Cisco and home control supplier Control4 have entered into an agreement in which Cisco will invest in Control4, use Control4 technology in Smart Grid infrastructure and services that it will sell to utilities, and sell Cisco-branded and Control4-branded products. Under the global agreement, Cisco will sell products through its value-added resellers (VARs) into homes in conjunction with utilities' deployment of Cisco's Smart Grid technologies, which are designed to reduce energy consumption. Cisco will also sell products through its VARs to developers of so-called greenfield cities, built on the outskirts of existing cities usually outside the U.S. In both channels, VARs would sell products to control energy use as well as home automation and control lighting, entertainment, communication and security systems. As a broad rule, control systems would be Cisco-branded, and peripherals such as lighting-control systems would be Control4-branded. The deal provides Control4 with additional resources as well as worldwide distribution channels that "will expand our reach dramatically" by "leveraging the Control4 platform to every single home in these communities," said Control4 CEO Will West. The deal will also open up opportunities for custom integrators who could later add onto a basic Cisco Smart Grid EMS 100 energy-management system, he said.
Boxee announced today that Netflix streaming media is finally available to owners of the company's Boxee Box. In order to access Netflix streaming media, users will need to either wait for the automatic update to take effect within the next 24 hours or manually update their set-top boxes. "Netflix support was the most common request we had on our blog comments, forum posts, tweets, etc.," Boxee CEO Avner Ronen said in a blog post accompanying the announcement. "We heard you loud and clear. We were bummed that we could not make it happen earlier, but are very excited to have it out today." When the Boxee Box first launched in November, the company said that it would make Netflix available by the end of 2010. After hitting some snags, it promised that Netflix was "still on track" for a launch at the end of January. Earlier this month, Boxee said in a blog post that it wasn't able to hit its self-imposed deadline because it had "not yet satisfied Netflix's security requirements." Luckily, that wait is finally over. But now Boxee has some catching up to do. Netflix streaming media has been running for quite some time on several of the device's competitors, including the Apple TV, Roku set-top boxes, and the Logitech Revue, among others.
3net, the joint venture television network from Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation today announced that DIRECTV will be the first distributor to launch 3net, the 24/7 3D network, beginning February 13, 2011. 3net will initially be available to millions of DIRECTV customers across the country. 3net will go live at 8:00 PM ET on DIRECTV (channel 107) with a primetime slate featuring world premieres of new, one-hour, native 3D original programs CHINA REVEALED and FORGOTTEN PLANET, in addition to the world 3D television premiere of INTO THE DEEP 3D. Throughout February, the network will offer an unprecedented rollout of original 3D series and new program debuts every night at 9:00 PM ET. 3net will deliver compelling, native 3D content to the marketplace and thus serve as a critical driver for consumer adoption of in-home 3D entertainment. The partnership's commitment to the emerging 3D market is historic, with plans for the channel to offer viewers the largest library of native 3D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011.
The HomeGrid Forum (HGF) today announced a new liaison agreement with the ZigBee® Alliance to extend their collaboration on the ZigBee Smart Energy™ standard development. This work will pave the way for consumers and utilities to use ZigBee Smart Energy version 2.0 wireless or wired networks to further advance Smart Grid programs and deliver new energy, financial and environmental savings. Both organizations will collaborate on ensuring ZigBee Smart Energy version 2 and HomeGrid Forum's ITU-T G.hn and G.hnem standards can be utilized in a wide variety of smart grid usage models. When finalized, applications such as AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), Demand Response (DR), Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV) and any other Smart Grid application/service that needs a reliable Home Area Network (HAN) or distribution/access network will benefit. "ZigBee Smart Energy is a leading home area network and AMI standard that helps consumers gain greater control of their energy use," said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. "Working with HomeGrid will give energy service providers, utilities and consumers another wired choice when implementing either wired or wireless home area networks or utility links to smart meters."
The new Apple TV is already a hit, having sold more than 1 million units in just three months after its release, but the device could become even more popular if it becomes a hub for social games. New code in the next version of Apple TV's operating system hints at gaming capabilities being added - which could lure in a whole new fan base for the broadband set-top box, and could create a whole new revenue stream for Apple. Engadget reports that new code in the iOS 4.3 beta firmware has references to "ATVGames" and "ATVThunder," which could make it not just a streaming device but a gaming device as well. Social gaming is already incredibly popular on other iOS devices, to the tune of 19 million users spending more than 22 minutes per day using gaming apps on their iPhones, iPads and iPhone touch devices. That's on par with the number of viewers for popular TV programs such as Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars, suggesting there could be more of an audience for games on Apple TV than for actual video viewing.
We came across a fun product at ISE 2011 that we wanted to share. Unique Automation's unique bathomatic™ bath management system is a modular kit which can be fitted to any bath, bathomatic™ automatically controls the pre-programmed filling, water temperature, water depth and emptying of the bath water. It will also maintain temperature and automatically add bubble bath or fragrance, as required, on site or remotely. The system has now been developed to suit a range of applications both domestic and commercial, including hotels and care homes.
Coming out of CES this year, one of the main stories was the debut of new "passive" 3D TVs, announced by companies including LG, Toshiba, and Vizio. One big promise of passive 3D is that you can wear lightweight, inexpensive polarized glasses like the ones you get in movie theaters, rather than the bulkier, more expensive active-shutter glasses required by current 3D sets. The first passive 3D TV to hit the market is Vizio's 65-inch VT3D650SV ($3,700), a 1080p LCD TV that uses an edge LED backlight. We bought a set as soon as it was available and recently completed preliminary testing in our TV labs. For purposes of comparison, we pitted the new Vizio set against Panasonic's top-rated TC-P65VT25 ($4,300) plasma 3D TV. It's no secret that we've so far found plasma to be a better technology for 3D, primarily due to the lack of ghosting, so we were curious to see how the Vizio passive set stacked up. In general, there is a lot to like about the VT3D650SV. For one thing, the polarized glasses are very comfortable to wear; they weigh just 0.7 ounces, so they felt very similar to wearing regular sunglasses. We also liked that you get four pairs of glasses with the TV, with additional pairs expected to cost from $10 to $30. That's a far cry from the $130 to $150 you have to shell out for active glasses. In addition, the passive 3D glasses dim the image less than any of the active-shutter glasses we've tried, enabling the Vizio to produce the most satisfyingly bright picture we've experienced when viewing 3D.
Light control manufacturer Lutron Electronics has just announced the availability of an Apple iPad app for its wireless RadioRA 2 total light control system. The app is designed to control lights, shades, temperature and appliances, adding convenience and the benefits of saving energy throughout the home. The app allows homeowners to: monitor and control their system while away from home (ideal for vacation properties); enact a temporary, energy-saving "green" mode that reduces light levels and turns off unneeded appliances; personalize programming with a real-time level editor; control multiple homes from one iPad.
This year's ISE attracted a record 34,870 attendance to the Amsterdam RAI, representing a 22% increase on last year's figure. Mike Blackman, managing director, Integrated Systems Events, commented: "We have had a fantastic three days here in Amsterdam, our show aisles being packed with technology buyers and specifiers from the moment we opened on Tuesday morning to the doors closing at 6pm on Thursday." A total of 715 exhibitors, including 150 new companies, exhibited, representing an 11% rise on ISE 2010 - covering some 26,650 net square metres of floor space. "ISE has a distinctive European flavour but it is increasingly a forum for global business," Blackman said. "We have had substantial visitor growth from Russia, the Middle East, Africa and the Indian sub-continent, as well as modest but significant numbers of consultants and top-level integrators coming to us from Asia and North America for the first time."
Hyundai IT is demonstrating its full line-up of display solutions at ISE, including what the company describes as the world's first 3D videowall. With a diagonal of 138in, it comprises nine (3 x 3) stereoscopic 3D displays (Hyundai's new S468FL) and features almost seamless bezels giving an inter-screen gap of only 7.3mm. The 3D effect is achieved using polarised filters on both the displays as well as on the passive 3D-glasses. The company says that the integrated 3D-Formatter makes it possible to display common 3D video formats without any further accessories.
Despite earlier promises that Boxee's fledgling web-to-TV hardware device, the Boxee Box, would offer a Netflix app by the end of last year, the startup company has faced another setback. "We're in a bit of an awkward spot at the moment," Boxee wrote on its blog early Tuesday, and went on to explain that Boxee is still not offering a Netflix app on its hardware due to security issues. "The [Netflix] app works. It's been done for awhile now," Andrew Kippen, vice president of marketing for Boxee, told Digits. "What we have not yet met is Netflix's security requirement which requires sweeping changes to the underlying Boxee platform." He added that the company was "working to ensure that third party apps and developers can't tamper with the Boxee Box to gain root access to the system or tamper with other apps." Boxee has touted itself as an open-source system and says the company values the ability for anyone to build an application on Boxee.
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.
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