Full of good intentions the first Indulgence Show at the Hammersmith Novotel held in the autumn of 2016 may have confused its rather mixed audience but the location remains favoured and Clarity will support it this coming year and do their best to make it more successful.
It was noted that the Vinyl Show was now moving to Birmingham 18th - 19th March at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa while the former NAS Whittlebury show was also now to be in Birmingham: The International Convention Centre Broad Street Birmingham B1 2EA and at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham 2 Bridge Street Birmingham B1 2JZ Saturday 16 September 2017 10:00am - 6:00pm Sunday 17 September 2017 10:00am—4:00pm. These two shows were not being directly supported by Clarity.
Next came the annual feast of industry statistics for the last year from the renowned GFK group, here presented by Toby Jarvis.
The conference buzzword was SMART, clever, connected audio and control electronics with a high level of inbuilt intelligence with audio hardware increasingly adaptive and multi-connected.
Conversely the main story is of turntable growth, especially of hi-fi models as opposed to that rash of tinny all-in-one examples which have appeared like a rash in many high street fashion stores.
The FM shutdown is approaching
This is no idle threat as Norway has already begun their FM shutdown process from mid January 2017, on a similar basis.
Audio hardware sales are continuing to fall though the cost per item has been rising since 2013 from an average £650 now to £750. Over the past year soundbar volumes has settled, while mixed media, Bluetooth etc devices have grown a little; separate loudspeaker and home theatre sales have a reduced market share. Tuner, amplifiers and receivers are stable, and CD players and speakers are up by value if not by quantity. Turntables are up, by 20-30% on both brands and models. While soundbars has levelled out, they still almost totally dominate what was the 5.1 home theatre market.
Back to DAB radios, in 2005 it was just 1.4 million units, now the total is 22.1 million and this is an inexorable climb towards the extinction of FM and all the many millions of radios receivers and tuners which currently enjoy it .
On digital media there was a 68% growth in streamed songs in 2016 constituting over 30% of all music consumed. The notional 1 Billion threshold for streamed songs in one week was reached (for the UK) for the first time in December 2016.
Regarding UK TV programme consumption for 2016, just 35% was live broadcast. 15% was time shifted, 21% was on demand catch-up, and 29% was streamed on line or from an app, e.g. Netflix.
Total sales of network connectable devices have reached 150 million over the past 5 years, these net radio units, all-in-one streamers /speakers and wireless docks though it is beginning to slow up at £276m worth for 2016.
Ultra High End A/V consultant Peter Aylett explained that net connection goes hand-in-hand with home automation and that in the home protection market significant product announcements have been made including at the recent CES building on development in artificial intelligence devices such as the Amazon Alexa and related offerings from other majors. Massive growth is predicted here.
Voice recognition algorithms made a breakthrough in 2016 where the performance achieved the magic level of parity with human cognition, at 95% accuracy. The error rate had held to 23% after years of research, even as late as 2013.
Peter related that CES 2017 was dominated by intelligent, connected wearables, monitors, watches, in ear phones, some with multiple functionality, including heart rate and BP monitoring, even insulin levels.
Nividia have jumped right into this smart market with a new home device, the SPOT, powerful directional microphones with noise cancelling that should respond reliably to voice commands and also detect unwanted events water leaks, robbery/break-ins, fire. This single device announcement raised their share price several fold. There was also traction in high end wearables, some very costly and fine sounding earphones such as StereoPravda. Hearing aid makers are also becoming much more sophisticated with manufacturers such as Opticon offering noise cancellation, enhanced stereo and advanced sound processing as well as hearing correction. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Google’s ad specialist Richard Hartigan was back, here explaining how the headlong rush to new more advanced and mort intelligent connected technologies was also driving Google ad growth, and again the rapidly evolving product introductions was driven by how SMART they were. These guys love ALL CAPS in their publicity to better shout the high degree of smartness, connectedness, and intelligence they offer. With powerful online voice recognition from Apple and Google, voice obedient products such connected systems and products will grow exponentially, this including multi-room audio and vision, and all products in between.
On the advertising side Richard related the increasing power of mobile, with mobile friendly sales formats growing massively as people are increasingly purchasing on the move, anywhere, while suitably, wirelessly connected. You may be on the ground floor of John Lewis buying a card and you may get a message that the very soundbar you had searched a day ago is available 4 floors up, encouraging you to go and visit that department. He s mobile based sales and becoming increasingly dominant, supplanting the traditional keyboard and screen web searching. Likewise the marketing apps are still more mobile device compatible.
Sales tools include new page refresh, mobile compatible scaling and these issues are now been solve by advances app publishing software. His slogan to the marketing industry was: Show up Wise up Speed up in order to increase customer reach: digital based marketing and sales has increased by maybe 15 times in the last 5 years and 80% of affluent shoppers research online before purchase.
This is the brave new world of connected technology where separates audio products are placed at the audio market periphery.