Go from clueless to competent with home-theater crash course

I’m talking, of course, about the holy grail of the living room: the home theater. I’m here now to pass this knowledge on to you. Although a lot has changed since I slogged through miserable shifts, pretending I actually like talking to strangers, a lot of the basic tenants still hold true.  Think of this as a survival guide; you’re going to want to do your own research and ask your own questions, but what follows are some very important considerations and points of understanding. By the time you’re finished reading this, you should have a better sense of what to look for while shopping around; at the very least, you’ll understand what “contrast ratio” means. Don't pay attention to contrast ratio: Since I did just promise I’d explain this, contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest a television can display and the darkest. If you’ll recall your middle-school science class for a moment, white and black are at opposite ends of the color spectrum. A television’s contrast ratio is the measurement of the luminance ratio between the two. Put simply, the higher the number, the deeper, more realistic a TV’s picture should be. Higher contrast ratio sets can generally produce more colors and more accurate colors. You’ll see contrast ratio plastered all over TV specs (usually written as 1:X). The problem is, there’s no standardized measurement for contrast ratio.   Read Full Article.

Home automation company Control4 shares make trading debut

Shares of Control4 Corp., a Salt Lake City-based company that provides home automation systems, made their trading debut on the Nasdaq stock market Friday morning. The company, which was founded in 2003 and has automated more than 120,000 homes since then, sold 4 million shares of its stock for $16 each, raising $64 million. At the close of trading Friday, the company’s shares were $20.05, up $4.05 (25.31 percent) per share for the day. In midday trading, the company’s shares were up $3.40 over their initial offering price, or 21.25 percent. "This is one important day of many more to come," said Martin Plaehn, Control4’s president and chief executive. "There are tens of millions of families that can benefit from our technology and our goal is to connect the devices in those homes so they can all work together and improve people’s lives."

Why LG Bypassed Specialty Retailers on OLED TV Launch

LG Electronics USA is bypassing the specialty CE channel to give Best Buy's Magnolia stores a jump on selling its new CURVED OLED 55-inch TVs. LG launched the set at the Magnolia Design Center in Best Buy's flagship Richfield, Minn., store on Monday. While consumers can see and order the $14,999 OLED TV at the Richfield location, the sets won't begin shipping for a few weeks. Best Buy will roll out the TVs at Magnolia stores in nine cities - including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio - during the summer.   James Fishler , senior vice president marketing LG Electronics USA, said the OLED TVs will be available to specialty dealers "in a couple of months." He would not provide a specific timeframe or say which dealers would have access to the sets. The Magnolia stores, he said, are one of the best venues for LG to introduce its new TV technologies. "It's hard for manufacturers to get credit for enhancements in picture quality," Fishler told Dealerscope before the unveiling of the CURVED OLED TV at the Richfield Best Buy. "That's why we decided to partner with Magnolia, because they have the staff that can help explain it and simply showcase it."  

Some Home Automation Systems Are Rife with Holes, Security Experts Say

A variety of network-controlled home automation devices lack basic security controls, making it possible for attackers to access their sensitive functions, often from the Internet, according to researchers from security firm Trustwave. Some of these devices are used to control door locks, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, lights and other sensitive systems. The Trustwave researchers plan to discuss vulnerabilities they discovered in several such products during a presentation Thursday at the Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas. One product analyzed by the Trustwave researchers is called the Insteon Hub and is a network-enabled device that can control light bulbs, wall switches, outlets, thermostats, wireless Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and more. "When you first set up the Insteon Hub, you're asked to set up port forwarding from the Internet to the device, so basically you're opening up access to it to anybody from the Internet," said David Bryan, a Trustwave researcher who reviewed the device after buying one to use in his house. The Insteon Hub can be controlled from a smartphone application that sends commands to it over the local network or the Internet, he said. When inspecting the traffic coming from his phone over the Internet and into the Insteon Hub, Bryan discovered that no authentication and no encryption was being used. Furthermore, there was no option to enable authentication for the Web service running on the Insteon Hub that receives commands, he said. "This meant that anybody could have turned off my lights, turned on and off my thermostat, changed settings or [done] all sorts of things that I would expect to require some sort of authorization," Bryan said. Attackers could use Google or the SHODAN search engine, or could perform port scans, to locate Insteon Hub devices connected to the Internet, Bryan said. Insteon, the company in Irvine, California, that manufactures the device, was notified of the issue in December, according to the researcher. A new version of the product that uses basic authentication for the Web service was released in March, he said.

3D TV autopsy: Did it finally die, or was it never alive to begin with?

If you were shopping for a TV three years ago, you were probably bombarded with all kinds of talk about how cool 3D was and how it was the “next big thing” in TV viewing. Movies and sports would never be the same again, with characters and players popping out of screens and into your living room as if they were right in front of you. It’s now 2013, and 3D is but a footnote that barely measures up to smart TV features and the looming 4K Ultra HD resolution TVs. It all begs the question: Why didn’t 3D ever take off the way it was expected to? There is no single answer to that question, but a variety of factors may have led to 3D’s seeming irrelevance. During CES 2010, 3D was all the rage on the show floor, and it seemed like an ideal situation for manufacturers and consumers, alike. It was relatively easy for TV makers to incorporate into flat-panel LCDs and plasmas, and it wasn’t going to cost consumers a premium to get the extra dimension onscreen. This may have looked like a perfect storm, but once you got past the action, it was all smoke and mirrors. The introduction of 3D TVs around 2010 came smack dab in the middle of the fallout from the financial crisis, and TV sales were already flattening before the first 3D flat-panels could hit retail. With only a slight bump up in price and the promise of a flurry of 3D content, manufacturers thought this was the ticket to spurring more growth and churning dollars out of your wallet. Read Full Article:

ZigBee Home Automation Standard Version 1.2 Ratified

The ZigBee® Alliance, a global ecosystem of organizations creating wireless solutions for use in energy management, commercial and consumer applications, today announced that an update to ZigBee Home Automation has been ratified and is now available for product development. The new version is fully interoperable with the earlier versions of the standard.  ZigBee Home Automation is the industry leading standard helping to create smarter homes that enhance the comfort, convenience, security and energy management for the consumer.  ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 adds several important new features that improve the battery life for security sensors to over seven years, standardize pairing of devices and simplify installation and maintenance for consumers and custom installers alike. These features have a significant impact on operational and device costs to service providers and quality of service to consumers.  ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 includes enhancements to functions in devices such as door locks and support for additional devices including smart appliances and electrical measurement devices. The standard incorporates new features resulting from a collaboration with the Energy@home initiative, an Italian collaborative and ZigBee Alliance partner, which will benefit consumers by integrating new devices and raising consumer awareness of energy usage without necessarily connecting to an electric utility. 

LG Begins Selling First OLED HDTV In The U.S.

LG Electronics announced the first U.S. availability of the revolutionary new OLED HDTV, combining the pinnacles of picture quality and design to deliver the ultimate in display technology for home entertainment.  At a VIP launch event today at Best Buy's flagship Magnolia Design Center store in Richfield, Minn., senior executives from LG Electronics USA and Best Buy officially introduced the new LG CURVED OLED TV for the U.S. market, allowing American consumers to enjoy the unparalleled visual experience in person.  As LG's exclusive OLED TV launch partner, Best Buy today began selling the 55-inch class (54.6-inch diagonal) LG CURVED OLED TV (Model 55EA9800) at the Richfield store. In the coming weeks, Magnolia stores inside Best Buy in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio will display and begin selling the thin new premium TV at a suggested price of $14,999. Over the summer, the new TV is expected to roll out to select Magnolia inside Best Buy locations nationwide.  The U.S. launch solidifies LG's early lead in the OLED TV race. Global demand for OLED TV is expected to grow to more than 7 million units by 2016, according to DisplaySearch. LG is the first company to commercialize both the flat screen OLED TV, which has been sold to consumers in Korea since January, and the innovative new CURVED OLED TV, which began sales in Korea in April. 

Microsoft Has an Operating System for Your House

Researchers at Microsoft have released software aimed at making it easier for homes to be monitored, automated, and controlled using computers and the Internet. It also paves the way for developers to create apps that can be “installed” into homes with numerous different devices to make use of them in new ways. Although Internet-connected products for the home—including security cameras, thermostats, and motion sensors—are readily available, it can be challenging to install them, and they typically work independently. The new software from Microsoft, called Lab of Things, provides a centralized virtual dashboard for monitoring and controlling different “smart home” devices. It also provides standards for building “apps” for homes with the Lab of Things software installed. Microsoft researcher Arjmand Samuel announced the Lab of Things software this week at Microsoft’s annual Faculty Summit, held for researchers from inside and outside the company. He said it was needed because the challenges of installing and running collections of home automation devices are holding back research into new possible uses for the technology. The Lab of Things software “lowers the barrier to deploying field studies in connected homes,” he said, explaining that trials of home automation systems that combine multiple types of sensors and other devices are typically small-scale and short-lived due to the inconveniences for both researchers and the volunteers who welcome them into their homes. Providing a common platform will help ready technology for consumers who want to automate or augment their home, said Samuel, by making it easier for researchers to try out new ideas and create home automation apps.

Building Automation & Controls Market to Grow $49.5 Billion - 2018

The report, based on the extensive research study of the global building automation and controls market, is aimed at identifying the entire market of the building automation and controls specifically lighting, security & access, HVAC, entertainment, outdoor controls, elevator controls and BMS. The report covers the overall market and sub-segment markets through extensively detailed classifications. The total building automation and controls market is expected to reach $49.5 billion by 2018 growing at a double digit CAGR from 2013 till 2018. & The stringent regulations being imposed by the governments augmented by the increasing need to save operational costs by building owners has enhanced the demand for building automation and controls. Although the concept of building automation has been in existence for a long time and has witnessed profound growth in the last five years there is huge demand for HVAC, security and access controls. Growing awareness of wireless technologies and the developments towards the integration of wired and wireless will propel the market in the future. & Demand for energy efficient buildings, more convenient devices and enhanced security via building automation and controls remains the major drivers for the building automation controls market. Growth in government incentives, assistance of powerline communication and global sporting events such as World Cup Soccer in 2014, Olympics in 2016 offer excellent opportunities to the market growth. & In addition to this, wireless technology has revolutionized the market; further boosting the market for already existing buildings.

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 Life SM 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.”

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Advanced UPB Lighting Packages from Simply Automated

Advanced UPB Lighting Packages from Simply Automated

Custom scenes (connecting up to 250 switches) in your living, family or great room, kitchen, study, master bedroom/bathroom, and office. Turn off all lights in your home at the touch of a button. Automatically (Timer Scheduler) turn on/off outdoor security lights, heating and AC, or provide night light convenience anywhere in your home. From creating a virtual 3 way switch anywhere in your home, to turning a group of lights when your garage door is opened, door bell or phone rings.