1.5 Million Home Automation Systems Installed in the US This Year, Says ABI Research

The global market for home automation services saw strong growth during 2012, driven by a wave of new entrants and offerings in the North American market. The US in particular leads in deployments and new shipments - acting as a bellwether for markets around the world.

Even with the low growth US economy and the stuttering housing market, home automation systems installed in the US this year almost doubled over 2011 shipments, according to the latest market study from ABI Research. In 2017, more than 8 million systems will ship, showing a CAGR rate of 45.2% between 2011 and 2017.

In the US over the past 12 months, Verizon has rolled out its service offering, cable companies including Comcast and Time Warner have expanded their footprints and security vendors including ADT and Vivint continued to see strong demand for their solutions.

"Home automation adoption is moving into the mainstream as a combination of home connectivity, standardization, and a range of new sensors and devices bring an ever expanding number of players into the market," says Jonathan Collins, principal analyst, ABI Research. "Meanwhile existing players are adapting their offerings and a host of technologies and connectivity options are battling to become de facto standards."

Best Buy Black Friday Shoppers In Line One Week Before Thanksgiving

It seems these Best Buy loyalists have not been deterred by the recent wave of bad news for the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer. Best Buy has been struggling to keep up with steep competition from rivals, such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. This summer, the chain announced a 90 percent loss in net income and cut thousands of jobs.

And we're not quite sure the hot deals shoppers are anticipating will be worth the time spend in line. A recent study found that Black Friday sale prices at Walmart, Target and Best Buy increased from 2011 to 2012. At Best Buy, the average Black Friday sale item costs $35.00 this year, up from $29.99 in 2011.

Unlike many other brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Walmart, Best Buy won't be kicking off its Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day. Doors will open at midnight on Friday.

LEGRAND ACQUIRES NUVO TECHNOLOGIES

Legrand, North America today announced that it has acquired NuVo Technologies, LLC (NuVo), a company based in Hebron, Kentucky and a recognized leader in whole home audio solutions. NuVo will continue to operate as an independent business within Legrand's Home Systems division and focus on home audio markets under the NuVo brand name.

The acquisition is consistent with Legrand's proactive strategy and business objective to acquire market leading companies that complement its product line portfolio. The addition of NuVo's high quality multi-room audio systems strengthens Legrand's significant audio offering across all of its professional channels.

"The acquisition of NuVo is of strategic importance as it provides us with a leading position in the whole home audio market. We are now able to overtake other industry players and rapidly bring affordable, easy-to-integrate audio solutions to market," said John Selldorff, president and CEO of Legrand North America. "These include systems that are intuitive, plug 'n play and user friendly. NuVo also strengthens our product lineup with its wireless audio distribution technology. This means we can provide consumers with better integrated home audio systems and wider choices of both wired and wireless products. NuVo Technologies places Legrand's home systems offering in a different league. We now bring together the best in all core subsystems."

CEA Announces Best of Innovations Design and Engineering Honorees

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® announced today the International CES® Best of Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award honorees. The CES Innovations Awards honor outstanding design and engineering advancements across 29 consumer electronics product categories, including two new trend-focused categories: Accessible & Universal Design Technologies and Tech for a Better World.

Accessible and Universal Design Technologies focuses on technologies that have innovative features that make them easier to use, especially for seniors and people with disabilities. Tech for a Better World recognizes technologies that share a common goal and the ability to impact the world in a positive way, either domestically, or around the globe.

Visit the HomeToys Newspage for news and announcements from many of this years honorees.

Why The Digital Signage Industry Will Grow In 2013

As I peek at 2013 coming just around the corner, I cannot help but notice how downward price pressures are intersecting with demand and driving digital signage market growth. As many benefits continue to be realized, I believe some are more important than others and point to what we can expect in the coming year.

As in any tech-fueled market, reducing cost while increasing efficiency are major factors that come into play when talking about market growth. This fact is highlighted by realizing that digital signage fits well into the corporate mantra of "doing more with less."

With digital signage, doing more with less is certainly one of the big benefits. And with noticeable price reductions in 2012 that are certain to continue in 2013, I concur with recent reports from IHS iSuppli, Platt Retail Institute and others who believe the demand will continue to build at a healthy pace.

Price reductions are being realized in every area of digital signage. For example, as hardware is getting more specialized for media playback on consumer-type products that are mass produced for a worldwide market, the digital signage industry either directly or indirectly benefits from the use of this mobile and media-centric technologies that have a considerable scale of economy in production. This scale of economy is being reflected in today's prices of media players and displays used for digital signage. Even on the software side, the use of Linux and the recent emergence of Android on media players leads the way to extremely low cost albeit more basic offerings, putting a small turnkey system at about the same price as taking the family out for a nice dinner.

Walmart moves "Black Friday" earlier on Thanksgiving

"Black Friday" arrives earlier than ever at Walmart this year, with customers barely getting to digest Thanksgiving dinner before holiday shopping kicks off at 8 p.m. local time.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is loading up on electronic gadgets in a big bet that shoppers are ready to spend during the critical holiday season at its Walmart U.S. division. The holiday season generates more than a quarter of annual sales for the world's largest retailer.

"We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that matter to our customers," said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton.

U.S. retailers are devising new ways to entice shoppers this year, as holiday spending is expected to rise only 4.1 percent, according to the National Retail Federation, down from 5.6 percent growth in 2011.

CEDIA Releases "Using Mobile Devices as a Control Platform" White Paper

The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) has released the third white paper in its Mobile Devices in Residential Systems Integration series. The new white paper, Using Mobile Devices as a Control Platform, discusses the current landscape of using mobile devices for integrated system control applications and provides system designers and technicians with guidance on design considerations in integration and automation with mobile devices.

Mobile devices have become a ubiquitous part of everyday life. High-end and budget-conscious consumers alike are increasingly requesting their mobile devices be integrated into their automation systems, making it necessary for electronic systems contractors (ESCs) to adapt and learn to properly integrate mobile devices within the home.

“Many consumers want to use a device they are familiar with such as a smart phone or tablet to control their home,” said Dave Pedigo, CEDIA Senior Director of Technology and Learning. “This can sometimes be challenging for the ESC to integrate, but the considerations outlined in this white paper can help ESCs create a seamless control experience.”

First OLED TV Releases Seen This Year

The first OLED (organic light emitting diode) TV displays, while delayed, are still expected to reach the market late this year, although the category is elected to make up less than ten percent of the overall market for at least the next four years.

That's according to a study released Monday by research firm NPD DisplaySearch. The Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report stated that LG and Smaunsg's versions of the technology will debut in "small volumes" by year's end.

“If we do see OLED TVs hit the market within 2012, the shipments will be used primarily for retail demonstrations in developed regions like North America and Europe.” DisplaySearch vice president David Hsieh said in a statement. “4K × 2K LCD TVs have has become a focus and are currently available, and OLED TV needs to demonstrate its technical superiority.”

Panasonic May Cut More Jobs as $9.6 Billion Loss Forecast

Panasonic Corp., Japan’s third-biggest employer, eliminated almost 39,000 jobs in the past year, and its chief financial officer said the TV maker doesn’t plan another round of cuts. Investors say it has to.

Even after reducing its workforce by about 11 percent --almost double the reductions at Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp. combined -- Panasonic will post a 765 billion-yen ($9.6 billion) loss in the year ending March 31, the company said yesterday. Panasonic plunged the most in at least 38 years in Tokyo trading today, making it the biggest percentage loser in the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index (MXAP), and Moody’s Investors Service said it will review the company’s debt for a potential downgrade.

“They have to cut, cut, cut,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp. in Tokyo, which manages about $300 million in assets. “They’re not doing it fast enough. You have to be lean and mean.”

The projected second-highest loss in Panasonic’s history prompted the Osaka-based company to skip a dividend for the first time since 1950 because of an “urgent need” to improve its financial position.

Digital Health and Fitness Technology Expands by Nearly 25 percent at 2013 International CES

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® today announced the nearly 25 percent growth of digital health and fitness technology at the 2013 International CES®. More than 215 exhibitors will showcase the latest digital health and fitness technologies at the world's largest annual innovation event. The 2013 International CES will run Tuesday, January 8-Friday, January 11, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Health and fitness technology is booming, and will continue its dominance on the CES show floor with the future of fitness tech that combines data aggregation, social elements and convenience," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. "Health, wellness and technology converge at the International CES where there are solutions for diagnosing, monitoring and treating illnesses with games that let people take responsibility for their own health and reinforce healthy behavior."

More than 215 exhibitors will showcase devices beyond weight, body mass index (BMI), exercise and calorie tracking. The next generation of health and fitness devices and apps offer access to complete medical history, comprehensive biometric data and remote access to medical professionals. The companies displaying these technologies will be showcased in the FitnessTech and Digital Health Summit TechZones and conference tracks, plus Silvers Summit.

iPad Mini's Smaller Size Makes It Ideal for Home Control

Just as the original iPad made touchscreens commonplace in the home two years ago (has it really only been two years?) due to its features, apps, and yes it’s price, the iPad Mini’s reduced barrier to entry will almost certainly lead to a new boom in the proliferation of touchscreens in the home. Before the iPad, home touchscreens were generally only sold as part of much larger home automation systems. They were the remote control interfaces for advanced home theater, lighting, climate, and security control. And yes, they made it easy to see at a glance what was going on around the home, as well as activate sophisticated, complicated home control scenarios at the touch of a button, but at upwards of $1500 apiece, they were also a significant investment, especially when you consider that home control and monitoring (and maybe rudimentary web browsing) were all they could do.

At first glance, it isn’t obvious how the iPad Mini plays into (or changes) this paradigm. But what you may not have noticed is that in the couple of years since the iPad launched, the few remaining companies who still manufacturer dedicated touchscreen remotes for home automation have changed their offerings quite a bit in response to Apple’s paradigm shifter. Touchscreens have gotten smaller, for one thing, and in fact, most new dedicated home automation touchscreens are of the seven-inch variety. So the size of the Mini certainly isn’t a surprise. It’s the perfect middle-ground between the smart phone and full-sized tablet: still small enough to be held one-handed, but large enough that you don’t have to squint to read the screen (or, especially in the case of home control apps, flip through multiple control screens to get to the page you want).

Microsoft is risking an $18 billion empire on Windows 8

Windows has been Microsoft's most reliable cash cow for nearly three decades. The software giant is gambling all of that success on what it deems to be the company's future: a radically redesigned Windows 8.

Microsoft had two choices: Do something radically different to win the future or risk a slow death by cleaving to its past.

Microsoft picked the first option and created Windows 8. The touch-based operating system works both as a desktop PC and a tablet platform, and it's not hard to imagine Windows 8 running on a dizzying array of other devices, including table tops, wall screens, kitchen monitors and whatever new touchscreen gadgets we will be using in the future.

"This is an absolutely critical product," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, on a company video blog. "It's key to where personal computing is going."

Perhaps Microsoft's most radical change is opening up the Windows platform to devices powered by ARM-based processors. About 95% of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices run on microchips designed by ARM (ARMH). With Windows RT, the ARM-compatible cousin to the Intel-based Windows 8, Microsoft gains access to a whole new array of mobile devices.

Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt to set the tone of the next several years. Consumer acceptance is the big question mark.

 

Consumer Electronics Industry Announces Ultra High-Definition

The next generation of so-called "4K" high-definition display technology for the home - giant-screen TVs with more than eight million pixels of resolution, four times the resolution of today's high-definition televisions - will be called "Ultra High-Definition" or "Ultra HD," connoting its superiority over conventional HDTV, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®.

CEA's Board of Industry Leaders unanimously voted yesterday to endorse the consensus opinion of CEA's "4K" Working Group recommending the term "Ultra High-Definition" and related performance attributes. The name and related minimum performance characteristics are designed to help consumers and retailers understand the attributes of this next generation of superior television and display technology beginning to roll out this fall. The vote came during the Board's meeting at CEA's annual CEO Summit and Board Retreat held here through Friday.

The Working Group, now known as the CEA Ultra HD Working Group, was formed earlier this year to bring a wide array of stakeholders together to discuss how best to define and educate consumers about this new technology.

ARC 2012: Digital Signage Winner - ViewSonic

ViewSonic is this year's Annual Report Card winner in the Digital Signage category, topping out rival NEC for the third year in a row--and both left Samsung in the dust. Similar to last year, ViewSonic came out ahead in the areas of support with a score of 74.7 and a 78.9 in partnership. NEC's 83.1 in product innovation, narrowly edged out ViewSonic's 82.6.

"ViewSonic has spent 25 years as a channel company and has supported the channel from new product line innovation, and has dedicated support with new ways to grow and sell products," said Sarah Kearns, ViewSonic marketing manager, adding that being "born in the channel, when our partners win, we win. We constantly strive to support partners with award-winning customer service."

The vendor's long-term relationship with the channel has resulted in product loyalty. The company is gearing up for the debut of the new VSD220 computing system, which runs Android. Kearns said the device "is not a PC replacement but a supplement of a PC. It's an ideal all-in-one, family-friendly device that's perfect for sending quick emails, checking Twitter and finding recipes."

Infinity Group Buys Altec Lansing Name, Plans To Rebuild Brand

Infinity Lifestyle Brands, which specializes in acquiring and turning around struggling or bankrupt consumer brands, purchased worldwide rights to the Altec Lansing brand for $17.5 million at auction.

The company purchased the Polaroid and Linens ‘n Things brands in 2010, purchased the Sharper Image brand in 2009, and later sold it off, and is part of a joint venture that owns licensing rights to the Miss America brand.

Altec Lansing, founded in 1941, was most recently owned by an affiliate of Prophet Equity, which purchased the company in 2009 from Plantronics and, in 2011, moved the company to San Diego from Milford, Pa.

As it has with previous brands that it purchased, Infinity Lifestyle Brands will develop a business plan and strategy for Altec Lansing, then license the brands to various companies that will adhere to Infinity’s marketing and positioning guidelines. These include the types of retailers to be targeted, said Ike Franco, principal of Infinity Group. Infinity Lifestyle Brands is one division of Infinity Group. Another division manages real estate in 13 states

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