Apple and Amazon take fight from smart home to hotel room

Caitlin McGarry for MacWorld: The high-end Wynn Las Vegas resort chose Alexa last December, adding Amazon Echo devices in its suites. Now Marriott International is trying to decide between Amazon and Apple, according to a Bloomberg report. The JW Marriott in San Antonio, Texas has been testing Amazon Alexa-integrated devices since October as an operator of sorts-the conduit to room service and housekeeping. Alexa can also control the lighting in a handful of the Marriott's rooms, though that isn't her primary role.

Celebrity Cruises brings smart home automation to its latest ship class

Julian Chokkattu for DigitalTrends:  Celebrity Cruises has unveiled a new ship that was completely designed in 3D. The Celebrity Edge won't be operational for some time, but the company offered a sneak peak at how technology will improve a guest's experience on the ship. At 1,004 feet long and 128 feet wide, the Celebrity Edge can carry 3,373 guests in total, as well as 1,320 members of the crew. It features 1,467 staterooms, 14 passenger decks, 12 passenger elevators, and more. As Carnival highlighted in its announcement earlier this year, Celebrity Edge will feature "friction-less arrival," meaning guests won't have to wait in long lines for a check-in process. This will work through a combination of facial recognition software and geo-fenced beacons.   Cont'd...

Sonos introduces PLAYBASE - an off the wall approach to TV sound

Sonos announced PLAYBASE, the latest addition to its wireless home sound system and the newest speaker in their home theater lineup. Inspired by the simple insight that up to 70% of all TVs stand on furniture and are not mounted to the wall, PLAYBASE is a thin, yet powerful speaker that sits discreetly under the TV. Priced at $699 US and available in both black and white, PLAYBASE will be available globally starting on April 4, 2017.  At just 58 mm in height and packing 10 drivers, PLAYBASE offers everything you'd expect from a Sonos speaker - great sound when the TV is on and music all the time when it's off. It was designed to disappear into the home. Appearing as if it was cut from a single piece of granite, it challenges conventional expectations of sound from a thin speaker. The construction comes together with no visible seams resulting in incredibly clean lines, an ultra-flat top surface, and more than 43,000 holes that make up an acoustically transparent grill.   Full Press Release:

Sound United Announces Acquisition of D+M Group

Sound United LLC, parent company to Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, and Polk BOOM, today announced it has completed the acquisition of the D+M Group, owner of the Denon, HEOS by Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics brands. The D+M Group is the largest supplier of audio/video receivers worldwide and a leader in wireless multi-room audio. Sound United is the largest supplier of loudspeakers in North America and a leading supplier of sound bars and wireless music systems. The combined company will be known as Sound United, which will own and operate some of the most prestigious brands in the consumer audio space, providing synergy opportunities for the existing core businesses, while also unlocking the potential to expand the product portfolio and market reach. The sale was finalized on February 28, 2017 and the terms of the sale were not disclosed.   Full Press Release:

Control4 Acquires Triad Speakers

Control4 Corporation (NASDAQ: CTRL), a leading global provider of smart home solutions, today announced the acquisition of Triad Speakers, Inc., a leader in advanced audio technology with best-in-class, customizable speaker-solutions.  "Entertainment is integral to the connected home and our Control4 dealers are designing end-to-end experiences for family room entertainment, home theaters, and indoor and outdoor multi-room music for their customers," said Martin Plaehn, Control4 Chairman and CEO. "The acquisition of Triad brings proven premium-acoustics experience and innovation to our company, enabling us to immediately deepen our entertainment offering and develop new integrated-audio experiences for the future."   Full Press Release:

How Amazon's Alexa Could Drive the Connected Car Revolution

Harsh Chauhan for The Motley Fool:  From pulling up location coordinates to finding a free parking spot or opening the garage door, virtual assistants in cars are going to play a key role in powering the connected-car revolution. The voice-enabled virtual assistant space is becoming hotly contested among tech giants. Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), however, seems to be taking the lead in this market with its Alexa Automotive platform, which is powered by the Echo voice assistant. The company has lined up deals with some of the biggest automakers, and is also receiving support from third-party accessory manufacturers such as Logitech (NASDAQ:LOGI) that could give Alexa a major push. The Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas last month showed that Alexa is finding favor among carmakers, as Ford (NYSE:F) and Volkswagen (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY) both said they had signed up to use the platform for services including weather updates and navigation. This is a big deal for Amazon; it needs to sign up big automakers for Alexa to steal a march on rivals such as Microsoft's Cortana and Alphabet's Google Assistant.   Cont'd...

EchoStar Pushes Fitness Overlays for Home Automation

Steve Donohue for The Donohue Report:  Dish Network sibling EchoStar has developed a system that could link a subscriber’s home fitness equipment with a television and home automation system. Dale Moutain, a software engineer for EchoStar and SmarDTV, is named as inventor on the patent application published on Thursday. EchoStar submitted the application, titled, “Fitness overlay and incorporation for home automation system,” last October. Abstract: Systems and methods for displaying fitness information with an electronic device may include receiving multimedia content at an input of the electronic device. The electronic device may provide the audiovisual content to a display device. The electronic device may also receive fitness information, and may provide this fitness information to the display device.   Cont'd...

Smart Home Hardware and Services Revenue Set for a Steep Growth

Pratibha Nanduri for ReadITQuick:  Market research company Juniper Research, has released its latest report titled “Smart Home Markets: Entertainment, Monitoring, Automation, Health, Metering, Appliances 2017-2021.” The report on the research predicts that the market is slated for a steep growth from $83 billion in 2017 to $195 billion by 2021. The smart home market is a fast-moving one driven by Internet of Things (IoT) technologies like monitoring, smart automation and energy management services, required in consumer homes. Segment Evaluation The main segments driving this growth will be healthcare, automation, entertainment and connected devices. The smart appliances and home automation segment would be the fastest growing one during the forecast period with big companies like Samsung, Bosch and GE Appliances driving the growth. The revenue from the entertainment segment is expected to slow down due to increased use of home automation and smart appliances in emerging markets. In the connected services segment, the market share of Amazon and Netflix would fall from 70% in 2017 to 50% in 2021.   Cont'd...

Sony's New High Definition TV Has a Screen That's Also a Speaker

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:  It's been a while since a new TV raised any eyebrows, but Sony Corp. has just unveiled a new product that's creating a bit of buzz at the annual CES industry gathering in Las Vegas.   Sony's XBR-A1E Bravia 4K is the electronics maker's first commercial foray into the niche market for televisions that use OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, technology. While the vivid, power-sipping screens have found their way onto smartphones, the cost of making them has so far limited their appeal for TVs. Only LG Electronics Inc. has made a serious effort to sell OLED TVs. Panasonic Corp. also unveiled an OLED TV at this year's CES. What's different about Sony's new A1E TV, however, is that the screen doubles as a speaker. By vibrating the display itself, Sony said it will be able to offer the "perfect unification of picture and sound unattainable by conventional TVs." This is possible because OLED screens don't require a backlight, according to the Tokyo-based company.   Cont'd...

How to upgrade your home audio system without spending too much

David Nield for T3.com:  If you're looking to get better sound for your music, movies and podcasts around the home, then there are a dizzying number of options to sort through - no matter what you're looking to do, chances are there's a smart bit of kit out there to help you do it. For this particular feature we're going to look at reasonably-priced but top notch audio hardware - you really can break the bank with a home audio system, but if your budget's more towards the lower end of the scale, these are some of the devices worth a look.   Cont'd...

Smart Home Technology Is Revolutionizing The Music Industry

Beth Kotz for Hypebot:  The steady march of progress through technology has radically altered the way many industries operate, and perhaps nowhere is that effect more evident than in the music industry. The movement toward digital media has changed everything from the way music is produced to the way it is discovered, purchased and consumed by listeners. Now, the Internet of Things, and in particular the rise of interconnected “smart” home technology, promises to once again revolutionize the way the music industry operates and engages with consumers. Rather than being tethered to a PC or laptop, listeners equipped with smart tech can now discover and stream music seamlessly throughout their homes. The Streaming Revolution In the not-too-distant past, listeners needed to venture out to the store and purchase a CD in order to enjoy their favorite music. Word-of-mouth recommendations, television and radio were the most common ways to discover new music. With the explosion of streaming, however, a vast universe of music is now placed at users' fingertips for instant, affordable listening.   Cont'd...

Here's Why You're Paying $200 to Rent a Clunky TV Set-Top Box

Todd Shields for Bloomberg:  Imagine watching TV without paying the cable company for the blinking set-top box, using a gadget of your choice that makes it easy to switch between cable channels, streaming programs and online shows. The idea, simple in concept, is proving difficult in execution. U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is pushing a plan to force cable companies to give up their control over set-top boxes, "unlocking" the marketplace as he puts it. But he’s drawn opposition from lawmakers in both parties, not to mention some of the most active corporate lobbyists in Washington. Comcast Corp. and the cable industry -- which stands to lose $20 billion a year in box rentals -- say it’s unnecessary and are fighting it. So are Hollywood studios, DirecTV owner AT&T Inc., and CBS Corp. Even a fellow commission Democrat said Wheeler’s plan set for a Sept. 29 vote is flawed.   Cont'd...

The new Echo Dot gives Amazon the top spot in the smart home market

BI Intelligence:  Amazon announced the upcoming release of the second-generation Echo Dot, the smaller version of its popular Echo voice controlled speaker. The new device will be available starting on October 20and can currently be pre-ordered. The company also announced it would be lowering the price, selling Dots in packages of six or 12, expanding into new markets, and will be offering a white version. These four announcements will help Amazon drastically increase its total addressable market for the Echo line of products:   Click here for more...

Sonos Is Adding Third-Party App Support

Janko Roettgers for Variety:  Sonos is finally going beyond its own app: Spotify users will soon be able to control their Sonos speakers straight from the Spotify app, the company announced at an event in New York Tuesday. Support for Spotify Connect will be added “in the coming weeks,” said Sonos head of Software development Antoine LeBlond. Previously, Sonos owners had to access Spotify’s service through the Sonos app, which essentially meant that they had to switch between two apps for listening to music at home and on the go. With the new third-party app integration, Spotify’s app is also getting the ability to manage zones, meaning that consumers will be able to decide which speakers the music will play on.   Cont'd... Read Sonos Press Release here:

Best Buy Finally Figures Out the Internet

Shelly Banjo & Shira Ovide for BloombergGadfly:  Best Buy's quarterly financial results on Tuesday were downright Amazon-like: Consecutive quarters of double-digit online sales growth. Hot new products including virtual-reality headsets and techy watches. Words like "exploration" and "experimentation." Gone were the store-closing announcements of quarters past, along with talk of bad weather or other tired excuses for why consumers aren't shopping (many of which we've heard from Target, Macy's and other retailers in recent weeks). Shares surged 19 percent on the news, marking Best Buy's biggest one-day stock gain since 2001.   Cont'd...

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