Our ongoing investigation into how home audio is changing in 2014 has unearthed a surprising nugget of sonic wisdom, for those of us who are trying to take home audio just a little more seriously. Now that legitimate digital music services sound so good, fans no longer have to put up with dodgily-encoded MP3s from Napster and the like — and so it’s worth it, for many of us, to give our music the sonic respect it deserves, whether we want to spring for new player hardware or not. The single most important thing you can do to improve your sound is to improve the physical mechanics of its reproduction — mainly, your headphones or speakers. It’s always worth paying more for either of these than you think you really should, because nothing else can make your tunes sound better (i.e. stirring, soul-restoring, inspirational, mind-blowing, empathetic, mournful, joyful, and everything else it can make us feel) than making the conversion of ones and zeros into vibrating air as clean as possible. We asked renowned audiophile and author of The Audio Expert Ethan Winer for some advice to share with our readers on the best thing they can do to improve their audio quality in the home. According to him, the answer has nothing to do with electronics: “The single best way to improve audio clarity is to add some acoustic treatment to the room,” said Winer. “Even one 2×4 foot acoustic absorber panel placed at the key place on each side wall will improve the clarity of music enormously. Most ‘average’ people have no idea about this, and most probably wouldn’t consider adding panels in their living room or bedroom anyway. But it’s the correct answer. Serious audiophiles and home theater owners do understand the importance of room acoustics, and some have extensive treatment.” Full Article:
There are lots of companies trying to crack intelligent lighting in the home. Philips has its Hue lighting system with intelligent bulbs, while others like Belkin's WeMo system let you control everything via smart plugs. Plum, a relatively new and unheard of company based in Austin, Texas, is tackling the problem from a different perspective. It has designed an intelligent light switch that will not only control the current lights in the house, but also have the potential to control internet-connected devices like Sonos in the future. "The long term goal is an app that will control everything in your home, from your lights to your sonos," explains Utz Baldwin, CEO at Plum, to Pocket-lint over a coffee at Capital Factory, a startup hub in Austin, Texas. Called the Lightpad, the light switch promises to fit into a standard American light switch fitting (a UK version is due in 2015), and then allow you to control your lights either via the switch or an accompanying iPhone or Android app. Created by Baldwin, who in a previous life was the Chairman of CEDIA, a global home technology trade association that offers home automation, audio video, home network training and certification, Baldwin has used his numerous years in the field to invent something he believes will be the answer to controlling your home without always having to reach for your phone.
With the rapid progression of technology each year, it's easy to accumulate a pile of obsolete gadgets that you just can't bear to get rid of. So don't! Here are our top 10 ways you can take the retired gadgets you've already got and turn them into something that has a solid place in the future. Full Artice with Instructions and video on LifeHacker: 1. Turn an Old Computer Into an Internet PVR, Downloader, and NAS 2. Automate Your Home with an Old Router 3. Turn an Old Computer into an XBMC Home Theater PC 4. Build a Cellphone-Powered Robot 5. Make a Touchscreen Tablet Out of an Old Netbook 6. Turn an Old Projector into a Book Scanner 7. Use an Old PC Fan to Create a Battery-Charging Wind Turbine 8. Create a Home Security System with a Webcam 9. Create a Wireless Internet Radio from an Old Router 10. Turn an Old Mobile Device into a Dedicated VOIP Handset
(CNN) - Glass, Google's high-profile entry into the world of wearable tech, may help launch a revolution if it's released later this year as expected. But test models already on the street have begun playing a more unlikely role -- as symbols in a simmering fight over Silicon Valley's impact on the city of San Francisco. It's a local story, but one with ramifications everywhere. While our smartphones drop easily into pockets and tablets get zipped up in cases or backpacks, wearables such as Glass are, quite literally, in your face all the time. The $1,500 device, which displays Web content on a tiny screen, signals its wearer as a likely member of an affluent tech elite. And Glass also can discreetly shoot photos or video, which some people view as invasive. That's caused unease for some folks and, in some cases has led to arguments, altercations and even attacks against people wearing the technology. (cont'd)
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.”
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.
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)
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D-Tools, Inc. is a worldwide leader in data-driven system integration software. D-Tools' System Integrator (SI) is a complete estimation, design (via Visio or AutoCAD), and project management platform designed to fulfill the diverse needs of systems integration firms. SI offers improvements in virtually every functional area and adds 3rd party integrations to provide a complete end-to-end solution allowing data to flow seamlessly throughout the project lifecycle - from initial client contact through the ongoing service relationship. Along with access to a comprehensive library of manufacturer products, the application delivers a powerful yet easy to use solution that provides a positive impact on any integrator's business.