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ISE 2023 and the rise of the resimercial multiverse

Expect greater convergence between commercial and residential AV at ISE 2023, as technologies and trends continue to collide... Steve May reports

The worlds of pro and residential AV will once again merge at ISE 2023 (alongside virtual production), as the resimercial trend gathers pace. So say experts surveyed by Installation as the big Barcelona show was drawing near.

Walt Zerbe, senior director of technology and standard for CEDIA, suggests this industry trend is, at least in part, a consequence of Covid. Commercial integrators moved into residential, as pro AV stalled and consumer demand soared, he attests.

“The technologies, design and engineering processes that are needed for residential and commercial installations – multi-dwelling properties, restaurants, doctors’ offices, sports bars – are largely the same.” 

There’s a clear technology overlap, says Zerbe: “Micro LED, projection mapping, digital art, and low-voltage lighting control will continue to increase in popularity in commercial spaces. End users have all experienced much better video over the past few years and this undoubtedly has raised expectations for displays in commercial environments.”

 Scott Normand, commercial market senior director, for Snap One, agrees.“We see a lot of crossover in our business and get regular feedback from our CI partners that they are doing more work in pro AV and commercial spaces,” he says. “We’re transitioning from the smart home mindset, to the smart living experience, which includes commercial environments. All our 19 brands are built for integration pros of all kinds. Between commercial and residential there is a lot of overlap where the products perform equally well in both environments.

“In our Connected product categories, our Wattbox Power, Araknis Networking, and Episode Audio systems connect with our OvrC Cloud Management platform to provide integrators with core product lines that are needed in virtually every project and easily set up and managed from anywhere in the world via the cloud. Our control platform, Control4, has recently been updated with a new MultiDisplay Manager specifically designed to enable the easy-to-use interface to be used in bar, restaurant, and retail environments for controlling and automating multiple displays across multiple rooms.”

Ben Rodrick, design director at integrator Cornflake, similarly points to Covid as a source of convergence, which he says has led to the reinvigoration of positive office culture, and highlighted supply chain issues. 

“It’s forced system designers and specifiers to be agile, searching out readily-available technologies that can be deployed quickly without compromising usability or functionality,” he says. “In general this has made for a net-positive for all involved: a broader variety of high-quality products that satisfy commercial and lead-time driven product selection.”

Rodrick is also warming to the potential of Micro LED. “Our first foray into this world was the Samsung Wall, however this is no longer the only large-format displays, with many manufacturers now offering modular and scalable display solutions for environments requiring low latency, for gaming, as well as bright, daylight video conferencing.”

Bill Hensley, head of global marketing for RTI also identifies resimercial as a key direction for ISE 2023.  “We’ve always designed around a ‘one platform, unlimited opportunities’ mantra,” he explains. “This is particularly true with our Integration Designer 11 application programming software. It offers auto-generated templates and auto-programming for fast, elegant residential results, while enabling the 100 per cent full customisation that large commercial clients demand. With Integration Designer, the integrator only needs to learn one platform.”

There’s common ground between disciplines such as lighting and one-touch control, Hensley adds. “In residential, the lighting plan includes window shades to keep the right amount of light in the right space at the right time, and manage climate control. Transfer the same RTI KX4 touchpanel to the conference room, and it becomes a one-touch solution to get a room meeting-ready.” 

Nick Pidgeon, MD and founder of Berkshire-based Visualization, the technical AV distributor, says it’s important for residential integrators to consider potential verticals, methodology and skill sets that lend themselves to pro AV. 

“A number of brands, such as Crestron, Netgear, Lutron, Yamaha, not to mention display suppliers such as LG, Sony and Samsung, operate successfully in both spaces,” he says. 

He also believes that new display solutions, like Micro LED, have cross-border appeal: “We are at the very early stages of seeing dvLED moving from the pro AV world and being considered an option for residential, with products such as LG’s Magnit.”

Peter Gibb, CI business development Europe, for Bluesound, predicts more opportunities for custom integration and consumer products in boutique hotels, as well as independent bars, restaurants and small retail. “In these types of installation products can be used where the rooms or spaces are typically similar to the home, and it’s usually the business owner controlling the content locally rather than a head office,” he says.

A typical example might be in a hotel room where a Bluesound Soundbar+ would allow the guest to stream via Bluetooth, he adds, “but in the public areas Bluesound Pro PoE powered network speakers will certainly fit better”.

Graeme Harrison, VP & general manager, Bluesound Professional, sees increasing overlaps. “Although Bluesound Professional is a separate business unit to Bluesound, serving a different market, we are seeing more integrators having accounts with both our residential and commercial business units,” he says.

Bluesound Pro and Bluesound are hardware solutions which both use BluOS software. Any BluOS enabled product can work with any other on the same network, whether designed for professional or residential use, so they overlap by intent.

Stuart Tickle, managing director at distributor AWE, says the resimercial trend was inevitable.

“At ISE 2023 you will see several brands of ours that cross the divide, such as Sony, Epson and LG,” he says. “Take the Sony GTZ-380 projector: this is at the very top end of residential projectors but is also suitable for commercial use.”

Control platforms such as URC and its HD audio solution are similarly ideal for residential and commercial projects, he suggests.

Tickle also believes Micro LED displays have resimercial appeal. “Sony and Samsung are leading the way and by nature of the currently extremely high price point and ultra large format, the technology is predominantly a commercial proposition.  However, the sheer quality and brightness of a huge image means that ultra HNW home owners are starting to adopt these in their homes. Projection still by far leads the way, but where there is no lighting control micro LED is a serious solution.”

Adam Dover, trade & segment marketing manager, Sony Professional Displays and Solutions, agrees. “We are seeing a rising trend for cinema applications within installations in B2B projects such as halls of residence, hotels and entertainment venue,” he explains. “The blurring of the lines between traditional markets is demonstrated by the popularity of our 100-inch FW-100BZ40J BRAVIA 4K Ultra HD HDR professional display in both high-end residential and marine applications. Another example is the increasing use of our business projectors for at-home sports simulator applications, such as golf and driving.”

Award-winning hi-fi brand Q-Acoustics, has made a point of courting the resimercial integrator with its weatherproof loudspeaker products. “They have really taken off,” says Alex Munro, brand director. ”With all-in-one powered systems, ease and speed of installation becomes a critical factor and in premises where new users are arriving regularly, the controls must be totally intuitive and can still be operated with a missing remote.”

The brand also offers a range of installation speakers, Q Install. “Just as cabinet speakers have increasingly become powered or active we have moved to provide self-contained powered systems with all the facilities they offer for the install market,” says Munro. 

 Stuart Leader, senior sales manager, Audiologic: “Many new builds of houses and MDU’s are laced with Cat cabling and it’s long been a standard for commercial buildings.” Utilising PoE simplifies installation, he adds, citing products like Genelec smart IP active loudspeakers, which are able to take power and signal from a single cable.

Aesthetics have also become more important when it comes to representing hospitality or retail branding, says Leader. 

Regardless of whether it’s commercial audio or residential, “it’s vital that the product looks and performs well, and is simple to operate.” It’s no longer enough to simply play background music, he says.  

ISE 2023 runs 31 January – 3 February 2023, at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via, Barcelona.