The Growing Role of the Integrator

DMF Lighting Booth at CEDIA Expo

Your humble editor is trying hard to learn about a relatively new entrant to our industry, the integrators.  I have met a few at LightFair and LEDucation and I am captivated by what they do. Basically, their job is to ensure that all the hardware and software play nice together.  They are not just involved in lighting; they work in AV among other industries and integrators have evolved dramatically since their start in the residential market connecting AV devices. Many times they are called in to fix issues, but they obviously prefer to be brought in during design. 

To the best of my knowledge, the primary home for these integrators is something called the CEDIA Expo, which I attended last week. CEDIA stands for Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association.

Jason McGraw, the show director, outlined the much-anticipated return of the CEDIA Conference to Denver. The conference made its last appearance in the city in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. Following a shift to a virtual format in 2020,  the event transitioned back to in-person gatherings, in Indianapolis in 2021 and Dallas in 2022. According to Jason, the event has expanded to cover a total of 160,000 square feet, adding over 10,000 square feet of exhibits compared to previous shows.

Although the attendance hasn’t yet reached the pre-pandemic figures, the bustling aisles at the event were indicative of a strong attendance. This year also marked the debut of the Commercial Integrator Expo, welcoming 50 new exhibitors.

The  CEDIA expo showcases a blend of residential and commercial products from well-known lighting brands including:

  • Crestron Electronics, Inc.   
  • DMF Lighting   
  • FX Luminaire     
  • Legrand AV     
  • Liteline Corporation   
  • Lotus Led Lights    
  • Lucetta/Diode LED     
  • Lucifer Lighting Company    
  • Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.    
  • Savant    
  • Verozza Lighting
  • WAC Lighting

Jason mentioned that many channel integrators have started taking up commercial projects in addition to their residential undertakings. The pandemic has further catalyzed this crossover in technologies, spurred by the rise in home office setups and the addition of video conferencing equipment. While there was a spike in commercial sector professionals taking up residential work during the pandemic, the dominant trend is residential experts expanding into the commercial arena.

Aiming to draw commercial integrators to the event, Jason highlighted the presence of numerous companies showcasing new products not featured in other commercial expos. The event has seen a diversification in products, including a surge in LED and architectural lighting, security products, and a noticeable growth in the residential sector for micro-LED displays.

Verozza Lighting at CEDIA Expo

As I toured the show, I visited Verozza Lighting three times, and they were slammed all three times. Jason explained there were 16,000 visitors, but it felt like more. Many areas of the show were shoulder-to-shoulder, and I saw several fire marshals walking the floor.

DMF Lighting had a large booth and they showed me a beautiful wall sconce that is designed for circadian entrainment that was stunning.  COO Michael Danesh, gave me a detailed explanation of why he thinks DALI 2.0 will take off in the US market.

I ran into longtime friend and industry veteran, Shakil Ahmad.  Shakil shared his insights on how the show managed to stand out from others in terms of the experience it offered to attendees.

He explained the distinctive feature of this year’s show was its emphasis on providing an experiential insight rather than merely showcasing new products. Although new products were indeed a significant part of the event, exhibitors who managed to craft a narrative around their products and create an immersive experience were the ones that genuinely stood out.

As we stood near the Sony booth, which attracted a sizable crowd, Shakil remarked that similar scenes could be witnessed at other booths throughout the show, including Lutron.

Lutron’s booth fascinated me.  I think of Lutron as being a highly technical brand, Lutron had managed to adopt a softer approach, making a more profound impact on the attendees. They created a narrative around products which seamlessly blended technology with emotions. They brought about 10 attendees into their enclosed booth and showcase various scenes in a residential application. They reminded us that when we wake up, we don’t need bright cool light, we just need enough calming light to get to the bathroom.  Next, as we shower and get dressed, we may want a different scenario.  The CCT in their display went from 1800K to 10,000K (moonlight) and they showed many scenes in between.  This move away from a hardcore technical display to a more sensory experience seemed to be a change that was well received, as evidenced by the buzz around their booth.

It became clear to me that Savant is much more than a lighting company.  They explained their solar products and in-house batteries that might give Elon Musk a run for his money.  I did not see a lot of lighting.

As best as I could tell Legrand was only showing Audio Visual products and no lighting, but their booth was packed the entire time and I did not get all the way through it.

POE Wall Back at CEDIA Expo
POE Wall Back at CEDIA Expo

There was a lot of talk about POE and that surprised me.  Several people told me that they expect significant growth in POE lighting for new construction. We will see!

Confirming the annual recurrence of the CEDIA Conference, Jason revealed plans to retain the Denver venue for the upcoming years. The event has also experienced growth in conference sessions held on the show floor, which offer a mixture of product training and manufacturer presentations.

Jason expressed his satisfaction with the event’s outcome, emphasizing that the event marked the return of vibrant, interactive conferences, showcasing a promising path for future editions.

The lighting exhibitors that I spoke with all seemed very happy.  As more CEDIA experts enter the Commercial world, their presence and influence in architectural lighting will only grow.

Liteline at CEDIA Expo

updated 13 SEP 2023. A previous version said the Commercial Integrator Expo, welcoming 15 new exhibitors. The correct number of new exhibitors was 50.