Software Convergence in the SmartTV Market?

To date, SmartTV vendors attract a small percentage of the developers that Smartphone vendors have achieved. There are two major reasons for this: Market Potential - compare the number of Brand-X TV’s vs. Android or iOS Smartphones and tablets. There really isn’t a “wrong horse” to bet on when choosing between Android and iOS: the market potential for a killer app is huge. Operating systems and SDK’s – there are thousands of developers who already develop on Android, Windows Mobile and iOS. Learning a whole new OS and SDK is a significant investment for questionable payback, not only does a developer have to choose the vendor who is likely to dominate the market, they also need consumers to use the apps. Today, the percentage of SmartTV owners who actually use apps is very low. In contrast, there are hardly any Smartphone users who don’t use apps. In an effort to attract more developers, LG Electronics and TP Vision (Philips TVs) have officially established the "Smart TV Alliance", Other TV manufacturers are alleged to be “in the process of joining”. The Alliance “aims at enhancing the Smart TV experience by creating a non-proprietary ecosystem for application developers to create attractive, platform-independent services”. The alliance doesn’t mandate that all vendors use the same operating system. Instead it is based in open web technologies such as HTML5, thereby allowing web apps to run on Smart TV's from participating members regardless of the underlying platform.

Body Area Networks to Increase Eight-fold by 2017

Over the next five years, low-cost, low-power, wireless-connected wearable devices will be sported by millions of consumers and patients, helping to track activity and human conditions. By 2012, the market for wearable wireless devices will grow from 20.77 million to 169.5 million. The majority of the market will be dominated by consumer, wellness and sporting goods manufacturers, such as Nike, whose products will allow users will to track the pace of run or a bike ride as well as heart rate, etc. and automatically it upload it to a compatible device or service. Healthcare is predicted to account for 20% of the market. Wearable devices will be able to monitor blood sugar levels in diabetics, heart rates in patients and even detect falls amongst the infirm. “The breadth of the potential for this market is not just drawing in consumer giants like Nike and Adidas and established healthcare players such as GE Healthcare and Philips, but a wealth of start-ups and specialist players looking to wearable wireless devices to enable a wide range of networked health applications and services,” says Jonathan Collins, principal analyst, navigation, telematics & M2M.

Corning Continues to Innovate

It was only a few months ago that Corning's Gorilla Glass 2 was in the spotlight. Not content with resting on their laurels, they announced the new Willow glass product at SID 2012. Willow glass in an ultra-thin flexible glass (50-100 micrometers) that is capable of supporting backplanes and color filters in LCD and OLED panels. Temperatures of up to 500-degrees Celsius (932-degrees Fahrenheit) can be endured and it can be employed in roll-to-roll applications. According to Corning, Willow glass will be used to produce rigid OLED panels in manufacturing processes that require flexible glass (such as roll-to-roll). In the future it may produce flexible glass panels. Willow glass is not intended to be used as cover glass (like Gorilla glass). It will typically be used in a “sandwhich” for OLED displays, which have a substrate layer, an encapsulation layer and then a much tougher cover glass. Production is planned to start in Q3 2012 with one meter wide, 300 meter long rolls.  

Colorado vNet has announced it will formally operate under the new company name 3vNet Inc.

The rebranding follows the completion of the purchase of Colorado vNet Corp, led by company CEO Mike Anderson, in April 2012. "The name 3vNet is a natural fit for this brand," said Anderson. "We understand the ups and downs the brand has had over the past few years and we want our dealers to know that we recognize that and will use it as the foundation for going forward. Keeping the past top of mind will keep us humble and make us work harder to make things better. The third generation of this brand will be different than the previous two and 3vNet customers will soon see the benefits of our efforts. Key factors in the strategy to move forward are: a more open architecture; new pricing strategies; increased product development efforts; and, more and better training. These efforts will combine to ensure our customers will receive the best this industry has to offer." As part of the rebranding strategy, 3vNet is driven by a renewed commitment to customer service. The company has already doubled its tech support team to provide customers with an even greater level of support.  

Panasonic to Highlight New Pro AV Solutions at InfoComm 2012

Panasonic,  will introduce a number of new professional audio visual technologies - including projectors, displays and digital signage solutions - at InfoComm 2012 in Las Vegas. "Having recently restructured to bring all B2B solutions under one roof, Panasonic now offers a substantial suite of professional AV, SMB, business communications and mobile computing technologies," said Rance M. Poehler, president, Panasonic System Communications Company of North America. "Customers are looking for a single manufacturer that can provide innovative and reliable technology solutions, across multiple applications areas, which deliver a high ROI. Over the last few years, we have been moving to meet this need. At InfoComm 2012, we are introducing new products and solutions while highlighting a number of proven technologies that further solidify our ability to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers and partners."  

Cable Caps Under Investigation

Finally, the Justice Department  is conducting a wide-ranging antitrust investigation into data usage caps by cable companies. Many people signed, multi-year high-speed internet contracts only to be told a few months later that they had a data cap and would either, be charged for excess usage, have severely reduced bandwidth or no data for the remainder of the month. It’s a common belief that these caps are used by the cable companies to encourage their customers to buy their content, as streaming this does not count towards the usage. For streaming providers such as Netflix and Hulu, it’s a threat to their businesses. Let’s hope cellphone providers are next, with their “unlimited” data plans that all turned out not to be so unlimited after all.  

InfoComm 2012 underway in Las Vegas

InfoComm 2012 boasts 925+ exhibitors showcasing thousands of products, over 300 education sessions taught by the industry's most respected experts and over 34,000 AV pros from all around the world. HomeToys.com has a special Newspage devoted strictly to all the news and product announcements coming out of this years show.  So make sure to read and post all the news from the show.  HomeToys InfoComm 2012 Newspage.

Exceptional 3D Debuts Portrait Series Glasses-Free 3D Product Line

Exceptional 3D today announced the expansion of their patented auto-stereoscopic 3D technology product-line by introducing the world’s first-ever lenticular glasses-free 3D Portrait Series display products and solutions. The Portrait Series 3D (PS3D) display products are an exclusive 3D display solution only available from Exceptional 3D. The cutting-edge Portrait Series 3D product-line continues a ‘simple’ consistency, going hand-in-hand with the companies Landscape Series 3D displays. The Portrait Series 3D digital displays incorporate the same award-winning no-glasses 3D characteristics that won Exceptional 3D ‘Best In Show’ amongst all ‘3D-Based Digital Signage Products’ at the 2012 Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. A series of exclusive previews in front of well-informed members of the glasses-free 3D community has already delivered very high accolades in excess of all expectations for the Portrait Series 3D display products.

smartDIGITAL Raises $2.7M to Expand Interactive Kiosks

smartDIGITAL recently raised $2.7m in a Series A round of funding. The startup, that makes large kiosk with multi-touch displays (think "giant SmartPhone") is already present in Chicago and Miami and has partners such as Groupon. They plan to expand to 10 further markets in the nect 36 months. The multi-touch technology encourages users to interact with the device rather than just read it's contents. Equipped with printers, credit car swipes HD cameras and speakers, the units can deployed for many services. CEO George Burciaga says that so far, the kiosks are usually active for 6.5 hours a day, with three to four people in front of the kiosk.  

Pocket TV: Convert your TV into a Smart TV

The Pocket TV is a fully functioning micro-computer about the size of a thumb drive. It will plug into any TV with an HDMI port and essentially turn it into a SmartTV. The unit is equipped with a 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM GPU supporting 1080p graphics, MicroSD card and a USB connector. Running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), it will be able to run virtually any Android app. The device also comes with an IR remote and supports an optional Air Remote. (You can, of course, use an Android or iOS app as a remote too.) Development is complete and Infinitec are looking for funding via kickstarter.com to get it into mass production. For only $99, you can secure yourself an early version.  

Verizon doubling FiOS speed to 300 megabits/second

Verizon is planning to double its top speed internet service to 300 (yes, 300) megabits per second. The upload speed will be 65mbps. Verizon touts the new service as being for "downloading files or streaming video". This begs the questions "from where and why?" That 300mbps is going to reduce dramatically once traffic gets off Verizons local loop. I'm certainly not going to get anywhere close to 300mbps to iTunes Store, Netflix, etc. Sure, I could get high speed streaming from the local Verzon hub, but I can stream Vudu HDX with only 6mbps, why do I need 300? With bandwidth caps being de rigueur, I could conceivably exceed my cap in a day. Now if Verizon were to offer localized cloud backup that allows me to backup my entire hard drive in a few hours that would be useful. Only other use I see is 100's of channels of questionable IPTV content. Pricing is not yet available.

Tired of Wating for 4K. Well Here Comes 8K

Demand for 4K is slowly increasing now that there is regular press coverage and consumer products are starting to appear (see: Beyond Blu-ray ). NHK and Panasonic have raised the bar yet again with their prototype 145-inch 8K plasma display. The display has 16 times the resolution of a regular Full HD display, having a resolution of 7,860 pixels horizontally and 4,320 pixels vertically, and a frame rate of 60 fps. The display will be on show to the public from May 24-27, at NHK's Science & Technology Research Laboratories in Tokyo. For those who can't wait (or can't afford the airfare) you can get a glimpse of it here:

Top Tech Trends for InfoComm 2012

Here are some trends you should keep your eyes on as we all fly/drive out to Hades – er, make that Las Vegas – for our annual festival of “techniness.” The #1 item on my list: Substituting large LCD monitors (and TVs) for projector installations. I’m talking about what we fondly call “hang and bangs.” Fact is, ceiling-mounted projectors in conference and meeting rooms that use screens with widths in the 70- to 90-inch range are ceding ground to these new behemoth LCD displays. In my travels around the country, I’m hearing more and more from dealers and integrators who are installing 70- and 80-inch LCD monitors (and TVs!) manufactured by, well, you know who they are. And said LCD manufacturer is now offering an extended, multi-year warranty on these products, including the TVs. The latter products are popular because of their low price and the fact that they have a built-in four-port HDMI switcher. Full Article:

Exterior digital message boards on the rise

As the restaurant industry accelerates the adoption of interior digital menu boards to showcase their offerings, more operators are also installing exterior digital signage to pull in new and existing customers. John Kunze, director of Sign Division Sales at Watchfire, said the typical return on investment for one of his company's signs is anywhere from six to 18 months, depending on what features an operator requests. Still, costs remain the main reason more operators haven't updated or added exterior signage. "This is an investment of $20,000 to $50,000, so that's a new shake machine or fryer for some operators," Kunze said. "But the costs are coming down and more restaurants are starting to realize there is a pretty quick ROI."

Consumer Demand for Home Technology Grows with Housing Market Recovery

Installed home technology is solidified in U.S. home builders' offerings as evidenced by a 1-year doubling of home automation installations in new homes, according to the 10th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The report said entertainment and automation solutions are helping builders differentiate their businesses, while more common home technologies like structured wiring are necessary to compete effectively in the market.   The study found an increase in installations across all technology sectors, with the biggest gains in structured wiring - 63% of new homes in 2011, up from 45% of new homes in 2010. Energy management solutions, such as automated lighting controls (12%, up from 7%) and home automation (10%, up from 5%) were at all-time highs. Entertainment features also performed well in 2011 with multi-room audio (23%) and home theater (29%) installations rebounding strongly after recession-period lows.  

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