1) What does Panasonic see as the major advantage of ZigBee as a wireless technology?

PANASONIC: ZigBee protocol working on top of the IEEE802.15.4 radio standard offers the Sensor and Remote Control community of users more technology advantage in terms of flexibility in the network from simple, as point to point, to real complex, as mesh network, with very high quantity of nodes. This feature coupled itself with very low power consumption of the radio, fills the real needs of the users community. Further, ZigBee Alliance has been founded and supported by a number of big companies who are already big users of sensing and remote monitoring devices.

Nobu In Wall PCs

2) What is the primary use for ZigBee as opposed to WiFi, Bluetooth etc.?

FREESCALE: ZigBee wireless technology allows you to develop and deploy low-power, long-battery-life (if desired) control and sensor networks, in the home, office, commercial space, or factory, without the expense of pulling wires. It is not a competitor to either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technologies, as those are designed and commonly used for voice or large quantities of data without regard to power consumption or battery life.

3) How does Panasonic currently use the ZigBee module internally?

PANASONIC: ZigBee modules are being planned to be used inside the very factory (PEDCA-BC, Panasonic Elctronic Devices, Baja California) that is producing the modules. The application is Asset Tracking for numerous applications in the factory.

4) What are Panasonic’s future plans for products using Freescale’s ZigBee technology, moving forward?

PANASONIC: Moving forward, we will introduce more Module Products i.e smaller size; extended ranges; and integrate more features to make the job of our OEM customers even easier.

5) When will consumers begin to see some of these products and which will be first to market?

PANASONIC: : In addition to making our product available at Arrow Electronics, we are engaging with many strategic customers which we can not disclose because of NDA — but we are projecting that within the first half of 2006; the market will start seeing ZigBee based end products.

6) Will these ZigBee products be compatible with ZigBee products from other manufacturers? If so how does that work?

FREESCALE: All products that carry a ZigBee logo are exhaustively tested for interoperability and compliance to the ZigBee specifications before the logo is awarded. Vendors who start with ZigBee compliant platforms, like that developed by Freescale and employed by Panasonic in their new module, have an advantage since the platform has already demonstrated through Alliance testing basic interoperability and compatibility. When a final product is built from a ZigBee compliant platform, either of the two Alliance testing houses can quickly determine its conformance to the specifications, and with successful testing the Alliance can issue the logo for that product.

7) How does Freescale see this impacting the market and Freescale’s work with ZigBee overall?

FREESCALE: ZigBee technology is intended to take much of the pain and difficulty out of adding short-range, robust wireless to products that once relied upon expensive wiring or proprietary radios. For most of the intended markets, expertise with radios, antennas, and communications protocols is not part of the core expertise, whether the manufacturer builds washing machines, garage door openers, or asset management products. The ZigBee platform developed by Freescale eliminates much of the challenge of adding wireless to a product, but even so still requires some level of experience with developing a wireless device. Panasonic’s ZigBee module, based upon Freescale’s ZigBee compliant platform, makes it extremely simple for nearly anyone to immediately add ZigBee wireless to their product without any learning cycle. In addition, Panasonic has already obtained both FCC and Industry Canada regulatory certification for this module which allows the customer to avoid potentially the cost and complexity of doing their own certification.

Robert Nguyen has been working for Panasonic Electronic Devices sinc 2001. Prior to joining Panasonic he had worked for General Dynamics, Electronics Div. which subsequently became BAE Systems for over 22 years. He currently is responsible for developing Wireless Communication Module business in North America for Panasonic. His first love was Digital Design for Embedded Systems — although principal engagements now are business development and successful program management. Robert graduated from San Diego State University with both BSEE and MSEE Degree specilizing in Communication.

Jon Adams is an expert in wireless systems and communications, with his current focus on ZigBee and Ultra Wideband technologies, representing Freescale on the board of directors for the ZigBee Alliance, as president of the UWB Forum, and as a voting member in the IEEE 802.11 (WLAN), 802.15 (WPAN) and 802.16 (WMAN) Working Groups. Additional interests include RFID, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, as well as the impact of these on cellular telephony and the consumer experience. Jon presents and is often interviewed or published on these technologies and their impacts on or potentials for the home, commercial and industrial environments. Prior to Freescale, Jon spent 17 years at the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California where he was the cognizant engineer or manager for multiple Earth-orbiting or Mars-bound telecommunications or radar payloads. He has BSE and MSEE degrees from UCLA.

Stephen Street founded StreetFire Sound Labs to create sophisticated digital media products at the frontier of home entertainment. The first product release, the RBX1600 personal music server, will debut in 4Q2004. A serial entrepreneur, Stephen spun StreetFire Sound Labs out of Red Rocket Computing, his networking technology incubator and venture investment company, in 2002. A software engineer by trade, Stephen was a pioneer in satellite TCP/IP applications and cut his teeth on the B-2 Stealth bomber and Tomahawk cruise missile programs.

So just how did you get started in…well, whatever hybrid crossover space you call StreetFire Sound Labs?

Well, like most entrepreneurs, I got really frustrated. I was doing a major remodel on my house and I thought, “Great, I can put in a really cool stereo system, with all kinds zones and networking and stuff!”

Pretty typical, right? Of course, it didn’t work out that way at all. I soon realized that there is this tremendous vacuum where stereo gear, embedded computing and networking should all be coming together. So I started StreetFire. Now it’s become an all consuming passion with open source at its core.

Do you look back now and ponder, “What the hell was I thinking?”

Yeah, it’s certainly tested my sanity, but as a software guy it all seemed pretty reasonable at the time. I looked all over the stereo landscape and it was all closed, proprietary hardware and old tech from the traditional stereo guys. Did I think Microsoft would waltz in and altruistically save the day? Yeah, right! I figured the time had come for open source stereo equipment. In fact, now I feel even more strongly that open source stereo equipment is going to be huge.

How come the big boys haven’t done this? Aren’t you worried about them?

Anyone in the technology business is paranoid, or else they’re not around for very long. But the real answer to your question is, no, I’m not so worried about the big guys. Understand that we’ve focused the company on rapid product innovation, with a responsive open source software engine, to power an ecosystem of upcoming StreetFire products. It’s all about bringing cool stuff to market quickly – and then releasing the software under the GPL [open source license] so that the community can innovate on the platform. Big companies simply can’t do that. It’s against their DNA.

Why not?

Stereo manufacturers don’t know the new technology, the big PC hardware guys won’t touch anything until they can do massive production volumes, and the software folks are bipolar, alternating between running scared that the digital home space is lacking in standards, and then trying to shove proprietary solutions with heavy DRM [Digital Rights Management] restrictions down everyone’s throats. It’s pathetic! Consumers want stuff that works and they don’t want any Big Brother schemes reaching down into their living room. You know the people hacking their Tivos and running Linux on their Xboxes? We love those guys! The thing is, Tivo and Microsoft should have the balls to encourage those communities, not actively try to defeat them with each new release.

Well, you’ve certainly made a huge commitment to open source.

We bet the company on it. Period. The open source movement is a revolution of technology populism that finally wrests control from companies and returns it to consumers. That’s pretty cool! The key to fully enjoying rich digital content is open architecture consumer electronics like ours. It rocks.

But how does this differentiate StreetFire Sound Labs from other companies out there using open source software?

Many companies use open source software. Heck, Sony uses Linux as an embedded operating system for some of their stereo equipment. But that’s more like lurking in a discussion group. You’re not contributing to the community! Too often, I see companies that hardly even satisfy their GPL license requirements.

StreetFire, on the other hand, is absolutely smoking the Kool-Aid. We put the GPL code that we modified, like our StreetRacer embedded Linux OS, out there for anyone to use. We even released our own internally developed HADES application software as source code under the GPL. Nearly half a million lines of code! We give it away. We even put some additional hardware interfaces on the StreetFire RBX1600, which we call HackPoints™, so people could completely re-purpose the box for some other task. Nobody else is doing that.

Isn’t that just a little bit insane?

Maybe, but you have to trust the consumer and the community. This is the future. Most immediately, though, it’s the best way to open new consumer electronics markets when those markets are still too unstable for the risk-averse bean counters and lawyers at the big CE [consumer electronics] outfits. The open source community is the ultimate product development focus group. The open source projects around the RBX1600 music server will tell you exactly what consumers want to do with their music.

Let’s talk about music, then. Where do you line up on the raging battle of file sharing and DRM?

Look, STEALING IS BAD. It’s that simple. But more fundamentally, the record companies are dinosaurs and the meteor is bearing down on Earth. The less visible but actually more frightening thing that’s happening is the almost surreptitious attack on consumer rights and fair use. Consumers should be able to make back-ups and reasonably enjoy their legally bought music. Legitimate technology companies should not be turned into outlaws for coming up with cool stuff, like P2P or…leading edge open source stereo equipment, for that matter.

Still, your first product, the RBX1600 is going to drive the RIAA absolutely crazy, isn’t it? Are you expecting an angry mob of record industry lawyers with torches and pitchforks at your door?

No, the RBX1600 respects copyright and in fact should have the support of the RIAA. The RBX1600 encourages consumers to keep their music unripped and on CDs, because we enable fantastic streaming and network capabilities to CD-based music. Of course, we also integrate MP3-based music collections so that your music is format-transparent and location-transparent to the user. You want your music and you want it NOW, you know?

But going back to the RIAA thing, we’re very pleased that MIT re-launched the LAMP music project [a listener-run music streaming service] based on a network of 10 RBX1600s. We’d like to see more university and corporate campuses use the RBX1600 for legal music distribution systems like MIT’s LAMP. It’s perfect for radio stations.

Isn’t this the same LAMP project at MIT that got yanked last year?

Yeah, but it wasn’t their fault. Their system was great but their hard disk-based music supplier had licensing problems. When they saw that the RBX1600 could handle a CD-based solution that was both networked and open source, it was a no brainer and we were happy to help out.

That’s very exciting! But what’s next for StreetFire Sound Labs?

We have quite a few product ideas for a 2005 release that we’re pursuing and that we’re extremely excited about. We’ll continue to focus on our core area bringing computers and networking and stereo equipment together and we’ll certainly stay true to our open source roots. I can’t talk about the new stuff yet, but if you sign up for our NewsFire list you’ll be the first to know. It’s way cool so stay tuned!

Yummy Interactive has developed a new technology that is revolutionizing the way we get our games. If things go their way, we may never have to pick up a game CD again.

Lutron Electronics

Question 1: How does it work? How are you guys able to do this?

NICK: Yummy is a company that has developed technology to allow people to subscribe to or rent games online from a web portal or broadband provider. Game players no longer have to install a CD or even go to the store to buy one. They can now just click on a button and almost immediately start playing a game. In simple terms, we create a ghost image on the client’s PC and the client computer thinks that it has the entire installation (the CD-ROM and the install) on its system. And as the client computer requests information, we go out and retrieve it from our servers and stream it to the user. This is our CONDUIT™ solution and it’s very easy to use.

Question 2: What does that translate to for the end-user?

NICK: Consider our subscription platform (akin to the cable TV model) where you can sign up to a selection of 200 games you would buy at the store for a monthly fee. Imagine a package that not only permits you to explore a diverse library for unlimited play of the games you enjoy most, but also regularly adds new games from publishers as they become available. Why buy game CDs now when you can access our whole catalog from the comfort of your home and pick & choose what you want to play? And the best part is that you can start playing the game with only a small portion of the game data initially downloaded.

Question: How does the computer know whether you machine is fast enough to play these games?

NICK: Our system actually checks your hardware against specifications for the title. So really, for a novice home user, it’s just click and play. When you’re reviewing our catalog and you see a title that you like, you can start playing instantly. That’s what Yummy effectively represents — instant gratification.

Question: People that aren’t computer people generally move towards Nintendo, Sony Playstation or Microsoft X-Box. What are you guys doing to stay in that field?

NICK: Yummy is not currently developing, publishing, or delivering content for console players. But our streaming technology effectively turns a PC into a complete console-style gaming experience. Add to that our continually expanding library of content from leading publishers and you’ve got a fine combination. As a tangent strategy, I should note that our system is platform independent, which means that we do have the ability to port it to other devices. We’re continuing to follow the industry and do expect to position Yummy for a role in the next generation console market.

Question: How does Yummy differ from its competitors?

NICK: Other infrastructure providers have developed similar technologies to CONDUIT and are generally pursuing the same markets. But Yummy’s technology offers several differentiating points. First, our service was designed with a modular architecture that is easily customized for individual broadband service providers, permitting a completely tailored presentation. Second, Yummy now delivers over 200 full-version PC games as part of its subscription offering. No other infrastructure provider can boast this variety of content. And finally, CONDUIT offers a true private label solution that provides partners support from the front-end right to the back-end. These services include content delivery, security, account management, authentication, product catalog, billing, promotions, subscription, management, and partner extranet.

Question: Can you tell me any more about Yummy Interactive?

NICK: Yummy had a breakthrough year in 2003, launching subscription-based games-on-demand services for partners in both North American and international markets. The company continues to add premium content and has recently introduced an educational children’s service. This is really an exciting time for us.

Live examples of Yummy’s current subscription solution with TELUS in Western Canada are available at http://www.mytelus.com/games and http://services.yummy.net/telus

Q1. What is ZigBee and why is it ideal for home applications?

The ZigBee™ Alliance is an association of companies working together to enable wirelessly networked monitoring and control products based on an open global standard. The Alliance includes a rapidly growing list of over 100 industry leaders from around the world including semiconductor manufacturers, wireless IP providers, OEMs, and end users.

ZigBee’s unique emphasis on low power, reliability, scalability and easy deployment and low cost make it ideally suited for the residential control market. ZigBee is paving the way for intelligent sensors to provide greater control of lighting, heating, cooling, watering, appliance-use and security systems from anywhere in the home. This includes a variety of remote control applications such as keyless entry, garage door openers and remote control applications currently using Investor Relations. With greater automation of home control systems, homeowners can adjust their environment to run more efficiently, thereby reducing energy costs.

Control4 Home Automation

Q2. What makes ZigBee different from other wireless technologies available for the home network?

Unlike other wireless technologies, ZigBee is specifically designed for applications that require low power, such as light switches and sensors and can operate using standard off the shelf batteries for months, years, and possibly even decades. In addition, ZigBee is extremely resistant to interference, coexists effectively with other wireless applications in the home and because of its mesh networking capabilities, is very easy to install by people without the need for any special installation services.

Q3. What types of ZigBee products will we see in the home?

ZigBee technology will be embedded in a broad range of technologies including lights, switches, motion sensors, security alarms, smoke alarms, HVAC controls, watering systems, entertainment systems, remote controls, game controllers, energy consuming appliances and utility meters just to name a few.

Q4. How easily will a ZigBee device be implemented into the home? Would this be done by a consumer or contractor?

The ZigBee Alliance recognizes that consumers (and some installers) do not want to become wireless experts. They want “wireless control that simply works.” ZigBee was designed to overcome barriers to wireless adoption. Consumers and/or installers simply connect a ZigBee-enabled device to the home environment and through a simple method of association, are able to add a new device to the network. Homeowners will be able to buy off the shelf products and be assured that they’ll work together in their networked environment. For installers, ZigBee supports a suite of enhanced functionality and customization.

Q5. When do you expect to see ZigBee products available in the market, specifically for the average consumer to use them in their home? What products will be available first? What types of applications will the market see in the coming years?

We anticipate that there will be ZigBee-compliant products from many companies for many industries coming to market in early 2005

While we cannot anticipate specific vendor plans, the market potential for innovative applications for wireless monitoring and sensing controls is anticipated to exceed see deployment of some 80 million ZigBee devices by the end of 2006, according to a recent report by ABI Research. Beyond residential controls, markets that will benefit include industrial automation, supply chain management, inventory controls, medical devices and transportation.

Q6. How will the cost of ZigBee products compare with other home network products?

The cost of ZigBee network solutions are expected to be considerably less than Bluetooth and substantially less than 802.11. Individual manufacturers should be contacted for their prices. The target cost of ZigBee technology is such that it remains a viable networking technology for inexpensive devices like remote controls, light switches and window/door sensors.

Q7. Will ZigBee devices interoperate with other wireless home devices?

Any wireless home device which uses a ZigBee compliant platform will be able to form useful networks with other devices. Devices which also share common ZigBee applications will interoperate without the need for any special set-up. Professional installers will be able to establish more sophisticated capabilities between devices if desired.

Bob Heile, Chairman, ZigBee Alliance

Bob is a 20 plus year veteran in the field of data communications and wireless data. He is chair of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on WPANs, chair of 802.15 Task Group 3a looking at UWB and other PHY layer alternatives for 802.15.3, Chair of the ZigBee Alliance and is a founding member of 802.11. Bob is currently CTO for Appairent Technologies and most recently was doing Wireless Communications Consulting for several high profile companies. Before that Bob was with GTE/BBN responsible for Wireless Opportunity Business Development, with the mission of commercializing wireless ad hoc networking and wireless PAN technologies. In 1990 he was a co-founder of Windata, Inc., an early developer of WLANs. From 1980-1990, Bob was with Motorola Codex, as VP/GM of the company’s modem business. Bob holds a BA from Oberlin College, and an MA and Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University.

Internet Home Alliance is a cross-industry network of leading companies advancing the home technology market. A non-profit organization, the Alliance provides companies with the collaboration, research and real-world testing opportunities they need to gain a competitive advantage in the home technology market. Members of the Alliance, which was founded in October 2000, come from a variety of industries and include such leading companies as Cisco Systems, Inc., General Motors, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM, Invensys, Microsoft, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric Corporation of America), Procter & Gamble, SBC Communications, Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Whirlpool Corporation. For more information, visit www.internethomealliance.com.

Q1. Kristine, give us an update on Internet Home Alliance and its activities since our last interview.

2004 has been a productive year for Internet Home Alliance. Our members have collaborated on a variety of projects, most recently, the Mobile Worker Pilot, which looked at where and how consumers would like to be able to work, outside of their primary office or home based set-up. One of the key research findings is which business models could work best for companies building out the retail environments to serve the burgeoning mobile worker market. We also have completed the Mealtime Pilot and expect to share the results of this project early 2005. I’m also excited about our recently launched Home Integrator Initiative – a milestone achievement in advancing the connected home market.

Q2. The Home Integrator Initiative is of particular interest to the Home Toys audience. Please share your thoughts on this critical and unique industry collaboration.

The Home Integrator Initiative is indeed a unique industry-wide effort and involves more than 20 companies and organizations. Developed to address the growing interest in digital home solutions, as well as the consumer and industry confusion that exists around the integration of home technology products and services, the objective of the Home Integrator Initiative is to bring key industry players together to adopt common goals and messages around the home integrator channel and to promote consumer awareness of integrators as a key resource in their adoption of connected home products and solutions. The bottom line is that, as an industry, we need to make it much more simple and turn-key for the consumer to adopt and install connected home solutions. Research shows that consumers are interested to use these solutions in their daily lives and in order to do so, they will need qualified professionals to help them with installation and on-going support.

The Initiative includes several significant efforts. The first, available now, is an industry white paper, Net Gain: Advancing the Market for Home Technology Integrators, developed by the committee, which articulates the landscape for home integrators and provides recommendations to the industry about how to work together more effectively to promote home integrators in a clear and consistent manner.

And through our collaboration with CNET, the trusted, unbiased source of information for millions of technology buyers around the world, the CNET Home Integrator Directory has been launched. This online, zip-code searchable directory of home integrators and personal technology consultants will help consumers locate the professionals they need in their region.

Q3.You mentioned the Mealtime pilot and we spoke about it last time, too when the project was just getting going. Any updates to that pilot and insights on the future of the networked kitchen?

The results really did reinforce the appreciation consumers have for Internet access in the kitchen. On a very basic human level, our participants found that having the Internet available in the kitchen brought the family closer together. We had two types of devices, a tablet PC and a flip-down device from Icebox, both of which saw lots of use from everyone in the family. They also really like the idea of a fully networked kitchen, because they saw the tangible value of the Whirlpool’s programmable Polara range, which also refrigerates food before turning itself on when it is time to cook the meal.

Q4. What is next up on the Alliance’s schedule of projects?

Well, as you would expect, our members take the results of our research and look to exploring new areas of business opportunity. Projects on the horizon include research into the areas of health and wellness, safety and security, entertainment and appliance event notification.

Q5. What do you see as key trends that will help continue to drive adoption of the networked home over the next 2-4 years?

Right now, home networking is driven primarily by the increasing adoption of broadband and the desire to take full advantage of it by creating multiple access points within the home. We expect that over the next several years, the main drivers of adoption will be new products and services that leverage broadband and the proliferation of digital products. We know, for instance, that consumers consider a home network a ‘natural’ control point for advanced solutions in the areas of home security, energy management and lighting control. About one-in-five consumers with a home network has a strong interest in these types of home automation features—far more than currently have them.

At the same time, the living room is fast becoming the focus of activity for digital entertainment. We believe entertainment solutions that capitalize on the fact that many devices and data share the language of ones and zeros will accelerate the popularity of the connected home concept. We’ve evaluated several iterations of a media server over the last few years and each incarnation has generated considerable consumer interest.

Q6. Is there demographic data available on who the average purchaser of home network equipment is or will be?

The typical or average home network buyer is a knowledge worker with a strong need to be connected to friends and family and/or colleagues and clients. About eight-in-ten U.S. workers can be considered knowledge workers—employees in creative fields or professional services who use technology on a daily basis. Demographically, they tend to be males between the ages of 25 and 44-years-old. The most active purchasers of home networking products have school age children, as children are a prime reason households have multiple PCs and the consequent need to share an Internet connection.

Our research indicates that a majority of home network owners are self-described early adopters, but members of the early majority are getting into the market at an ever-faster pace. Products that have achieved a 22% household penetration or better are usually considered ‘mass market’ products. We’re a little over half-way there at this point.

Q7. How will the installation of these products be paid for? For example will it be built into the purchase price … optional add on services … or will they be truly plug and play thus not requiring additional skills to install?

Because the home networking market is currently dominated by early adopters, many are comfortable installing products themselves. The next wave of sales, though, is coming from members of the early majority, who tend to be less tech-savvy. Many of them want help with installation and, as indicated by our research, many are willing to pay for it, when given a reasonable fee. Most of today’s home networking products outside of the basic set-up aren’t genuinely plug n’ play and going forward, the situation isn’t likely to get any easier as new products are introduced. The sheer accumulation of products, each with their own idiosyncrasies, most likely will require professional installation in many cases.

Q1: Is DVI/HDMI/HDCP a connection for the future or on it’s way out … and if so what do you feel will replace it?

DVI/HDMI/HDCP in my opinion is a temporary format. The format was never designed for long distance, does not support networking and there are too many standards making the format a “non standard”. I believe IEEE1394B 1.6 GB will in the near future take over with its networking abilities and less restrictive 5C licensing. Its small manufacturer friendly. In the long term, 10 GB Ethernet is likely to be the winner for allowing the ultimate in product convergence, wireless connectivity and GUIs with auto-detect plug and play driver loading. Both IEEE1394 (Firewire) and Ethernet allow drivers to be loaded on power up making both formats very “connective”. Turning on a new TV in another room can be auto detected quite easily with little to no programming experience needed by the user. Up to 64 nodes of products makes Firewire a much more attractive format for the “whole house” automation, A/V solution.

OpenHouse Wiring Solutions

Q2: IEEE1394B, 10-Gigabyte Ethernet, and even wireless: How will these upcoming connections change the home theater environment?

I think I addressed this question in the earlier comments on why in my opinion DVI is a temporary format. Wireless has a bit to go to allow HD transmission but it will get there as chip sets continue to be developed.

Q3: What are your thoughts on LCOS, DILA, and DLP? Which would you prefer in your home theater and why?

I like LCOS, always have but the black levels still are not there. Once polarizers are developed especially in blue, blacks will improve but I still think the technology has a bit to go. I like the electronic MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) curve of LCOS. For a manufacturer, this is easier to stomach than the mechanical one of DLP. As time goes on an LCOS chip is less likely to fail whereas in a DLP it is more likely to since its a mechanical device.

DLP outperforms LCOS or LCD in both dynamics and black levels. The disadvantage of course is the screen door effect and the dithering of pixels especially noticeable in low light levels. This is due to the mirrors modulating at a low rate the eye can perceive. Once the DLPs can achieve a higher modulation rate the frequency , the mirror modulation could be increased to the point the eye would not perceive it. That and the higher resolutions/higher fill factor could and should make the DLP for the near future out-perform LCOS. DILA is LCOS by the way, just the brand name that JVC put on the technology and this sometimes confuses the consumer. Both DLP and LCOS have the potential to produce stunning pictures.

Q4: Which is better and why … a Built in or Outboard scaler?

Virtually all projectors and most DVD players have built in scalers. Although their performance is “OK”, they simply can not match the brute force scaling engines of good external scalers. Now when I say good scalers, Im not talking about inexpensive scalers that basically use the same chip sets as the internal ones but scalers that implement algorithms and innovative techniques that experienced video engineers invent. There are several companies out there, many in the commercial world that continue to pave the way with new and innovative methods to improve PQ. Picture Quality (PQ) improvements are a continuous and persistent journey. You keep chiseling away at problem areas and through many small improvements the PQ continues to improve. It’s the persistence and R&D that many companies take the short cut way out. Unless your developing your own techniques, your simply another “me too” manufacturer and although you may be successful commercially, your not contributing to the science of PQ improvement. The passion versus commerce conflict keeps many companies from developing anything new.

Q5: What makes a good video processor?

A good processor needs to first and foremost be flexible. It must be improved as you come up with new ideas to attack problems. A software-based processor has a huge advantage in this area. A great processor should allow its user to download improved algorithms over the Internet as better methods are invented . Areas like Anti Aliasing, MPEG & scaling artifact reduction, Noise reduction, auto lip sync detection and other problem areas are places a good processor should never dead end its user. Of course this type of flexibility doesn’t come cheap, so don’t expect a product using a $9.00 ASIC to be able to accomplish such flexibility, it can’t happen in this type of device. The processor should be FPGA and software intensive, software residing on DROMs, using super fast serial and/or parallel processors. As processor speeds increase, so do the power of the algorithms and PQ improvement techniques.

Q6: Why is the word “investment” not mentioned during the home theater purchase?

This is due to the fact that most products are developed with obsolescence in mind. The product is usually obsolete before it’s bought because the manufacturer already has a newer generation product in the lab in prototype. Manufactures need sell through to fund future R&D so no one will ever talk about the fact that the product they just released is already obsolete. It takes a good 12 months to develop a major product, sometimes large companies will take 2 – 3 years to discuss the possibility of making a product. To have a good investment in this industry you need to be able to purchase a product that wont be obsolete the day you purchase it. Usually only small companies can afford to do this. Most large companies depend on manufacturing products in the large quantities. Its the only way to get their board cost down to allow the general public to afford it. A board that may cost a small manufacturer $500.00 in 100 lot quantities may cost a large manufacturer less than $15.00 in 100,000+ lot quantities. Once the 100,000+ are sold out, a new product is already designed to take its place. Obsolescence time is short and Investment is non-existent.

Q7: What makes a home theater product upgradeable … and why don’t most manufactures allow upgrades?

A product has to give its user the ability to keep their initial investment. An upgrade cost should allow the consumer to invest only in the new technology that renews the products performance and features to stay state of the art. A product should continue to stay on time of the technological wave much like a surfer stays on their wave.

Most manufacturers can’t make products upgradeable. Imagine the logistics of returning 100,000+ products, upgrading them and returning them to the consumer. It’s a nightmare. Why would any large manufacturer do that when they simply can make a product disposable? The product may not be as high performance as that small manufacturer product but who cares? They have their dealers, their distributors, they are pushing cardboard boxes in 100,000+ quantities, share holders are happy, everyone is making money…. Again, the passion VS. commerce conflict. The industry needs the small guys to keep pushing the envelope. In our industry, the “tail wags the dog”.

Q8: How long do you think it’s going to be before HDTV (or at least digital TV in some format) takes over as the standard for home entertainment systems … or will it?

I predict in another 5 years the majority of households will have switched to HD. Once you go HD you can never watch SD again. Kind of like being without a microwave, once you have one you can’t live without it. I will make the comment that just because the industry goes HD does not mean the passion for better PQ stops. HD has many problems, MPEG artifacts are huge as compression is still implemented and even more so in HD to get the bandwidth out of starved broadcast links. Processors are going to be needed MORE, not less. Many people have asked me what is TAW going to do once HD is so prevalent, scalars and processing won’t be needed. They will be needed more as the passion towards a perfect PQ never ends.

Q1: Is the licence fee an outdated method of financing?

No, I don’t think so. If the BBC was funded in any other way, it would need to fill it’s schedules with TV programmes that would appeal to the majority of people, rather the mix of popular and minority programmes it produces today. The BBC also spend a lot of money on developing new technology, and making that technology available to everyone in the UK. If the BBC was financed in any other way, commercial sense would discourage it from updating transmitters that only serve a few people in outlying areas.

Calrad HDTV Accessories

Q2: What other financing options are available?

One option would be to allow commercials on the BBC TV and radio channels. UK viewers are used to advertising on most other TV channels, so might accept advertising on the BBC too. Another option would be to turn it into a subscription service, but historically the majority of the UK public have been against that model. The first terrestrial digital TV service failed as few people wanted to subscribe for extra channels. Neither of these options would ever raise enough cash to run the BBC in the same way it is today.

Q3: Should there ever be government funded broadcasters?

Personally I don’t think there is a need for a government funded broadcaster. Firstly, they would have to be careful to appear unbiased, so may have to avoid news and political content. Secondly, they may offer ‘public information’ content, but few people would choose to watch something like a programme on healthy eating when their favourite soap is on the other channel.

Q4: How have television viewing habits changed over the years?

TV in the UK has moved quite quickly from 4 analog TV stations to potentially hundreds of digital stations. Years ago it wasn’t unusual for a TV programme to have viewing numbers in 10s of millions – sometimes over 50% of the population would be watching the same TV show. That never happens now, with much more choice available, people tend to watch what they want, rather than the best they can find on one or two channels.

Q5: What effect do you think PVR’s will have on advertising in the future?

Advertising will move away from it’s current model more towards product placement, and even ‘infomercial’ style programmes. Already in the UK, some of the major new drama series are ‘Sponsored’ by big companies, who might have previously just had a commercial in the break. For now the sponsorship appears as lead ins before the commercials, but it won’t be long before it works it’s way into the programmes.

Q6: How will they PVR’s penetrate the consumer market? Cable service providers, specialty system integrators, direct sales to consumers as hardware or software for their PC’s or some other route?

The major driver for PVRs will be cable and satellite providers. Sky has shown this with its new Sky+ PVR system, and DirecTV in the US are also pushing PVRs to consumers. The next level down from that will be direct to consumers. Whether they are CE devices or PC based devices probably won’t matter in the end. System integrators may play a part initially but as the technology matures and becomes easier to install and use they will not be necessary.

Q7: Do you think that skipping through the ads will accelerate the emergence of targeted ads derived from a profile of a consumer and their weekly viewing habits?

It may do, but if PVRs have the ability to force people to watch targeted ads, then they will also have the ability to force people to watch normal ads – a much simpler solution.

Q8: Do you think Video on Demand TV is a possibility for the future?

VOD has been on the horizon for such a long time, but now it looks like it’s closer than ever. Bandwidth to the home, whether it’s Satellite, Cable, digital terrestrial or broadband, is increasing, and the major cable companies in the UK also offer broadband. When speeds reach 2Mbits and above, we might start to see companies offering some sort of TV on demand system. It may depend on how successful some of the new ‘Music on demand’ services are, e.g. Napster, with their subscription model that allows you to listen to music online as often as you want. It may also depend on how quickly licensing issues can be sorted out.

Q9: What other technologies are on the horizon that could change the way we select and view television?

As mentioned above, some sort of TV on demand system would remove the need to be tied to schedules, in a similar way to the PVR. As for watching TV, portable media players, and phones or PDAs with video playback capabilities will allow people to watch recorded TV on the move, and eventually even live TV.

Home Media Networks
Home Media Networks Ltd is a company focused on the fast growing digital entertainment sector, producing software that runs on standard PC platforms to allow the user to watch, record and pause analogue and digital TV, play DVDs, and listen to MP3 music files. Its solution, ShowShifter, allows the user to pause a TV show to be replayed later and can be controlled remotely using a standard infrared remote control. Through unique FarView technology interaction works equally well close up or at a distance from the screen. Showshifter is a replacement for TV, VCR, DVD and CD players in a traditional household, thus introducing numerous cost savings for the consumer. Home Media Networks Ltd is headquartered in Edinburgh, UK.

The OSGi™ Alliance was started in 1999 by an international group of manufacturers, software developers, service providers and utilities to develop and promote a common delivery and management platform for application services. Over the years, the Alliance has delivered several releases of its Service Platform and has enjoyed a renewed appeal as mobile service delivery and advanced automotive Telematics have emerged as hot markets. We recently had an opportunity to sit down with John Barr, board member and president of the OSGi Alliance, and Director of Standards Realization for Motorola Corporation to get caught up on what’s new with OSGi technology.

Calrad HDTV Accessories

HomeToys: John, when the OSGi Alliance got started in 1999, its original focus was on home gateways, right?

JB: When we got started, the Internet had made its presence felt. At the time, various standards and specifications had been released to leverage this connectivity and access – DSL for phone lines, DOCSIS for cable, DBS satellite, etc. – along with various in-home network standards like HomePNA, HomeRF, Wi-Fi and others.

One missing component was a Services Gateway – a set-top box, cable or DSL Modem, a PC, a web phone, or a dedicated automotive, multimedia, or residential gateway – to act as a reception and distribution point for bundles of managed services like telephony, data networking, cable services, video streams, energy management and home controls. So we set out to develop a service delivery specification, a middleware API to act as the ‘glue’ in this new value chain, and we accomplished that. That was our vision at the outset and all the data we’ve seen since confirms it was the right thinking.

HomeToys: So how has that focus changed?

JB: As the specifications developed, other markets showed great interest in the technology, especially in the Telematics industry. We forged a relationship with the Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration (AMI-C), a global organization of vehicle manufacturers to move the Telematics initiative forward and we’ve had great success there too. In addition, our specifications are used in various European telematics projects, such as ERTICO 3 GT and ERTICO GST, which are funded by the European Commission, and the Asian market has started to join forces as well.

Most recently, the OSGi Alliance announced the formation of the Mobile Expert Group (MEG), a new working body designed to further promote the use of OSGi technology in the mobile space. Comprised of industry leaders including BMW, Gatespace Telematics, IBM, Motorola, Nokia, Oracle, Panasonic, ProSyst, Siemens, Sun Microsystems, Telcordia Technologies and others, the MEG will extend the OSGi Service Platform for mobile devices that are data-capable.

To learn about how OSGi technology is driving this convergence, your best bet is to attend our third annual World Congress, which will be held this year in Barcelona, Spain on October 11-15.

HomeToys: What’s in store for the OSGi Alliance 2004 World Congress?

JB: The theme for this years Congress: “Convergence: Going Mobile, Driving and Staying Home with OSGi Solutions”. The congress is an open-to-the-public conference with keynotes, breakout sessions, exhibitions, and pre- and post-event workshops for people interested in gaining a deeper technical understanding. It’s a great chance to hear the world’s top experts on commercially available and developing OSGi implementations and explore the products and solutions across mobile, automotive and home environments.

To truly showcase the OSGi technology, there’s going to be a special tour of the e-Neo Labs Connected Home on the outskirts of Barcelona. This is a unique opportunity to see how the OSGi technology is used in a home environment. This is available on a first-come-first-served basis for a limited number of attendees. Obviously there’s much more going on than I can describe here. The web site is www.osgiworldcongress.com for agenda, online registration and further information.

HomeToys: Great. But now taking a few steps back, what has the OSGi Alliance accomplished and what are some of the recent deliverables?

JB: Quite a bit. In 2003, we issued the third release of the OSGi Service Platform, and this year we focused mainly on the mobile market. A few years ago, we introduced a Compliance program and now have more than 12 compliant solutions on the market. We launched a number of liaison programs with key related organizations like AMI-C, ERTICO 3GT, to reflect the needs of the Telematics industry in the development of OSGi specifications. Plus, we’ve involved small companies and academic institutions in our process, and spent a lot of time and effort to educate our target communities on the benefits of OSGi technology. We’re pleased with our progress.

In automotive and Telematics environment, the 5 series BMW uses the OSGi specifications as the base technology for its high-end infotainment platform. The On-Board Computer from Groeneveld uses the OSGi service platform for innovative fleet management, and Bombardier Transportation has already delivered 24 electric locomotives ALP 46 to the American New Jersey Transit, that include the Remote Diagnosis System (RDS) utilizing an OSGi service platform. This is showing how the automobile and other vehicles of the future will become increasingly an integral element within a network of information and services.

For those in the SmartHome area, there are companies such as ShellHomeGenie and BSH, who have already launched their innovative solutions to the market. While ShellHomeGenie introduced an easy to use home automation system for the end user market with the help of Motorola, ProSyst, Sun,and Xanboo, BSH utilizes the OSGi Service Platform for remote monitoring and management of its White Good series “serve@home”. . France Telecom R&D and Thomson Multimedia have a home service platform, based on OSGi technology, and E2Home is already deploying in Sweden. Infinis has a service center that allows service providers to operate residential gateways and home appliances.. Siemens Medical Solutions, InterComponentWare, and Linköping University are using the OSGi technology for medical devices.

One of the newest products in the Consumer Electronics marketplace is Philips OSGi-based iPronto. The iPronto is a wireless home control panel that provides consumers with a versatile solution to control their home theatre as well as increasing the number of electronic home automation products.

For those who are service providers, there are Motorola’s advanced residential gateway products for the delivery of services and applications. Cisco has a product that manages service levels between enterprises and internal or external service providers. A project led by the French electric utility company Electricité de France (EdF) uses an OSGi-based service software architecture for the implementation of various consumer-oriented services. Plus, IBM WebSphere® Everyplace® Device Manager V5 is tailor-made to help service providers simplify the management of a wide range of wireless and mobile end-user devices. And that’s just to name a few. This shows the broad acceptance of our specification.

HomeToys: So why would I care about the OSGi technology? What’s the value proposition?

JB: Well, as an end-user you wouldn’t care, because OSGi technology is basically invisible to you. But if you’re in the consumer electronics or Telematics ecosystems, or a service provider or operator, you would care a lot. What OSGi technology does is provide you with a secure platform to remotely and dynamically deploy, provision and manage new and add-on applications and services to networked devices. You no longer have to do truck rolls or expensive visits to a customer premise or recall cars and products every time a product needs attention– you install, start, stop, or remove provisioned services remotely without retrofitting or shipping new hardware every time. You can integrate and introduce services and applications from multiple sources into a unique branded package without worrying about overall integrity because OSGi technology has dependency management and customizable security capabilities.

And you can take advantage of the standardized API’s and execution Environment to decrease development cycles, costs and time-to-market.

So, the OSGi Service Framework allows those who deploy it to maximize their profitability, develop new revenue streams, enhance overall ROI through the extension of life cycles of products in the field; and, improve customer satisfaction and service.

HomeToys: Can you comment on alternatives to the OSGi Service Platform, such as UPnP, HAVi, and DVB, for example? How does OSGi technology relate to these solutions?

JB: I suppose they could be alternatives but that thinking goes back to the early days, when we got started. The OSGi Service Platform Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can support these standards and provide a consistent and standard set of APIs for connecting and accessing devices. It can also be integrated with UPnP since the services gateway standard is an entirely open specification providing its own device API that can be interfaced to UPnP enabled devices. Additionally, the OSGi Service Platform Release 3 of the specification includes recommendations for integrating UPnP™ services in an OSGi environment. The beauty of the OSGi Service Platform is that you can integrate most solutions simply by defining what we call a bundle for it. So pretty much anything you can think about is complementary.

HomeToys: Will the OSGi Service Platform be deployed more in the network or in devices?

JB: It depends what you define as a network, if you consider CPE part of the network. Our feeling is OSGi technology will be in devices and the network, since the value proposition is so compelling in each case. Any successful deployment will have to be an end-to-end solution from the Data Center over the network to the CPE. The OSGi Service Platform enables support of multiple service providers on a common, modular platform with tunable security mechanism and the ability to complement native code environment and augment pure Java bundles with alternate payloads such as markup languages, graphic images, and native libraries. It also permits the integration of existing software-components.

HomeToys: What’s next for the OSGi Alliance?

JB: We’ve been fortunate enough to come out with three releases of the OSGi Service Platform since our creation in 1999, and are in development of Release 4. I think that success can be attributed to the concept of open specifications developed by great companies in collaboration. We’ll continue to gather requirements and issue new Service Platform releases, and you’ll see us take our members collaboration and apply it to other categories. The need for OSGi technology is apparent, and, as you can see, first OSGi-based products have been already launched to the market – now it’s all about further realization.

The OSGi Alliance and its members specify, create, advance, and promote wide industry adoption of an open delivery and management platform for application services in home, commercial buildings, automotive and industrial environments. The OSGi Alliance serves as the focal point for a collaborative ecosystem of service providers, developers, manufacturers, and consumers. The OSGi specifications define a standardized, component oriented, computing environment for networked services. OSGi technology is currently being delivered in products and services shipping from several Fortune Global 100 companies. The OSGi Alliance’s horizontal software integration platform is ideal for both vertical and cross-industry business models within mobile, vehicle, home and industrial environments. As an independent non-profit corporation, the OSGi Alliance also provides for the fair and uniform creation and distribution of relevant intellectual property – including specifications, reference implementations, and test suites – to all its members. www.osgi.org

1. What is the Digital Home Working Group?

Seventeen leading consumer electronics, computing industry and mobile device companies formed the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG) to develop and promote voluntary design guidelines aimed at an interoperable network of wired and wireless PC, CE and mobile devices in the home. This network will enable a seamless environment for sharing of digital content such as digital photos, music and videos. The group currently has nearly 100 member companies.

2. Is the DHWG an international group or is it focused on the North American marketplace?

The DHWG is an international group that includes members from Asia and Europe, as well as North America.

3. How is it different from other organizations like the Internet Home Alliance and UPnP Forum?

The UPnP Forum is an industry initiative aimed at developing connectivity standards between stand-alone devices and PCs from different vendors. UPnP is a key standard for enabling an interoperable network in the digital home. On the other hand, the Internet Home Alliance (IHA), a cross-industry network of leading companies advancing the home technology market, explores new uses and conducts field trials to validate consumer needs. Both organizations are complementary to the vision of the Digital Home Working Group, which is focused on developing and promoting voluntary guidelines based on key standards like UPnP and addressing use case scenarios as validated by organizations like IHA to help achieve media interoperability in the digitally connected home.

4. What will the DHWG deliver to the industry?

The Digital Home Working Group’s digital home white paper outlines the potential of digital home interoperability and also describes design guideline concepts. The group’s deliverables will include voluntary design guidelines based on an agreed set of use case scenarios, as well as a Certification and Logo Program to test compliance to DHWG guidelines to ensure interoperability between DHWG-compliant devices. The initial Design Guidelines will focus primarily on interoperability among networked CE devices, home PCs and mobile devices for media applications involving imaging, audio and video based on a core set of technologies and media formats.

5. When will these guidelines be available to the public?

Publication of the first generation guidelines, known as HNv1, is expected by Q2 of 2004. For 2004-2005, the design guidelines will focus on more complicated use case scenarios for interoperability between networked entertainment and media devices and begin to address issues related to digital rights management and copy protection. As new technology and standards become available the design guidelines may broaden to cover other uses such as home control, communications and more advanced entertainment services. (For details, see “design guidelines scope” in the Digital Home White Paper.)

6. Will there be more than one “standard” format for digital content and if so … how will consumers be protected from more confusion in the marketplace?

The marketplace reality is that there are many media types – such as video, audio and image – which come in many formats. After much review and discussion, the DHWG selected formats based on marketplace importance and the availability of formats based on open, fair and interoperable industry standards and specifications. MPEG-2, Linear PCM and JPEG formats will be included in the Design Guidelines initially as mandatory formats, and a number of optional formats are also included for video, audio and image based on marketplace importance.

7. When will we see products based on the DHWG standards?

While we cannot speak for each company, the DHWG expects to see products embodying the technology defined in the DHWG guidelines as early as the second half of 2004.

8. Will the DHWG be involved or play a part in the issues of digital copyrights and reproduction issues (i.e. the Napster Issue)?

The DHWG recognizes the importance that consumers place on being able to move both personal and purchased content throughout the home network. At this time, the industry is developing the Digital Rights Management (DRM)/Copy Protection (CP) technologies it will need to deliver protected purchased content anywhere within the digital home. These technologies are evolving at a rapid pace – and there are already a variety of solutions entering the marketplace – with more expected. The first priority for DHWG is to achieve interoperability for personal content such as digital photos, etc. Once we are confident that we have achieved reasonable interoperability for that case, we plan to address the more complex problem of facilitating interoperable interchange of protected purchased content among different DRM/CP solutions in the home network environment. Recognizing the importance of solutions that balance the needs of the content community as well as the consumer, we will encourage the participation of content companies in that effort.

Pat serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Digital Home Working Group.

In addition to his DHWG activity, Pat is Director, Worldwide Media Standards for Windows Client Division at Microsoft. He is responsible for digital media standards across a variety of markets, geographies, and regulatory environments.

Pat is a member of the Board of Directors for the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and the ATSC Forum. He is U.S. Head of Delegation to the International Telecommunications Union Radio-communications sector (ITU-R) Study Group 6 Working Party-6M on Multimedia and Vice Chair of the joint ITU-R/T rapporteur’s group on Interactive TV harmonization. He is also an invited member of the International Broadcast Conference (IBC) Council. He is past President of the IEEE Consumer Electronic Society and former board member of the Advanced Technology Test Center.

Pat holds a BSEE from Tufts University, an MSEE from Purdue University, and 8 U.S. Patents.

1. What are the major trends in the custom installation market?

From the perspective of Sonance, we see digital audio servers/streaming audio (e.g. Conci?rge) as a trend that will continue to gain a foothold as a ‘must have’ product for the custom install market. Demand for ‘ready installed’ multi-zone products in a greater range of application in new home construction, remodeling customers (not just high end), is also a very strong growth area. Another area with a bright future is in the outdoor audio category.

2. Sonance recently introduced its first component products, the Trio Triple Tuner and the Conci?rge. Why is Sonance getting into the source component market?

Sonance wants to be an “end-to-end” solution provider for multi-zone products, providing products from source components, to control/switching systems, to playback products likes amps and speakers.

3. Sonance has recently come out with a three tuner component. Why would consumer want a product like this?

For years, owners of multi-zone systems have installed multiple, separate component tuners into their systems. Now they can install a single component in place of three, with the added benefit of RS232 control.

4. Sonance is known primarily as a speaker and amp company, but it has recently entered the control market. Is the company planning to expand further? If so, why?

Our goal is to supply products our customers need and want, and at the same time, to innovate in areas where we see room for improvement. We’ll look into any product area we feel we need to play in, in order to satisfy our customers and improve consumer’s entertainment experience.

5. With the introduction of new product lines comes a need for further education and training for dealers and installers. How is Sonance handling this?

We are adding to our factory and regional training programs, and also implementing new, online education programs.

6. What has been Sonance’s most popular group of products for the past few years? Do you expect this to continue or will it change in the next few years?

We are the acknowledged leader in wall speaker for multi-zone audio and home theater, and while most people don’t know it, we’re now #2 in component audio amplifiers. We expect to maintain this position in these product areas, but will increase our prominence in control systems and outdoor audio.

7. What have you found to be the most effective way to market new products in the Consumer Electronics industry?

Nothing sells like first hand experience and the recommendation of a satisfied customer. In other words, when people walk into a Sonance-equipped home, like what they hear and see, and get a recommendation from the home owner?well, that’s the best chance we have of getting a new customer.

8. There has been a lot of consolidation in the consumer electronics industry lately. What is your take on this?

As industries mature, there are cycles of consolidation and entrepreneurial expansion. Many companies, including some of our competitors, have decided not to go it alone anymore, either because the founders are cashing out, or because they’re afraid they can’t stay ahead of the competition by themselves. We think our best days as an independent company are still in our future. We see Sonance sustaining itself and growing as a major, independent brand for the foreseeable future. We believe that’s the best way we have to support our dealers and consumers. We’re very excited at what we see happening at Sonance over the next few years.

Chip Brown was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Sonance in September 2001 by company founders Scott Struthers and Geoff Spencer.

Brown, 41, joined Sonance in 1999 as Chief Operating Officer, with overall responsibility for day-to-day operations. During his first three years, the company doubled sales and tripled profits through focused efforts to increase product innovation, expand product lines, penetrate new markets, and integrate all aspects of operations, sales and marketing. Sonance has also maintained a strong leadership position – in sales, service, and image – despite aggressive and fast increasing industry competition.

Stressing teambuilding as a steppingstone to sustained business success and personal satisfaction, Chip emulates Jack Welch and Vince Lombardi for their ability to organize close-knit teams that consistently outperform competitors. He believes his success at Sonance has been in developing team leaders who create an environment that perpetuates personal and company growth.

Prior to joining Sonance, Brown served in numerous posts that provided the diverse experience to run a fast-growth, technology-based consumer products company.

Brown, who considers problem solving as well as team building among his key strengths, holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He was born and raised in Ohio, and earned degrees in finance and marketing from the University of Cincinnati.

Chip, his wife and daughter live in San Clemente, Calif.

1. Tell me about Internet Home Alliance. When was it founded? What is its mission? Who are its members? What is your role as president?

Internet Home Alliance is the nation’s leading cross-industry network of companies advancing the home technology market. A non-profit organization, the Alliance was founded in October 2000 to help accelerate adoption of connected home products and services requiring a broadband or persistent connection to the Internet.

Members of Internet Home Alliance come from a variety of industries and include such leading companies as Best Buy, Cisco, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Invensys, Microsoft, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric Corporation of America), SBC Communications, Sears, Sun Microsystems and Whirlpool. Internet Home Alliance’s Web site address is www.internethomealliance.com.

Being president of the Alliance is a great job! In general, I provide leadership, guidance and focus to all Alliance programs and activities. I oversee the excellent team of folks we have working for the Alliance and run the Board meetings. We have a group of officers of the Alliance who help provide the strategic direction for the overall board.

2. What is the Alliance doing to advance the home technology market?

We’re advancing the home technology market by accelerating the successful introduction and adoption of home technology products and services. We do this in four key ways.

First, our research initiatives – whether pilots, ecosystem projects or white papers, for example – provide our members with critical market data that helps them develop and introduce their home technology products and solutions more quickly, successfully and cost effectively.

Secondly, we’re creating an industry taxonomy that is getting the market’s key players on the same page, talking the same language and moving forward in the same direction, which are critical success factors in a nascent market.

Thirdly, collaboration is the key word. We’re providing our members with opportunities to work with other companies from along the value chain in an accelerated time frame. In fact, many of our members have told us that, without the resources and support of the Alliance, it would have been impossible to develop and execute initiatives with other companies in a meaningful timeframe.

And, finally, we’re continuing to educate the industry about the viability of the home technology market through our initiatives, which, in turn, help to prime the market and build significant market momentum.

3. What do you see as the three most important factors to accelerating the adoption of home technologies?

First, adoption of broadband to the home – this is still driven primarily by faster speed, but we are beginning to see some compelling services. Second is the adoption of some form of home network, which is happening with wireless network deployment. And, finally, the general recognition by more companies that they can’t work in a vacuum to make this market take off – connected home solutions require a multitude of partnerships and a smooth distribution and support system to increase the likelihood for success.

We’re making good progress on all three critical success factors, which indicates that the market has never been as well primed as it is now for consumers to begin adopting connected home technologies in a meaningful way.

4. Why should companies join the Alliance?

This is best summed up by the thoughts of two of our members: Jonathan Cluts from Microsoft and Danene Jaffe from Sunbeam.

“Over the years, Microsoft’s mission has been to help people and businesses achieve their full potential,” said Jonathan Cluts, director, consumer prototyping and strategy, Microsoft. “The Internet Home Alliance helps advance this realization through cross-industry collaboration, which ultimately helps consumers enjoy better experiences through enhanced Internet products and services. Through the powerful collaboration opportunities that exist within the Alliance, companies from across the connected home value chain are able to share knowledge and information to gain a competitive advantage in the market. This will surely open the door for more connected devices within the home.”

According to Danene Jaffe, strategic development, Sunbeam, “Every company needs to know its strengths, differentiators and areas of challenge. In the case of Sunbeam, our world renowned brands are one of our biggest strengths and certainly a differentiator. However, having said that, we at Sunbeam know that there are areas where we need to collaborate with other companies in order to maximize our opportunities. The Alliance’s collaborative approach allows all kinds of companies to leverage each other’s strengths while still helping members attain their enterprise-based goals.”

That, in nutshell, is why companies should join the Alliance. This market is about solutions, not stand-alone products. Therefore, companies along the value chain must collaborate with one another in order to create successful connected home solutions. Simply put, those companies that work together will have a competitive advantage over those that do not.

5. How do companies leverage their memberships in the Alliance to achieve their business objectives more quickly and successfully?

Internet Home Alliance provides companies with the cross-industry collaboration, research and real-world testing opportunities they need to gain a competitive advantage in the home technology market. There are three main ways members leverage their memberships in the Alliance to achieve their business objectives more quickly and successfully:

First, by participating in our pilot programs and ecosystem projects, our members learn how their products and services will work within the context of a real-world connected home solution and how their products and services can be improved to achieve maximum success in the market.

Secondly, our members gain insight and knowledge about market sweet spots and business models, for example, from our white papers, proprietary research and industry insight presentations.

And, finally, through the Alliance, our members form strategic relationships with one another more quickly than they otherwise might, which leads to a host of beneficial business opportunities.

6. What initiatives are on the horizon for the Alliance?

Our Mealtime pilot, which is testing a connected kitchen solution, is underway in Boston and will conclude in early 2004. Mealtime, which has already attracted a tremendous amount of positive media and analyst attention, involves members Whirlpool, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Icebox and Sears.

In addition, we are about to launch a host of research projects that will provide us and our members with key learnings in the areas of family communications, healthcare, teleworking and digital entertainment.

7. What do you feel is the timetable for acceptance and adoption by consumers of Internet-enabled home technologies?

According to Parks Associates, by year’s end, 23.5 million U.S. homes will have broadband access and 11 million homes will have some form of PC-centric home network. Given those forecasts, and our own research, which shows that consumers have a strong desire and need for connected home solutions, we’re bullish on market acceptance of connected home technologies.

8. Is the network and installation infrastructure in place now to allow the market to develop at a pace sufficient to keep up with expanding demand?

The technology network is in place to sustain increasing demand for current broadband applications, which are predominantly high-speed browsing, faster email and streaming audio applications.

However, to support the next wave of compelling applications, especially in the areas of entertainment and telecommuting, the network will need to expand in capabilities. In order to support video on demand, video conferencing and live audio, for example, the network will need to improve in terms of bandwidth and service level.

Having said that, it’s important to note that the installation channel must grow and develop as the connected home market grows and develops. That is why the Alliance partnered with CompTIA last year to develop the HTI+ certification, a certification program designed to become the gold standard in the home technology integration area. By leveraging the cross-industry perspective of Alliance members, CompTIA and its cornerstone members were able to create a comprehensive certification program that will ensure that a qualified installation and support infrastructure is in place to support the market as it emerges.

9. Which home systems do you think will lead the way?

Career solutions are leading the way. The explosion of wireless LANs is changing the way people work, and the social trend to balance people’s professional and personal lives and the emergence of mobile technology are shifting where and when people work.

Entertainment solutions are following closely. The dramatic increase in consumer awareness of digital media, such as MP3 audio and digital photography, has created a new demand for entertainment solutions. Bridging the PC and traditional entertainment devices, such as stereos and TVs so that music, video and photos can be shared, is the next system on the horizon.

In the home systems area, the ability to integrate the many home systems such as energy, security, lighting and appliances are several years away. Trials, like the one being conducted by IBM, another member company, at the Village in Tinker Creek, are prescient of the solutions that will be emerging.

Kristine Stewart is president of Internet Home Alliance. As president, Stewart provides leadership, guidance and focus to all Alliance programs and activities. As director of market development for Cisco’s Worldwide Commercial Marketing organization, Kristine Stewart has ownership for all Strategic Alliances and Partner initiatives.

Stewart brings to the Alliance over 15 years of experience in the computer and communications industries. She has held senior-level positions with Adaptec, Western Digital, Standard Microsystems (SMC), Cardinal Technologies and Hitachi Data Systems. Her responsibilities have included business operations, research and development, and marketing, but she has focused most of her career on business and channel development.

Stewart holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Pepperdine University. She also currently serves on the board of directors for the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and the Continental Automated Building Association (CABA).

1. Why was the CompTIA HTI+ certification developed? Why now? Who asked for it?

CompTIA was approached by the IHA (Internet Home Alliance), a not-for-profit industry leader in the booming connected home sector. The IHA brought industry expertise and research to the table, while CompTIA shared its certification development experience and expertise. The demand for technology in the home is increasing every year. The need for one professional to be able to install and integrate different devices and technologies over a network is becoming increasingly apparent. Having just one professional deal with installations and integrations in the home, vs. several individuals, cuts costs for the retailers and dealers in this sector reduces the final sticker price for the end user. All in all, reducing costs and streamlining processes will enable quicker adoption of technologies and connected devices in the home, allowing this sector to grow exponentially over the next 3-7 years.

2. Why is the CompTIA HTI+ certification superior to other home integration certifications or assessments currently available, or in the works?

CompTIA?s HTI+ certification program was developed based on CompTIA?s Product Life Cycle process. All of CompTIA?s exams follow a rigorous development process and are proctored, legally defensible, vendor neutral exams that can be adopted by any third-party employer to verify skills and knowledge of employees. The two HTI+ certification exams (both the Residential Systems and Systems Infrastructure and Integration exams are required for full certification) are readily available for delivery in most major cities across the world, on a daily basis, through Prometric or VUE testing sites. No prerequisites are needed, however training and preparation for the exam are highly recommended.

Each exam costs $207 for non-CompTIA members and $155 for CompTIA members.

3. What are the main components of the HTI+ certification? What is an HTI+ certified professional capable of doing?

The HTI+ certified professional is capable of doing what is outlined in the HTI+ objectives, with an equivalent level of knowledge of an individual with six months of experience on the job. Objectives fall within these categories:

Residential Systems

Computer Networking Fundamentals
Audio/Video Fundamentals
Home Security and Surveillance Systems
Telecommunications Standards
Home Lighting Control
HVAC Management
Water System Controls
Home Access Controls
Misc. Automated Home Features

Structured Wiring

Low Voltage (e.g., twisted pair, coax, shielded, fiber)
High Voltage (nominal 120/240 volt)

Systems Integration

User Interfaces
Control Processors

4. What is the benefit of the HTI+ certification for the homeowner/consumer?

Reduced cost of product installations, quicker turnaround time, peace of mind in knowing that a qualified professional is doing the work.

5. What is the benefit of the HTI+ certification to the installer/integrator?

Validation of employee skills and knowledge in all key areas, certified staff differentiates a company from the competition, lowers training costs.

6. What is the benefit of the HTI+ certification to the homebuilder?

Reduces home owner risks, creates a standardized subcontractor program for the home technology industry, recognition of industry standards and procedures.

7. Have most companies in the industry adopted HTI+ as a standard certification program for their dealers and installers?

The HTI+ program launched in December 2002. Currently, two large retailers look for HTI+ certified professionals as their third-party dealers and/or installers: Sears and Best Buy. CompTIA expects that with time, it will see more adoptions by other companies across this sector.

8. How many certifications have been awarded and how many students do you anticipate will enroll in the next 12 months?

The HTI+ program launched in December 2002 and training materials are just becoming available through third-party training companies. Currently, there are approximately 100 HTI+ certified professionals worldwide, and we expect this to grow considerably as the demand for qualified professionals grows in the industry.

9. Where does one go to get training for the HTI+ exam? Where does one go to write the exam? Is it or will it be available online?

CompTIA works closely with the training industry and publishers to help third parties develop course and training materials for the HTI+ program. Currently community colleges across the nation are planning training and curricula for HTI+, and several publishers have published training materials for the HTI+ exam. CompTIA has a growing list of publishers that can be accessed by contacting Carl Bowman via email at: cbowman@comptia.org

The HTI+ exam is available at Prometric and VUE testing sites nationwide. To find the test site nearest you please visit: www.prometric.com or www.vue.com/comptia

The HTI+ exam is a proctored computer-based exam, but is not, and will not, be available online.

10. On average, how long does it take to achieve HTI+ certification?

The HTI+ certification can be achieved in one day by passing both exams. However, depending on where and how one gets trained for the certification, it can take anywhere between two weeks to three months to complete the training and finally achieve the credential.

Carl D. Bowman
HTI+, CDIA+, Server+ Certification Manager

Bowman joined CompTIA in November 1997. He is program manager for CompTIA’s HTI+, Server+, and CDIA+ certifications.

As HTI+ certification manager, Bowman is responsible for developing and leading the Home Technology Integrator program, the leading vendor-neutral certification track for technicians servicing the automated home industry. His responsibilities include new membership development and vendor relationship management for the program.

Bowman also heads the CDIA+ program, an internationally recognized credential acknowledging competency and professionalism in the document imaging industry, and the Server+ program, which is a standard of competency for mid- to upper-level technicians responsible for server hardware functionality.

At CompTIA, Bowman previously worked directly with members of the Association for three years, providing support and member services to individuals and companies nationally and internationally.

Prior to joining CompTIA, Bowman served as sales representative for Computize, a $100 million national computer sales and consulting firm. In this capacity, Bowman was responsible for all aspects of customer relationship management and team support. Bowman developed and maintained client relations and supported senior sales representatives.

Bowman is fluent in Spanish and Catalan.

Question #1: Equator recently announced a new chip that could deliver some exciting changes to the consumer electronics market, tell us about it, and what kind of products will we see in the near future that use it?

Network delivery of media is beginning to change our expectations and expand our choices in entertainment, in much the same way that the Internet changed our expectations and access to information. Home networks are beginning to connect together not just PCs, but portable digital media players, stereos, TVs, and home theaters. Broadband access – cable modem and DSL – which was initially purposed for web access is beginning to carry music and video at the highest quality, and make a world of choices available. As this revolution rolls out, access to network- carried content will become as easy as flipping channels on your TV; the distinction between what’s broadcast and what’s personally delivered over broadband will become blurred.

Equator’s Broadband Signal Processor devices allow every device in the home to support all the popular music and video formats at the highest quality. We just announced the BSP-16, which supports high-definition MPEG-2 and Windows Media 9 Series video, as well as standard-definition video in formats including DivX, RealNetworks, and MPEG-4 (H.264). Our BSP products provide the highest DSP processing power available in the industry, and move the entire media processing system into software, so that TV sets, video recorders, and other devices based on our chips are extensible and upgradable to the latest standards.

Question #2: There has been a lot of speculation as to what codec will become the new high-definition (HD) standard for DVDs, Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 (WM9) or H.264 (MPEG4 – part 10), what is your opinion on this?

We’ve seen speculation, studies, and intense politics as teams with different agendas strive for dominance in what will be the mainstream of digital media. The advanced codecs allow HD media to fit in the bandwidth and storage capacities used today by standard definition (SD), and allow SD media distribution over today’s DSL and cable modem networks, so the stakes are huge. Your question implies that the game is down to two players; there are other advanced codecs as well, but none with the mass of support that H.264 and Windows Media 9 Series have.

We have customers shipping both H.264 and Windows Media products using our chips today. It’s pretty clear that both standards are a big enough leap beyond MPEG-2 that great new products and services can be built on either infrastructure.

In terms of adoption, Windows Media 9 certainly has the early lead; our BSP-15 volume production device today supports WM9 high def, and there are of course many tens of millions of PCs which support the format, and WM9 HD DVD titles on the street today. Production products including HD WM9 are launching this year. It appears that H.264 is one or two years behind.

Question #3: During CES this year there was a lot of talk about a new Polaroid DVD player that was being built based on Equator’s reference design for a multi-format player/recorder, can you tell us more about that product?

There’s a lot of interest in bringing the cost of digital video disc recording down to the lowest possible point. Polaroid announced the first combination DVD player / digital video recorder which harnesses Windows Media 9 to deliver excellent video quality recording. The Polaroid device uses WM9 to put 2 hours of high-quality video on low-cost CD media.

The device includes live video streaming and network media delivery and recording, for movies on demand from various providers, as well as off-air recording and playback.

Question #4: What’s are your thought on downloaded content versus streaming content? Are certain codecs better than others for different functions?

The first wave of media delivery over broadband is happening now; look at Movielink, iTunes, CinemaNow. These services use a download model, rather than a live-streaming model, because they want to deliver consistent high-quality consumer experience over any network link. Your time-to-view or time-to-play may vary based on the performance of your network link, but you won’t suffer interruptions or other annoying problems while you’re watching/listening. This clearly is the model for much of the US. However, broadband providers are beginning to recognize that media delivery is the Next Big Thing in consumer adoption of their services, and are beginning to make special arrangements for reliable streaming services.

The Polaroid box we discussed earlier supports both approaches, so-called “progressive download” and live streaming using Microsoft’s most current media streaming protocols, which adapt nicely to available bandwidth and changing network conditions. I think we’ll see that flexibility in other devices as we go forward.

You asked about whether certain codecs are better for these different functions. The codec choice determines what total bandwidth is necessary to deliver a given picture and sound quality; the better the codec, the lower the bandwidth necessary to achieve a given quality. For example, consider the satellite-TV image and sound quality point. MPEG-2 and AC-3 deliver this at an average of 3 Mbits per second. Windows Media 9 Series delivers this quality at approximately 0.7Mbits (700Kbps). If your network were high enough bandwidth, either codec could be streamed or downloaded; however, in most real-world homes, the WLAN technology can deliver only about 2Mbits consistently and the broadband link around 1Mbps or less.

Question #5: What is the difference in Internet bandwidth use with downloaded versus streaming content? It seems to me that streaming movies would cause huge bandwidth demand during prime time hours in large cities whereas downloading could be managed and spread out over time.

This is certainly true to some degree, but it’s primarily a service provider problem, rather than an Internet problem as a whole. That is, the video servers delivering media need to be scaled to handle peak hour capacity; however, when there is large deployment of streaming network media, the servers are replicated, with copies placed strategically near network end-points. Multiple systems in Asia are now developing experience with live streaming on a massive scale; network video service is being offered to millions of homes in Japan and Korea by major providers now.

Question #6: We have the technology for music and now movie downloading and streaming but the entertainment industry is still not on board. Besides the technology and the devices … what do you think it’s going to take to make home entertainment via Internet a reality for the average consumer?

I disagree that the entertainment industry is not on board. Those who aren’t already on board are getting there rapidly. Properly designed network delivery is inherently more secure than packaged media (CD and DVD). The huge success of Apple’s iTunes initiative has shown the recording industry a path to steer for a future where consumers have the choice and flexibility they want and providers are assured of being paid for their content. I think we passed a key milestone this month with the release of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen soundtrack exclusively on iTunes – no CD version will be released.

As you say, the digital rights management technology is there, and the devices are showing up. What we’re going to see now is a drop in device costs, a move to universally compatible devices (so that multiple providers can serve your digital device, just as your CD player let you buy and play CDs from multiple vendors), and most importantly new user interfaces which make the experience easy and simple.

Most consumers don’t yet know how easy or fun it is to use a personal video recorder (PVR); once they see them they’re hooked. I think we’ll see that same level of sophistication develop in home network video devices to make it easy to access a broad range of content. It will be as easy to select an on-demand movie, or an on-demand episode from season 2 of Gilligan’s Island, as it is to pick an episode of Leno that I saved yesterday.

Question #7: How long do you think it will take for devices that use your technology to reach a price point where average consumers will be able to get on board assuming they will be competing with DVDs and stand alone DVD players?

This year and next year you’ll see devices that are at the price point. Polaroid already announced a price point of $299 for their upcoming DVR-700 that is based on Equator’s chip. We’re excited about that.

Question #8: If the Internet-connected consumer electronics trend continues, where do you see home networking going tomorrow, and how is Equator helping make those products affordable?

With the plunging price of displays and home networking and the ease of install of wireless networks, we see tremendous innovation underway in devices which live on the network and deliver the PC information experience to multiple screens around the home; which deliver entertainment from all sources to multiple devices, from devices you wear to wall-size. With ongoing broadband rollout, we’ll see the robust content offerings over IP and ubiquitous two-way video services (videotelephony).

Equator’s processor platform provides enough processing power to enable all these screen/media/camera devices to deliver their core media services from software, making the appliance flexible and upgradable for new services and formats as they arise. Just as the rise of the DSP made modems and cell phones rapidly improve and evolve, we expect to see our BSPs powering a rapid product evolution in consumer video devices. Stay tuned for the fun!

John Setel O’Donnell is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Equator Technologies Inc., leading provider of comprehensive broadband digital communications and media engines for the consumer technology market. With more than 20 years of experience in VLIW and Trace Scheduling technologies, O’Donnell focuses on bringing together leaders in media coding and delivery, digital rights management, and content owners, and in driving next-generation architectures for Equator to continue to serve as the premier provider of multi-service platforms. Before founding Equator Technologies Inc., O’Donnell co-founded Multiflow Computer, Inc, where he led the development of the world’s first VLIW computers. O’Donnell has earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Yale University.

Question #1: Runco has recently seen some exciting changes ? Please tell us about it.

Runco has always been a very forward thinking company, continuing to provide cutting edge products and innovations to the home theater market. In doing so, the company has grown from its origins as a small garage shop operation into a thriving multi-million dollar company offering a wide variety of products.
Simply Brilliant UPB Dimming

In order to continue to fuel this growth, Sam Runco acquired two additional brand names that have established brand recognition in the consumer electronics industry, Vidikron and Project-a-Vision. Runco has recently launched the rebirth of the Vidikron brand with the introduction of two new DLP projectors, the first in a series of products that will be launched under the Vidikron brand name this year.

Sam also recognized a need to focus on the company’s internal infrastructure and processes in order to increase the company’s efficiencies and to capitalize on the significant growth that Runco continues to enjoy. To achieve this goal, Sam decided to bolster an already seasoned management team by hiring Bob Hana, a long time consumer electronics industry veteran, as the new President at Runco and myself as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, to assist in executing the necessary strategies needed to support the explosive growth expected for the company in the future.

Question #2: What are the launch plans for Vidikron?

As I mentioned a moment ago, the relaunch of new Vidikron brand has just been announced and the company will begin shipping its first products, the Vision Series Model 20 and Model 40 in June. Several other products will follow closely behind these initial products in order to fill out what will be a very full product line, including additional projector products as well as plasma displays, and others.

The Vidikron brand will have a distinctly different personality from the Runco brand, with models targeted at users wanting high performance products at aggressive price points as compared to other brands. An analogy might be drawn that if the Runco brand is the “Rolls Royce” of home theater products, then the Vidikron brand is more like the Mercedes or BMW.

These products will be distributed in much the same distribution model as the Runco brand, using qualified retail and custom installers, but will use a different dealer network.

Question #3: In this uncertain economy, what does the Home Theatre industry need to do to remain profitable and expand business?

I think the home theater industry is on the verge of significant growth, despite the current economic environment. This can probably be attributed to a number of factors, but perhaps the most significant is that people are choosing to travel less because of several recent world events and instead are investing in their homes and in forms of entertainment like home theater.

The companies that will enjoy the greatest success in this environment are those that continue to provide exciting and useful products, innovations and strive to provide products at competitive prices.

Also focusing on reducing overhead and maximizing efficiency and productivity within a company’s organization is the best way to ensure profitability and cost competitiveness in a very competitive environment like the consumer electronics industry.

Question #4: When selecting a Plasma screen, what should a consumer be focused on … what sets Runco apart from the rest?

When buying a plasma display, it is important to understand how the product compares to other technologies. The most obvious of course is the physical footprint of a plasma display. Very thin in comparison to other technologies, plasma is a very attractive technology not only for main home theater applications, but also in bedrooms and other areas of the home where space is at a premium. The most popular screen sizes for plasma displays are 42″ to 61″.

Another important consideration is at what altitude is the home where a plasma device will be used. In high altitude areas like the Rocky Mountains for instance, some plasmas may not perform well in homes at altitudes above say 7500 feet above sea level and above. Check with your dealer to be sure the plasma display you are considering is able to perform at these altitudes. Most Runco plasma products perform very well in these applications.

Finally, pay close attention to picture quality on plasma displays. This can vary widely among plasma units. Look closely at any pixel imperfections, like pixels that are constantly dark of white. Also judge the color reproduction. Many less expensive brands do not reproduce color very accurately and do not exhibit good black levels. These devices typically do not provide controls that allow the users to have good access to precise control over these parameters. Runco plasma products only use the best glass available few if any exhibit pixel imperfections. Runco plasma products also have very accurate color reproduction and also have very high performance processors that allow the user to adjust many different color and pictures very precisely. The result is a stunning picture quality that easily stands out among all other brands and products.

Question #5: When recommending a Home Theatre Display system, what should a dealer be focused on … again what set’s Runco apart from the rest?

The first decision is to decide which technology is right for each individual application. There are a number of different technologies available, each having specific advantages and disadvantages. These technologies include CRTs, for which there are direct view CRT displays as well as front and rear projection systems. Smaller displays usually employ direct view CRTs; while larger enclosed projection CRT units use rear screen implementations that achieve screen sizes up to say 72″. For even larger screen sizes, two piece CRT projection systems can be used. By two piece it is meant that the projection unit is separated from the screen. Screen size is primarily dictated by the throw distance of the lens in the projector and the distance of the projector from the front of the screen.

Generally, DLP is a two piece front projection technology, although some companies have recently announced rear screen enclosed DLP based systems.

Other technologies, such as LCD projection are also available, but DLP and CRT are the two dominant projection technologies in use today for home theater applications.

Runco offers a very comprehensive line of CRT and DLP projection products for home theater applications, with prices ranging from $5,000 to over $250,000. Our products offer best-in-class performance and are sold only through a Runco authorized dealer network that can provide the best in customer service and support.

Question #6: Five or ten years down the road … when everything is digital … which technology do you think will become the mainstream television display system?

That is a very difficult question to answer. I don’t believe that there will be any one technology that will necessarily dominate all others. It will depend on what your applications are. But certainly DLP and plasma have established strong momentum in the marketplace and they continue to innovate and improve, and CRTs continue to be a very popular technology and will be for quite a while because of the price/performance characteristics, especially in small screen applications.

Question #7: Looking ahead, what new video projection technologies are on the horizon?

There are a number of exciting new technologies on the horizon, including LCOS, next generation LCD, OLED, and many others. Time will tell what and how these products will take shape in the marketplace.

Ben Jamison
An industry veteran for over 22 years, Ben¹s career includes a diverse background and extensive management experience in the consumer electronics and professional video markets.

Before joining Runco, Jamison managed several worldwide sales and marketing organizations, including NEC Technologies where he oversaw businesses generating more than $600M in annual revenues and helped established the company as the leader in projection display and computer display products.

Throughout his career, Ben has worked with several well-known companies in the television broadcasting industry, including AMPEX and Abekas Video Systems. He has also worked in the computer graphics and display technologies industry at Radius Inc.

1. Please give us a little background about Audio One. Who are you and what do you do?

Audio One is a high tech custom installation firm with offices in three cities that specializes in several different facets of technology integration and installation services and products that includes typically home theater, whole house automation, touch panel control, recording studios and training. We’re very multi-faceted.

2. On most of your higher end installations, what do you rely on, for the ultimate in control technology?

As soon as you go beyond controlling one system, and what I mean by that, is as soon as you go beyond just controlling audio, just controlling lights, you need to look at a Crestron system. So the answer to the question is Crestron. It is a very powerful scalable technology that allows you in one unified platform to control virtually anything.
D-Tools Integrator

3. Are you able to control multiple types of technologies (audio, video, curtains, lights) from one unified platform?

That’s exactly what the Crestron specializes in, and it’s a very unique product in the sense that there are very, very few companies that offer the type of versatility and scalable power that the Crestron control system offers, and in our opinion, Crestron is the best at it.

4. Are the control panels wireless, wall mounted, handheld or any of the above?

With Crestron the nice thing is that you have very versatile technologies from which to choose as far as what the user interface looks like, so the physical device that the client or homeowner uses can be mounted on the wall, it can be wireless or it can be wired tabletop, it can be waterproof, it can be one-way or two-way, it can be a touch panel or a keypad, it can be a handheld remote with buttons or it can be a handheld touch panel. It can be a combination of a wired or wireless panel depending on your application. And on top of that, the touch panel and the remotes and the keypads are all ’empty’ when you order them. So you really need to know how to configure and program these systems because they only do what the programmer and the installer knows what to do with them. So the user interface is entirely custom. What’s exciting about that is that there are no limits and no options that the client can’t have, but on the other hand you have to be a very good programmer and you have to be very proficient in the Crestron language, which, fortunately for our clients, Audio One is.

5. Are they easy to use for the end-user?

Easier to use than anything on Earth. The Crestron Touch Panel system allows one button control of an up to 100,000 sq ft building.

6. How long does it normally take for a client to learn to use and be comfortable with a sophisticated system and how do you go about the training?

With a Crestron touch panel system it usually takes under 60 seconds. It takes about a minute to teach somebody. The Audio One philosophy on control touch panel technology is specifically that of Crestron: if you have a touch panel and if you need an instruction book, then you’ve done something wrong. Now if we’re using keypads or we’re using button-oriented touch screens or touch surfaces, then there usually is a little more of a learning curve and there’s usually some sort of little manual we’ll give the client and it takes a little longer because you don’t have that graphical user interface to kind of lead the client from page to page and allow them to easily and intuitively step through the process of gaining access to controlling the technology. So when you have a touch panel it’s very visual and very easy to make simple.

When you have buttons, even if they’re labeled, it’s not nearly as intuitive, so you typically need an instruction manual to inform the client that when they press this button the following thing’s going to happen or the following control is going to occur, whereas on a touch panel they just see that control and they can just keep using it, they can keep going. It’s almost like a map where the car drives you along, and the driver just follows the map, and is actually being driven as opposed to a map that you have to drive and follow along manually.

7. What is currently the most popular home system in your marketplace (i.e. Home Theater, Security, Multiroom Audio etc.)?

For home theater, it’s unquestionably plasma. There’s nothing comparable to the ease of installation, in terms of fitting into various aesthetic decors, in terms of satisfying the image quality that wasn’t there before but is now … it just has the best of all worlds. Front projection is second to that, specifically by using DLP projectors which are very forgiving in ambient light conditions. Remember, most people that have theaters actually have viewing rooms, they’re not dedicated theater rooms. More often than not you’ve got a room that wears many hats and usually isn’t light-controlled to the point that you can achieve ninety or a hundred percent black out. Therefore you need a display that is not only very high quality, but is also very forgiving to ambient light. And by being forgiving, that means that it’s giving out a lot of light. It needs to be giving out literally dozens of foot lamberts in order to compete with ambient light and not take away from the image quality.

Plasma is able to do that. We’re able to get 50 to 60 foot lamberts out of a plasma, whereas with a CRT you might get ten. With DLP you might get between 20 and thirty. So once you get over 20, you start to compete with ambient light pretty well. When you get up around 30 to 60, you’re just doing a better and better job of competing with the light. So you can see that a plasma is going to work even in a sunroom and be viewable all times during the day and night regardless of what light is bleeding in.

8. What would be the “ultimate” way to control, say, a Plasma TV system?

There’s no comparison to a touch panel system. The only time somebody doesn’t choose a touch panel system is because of budget. Typically when you’re doing a plasma there’s enough budget to do a touch panel system. Clearly we’re proponents and installers of the Crestron system because we’re believers in finding something that works, finding something that’s great value and most importantly that’s scalable. So it’s not only robust, it’s scalable. So for example if a client buys a touch panel control system from us today, that client doesn’t have to sell it or trade it in a year from now, they just simply add to it. So the touch panel system just becomes a series of building blocks from which they can expand if they need to.

9. What, in your opinion, are the differences between one Plasma and another and what do your clients typically choose?

There’s lots of differences between plasmas. The key things to look at in a plasma is the native resolution – the higher the better, the quality of the glass, the quality of the pixel count – you want zero dead pixels, and the quality of the video processing. With the exception of computer images, all of the images coming into the plasma need to be processed in order to scale to the native resolution. So if we’ve got a 1280 x 768 resolution, just to take a very common resolution, and that resolution is the native resolution of the display, but the resolution of the images coming into it are lower, then in order to fill all the pixels on the plasma, we’ve got to up convert the incoming resolution to the native resolution. And that process is not easy to do from a processing standpoint. It needs a lot of video processing and it needs very high quality processing. So it not only needs to be powerful in the sense that the processing is high powered, but it also needs to be high quality and there’s a lot of technology that goes into that.

The clear and away winner for us is the Runco plasma. They make a whole family of TVs from 42 to 50 to 61 and all of their TVs have very high end processing and the highest quality glass and a zero dead pixel count. We’re able to go into these plasmas and tweak the settings so that we get incredible black level, the image regardless of the source is very, very sharp there’s no motion artifacts, the 3 to 2 pull down is done nearly perfectly. The brightness to contrast ratios are very high. It’s just a great looking display. We haven’t had a dissatisfied client yet. They are at the high end of the spectrum, the Runco plasmas; they’re not what you would consider entry-level by any means, so you pay more. I know plasmas are coming down in price a little bit, but the good ones have not come down in price a whole lot, and one of the reasons for that is the accompanying video processing. That’s really the key. If you get a plasma without a processor, then you’re not really getting a high quality plasma, regardless of how good the glass is, because the processing is that important.

About Audio One

AUDIO ONE has offices in North Miami Beach, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Boston, Massachusetts. AUDIO ONE is the Southeast’s leader in studio design, installation, wiring, digital audio solutions, computer services, and Pro Tools sales. Founded by David Frangioni in 1985, Audio One has earned a reputation as the most innovative team of professionals in the audio & video industry.

David Frangioni co-produced/engineered the first 5.1 digital surround sound music mixes ever on CD for DTS in 1995. He also co-produced two of the best selling Sample CD’s of all-time (Dance/Industrial I & II) released in 1991 & 1994, respectively. David released his 3rd Sample CD, “Steve Smith – Rhythmic Journey” in 1999 and his fourth and latest Sample CD, “More than Styx” in December, 2002. Recipient of over 65 Gold and Platinum albums as technical consultant, engineer, and/or programmer since 1987. Featured many times in over 55 different magazines worldwide since 1988. 17+ years of experience & knowledge.
Miami
1926 NE 154th Street
N. Miami Beach, FL 33162
Phone: 305-945-1230 Email:
David Frangioni
Sales and Technical Support – North Miami
dfrangioni@audio-one.com

1. What is Gracenote and how does its technology impact the consumer electronics sector?

Our goal is to enhance the music listening experience for people wherever they listen to music, by providing reliable, high-quality information services to consumer electronics manufacturers and developers around the world. The way people listen to music is going to radically change for the better. We provide a suite of integrated software and services that enable consumer electronics manufacturers and software developers to make digital music more accessible, more convenient and more compelling.

Gracenote’s information services are used by leading media players including AOL’s WinAmp, Apple’s iTunes, RealNetwork’s RealOne Player; and leading consumer electronics manufacturers including Pioneer, Phillips and Sony. Over 30 million users each month rely on Gracenote to provide a better experience, wherever they listen to music.

2. The system integrators/custom installers are embracing the hard disk server category. Can you detail why this appears to be?

There is one simple reason: These devices are much smarter. Essentially, they’re going to enable people to enjoy their music in ways they never imagined before. With hard drive servers, people can listen to music in more intuitive ways. They can personalize their listening experience by creating playlists of their favorite songs – or tap the full potential of their existing music libraries using smart search tools that put long-forgotten favorites at their fingertips. Most people don’t listen to the majority of the music they already own and love – because it’s not accessible in the format they want or it’s been buried for too long; some households even end up buying the same CD more than once! Music recognition and information services are going to change that. For example, if you want to hear “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix and follow it up with an acoustic version by Stevie Ray Vaughn or Sting’s version, you’ll be able to do so with very little effort. You’ll be able to see and search your entire music collection very easily. They’re also going to enable new music recommendations to help people discover and expand their musical tastes, as well as other information services to make listening a real joy.

Additionally, hard disk encoders and media servers are going to alleviate the headache of transporting CD’s and make it easy for people to listen to music wherever they want – whether that’s at home, or on a portable mp3 player, or in their cars.

The “intelligent” nature of these devices makes them a better choice for converging with other consumer electronics devices, which will be necessary for home networking.

3. What market trends are driving the hard disk music server category?

A better listening experience is really what’s driving this category. People want to listen to more of their music collections without having to spend time changing CD’s or figuring out what’s queued up in the changer. These devices have the capacity to take music appreciation so much further – with the ability to sort and play you music by artist or genre – make custom playlists of your favorite songs. People want choices in where they listen to music and these devices make it a lot easier to do so on their own terms – including exporting files to an MP3 player or burning CDs.

4. Will Gracenote add DVD Recognition to its suite of services? If so how and when will this rollout happen?

Yes. We’ll be announcing and demonstrating this technology for the first time at this year’s CES. This is going to dramatically change the way you view and listen to DVDs. Media recognition enables advanced functionality that is limited only by imagination. We expect to see a wide variety of implementations. The most straightforward is changer management. The ability to search your entire movie collection by title, actor, director, or other fields is a huge step forward in convenience. Other functionality we see on the horizon is the ability to automatically optimize your system’s sound and video settings based on your preferences and the system’s capabilities. For example, we can store the audio and video options available for each DVD, and even the differences between each version. Your DVD player with Gracenote technology can be “smart,” and choose the best sound options based on your setup, and it knows that you always prefer widescreen and want French subtitles. We also see manufacturers using this technology to enable parental controls, or to offer rich multimedia content customized to the particular DVD – for example a film could always have the latest trailers, or users could easily link to news, fansites, or other network content.

5. What does the future hold for digital music and its hardware?

We see digital music continuing to make its way into the mainstream. Once people experience the benefits that digital music offers, there is no going back. On the hardware side, hard drives will be everywhere – in your stereo cabinet, in your set-top box, in the car, and of course in portable devices. Manufacturers are going to offer more advanced functionality in sleeker, more elegant user interfaces, presenting powerful features in simple, intuitive ways. Digital media devices will work together in Personal Networks, synching content, playlists, and other data to create a seamless experience.

David Hyman joined Gracenote (formerly CDDB) as its President in May, 2000, and was named CEO in October of 2001. In this role, he is responsible for insuring the execution of corporate revenue, operational and strategic objectives as well as setting the strategic direction for the company in the evolving Internet and music market spaces.

Prior to joining Gracenote, David served as senior vice president of marketing for MTVi Group, the online venture of MTV, Inc. While at MTVi Group, he was responsible for all online and offline marketing for the Web’s largest music destination, MTV.com. Prior to that, as senior VP of sales and marketing for SonicNet.com, David developed some of the Web’s first rich-media sponsorships with the biggest names in brand marketing, such as the Gap and Levi’s.

Hyman’s Internet career began in 1994 at HotWired, Wired magazine’s online partner and the Internet’s first commercial Web site, where he placed some of the Web’s first banner ads. He also developed a method for measuring the effectiveness of online advertising. In 1996, David joined the online music magazine Addicted to Noise, which was ultimately acquired by SonicNet.com.

1) We hear that OSGi is doing really well for in-vehicle telematics. Can you tell us how it’s going to be used and who’s adopting it?

The Acunia Open Telematics Framework is a management framework for service provisioning that allows the service aggregator to manage and control the business of delivering value-added services to customers via terminals using the OSGi service platform. ProSyst has several telematics/logistics and infotainment/navigation projects including one with Bombardier for the New Jersey Transit system. Pilotfish and Gatespace are collaborating on a car-sharing project utilizing the OSGi in-vehicle gateway where the mobile phone replaces the car key, facilitating the administration of rental cars so that rental companies can automate car rental pick-ups. DaimlerChrysler, Jentro and Sun have created the first UMTS test vehicle as a pilot showcase to demonstrate services on demand; Acunia is using the OSGi platform for GM OnStar Europe; Motorola and IBM are working with Audi; AMI-C is working with Acunia on engineering proof of concepts for the OSGi APIs that will be adopted in AMI-C release 2; BMW based their Connected Drive X5 concept car on OSGi; and Gatespace is working with Volvo. So there’s a great deal going on right now, and some prototypes out there. Presentations from many of the major automotive OEMs are being prepared for the OSGi World Congress in September (http://www.osgiworldcongress.com).

2) Wasn’t the early market supposed to be Home Gateways? What happened to those?

Home Gateways are still very much part of the OSGi program, and we’re starting to see people do some really cool things with OSGi in the home space, such as the Telia Home Networking trial and the E2-Home apartments in Stockholm, but interest in Telematics has grown much faster than we expected and people actually want to start using OSGi in vehicles very soon now, so we have moved a little to emphasize the Telematics angle. However, companies like Whirlpool, Bosch-Siemens-Hausger?te (BSH), Alleato, Ciaolab, Metavector, Echelon and others are developing home solutions utilizing the OSGi service platform. In Europe we are seeing a growing acceptance of the OSGi service platform in projects like E-Pasta, Telefonicas’ Hogard.es, and EdF’s M@jordom project in addition to the telematics projects like ERTICO 3GT. (See www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf for more on these projects.)

3) You’re having your first World Congress at the end of September – what do you expect to be the highlights there?

We’ve got an impressive list of speakers including Claes Nycander, President of Telia Research; Per Ljunggren, CEO, E2Home; and Dr. Matthias St?mpfle, Head of Telematics Architectures & Vehicle Services, DaimlerChrysler. We’ll show a number of deployments for in-vehicle entertainment and information services from Audi, BMW, Ford, Volvo and WirelessCar; home network services; and smart handheld devices. We’ll have progress reports on commercially compelling OSGi implementations from a wide variety of organizations including Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telia, Telefonica de Espa?a, and Electricit? de France.

We’ll have discussions about the advantages of the OSGi framework in product implementations by companies such as Echelon, MetaVector-Siemens, Philips, Bosch and Siemens Hausger?te, Possio, and Whirlpool. Consortia such as Universal Plug and Play (UpnP), Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), ERTICO, and AMI-C will talk about how they are working with OSGi on standardization.

Certified OSGi Service Platform Release 2 implementations will be reviewed to help developers select the platform and development environment best suited for their applications. There will also be a comprehensive OSGi service bundle development tutorial by Peter Kriens, OSGi Technology Director, that will show attendees how quickly they can develop compelling solutions for their customers.

Finally, we’re also holding a contest, giving out two inaugural awards to recognize excellence in the area of OSGi bundle development and OSGi application development. So we’ve got a lot going on, and a lot of information to share.

4) What does the future look like for OSGi?

The future for OSGi is really bright – we’ve got lot of other groups who are wanting to work with us and the ‘Open’ in our name is really encouraging folks to do so. With OSGi Service Platform Release 2 (www.osgi.org/specification) and the OSGi compliance program (www.osgi.org/compliance), companies are able to make product plans based on a well-known platform available from multiple vendors. With the product development lead times associated with the introduction of new platforms we are seeing product introductions and deployments as expected even with the current industry downturn (www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf).

We’ve only had our compliance program running for a couple of months and already we’ve got four companies with products that are certified compliant, with more lining up. And AMI-C is announcing that it is incorporating OSGi technology as the underlying framework of its software platform for mobile information and entertainment systems.

Even through these uncertain economic times, our membership is reasonably steady, and the interest continues.

5) How does OSGi compare to .NET? Is .net a copy?

A long answer to this one, I’m afraid. .NET is a big subject and so it deserves some detailed attention. The credibility that .NET gives to the concept of the delivery of networked services is good for OSGi. It shows that the goals we had when we started in 1998 are now being considered vital by the major players in the market. Many of the features of the Java application model are present in .NET products.

When .NET becomes real there will be an interesting competition for design wins between .NET and Java-based solutions. The few existing parts of .NET are concentrating on J2EE, but the labeling of existing embedded products (like good old WinCE) as a .NET component indicates that Microsoft also wants to move into the embedded space. I think that Microsoft will find resistance from these markets in that space, since Java solutions have a very strong position in this market.

But .NET will obviously be an important aspect of modern computing. Fortunately, one of the cornerstones of .NET is Web Services. The nature of these services is that they can be used and implemented both on .NET and OSGi.

So here are the major technical differences between a Java platform such as OSGi and .NET:

1. Maturity – The Java programming language has been around for 7 years; is supported by every OS/Hardware combination in the world; has an incredibly large, non-proprietary code base, and is implemented by different vendors. Parts of .NET are also mature because they are based on the existing Active-X/COM/OLE code. However, those are exactly the parts where there are no benefits in using .NET because it is legacy code. The OSGi Service Platform has been developed by several of the leading Java software solution provides and benefits from the experience of some of the best embedded solution developers.

2. Single language – Microsoft claims that they support multiple languages on their VM. They do, but these languages differ significantly from their origin. E.g. C++ in .NET does not support multiple inheritance! Second, a language is not restricted to its syntax. The runtime is at least as important. It will be prohibitively expensive to support the native runtime of these languages on smaller machines which makes only C# a viable language for .NET. So there will be no source code compatibility, nor will a company be able to leverage its experienced programmers by letting them program in their preferred language.

3. Portability – The CLR environment is basically the same concept as the Java runtime environment and thus has the advantages of easy porting to new environments. However, the advantage of .NET lies currently in their integration with the Active-X/COM/OLE, a technology that has proved to very hard to port. This will improve when more VM code becomes available but it will take a significant amount of time, effort and problems.

4. Market share – Java solutions have been adopted very widely by almost every computing area except the desktop. Telephones, PDAs, set-top boxes, DVB, cars, and residential gateways have adopted the Java standard and are target areas for the OSGi.

5. Size – Java implementations have gone through an amazing evolution and today it is possible to run OSGi in less than a megabyte. I do not expect .NET solutions to ever get close because they have too much coupling to optimize that drastically.

6. Service Management – The management of the networked services is crucial. .NET promises to provide a concrete solution with SMS and Active Directory. In contrast, OSGi provides a very comprehensive management model that is policy free so it can be adapted to a wide range of needs by different vendors. I think this is crucial for the deployment of services to areas other than the desktop.

7. Multi Vendor – There are several certified OSGi service platform providers providing solutions on multiple hardware and operating system platforms.

Microsoft has a long way before they can demonstrate all the benefits they claim today. Obviously, they will play a major role in enterprise computing because of their ownership of the desktop market. For the coming wave of pervasive computing devices, our home turf, I doubt that they will make a big inroad in that market (as can be seen in the car market). The momentum of Java/OSGi is tremendous. Most companies realize that it is better to have an existing, open, broadly supported, standard for networked services today than a proprietary solution tomorrow. Anyway, due to SOAP we will be able to interwork in whatever area they emerge in the future.

6) Can you give us some examples of where OSGi is deployed and is already making a difference?

A number of companies already have products available using the OSGi specification, including 4DhomeNet, Echelon, Espial, Gatespace, IBM, P&S DataCom, ProSyst, and Sun Microsystems. Most of these are in the remote management, provisioning and diagnosis, service delivery, telematics, and value-added applications spaces. Developer kits are now available from many of these companies as well. The New Jersey Transit locomotives from Bombardier, the Telia Home Networking trial, Whirlpool’s I-enabled appliances, BSH’s Smart@Home kitchen product line, E2-Home apartments in Stockholm, and the DaimlerChrysler UMTS test vehicle are but a vew high profile examples of OSGi deployments that are currently or soon to be available. The OSGi fact sheet (www.osgi.org/fact-sheet.pdf) contains specifics on a large number of products and solutions using the OSGi service platform specification.

John Barr is President of the Open Services Gateway Initiative and Director of Standards Realization for Motorola Corporate Offices. He has been with Motorola for 18 years working on real-time distributed systems, low power system and software technologies, DSP development methodologies, home networking systems, and the convergence of computing and communications. In his present role, he is responsible for directing service delivery and wireless consumer multimedia standards efforts within Motorola and strategic relationships with consortia (e.g., OSGi) and standards development groups (e.g., IEEE and IETF) to ensure that Motorola incorporates technologies that fundamentally change the way people communicate and interact while mobile, at home, and when using their vehicles.

John has a Ph.D. from UCLA and previously was a staff engineer at Hughes Aircraft and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Montana. He has been the President of the Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) since its founding in May 1999, and he chairs the High-Rate WPAN task group of the IEEE 802.15 WPAN working group.