Going Big on Healthcare AV and IT

If, as an AV professional, you still scratch your head from time to time wondering why InfoComm and the InfoComm Board spend so much time and resources on things like standards, industry innovations, and ANSI-accreditation of the Certified Technology Specialist program (or even if you don’t), I’d like you to meet Kate Berry. We talk a lot about the AV industry having a more prominent seat at more prominent tables. Kate is the type of person AV professionals can expect to meet when they commit themselves to standards and raising the overall profile of the industry.

Recently, Kate joined InfoComm officials on a trip to the University of Central Florida’s new high-tech College of Medicine to check out the school’s AV and IT systems. She is CEO of the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC). And her organization is joining InfoComm in launching a first-of-its-kind conference on the intersection of AV and IT technology in the healthcare market. Full Interview here:

Digital signage now part of AAA hotel ratings

AAA recently updated its diamond rating system for North American hotels — and included digital signage as part of its rating evaluations.  The organization revamped its "Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines" for lodgings, the blueprint for assigning ratings of one to five AAA Diamonds following successful on-site inspections at more than 30,000 hotels throughout North America.

Digital signage and self-service kiosks, and how they contribute to hotel atmosphere and services, were among the considerations noted in the inspections, AAA said.

"Traveler expectations and travel industry capabilities continue to evolve," AAA tourism information development director Michael Petrone said in the announcement. The new guidelines address changes that have occurred since the last update in 2007. With input from AAA's full-time hotel inspectors, AAA members and industry professionals, the updated guidelines reflect current AAA member expectations and travel trends.

Don't expect lower cost OLED's any time soon

 

According to DisplaySearch, manufacturing costs for 55” OLED panels are 8-10 times higher than LCD.

LG, who employ WRGB OLED on an IGZO substrate, will be able to do so for eight times the cost of a comparative LCD. Samsung, will be looking at a cost of ten times LCD for their direct-emission OLED. Although, Samsung can produce OLED at a 30% premium in small sizes (e.g. for phones and tablets), producing large panels still has comparatively lower yields and higher material costs. It will be interesting to see if Samsumg will be able to recoup that additional 25% at retail.

With such a huge manufacturing differential, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be seeing 55” OLED’s in stores for $10,000 before the end of 2012.

Sony, Sharp highlight Japan electronics woes

A profit warning from Sony and a massive loss forecast from Sharp have highlighted the depth of the problems facing Japan's consumer electronics industry, beset by an expensive yen and evaporating competitiveness in televisions.

Sony, which is coming off a Y457bn ($5.8bn) net loss for fiscal 2011, on Thursday said that a promised rebound this year would be smaller than it initially expected.

Sharp, meanwhile, widened its full-year net loss forecast more than eightfold, to Y250bn from the Y30bn it predicted in May, and said that it planned to eliminate 5,000 jobs -- its first workforce reduction since 1950.

Japanese tech groups such as Sony and Sharp had invested heavily in production facilities for liquid crystal TV displays, only to find themselves unable to compete as prices for flatscreen sets plunged. The yen's 50 per cent rise against the currencies of Japan's trading partners since mid-2008 has made them that much more vulnerable to cheaper Taiwanese and South Korean producers.

33% of Cord Cutters Gone for Good

I’m a cord cutter, so I can relate to this. I don’t miss my $100+ per month cable bill and with prices set to hit $200+ per month by 2020, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. In a recent survey by deal aggregator TechBargains.com, 33% of the 1604 respondents have already cut the cord and said they would never return at any price.

The survey also found that 29% of respondents  are cord cutters, with 83% of those stating that subscription is too expensive. The remaining 17% primarily cited content being limited in quality and variety. At 74%, Netflix is the leading streaming content provider, beating YouTube by 13%

I cut the cord a few years ago. It was a bit of a learning curve getting everything setup and there’s some upfront investment required, but it’s getting easier every day. Hulu’s recent support for the AppleTV is just another stepping stone to cord cutting nirvana.

Cable companies are not sitting on their laurels. Most are now offering multi-room systems, home automation, cloud-based energy management and several hundred megabit download speeds to try and retain subscribers.

NPD DisplaySearch Revises Digital Signage Display Forecast

The global market for public displays remains strong, but in recent quarters, flat panel display manufacturers have emphasized revenue and profit over volume, thus lowering the overall unit shipment outlook for this category.
As production of plasma displays continues to wind down, LCD-based commercial displays have yet to fully fill the void, according to the recently released NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly FPD Public Display Shipment and Forecast Report.

With reduced production of plasma, the public display market fell 13 percent year to year; however, LCD public display shipments were up 23 percent year to year, according to the report.

Forecasts still show strong growth, with the market set to push near 12 million units sold in 2018, an increase from just under 3 million units in 2011. Growth will be driven by new applications for public displays such as digital signage, interactive white boards, video walls, electronic menu boards, as well as the global trend toward urbanization in developing countries seen most visibly in China.

Leviton Acquires Home Automation, Inc.

Leviton today announced the acquisition of Home Automation, Inc. (HAI), a leader in home automation controls for residential and light commercial applications. HAI enhances Leviton's current home automation offerings by providing homeowners with solutions that combine security, energy management and entertainment controls, in user-friendly applications.

Integrating HAI products with Leviton's solutions provides homeowners with a smart choice for automation and remote access capabilities. HAI has a wide-ranging product offering, from systems that allow homeowners to control their automated video surveillance system and audio devices over the Internet to programmable thermostats and light switches accessible directly from a smart phone.

"Leviton's acquisition of HAI represents a significant expansion of our offerings in the residential market, and furthers Leviton's commitment to providing customers with the latest technologies as affordable, easy-to-use solutions," said Daryoush Larizadeh, Chief Operating Officer of Leviton.
"Leviton and HAI are two established brands coming together to offer a complete whole home automation solution that customers can trust."
 

HuluPlus now on AppleTV - How to get a 2-month free trial.

Cord cutters rejoice. Hulu have just announced that HuluPlus is now available on AppeTV. For $7.99 a month, billed to the subscriber's iTunes account, users can get access to content from top broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, FOX, The CW and Univision as well as many other content partners. Unfortunately, paying $7.99/month does not excuse you from advertisements; although, the shows claim to have “limited ads”.

Prior to the announcement, the only TV content available on AppleTV was via the iTunes store or Netflix. I’m sure Apple is getting a cut of the subscription revenue, but it’s bound to hurt sales of TV content on iTunes.

Eagerly, I fired up my AppleTV and gave it a try. Quality wasn’t bad: Hell’s Kitchen wasn’t quite as good as my over the air HD, and I can now get BBC America content, so I’m sold.

For those who want more than the paltry one week free trial on offer on AppleTV, follow this link to get two months free. Sign up and then simply select “I already have a HuluPlus subscription” when prompted on the AppleTV

Apple has long treated AppleTV as a hobby. Maybe things are changing in Cupertino.

Retail tech heats up to beat holiday shopping lockdown

While the holiday shopping season doesn't kick off till the fall, the behind-the-scenes tech preparations for the season are already heating up this summer — and those technology deployments should be even bigger and better this year.

And a recent study suggests that retailers will be spending even more on high-tech this year in an effort to steal a march on competitors and surf the bleeding edge of customer engagement technologies.

From basic POS system repairs to digital signage installations, retailers are tackling a variety of tech projects now in order to prepare for the holiday rush in Q4, according to tech service company OnForce. Because when the rush starts, these repairs and upgrades will mean downtime they can't afford, especially at the register. And their deadline isn't Black Friday — it's Halloween, which generated almost $7 billion in retail revenue last year.

And according to new research from the Computing Technology Industry Association, 63 percent of retailers expect to increase their spending on technology solutions in the coming year.

XPAND 3D Poises For Huge Push in Home Theater 3D Market With Establishment of New Home Theater Division

In a significant and strategic move to address the growth of the home theater 3D market, XPAND 3D, the world leader in consumer and professional cinema 3D solutions, today announced that it has established a new Home Theater Division to better serve the needs of systems integrators and customers in home theater. The division is led by Philippe Coissac, Head of Global Home Theater Sales.

"Since our beginning, XPAND has been committed to providing the best and most technologically advanced 3D products to consumers, and 3D has become a major part of the home theater experience," said Maria Costeira, CEO of XPAND 3D. "We saw that the time was right to create a dedicated Home Theater Division to focus specifically on the requirements of dealers, custom installers and retailers who service the home theater space. We are here to accommodate their needs, give them a direct line of communication and enable them to provide optimum 3D solutions to their customers!"

"Movie enthusiasts want to enjoy the excitement of a true cinema-quality environment in their home theaters, and XPAND YOUniversal 3D Glasses and products deliver the ultimate in 3D viewing," Costeira continued.

BTX Goes All In at Resorts World Casino New York City, Providing Gefen Digital Signage

BTX Technologies, a value-added distributor and manufacturer of interface, integration, and system products, today announced that the company has supplied 40 Gefen Digital Signage Media Players with Wi-Fi™ for use at the Resorts World Casino New York City. Purchased and installed by systems integrator The Integration Factory, the high-definition players are being used to deliver up-to-date dining information to digital menu boards located in the casino's food court and Aqueduct Buffet.

Resorts World Casino New York City is the Big Apple's first casino. Adjacent to the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Queens, the two-story property offers 4,468 video lottery terminals and 550 electronic table games. For hungry guests, the casino features 17 dining options, including a full food court and the 400-seat Aqueduct Buffet. 40 digital menu boards provide patrons with current information on the availability and pricing of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. Each display features a Gefen media player mounted directly behind it, which is connected to the casino's food court network server. This allows Resorts World technicians to access all local players remotely with ease from the digital and A/V media office.

Roku Receives $45m in Funding

Roku has just closed a $45 million Series E round. Investors include News Corp and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). News Corp’s chief digital officer, Jon Miller, has also joined the Roku board. Mr Miller commented: “Roku's significant technology advantage, coupled with a strong market position, places them in a unique position to be an integral part of the television landscape for years to come.”

According to Roku, The money will be used for expansion, as well as for other initiatives. No doubt, some of the money will be used for the completion of the Roku Stick, which is due to launch this week. It’s not clear whether any will be earmarked for commercial applications, such as digital signage. (Roku Founder and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Wood is also the Founder and Chairman of the Board of BrightSign, whose players are based on Roku technology.)

With entry level devices, at half the price of an AppleTV, this will surely give Apple a further run for its money; although, having sold 1.3 million units, AppleTV is still a hobby for the company, so they may not even care.

On the media front, News Corp already has several apps available on the Roku Channel Store, including Fox News, WSJ Live, and X Factor and will no doubt add more. BSkyB’s Now TV streaming service is available on Roku boxes.

Remodelers forecast positive outlook on business

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is revealing the latest from the NARI Second Quarterly Business Review-and it is positive news.

The second-quarter research, which measures remodeler's assessment of business conditions, shows NARI members believe the current business climate is slightly more positive than the same time last year.

"There are clear indications that some of our NARI members believe that they have weathered the storm, and expect consumer confidence to return in a more consistent pace going forward," says Kevin Anundson, CR, CKBR, NARI National Secretary and president of Owner Assisted Remodeling based in Elm Grove, Wis.

In fact, data shows that NARI members forecast stronger sales growth in the next three months, based on three key factors: Postponement of projects (80%), growth due to low interest rates (50%) and 35% believe improving home prices are also a significant factor.

Remodelers say consumer confidence has a different tone this time around. "People are aware that that their home values may not be as high as they once were, yet that only affects those that are forced to sell," Anundson says. "Many homeowners have made the decision to remain in their home and are choosing to make improvements and increase their comfort and long-term living accommodations. This thought process allows them to be much less concerned about returns on investment and resale values."

LG Electronics Teams Up With Fry's To Bring 'EzSign TV' Display Solution To More Small Businesses

LG Electronics USA has joined forces with Fry's Electronics Inc. to offer the popular LG EzSign TVs in all Fry's retail stores nationwide, in addition to the retailer's website, www.frys.com .

A turnkey digital signage solution for small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs), EzSign TV offers high-quality picture and contrast ratios combined with customizable content running simultaneously with live TV or another external media source, attracting attention while delivering messaging to consumers.

Now available for purchase in all 34 Fry's retail locations and online, the 32-, 42- and 47-inch class sizes (31.5-, 42.0-, 47.0-inch diagonal, respectively) of the EzSign LD452B LCD TV series include an internal media player, complete software package with custom signage templates and commercial-grade display settings to optimize power savings and product lifespan.

Fry's Electronics is the first retail outlet to both sell and display the commercial EzSign TV product in-store, providing the opportunity for small business owners to learn more about the product and "test drive" it in a retail setting. First introduced in 2011, EzSign TV has grown in popularity and expanded sales channels to include Direct Market Retailers (DMRs), IT integrators, professional/custom A/V dealers and installers and digital signage resellers.
 

Silicon Valley Says Step Away From the Device

Growing movement in Silicon Valley aims to get people to log off once in a while.

Stuart Crabb, a director in the executive offices of Facebook, naturally likes to extol the extraordinary benefits of computers and smartphones. But like a growing number of technology leaders, he offers a warning: log off once in a while, and put them down.

In a place where technology is seen as an all-powerful answer, it is increasingly being seen as too powerful, even addictive.

The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions.

“If you put a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll boil to death — it’s a nice analogy,” said Mr. Crabb, who oversees learning and development at Facebook. People “need to notice the effect that time online has on your performance and relationships.”

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