Consumer Sentiment Toward Technology Spending Jumps to Highest Point for October Since 2007, According to CEA Indexes

Consumer confidence toward technology spending jumped to the highest level for the month of October since 2007, while sentiment toward the overall economy increased two points in October, according to the latest figures released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. 

The CEA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, jumped 9.5 points in October to reach 90.2. 

"Consumer interest in tech has moved up decidedly heading into the holiday season," said Shawn DuBravac, CEA's chief economist and senior director of research. "Exciting product announcements coupled with early retailer promotions and advertisements are likely behind the jump in sentiment toward tech spending this month." 

Total retail sales for the November through December holiday sales period are expected to increase by 4.0 percent over last year, reaching $738 billion in total revenue, according to CEA's 2013 Holiday Retail Sales Forecast report. CEA's full 2013 holiday outlook will be released later today at CEA's Industry Forum in Los Angeles. 

New Samsung Smart Media Player Helps Any TV Get Smart

Samsung Electronics America, Inc. announced today the availability of the Samsung Smart Media Player (GX-SM530CF), bringing live TV content and all of the Smart TV apps consumers know and love to their current TVs that lack Smart Hub capabilities. Packed with more than 100 Smart Apps including Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, VUDU and YouTube, the Smart Media Player also enables viewers to access cable content without having to pay expensive monthly rental fees associated with a cable box. 

At just $149.99, the Samsung Smart Media Player delivers an affordable way for consumers to easily discover and enjoy the live TV programming and movies they love. With the included remote, viewers can seamlessly switch between cable content to the many video and social apps available through the device. 

Insert Coin semifinalist: Smart Power Strip helps you do home automation yourself

Seems like everyone's trying to get a piece of the home automation action these days. Question is, however, if pricey catchall systems are really the answer. Smart Power Strip offers a simple, affordable solution, letting you control and monitor appliances in real-time using your smartphone. The power strip has outlets that can be managed individual via your handset both at home and remotely. The strip also features two USB ports for charging -- because it's 2013, after all.

Pro AV Forecast: Peaks and Valleys?

AV companies are at it again. You’re reporting growing sales, surging cash balances, and two-year-high gross margins. What’s not to love about these business conditions?

“We are seeing a strong uptick in all the AV indicators,” reports Frank Coker, CEO of CoreConnex, which recently published a new InfoComm AV Industry Index, based on real-world business data from companies that take adavantage of the Corelytics Financial Dashboard software through InfoComm. ”Our big caution is that this is somewhat of a repeat of a spike we saw last year that was followed by several months of downtrend. Our research shows that seasonal patterns have not been consistent over the past four years, so we shouldn’t assume a pullback is inevitable, but caution would be appropriate.”

In a nutshell, according to InfoComm members who use the dashboard, monthly sales growth is up 16 percent over six months, gross margins are up almost 50 percent for the same period, and the rise in cash balanaces is almost off the charts.

Ken LaCroix, CEO of TrackPoint Business Advisors, one of several companies available to advise AV comnpanies through the Corelytics program, expects companies to put fresh capital to use to drive profits. He notes that sales trends have been variable, but are pointed up, and advises AV firms to manage margins and cash to remain healthy.

Sonos Introduces The Play:1, A Little $199 Speaker With Big Sound

Over the years, Sonos has built a reputation for producing high-quality stereo components that can magically connect to your own personal music library, as well as a large number of streaming services online. Today the company is introducing the Play:1, which is the smallest, most affordable product in its portfolio of wireless speakers.

The Play:1 follows a number of new products that Sonos has released recently, as it seeks to capture a new generation of fans who are turning to streaming music services to get their fix. There was the Sonos Playbar, released earlier this year as the centerpiece of its home-theater ambitions, as well as the Sonos Subsubwoofer launched a year ago.

In each case, Sonos is making components that are designed to quickly and easily plug in to any user’s home network and turn up high-definition sound with minimal fuss. Each piece works by connecting to the Sonos Bridge, which is like the central hub for any and all Sonos products in the home.

From there, products can be paired with each other in the same room, or they can be connected separately in different rooms to create a whole-home stereo system. Being able to connect, mix, match, and reconfigure your home theater system is kind of like “speaker LEGOs”, as one Sonos executive described it to me.

Apple iWatch is actually a home automation play, not a smartphone companion (analyst)

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch launched a couple of weeks ago as a fat, ugly, and expensive smartphone accessory.

That’s not where Apple is going with iWatch.

Rather, Apple is looking to create a device that will allow you to control your music, your temperature, your security, your lighting, your energy use, your entertainment, and potentially much more, says Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian White, who talked to Taiwanese and mainland China suppliers.

“As an Apple supplier, our contact offered insight into the “iWatch” and described this potential new device as much more than an extension of your iPhone but as a multi-purpose gateway in allowing consumers to control their home (i.e., heating/cooling, lights, audio, video, etc.),” White said today in a research note.

Is Energy Efficiency the Most Popular In-Home Automation?

A new study from the Consumer Electronics Association found that energy efficiency technologies are the most popular amongst home automation options in American houses.

Programmable and/or smart thermostats beat out home security and entertainment automation for the top honor, with 47 percent of households saying they had at least one.

The findings, which come from an online survey of about 1000 people, would seem to be a win for energy efficiency. But most of the homes had programmable thermostats, which are often used incorrectly, if at all.

One study from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory [PDF] found that 89 percent of survey respondents rarely or never used the thermostat to set a weekday or weekend program. Seventy percent were not set at all.

Programmable thermostats have been around for more than 30 years, but a new generation of smart thermostats that connect with smartphones and the Internet make programming far easier. Not only is the interface easier to use but some have algorithms that can learn your household thermal characteristics and daily patterns to help fine-tune settings.

Samsung Shape M7 brings wireless smartphone-ready audio to the home

The wireless speaker system universe has seen another high-powered member born this week in the Samsung Shape M7 Wireless Audio Multiroom speaker system. This system works in collaboration with the Samsung Hub to connect a multi-room audio experience. The Samsung Shape model M7 works with the Samsung Hub for one-stop-shop connectivity or with Bluetooth and NFC for quick-touch control from your smartphone.

While this system works in a manner similar to that of the Sonos wireless speaker system, here you’re entering the extended universe of Samsung’s products, including smartphone, smart TVs, and more. Each Samsung Shape M7 works with dual-band WiFi for next-level uninterrupted connectivity as well as Multi-Channel Mesh Network technology to assure you a complete lack of network traffic problems.
This speaker system works with a variety of apps or with your own locally-stored collection of music. If you’ve got a PC, laptop, or smartphone with MP3 files galore, for example, playing them across your Samsung Shape network of speakers is a snap. Amazon Cloud Player, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio, and Pandora work right out the box as well.

The death of the home stereo system

For many years, it was a rite of fall.

You moved into your dorm room or new apartment. You started unpacking the car. And the first thing you set up in your new place was the stereo system: receiver, turntable or CD player, tape deck and speakers.

The wires could get tangled, and sometimes you had to make shelving out of a stack of milk crates. But only when the music was playing on those handpicked CDs, mix tapes or (geezer alert!) vinyl records did you move in the rest of your stuff.

Daniel Rubio wouldn't know.

To the 23-year-old, new dorm rooms and new apartments have meant computers, iTunes, Pandora and miniature speakers.

"All I had to bring was my laptop. That's pretty much what everyone had," says Rubio, who attended Emory University in Atlanta and now works for a local marketing and communications firm. "It was actually pretty good sound. It would get the job done."

"Get the job done"? That sounds like the white flag for an era that used to be measured in woofers and tweeters, watts per channel and the size of your record collection.  Full Article:

CEDIA EXPO Shows Positive Gains Across the Board

CEDIA EXPO 2013 experienced positive gains in attendance, exhibitor participation, and training registrations. More than 470 exhibitors and 17,900 attendees from 84 countries participated in the 2013 event inDenver.  Professional and overall attendance both grew by 6% while new exhibitor participation grew by 20% and first-time attendees increased by 50% year over year. CEDIA Training also experienced record growth with over 6300 course registrations representing a 50% participation increase.

CEDIA EXPO 2013 was described as "phenomenal," "energized," and "exceeding expectations."

"The show has far exceeded our expectations," said Joaquin Rivera, vice president of sales for Stewart Filmscreen. "We have a much better attendance and not just in terms of numbers. The attendees are happy and positive and they have jobs in the pipeline and that makes a huge difference."

"This is our second year exhibiting and we'll be back again next year," said Justin Jordan, vice president of client relations for Monoprice. "Turn out has been great both from customers who know us and those who don't know us. We've gotten a lot of leads and it's been a great opportunity to build our brand awareness explain who we are and explain our product sets."


Obstacles to future proofing home automation

When contemplating a home-automation project — as with many other technology decisions — the right place to start is ensuring you’re purchasing something that is future proof.

As a veteran of the networking industry, future proofing is a technology decision that has some well-understood rules. Computer networking benefits from open standards that drive interoperability, and our customers in turn benefit from fierce competition as well as the knowledge that an open, generally interoperable standard reduces their risk. Even if you buy an Ethernet switch from a vendor that stops supporting it (or worse, goes out of business), a switch can provide years of useful service because it, by definition, works with many devices that come after it.

Home automation depends heavily on tying together sensors, controllers, and an application framework.  Unfortunately, the lesson of having common standards to drive that networking has yet to become apparent in the products available on the market.  There are several network technologies that are used in home automation today, but none is fully suitable for creating a market.  One of the reasons why there is extensive hobbyist work done by programmers writing and modifying code on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms is that the market for shrink-wrapped automation devices has been unable to grow without a technology framework that allows good ideas to be developed and “plug into” an existing system.  Full Article:

CEDIA 2013 - HomeToys has all the news from this years show

The best and brightest of the Home Technology and Integration industry gathered in Denver, Colorado at CEDIA to learn new skills, discover innovative solutions, network and have a great time celebrating the industry.

Attracting more than 450 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees from over 70 countries, CEDIA is the top Home Technology and Integration show of the year.

For well over a decade has been covering CEDIA and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event.  

Make sure to check out our special CEDIA 2013 Newspage for Exhibitor news and announcements.

Our Special CEDIA Tradeshow report is now online and highlights a few of the many exciting product releases from this years show.

Wi-Fi-connected doorbell DoorBot shrinks down, adds new features

When CNET last wrote about DoorBot, Bot Home Automation was pitching its Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell/security camera combo device on crowd-funding site Christie Street. Having achieved its $250,000 goal, DoorBot is now almost ready to ship to its initial round of backers.

The company was on-hand at the PepCom event in New York City with a DoorBot demo (hence our video above). Since we first heard about the product, a few things have changed in regard to its specs and pricing. Its core function, letting you see who's at your door through a mobile app, remains intact.

Some of its biggest updates come by way of the hardware in the final production units, compared with what BOT showed during fundraising. A more efficient design gives it 33 percent size reduction overall, according to BOT and an accompanying diagram. You can also hardwire the DoorBot directly to your doorbell wiring now, and BOT has replaced the standard battery compartment with a USB rechargeable internal battery. The company says it has also added a security screw to the design, which should allay fears that the device might be tempting to steal, and a level on the mounting hardware, to simplify installation.

Honeywell voice-activated thermostat has its say

Honeywell has been playing catch-up in the smart thermostat game of late. Their $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is extremely capable, but came on the heels of the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat; a slightly panicked response to a surprise competitor.

But today’s announcement from Honeywell serves as a reminder that an industry rival can be a good thing -- it tends to speed up innovation and it makes us consumers feel like we’re being courted. Not too shabby.

I’m talking about the newly announced $349 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control.

And if you think it looks a lot like the $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat I recently reviewed, you would be right. It is essentially the same: you will still be able to control your heating and cooling remotely using Honeywell's Total Connect Comfort app for Android and iOS, you can still change the background color to suit your mood or wall color, and it will still learn your habits over time. But the $349 model comes with a pretty major update: cloud-based voice-recognition tech.

To activate voice control on this thermostat, you simply say, "Hello, thermostat." You can be anywhere in your house -- provided it's no more than 25 feet away -- and the far-field voice-control tech takes care of the rest. It claims to cancel out any background noise so it's ready to listen intently for your commands. Honeywell also says that this model will add more commands to enhance your level of interactivity over time -- I'm pretty excited to test that functionality.

HDMI 2.0: What you need to know

The HDMI Forum, the nonprofit body that oversees the HDMI specification, recently announced version 2.0. There were numerous changes, not least support for higher frame rates than are possible with the current 1.4 specification.

Do you need to upgrade? Will your cables still work? What does this mean for the future of TVs? Do you care? Answers for all these questions (except maybe the last one) below...

First, here's where we are now. The until-now most recent version of the HDMI specification was version 1.4. It specified a number of things, like 4,096x2,160-pixel resolution up to 24 frames per second, or 3,820x2,160 up to 30fps. If you've bought any gear with an HDMI connector in the past few years, it's probably version 1.4. It carried over all the features and support from previous versions, plus added 3D, Audio Return Channel, and so on.

2.0 for 4K
With the TV industry moving inexorably toward Ultra HD "4K," it was clear there needed to be more bandwidth in the connection to handle the future's higher resolutions and frame rates. On that front, HDMI 2.0 delivers, supporting "4K" (2160p by the Forum's explanation) up to 60fps. This allows for full-resolution 4K 3D, along with higher-frame-rate 2D content, like (potentially) home videos and computer games (PC, not PS4/Xbox One). Since almost all movies are shot at 24fps, this increase is less important for feature films or scripted TV shows.

Full Article:

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