CEDIA Tech Guru Looks 5 Years Down the Road

Predicting the future is a risky business, but in his role as senior director of emerging technologies for the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Industry Association (CEDIA), Dave Pedigo is paid to keep a watchful eye on what’s coming down the pike and ferret out the products and trends most likely to impact the tech landscape in 5, 10, 15 years. We recently sat down with Pedigo to find out where he sees technology heading over the next five years.

S&V: The CEDIA Technology Council recently issued a list of 100 predictions for the year 2020. We selected a few to talk about but, first, tell us about the Council.
Dave Pedigo: The Technology Council is a think tank devoted to identifying emerging trends, opportunities, and threats facing the residential technology market. There are 16 members, including myself. Members are either home technology professionals or manufacturers—all seasoned veterans from around the world who have a wide range of experience and expertise in audio, video, networking, system design, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Information disseminated by the Council goes into CEDIA classes and webinars, standards, white papers, and recommended practices. [Visit cedia.net for a list of the members.]

S&V: Before we get into the predictions, can you set the stage for where you think we’ll be five years from now in terms of Internet speed, cloud-based services, input technologies, etc.?
Pedigo: Residential broadband speeds (peak and average) will continue to double roughly every 12 months, with speeds potentially increasing as much as 16 times today’s speeds, which means the average consumer should have no problem with high quality streaming experiences. Having a faster Internet will further advance the movement towards the cloud, which has already become the storage locker for all of the home’s digital content, including movies, TV shows, photos, camera recordings, and music. Peak broadband speeds in the U.S. are projected to increase from 90.4 Mbps in 2015 to 404.7 Mbps over the next four years. This might be a bit optimistic but shouldn’t be off by much as long as there are no major economic disruptions.

Voice will certainly be a much more prevalent method for control because you don’t need to move between apps to control specific devices. Over the next few years, voice will become commonplace as it is built into the hardware for many devices—including televisions, receivers, and even cable/satellite boxes—which will make it much easier to navigate content. The only barrier to adoption will be the potential privacy concern of having devices with microphones in the home. But since society seems to be picking convenience over privacy (and quality) I believe the adoption of voice control will be rapid and in full swing by 2020.

S&V: Let’s move onto the predictions, starting with this one: “Mixed reality rooms will begin to replace home theater.” The suggestion is that home theater as we know it will undergo a transformation.
Pedigo: Experimental products that expand the traditional viewing experience already exist but over the next few years we will see a transition to mixed reality environments that bring augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) into the traditional home theater. VR will still mostly require a headset (think Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR) by 2020 but we will start to see ultra high-end spaces that facilitate shared experiences. We are moving closer to the day when the VR technology like the holodeck from Star Trek becomes reality. While the true holodeck is still years away, we are chipping away at it, getting incrementally closer each year.

S&V: This begs the question of how long physical media (DVD, Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray) will continue to exist. What are your thoughts?
Pedigo: In the next five years, physical media will likely see a continued decline of mass adoption as the convenience, ease of use, and quality of streaming continues to improve. That’s not to say that physical media will be dead—there are benefits such as actually owning the content, no need for an Internet connection, and a higher quality viewing experience—but five years from now, streaming services will be the preferred method of acquiring new content. While Internet speeds are rapidly increasing, bit-rate requirements for high-end video are increasing at a much faster rate than residential Internet speeds so there will be a give and take in regards to optical media vs. streaming services.

Over the next few years we will see a transition to mixed reality environments that bring augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) into the traditional home theater.

S&V: “We’ll see media with high-resolution video glasses.” With this prediction, are we talking about virtual reality as well as augmented reality?
Pedigo: Mostly virtual reality. If you look at the demos of VR today, the video quality does not look fantastic. I tend to think of it as the equivalent of VHS. There are several reasons for this, most having to do with the huge amount of data required for VR. Capturing video in a sphere requires significant processing power as the edges of images from multiple cameras are blended together to create a seamless (or mostly seamless) experience. Lower resolution glasses require exponentially less processing power, which makes VR possible today. Over the next five years, though, we will see over a four-fold increase in computing power and incremental refinements in virtual reality and augmented reality. Ultimately, we will get to a point where you will not be able to tell the difference between virtual reality (VR) and real reality (RR).

S&V: Next up: “Copper wire is coming to the end of its useful application.”
Pedigo: Copper wire imposes physical limitations on data transmission. There is a natural loss of signal strength (attenuation) that reduces the distance a signal can be effectively transmitted over copper. And the nature of that signal attenuation is that the higher the frequency (of the signal), the greater the attenuation, which is an inherent problem as data demands increase. To transmit more data over copper you have to move to a higher frequency signal. So, barring new developments, we are getting close to the end of copper’s useful life as a means of transmitting large amounts of data.

Over the next five years we will finally begin to see practical applications for fiber optics in the home. Unlike copper, fiber uses light to transmit signals and light is a much more effective transmission medium in terms of speed and distance. With proper installation, it is possible to run extremely high data rates for thousands of feet with no problems. That said, most of today’s homes are copper-based, which explains why a number of companies are researching ways to increase the efficiency of copper. Whether those R&D dollars will pan out is yet to be determined.

S&V: “16K 16-bit high-frame-rate content is emerging.” Is the Council saying 16K content will be available in five years?
Pedigo: We are starting to see 8K right now, with a few 8K displays likely being commercially available by the end of the year. However, the content is very rare. 16K 16-bit high-frame-rate content will exist in 2020 but it will still be in the developmental stage. Practically speaking, it will take a while for it to hit the market. Just look at what’s happening today with 4K/Ultra HD. Hollywood studios are still struggling to get 4K content out to the market four years after the first 4K displays were introduced. Hardware manufacturers are much nimbler at innovation than content creators. In 2020 we will continue to see a lag in content that meets the specs of the latest and greatest hardware.

S&V: Getting back to the present, what key themes and tech trends do you expect to dominate this year’s CEDIA show?
Pedigo: For me, the biggest innovations will come in voice control. I am looking forward to seeing what voice control “works with” Amazon, Google, or Apple. Amazon Echo is already out and has created a lot of buzz. This is total speculation but I expect manufacturers to announce Alexa integration and possibly Amazon Echo compatibility built right in. Google, which has its own version of Amazon Echo called Google Home, is exhibiting at CEDIA for the first time so perhaps we will see it in person. Apple has not announced its version of Echo but there are a rumors that it will be announced in the fall. Either way, we will see products on the show floor with either Apple HomeKit or Siri functionality.

Television will continue to be an exciting area as innovation pushes picture quality significantly beyond 1080p. The idea is better pixels, not more pixels: High dynamic range (HDR) displays with incredible contrast and a significantly wider range of color, or wide color gamut. Some of the most stunning video displays we’ve ever seen will be shown at CEDIA 2016. Finally, there will be a tremendous influx of IoT products. This will cause a massive amount of disruption as new technologies we have not yet seen change the paradigm of how we interact with and control electronics in our homes. This is an incredible time for home technology.

prerich45's picture

As I read the article, I looked at all of the advances...they all deal with video quality. The main reason that many people aren't converting to streaming is not the video quality...it's the audio quality. Audio tends to take a back seat to video, that's why many of us old on to our physical media.

Audio seems to be stepchild of video, we have 4K streaming but Atmos via streaming will be or is packaged into a lossy Dolby Digital Plus container (if I'm not mistaken)....hmmm.

Warrior24_7's picture

Who is that, William Shatner?