Piper packs security cam, home automation hub into one slick package

Webcams were one of the forerunners of the current Internet of Things boom, allowing smartphone-toting geeks to keep an eye on the office or homestead while out and about. Piper (starting at US$239), powered by iControl Networks, is targeted at the homeowner who wants a solution that provides both visually- and physically-based security by combining a security camera, Z-Wave home automation hub, and an iOS app into one nice-looking package. Let's take a look. Design Highlights My first thought when I pulled the Piper out of the box was that it should come in yellow so it could look like one of the minions in  Despicable Me . There's a big "eye" on the upper front of the unit, which has a curvaceous eye-shaped cross section as well. The unit is about 6.25 inches (15.88 cm) tall, about 2 inches (5.08 cm) thick and about 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) wide. It comes in either white or black, with a perforated gray plastic piece on top. Full Review:

ISC West Largest Security Trade Show of the Year

SC West 2014, produced by ISC Events and sponsored by the Security Industry Association (SIA), attracted record attendance this year with more than 26,000 industry professionals attending the three-day exposition, which was held at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas April 2-4.  Attendees enjoyed direct access to tens of thousands of products from more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and brands while maintaining its intimate, friendly approach with small industry and association gatherings, receptions and a show floor designed to group products and technologies together. A strong sense of community prevailed within the 2014 edition of ISC West, which was the largest since 2007 and the second largest in the history of the show.  "Exhibitors and attendees alike told us that ISC West 2014 was the best show they have seen in many years," said Ed Several, senior vice president at ISC Events. "ISC Events witnessed record attendance, even more show floor area and, most importantly, a valuable view of all that the industry offers. Our exhibitors indicated their appreciation with higher renewals for next year. This year's event was a great balance between seeing all the latest technologies and products in one place while being able to network at all of the many industry and association events. As always, we thank the security industry for showing such confidence in ISC West, and we thank the Security Industry Association for their hard work and support." 

Prodea Systems Enters Home-Automation Fray

 Family-owned Prodea Systems has developed a white-label mass-market home-automation system that, unlike competing systems, integrates control of home systems, networked A/V content, and third-party streaming and download services in one hub. The systems, content and services are controlled from a single app running on iOS and Android devices or from a computer. The company’s Residential Operating System (ROS) “protocol-agnostic” platform also connects to home health-care devices and telemedicine services, and it offers low-cost home VoIP phone service. In the U.S., the Richardson, Texas-based company is targeting what it called “emerging” service providers and retailers, which could market their own private-label systems with recurring subscription revenues shared with Prodea. “Recurring services are an extremely high-margin business,” said Andrew Tauhert, marketing and business development executive VP.

CEA Reports Continued Growth in Wireless, Multi-Room Audio System Sales

Nearly one in five (16 percent) consumers owns a portable wireless speaker, according to research released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. The study, Consumer Perspectives on Wireless Multi-Room and Portable Audio Solutions, explores the satisfaction levels among current owners of wireless multi-room audio (MRA) and portable audio solutions; which features are most important to consumers; and the future purchase intent for non-owners.  Currently, one in ten consumers own a wireless MRA product, but nearly half of non-owners (44 percent) indicate interest in owning one. Portable wireless speakers, such as Bluetooth speakers, are also poised for growth, as 28 percent of consumers plan to purchase a related product in the next two years.  Overall, nearly all owners of both wireless MRA products and portable wireless speakers report that they are happy with their products. Additionally, 91 percent of wireless MRA product owners and 85 percent of portable wireless speaker owners would recommend their products to someone else. 

ISC West 2014 Underway in Las Vegas, NV.

Taking place April 2nd - 4th in Las Vegas, Nevada ISC West is the largest physical security show in North America featuring over 1,000 exhibitors in one place over a 3 day period.  ISC West is the security industry’s premier launching pad for new products, solutions and technologies.  26,000 security professionals attend the show to view the 10,000+ products featured on its show floor and attend business critical education sessions on the newest technologies in security.  As a media partner for ISC West 2014 HomeToys.com will be bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Click here for our Special ISC West 2014 Newspage. Check out our ISC West tradeshow report here.

Launched On Kickstarter, Musaic Promises Hi-Fi Music And Home Automation

Compact wireless HiFi systems are pretty common these days, but what is less common is startups thinking more deeply about how the same systems could move into home automation and the Internet of Things. That’s the implication behind a new system launched by device startup Musaic, recently launched on Kickstarter.   It now plans to go up against much bigger audio-based companies, such as Bose. It’s speakers system is, to some extend, a Trojan Horse for it’s IoT platform.   Musaic is a new kind of HiFi system made up of wireless speakers, which also cleverly extends into home automation, and is able to deliver high quality 24 Bit content over not just Bluetooth but also Wifi.   But it’s the IoT realm that Musaic has its eyes on, with its system able to be associated with connect e lighting systems and other home automation devices. It’s already joined the industry association called the AllSeen Alliance, run by the Linux Foundation, alongside others such as Qualcomm, HTC, AT&T and many others. It can already control dimmers, bulbs and switches from the lighting brand LightwaveRF. And it’s working closely with LIFX and WigWag (both Kickstarter successes) on integrating their products. The company was started in May 2013 by a team comprising of experienced audio industry people draw from the Cambridge UK high tech cluster.  

Why Nest's valuation is higher than Opower's: Hardware, consumers, the home

Opower and Nest might not be direct competitors, but over the years they have quietly competed in key areas, namely building software for connected energy-efficient thermostats and focusing on energy data and algorithms. Opower even lists Nest as a “key competitor” in its latest filing. But now that Opower is going public and Nest has been bought by Google, it’s interesting to see the two companies’ disparate valuations. Nest was sold to Google for $3.2 billion. According to Opower’s latest filing, at the midpoint of Opower’s price range at $18 per share, the company has a market value of $854 million. Earlier in the month (before pricing their range) they had an enterprise valuation of $775.8 million. So, roughly speaking, Nest was valued at over three times (and almost four times) what Opower will be worth when it starts trading.   Full Article:

Samsung Delivers a Complete Home Entertainment Ecosystem with Its 2014 Product Lineup

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the leader in TV technology for 8 years, today announced the availability and pricing of its full 2014 Home Entertainment product lineup, including the immersive U9000 Series of Curved Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs and its expansive portfolio of home audio products.  "In 2014, we've once again asserted our leadership in the home entertainment space by delivering the next big thing across our product categories," said Joe Stinziano, Executive Vice President, Samsung Electronics America. "From our full lineup of UHD and curved TVs to our Shape Wireless Audio-Multiroom Systems and content partnerships, we pride ourselves on offering consumers the ecosystem of choice, with beautifully designed premium home entertainment products that best suit their lifestyles."    Full Press Release:

Smart Watches, Home Control Converge

Home-control capabilities are coming to smart watches. iControl Networks plans to offer an app for Samsung’s Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches to control thermostats, lighting systems, alarms and door locks connected to its connected-home solutions. iControl’s products and services are offered by Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The app will be available for the watches when they become available in April. The Samsung Gear 2 Neo and Gear 2 become available April 11 at $199 and $299, respectively. For now, iControl continues to focus on sales through service providers and security companies, but “iControl feels that retail will play a greater role in connected home solution distribution in the near future,” a spokesperson said. The company’s focus for now, however, “is to continue to provide solutions through service providers and security companies that may choose to leverage this channel.”    

FCC Docs Detail New Verizon Home Automation Platform

Verizon hasn’t been out of the home automation business for long, but it looks like the telco giant is already preparing to jump back in. According to FCC documents uncovered by Steve Donahue of  FierceCable , Verizon appears to be preparing to launch a new FiOS gateway with an associated Zigbee home automation module. The FiOS Quantum Gateway goes by model number FiOS-G1100 and supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard along with the Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols. The module, meanwhile, is produced by GreenWave Reality, a California-based company that most recently made noise back at CES. GreenWave’s platform includes applications for energy management, connected lighting, and home monitoring, but CMO Nate Williams told me in January that it can support far more. Williams has a history with Verizon, as he was previously CMO and head of business development for 4Home, the company that was acquired by Motorola, and that provided the technology basis for Verizon’s now-defunct Verizon Home Monitoring and Control service. 

Safe and Sound - Lessons from the March 2014 InfoComm Economic Snapshot

The latest InfoComm International Economic Snapshot Survey indicates that the marketplace for both AV providers and end users is sound and stable. While the InfoComm Performance and Demand Indices are not showing significant expansion, no additional ground is being lost. More importantly, there are no significant drop-offs expected. While some segments are performing better than others, such as education, even the softest segments appear to be on generally solid ground. The InfoComm Performance Index is a measurement of how survey respondents feel about their business prospects, both now and in the future. The current six-month InfoComm Performance Index is at 70.5, solidly in the good range. The IPI is expected to hit 75.5 in the next six months. This reflects the highest IPI, both achieved and forecast, in the history of this survey. This continues the upward momentum reflected in the past two surveys. The March 2014 results reveal a continual up-tick in North America performance. But let’s be clear — North American business has not reached the levels seen in burgeoning regions such as Latin America or the Middle East/Africa. In fact, North America’s economic confidence level was rated as good, but is lower than every region, other than Europe. But given the size and importance of the North American market, we’re hopeful this is an early sign of more positive things to come.. (Cont'd)  

Demand for smart home technology to skyrocket

According to a new report from ABI Research, demand for smart home technology is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. In 2013, the research firm said that sales of wireless embedded smart home monitoring devices, such as contact and motion sensors, smart thermostats and smart plugs, grew to 17.23 million, almost double the amount of shipments in 2012. By 2018, it is expected that more than half-a-billion wireless smart home monitoring devices will be deployed in homes around the world. ABI said that growth will develop as new users move to use smart home systems and as users extend their existing systems. Additionally, companies like Honeywell, GE, Nest (recently acquired by Google), Kwikset, UTC, as well as many others are increasingly adding wireless connectivity to their home devices, bringing network connectivity and remote management to their offerings in order to appeal to growing numbers of smart home consumers. According to ABI, contact sensors for detecting whether windows and doors are closed were the most popular smart home monitoring device shipped last year while motion sensors were in second place. Both devices support smart home monitoring functionality but can also be used for additional applications such as energy management. “Combined, over 84 million contact and motion sensors will ship annually by 2018; however, it is smart plugs, smart door locks and connected smoke and CO detectors that will see the greatest shipment growth,” ABI Research Senior Analyst Adarsh Krishnan said in a statement.

HDMI vs. optical: Which digital-audio connection to use?

When it comes time to connect your shiny new sound bar or AV receiver, your two main choices are HDMI or optical digital audio. The simplest advice is to go with HDMI when you can. But if you can't it's not the end of the world. Here are the pros and cons of each. The basics Both HDMI and optical pass digital audio from one device to another. Both are better than analog (the red and white cables). Both can pass multi-channel audio, like Dolby Digital. Both cables can be had pretty cheap. The biggest difference is that HDMI can pass higher-resolution audio, including the formats found on Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. These formats can't get transmitted across optical. In terms of simplicity, HDMI also passes video signals. So if you want just a single cable between two devices, HDMI is your pick. Cont'd..

Sonos Says Sales Doubled in '13 as Home Sound-System Market Grew

Sonos Inc., the maker of multiroom speaker systems, said revenue almost doubled to $535 million in 2013 as consumers increasingly used wireless technology with music services like Pandora in the home. The closely held maker of high-fidelity speakers and streaming software is disclosing its revenue for the first time. Sonos is attempting to expand from its base of music enthusiasts to grab a bigger share of the $10 billion home-audio market, said Tom Cullen, a company co-founder, in an interview. The Santa Barbara, California-based company, which raised $40 million in 2012, is operating at break-even, he said. “We’ve set ourselves up as the best-kept secret in electronics, but the scale of everything we’re trying to achieve really requires us to do things differently,” Cullen said. Nine years after the company pioneered the whole-home wireless stereo market, it faces competition as bigger consumer electronics makers build products for the fastest-growing category in home audio. Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), based in Suwon, South Korea, in October introduced the Shape music system, while closely held Bose Corp. developed its SoundTouch speakers. Bang & Olufsen A/S (BO) has released new wireless systems developed under an audio standard known as WiSA, in which Sharp Corp. (6753) and Pioneer Electronics Co. also are members.

Best Buy Still Leads Retail Market Share; Apple Store Gaining

Best Buy's share of the U.S. specialty electronics market remains around one third, but Apple has gained into double digits for the first time. That's according to data from Euromonitor International,  as cited by MarketWatch.  The top five- Best Buy, Apple, RadioShack, hhgregg and Micro Electronics- remains intact from 2009 and 2011, but Best Buy's share has slipped from 33.5 percent to 31.3 percent, with Apple jumping from 5.9 percent in 2009 to 10.8 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2013. RadioShack's share has dropped from 5.5 in '09 to 4.5 percent four years later. 

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