CEDIA Blog: Looking Back at 2017 — and Forward to 2018

If a single word could describe the home integration industry in 2017, it’s likely that the same word will be used to describe both 2016 and 2018 as well, “Disruption.” What specifically caused — and will continue to cause — disruption as technological advances go roaring forward? Hear what some of CEDIA's key thought leaders predict we'll see in the next 12 months.

Article by Ed Wenck, CEDIA

VUI and A.I.

CEDIA’s Young Professional of the Year for 2017, Alex Capecelatro — who’s also the driving force behind the VUI system known as Josh.ai, was pretty succinct: “2017, simply put, was all about voice control as a clear breakout.” 2018, in Capecelatro’s mind, will see the forward advance of what he calls “real automation.” We’ll begin to see true artificial intelligence take hold in more and more systems. “The home will learn and improve on its own.”

An email to Gordon van Zuiden, founder of cyberManor and CEDIA Tech Council member, elicited a priceless van-Zuiden-esque reply:

Big stories for 2017 and 2018:

 1. Voice Control for the Home

2. Voice Control for the Home

3. Voice Control for the Home

Mr. van Zuiden did elaborate later: While the technology may change, van Zuiden’s 20 years in the industry has revealed cycles of the aforementioned disruption follow familiar patterns. Things begin as complex systems, become simplified, staggering through the transition period as in “Why doesn’t this thing work exactly the way I need it to?”  and then become so ubiquitous we don’t even think about their presence much.

“Everyone who comes into our office, to a person, across the board will always say one thing to us: ‘It has to be easy to use. It has to be simple,’” says van Zuiden.

“All these various things promised to them in the past that were supposed to be easy to use, were not that easy to use and had some challenges. And if we’re really honest with them, we’re going to say, ‘Well, we’re on a continuum here. We’re going to make this easier. We’re going to make it better to use.’” And last year and next are simply part of that continuum regarding the evolution of user interface.

For van Zuiden, the shift from endless keystrokes to using a mouse for one’s PC is parallel to switches and buttons morphing into GUI app controllers — which are becoming supplanted quickly by voice control.

“So, you see what happens in the interface and in the control space as, I call it, a march towards the frictionless home,” notes van Zuiden. “A march toward the ultimate goal of: ‘I think something. I want something. It should do something.’ And Alex, from Josh.ai, refers to this as ‘NOUI,’ or ‘No User Interface.’”

Right now, “Voice has all the promise, not quite yet all the delivery,” says van Zuiden. “So, we’re back, doing kind of the same thing we’ve always been doing, which is trying to vet all this stuff, make sense of it, so that we can get our enterprise solution to our client.”

For van Zuiden, that frictionless home will allow immediate recognition of a user’s wants: Can one family member say “Hey, Mom?” while that person’s in their bedroom — and have Mom appear on a video screen from the kitchen, for example?

The elegant summation from van Zuiden: “It’s home as personal concierge.”

Networks and Security

Mike Maniscalco, VP at Ihiji and regular CEDIA volunteer/instructor, had a slightly different train of thought:

“In the space I cover, the continued evolution of networking  and throughput  was a big story for 2017. Ultra-high-speeds will continue to put new strains on the networks. While that’s happening, I’m interested in how mesh Wi-Fi solutions have developed, and what features and services are coming next.”

As for 2018, security is going to be a biggie. “There’s a greater and greater level of sophistication happening when it comes to hacking, and you can get your hands on tools that can do quite a bit of damage pretty cheaply now. How are we going to react to that? We’ve seen solutions on the enterprise side, but will the brands that CEDIA typically works with step up  or will new brands enter the space?”

Mansicalco believes that that a proactive approach is critical: “There could be fallout from a reactive approach. As consumers become more aware of the dangers, from common criminals to nations-states, will users revolt? Will they feel that a level of trust has been violated?”

And Maniscalco poses the big question, one that’s been asked over and over as data becomes “the new oil:”

“How much privacy are we willing to sacrifice for convenience?”

The Latency Issue

For van Zuiden, Maniscalco’s take dovetails with his predictions when it comes to the pressure we’ll be putting on the home network. As VUI becomes more sophisticated  recognizing different voices, for example  the current architecture is bound to experience hiccups.

“I’m finding increasingly, whether it’s Amazon, Sonos, or Josh.ai, that you’re sending fairly complex command strings to the cloud and back and that has to initiate a number of triggers and events in the home that oftentimes don’t work as expected,” van Zuiden explains. “And, a lot of times, that’s due to the latency of commands that have to come up to the cloud, back to the home  and latency is a very complicated topic that involves the performance of your broadband connection, the performance of your router, and the quality of your wired/wireless infrastructure.”

“Voice is a processing power game. It’s incredible amounts of processing power to handle the sophisticated heap of information, the most complex of which is the interpretation of voice. The rest, once the computer knows exactly what it is you’ve asked it to do, the rest is very, very easy and lightweight.”

The solution? Localizing the architecture. Instead of taking all that info the user’s vocalized and sending it to the cloud for interpretation and parsing, do more of it locally.

Using Capeceltro’s Josh.ai devices as an example of what he’s illustrating, van Zuiden notes that the Josh mics are also little CPUs. “So, you’re going to get the CPU functionality, coupled with a microphone that will be able to handle that local processing more effectively to give a better result. So, by the end of 2018, I think you’ll see much more reliable performance. You’ll see personalization, you’ll see rooms, you’ll see spatial feel, and you’ll see tens and tens of thousands of skills and drivers across the board.

“So, you’ll see a pretty robust interface, I think, by the end of 2018.”

About the Author:

This article is syndicated from Integrate association partner, CEDIA’s Blog. You can read the original article or other CEDIA blogs here.

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