Gadget makers from Apple to Toshiba are fond of telling us how their gadgets can put the style into 'lifestyle', but only at one tech show does that really hold true - the UK's annual Custom Electronic Design and Installation (CEDIA) Expo. Here's why:
1. It's about true convergence
Custom electronics is all about the total integration of everything from plasma TVs to multi-room hi-fi. You don't end up with a dozen remote controls vying for space on your coffee table. CEDIA Expo 2008 is a showcase for the latest, greatest techniques in how to do that, and the kit your custom installer can use to help you get the home of your dreams.
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2. Home automation doesn't stop at TVs and hi-fi
CEDIA Expo 2008 covers the whole gamut from heating, ventilation and air-conditioning control (HVAC), right through to custom lighting and home security.
3. Custom install is getting cheaper
For years custom installation has relied on expensive, proprietary systems from home automation specialists like AMX and Crestron. That's changing with the arrival of systems that use Konnex (aka EIB/KNX) - an open source protocol that anyone can develop for. This gives you a much wider choice of suppliers, potentially saving you a fortune on hardware. You'll see some great examples at CEDIA Expo 2008.
4. It's an exotic high tech bazaar
You'll see tech here you just can't find on the high street: imagine a home media server that can deliver any one of the hundreds of legally-ripped DVD movies to any part of your living space; or what about a system that enables you to login to your house from the office and switch on the heating and lighting so you get a warm welcome when you go home. It's all here.
5. it's a vision for the future
CEDIA Expo 2008 shows the shape of things to come. Many of the techniques being shown off here eventually make it into mainstream technology and so into ordinary homes: Sky Multiroom, Slingbox and Philips' Streamium range of wireless audio systems are just three great examples of concepts we're used to now that started life in custom install.
6. Even gadget haters love what's on show
Custom install is all about hiding the 'oily' bits, leaving you with elegant interfaces that are easy for anyone to use. Don't like seeing that 60-inch plasma TV on the wall? Press the power button when you finish watching and to see it magically disappear. Can't see where the sound is coming from? That's because the speakers have been stealthily hidden in the walls and ceilings too.
7. It puts a little luxury in your life
Whether you want to watch TV while taking a shower or entertain guests at a garden party, someone at CEDIA will come up with a solution to that meets your needs. They may even exceed your wildest expectations.
CEDIA Expo 2008 is a trade-only event and runs from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June at ExCeL London. We'll bring you all the highlights from the event later this week.