2013 was a good year for technology–and especially home technology. From higher-quality, design-friendly audio to TVs with really high IQs, 2013 saw the introduction and adoption of some great technology. Here are our top tech trends for the year, in no particular order.
It’s been a video-centric world for so long, many have forgotten just how good home audio can be. Now that flat-panel TV has been almost completely adopted, consumers are looking to match the awesome picture quality with step-up audio. Sound bars, wireless speakers, and sound bases that go under the TV are all ways that people are getting better quality audio in their living rooms. While we still prefer a good old-fashioned wired surround sound system for for pure, immersive audio quality, these all-in-one solutions are being produced by many well-respected audio manufacturers, making the audio quality that much better. Look for step-up models for a better experience, like Definitive Technology’s $2,000 Solo Cinema XTR.
Progress in the 4K UHD TV Arena
It’s hard not to flinch when I write that $5,000 is a good deal. But for 4K, which has seen prices up to $40K for larger models, $5k isn’t so bad. We likely have the recent push to get 4K in the home in time for the holidays to thank, with one model from Seiki going for as little as $768. Sure, there hasn’t been a lot of content, but content and TV sales go hand-in-hand. With 4K sets coming down in price and making it to living rooms, the demand for 4K content will go up, which means more 4K movies and shows will be imminently available. You may remember that the same thing happened for HDTV; HDTVs came out but left everyone salivating for content. And look where we are now! 4K will get there, and sooner than you may think.
Smart TVs Aren’t Gimmicks
Combining the functionality of an outboard streaming set-top device like Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV, Smart TVs have everything you need to get streaming in style. With apps like Skype, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, and more, you can do everything from listening to streaming music to Skyping with grandma to watching a high-def film on demand while tweeting about it–all from your TV. Additionally, most feature way cool control technology–such as voice and motion control. (See news about Samsung’s finger gesture control here.) While Smart TVs do include some useless gimmicks (like an app that lest you shop from the TV show you are watching), overall, they are anything but gimmicky. Look for more innovations after the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Mainstream Home Automation
Jim Ristow, executive vice president of Home Entertainment Source--a major buying group for independent electronics retailers and integrators–predicts that home automation is poised to grow 500% over the next five years. As everything becomes connected and controllable via your smartphone or iPad, home control is suddenly available to everyone, affordably. It is no longer the realm of the rich and famous only. Witness products like the Nest Learning Thermostat , which helped make this trend happen. User-friendly, simple-to-connect solutions that are controllable over the wireless network mean that anyone can get into lighting control, temperature control, and more. Look for new control manufacturers popping up that will bring prices for comprehensive, overarching control systems down.
LED Lighting Craze
With the transition from incandescent to more energy-efficient bulbs happening in 2014, more options are appearing for lighting solutions. It appears that the most popular products are those that maximize on LED lightings ability to change color. Products like Philips Hue wireless lighting solution and even LED light shower heads that set the mood for your shower are popular and fun for the entire family. Sure, some of this stuff is gimmicky, but we are loving every minute of it!
Housing Market Comeback
At HomeTechTell, we have the opportunity to speak with quite a few integrators across the country. These electronic systems professionals (ESCs) come to your home to install or build a home theater or entertainment system in your home. The good news is, builders they haven’t talked to for years are suddenly calling on these ESCs to install technology in new homes. In fact, some installers can’t keep up with the current demand for their services. All good signs as the economy bounces back and home entertainment systems become a priority again.
Finally, though some manufacturers are working on glasses-less 3D TV options, we pay our respects to 3D at home. It just didn’t catch on like it was supposed to. People don’t like to wear glasses, and the experience on a smaller residential screen is not nearly as impressive of that of a larger commercial movie theater.
Caring About Quality
Last but not least, there seems to be a resurgence in caring about audio quality. Witness the new USB digital-to-analog converters from companies like Meridian (review coming soon) and AudioQuest that make your computer audio sound sooooooo much better. They give your digital files back the highs and lows they are missing for a far superior music experience. Whoo hoo!