Just the other day, I took a redeye back from Israel and bumped into a couple of Israeli VCs and entrepreneurs making their annual journey to CES.  I have to admit that I am a bit jealous but since I have a number of trips scheduled in the upcoming weeks, I decided to pass on the conference.  That being said, I have been lamenting with fellow VC blogger Jeff Nolan on how hard it is to get our entertainment gear to work.  I have been waiting to get my home theater system with HDTV for a few years and made the leap this past holiday season.  I have to admit that I am pretty proficient with computers and technology but even I got stumped with the process of installing and making it all work correctly and SIMPLY.  It is no wonder why so many high-tech vendors are focused on opportunities in the digital home because the dollars are huge (I spent way more money on my entertainment systems in one purchase than I did through accumulation of lots of computer gear over the years) and the complexity is high to make it work right. 

While in Israel, I also had the opportunity to discuss home networking and automation with a few bright individuals.  In order to get a fully automated home (like a Crestron) where you can control your audio visual, home network, computers, lighting, heating, air conditioning, etc., from any other room or even remotely, one can expect to shell out ridiculous amounts of money to make it happen.  These vendors typically sell proprietary and closed-end systems that require custom coding to make them work right.  Besides the cost and complexity, the other thing that bothers me about the digital home is that there are too many competing standards and not everyone’s product works together.  For example, Sony pretty much only works with Sony and so on and so forth.  DirecTV provides Tivos that do not network with other boxes while existing Tivo boxes can be networked.  This drives me nuts. As the value is clearly in the software that drives many of these boxes, electronics, and HVAC equipment, the battleground and control will be driven by who can help the consumer cheaply and simply integrate and manage all of their systems.  If there is an industry begging to be open sourced, standardized and commoditized, this is it. While it is in all the vendors’ interest to bring the economics down to reach a wider market, I just don’t expect to see enough cooperation from them to drop their proprietary standards to make this happen soon enough.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

5 comments on “CES”

  1. Pingback: First Call
  2. Ed

    It’s been awhile!!! I cannot agree with you more on this subject. I just moved out of the city to the ‘burbs and just underwent a major a/v project. Unfortunately my timing was a little premature to avoid the crestron-based system…for at least whole house audio…and what’s feeding the crestron? a $200 mp3 device (slimdevices) that streams from the pc to audio distribution panel and satisfies all my audio needs. The crestron alternative was a few thousand dollars (for a HARD DRIVE proprietary system!!!) I didn’t have much of a choice at this point, yet….if i wanted relative simplicity….and stability

    As to video/home theatre…i avoided crestron at all costs…and went to stand alone systems for the time being controlled by pronto remotes (that we can program ourselves)…it works and I am not tied to the home theater guys (if Crestron’s involved, it’s buys these guys job security) if something goes wrong.

    In any case, i think we’re a short time away from more open standards…take a look at http://www.control4.com as a further enhancement to the smart home…

    Until then…it’s a bit painful…

    Be well

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  4. Ed,
    I’m not as far along as you are: I have yet to take the leap and “do up” my home with that all-included HDTV centered home system. But I’m about to do so, but the story you tell is too oft told by people in the tech game. If we can’t do it, imagine what civilians are going through.

    As for the connected home (and CES): Panasonic’s main “stage” feature demonstration of a home theater system that was tied to a home security system (picture-in-picture on the living room HDTV showing someone pulling into the garage (activated by a motion sensor). So the CE companies are going there, hopefully not in a proprietary way. And the Panasonic brand means that it’s going mass, not just high end.

    As for making it easier for the consumer to understand…we’re doing everything we can with our Automated Service Agents. (meeting with Panasonic on Monday).


  5. Check out Plutohome.com. These guys have created an opensource Home Automation package that competes with Crestron and others.

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