Cisco Systems and Ecotality, an electric-vehicle charging station company, are collaborating to make EVs part of a home energy-management system. Ecotality's Blink home EV charging station will connect to Cisco's Home Energy Controller, a touch-screen device for managing home energy, as part of early electric vehicle trials with consumers. The integration will let electric car owners schedule charging to take advantage of preferential rates offered by utilities for electric vehicles, typically after 9 p.m. From the Cisco home energy dashboard, there is an application to monitor and program how an electric car is charged, according to the companies. Charging an electric car can pull as much power as an entire home consumes, utilities executives say, so consumers have an incentive to charge at off-peak times. But the system is sophisticated enough to communicate with utilities to get discounts beyond the EV tariff, Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read said in an interview.
While their presence was more subtle than 3DTV and not as in-your-face as non-iPad tablets, connected consumer electronics devices were more diverse and pervasive at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with every major manufacturer showing off new electronics that have their own built-in apps and can access content from the Internet. With devices that incorporated complete Internet browsers, HDTVs that offered hundreds of applications, even set-tops that turned current HDTVs into a completely connected device, the theme of combining the home theater set-up with a PC experience was everywhere. Consider: In 2010 less than a quarter of all HDTVs were connected, according to research firm Parks Associates. By 2015, Parks believes that number will hit 76% (more than 150 million units). The firm projects that by 2015 there will be more than $8 billion worth of transactions on connected consumer electronics devices, from e-purchases to gaming to VOD and streaming.
Just as the digital wave transforms the television industry, Hulu, a pioneer of Internet TV, is in internal discussions to dramatically transform itself. The free online television service has become one of the most-watched online video properties in the U.S. and a top earner of web-video ad dollars since its 2008 launch. But its owners -industry powerhouses NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are increasingly at odds over Hulu's business model. Worried that free Web versions of their biggest TV shows are eating into their traditional business, the owners disagree among themselves, and with Hulu management, on how much of their content should be free. Fox Broadcasting owner News Corp. and ABC owner Disney are contemplating pulling some free content from Hulu, say people familiar with the matter. The media companies are also moving to sell more programs to Hulu competitors that deliver television over the Internet, including Netflix Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.
Global unit shipments of consumer electronics (CE) products will climb 2.6 percent in 2010, partly driven by rising sales of products that play a role in the connected home and that focus on usability -rather than technological wizardry -according to new IHS iSuppli research. CE product shipments in 2011 are projected to reach 1.60 billion units, up from 1.56 billion in 2010. The CE category encompasses a diverse array of familiar devices that consumers use on a daily basis, including televisions, stereos and audio components, portable media players, set-top boxes, gaming devices, DVD and Blu-ray players, digital still cameras, projectors and camcorders, digital picture frames, e-book readers and consumer appliances. While the 2.6 percent rise in overall shipments this year is modest compared to last year's 4 percent climb, the expansion is significant given current economic conditions. With the continued uncertainties in the global economy and the high unemployment rate in the United States -the world's largest market for CE devices -the uptick in sales provides reassurance for the industry and sets the stage for future growth.
The doors to ISE 2011 in Amsterdam are now open. Over 700 exhibitors will be showing their wares at the Amsterdam RAI this week from a broad range of industries including building automation, unified communications, event production, digital signage, visualisation and lighting control. With those numbers you bet the news and information from the show will be flowing in. As usual HomeToys.com will be a great place to post your company news and keep up to date. Visit our Special ISE 2011 Newspage to view and post news. Also stay tuned for our special show report, which will go live Wednesday.
Interested in learning more about CEA standards? CEA just launched a public discussion forum for CEA standards called TechCE.org. The new website allows users of CEA standards, and other interested parties, to share information, ask questions and get community help. Interpretation and news on standards will be posted regularly.
So why will 3D content never take off? It's not the silly glasses or the lack of content. It's not even that we all kinda hate it. According to Academy Award-winning editor Walter Murch: it's evolution, baby. Murch, writing to renowned film critic (and prominent 3D antagonist) Roger Ebert, says that 3D's primary failure is our own eyeballs. Specifically, how millions of years of human development have taught them to focus: The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the "convergence/focus" issue. A couple of the other issues - darkness and "smallness" - are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen - say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what. But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.
TiVo, the pioneering digital video recorder, is beloved by couch potatoes for offering a simple way to record television shows for watching later. But the company's hot-and-cold relationships with cable providers is complicating the fate of TiVo's digital recording and video-on-demand services. TiVo's subscriber base peaked in 2006 and has been declining since, according to TV by the Numbers, an industry news blog. TiVo's response to this slump has been two-pronged. For one, the company has scrambled to sign deals with TV service providers. TiVo announced one such milestone agreement with UK cable giant Virgin Media, in which TiVo will be the platform developer.
THE universal remote control is one of the modern world's great ideas, right up there with the automatic dishwasher, Wi-Fi and flush toilets. The theory behind this gadget is simple and sublime: In an increasingly automated and connected world, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could manage all our blinking machines from a single super controller? I wish I could tell you that there is a better way. But after testing many different universal remotes - cheap remotes, expensive remotes, smartphone remotes, and a few about which the less said, the better - I don't have much good news to report. Sure, some universal remotes are more useful than others, and one of them is almost pretty good, but in general these devices remain more appealing in theory than in practice. That's because they all suffer from an inherent, usually fatal flaw: universal remotes cannot possibly offer enough buttons to mimic all functions of all devices, so they usually have to make compromises, cutting out buttons here and there. The trouble is, some of those buttons are important.
Samsung is seeing significant growth in app downloads on its line of HDTVs. The company announced this week that 2 million apps have been downloaded from its sets since its marketplace launched last year. The news comes less than two months after Samsung announced that 1 million apps had been downloaded from its service. The feat is all the more impressive when one considers it took 268 days to hit the 1 million mark. YouTube and Hulu Plus are among the most commonly downloaded apps, according to Samsung. They are joined by ESPN's Next Level, AccuWeather, and Google Maps. The company's marketplace also offers Blockbuster, Twitter, Pandora, and several other applications. When it announced 1 million downloads late last year, Samsung said that more than half of its 2010 line of HDTVs featured the ability to access apps. Samsung said at the time that it believed retailers would sell 6.5 million sets featuring apps by the end of 2010. And it expected that figure to jump to 20 million by 2012.
Home automation systems are becoming increasingly simpler for both end users and installers, driving the market forward and acquiring a wider audience. Technology advances also help create innovative and affordable systems that reach a more extensive customer base. New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, European Home Automation Markets, finds that the market earned revenues of €164.3 million in 2010 and estimates this to reach €228.7 million in 2015, at a compound annual growth rate of 5.1 per cent. 'Home automation has witnessed major changes over the recent years; the most significant has been the introduction of tablet computers which are having a major impact on the home automation market, particularly the luxury segment,' states Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Hammam Ahmed. 'So far the market has satisfactorily addressed the new developments and is set to benefit from these advances in a manner that will promote home automation and make it available to a wider customer base.'
A Taipei university team has developed a tiny chip that allows remote control over home appliances with no more than a wave of the hand and features that make it faster, cheaper and more resistant to interference than rival inventions, the professor in charge said on Tuesday. Users of the chip developed by the National Taipei University of Technology's graduate automation institute can switch on televisions, home stereos and air conditioners by hand from two meters away, Professor Chen Wen-hui said. They can adjust volumes or change settings the same way, he said. The graduate institute is applying for a patent to sell what it believes to be a "significantly faster" device-less remote control system that what other research institutions have developed, Chen said. It will also cost less, though Chen said prices had not been set. Signals should be top of the line, he said, given that "what people fear the most is interference."
Boxee may turn to subsidies to help get the price down and better compete in the market, company founder Avner Ronen said in an episode of the This Week in Startups show recorded on Friday. He mentioned that the $200 street price for a Boxee Box was "way too expensive" to get mass market adoption and floated the idea as one option for future models. Nothing was definite in the talk and might not necessarily come about with a future deal. Ronen also provided some brief hints at the possible future of Boxee. Gaming was a possibility as he noted that games had often driven technology adoption, but it would most likely occur through the browser in HTML rather than through proprietary apps. A TV tuner had been ruled out in at least the short term as it was a matter of "focus and resources."
Distributor Capitol said this week that it is now carrying KEF's T series of flat-panel loudspeakers. "It takes a truly advanced R&D team to design a slim speaker that is on a par with free-standing floor monitors," Jeff Kussard , Capitol's Director of Strategic Development, said in a statement. "As a longtime audio enthusiast, it comes as no surprise to me to see the KEF name behind such a groundbreaking speaker line. The T Series takes up remarkably little space, and the sound quality will satisfy the most demanding audiophiles in the room." The lineup includes three system components.
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