I'm finding this whole discussion fascinating. I'm not much into the HA side of things myself, but I love the technology and am really into the AV side of things.
The first thing that comes to mind is how the buildings are going to be shaping the tech. The vast majority of houses in the US are old. Many suburbs were built from the 1950's through the 1990's. Many high value customers are now living in apartments and condos in denser, more urban areas. What I am getting at is that most houses don't have a lot of wiring to work with. Most don't even have home run CAT-5 to do networking with. If the buyers are lucky, they'll get a cable jack in every room and a few phone jacks around the house. Phone jacks at this point are useless unless they are home run CAT-5 that can be converted to Ethernet, so basically they have a few cable jacks. The technology is catering to this market, and that's why everything is moving to wireless. Wireless, while not as reliable as hardwired Ethernet, and not scalable to ginormous houses, is "good enough" for most people most of the time.
So given that wireless is taking over, we have now reached a point where the only hardwired RF that you really need in most houses is the cable line coming into the modem/router for internet. With people cutting the cord, cable isn't even needed for TV anymore, but even if people have Triple Play, they need cable for a couple of cable boxes. Data is entirely wireless now, with wireless mesh systems providing much better coverage and speeds than before, and if people still have landline service through a bundle, they've got a cordless phone that covers the whole house easily. Moving forward, with cord cutting, people can put a TV anywhere. With mesh wireless and streaming devices that can get DirecTV NOW or YouTube TV in addition to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc, all you need is a power outlet to place a TV, audio system, or any other consumer electronics.
Most people, even, or possibly especially, high end customers are not going to have holes drilled in their walls to pull the miles of cable required for a traditional HA system with wired audio, wired networking, much less central A/V distribution when they can get wireless stuff at Best Buy that does mostly the same thing, or at least the things that most people want them to. There is also less of a need for a centralized HA system. Like others have mentioned, we no longer have CD changers and scarce DVD players. Gone are the days of $500-$1000 satellite DVRs that didn't have any whole-home functionality. The use cases for centralized A/V distribution are rapidly disappearing. Even if you have a bunch of in-ceiling speakers that you want to synchronize with TV audio, you can do that over a network with Sonos or Denon's HEOS without spending a whole lot, involving a CI, or having a centralized distribution closet with giant racks full of equipment. Heck, I'll be able to do that with two Denon AVRs for an additional cost of $0, since I was buying the Denon AVRs anyway, and they came with HEOS built in. Add in a second zone or two here or there, and all of the sudden I can set up much of the advantage of a $10k or $20k central audio distribution system for a few hundred dollars of additional investment.
Next, the custom HA and A/V systems are outdated almost as soon as you get them. The pace of change in technology has been rapidly increasing. We went from SD to HD over component to HDMI to HDMI 2.0 with 4k and now we're talking about HDMI 2.1 with 8k. With a custom system, you've got to have the CI come back and replace stuff on every iteration. Further, compatibility is becoming more and more of an issue. Centralized video switching systems made some sense when everything was analog component with separate sound. Now that we're dealing with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, half the time it doesn't even work with a device, and AVR, and a TV, much less a centralized matrix system that is yet another point of failure in the system. Looping back to the use case, when people were buying $1000 satellite DVRs with no whole home functionality, yeah, centralized distribution made a lot of sense. Now that people are streaming on $100 Rokus, just buy a Roku or Chromecast for every TV. On the audio side, get Sonos or HEOS and call it a day.
Custom HA and A/V systems are also fighting an uphill battle at this point. Yes, a lot of devices work with C4 and Crestron, but as you get new devices, you have to have a CI add them to the system, which takes time, while Amazon or Google will have it working in 5 minutes with almost no effort, with the user driving the upgrades and changes to the system. 15 years ago when a centralized system would stay fairly static for several years, the CI model made a lot more sense than today when a larger household could have many devices added to the system every year, and a lot of devices are iterating at a breakneck pace. Why pay more to be stuck with outdated technology?
Looking at the HA side of things, we also have to look at the use cases here, and what people actually want. Alarm systems and security items (outdoor lights, cameras, etc) are popular, and have gained some traction in the HA market, and they are actually fulfilling a genuine desire for home security and monitoring. These technologies have the opportunity to either completely disrupt, or to grow the business of traditional security companies, i.e. ADT. What I'm not convinced will gain traction is a lot of the indoor lighting and appliance control. People have enough tech issues, and when they mostly don't want their devices to be internet connected. People expect lights to come on when they flip the light switch, and they don't need an app to do it. They don't want their refrigerator on the internet, they want it to make their food cold using the minimum amount of electricity and making the minimum amount of noise possible. I could see washing machines and dryers with Wi-Fi becoming a thing, as a lot of people, especially in older houses, have laundry in some corner of the basement, so a notification when the wash is done is legitimately useful. Thermostats are also legitimately useful, especially in warmer climates so that you can turn the AC on before you home so that it's not 95 degrees when you walk in the door on a hot, sticky summer day. Most other applications seem like a solution looking for a problem, although they do have the side benefit of greatly helping people with limited mobility. Applications like talking to Alexa to turn a lamp on, which is utterly idiotic for an able-bodied individual, could be hugely beneficial and provide independence and control for someone who has limited mobility.
Further, there is a big security headwind on all of this. If you look at the various security issues that have come up, they are going to scare people away from connected tech, and cause them to retreat to not using some things, especially when you get into cameras and other security devices. The recent Ring video sharing debacle is an example of this type of problem. If people don't trust the technology, they just won't use it.
The future is wireless. Right now, it is entirely practical to have a single RF cable coming into the house going to a modem/router, and have everything else wireless from there to the devices consuming the content, with analog speaker wire, HDMI, etc locally at each TV/HT setup. In the future, with 5G, even that single RF cable will disappear, and things will go entirely wireless with a 5G gateway feeding a Wi-Fi 6 mesh network.
For the Chromecast Audio in particular, they are amazing devices, and unfortunately, Google discontinued them recently. I have an order for two more in from CDW, and one of mine can be reclaimed, as my ChromeCast Ultra can serve my AVR via HDMI, and I can let the AVR function as the DAC. Over the years, I've been trying to simplify my setup and eliminate devices, not add more. Denon doesn't support Google Cast, which it should, but it does support Spotify Connect as well as Bluetooth, so I don't need a separate Bluetooth receiver, and I will get rid of the Chromecast Audio next time I set it up (reclaim it for another location), now that the ChromeCast Ultra supports the audio groups. However, I have no clue why people are suggesting to hardwire a CCA. There is no good reason to hardwire them. I've had them crammed in all sorts of weird places, and they work fine on Wi-Fi. They just don't need that much bandwidth. I hardwired my ChromeCast Ultra just because it had an Ethernet port. My rule is that if it has Ethernet, I'll hardwire it, if it doesn't, I won't, but next time around I might consider going wireless with more streaming devices, or at least my gaming consoles as the mess of Ethernet cables is getting ridiculous. OTOH, I do like having things hardwired if they have Ethernet available, or have lousy Wi-Fi (like the Wii U which only supports 2.4ghz).
I will say that Google Cast is MUCH more useful on Android than on iOS. Some apps support it on iOS, but the big hole in the whole system is Audible, since they refuse to work with Google Cast (stupid Amazon fighting with Google). On Android, I just mirror the device to either a CC, CCA, or Cast-enabled speaker, and I get Audible on that speaker. The downside is that it uses a LOT more battery power than the normal cast protocol, as it is re-encoding everything and sending it back over the network, and you lose the "OK Google" control over the Audiobook like you'd have with a podcast. Still, it's a fair trade-off for me to avoid having to use Bluetooth or cables when I'm listening to an audiobook around the house.
Originally Posted by ezlotogura
any data about the growing DIY space is inflated. yes its growing, but if your 70 year old grandma gets an Alexa because she wants to talk to her grandkids or something by stats she has a "connected" home. She is not controlling dozens of lights, security cameras, audio/video, pool control, garage doors, etc. oh and btw - based on the very few pure play CI companies that are publicly traded, they are all growing too. so go figure.
And that's 100% true. Even young people are getting Echos like crazy, and most don't have anything connected to them. They just talk to Alexa and make it do goofy stuff, set timers, or ask Alexa what the weather is going to be like the day after tomorrow and that's the extent of it. Most people don't have want or need to control lights or security cameras or anything else, and the ones that do probably have a couple of devices that they use with Alexa, and they're happy with that level of HA. The idea of voice control sounds all cool and futuristic until you actually use it, and it kind of sucks compared to just button mashing. This is partly generational too, baby boomers probably love talking to their remote or phone or whatever since they're often terrible at typing or button mashing, whereas a teenager can do the same thing in half the time with a touchscreen or buttons. The one application that makes a lot of sense is in the kitchen, since your hands are greasy and covered with food.
Originally Posted by Paul DiFrank
the rest of my RCA inputs should be here Wed. and I'll be able to get everything hooked up. Though I may need to buy the ethernet adapters for these. I'm running a ubiquity network with three of the LR Access points, but with 13 casts, I don't want to overload one of them. We'll see how the performance is when we get them all hooked up.
If your Wi-Fi can't handle 13 Chromecasts, then that's a Wi-Fi problem. I don't think you'll have any issue with it.
Originally Posted by Mntneer
Don't over think the novelty of speaking to a device. Sure, it has it's handy in some applications, but there will still always be a need for a physical interaction of some sort. You also need to take into account urban/rural settings and access to internet. In my area for example, many people are stuck with very poor internet speeds, so cloud based systems are a HORRIBLE idea for them, but a centralize home system with a single remote access (like Control 4 and their 4Sight app) works wonderfully.
And who is living in the middle of nowhere where they can't get decent internet connectivity and simultaneously sinking a ton of money into HA? Those are two mutually exclusive markets.