HomeGrid Forum and ZigBee Alliance Team to Establish Wired and Wireless Smart Home Applications

The HomeGrid Forum (HGF) today announced a new liaison agreement with the ZigBee® Alliance to extend their collaboration on the ZigBee Smart Energy™ standard development. This work will pave the way for consumers and utilities to use ZigBee Smart Energy version 2.0 wireless or wired networks to further advance Smart Grid programs and deliver new energy, financial and environmental savings. Both organizations will collaborate on ensuring ZigBee Smart Energy version 2 and HomeGrid Forum's ITU-T G.hn and G.hnem standards can be utilized in a wide variety of smart grid usage models. When finalized, applications such as AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), Demand Response (DR), Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV) and any other Smart Grid application/service that needs a reliable Home Area Network (HAN) or distribution/access network will benefit. "ZigBee Smart Energy is a leading home area network and AMI standard that helps consumers gain greater control of their energy use," said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. "Working with HomeGrid will give energy service providers, utilities and consumers another wired choice when implementing either wired or wireless home area networks or utility links to smart meters."

Gaming Could Be Apple TV's Killer App

The new Apple TV is already a hit, having sold more than 1 million units in just three months after its release, but the device could become even more popular if it becomes a hub for social games. New code in the next version of Apple TV's operating system hints at gaming capabilities being added - which could lure in a whole new fan base for the broadband set-top box, and could create a whole new revenue stream for Apple. Engadget reports that new code in the iOS 4.3 beta firmware has references to "ATVGames" and "ATVThunder," which could make it not just a streaming device but a gaming device as well. Social gaming is already incredibly popular on other iOS devices, to the tune of 19 million users spending more than 22 minutes per day using gaming apps on their iPhones, iPads and iPhone touch devices. That's on par with the number of viewers for popular TV programs such as Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars, suggesting there could be more of an audience for games on Apple TV than for actual video viewing.

Unique Automation - Bath O Matic: From ISE 2011

We came across a fun product at ISE 2011 that we wanted to share. Unique Automation's unique bathomatic™ bath management system is a modular kit which can be fitted to any bath, bathomatic™ automatically controls the pre-programmed filling, water temperature, water depth and emptying of the bath water. It will also maintain temperature and automatically add bubble bath or fragrance, as required, on site or remotely. The system has now been developed to suit a range of applications both domestic and commercial, including hotels and care homes.

Consumer Reports' First Look: The first "passive 3D" TV, from Vizio

Coming out of CES this year, one of the main stories was the debut of new "passive" 3D TVs, announced by companies including LG, Toshiba, and Vizio. One big promise of passive 3D is that you can wear lightweight, inexpensive polarized glasses like the ones you get in movie theaters, rather than the bulkier, more expensive active-shutter glasses required by current 3D sets. The first passive 3D TV to hit the market is Vizio's 65-inch VT3D650SV ($3,700), a 1080p LCD TV that uses an edge LED backlight. We bought a set as soon as it was available and recently completed preliminary testing in our TV labs. For purposes of comparison, we pitted the new Vizio set against Panasonic's top-rated TC-P65VT25 ($4,300) plasma 3D TV. It's no secret that we've so far found plasma to be a better technology for 3D, primarily due to the lack of ghosting, so we were curious to see how the Vizio passive set stacked up. In general, there is a lot to like about the VT3D650SV. For one thing, the polarized glasses are very comfortable to wear; they weigh just 0.7 ounces, so they felt very similar to wearing regular sunglasses. We also liked that you get four pairs of glasses with the TV, with additional pairs expected to cost from $10 to $30. That's a far cry from the $130 to $150 you have to shell out for active glasses. In addition, the passive 3D glasses dim the image less than any of the active-shutter glasses we've tried, enabling the Vizio to produce the most satisfyingly bright picture we've experienced when viewing 3D.

Lutron Unveils New Apple® iPad™ App For Its RadioRA® 2 Total Light Control System

Light control manufacturer Lutron Electronics has just announced the availability of an Apple iPad app for its wireless RadioRA 2 total light control system. The app is designed to control lights, shades, temperature and appliances, adding convenience and the benefits of saving energy throughout the home. The app allows homeowners to: monitor and control their system while away from home (ideal for vacation properties); enact a temporary, energy-saving "green" mode that reduces light levels and turns off unneeded appliances; personalize programming with a real-time level editor; control multiple homes from one iPad.

Google makes it easier to build sites for Google TV

Friday, the Google TV team published a couple of new design templates, as well as a still-in-beta Web UI library that Web designers can use to optimize their sites for Google TV. Within the first month of the service's availability on the Logitech Revue set top box, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Viacom all made their websites unavailable to Google TV. The idea was that this would limit users' access to only the sites that the content providers designed specifically for Google TV. If you're a pessimist, you could say it was done to limit users' access to certain streaming video content. If you're an optimist, you could say it was to ensure users had the highest quality sites available on their Google TVs. Either way, if you're a Web designer, you now have some easy tools to rebuild your video site with a pre-made "10-foot UI" for Google TV. All of the templates are open sourced under the Apache 2 license, and they support sites that utilize HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and Flash.

ISE attendance jumps 22%

This year's ISE attracted a record 34,870 attendance to the Amsterdam RAI, representing a 22% increase on last year's figure. Mike Blackman, managing director, Integrated Systems Events, commented: "We have had a fantastic three days here in Amsterdam, our show aisles being packed with technology buyers and specifiers from the moment we opened on Tuesday morning to the doors closing at 6pm on Thursday." A total of 715 exhibitors, including 150 new companies, exhibited, representing an 11% rise on ISE 2010 - covering some 26,650 net square metres of floor space. "ISE has a distinctive European flavour but it is increasingly a forum for global business," Blackman said. "We have had substantial visitor growth from Russia, the Middle East, Africa and the Indian sub-continent, as well as modest but significant numbers of consultants and top-level integrators coming to us from Asia and North America for the first time."

World's first 3D videowall from Hyundai

Hyundai IT is demonstrating its full line-up of display solutions at ISE, including what the company describes as the world's first 3D videowall. With a diagonal of 138in, it comprises nine (3 x 3) stereoscopic 3D displays (Hyundai's new S468FL) and features almost seamless bezels giving an inter-screen gap of only 7.3mm. The 3D effect is achieved using polarised filters on both the displays as well as on the passive 3D-glasses. The company says that the integrated 3D-Formatter makes it possible to display common 3D video formats without any further accessories.

Netflix Delay on Boxee Box Gets Awkward

Despite earlier promises that Boxee's fledgling web-to-TV hardware device, the Boxee Box, would offer a Netflix app by the end of last year, the startup company has faced another setback. "We're in a bit of an awkward spot at the moment," Boxee wrote on its blog early Tuesday, and went on to explain that Boxee is still not offering a Netflix app on its hardware due to security issues. "The [Netflix] app works. It's been done for awhile now," Andrew Kippen, vice president of marketing for Boxee, told Digits. "What we have not yet met is Netflix's security requirement which requires sweeping changes to the underlying Boxee platform." He added that the company was "working to ensure that third party apps and developers can't tamper with the Boxee Box to gain root access to the system or tamper with other apps." Boxee has touted itself as an open-source system and says the company values the ability for anyone to build an application on Boxee.

Ecotality, Cisco connect Internet-savvy EV charger

Cisco Systems and Ecotality, an electric-vehicle charging station company, are collaborating to make EVs part of a home energy-management system. Ecotality's Blink home EV charging station will connect to Cisco's Home Energy Controller, a touch-screen device for managing home energy, as part of early electric vehicle trials with consumers. The integration will let electric car owners schedule charging to take advantage of preferential rates offered by utilities for electric vehicles, typically after 9 p.m. From the Cisco home energy dashboard, there is an application to monitor and program how an electric car is charged, according to the companies. Charging an electric car can pull as much power as an entire home consumes, utilities executives say, so consumers have an incentive to charge at off-peak times. But the system is sophisticated enough to communicate with utilities to get discounts beyond the EV tariff, Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read said in an interview.

Parks Associates study predicts Connected TV market to hit 76% by 2015

While their presence was more subtle than 3DTV and not as in-your-face as non-iPad tablets, connected consumer electronics devices were more diverse and pervasive at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with every major manufacturer showing off new electronics that have their own built-in apps and can access content from the Internet. With devices that incorporated complete Internet browsers, HDTVs that offered hundreds of applications, even set-tops that turned current HDTVs into a completely connected device, the theme of combining the home theater set-up with a PC experience was everywhere. Consider: In 2010 less than a quarter of all HDTVs were connected, according to research firm Parks Associates. By 2015, Parks believes that number will hit 76% (more than 150 million units). The firm projects that by 2015 there will be more than $8 billion worth of transactions on connected consumer electronics devices, from e-purchases to gaming to VOD and streaming.

Hulu Reworks Its Script as Digital Change Hits TV

Just as the digital wave transforms the television industry, Hulu, a pioneer of Internet TV, is in internal discussions to dramatically transform itself. The free online television service has become one of the most-watched online video properties in the U.S. and a top earner of web-video ad dollars since its 2008 launch. But its owners -industry powerhouses NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are increasingly at odds over Hulu's business model. Worried that free Web versions of their biggest TV shows are eating into their traditional business, the owners disagree among themselves, and with Hulu management, on how much of their content should be free. Fox Broadcasting owner News Corp. and ABC owner Disney are contemplating pulling some free content from Hulu, say people familiar with the matter. The media companies are also moving to sell more programs to Hulu competitors that deliver television over the Internet, including Netflix Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

Connected Home Products Key to Success for Consumer Electronics in 2011

Global unit shipments of consumer electronics (CE) products will climb 2.6 percent in 2010, partly driven by rising sales of products that play a role in the connected home and that focus on usability -rather than technological wizardry -according to new IHS iSuppli research. CE product shipments in 2011 are projected to reach 1.60 billion units, up from 1.56 billion in 2010. The CE category encompasses a diverse array of familiar devices that consumers use on a daily basis, including televisions, stereos and audio components, portable media players, set-top boxes, gaming devices, DVD and Blu-ray players, digital still cameras, projectors and camcorders, digital picture frames, e-book readers and consumer appliances. While the 2.6 percent rise in overall shipments this year is modest compared to last year's 4 percent climb, the expansion is significant given current economic conditions. With the continued uncertainties in the global economy and the high unemployment rate in the United States -the world's largest market for CE devices -the uptick in sales provides reassurance for the industry and sets the stage for future growth.

Integrated Systems Europe 2011 is underway

The doors to ISE 2011 in Amsterdam are now open.  Over 700 exhibitors will be showing their wares at the Amsterdam RAI this week from a broad range of industries including building automation, unified communications, event production, digital signage, visualisation and lighting control. With those numbers you bet the news and information from the show will be flowing in.  As usual HomeToys.com will be a great place to post your company news and keep up to date.  Visit our Special ISE 2011 Newspage to view and post news. Also stay tuned for our special show report, which will go live Wednesday.

CEA announces TechCE.org launched

Interested in learning more about CEA standards? CEA just launched a public discussion forum for CEA standards called TechCE.org. The new website allows users of CEA standards, and other interested parties, to share information, ask questions and get community help. Interpretation and news on standards will be posted regularly.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

ELK Products -M1 GOLD with Two-Way Wireless

ELK Products -M1 GOLD with Two-Way Wireless

The M1 Gold Security & Automation Control combines security, fire, energy management, lighting, and access control to provide total control of the home. Easily integrating with products of industry partner manufacturers, M1 controls offer a truly customized solution. With remote access capabilities and simple, user-friendly interfaces, M1 keeps homeowners informed and in control, anytime, anywhere! ELK's Two-Way Wireless family of products for the M1 offers a truly secure and reliable wireless solution with cutting edge techniques such as frequency hopping and UL approved jamming detection to defend against interference, hacking, and jamming. Advanced features ensure reliability, extend battery life, and provide innovative security enhancements including wirelessly interconnected smoke detectors, motion detectors with built-in security/convenience lights, and key fobs with a system status inquiry button, allowing users to see if an alarm has been activated before entering the home.