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.”

Scala Provides Five Tips for Retailers Getting Started with Digital Signage

Scala Inc. today offered five tips for retailers that are looking to get started with digital signage systems to educate consumers about available products and services, cross-promote products and improve the customer experience. A recent retail sector technology adoption study from CompTIA found that one in three U.S. retailers currently uses digital signage with another 22 percent planning to implement soon. Among the top ways retailers use digital signage are for sales or promotional announcements; photo displays including images of customers using products; and custom videos such as tutorials, advice and customer testimonials. “A growing number of retailers are adopting digital signage because they see it can help them alter the usual shopping patterns of consumers,” said Marcy Patzer, senior director of retail strategies, Scala. “By enabling this change even for a split second, retailers entice customers to stop their routines and direct their attention to something new. That split second can truly transform consumer shopping activities and buying cycles.” Scala offers retailers the following five tips as they look to get started with digital signage:

Raspberry Pi announces Raspbian

We recently reviewed the Raspberry PI for use a Home Theater PC (HTPC) and found that performance was a little sluggish. In order to improve performance, Raspberry has now released Raspbian, which is a, hard-float optimized version of Debian. One of the main areas of improvement for general use will be web browsing. For XBMC users, audio stream decoding is significantly improved. The chart above shows the amount of CPU time required to decode various audio formats in real time on the Raspberry Pi. This is particularly important for XBMC users as all audio streams are decoded in software on the ARM CPU, and high-bitrate audio streams can be troublesome. This data shows a significant performance increase when decoding these formats on Raspbian. Full benchmark results can be found here . The latest release also brings improvements to the firmware, kernel and applications, and is recommended as the distribution most appropriate for general users. An SD card image of Raspbian is now available for download from http://www.raspbian.org

LG Display to develop 60-inch flexible OLED by 2017

Most of the talk about OLED today revolves around consumer electronics, but the Korean government wants to make sure Korea leads the way in commercial applications. As such, it has chosen LG to be part of the “Future Flagship Program” and has tasked the company with developing a 60-inch flexible OLED display by 2017. The transparent flexible OLED is planned to be deployed in applications such as a window displaying information at bus stations, aquariums and retail stores. The program’s primary sponsor, The Ministry of Knowledge Economy, expects to generate $56 billion in exports and create 840,000 jobs through the research and development of transparent and flexible displays. LG Display said that the project will be able to further widen the technological gap between Korea and the fast-growing economy of China in the display sector.

Aereo Beats Broadcasters

A few months ago, we reported that Aereo were being sued by several broadcasters. Well, the jury’s out and Aereo has won, for now. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said she understood how the service provided by the company, Aereo, may be unfair to broadcasters. But she said the law left her no choice but to reject a request by News Corp.'s Fox and other broadcasters to pull the plug on the company. For $12 a month, subscribers can rent a mini antenna and have its content streamed to their devices over the internet, satisfying the requirement to have an antenna. Unfortunately, the hearing was the result of a request for a preliminary injunction. A final ruling will follow, no doubt by many appeals. Aereo’s CEO told the judge that extended litigation would “be the end of the company”, so maybe the deep pockets of the broadcasters will win out in the end.

Discover the buzz around CEDIA EXPO 2012.

  Discover the buzz around CEDIA EXPO 2012. From the kitchen of the future (you will hardly recognize it), how EXPO is helping you get things done to sneak peeks and new product launches, explore the hottest stories about CEDIA EXPO! Remember, CEDIA EXPO 2012’s first chance to save big ends today! Register before 5:00 p.m. (PST) and save up to 40% off your registration fee. 3 Sneak Peeks Into CEDIA EXPO 2012 “Own the network. Own the home.” You may have heard this phrase around the industry in the past few months. But exactly does that mean and how can it help your business? Here are three sneak peeks into CEDIA EXPO 2012 that not only address owning the network and the home, but also help it can help you increase your bottom line. (more)   Q: What Do John Dillinger, Kurt Vonnegut and CEDIA EXPO 2012 Have In Common? (Infographic) A: The gangster, the writer, and the industry’s leading tradeshow have all called Indianapolis home. While the Circle City has bid farewell to Dillinger and Vonnegut, CEDIA EXPO returns to Indianapolis once again in 2012. The show will come to the Indiana Convention Center September 5-8, packing a punch that’s sure to be one for the books. How? Well, let the numbers show you… (more)   The Kitchen of 2016: It’s Not Your Mother’s Kitchen… Come 2016, your mom will hardly recognize the kitchen she had once known and loved (or for some, hated). Moving away from the concept of the “smart home,” in 2016 the completely intuitive home will be smartly designed and integrated … (more) Taking Care of Business As a small business owner, managing an infinite to-do list isn’t something new. You are a chameleon of change and “going with the flow.” You make juggling different job functions on any given day look easy. You check emails on your lunch break and at stoplights (we won’t tell). You are a master at multitasking and making sure everything on the schedule is updated and running smoothly… (more)  

4D coming to a Screen near You

South Korean CJ Group is planning to equip about 200 U.S. movie theaters with equipment that will bring movies into the 4 th dimension. Such equipment comprise moving seats, giant fans that simulate wind, strobe lights for lightning and explosions and tiny nozzles that can spray water, mist, bubbles, scents and odors. CJ Groups 4DPlex already screens about 20 movies per year in international locations. Costing about $2m to equip a 240-seat theater (half of which is funded by the theater owner) means selling 250,000 tickets at an $8 premium to recover the investment for both parties. Director of Cinepolis in Mexico said that their 4DPlex theaters do two to three times the business of conventional theaters. If the plans come to fruition, it must spell trouble for D-Box Technologies, who have around 100 locations that offer moving seats. With home theaters and media rooms becoming more popular, will this be enough to entice former movie goers back to the big screen?

Ubuntu TV Launches Weekly Update

As a cord cutter myself, I’ve been eagerly awaiting something come to fruition from Canonical’s Ubuntu TV. Previous inquiries have been greeted with a stock response: “community has been incredible. We are still at a very early stage of development, but it certainly seems to have attracted huge interest which we are only now fully getting on top of. Right now, we’re focusing on working with hardware and content partners to bring Ubuntu TV to your living room. If you are interested in updates, the easiest thing to do is join the Ubuntu TV group on Facebook.” It looks like the wait may be almost over. A new website http://www.doadjustyourset.com/ is now the source of the Ubuntu TV Project Weekly Update. The first week’s post has just gone up. I still don’t think it’ll happen tomorrow, as one of the posts on this week’s update is asking for recommendations on scopes. From the screenshots (or mockups) on the main Ubuntu TV web site it looks like it’s going to be a great product. With Microsoft looking like they’re abandoning Windows Media Center (a mistake in my opinion), the timing could be just right. Of course the fact that it runs on UNIX is going to make it a non-starter for most (unless they can match Apple’s success with OS X).

StrandVision Surpasses Five Billion Digital Signage Content Pages

StrandVision Digital Signage today announced that it has served more than 5,000,000,000 pages of digital signage content to its customers. The milestone, which was reached on July 5 at 8:33:42 a.m. central time, is the result of an ever-increasing customer base, multiple digital signage feeds across customer sites around the world and an accelerating number of pages and information that its customers are streaming to their respective customers, visitors and employees over their digital signage networks. The signage messages are being displayed via physical digital signage players and displays, employee browser home pages and virtual screens on internal and external Web sites. “StrandVision Digital Signage continues to grow in importance as a business marketing communications tool for our customers,” commented Mike Strand StrandVision founder and CEO. “Our flexible, cloud-based subscription service allows our customers to create customized digital signage networks that range from a single screen to multi-facility corporate-wide and even international deployments of hundreds of digital signage players. We find that our customers often start with basic systems and then dramatically expand them as they realize the potential. The success is evident in the numbers.”

CEA Issues Specs For 3DTV Closed Captioning, Glasses

The Consumer Electronics Association announced the publication of a standard for 3DTVs to render closed-captioning services and another for synchronizing active-shutter 3D glasses via an infrared signal. The first spec, CEA-708.1, "Digital Television (DTV) Closed Captioning: 3D Extensions," specifies signaling to allow closed captioning to be rendered with stereoscopic 3D program content. The standard allows for a standardized method to set a value for the perceptual depth for closed-captioning text, or a series of values that change over time. The other -- CEA-2038, "Command-Driven Analog IR-Synchronized Active Eyewear" -- defines a way for controlling "active" 3D glasses worn by viewers using an infrared signal sent by a TV set.

Planning AV for New Spaces: Be Part of the Beginning

Last summer, I was asked to join a dealer on a customer visit to talk about AV needs. The visit was at the client’s new corporate office, which was a newly renovated space. Upon arriving, I took a good look around and saw that it was a beautiful space. Carpet was already in, paint was on the walls and they were clearly down to just doing touch ups. Two weeks away from occupancy, they now wanted to discuss their AV needs and also to let us know that they had little budget left. I saw a huge conference room table with sixty gorgeous chairs, covered with plastic to protect it from the touch ups being done. I just had to ask about it: Me: “New table?” Client: “Yes, it’s new and selected just for this room. Isn’t it beautiful?” Me: “Yes, it is indeed beautiful. When did you order this table and how much did it cost you?” It had been ordered more than 18 months prior and the cost was six figures. The huge conference table was clearly the focal point of the new space, yet the AV systems that would make this table really shine were considered last. In the AV business, this is all too typical. Customers often think about carpet, paint, furniture and window coverings before they even consider AV in their space.

Control4 Offers A Starter Kit for Home Automation

Control4 announces a home automation Starter Kit that enables smart-home control in a single room with the ability to expand to a complete home system. The package enables homeowners to experience the benefits of automation for under $1,000. The Starter Kit includes the new Control4® HC-250 Controller, the brains of the system, plus a Control4® SR-250 remote, which can control all the devices in your entertainment system, plus movies and music, lighting, and more. The Control4® Starter Kit allows you to easily: *Get rid of all the remotes on your coffee table. With the Control4 SR-250 remote, you can control everything in your entertainment system: TV, DVD player, receiver - you name it. *Add lighting control - so that lights will dim when the movie begins or that the outdoor lights automatically go on when the sun goes down. *Enjoy multi-room audio - distribute music to the patio, the kitchen or both in one seamless, digital music experience. *Integrate temperature control - adjust the temperature from your couch through your TV or from the office using your mobile device. *View security video feeds - see who is at the door or arm/disarm the system through the touch of a button. *Incorporate the benefits of smart locks - secure your home with a touch of a button, even from your bed.  

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