Is 4K For You?

There has been a lot of recent industry buzz about Ultra High Definition (UHD) or “4K” displays hitting the market. The 3840 x 2160 pixels offer an amazing 4x full-HD resolution, and the demonstrations at trade events like Digital Signage Expo (DSE), Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have been impressive. And this week, at InfoComm 2013, it’s been great to see what display manufacturers have brought to the show.

This has left AV integrators and their clients wondering if the time is right to switch to this new standard. Many industries have made the transition to full HD, only to watch 4K emerge on the horizon.  They are asking, “Is 4K for me?” Here are three common reasons we’re seeing for the switch to UHD or 4K displays, especially in the 84-inch size:

REVOLV + GOOGLE GLASS - Revolv Team

By now chances are you’ve heard of Google Glass. Perhaps you’ve even seen someone walking around sporting the futuristic, Geordi-like device. With only 2,000 of these bad boys currently in the wild, our team (REVOLV) considers ourselves pretty lucky to have not one, but two pairs in our office to play with.

And of course, if you put some amazing, brand new technology in a room with a bunch of hardware geeks, magical sparks will fly. Today we’re excited to show you what one of our engineers has come up with: Utilizing the Google Glass API and our very own Revolv smart home automation technology, he’ll show you what very well could be the future of the connected home. 

 

CEDIA Expo 2014 - Boost Your Profits in 3 Days

CEDIA EXPO 2013 is 3 days full of training, new products, and events with the single focus of helping you adapt your business to the evolving residential electronics industry.

Are you ready to discover 108 training courses that will take your skill set to the next level? CEDIA EXPO offers 11 networking classes, 13 learning lab courses, 5 certification and credential opportunities, and manufacturer product training…all designed to give you full circle training.

With more and more devices living on the network, isn’t it time you own the network and the home? Register today for CEDIA EXPO and receive 40% off your registration fee (until August 2).

Register at http://cedia.net/expo.

AVAD's New VendoCOMM Events to Showcase the Best of Commercial Integration

AVAD, provider of innovative solutions to the residential and commercial custom installation markets, will debut VendoCOMM, a new series of one-day trade events offering custom installers premium access to leading commercial manufacturers, service providers, and industry influencers on July 10 in the Washington, DC metro area. 

“AVAD is well positioned to lead the industry's dialog on commercial install solutions thanks to our manufacturer relationships and infrastructure," said Jim Annes, vice president and general manager of AVAD. “VendoCOMM is about connecting integrators to the most recent advancements in the commercial industry and giving them an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with their preferred brands, collaborate, and learn the latest concepts." 
 

Following the premiere launch of VendoCOMM in Gaithersburg, MD, three additional North American cities will play host to this extraordinary commercial trade show tour: Bellevue, WA on September 10, Smyrna, GA on November 5, and Dallas, TX on December 5.

Connected home startup Control4 files for an IPO for up to $60M

Decade-old smart home startup Control4 filed for an IPO on Monday, which could see it raise up to $60 million if it goes public.

Control4 makes software that connects home devices and appliances including lights, door locks, video cameras, and security systems. The company said in its filing that it’s connected 120,000 homes with its smart software, and generated $109.5 million in revenue in 2012, with a net loss of $3.7 million for 2012.

The market for connected home devices has been growing steadily for a variety of reasons. More service providers like cable companies and telcos have been offering smart home services. The prevalence of home Wi-Fi networks has enabled home owners to begin to connect a variety of wireless devices in homes. And bandwidth to homes is now high enough to enable many home owners to do things like remotely check video camera streams from a mobile phone.

AT&T DIGITAL LIFE, NEW HOME SECURITY AND AUTOMATION SERVICE LAUNCHES IN FIVE ADDITIONAL U.S. MARKETS

AT&T today announced it will launch Digital Life in more markets:  Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Portland and San Antonio.  AT&T Digital LifeSM makes customers’ lives easier by simplifying the management of their home. Digital Life offers security, convenience and peace of mind, in a customizable and easy-to-use experience from smartphones, tablets or PCs.

Beginning Friday, customers in these five new markets can receive a live demo and purchase AT&T Digital Life in company owned retail stores.  Including the new markets launching on Friday, AT&T’s Digital Life will be available in 27 markets, with plans to introduce the service in up to 50 markets by the end of 2013.

With Digital Life, customers can use their existing home broadband provider, and any wireless phone service, and enjoy the security and convenience of a home management system with the flexibility to meet their unique needs.

  • Actively Protected & In Control: The foundation of Digital Life is complete home security with 24/7 professional monitoring that allows you to know what is happening at home, or where an event has occurred. Through AT&T-owned and operated, U.S.-based monitoring centers, professionals will respond to emergencies and alert police and fire authorities.
  • Seamlessly Connected: Digital Life is an all-digital, fully integrated, wireless home management system, giving customers flexibility to manage their home from their smartphone, tablet or PC. Our takeover module lets you easily extend your existing security system and investment. The Digital Life application is available on most web browsers. Apps are available for iOS, Android smartphones and Windows Phones. To ensure customers’ privacy is protected, Digital Life has a secure log in system each time the app is opened from any Internet-connected device.
  • Amazingly Simple & Intuitive: A user-friendly application was designed to be as simple as possible, making it easier than ever to manage your home. The Digital Life application gives customers control over cameras, door locks, lights, thermostats, small appliances and more by setting alerts or programs to manage your home. It’s all integrated into one simple system.
  • Personalized & Flexible: Digital Life provides total flexibility so you can personalize your home to adapt to everyday life – with custom notifications and scheduled tasks. Add devices and solutions anytime, as your needs grow, or your lifestyle changes.

“Digital Life is committed to offering our customers an easy and convenient way to secure their homes, protect their families and simplify their lives from virtually anywhere,” said Kevin Petersen, president, Digital Life, Inc. “With the launch of these five new markets, we’re looking forward to making Digital Life available to more customers throughout the country.”

Logitech Decides To Retain Its Harmony Remote Division

Logitech took to the wires today to announce the Harmony Ultimate Hub, a device that turns an iPhone or Android device into a universal remote, is available for purchase. It’s $100.

But more importantly, Logitech also announced that it decided to keep the Harmony division within the company rather than spinning it out into its own company, turning the division, once again, into a startup fighting for attention in the wild electronic forest.

Once upon a time, May 5, 2004 to be exact, Logitech acquired the privately held Intrigue Technologies of Canada, maker of the famed Harmony remote controls, for $29 million in cash. Fast forward nine years. Logitech did the company right, pushing out countless quality products under the Harmony name, cementing it as a leader in the market. However, with growth slowing, Logitech was pondering spinning the division back out into the wild.

As today’s press release states, the company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. Apparently the success of the Harmony Ultimate, a universal remote that merges the touch capability found in a smartphone with the traditional remote controls, changed Logitech’s mind. The new remote “exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”

Thermostat Maker Ecobee Launches Home Automation API

You may never need rise from the couch or get out of bed again. Home automation is becoming increasingly popular with apps that control ceiling fans, sprinkler systems, garage doors, kitchen appliances, you name it. Along that line of thinking, temperature control company Ecobee has just released a public API that lets third-party apps read, update and poll information about its home thermostats.

The Toronto-based company develops a range of wifi-enabled thermostats for residential and commercial markets. Its API focuses on the company’s line of Smart thermostats, intended for home use. By releasing an open API, Ecobee is betting developers will use it to create a range of home solutions that bring homeowners more choice, comfort, energy savings and peace of mind.

The company already offers a suite of mobile apps that control its Smart thermostats from anywhere, but Ecobee believes the RESTful API, which returns JSON, will feed a new level of innovation.

“Ecobee’s API platform enables an active community of forward thinkers to build the next generation of connected home applications. Our customers will benefit from a wide range of convenient solutions that will simplify their lives,” said Stuart Lombard, the company’s president and CEO.

Partners currently working on apps for the Ecobee platform include Mi Casa Verde, Smart Things, The UBI, Earth Networks, Integral Analytics, Auto Grid, Energy Sherlock, MMB Research Solutions.

iControl Networks Launches New Self-Installable Smart Home and Lifestyle Solution

 iControl Networks announced iControl Touchstone™, a new self-installable, self-managed smart home solution for broadband service providers focused on lifestyle services. iControl Touchstone is powered by iControl's award-winning OpenHome™ software platform, and offers a connected home experience that consumers can install and manage themselves. iControl Touchstone will be initially deployed across the U.S. by Comcast as Xfinity Home Control.

iControl Touchstone enables service providers to offer consumers a full range of innovative home management and monitoring services. As a self-installable solution, it opens the door for new distribution opportunities, including online and retail, which are desirable alternatives for broadband service providers seeking an initial go-to-market offering.

iControl Touchstone provides innovative home monitoring, comfort, control, automation and energy management, and can be assembled and installed by the end-user, eliminating the need for a professionally trained technician. iControl Touchstone allows customers to:

  • Stay connected to their homes with live video feed and event-driven video capture via in-home cameras, enabling them to see what’s happening while they’re away.
  • Remotely control and manage their homes with the power to turn on/off lights and appliances and adjust thermostat temperature via the web or mobile applications.
  • Customize their systems by scheduling personalized, automated alerts, for example, to confirm when the kids arrive home from school, which generate email and text alerts with optional photo/video clip.
  • Go green with energy-saving thermostat, lighting and small appliance control and automation.

Microsoft working on home automation for the Xbox 720

It is being reported that Microsoft has acquired home entertainment and automation startup R2 Studios, by the Wall Street Journal. Started in 2011, this Silicon Valley company recently launched applications that allow for users to control multiple aspects of their home from smartphones. Could this mean that Microsoft is getting closer to the Xbox being the central piece in the living room that controls all facets of the home? It sure looks like it with this news.

The acquisition sees the small team joining Microsoft’s Xbox division, and Microsoft will retain rights to some of the patents that R2 Studios owns, which relate to controlling electronic devices.

With home automation becoming a growing trend in the U.S. today, the next Xbox could very well have the ability to control multiple facets of the homes that they are used in, and take an even further step away from being a video game console. The Xbox 360 saw a huge swing in its userbase utilzing the console for digital downloads and streaming video options found on the Xbox Live dashboard.

The only commercial application that R2 Studios has released to this point is a $99 application that lets users control lighting, thermostats, security systems, and other products via Android devices.

News from InfoComm 2013

With InfoComm 2013 wrapping up, we saw hundreds of press releases and product announcements coming out of this years show.

Check out our InfoComm 2013 Newspage for some of the interesting news from this years show.

Stay tuned for our InfoComm 2013 reports to see the key new products introduced at this years event.

InfoComm 2013 underway in Orlando.

Every summer, the best and brightest of the professional audiovisual communications industry gather at InfoComm to learn new skills, discover innovative solutions, network with each other and celebrate their successes. They come to Collaborate, Communicate and Connect.

Attracting more than 925 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees from over 90 countries, InfoComm is the largest pro AV show in the world. This years show took place n us June 8-14, 2013 (exhibits, June 12-14), at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering InfoComm 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 InfoComm 2013 Newspage for Exhibitor news.

WiSee Gesture Recognition System for Home Automation Works Without Cameras, Specialty Sensors

Home automation, gesture control, and smart sensors have the potential to help disabled people and aging folks lead independent lives. Smart floors, cameras, body-worm devices, and motion sensors are some of the ways that people can be monitored inside their own home, but each has its drawbacks. They require a lot of investment and home rewiring, can affect personal privacy, or simply demand too much attention from their users.

Researchers at University of Washington have taken a different approach, harnessing the potential of at-home wireless networks to deduce what the people inside are doing. The system uses traditional wireless routers to detect changes in reflected WiFi signals, which turn out to have characteristic signatures that can be identified and correlated with specific gestures. Here’s a video from UW demonstrating the functionality of the WiSee:

RaspLogic brings drag-and-drop programming to Raspberry Pi for home automation

RaspLogic aims to provide a simple, affordable, method of implementing home automation, using the Raspberry Pi as the platform, and supplying an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for setting up logic and feedback loops:

"The software is written in C# language on .NET so it works on any operating system. However, to take one example, say you want your MP3 player to start playing when you get up in the morning, you need some reference on a common platform and Raspberry Pi is the only one common platform where people can do this without spending too much money. For $25 you can have a common platform that’s already distributed in every place around the world." - Dario Tolio, RaspLogic

At its simplest, RaspLogic could enable the automation of outside lights or a sprinkler system, but it could also be used for more complex operations, such as sending you an SMS or email alert when someone rings your doorbell, and allowing for a virtual conversation with your visitor from wherever you are, or setting up irrigation rules that are weather-dependent (i.e. if there's rain in the forecast, don't water today).

SmartThings opens developer and inventor toolkits for home automation platform

As we’ve recently and frequently discussed, home automation and the Internet of Things is taking off at a fast pace. One of the companies that’s pioneering the new technology is SmartThings, who announced today at the AllThingsD: D11 conference that they are publicly rolling out their developer and inventor toolkits.

SmartThings crowd-funded their operation in 2012 through Kickstarter, raking in over $1.2 million, well beyond their $250,000 goal. They used all that cash to bolster the number of “things” linked to the platform, allowing the SmartThings hub to connect to and control door locks, thermostats, humidity sensors, IR remotes, power outlets, light switches, presence sensors, and any number of additional functions provided by the available accessories.

Out of the box, the SmartThings platform can already do things like alert you when you leave windows open and it starts to rain using a humidity sensor, or automatically adjust the thermostat, turn off the lights, and close the garage door when you leave the house.

The developer and inventor toolkits open up the platform even further to functionalities limited only by the creativity and inventiveness of its users. While transparency is always a great benefit, perhaps the best part of an open platform is the ability to leverage the collective talent and resources of a huge user base.

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