Combining CEDIA and InfoComm into one big happy
family, Integrated Systems Europe took place last week in Amsterdam.
After my first visit to this show, I took away a lot about the European
market that seemed relevant for our readers who are mostly here in North
America. It’s a fantastic show that I highly recommend anyone
interested in visiting Europe in the winter make time to drop by for the
Here are some snippets of whom I saw and what I observed.
1. Europeans love their distributors
are many ways in which the European and U.S. systems integration market
differ. The biggest and most apparent is that commercial versus
residential doesn’t matter; it’s all AV. This is how ISE makes perfect
sense to combine InfoComm and CEDIA together into one show, and it works
brilliantly. I will add another angle by noting that the combined show
results in crowds like at CES. This is by no means hyperbole. I felt
like I was navigating the crammed hallways of the Consumer Electronics
Show. Visitors turn out big time for ISE. There were 47,000
pre-registered attendees, as detailed by Mike Blackman, managing
director, ISE, at a press conference. Final attendance numbers have not
yet been released.
| Shots of the CES-worthy crowds at Integrated Systems Europe 2014.|
were other signs of the show’s growth, including the first-time
exhibition by Bang and Olufsen, as well as Jensen Transformers and Knoll
Systems, distributed and marketed, respectively, by
Radial/Primacoustics, and on display at ISE directly with its European
distributor, Belgium-based Face. I believe there were more than 100 new
exhibitors at ISE.
key to success in the European market for U.S. manufacturers is their
relationships with their distributors. This was a comment I heard over
and over again. Nick Phillips of Pakedge noted that his company’s 15
distributors in Europe cover about 50 countries. The young company is
“finding our way in the European market,” he said. Pakedge’s value-added
distributors “bring the best to us,” he said. Pakedge will make its
first appearance as an exhibitor at InfoComm this year.
sentiment was echoed by Stealth Acoustics, where Brian Azzano told me
that at ISE, “visitors are in tune with the market,” crediting
international growth to Stealth’s distributors. “The Stealth name is out
there more than ever,” he said.
Atlantic Products is preparing to open a new European warehouse later
this year to shorten lead times and shipping for about 10 international
2. Partnerships were everywhere at ISE
partnerships were announced by Calibre UK and Kramer electronics, to
share marketing and product development resources [read my story about
announced new partnerships with Toll Brothers—a building developer—and
Lilin, a security company. Control4’s booth was essentially a consortium
for its many partners, including Fusion Research, Tru Audio, Leaf, and
Fortress Seating. It reminded me of the booths that the Z-Wave Alliance
brings to CEDIA and CES—an intriguing comparison.
Peter Janis of Radial/Primacoustics shows off the Jensen Transformers
Cat-5 baluns transmitter and receiver, launched at ISE 2014.
Bottom: Kevin Knoll, with Knoll’s display at ISE, including the Q450 multiroom controller amp.
3. There were many new and/or interesting, out-of-the-box market categories
always been intrigued by AV installs on yachts. This in itself is
nothing new, but deep down, don’t we all want a fancy yacht to cruise
the world in our own private style? California Audio Technology (CAT)
happens to be really active in this small niche field. I happened to
meet a representative from the world’s leader in marine installation,
van Berge Henegouwen installaties b.v., based in The Netherlands, which
didn’t surprise me after a dinner cruise along Amsterdam’s canals had me
eyeing a vast assortment of house boats in the city.
AV installs are primarily isolated to a few integrators worldwide, some
of which are based in California, CAT president and CEO Brian Barr
said. Barr also told me about an even more niche segment: submarines.
Apparently, international pirates have a hobby of going after yachts, so
there’s a significant investment by yacht owners in defense. Part of
which, includes decked out submarines in the event a classy escape is
required. I admit this sounded a lot like some Hollywood concoction, but
Barr had some really interesting information about the custom security
systems military defense contractors take advantage of here. All in all,
it made for a really fun idea.
most low-end speaker system starts out under $20,000 and ranges up to
$100,000 to $200,000. The truly one-off custom solutions feature
speakers made without any plastic, paper, or MDF, opting for aluminum,
stainless steel, Corian, and Avonite instead, to “take custom to the Nth
degree,” Barr said.
AV install area I was surprised to learn about is the advanced
automation systems required in California’s medical marijuana
growhouses. I struck upon this discovery in talks about CEDIA
preparation, and how I had already heard a lot of jokes circulating
about Colorado’s now legal recreational marijuana industry. I found out
that Leviton supplies access control, video surveillance, fans,
temperature control, and other automation features to many of these. I
imagine features like daylight harvesting and occupancy sensors that
Lutron and many others offer are probably useful in this application.
This is an interesting vertical market to examine as CEDIA EXPO in
Denver draws near this fall. But it goes to show that there are endless
uses for AV and automation in today’s buildings, and it’s a reminder for
integrators to think outside of the box in pursuance of new markets.
4. Ultra high end still reigns supreme
have more flexibility to go after high-end or entry-level consumers,
but they should be careful not to overlook some of the ultra high-end
at Cineak, sales director Andy Willcox described a surprising reality
in which dealers are thinking too much with their own wallets when it
comes to ultra high end products, like “the Bentley of cinema chairs,”
as he playfully described the Fortune flagship cinema seat. Consumers
can literally match their cinema seats’ material to the seat in their
Bentley. The high-end furniture is a major value add-on for dealers, but
many of them seem to see furniture as an afterthought, or they balk at
Cineak’s prices. Interior designers adore Cineak’s completely
customizable furniture pieces, but they don’t want to sell them. The
designers rely on dealers to bring the pieces into a home, but Willcox
said many dealers are leaving this value-add on the table. Some of the
features include heating or cooling, complete automation, heated or
chilled cup holders, and lumbar support, all accessible via any control
system (by RS45/IP) and a mobile app.
Here’s a picture of me taking a brief respite from show floor on one.
You can also read my blog
detailing how Savant remains committed to the luxury end of the market
it was established in, despite recent news that it is targeting a lower
end of the market as well.
5. This ain’t your ol’ man’s AV biz
I expected, there were many signs of what I like to call the new age
integrator, representative of the internet of things on the residential
side (more so) and the craze for collaborative communications on the
commercial side. It further confirms that new technologies, less in the
vein of traditional audio video, are the wave of the future.
lighting control is a big sign in this direction. Lutron’s booth
highlighted an alley of LED lamps, representing the thousands of LED
lamps Lutron tests and issues report cards on to help dealers specify
and save time on programming. Lutron also has an LED Control Center of Excellence
program, to help make LED lighting trouble free.
Controls introduced a new dimmer for the Middle East market. I spoke
with Andrew Wale about how Vantage is addressing the serious lack of
education with controlling, integrating, and programming LEDs. Part of
the solution is what was behind the Equinox system of controls Vantage
released most recently, which simplifies the control and interface for
dealers and end users alike. Vantage is also providing regional training
to help dealers, in addition to online video resources.
I saw bits of the new age integrator over at Savant, with a SmartPlug, which can detect energy overuse, and a Wi-Fi lamp module.
the commercial side, AMX’s booth focused on a new slogan, “AV for an IT
world,” explained Shaun Robinson, VP of product management. The various
solutions on display at AMX’s expansive booth focused on solutions more
Were you at ISE? Feel free to share some of your observations from the show in the comments section.