InfoComm China 2013 Sees 20-percent Attendee Increase at Beijing Show

In its 8th year, InfoComm China 2013 continues to grow, drawing 19,431 attendees, a 20-percent increase compared with the 2012 show, to the China National Convention Center in Beijing. The three-day annual pro audiovisual show, held in early April, has grown so much since its inception that next year it will fill the entire CNCC, according to show organizers. "We are really thrilled by this year's success, as it once again proved companies in China are recognizing the importance of pro AV in providing a competitive edge to their businesses,” said Richard Tan, the show’s general manager. He added, “The potential for sustainable growth in the Chinese AV market is enormous! Through InfoComm China, our exhibitors will share their expertise of the application of pro AV technology and innovations to help more companies achieve breakthroughs in their businesses." The show, organized by InfoCommAsia Pte Ltd. And InfoComm International, expanded from four halls to six this year, with a gross exhibition area of nearly 35,000 square meters hosting more than 300 exhibiting companies. According to exhibitors, the show’s success was twofold; the huge growth of China’s pro AV market, as well an increase in targeted marketing and public relations for the show.

ACTP Launches TiO Home Automation Brand

TiO is a new approach to home automation, one driven by an “outside in” philosophy that focuses on the customer experience, according to the company. TiO home automation solutions will provide professional integrators with an easy-to-install, elegant home automation solution that offers powerful features, maximum flexibility and a new pricing model that will allow home automation to reach a broad base of consumers. “TiO is driven by our vision to provide homeowners with an experience that seamlessly captures their mood and provides them with comfort and peace of mind,” said Mike Anderson, president and CEO of ACTP. “TiO is unlike any other home automation system because it truly allows the customer to control how the system interacts with their daily life. We’ve designed the TiO system to be simple and intuitive enough for the consumer to perfectly match their moods and create satisfying and powerful experiences in their home. We want to deliver a solution that adapts to the customer instead of asking the customer to adapt to the system.” TiO systems will run on Android-enabled devices, allowing users to better utilize the world’s most popular mobile platform. Each system will be easily configured by a professional integrator via the convenience of an Android tablet.

Eyes-on with Ninja Blocks 'home automation for hackers'

Ninja Blocks look a fair bit different than they used to, however -- the 3D-printed case has been traded up for something that looks a lot more like a final, saleable product. In fact, it looks a little like a router or an external hard drive, albeit one with color-changing ninja eyes. The company was also talking up the home automation possibilities of its platform a bit more than the straightforward sensor pitch. In a buzz phrase, the company is calling this "home automation for hackers." Using the Ninja Rules app, you can turn lights and appliances on and off, get alerts for things like your wash and monitor your home, without writing code -- of course, knowing how helps. The whole platform is extremely open to users, and inside the case, you'll find a Beagle Bone and Arduino board, both accessible by pulling at the handy "Hack Me" tag that hangs on its side. The base system will run you $199. More information can be found in a video after the break.

Commercial Building Automation Market to Top $43 billion by 2018

After years of steady but low growth the commercial building automation systems (BAS) market is experiencing a rapid period of change and investment. Traditionally, growth and adoption has been closely tied to new building completion but new entrants and new connectivity are driving greater investment. Over the next five years the building automation services market will grow to $43 billion, up from $35 billion this year.  Two key factors are driving a new round of growth. Greater environmental and financial demands have raised the appeal of reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings and the benefits for optimizing building automation systems. In addition, a new level of connectivity that stretches the reach of BAS's from new sensors and actuators through to cloud application management and data analysis.  "This is a market long dominated by a handful of major players who deploy and manage commercial building management systems," says Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research. "Now these players are developing new ways to integrate and compete with a host of new service offerings." 

Just stick this portable outlet to your window to start using solar power

  It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy. That was the whole point, according to the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh: “We tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training,” they write. It is really simple. The portable socket attaches to a window like a leech to human skin. On its underside, it has solar panels: The solar panels suck energy from the sun. The charger converts that energy into electricity. You plug in to the charger. Even better, the charger stores that energy. After five to eight hours of charging, the socket provides 10 hours of use. You can pop it off the window, stick it in your bag, and use it to charge up your phone with solar energy, even if you’re sitting in a dark room.  

Sony Unveils 2013 Home Audio Product Line

  At a special listening and audition event today, Sony Electronics introduced its 2013 Home Audio product lineup, highlighting the STR-DN1040 Audio/Video Receiver and the HT-CT660 Soundbar. Available in June, both products boast of Sony's legendary commitment to quality sound, and are packed with connectivity and accessibility features. Both the STR-DN1040 receiver, priced at $599, and the HT-CT660 soundbar, priced at $399, will be available at Sony Stores and http://store.sony.com, as well as retailers nationwide. "Our rich audio legacy leads consumers to expect continued innovation and performance from Sony audio products," said  Neal Manowitz  , director of Sony Electronics' Home Audio group. "The newest AV receiver in our line has the simplest, most user-friendly interface, which when combined with a world first and only AVR feature set of built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, raises the bar with respect to usability, and does so with knockout sound performance. Likewise, the new soundbar extends the Sony line and brings theater-like, high-definition sound to any room in the house, with Bluetooth ease and convenience."

AT&T Enters the World of Home Automation

The company is entering the home automation space — launching its Digital Life initiative in 15 markets beginning Friday. Kevin Peterson, senior vice president of AT&T Digital Life says the IP-based system will make customers' lives easier by simplifying home management — allowing for customizable features accessible from any PC or mobile device. The idea, which has been under development for over a year now, is for AT&T to offer pre-packaged bundles and monitoring of your home automation. The company wants to create that system for you by letting you shop for what you want — either online or in a retail location — and offering certified specialists to install the sensors and equipment. There are different packages to choose from, depending on your needs. A camera package, for instance, will let you view video from inside or outside your home. The energy package controls your thermostat and lights while a water-detection package can check for water in your basement and alert you or turn it off.

Open Home Control: New home automation hardware project

Many open source home automation projects have relied on driving proprietary devices, but the newly created Open Home Control project aims to change that by creating a framework for hardware devices that can be integrated with open sourced home automation platforms such as the respected openHAB software. The home automation system will provide a framework for creating a large network of different devices that offer AES-256 data encryption and can resend data packets when transmission is disrupted. Devices in the network will use Atmel microcontrollers such as the ATMega168 in combination with HopeRF wireless transceivers on 868MHz. Firmware for the system is developed in C and compiled with the GCC compiler. WinAVR is the chosen development environment, although compiling under Linux also appears to be possible. Design guidelines on the site give further information about the hardware and firmware. The project is still young, but a handful devices are already available: a base station to act as a master control for the OHC network, a temperature and humidity sensor, a remotely switchable power socket, and a dimmer designed to work with specialised Osram fluorescent tube power supplies. The number of available devices is set to increase along with the growing community of contributors the project hopes to attract. The project's software is available from its GitHub repository and is licensed under the GPLv3 . Hardware and schematics are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence.

Life Gets Easier With Zonoff's Cutting-Edge Home Automation Technology

With only 18 employees, Zonoff, a Malvern-based startup (Pennsylvania) managed to raise $3.8 million to continue the development of their comprehensive software that helps you, the consumer, control your home electronic systems, with a single app installed on your iPhone or iPad. Basically, Zonoff provides a simple solution in terms of home connectivity, suggesting that their service – a platform which includes a home, cloud and an app software is enough to control electronic devices wirelessly and make them communicate one with another. The home software:  This is the core of Zonoff’s advanced technology, being able to turn any “always-on” device into a home controller. That means that a simple electronic item, like your Blu-ray player for instance, becomes a smart one…and therefore, understands your commands. The cloud software:  We’re already used to cloud solutions, so this is not a new approach, but definitely an indispensable one. The cloud software “enables remote access and device management”. The idea was to give the costumers the possibility to interact with their homes, away from home. The app software:  It runs on smartphones and other mobile devices. With an user-friendly interface, the app allows you to set the clock alarm, turn on the lights and so on, changing once and forever the way we interact with our homes. The cutting-edge home automation technology was first introduced to the public in January, during CES 2013.

CEA's 11th Annual 'State of the Builder' Study Finds Strong, Stable Market for Installed Home Technologies

The overall growth of the home technology market remained consistent from 2011 to 2012, demonstrating home technology has a strong, stable foothold, according to new findings in the 11th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) ® . Technology installations in new homes reached or exceeded 2008 levels, providing more evidence that the market for built-in home technologies is well on the road to recovery. Structured wiring remains the most common installed technology (70 percent), followed by monitored security (44 percent) and home theater pre-wire systems (27 percent). “These installed technology trends signify that some home technologies have made the transition from luxuries to standard options,” said Chris Ely, senior manager of industry analysis, CEA. Home technologies have become valuable marketing tools for new homes. Builders say they continue to find that marketing these technologies is important; close to half of builders surveyed (49 percent) said they find it much more or somewhat more important to market these technologies today. 

Logitech unveils Harmony Ultimate and Smart Control universal remote

Coming soon are two fresh bundles bearing the Harmony name: the Ultimate and Smart Control. At the heart of both is the Smart Hub, a palm-sized box somewhat similar to the Harmony Link. It receives commands from remotes via RF, or from smartphone apps via WiFi, and in turn, broadcasts its own orders to your A/V setup using IR and Bluetooth. It's especially useful for those wanting to hide their kit away in cabinets, as it translates inputs into IR signals that'll bounce around those secluded spaces. Optional extender nodes will also pipe IR into other nearby recesses. To do that though, the Hub needs instructions, which is where remotes and apps come in. The new Ultimate remote (aka the Touch Plus) is last year's Touch remote with a few refinements, including the addition of a trigger-like nub on the underside to improve grip. It uses IR, Bluetooth or RF (to the Hub) to control up to 15 devices, and is programmed using Logitech's software for PCs that pulls settings from a database of 225,000 home entertainment products. The Ultimate's 2.4-inch touchscreen serves as a number pad, a favorite channel list for easy hopping, and is the home of one-touch "activities," which are basically macros for issuing multiple commands. Set up an activity for "Play Xbox," for example, and in one touch it'll turn on your console, switch your TV to the correct source, select the right channel on your amp, and so on. It'll even tell Philips' connected Hue lightbulbs to set a mood. Jump on past the break for more.

Alarm.com opens home automation platform to outside companies

Vienna-based Alarm.com, the purveyor of home automation technology, is trying to position itself as a kind of operating system for the home. It has begun allowing other companies to plug their technology into its system in the same way software developers create applications for Microsoft or Apple computers, tablets and phones. Alarm.com announced its initial partnerships last week at the International Security Conference in Las Vegas. Homeowners that use LiftMaster electric garage door openers and Lutron lights and window shades will be able to control them using the Alarm.com Web site and app. Jay Kenny, vice president of marketing, said Alarm.com’s Platform Connect allows the company to quickly expand the number of products a homeowner can automate and control using the company’s system. “The more applications that they can draw to that platform the greater the value, in the same way the Apple app store draws applications from all sorts of developers and that brings greater value to that platform,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research.  

Speakerfy: A Free App for Whole-Home Audio

Playing music in multiple rooms around the house can be an expensive endeavor, with products like Sonos costing upwards of $300 per speaker. If you’ve already got a handful of phones, tablets and laptops connected to existing speakers around the house, why not sync them together so they’re all playing the same songs at the same time? Speakerfy, an app that officially launches on iPhone and iPad this week, and on Windows and Android next week, is a quick and dirty way to make it happen. It allows you to synchronize audio playback on multiple phones, tablets and laptops, so you can listen to the same music while wandering from room to room. (Whole-home audio isn’t Speakerfy’s primary intended function. It’s actually billed as a “social sound” app, allowing people to listen to music together across devices. Yes, it’s an app for silent discos. No, I’m not hip enough to partake in said discos. Whole-home audio it is.) Speakerfy streams audio over your local Wi-Fi network, or over a shared mobile hotspot, to any device that’s also running the app. Just send an invite to the devices you want to connect, then choose a song, album or playlist from your music collection. The other devices will start playing music in time with the host device.

Linear Expands Home Automation Offerings with Z-Wave Lighting Products

Linear LLC has added Z-Wave lighting products to its line of wireless residential and commercial offerings. The new products represent a benchmark for Linear as the company seeks to unify wireless lighting control products with existing security and access control systems, and other Z-Wave products.   This powerful smart chip and compact protocol enable two-way RF communications among Z-Wave enabled devices. Linear is now manufacturing, selling and distributing Z-Wave lighting control products that include: wall dimmers, wall switches, wall outlets, lamp modules, appliance modules, 3-way switches/dimmers, fixture modules, as well as international versions of the same products. Linear will also utilize its extensive OEM resources to manufacture Z-Wave products for partner companies seeking their own intelligent lighting solutions. The products also fit in nicely with Linear's recent acquisition of 2GIG Technologies since 2GIG's GO! Control platform is Z-Wave certified and provides an elegant and user-friendly control panel for the management of lighting, security, access control and more. Z-Wave enabled products represent the world's largest ecosystem of interoperable smart products giving Linear dealers more options and opportunities in a variety of segments. "The addition of Z-Wave lighting products gives Linear customers access to a widely adopted wireless control protocol that is easy-to-install, modular, affordable and intelligent," said Duane Paulson, senior vice president of product and market development. "The extensive product offerings and adoption of the Z-Wave protocol across many industries will create opportunities for Linear dealers in new and existing markets."  

How to save the AV receiver

There are a lot of reasons why sound bars are taking over home audio, but one of them is increasingly obvious: AV receivers are terrible. While receivers are fine for enthusiasts who know what they're doing, they're a frustrating experience for everyone else. Most technology gets better over time, but AV receivers seem frozen in amber, with giant chassis, thick inscrutable manuals, and onscreen interfaces that could only generously be called "standard-definition." They're embarrassingly backward compared with the rest of your home theater gear, yet they remain a begrudging necessity for those who want something better than a sound bar. AV receivers don't have to be this bad, but they need to completely reinvent themselves to stay relevant. Here's where they should start.  Click for Full article by Matthew Moskovciak of CNET.  

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