Sony launches crowdfunding site, features e-paper home control

Tim Hornyak, IDG News Service:  Struggling electronics maker Sony has moved further into the crowdfunding scene by starting its own platform to raise funds for internally generated business ideas, including a new universal remote control with an electronic paper interface.

Launched Wednesday, First Flight is a crowdfunding and e-commerce platform designed to take product proposals from the ideas to sales. It’s only available in Japanese and is limited to Sony’s in-house projects.

First Flight has three stages, a teaser stage, in which new ideas can be previewed and discussed, followed by crowdfunding and e-commerce.

“One of the strengths and aims of First Flight is to facilitate ongoing dialogue with customers from initial development through to market introduction, by seamlessly connecting each phase from previewing and crowd funding to e-commerce,” a Sony spokeswoman said.  Cont'd...

Bluetooth speakers drive growth in home audio, says firm

The home audio market (wireless speakers, soundbars, Hi-Fi systems, A/V receivers and speaker docks) grew by 22% to ship 71 million units. Trade value also grew by 22%, generating just under US$10 billion worth of revenues in 2014, according to Futuresource Consulting.

Wireless speakers and soundbar shipments exceeded market expectations and accounted for the lion's share, far outweighing the decline in demand for traditional audio devices i.e. A/V receivers and Hi-Fi systems. The wireless speaker market was fuelled by strong growth in Bluetooth speakers in the lower end of the price spectrum and multi-room audio at the premium end.

Home audio devices increasingly offer wireless functionality and shipments with this feature grew by 93% from 27 million units in 2013 to 53 million units in 2014. Futuresource said it predicts that virtually all home audio devices will be wireless by 2019.

Hitachi Introduces High-Performance Wireless Whole-Home Audio Speakers

Hitachi America, Ltd. today announced the debut of three stylish new Wi-Fi enabled speakers powered by the AllPlay™ smart media platform, a wireless whole-home audio solution developed by Qualcomm®. AllPlay is a complete hardware and software whole home audio platform that offers manufacturers and consumers a unified solution for local media and cloud based Wi-Fi streaming across iOS and Android platforms.
 
Hitachi’s smart speakers offer seamless streaming of high-quality local and cloud-based audio content – with the high performance and versatility of Wi-Fi – at three affordable price points. Industry-leading audio streaming music services such as Spotify®, Rhapsody® and others have committed to supporting speaker products powered by AllPlay this year.

CEDIA Launches Video Guide to Smart Home Wiring

CEDIA (the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) has produced a new video Guide to Smart Home Wiring which introduces consumers, builders and design professionals to the benefits that a properly designed and installed cabling infrastructure can provide in homes today. 

"We all dream of living in a comfortable, secure and energy efficient home," says Matt Nimmons, CEDIA EMEA's Operations Director. "The reality is that technology can now be seamlessly integrated and controlled to deliver these benefits to us all. By following the Best Practice advice within CEDIA's Smart Home Recommended Wiring Guidelines, this video shows how the right cabling infrastructure is an essential requirement for the internet-connected smart home." 

CEDIA's Guide to Smart Home Wiring looks at how technology is an integral part of a typical family's lifestyle in today's home. It then explains how the right wiring infrastructure can manage and distribute audio-visual, lighting, heating, security and other data hungry services effectively within a property whilst, at the same time, helping to minimise electronic box and cable clutter in the home. 

Sony announces 2015 home and portable audio ranges

Sony has announced an extensive line-up of new audio products for both in the home and on the go.
 
The home audio products — new sound bars, wireless speakers, and audio/video receivers  —  have prioritised high-resolution audio, multiroom connectivity and expanded music streaming capabilities. For example the range will offer Google Cast and Spotify Connect. The new Google Cast platform allows you to control music directly from music streaming apps like Deezer, Rdio, Pandora and Google Play Music. To cater to growing consumer demand for multiroom audio, a complete home sound system can be set up and controlled throughout multiple rooms with the Sony app SongPal.
 
“Imagine stepping into your home and being greeted by your favourite music being streamed seamlessly throughout every room. With a touch of a button, you can access a world of music options and control all the connected speakers within in your home,” said Abel Makhraz, head of video, sound & tablet, Sony Australia & New Zealand.
 
For inside or outside the home Sony has announced a range of portable wireless speakers. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours with Bluetooth and NFC to stream music from your smartphone or tablet.

Control4 Brings 4K Ultra HD to the Smart Home With New 4K Media Distribution Solutions

Control4 Corporation is now bringing 4K Ultra HD content distribution to smart homes across the world by providing fully HDCP 2.2 compliant 4K UHD audio and video matrix switches for home automation installations. 4K UHD is the new standard for high-definition video, and is redefining the home entertainment experience for consumers by providing four-times the resolution of standard 1080P HD video content. Available for order today, the new line of Control4® 4K UHD Matrix Switches provides the ability to distribute 4K content, including copy-protected content, to every room in the Control4 Smart Home without the need for additional hardware or software.
 
“We are committed to delivering on the promise of 4K by offering compelling video distribution solutions to homeowners who expect the very best in entertainment,” said Martin Plaehn, Control4 Chairman and CEO. “Our recent acquisition of Leaf, the Australia-based provider of audio/video distribution products, helped us get to market faster with a comprehensive media distribution solution that is truly 4K-ready today.”

ISE 2015 underway in Amsterdam

Integrated Systems Europe 2015 is now underway in Amsterdam.  With over 1000 scheduled exhibitors and 50,000 attendees this years show will be Europe's largest ever AV Systems integration exhibition.

This year they will be offering a dedicated "Discovey Zone" showcasing the first time exhibitors at ISE.  As well they have divided the show floor into 4 technology areas:  : Digital Signage; Residential Solutions; Unified Communications and Smart Building.

As usual The HomeToys Team we'll be busy posting news and product announcements from this years show which you can view on our ISE 2015 Newspage.

ELAN® Debuts World's First Universal Remote Controller Featuring Built-In Whole Home Control

A universal remote controller that offers complete home control is now a reality through the new ELAN® g1 Controller from Core Brands' ELAN Home Systems. Requiring no monthly contract and offering a wide variety of home control functionality, the ELAN g1 is leaps and bounds ahead of other low-cost home control solutions. ELAN has been making the easiest-to-use, yet most powerful home control solutions for more than 25 years, and this is the brand's first entry into the sub-$1,000 market. That means for about the price of a new TV, users can gain complete control, not just of their televisions and home theaters, but also of their entire homes. 

The ELAN g1 lets homeowners use a single handheld remote control to manage up to 16 zones of security, two electronic door locks, an audio/video receiver with up to 32 connected TVs, up to 24 lighting keypads, three thermostats, three IP surveillance cameras and up to 16 groups of irrigation. With ELAN's deep experience in home control, the system is designed to be fully expandable to grow with any user's home or budget. 

Amazon just surprised everyone with a crazy speaker that talks to you

Well this one came out of nowhere: Amazon is building a speaker that's controlled with your voice. It's called Echo, and Amazon tells The Verge it will be "shipping in the coming weeks." Available on an invite-only basis to start, Echo is regularly priced at $199. But for a limited time, Amazon will offer Echo for $99 to Prime members who receive an invite. Amazon says the black, cylindrical speaker is always connected to the cloud and will provide information, music, news, weather, and more whenever you ask for it. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from Google — only it's an Amazon product.

The built-in voice recognition can hear users from across the room, according to Amazon, essentially acting as a Siri-like personal assistant crammed inside a speaker. It listens to user requests using seven microphones and can understand your voice even while playing music. "These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction," reads the product's page. The speaker also produces 360-degree audio to fill an entire room. It'll play music from Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Plus. And it's fully Bluetooth compatible, making playback from Spotify, Pandora, and other audio apps possible. Companion smartphone apps on Android and Fire OS will launch upon availability to help buyers set up and get started with the speaker, but everyone else (including iOS users) will need to access it via a web app. Amazon tells The Verge that a dedicated iOS app is in the works.

Sharp's new High Resolution Audio Player could spell the death of the A/V receiver

When most people think of Sharp, they likely think about really big TVs. However, in an effort to help you clean up your home theater, the company has been working on something even bigger than their TVs, and it’s finally ready for its coming-out party. Today, Sharp unveiled its new media player, which uses dual wireless technologies to transmit both high resolution audio and video without cables. Sharp calls it the Sharp High Resolution Audio Player, but the name doesn’t do the device justice — it’s way more than just a high-res audio player.
 
Sharp has been developing its futuristic new player, the model SD-WH100U, for years. In fact, we caught a glimpse of what this technology could do in early 2013 at CES, and the prototype version of today’s device thoroughly impressed, able to send crystal clear audio and video to a surround sound speaker system and TV that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional wired setup.
 
Using the wide open spaces of the 5.2-5.8 GHz frequency band, the player is able to transmit high resolution audio at up to 24bit/96kHz from FLAC, WAV, and even DSD files over the up-and-coming WiSA (Wireless Speakers and Audio) standard. It also plays SACDs and Blu-rays, and thanks to an adapter that speaks the Wireless HD protocol, WiHD, it also sends top-notch 1080p HD video to any TV.

 

CEDIA EXPO SHOWS STEADY GROWTH

CEDIA EXPO 2014 showed steady growth in attendance and exhibitor participation. More than 480 exhibitors and 18,500 attendees from 82 countries participated in the 2014 event in Denver.  Professional and overall attendance both grew by 3%, and the overall exhibitor footprint also saw growth with a 14% increase in the square footage of the show floor.

“CEDIA EXPO continues to be a vital venue for home technology decision makers to connect and experience the latest and greatest the industry has to offer,” said Don Gilpin, CEDIA Executive Director and COO. “Not only did attendees see where the industry is going on the show floor, they also saw it in the classroom. CEDIA EXPO offered 110 training sessions, 48 of which were new, offering attendees avenues to stay up to date on the skills they need to remain competitive in the industry. From product launches and demos to networking and training events, CEDIA EXPO 2014 proved to be a fantastic success."

Attendees remained consistent in their professional development with CEDIA training and this year’s certification offerings. All CEDIA Certification exam sessions sold out and 40+ training classes were sold out.

CEDIA ANNOUNCES 2014 ELECTRONIC LIFESTYLES® AWARDS WINNERS

The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) recognized the outstanding work of its members at the annual Electronic Lifestyles® Awards Celebration Saturday night. The honorees included over 40 winning projects in the Designer Awards competition, 11 Manufacturers' Excellence Awards winners, the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and this year's top volunteers. Also at this year's Awards Celebration, CEDIA paid special recognition to the founding members of the association as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration. 

The Designer Awards competition, which honors the best projects completed by home technology professional members in the past year, featured winners in such categories as Best Integrated Home, Best Media Room, Best Hidden Installation, and Best Home Theater. The Designer Awards winners were determined by a panel of expert judges that included home technology professionals, architects, and interior designers. Also recognized were the three winners in the CEDIA/HGTVRemodels.com People's Pick Awards, which were voted on by visitors to HGTVRemodels.com.

The Manufacturers' Excellence Awards honorees included 10 Best New Product winners, one Sustainable Lifestyle Product Innovation winner, and three inductees into the Product Hall of Fame. The winners were selected by a panel of home technology professional judges. 

The full list of award winners can be viewed at here.

For all the News and announcements from this years show make sure to check out our SPECIAL CEDIA NEWSPAGE  & Check out our Special CEDIA Tradeshow Report.

CEDIA 2014 - Underway in Denver Colorado

CEDIA 2014 is underway in Denver, Colorado with training sessions beginning on September 10th and the Show room floor opening up on the 11th.  This years show used the slogan "Hyper-Change" to signify the ongoing evolution of the residential AV market and promises to showcase "New Products, New Innovations and New Demands."  

Showcasing a full spectrum of the Home Technology trends that are relevant today and tomorrow CEDIA 2014 hosted thousands of visitors browsing the booths of nearly 500 exhibitors.  As well over 100 courses will be offered that cover home automation, home theater, audio video, systems integration and networking.
 
As usual HomeToys.com is on hand to see what was what at this years show.  Stay tuned for our Special CEDIA Tradeshow Report.  
 
For all the News and announcements from this years show make sure to check out our SPECIAL CEDIA NEWSPAGE.

Demand For Wireless High Resolution Home Theater Audio Sparks Growth in Wireless Speaker and Audio Association

The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA®) Association, an industry group dedicated to bringing, high resolution, wireless, multi-channel audio products to the home theater market, continues its fast growth with the addition of six new members.
 
According to Raiyska Iyer, Market Research Analyst for Futuresource Consulting, home audio represents an enormous opportunity for manufacturers and retailers with wireless speakers and soundbars growing at 181% and 81% annually. To date, wireless audio solutions have been limited to only a stereo experience, the key advantage of WiSA-compliant components is that it is the first solution to offer high-resolution audio from 2.0 to 7.4 channels. And, WiSA-compliant systems are fully interoperable, allowing the consumer the convenience and freedom-of-choice to mix and match components from different manufacturers. 
 
"The surge in membership and the adoption of WiSA-compliant products is a reflection of the Association's category leading wireless audio solution," said Tom Lee, president of the WiSA Association. "WiSA members are able to deliver what consumers want, a full multi-channel, wireless home theater experience. The interference-free, wireless high-resolution audio products are easy to set up and interoperate with other compliant CE devices like HDTVs, set-top-boxes, gaming devices and more." 

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D-Tools System Integrator 2015 (SI 2015)

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D-Tools System Integrator 2015 (SI 2015) is a complete estimation, design, and project management software solution. From large commercial integrators to smaller companies, SI 2015 helps increase revenues while reducing time and costs associated with the integration of low-voltage systems. SI 2015's data-driven workflow links equipment lists to project documentation - including estimates, and drawings (via Visio or AutoCAD), and enables the creation of Work and Service Orders to effectively manage the project to completion. Award-winning enhancements to the software include Mobile Install management and inventory tracking in QuickBooks.