Why Microsoft and Apple Should Combine Hobby Products?

Microsoft confuses me. They have one the best DVR’s on the market with Windows Media Center (WMC), yet they seem disinterested in adding features and are continually sending out signals that its life is almost over.  Apple has pretty much treated the AppleTV as a hobby from day one and according to Tim Cook it’s still a wait and see product. Maybe Apple and Microsoft should get serious, combine their two hobbies (or red-headed step children) and make the best set-top box/DVR on the market.

Many were left wondering about the future of WMC when Microsoft announced that Media Center would not be an integral part of Windows 8. Now, according to Ceton, “it is still unclear whether Media Center will be offered in the next version of Windows Embedded”. (Windows embedded is an OEM version of Windows used to develop customized systems/products such as SlingCatcher, Ford SYNC, etc.)

Consequently, Ceton has announced that “it’s possible the Q will launch in 2013, either as initially envisioned or perhaps re-envisioned, but we can’t guarantee that at this point.  We know there is a ton of interest in the Q and that this news will be disappointing to a lot of you but we think it’s important to be upfront about where things stand.”

Top marks to Ceton for being up-front with their customers and prospective customers; failing grade for Microsoft for muddying the waters further.

Build a foolproof home-media network-without any wires

Until recently, nothing short of ethernet wires had the bandwidth necessary to pipe media from one room to another. And unless you were a networking geek, you’d have had to spend thousands of dollars getting a knowledgeable professional to punch holes in your walls to wire your house with ethernet jacks.

That time has passed. Today's wireless networks can handle video, music, and lightning-fast Web surfing without breaking a sweat—and they require very little skill to set up. Want to battle it out in Halo 3 via the Xbox in your den, or to play a movie from the collection stored on your server in your basement? I’ll cover everything you need to know to "wire" your house without stringing new cable or busting your budget.

Just one caveat before we go on. The speed of your Internet connection will have a significant impact on the quality of the real-time video you get from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. If your genuine download speeds are below 6 mbps, you may be limited to streaming lower-resolution video from the Internet.

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DSF Establishes New Standards for Educators

The Digital Signage Federation has established a set of new National Standards for Digital Signage Education to provide curriculum guidance for universities, colleges and specialty schools throughout North America, wherever areas of study touch on coursework related to the various facets of digital signage.

By establishing National Standards for Digital Signage Education, the DSF aims to broaden the labor pool of qualified candidates for future employment in the digital signage industry. As the digital signage industry grows, it is imperative that employers have qualified entry-level choices of personnel to be able to grow their business affordably. Going forward, the DSF will be working to secure adoption of these Standards by colleges, universities and specialty schools, to provide the guidance necessary to frame their curricula to ensure that graduates have the prerequisites necessary to meet the industry’s hiring needs.
 

Startup Ube Readies Free Android, iOS Home-Control Apps

Startup Ube Management, whose founders include former CEDIA CEO Utz Baldwin, plans November availability of free Android and iOS apps that deliver Wi-Fi and cellular control of more than 200 IP-based home electronics and home-control products.

The compatible products range from smart TVs and set-top boxes to garage-door openers, thermostats, and planned Ube-brand lighting dimmers and smart power outlets. The lighting dimmers and smart outlets are due in March.

The technology eliminates the need to install a central processing unit to control multiple home systems and eliminates expensive programming, which often involves the mixing and matching of different hardware and software standards, the company said. Ube’s system will therefore bring down the cost of home control to mass-market prices, the company continued. “By moving the intelligence into the device, where it belongs, these smart energy devices enable simple, intuitive smartphone control of home lighting and other appliances,” Ube said.

The company is using seed money from founders and angel investors to launch the apps, and it plans to raise additional money to launch the Ube-branded hardware.

ADS Security Merges Home Security and Home Automation with New Home Control Service

ADS Security (ADS), a local security company, has merged their primary service, home security, with home automation to offer a new high-tech home control system service with security at its core. ADS Home Control delivers home security and home automation packaged together and remotely managed from anywhere on a mobile device.

"ADS is proud to offer a home automation service from a company that has always had safety and security as its primary focus," said ADS President and COO, John Cerasuolo. "ADS Home Control merges seamlessly with our core business, home security, to offer an ideal home management experience."

ADS Home Control saves homeowners time, money and energy by allowing them to manage their home when it's convenient for them. Whether at home or away, residents can arm or disarm their security system, lock or unlock doors, and adjust lights, thermostat and small appliances. Home control systems help reduce energy bills by letting homeowners make instant adjustments to the thermostats and lights. Automatic adjustments can also be set by customizing home control schedules.

Five Tips to Help Retailers Achieve Greater Satisfaction From Digital Signage

A recent survey reveals many retailers aren't exactly where they want to be with their IT technology, including digital signage. These five tips can help.

Retailers realize the important role IT technology, including digital signage, will play in their continued success, but many say they aren't using technology to its full potential.

Those are two important findings of a newly released survey from CompTIA, a non-profit association for the IT industry. The report "Retail Sector Technology Adoption Trends Study," finds that 72 percent of retailers surveyed see technology as important to their business -a level that is expected to grow to 83 percent by 2014. However, only 7 percent say they are exactly where they want to be with the use of technology. Twenty-nine percent say they are close to their ideal application of technology.

The study also reveals that digital signage is seen by retailers as an important part of their IT mix. The CompTIA study finds a third of retailers said they currently use digital signage, and 20 percent intend to begin doing so soon. Seventy-one percent of respondents said the most popular application of digital signage was for announcements of sales and other promotional offers.

Given the survey findings regarding satisfaction with how well technology is being used and the importance of digital signage to retailers, the need for some advice on how to make the most out of digital signage technology seems apparent. These five tips should help put retailers on the right track.

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Mobiplug Raises $2.7 Million Series A Financing Round Led By Foundry Group

 Mobiplug Networks Inc., a recent TechStars Boulder 2012 graduate, has secured $2.7 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group. Additional strategic investors include Bullet Time Ventures, SK Ventures, Social Leverage, Clarion Direct Investment, and others. The company also named seasoned entrepreneur, Tim Enwall, as new Chief Executive Officer. As part of the round, Foundry Group's Ryan McIntyre will be joining Mobiplug's Board of Directors.

Fresh out of TechStars Boulder 2012 summer class, Mobiplug offers an affordable all-in-one home monitoring and control solution. Mobiplug makes the smart home a reality for mass market consumers with easy-to-use iPhone and iPad apps, enabling hundreds of off-the-shelf smart household items from retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy. The Mobiplug applications, associated web services and enabling equipment allow homeowners to achieve comfort, convenience, peace of mind and conservation right from their smartphones, home or away, with a single application experience. These services will also be available to developers who want to create their own immersive home monitoring and control experience.

JD Power Study: Still Little 3D TV Interest

The percentage of TV buyers who purchase a high definition television for its 3D capabilities remains very low- just 11 percent. That's according to J.D. Power and Associates' new 2012 High Definition Television (HDTV) Report.

Price (75 percent) remains the top reason customers choose specific TVs, followed by brand reputation (60 percent); positive reviews (37 percent); past experience with the brand (36 percent).

"While still finding its niche, 3D HDTV capability is not a leading force in purchasing a television," said Sara Wong Hilton, a director at J.D. Power and Associates, said as part of the announcement.

"One reason is that 3D HDTVs are typically more expensive than non-3D-capable HDTVs. Additionally, in order to view 3D media, special media players, and 3D glasses in some cases, are required. The extra cost could play a role in dissuading customers from adopting the technology at this point."

 

Wawa Deploys Digital Signage Across 600 Stores

Wawa Inc. has incorporated digital signage into more than 600 convenience stores. In the fall of 2011, following a successful 25-store pilot, Wawa selected ADFLOW Networks Inc. to power its digital marketing network as part of a redesigned foodservice area that features a fresh and appetizing new look.

"Our new digital signage showcases our offer in a much more upscale, appealing way and moves us closer to our vision of fast casual to go," said Howard Stoeckel, CEO of Wawa.

Wawa is using the digital signage displays to drive awareness for new products and to communicate relevant food and beverage options based on the time of day. Messaging is displayed on large-format screens mounted in the foodservice and coffee areas.

"The feedback from customers and store associates was extremely positive after our initial rollout," said Steve Gamble, manager of marketing services for Wawa. "With ADFLOW, we found a digital signage partner who was flexible, creative and great to work with."

 

TV's next generation may come from China

At last month's IFA 2012 electronics show in Berlin, one of the biggest head-turning products was from China-based TCL Multimedia. The company introduced the Ice Screen, a 26-inch Android-based smart display that reportedly offers the functionality of a tablet while aiming to capture the changing TV viewing habits of the youth market. It will debut in China as part of a partnership with Chinese Internet provider Tencent as the world's first large screen mobile intelligent cloud product.

Just don't call it a television.

"It is a 26-inch large display," says Hao Yi, general manager of TCL Multimedia Emerging Market Business Center. "It is not just for TV, as the younger generation doesn't watch TV like the older generation."

While the vast majority of its business still comes from China, TCL has also looked to expand into the international TV market. The company just released its monthly sales volume for August of LCD TVs, reporting a 38.7% total year-on-year increase, with a marked increase of LED backlight LCD sets specifically. In its overseas market TCL reported an increase of 36.5% year-on-year, with notable expansion in emerging markets.

Arkansas Integrator Develops Voice Command Interface via iPhone's Personal Assistant

Homeowners in Little Rock, AR, are learning that there’s an easier way to control their electronic systems: just talk to them.

They are asking their home systems to do what they want in a normal voice with everyday language, using commands like “turn on the lights in the kitchen,” “turn on the TV,” or “set the temperature to 70 degrees.”

Thanks to an Apple Siri interface for Crestron control systems, developed by Matthew Carnes, president of Little Rock-based Carnes Audio Visual (CAV), the system will follow almost any simple command spoken into an iPhone, and then let you know when the action has taken place.“I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if I could interface Siri with a Crestron processor,” he said. A couple of overnight programming sessions, and he had a working interface, which he then installed in the CAV showroom. He began offering the system to customers in January, and he now has two completed installations with a third in the works.

IKEA checks out of self-service

A stores, by design, are a destination shopping experience. The Swedish-based retail stores draw in customers with modern home furnishings at an affordable price, while their massive store spaces and winding floor plans often keep shoppers inside for an hour or more.

Spending that much time picking out a book case is one thing. Waiting another 20 minutes to pay for it is another. And after a rash of complaints from customers who described just that kind of repeated delay, IKEA stores in the United States are yanking the self-service checkout systems that were causing the back-ups.

While most IKEA stores house a sprawl of checkout lanes, both self and cashier operated, typically the cashier lanes were opened only on peak shopping days. That meant that customers were funneled into a smaller group of self-checkout lanes that became clogged with shoppers trying to operate the system and manage their purchases.

IKEA did not return calls to be interviewed for this story, but company spokesperson Joseph Roth told The Tampa Tribune that the self-checkout system "wasn't as efficient as we originally hoped."

 

ViewSonic Debuts Smart Display Monitor

ViewSonic said on Wednesday that its VSD220 Smart Display will be sold in North America in mid-to-late October for an ESP of only $399. It will combine a 1920 x 1080 full-HD 22-inch LED-backlit dual-touch panel, an ARM Cortex-A9-based OMAP4428 dual-core SoC (1 GHz) from Texas Instruments, and Google's Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" operating system. It will also feature 8 GB of internal storage, although a microSD card slot will be available for added capacity.

"The VSD220 Smart Display is engineered for today’s cloud connected world," said Jeff Volpe, president of ViewSonic Americas. "ViewSonic is embracing the post-PC transition with what will be a full range of connected display solutions. For consumers, the VSD220 is perfect for surfing the web, engaging on social networks and enjoying a world of Android apps. For commercial opportunities, the VSD220 serves as a flexible solution that can address the needs of Android compatible vertical market applications such as signage, hospitality, point of information, and kiosk. Whatever the need, our new Smart Displays are the future of connected computing."

iPhone 5 Disappoints Home Automation Users

In my opinion, Apple has made a grave error with the iPhone 5 that will set it back a year compared to Android: lack of support for NFC.

As expected, it’s faster, thinner, higher resolution, has a better camera, integrated voice and data on a single chip, and some new cool apps. It’s hard to fathom how Apple could have omitted such a key, and rapidly growing, technology. What’s really bizarre is that Apple has six patents related to mobile payments.

At last week’s CEDIA, Crestron debuted their airConnect solution that allows $1 NFC tags to be scattered liberally around the house and it uses a Phone’s NFC reader and WiFi to communicate with the main server.

Even retail is ramping up its use of NFC with more and more swipe to pay terminals appearing. According to Gartner, worldwide mobile payments will surpass $170 billion in 2012 (up 61.9 percent over 2011)

I’m bitterly disappointed and will have to seriously consider switching to Android or WM 8. I’m not prepared to wait another year for NFC.

CEDIA Expo Draws Nearly 17K Attendees

CEDIA EXPO 2012 showed positive growth with non-exhibitor attendance gains of 4% over last year’s event. Ninety new exhibitors and more than 80 home technology products made their debut at CEDIA EXPO 2012, Sept. 5-8 in Indianapolis. More than 450 exhibitors participated in the 2012 event and over 16,900 attendees from 71 different countries. Of the total attendance 15% were first-time attendees to EXPO.

This year’s event, exhibitors, and attendees were defined as “electric”, “high caliber”, and “rock-solid”.

CEDIA EXPO offered 175 training courses including manufacturer product training. This year’s show was focused on educating electronic systems contractors on the network in addition to the foundational and advanced home technology education. Of those courses, 22 were new advanced IP Networking courses, all of which sold out. Additionally, CEDIA introduced a new credential, the Residential Networking Specialist, aimed for those who have demonstrated mastery of the network.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.

This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.

INTRODUCING THE SIMPLEST WAY TO CONTROL YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE YOUR VOICE. Imagine this... We've all been there-walking through the door into a dark house, arms full. Wouldn't it be nice to tell your house to offer a helping hand? Now you can. A simple voice command-such as "Alexa, turn on Welcome"-lights up the hallway and kitchen, fires up your favorite Pandora station, while the door locks itself behind you. This is Control4 Home Automation with Amazon Alexa.