scratching the Surface any point we’re starting with multiple lanes of traffic far in advance, SKAA is a versatile platform that is finding use cases all across the audio and we’re fast enough to choose the lane without ever bumping heads.” spectrum, including headphones, marine installations, and as a beatSKAA’s real-time operating system helps with video latency, accurate tool for DJs. At this time, it cannot handle high-res audio, according to Whitehead. “We set our video-to-audio latency at 36 which may be a dealbreaker for some clients, but for those who need milliseconds. The North American standard is 60 milliseconds. But frame-accurate sync and are not looking to be tied to specific brands, what is really key is that 36-millisecond latency is fixed. With Bluetooth SKAA is worth investigating. n and Wi-Fi, that latency can be variable — it can be fluctuating — so For more information, visit https://skaa.com.

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