When you've been coming to CES for as many years as I have it takes something really special to catch my eye on the show floor, but that's exactly what happened today. While walking through the central hall I noticed a small stand from a company called Flatwire, and discovered what I believe to be the future of home cinema installations.
If you have ever attempted to install a home cinema system yourself, you'll know that getting all your cables routed is the hardest part. Unless you want to go the whole hog and chisel channels out of your walls to route cables, you're generally left with unsightly cabling running all around your room, fixed to your skirting or ceiling using cable clips - hardly the most aesthetically pleasing solution.
And then there's the issue of wall mounted TVs. Most of us like the concept of a wall mounted flat screen TV, but then how do you get all your AV and power cables to the TV? Again, unless you go to the trouble of chiselling a channel up the wall and stuffing loads of cables into it, you'll be stuck with an unsightly result, which kind of defeats the purpose of wall mounting the TV in the first place.
But fear not, because Flatwire solves all those problems by using, as the company name suggests, flat wire. Flatwire has a plethora of cabling options that are, quite literally paper thin! The idea is that you can simply glue the cables to your wall and then paint over them - as I said, I'm not easily impressed, but this literally blew me away.
The most obvious use for Flatwire is speaker cabling, where you can literally run cable from one end of your room to the other without leaving any unsightly wires and clips on show. As if that wasn't enough, Flatwire can also be used for connections like component video, S-Video, audio and Enternet. The flat cabling terminates at custom made connection boxes that are mounted on the wall - preferably hidden by the device you're connecting to.
But what about that wall mounted TV problem? Well Flatwire can even carry AC power! The 120v cable has already been approved for use in the US, and the company informed me that it is already working on a 240v version for use in Europe. Add to this the fact that Flatwire was also showing off its newly developed HDMI cable, and you really have got all the bases covered.
At present Flatwire is only selling its revolutionary products in the US, addressing the needs of both custom installers and end users. However, I was informed that there are definite plans to start distribution in Europe. Although no timescale was given for a European entry, I would imagine that it may tie in with the launch of the 240v power cable.
Traditionally the biggest factor stopping consumers from installing a proper surround sound setup in their living room is cabling, especially since carpet has fallen from grace in favour of hard floors, making it harder to hide those surround speaker cables. Flatwire has solved this dilemma with a solution that's as elegant as it is brilliant.