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.

Samsung Shape M7 brings wireless smartphone-ready audio to the home

The  wireless  speaker system universe has seen another high-powered member born this week in the Samsung Shape M7 Wireless Audio Multiroom speaker system. This system works in collaboration with the Samsung Hub to connect a multi-room audio experience. The Samsung Shape model M7 works with the Samsung Hub for one-stop-shop connectivity or with Bluetooth and NFC for quick-touch control from your smartphone. While this system works in a manner similar to that of the  Sonos wireles s speaker system , here you’re entering the extended universe of Samsung’s products, including  smartphone , smart TVs, and more. Each Samsung Shape M7 works with dual-band WiFi for next-level uninterrupted connectivity as well as Multi-Channel Mesh Network technology to assure you a complete lack of network traffic problems.   This speaker system works with a variety of apps or with your own locally-stored collection of music. If you’ve got a PC,  laptop , or smartphone with MP3 files galore, for example, playing them across your Samsung Shape network of speakers is a snap. Amazon Cloud Player, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio, and Pandora work right out the box as well.

The death of the home stereo system

For many years, it was a rite of fall. You moved into your dorm room or new apartment. You started unpacking the car. And the first thing you set up in your new place was the stereo system: receiver, turntable or CD player, tape deck and speakers. The wires could get tangled, and sometimes you had to make shelving out of a stack of milk crates. But only when the music was playing on those handpicked CDs, mix tapes or (geezer alert!) vinyl records did you move in the rest of your stuff. Daniel Rubio wouldn't know. To the 23-year-old, new dorm rooms and new apartments have meant computers, iTunes, Pandora and miniature speakers. "All I had to bring was my laptop. That's pretty much what everyone had," says Rubio, who attended Emory University in Atlanta and now works for a local marketing and communications firm. "It was actually pretty good sound. It would get the job done." "Get the job done"? That sounds like the white flag for an era that used to be measured in woofers and tweeters, watts per channel and the size of your record collection.   Full Article:

CEDIA EXPO Shows Positive Gains Across the Board

CEDIA EXPO 2013 experienced positive gains in attendance, exhibitor participation, and training registrations. More than 470 exhibitors and 17,900 attendees from 84 countries participated in the 2013 event in Denver .  Professional and overall attendance both grew by 6% while new exhibitor participation grew by 20% and first-time attendees increased by 50% year over year. CEDIA Training also experienced record growth with over 6300 course registrations representing a 50% participation increase. CEDIA EXPO 2013 was described as "phenomenal," "energized," and "exceeding expectations." "The show has far exceeded our expectations," said  Joaquin Rivera , vice president of sales for Stewart Filmscreen. "We have a much better attendance and not just in terms of numbers. The attendees are happy and positive and they have jobs in the pipeline and that makes a huge difference." "This is our second year exhibiting and we'll be back again next year," said  Justin Jordan , vice president of client relations for Monoprice. "Turn out has been great both from customers who know us and those who don't know us. We've gotten a lot of leads and it's been a great opportunity to build our brand awareness explain who we are and explain our product sets."  

Obstacles to future proofing home automation

When contemplating a home-automation project — as with many other technology decisions — the right place to start is ensuring you’re purchasing something that is future proof. As a veteran of the networking industry, future proofing is a technology decision that has some well-understood rules. Computer networking benefits from open standards that drive interoperability, and our customers in turn benefit from fierce competition as well as the knowledge that an open, generally interoperable standard reduces their risk. Even if you buy an Ethernet switch from a vendor that stops supporting it (or worse, goes out of business), a switch can provide years of useful service because it, by definition, works with many devices that come after it. Home automation depends heavily on tying together sensors, controllers, and an application framework.  Unfortunately, the lesson of having common standards to drive that networking has yet to become apparent in the products available on the market.  There are several network technologies that are used in home automation today, but none is fully suitable for creating a market.  One of the reasons why there is extensive hobbyist work done by programmers writing and modifying code on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms is that the market for shrink-wrapped automation devices has been unable to grow without a technology framework that allows good ideas to be developed and “plug into” an existing system.   Full Article:

CEDIA 2013 - HomeToys has all the news from this years show

The best and brightest of the Home Technology and Integration industry gathered in Denver, Colorado at CEDIA to learn new skills, discover innovative solutions, network and have a great time celebrating the industry. Attracting more than 450 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees from over 70 countries, CEDIA is the top Home Technology and Integration show of the year. For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering CEDIA 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  CEDIA 2013 Newspage  for Exhibitor news and announcements. Our Special CEDIA Tradeshow report is now online and highlights a few of the many exciting product releases from this years show.

Wi-Fi-connected doorbell DoorBot shrinks down, adds new features

When CNET last wrote about DoorBot, Bot Home Automation was pitching its Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell/security camera combo device on crowd-funding site Christie Street. Having achieved its $250,000 goal, DoorBot is now almost ready to ship to its initial round of backers. The company was on-hand at the PepCom event in New York City with a DoorBot demo (hence our video above). Since we first heard about the product, a few things have changed in regard to its specs and pricing. Its core function, letting you see who's at your door through a mobile app, remains intact. Some of its biggest updates come by way of the hardware in the final production units, compared with what BOT showed during fundraising. A more efficient design gives it 33 percent size reduction overall, according to BOT and an accompanying diagram. You can also hardwire the DoorBot directly to your doorbell wiring now, and BOT has replaced the standard battery compartment with a USB rechargeable internal battery. The company says it has also added a security screw to the design, which should allay fears that the device might be tempting to steal, and a level on the mounting hardware, to simplify installation.

Honeywell voice-activated thermostat has its say

Honeywell has been playing catch-up in the smart thermostat game of late. Their $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is extremely capable, but came on the heels of the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat; a slightly panicked response to a surprise competitor. But today’s announcement from Honeywell serves as a reminder that an industry rival can be a good thing -- it tends to speed up innovation and it makes us consumers feel like we’re being courted. Not too shabby. I’m talking about the newly announced $349 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control. And if you think it looks a lot like the $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat I recently reviewed, you would be right. It is essentially the same: you will still be able to control your heating and cooling remotely using Honeywell's Total Connect Comfort app for Android and iOS, you can still change the background color to suit your mood or wall color, and it will still learn your habits over time. But the $349 model comes with a pretty major update: cloud-based voice-recognition tech. To activate voice control on this thermostat, you simply say, "Hello, thermostat." You can be anywhere in your house -- provided it's no more than 25 feet away -- and the far-field voice-control tech takes care of the rest. It claims to cancel out any background noise so it's ready to listen intently for your commands. Honeywell also says that this model will add more commands to enhance your level of interactivity over time -- I'm pretty excited to test that functionality.

HDMI 2.0: What you need to know

The HDMI Forum, the nonprofit body that oversees the HDMI specification, recently announced version 2.0. There were numerous changes, not least support for higher frame rates than are possible with the current 1.4 specification. Do you need to upgrade? Will your cables still work? What does this mean for the future of TVs? Do you care? Answers for all these questions (except maybe the last one) below... First, here's where we are now. The until-now most recent version of the HDMI specification was version 1.4. It specified a number of things, like 4,096x2,160-pixel resolution up to 24 frames per second, or 3,820x2,160 up to 30fps. If you've bought any gear with an HDMI connector in the past few years, it's probably version 1.4. It carried over all the features and support from previous versions, plus added 3D, Audio Return Channel, and so on. 2.0 for 4K With the TV industry moving inexorably toward Ultra HD "4K," it was clear there needed to be more bandwidth in the connection to handle the future's higher resolutions and frame rates. On that front, HDMI 2.0 delivers, supporting "4K" (2160p by the Forum's explanation) up to 60fps. This allows for full-resolution 4K 3D, along with higher-frame-rate 2D content, like (potentially) home videos and computer games (PC, not PS4/Xbox One). Since almost all movies are shot at 24fps, this increase is less important for feature films or scripted TV shows. Full Article:

HDBaseT Alliance at CEDIA 2013: See the Next Generation of HDBaseT Technology

The HDBaseT Alliance (Booth #2830) at CEDIA 2013 will showcase several new HDBaseT-enabled home entertainment audio/video receivers, projectors, displays and other components from several Alliance members including NEC, Onkyo and Pioneer.  "We're going to show a sampling of the ever-growing HDBaseT product ecosystem so the professional installers and systems integrators attending CEDIA will be able to see first-hand how they can reduce the time and complexities of each job by leveraging the HDBaseT technology end-to-end," said Micha Risling, Marketing Committee Chair, the HDBaseT Alliance.  The HDBaseT technology, powered by Valens chipset, enables all-in-one connectivity between HD video sources and remote displays through a single 100m/328ft CAT5e/6 cable, delivering uncompressed high definition 4k video, audio, Internet, control signals and up to 100 watts of power.  The HDBaseT Alliance will demonstrate the HDBaseT Multimedia Home Connectivity Solution, and HDBaseT home theater set-up connected to a single-wire TV. In addition, The Alliance booth will feature HDBaseT-enabled products from dozens of vendors, including: AquaVision, Atlona, Crestron, Emcore, Epson, Geffen, Hall Research, Hitachi, Integra, Kordz, Kramer, NEC, Onkyo, Panasonic, Pioneer, Primeview, Savant Systems, Shenzhen Shunxun Electronics Co., Ltd, Shinybow, Silver Telecom and Wyrestorm. 

Plugging Home Electrical Systems into the Future: Bellatrix System's New bRight Switch

Bellatrix Systems today announced the launch of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for its sleek, new modular electrical control system for homes and businesses. The bRight Switch™ system includes smart switches that can be customized to perform multiple functions as well as multi-port outlets that combine high voltage and low voltage, eliminating the need for most wall chargers. bRight Switch integrates safely with the infrastructure of both new and existing construction and its design allows flexibility for future inventions and technological advancements. The Indiegogo campaign will launch on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 with a funding goal of $400,000.  bRight Switch represents several firsts. It is the first and only system to offer an Android-based, full-color LCD touch screen controller system for homes or businesses. It is also the first self-learning light switch control system to learn users' behaviors.

D-Tools Unveiling Workflow-Enhancing Native iPAD® Mobile Quoting App at CEDIA EXPO 2013

D-Tools, Inc., the worldwide leader in system integration software, today announced that the Company will unveil a new IOS-based iPad® companion app for its flagship product, SIX 2013. Available in Q4 for partners worldwide, this new release adds mobile quoting capabilities that enable Commercial and Residential AV integrators to generate quotes natively on an iPad then bring them into SIX 2013 for further project design and management. Delivering on D-Tools' commitment to streamline product updates and enhancements by consolidating them into an annual release, this new companion app will immediately extend the highly functional D-Tools workflow to mobile sales and specification teams.  A native IOS application, the D-Tools iPad® app leverages D-Tools' extensive manufacturer product library by enabling integrators to access and integrate product category and package data from their SIX 2013 catalog while working with customers in the field. Integrators can enter client and contact information into the iPad app, then walk prospective customers through available installation scenarios in order to create a quote for approval. Once complete, the resulting quote can then be imported into SIX 2013 for additional design work and synchronization. The iPad app utilizes many of D-Tools' workflow concepts, including the specification of locations and systems, which allows integrators to provide packages or pre-configured systems for inclusion in the quote. Labor and general pricing will be calculated to give the customer an accurate proposal, which can then be signed off for approval on the spot.

Flowton Technologies Looks To Revolutionize Home Automation With Motion Gestures, Needs Cash

The likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the land where dreams are born (or are crushed), and yet another intrepid group of techies-come-entrepreneurs is looking to raise money via crowdfunding. Flowton Technologies is a group that makes a “natural interface” controller for the home that allows users to control things with voice and gesture, and they need $150,000 to get from prototype to production. With the Flowton Controller, you’ll be able to walk into your house, say “I’m home”, and turn the lights on; control your TV with gestures in the air; adjust the thermostat without leaving the couch or using any other device; and more. It’s akin to the Leap Motion controller but for home automation. There are three parts to the system: the Flowton Controller, the Flowton IR blaster, and the Flowton Smart Plug.  The controller includes a 1.7GHz ARM processor, 2GB of RAM, an RGB camera, two microphones, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a depth camera port (for something like a Kinect). This device lets you control a device by waving your hand in a plane, but also moving it back and forth in 3D.   Full Article:

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