CES 2014 - HomeToys has all the news from this years show

The best and brightest of the Home Technology and Integration industry journey to Las Vegas each January to search through the mass of people and products displayed at CES. Attracting more than 3000 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees from nearly every country, CES is the top Electronics show in the world. This years show took place as usual from January 7th - 10th in Las Vegas, Nevada. For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering CES and sifting through all the news pages and product announcements to bring you a special CES Newspage devoted to the key trends and most important announcements to the Home Technology and AV Systems industry. Make sure to check out our special  CES 2014 Newspage  for Exhibitor news and announcements.

Samsung Shape wireless audio platform expands with cheaper M5 speaker

From  CNet - The Samsung Shape wireless audio system was clearly designed to take on Sonos, but when it launched back in October, there was only a single-speaker option -- the Shape M7. Now the company is expanding the Shape lineup, with the newly-announced M5 speaker. The M5 will cost less than the $400 M7 but offers similar functionality, using the same Wi-Fi based standard to stream music throughout your home. The M5 will also support the same set of streaming music services, which includes Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora, Rhapsody, and TuneIn, in addition to music stored on your PC and smartphone. For multiroom setups, you'll need one Samsung Hub  ($50) on your home network, which connects to your router and coordinates your wireless audio signals. The Samsung Shape lineup will also be adding the Connect Box: a small set-top box that allows you to integrate Samsung Shape streaming audio to an existing home audio system, much like the similarly named Sonos Connect. No other details about the M5 or Connect Box have been announced yet, but both products will be showcased at CES 2014, where I'll be able to get a hands-on look at the new devices.  

8 Trends to Look for at CES 2014

Today the products are the star attraction at what's now the most important consumer electronics show in the world. Although a lot of us complain about having to go to Vegas to cover this event, the geek inside us wants the chance to play with the coolest tech gadgets on the market and be among the first to see products that will be out in the new year. I also follow this show carefully as I often get to see trends in the works or developing and this helps give insight to what type of technology we will see in the marketplace in the relatively near future. Keep in mind that CES is specifically timed to show retailers the products that vendors plan to have in the market by the end of the second quarter, in time for the next year holiday season. With this in mind, here are the eight trends I see emerging during CES for 2014. 1. The car becomes a node in the Internet of things.  2. 4K TVs and monitors will be cheaper. 3. Digital health moves to the forefront. 4. 2-in-1s take off.  5. Curved televisions pull people in. 6. 3D printers revolutionize manufacturing. 7. Smart home and smart light bulbs come home. 8. Wearables continue trending.   Full Article:

LG Smart Appliances head to CES 2014 with LINE chat capability

Over the last few years at CES in January, LG has been showing off its ever improving smart appliances. At CES 2013, LG showed off smart appliances that were able to interact with the user via WiFi networks. At CES 2014 next month LG will be rolling out new and improved smart appliances.   These new appliance have Natural Language Processing capability to allow owners to communicate, control, and monitor the appliances via mobile messenger application LINE and the LG HomeChat service. LG says that LINE already has 310 million users around the world and using that messenger means that many people will have no learning curve.   LINE is available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Nokia Asha devices. It will also run on PC and Mac computers. The ability for the smart appliances to understand natural language means that the owner can message the appliances with "I'm going on vacation" and have the smart appliances respond with their own message.   The appliances will ask the owner "Should I convert to vacation mode?" If the owner says yes, all LG smart appliances in the home will convert to power saving modes and run vacation schedules for usage. The tech will also allow the user to receive real time status updates from their refrigerator no matter where they are using LINE. Multiple LG smart appliances will be on display at CES 2014 next month.

The business of home automation is enabling the internet of things

If we think about the homes that have a broadband connection today as the total addressable market for home automation, the home automation market size turns out to be around $8.8 billion at $100 spent per home or $880 billion at $10,000 for example in the U.S. If we are a little more conservative and say that only those broadband subscribers who use smartphones are targets, the range turns out to be about $5.63 – $563 billion. In order to capture this opportunity a number of business models have come into play. While these are not new business models, it is interesting to see how this opportunity is being captured. 1. The Free approach 2. Building block sales 3. Piecemeal 4. Integration 5. Subscriptions 6. DIY   The promise of double digit sales growth is attracting a number of players, big and small, to the home automation market. As competition heats up and prices decline, business models will evolve. But we will continue to see a wide spectrum of models in use as different players target different segments of the market. In fact players may adopt more than one business model to capture bigger pieces of the pie.  Read Full Article here: GigaOM

Google EnergySense leaks, points to home automation

It looks like the Android@Home project has shifted to thermostat control during the silence, the first evidence of which has revealed itself in the form of a screenshot of the Google Play Store. Based solely on this screenshot, EnergySense appears to be a smart thermostat control app that allows the user to control the temperature of their home no matter where they are. Profiles are available for home and away, and a great deal of the UI seems to be gesture based.   According to a report from The Information, Google is not building their own hardware for the pilot program. The program itself consists of both Google employees and trusted testers who are testing its viability. There’s currently no word on whether or not the project will ever make it to a consumer release stage, but it does seem like Google has put quite a bit of effort into the project already. Last year Google didn’t mention Android@Home on stage at all during their keynote. If nothing gets announced before Google IO this year it is entirely possible that Android@Home will either be a focal point for the presentation, or this could be the result of Larry Page putting more wood behind fewer arrows and focusing on a single aspect of home automation first.  

These smartplugs detect your presence for seamless home automation

Currently attempting to hit a $150,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, a group of engineers have developed a new type of smartplug that attempts to simplify the process of automating your home. Called the Zuli Smartplug, the device utilizes low-power Bluetooth in order to interact with your smartphone. Very similar to how the Kivo Kwikset front door lock will unlock based of the proximity of the homeowner’ssmartphone, the Zuli Smartplugs will activate and deactivate based on the proximity of a smartphone owner moving within a home. By simply adding the smartplug to lights within each room, a homeowner won’t have to fumble to find a light switch in a dark room.  This is accomplished by purchasing a minimum of three Zuli Smartplugs and setting them up within multiple rooms of a home. The smartplugs start communicating and form a “Bluetooth mesh network” in order to detect someone’s presence. Of course, increasing the total number of plugs used in a home will improve the accuracy of the detection algorithm. Users can set up specific preferences for each room, ideal for personalizing the activation process. Interestingly, the iOS mobile app also switches automatically based on the room you are currently located in, thus providing a quick way to tweak settings for that room.

Get your control freak on with stick-anywhere home sensors

Like many other products for an Interne t of Things  at home, Mother and its Motion Cookies are controlled with various app functions, but they present data in an illustrated storybook format on your tab let  screen. What else would you expect from a mom? The Cookies can be attached to toothbrushes, cups, doors, pill bottles, fridge doors, and nearly everything else. They can detect motion and temperature, and continuously ping the Mother unit, so you know if they are in or out of your home. They have batteries that last about a year, and a range comparable to home Wi-Fi. They can report on the temperature of a child's room, whether you're walking enough every day, or when someone tampers with your stuff. It all depends where and how you deploy the sensors, which use a 915-MHz radio link in North America. It's up to you to decide if you need a sensor on your toothbrush.

Pritzker Group Private Capital Acquires Milestone AV Technologies

Pritzker Group Private Capital announced that it has acquired Milestone for an undisclosed price from The Duchossois Group, which will retain a significant interest in the business and continue to have representatives serve on the board of directors. Milestone designs, markets and distributes mounting equipment and display solutions for the audiovisual and digital signage markets. Its consumer and commercial products are sold principally under the Chief, Da-Lite and Sanus brands. Milestone serves more than 5,000 global customers, including professional AV dealers, regional home theater dealers, consumer electronics retailers, mass merchants and original equipment manufacturers. The company maintains global operations with offices in the U.S., Europe and China. "Our acquisition of Milestone demonstrates Pritzker Group Private Capital's strategy of investing in clear market leaders with excellent management teams. We are well aligned with the Duchossois family in the view that our permanent, proprietary capital base allows our management teams to build great businesses over the long term" said Tony Pritzker, managing partner of Pritzker Group Private Capital, Chicago. "Together with the Milestone management team, we have a clear path forward that continues the company's long history of new product innovation, international growth and add-on acquisitions."

OTT Device Shipments Are Booming, Says IHS

Shipments of devices capable of playing over-the-top (OTT) content -- including set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, connected TVs, gaming consoles, and even tablets, smartphones, and desktop computers -- will grow 20 percent in 2013, says business analysis company IHS. Manufacturers shipped 1.43 billion OTT-capable devices in 2012, and will ship 1.7 billion this year. IHS notes that those are enough OTT devices to equip nearly one-quarter of the people on the planet. IHS says that the OTT device market should grow by another 20 percent next year, as well, heading for 2.67 billion devices shipped in 2017. While this sounds like a boom for set-top boxes, IHS notes that most of this growth is coming from computers and smartphones. Those two categories account for 836 million of the 1.43 billion OTT-capable devices shipped in 2012. Excluding computers and smartphones shows that 480 million devices will ship this year, which is an increase of 30 percent from 2012. “Content owners, operators, and consumers all are driving the proliferation of the OTT model,” says Jordan Selburn, senior principal analyst for consumer platforms at IHS.

Building a Sound System for Your Wireless Home

In a world with a glut of options for data transmission, this guide will help you pick the best format to fill your home music, sans speaker wire or vacuum tubes. For all but the purist vinyl-owning audiophiles, speakers have become wireless extensions of our phones, tablets, and laptops. A few swipes of a glowing screen are typically all you need to link your music library to a speaker. Right now, playing music loudly is cheaper and simpler than ever, but it takes some know-how to identify the best way to spend those hundreds of dollars.  There are several options for wireless formats, and, unfortunately, committing to one generally means eschewing the others. We have witnessed format battles before such as Blu-ray vs. HD DVD or VHS vs. Betamax, in which one emerges dominant. But for years now, wireless audio has yet to present a victor whose ubiquity will please shareholders and relieve confused consumers. Until that happens, it pays to understand the differences between formats such as Bluetooth, AirPlay, and Sonos. All of them have specific benefits and drawbacks that will determine which one is best for rigging your house for wireless music.  Bluetooth: Reliable and Idiot-Proof AirPlay: Bring Patience and High Fidelity Files Sonos: Build It Full Article:

Samsung and LG tipped to unveil flexible OLED TVs at CES 2014

With CES 2014 just around the corner, latest reports have suggested both Samsung and LG will unveil flexible OLED TVs at the Las Vegas-based show. With both manufacturers having showcased curved OLED televisions during the 2013 rendition of CES, January’s showpiece convention will reportedly see the Korean rivals take things one step further. It has been suggested that the rumoured  flexible screen OLED TVs will feature sizeable curved panels which can have the angle of curvature altered using the unit’s accompanying remote control . While there are sure to be many who question the necessity of this sort of feature on a television, it has been suggested that the ‘flexible’ and adjustable curve will allow users to angle their TVs to better suit the seating positions of multiple viewers. Although confirmed details on these futuristic, flexible OLED TVs are still few and far between, it is not believed that the angle of flex will extend beyond just a few degrees. Read more 

Wi-Fi to Hold Over 40% Share of 8 Million Unit Smart Thermostat Market by 2018

The global smart thermostats market is expected to grow from 1.3 million in 2013 to 8 million unit shipments in 2018; a CAGR of 43%. Disruptive innovation in thermostats from new entrants such as Nest Labs, ecobee, and EcoFator has significantly raised the bar for product design and innovation in a device category that had seen little change over several decades.  Smart thermostat global revenues are expected to see fivefold growth to reach $600 million by 2018. Currently, North America is the most lucrative market for smart thermostats, contributing more than half the worldwide total. Driving this region's dominant market share is a tech-savvy population adopting smart mobile devices packed with low-cost wireless sensors, an expanding install base of buildings connected with smart meters, home automation initiatives from Telco's and Cable companies, and a slowly recovering housing market. 

Plugaway Is An App-Controlled Plug & LED System Aiming To Undercut The Smart Home Competition

Another contender for smart(en)ing up your home has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds. The Beijing-based startup behind Plugaway has put together Wi-Fi connected plugs and LED lightbulbs which, used in conjunction with its Android or iOS app, can remotely switch your appliances on or off, or dim or kill your lights. The system can also be used to monitor electricity consumption, schedule and time appliances, and set up device alerts and notifications. Or it will, assuming it hits its Kickstarter goal and transitions from the current prototype stage to commercial product (Plugaway is aiming to ship kit to backers next April). It's very close to making its funding goal at least, with more than $47,500AUD raised of a $50,000AUD target and still 34 days left on their crowdfunding campaign. Plugaway's aim is to reduce the costs of hooking your old school household appliances into the tap-happy convenience of apps. They're doing this by offering two pieces of kit: smart plugs, so you can plug any appliance in and remotely switch it on or off; and smart LEDs, so you can remotely control lights. Their Wi-Fi-enabled smart plugs cost $30 a pop - which means Plugaway is undercutting Belkin's WeMo plugs. And their LED lightbulbs are also priced cheaper than LIFX's similar kit (which starts at just under $90 a pop – or will when it goes on general sale in retail stores in January).

Revolv Raises $4M for 'Universal Remote' to Control Smart Homes

Smart-home technologies that control lights, thermostats, the locks on doors and more were sold as futuristic luxuries just a few years ago. Now, they are proliferating and entering the mainstream market at more affordable prices. A Boulder, Colo., startup called Revolv raised $4 million in seed financing to become the “universal remote,” or gateway, that homeowners can use to control them all. Foundry Group led the round, joined by American Family Insurance and other angel investors. The company is the third smart-home device maker to score institutional capital within the past two weeks: August Home Inc. raised $8 million led by Maveron for Bluetooth-controlled locks, and Quirky Inc. raised $79 million from investors including General Electric to make more “connected-home” gadgets. A spate of other smart home tech ventures–such as Ambient Devices, Doorbot, Dropcam, Nest Labs, Sonos and SmartThings– raised seed and venture capital earlier. Other smart home tech businesses have turned to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo and Dragon Innovation for nondilutive capital.

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