As the pandemic waned, Crestron began to rethink its approach to trade shows. A collection of black boxes that do cool things was a tried-and-true approach — but was admittedly becoming a bit uninspiring. Besides, a collection of devices doesn’t illustrate the experience that all those gadgets create when they’re working in concert.
To bring that immersive encounter to life, the team needed to build a story into its trade show booth — literally, a narrative arc that pulled attendees through the space. This concept — which has been growing in scope over the last few shows — is illustrated well by Crestron’s Director of Technology and Alliance Partnerships, Bob Bavolacco, who took a tour of the booth right before the show floor opened:
But beyond the booth experience that Crestron created was another story, a story the team heard from those who dropped by. “The sense from the dealers was like, Wow, you've really come to the show full force with new products, new solutions, and positive news on shipping,’” says Michael Short, senior director of residential and hospitality marketing.
“Despite the shipping difficulties we experienced, we never stopped innovating — that was what I kept hearing, over and over,” says Short. And now that those difficulties are quickly fading, the focus has returned to the innovations themselves.
Crestron’s Vice President, Residential, John Yohanna, confirms Short’s impressions. “There was a lot of positivity from the people visiting the booth,” he says. “There was a tremendous reception for Crestron Home OS 4 — and a lot of the things in this version of the platform are things dealers have been asking for.”
“They really feel like Crestron is listening and responding with the things that are important to them.”
Find more info on the new and innovative products Crestron rolled out at the 2023 CEDIA Expo trade show
Crestron Home OS 4
Even before the show, the advance reviews of the latest iteration of Crestron’s home automation and control platform were nothing short of glowing. A prime example: Ted Green’s first look published in his digital newsletter, Strata-Gee. Green noted that Crestron achieved precisely what it had set out to do with Crestron Home® OS 4: Make the platform much more robust while maintaining an extremely intuitive interface. This was no small feat, given the wide-ranging, elegant improvements to the look, feel, and overall experience that went into this most recent version.
“The look and feel was obviously the first thing that everybody noticed,” says Yohanna. “The second thing is the fact that the end users can now do a lot more by themselves — now they can create their own scheduled events and quick actions. It gives the end user much more autonomy.”
Jeremy Glowacki, who’s executive editor of Residential Tech Today, had his own unique preview — a conversation with Michael Short that’s as personal as it is technical.
The Platform Runs the Booth
To drive home the point, the platform wasn’t merely on display as a demo — it was running the stand. As Crestron’s VP of Marketing Brad Hintze told Residential Systems:
“Crestron Home OS 4 is running the entire booth not only to demonstrate how it seamlessly works with our Crestron solutions, but to show the true strength of the platform. Crestron Home is a flexible solution that can be scaled to a variety of sizes of projects, including hospitality and MDU projects, which we know some dealers are interested in learning more about this year,” says Hintze.
The decision to run the booth with the platform itself reinforced an attitude that had been developing for some time: That the Crestron Home OS was powerful enough for the largest luxury projects. “That ‘this is the next level’ impression that Crestron Home OS 4 had on dealers was demonstrated by what they told us,” says Short. “People who might have been hesitant to make the jump to the platform said, ‘It now feels like the time to move over from custom programming to Crestron Home OS 4.’”
For further proof, Yohanna noticed something striking about the winners of the 2023 Crestron Home Technology Awards: “Many of those projects were powered by the Crestron Home OS. We didn’t create a Crestron Home category and a custom program category. We just picked the best projects.”
Lighting Takes Center Stage
“With Crestron Home OS 4, we made a huge update to the digital lighting platform,” says Short. To showcase that aspect of the platform, the team created a “dining room” within the booth. “It was a stunning demo,” he notes. “We theatrically told the story of layered lighting and layered lighting control. We showed how to deploy Crestron DMX-C light fixtures to set a dining room scene, accentuating the artwork and flowers. But we then showed how to add a DALI-2 wall sconce, a DMX tape light, and Philips Hue smart lighting, with both tunable white and full color.”
Seeing the end result by itself was terrific for, say, the design-build audience, but there was much more info for dealers included in the display. “On the opposite side of the ‘room,’ we had a technical station where we showcased how we did it. In addition to the overall experience, we had to show how we created it because that's what the dealers need to know.”
Honors for Crestron
Here’s a rundown of the awards Crestron picked up at CEDIA Expo and Commercial Integrator Expo:
Technology Designer: Best Product — Crestron Home® OS 4
Residential Tech Today Innovation Awards: Crestron Home® OS 4
CE Pro Home of the Year: Best Combo Design + Tech Project - Net Zero ICONIC Home
CEDIA Expo Best of Show Awards
TWICE – Crestron Home® OS 4
Residential Systems — Crestron Home® OS 4
Residential Systems — Crestron Horizon® Keypads
Commercial Integrator Expo
Free of Fees
Having that layered technology demonstrated another benefit, according to Yohanna. “It showed the industry that Crestron Home is an evolving, open platform that’s accepting of third-party devices — free of fees.”
That “no-charge” approach extends to the customer. “Crestron Home OS 4 is a free software upgrade to any customer that has an existing system with Crestron Home,” says Yohanna. “I can’t stress this enough: We don't charge anything for the update, and the Crestron home system an end user has purchased will continue to improve over time for no additional charge in software.”
“Additionally, third-party integration is something that we do not charge for,” he adds. “If somebody writes a driver, they might charge a one-time fee, but you're not going to pay Crestron for the privilege of using it.”
Crestron’s Marketing VP sat down with CE Pro as CEDIA Expo came to a close. Read his interview, “Brad Hintze Discusses the Direction of Home Technology Post-Pandemica”
On To the Shading Hardware
“There was a lot of positive reaction to the shading offerings we rolled out in Denver,” says Short. “The 3 Series Décor Hardware Collection was a hit. Comments from the dealers, designers, and architects who walked through the booth were along the lines of, ‘Beautiful, stunning. This is the right direction. It's what we want to see.’ It's all about being able to provide true designer-led solutions.”
“The Lithium-Ion Battery-Powered Roller Shade was a showstopper, too,” says Short. “The 12-month- battery life coupled with the magnetic charger were huge wins for practicality and simplicity.” Crestron’s Director of Business Development, JoAnn Arcenal, noted that the broad shading selection in the booth opened a great many eyes: “We were able to showcase the more than 400 fabrics that we have in our inventory. That was new to a lot of design-build pros who came through the booth.”
“Honestly, if we hadn’t been rolling out new audio hardware and a completely updated smart home system, the shading news would’ve been the buzziest part of the booth,” notes Michael Short.
The audio solutions that Crestron added to its family of products to help bring “Entertainment Everywhere” to the home generated a different kind of response: “We got many words of thanks,” says Short. “When we debuted the 4+1 zone streaming amplifier, the DM-NAX-4ZSA-50, the dealer community realized we’d been listening to them — and responded by delivering a four-zone amp in a smaller size at a lower price point. That means they’ll be able to get more DM NAX solutions into their projects as a result.”
The same held for the new decoding DM NAX™ digital signal processor, the DM-NAX-XSP. “The feedback we got for that was, ‘We can use that over and over again on so many jobs because of how applicable it's going to be in those spaces where we have local sources,’” says Short. “We’re solving a problem with a device that’s like nothing else on the market right now.” Another issue was put to rest: the need for an elegant device with Bluetooth® communications streaming capability, answered by the DM-NAX-BTIO-1G wall plate.
Want more info on all of Crestron’s new products? Check out the Crestron CEDIA Expo Series of Webinars — and find all of our webinar offerings
Commercial Integrator Expo
Something new this year for CEDIA Expo was a second concurrent show, co-located in Denver. Dubbed Commercial Integrator Expo, it offered the chance for Crestron to show how the technologies built for business can “cross-pollinate” with residential solutions — and vice-versa. “We had a whole section that we called Opportunities Beyond the Home,” says Short.
“We had a hotel guest room running a premium suite on the Crestron Home OS platform,” he explains. “We showcased how you could use commercial lighting in standard guest rooms or even the lobbies of small boutique hotels.” Crestron further presented demos of recent advancements designed for meeting rooms — again filling a specific need for tech in those spaces one might find in a hotel.
What’s more, notes John Yohanna, traditional commercial products are finding their way into the home environment. “As work from home is becoming a permanent part of the week for more and more people, the home office may need commercial solutions for it to be truly effective,” he says. Michael Short adds, “This was a great opportunity to show off what we’ve come to call ‘One Crestron’ — one vendor that can handle nearly every need.”
Also available at CEDIA Expo: The latest edition of Crestron’s Smarter Spaces. As Director of Marketing Communications (and Executive Editor of the publication) Crystal Watts notes:
In this issue of Smarter Spaces, we introduce you to a Queen Anne Revival-style London looker with brains to match its beauty; you'll ride shotgun through a tour of an auto enthusiast's Midwestern marvel; and we'll voyage through an eco-friendly desert dwelling coined “America's First Sustainable Showhouse.”
Download a copy
The In-Person Advantage
As the world moves back toward a sense of post-pandemic normalcy, the greater in-person attendance at CEDIA Expo brought its own benefits. “Training attendance was way up,” says Short. “We had four incredible classes. Each course was packed, and the feedback was great.”
Beyond that in-person teaching interaction, though, there are some aspects of residential tech that just can’t be expressed virtually.
“For instance, the lighting demo in our booth demonstrated the effects of layered lighting from different sources,” says Yohanna. “At the beginning of the demo, we started with a normal off-the-shelf downlight — what people would normally find in a home. It looked OK. Then we replaced that light layer by layer with beautiful, high-quality light, and it looked great. At the end, we switched back to the standard off-the-shelf downlights, and you realized how terrible standard lighting is. It was a real eureka moment — people realized just what kind of an improvement this technology can bring into a home.”
Another shocker for Short was just how much Crestron has done over the past year — especially apparent when it’s all on display at a single location. “People were struggling to do the full booth tour in an hour. Dealers had to come back later to see more.
“No one wanted to miss a bit of what we’d brought to Denver, and that was truly gratifying.”