APPLE GRANTED AUTOMATION PATENT

Apple has been granted a patent for a home automation system to connect the many devices found in the average household. Although this patent is aimed at the home market initially, much like the iPad, which was launched as a consumer device, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see this technology make its way into the pro AV world.   With the adoption of the iPad into many pro-AV installations around the world, the consumer electronics giant has already made a significant move into the sphere of where traditional control systems products from the likes of AMX and Crestron already sit.   This move would only increase Apple’s presence in the pro AV sector further. The patent uses data from an iPhone/iPad to determine the user's location and perform the actions of a normal control system i.e. turn on lights, turn off air conditioning.  The technology works in a similar fashion to the Reminders iOS app, but will extend its usage to control the home or office environment, rather than provide location-based memos, as it does at present.

Revolv Begins Shipping Smart Home Solution Just in Time for the Holidays

Revolv Inc. today announced it has begun shipping its highly anticipated Smart Home Solution to its pre-order customers. The Revolv Smart Home Solution unifies premium, off-the-shelf smart home automation devices such as the Sonos HiFi wireless speakers, Philips Hue wireless lighting, Yale automated locks, Insteon home control devices, Belkin WeMo and popular automated thermostats. Today, consumers can order the Revolv Hub for $299. With the Revolv Smart Home Solution, consumers have the freedom to mix and match wireless devices and appliances in their home to achieve a new level of lifestyle automation right from their smartphone. Revolv automates daily life routines around time, GPS proximity, sensor triggers such as motion in the home, and on-demand commands set by the user. Its proprietary GeoSense technology automatically activates connected devices when the user reaches a certain geo-radius to and from their home.  The Revolv hub includes an unprecedented 7 wireless radios speaking 10 different languages, supporting many of the most popular connected home devices available today. Hundreds more devices will be compatible with the Revolv Solution in the coming months, eventually covering 95% of commercially available devices, making it the most universal solution on the market.

Analysts Project Bluetooth® Smart Technology to Lead Home Automation Market

The Bluetooth SIG, along with several key analysts, predicts the Home Automation market will be the next to turn to Bluetooth Smart. ABI Research forecasts Bluetooth Smart technology will experience the highest growth in the smart home market, reaching over 133 million units shipped by 2018.  Bluetooth Smart technology already has a significant foothold in the smart home, making it possible for locks, lights, thermostats and many more home products to connect to the Bluetooth ecosystem. Apple, Microsoft and Android offer native support for Bluetooth Smart at the operating system level, making tens of millions of phones, tablets and PCs ready to connect with these new home appcessory devices. Doors with locks from August, Goji, Lockitron and UniKey Kwikset Kevo can be locked and unlocked using a smartphone as the key. The dimming and color hues on light bulbs (Bluetooth Bulb and zSmart), temperature (Emerson Blue Wireless Easy Install from White-Rodgers) and even outlet plugs that estimate electricity cost (Stick-N-Find's MeterPlug) can be monitored and controlled via Bluetooth Smart.  "The Smart Home has been the next big thing for years, but to take it from niche to mainstream you need a standardized wireless technology to connect locks, lights and thermostats to the phones, tablets and PCs that consumers already have - that technology is Bluetooth Smart," said Suke Jawanda, Bluetooth SIG CMO. "Not only does Bluetooth allow for integrated solutions from service providers like cable and mobile companies, but it also gives consumers the options to bring their device of choice into the Smart Home. We are still in the early stages of a truly connected living room, but Bluetooth Smart puts us all, OEMs, service providers and consumers, on the right path to Smart Home reality." 

Apple Patents Home Automation Technology That Adjusts Settings Based On Device Location

Apple has just been granted a new patent (via AppleInsider) which describes a very comprehensive system for controlling connected home devices. The elaborate setup would make it possible for Apple to use location data fed from things like your iPhone and iPad, as well as use of credit cards or RFID badges to inform automated systems of a user’s whereabouts, and do things like turn on or off power, climate control, lights and more. The system described works very much like geo-fencing does currently with Apple’s own native Reminders app on iOS: Once a user exits or enters a pre-determined location, other actions are triggered. Instead of simply alerting someone of something they wanted to remember, however, the system described can essentially turn an entire household or office off and on, and prepare it for comfortable human occupancy.   It’s a little more complex than simple geo-fencing, however. The patent describes an information-gathering system that would be able to incorporate not only where a user is and where they’re going, but also what activities they’re engaging in along the way. This would make their location predictions more accurate, since they could include estimates about when exactly someone will arrive. The location data is either polled at regular intervals from devices like iPhones, gathered from fixed remote devices like keycard receivers, or when trigger events communicate with software on iOS or Mac devices, such as when they connect to a specific cell tower.  

38% of U.S. broadband households willing to purchase connected home energy management products

Parks Associates today announced smarthome research showing 38% of U.S. broadband households are willing to purchase at least one smart home energy management (HEM) product. Over 25% are willing to purchase two or more, including lighting controls, appliance switches, and thermostats that can be controlled remotely, but only 1% are interested exclusively in HEM products. Safety offerings such as detectors and call buttons are the most popular smarthome products.  Parks Associates' fifth-annual Smart Energy Summit: Engaging the Consumer will be held February 15-17, 2014, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. The event features early sponsorship support from Speed Wire, Alarm.com, ecobee, Lowe's, People Power, Percepscion, PlanetEcosystems, Qualcomm, Schneider Electric, and Technicolor and a keynote from Stuart Lombard, President and CEO, ecobee.  "Nearly 40% of U.S. broadband households are interested in purchasing energy management products for the home, but in most cases, they want these products within a broader offering of smarthome products," said Stuart Sikes, president, Parks Associates. "At 2014 Smart Energy Summit, we will analyze strategies from utilities and telco/cable provider strategies, consumer engagement, partnership opportunities, and the impact of connectivity and big data on demand response (DR) and energy efficiency programs." 

Panasonic officially quits plasma TVs

We (engadget) may compare Panasonic to the character of Michael Myers way too often, but this Halloween the analogy is particularly relevant given news the company is officially killing plasma TV production. Manufacturing of plasma panels will end in December this year, earlier than the most recent rumor suggested, with the last remaining factories going dark in March 2014 at the same time sales efforts will cease. It's a strategic decision to free up resources, the firm claims, citing low demand for plasma and the impact of LCD development as reasons for its exit. "Severe price competition" as a result of the Lehman Brothers collapse way back in 2008 is also blamed, so when you're left wanting the warm glow of new Panasonic plasma next year, you know who to shake an angry fist at.

Imax Takes Stake in Home Theater Tech Startup Prima Cinema

Imax has taken a major step towards rolling out a mass market home theater option for consumers by acquiring an unspecified stake in startup Prima Cinema.   Prima has a proprietary system that can encrypt and transmit theatrical releases from Hollywood studios for secure home viewing.   The move comes as Imax continues to develop a home theater system for consumers that features its imaging technology. Prima Cinema's technology can also potentially allow first-run Imax films to reach customers on a day-and-date basis. Imax plans to merge the Prima Cinema technology into its private theater system, and other possible platforms. As part of the agreement, Imax will receive a five-year window of exclusivity to distribute and resell Prima systems in China.  Imax will also take a seat on Prima Cinema's board of directors, and retains a "significant option position" in the company. "Today's agreement with Prima Cinema enhances our ability to deliver a premium, end-to-end in-home entertainment experience, combining the best of Imax's immersive image and sound technology with the delivery of current theatrical titles," said Imax CEO Richard Gelfond in a statement Monday.

NEW PROGRAM FOR NEXT GEN Z-WAVE PRODUCTS SERVICE PROVIDERS AND OEMS

Designed to help consumers identify products that take advantage of the recently introduced 'Next Gen' Z-Wave platform (500 Series) from Sigma Designs, Z-Wave Plus is a selected set of extended features and capabilities that enhance the end user experience and make easy Z-Wave installations even simpler to perform.  Z-Wave has led the market in interoperable devices for the home since the first product was certified in 2004. With the introduction of Sigma's Next-Gen Z-Wave 500 series earlier this year, Z-Wave saw its ecosystem bolstered with new capabilities including increased range, extended battery life, Over The Air upgrading (OTA), additional RF channels and more, all of which are backwards compatible with existing Z-Wave products.  For service providers, these enhancements also have tremendous benefits in terms of shorter and easier installations, less consumer support calls and faster time-to-market for deploying the home monitoring and control services using the Sigma Next Gen turn-key middleware suite. With this new certification program, Sigma and the Z-Wave Alliance are introducing a new Z-Wave Plus series of packaging logos that will be located on every product powered by Next Gen Z-Wave, informing the consumer this product incorporates the enhanced capabilities of the Z-Wave 500 series. 

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.

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