Pro AV Forecast: Peaks and Valleys?

AV companies are at it again. You’re reporting growing sales, surging cash balances, and two-year-high gross margins. What’s not to love about these business conditions? “We are seeing a strong uptick in all the AV indicators,” reports Frank Coker, CEO of CoreConnex, which recently published a new  InfoComm AV Industry Index , based on real-world business data from companies that take adavantage of the Corelytics Financial Dashboard software through InfoComm. ”Our big caution is that this is somewhat of a repeat of a spike we saw last year that was followed by several months of downtrend. Our research shows that seasonal patterns have not been consistent over the past four years, so we shouldn’t assume a pullback is inevitable, but caution would be appropriate.” In a nutshell, according to InfoComm members who use the dashboard, monthly sales growth is up 16 percent over six months, gross margins are up almost 50 percent for the same period, and the rise in cash balanaces is almost off the charts. Ken LaCroix, CEO of TrackPoint Business Advisors, one of several companies available to advise AV comnpanies through the Corelytics program, expects companies to put fresh capital to use to drive profits. He notes that sales trends have been variable, but are pointed up, and advises AV firms to manage margins and cash to remain healthy.

AudioControl's Rialto 400

Being a big Sonos fan (I have 6 zones in my house), I've always been curious if I'd see any improvement with an external DAC. Recently I had the opportunity to test a Rialto 400 from AudioControl with my Sonos system and was impressed.

Cloud Computing and Wireless Sensor Networks

In the current worldwide ICT scenario a constantly growing number of more and more powerful devices (smartphones, sensors, household appliances, etc.) join the Internet. Among such devices we can also include wireless sensor and actuator networks such as the Advanticsys TelosB / Tmote Sky motes.

Sonos Introduces The Play:1, A Little $199 Speaker With Big Sound

Over the years, Sonos has built a reputation for producing high-quality stereo components that can magically connect to your own personal music library, as well as a large number of streaming services online. Today the company is introducing the Play:1, which is the smallest, most affordable product in its portfolio of wireless speakers. The Play:1 follows a number of new products that Sonos has released recently, as it seeks to capture a new generation of fans who are turning to streaming music services to get their fix. There was the Sonos Playbar, released earlier this year as the centerpiece of its home-theater ambitions, as well as the Sonos Subsubwoofer launched a year ago. In each case, Sonos is making components that are designed to quickly and easily plug in to any user’s home network and turn up high-definition sound with minimal fuss. Each piece works by connecting to the Sonos Bridge, which is like the central hub for any and all Sonos products in the home. From there, products can be paired with each other in the same room, or they can be connected separately in different rooms to create a whole-home stereo system. Being able to connect, mix, match, and reconfigure your home theater system is kind of like “speaker LEGOs”, as one Sonos executive described it to me.

Apple iWatch is actually a home automation play, not a smartphone companion (analyst)

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch launched a couple of weeks ago as a fat, ugly, and expensive smartphone accessory. That’s not where Apple is going with iWatch. Rather, Apple is looking to create a device that will allow you to control your music, your temperature, your security, your lighting, your energy use, your entertainment, and potentially much more, says Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian White, who talked to Taiwanese and mainland China suppliers. “As an Apple supplier, our contact offered insight into the “iWatch” and described this potential new device as much more than an extension of your iPhone but as a multi-purpose gateway in allowing consumers to control their home (i.e., heating/cooling, lights, audio, video, etc.),” White said today in a research note.

Is Energy Efficiency the Most Popular In-Home Automation?

A new study from the Consumer Electronics Association found that energy efficiency technologies are the most popular amongst home automation options in American houses. Programmable and/or smart thermostats beat out home security and entertainment automation for the top honor, with 47 percent of households saying they had at least one. The findings, which come from an online survey of about 1000 people, would seem to be a win for energy efficiency. But most of the homes had programmable thermostats, which are often used incorrectly, if at all. One study from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory [PDF] found that 89 percent of survey respondents rarely or never used the thermostat to set a weekday or weekend program. Seventy percent were not set at all. Programmable thermostats have been around for more than 30 years, but a new generation of smart thermostats that connect with smartphones and the Internet make programming far easier. Not only is the interface easier to use but some have algorithms that can learn your household thermal characteristics and daily patterns to help fine-tune settings.

Samsung Shape M7 brings wireless smartphone-ready audio to the home

The  wireless  speaker system universe has seen another high-powered member born this week in the Samsung Shape M7 Wireless Audio Multiroom speaker system. This system works in collaboration with the Samsung Hub to connect a multi-room audio experience. The Samsung Shape model M7 works with the Samsung Hub for one-stop-shop connectivity or with Bluetooth and NFC for quick-touch control from your smartphone. While this system works in a manner similar to that of the  Sonos wireles s speaker system , here you’re entering the extended universe of Samsung’s products, including  smartphone , smart TVs, and more. Each Samsung Shape M7 works with dual-band WiFi for next-level uninterrupted connectivity as well as Multi-Channel Mesh Network technology to assure you a complete lack of network traffic problems.   This speaker system works with a variety of apps or with your own locally-stored collection of music. If you’ve got a PC,  laptop , or smartphone with MP3 files galore, for example, playing them across your Samsung Shape network of speakers is a snap. Amazon Cloud Player, Rhapsody, TuneIn Radio, and Pandora work right out the box as well.

The death of the home stereo system

For many years, it was a rite of fall. You moved into your dorm room or new apartment. You started unpacking the car. And the first thing you set up in your new place was the stereo system: receiver, turntable or CD player, tape deck and speakers. The wires could get tangled, and sometimes you had to make shelving out of a stack of milk crates. But only when the music was playing on those handpicked CDs, mix tapes or (geezer alert!) vinyl records did you move in the rest of your stuff. Daniel Rubio wouldn't know. To the 23-year-old, new dorm rooms and new apartments have meant computers, iTunes, Pandora and miniature speakers. "All I had to bring was my laptop. That's pretty much what everyone had," says Rubio, who attended Emory University in Atlanta and now works for a local marketing and communications firm. "It was actually pretty good sound. It would get the job done." "Get the job done"? That sounds like the white flag for an era that used to be measured in woofers and tweeters, watts per channel and the size of your record collection.   Full Article:

CEDIA EXPO Shows Positive Gains Across the Board

CEDIA EXPO 2013 experienced positive gains in attendance, exhibitor participation, and training registrations. More than 470 exhibitors and 17,900 attendees from 84 countries participated in the 2013 event in Denver .  Professional and overall attendance both grew by 6% while new exhibitor participation grew by 20% and first-time attendees increased by 50% year over year. CEDIA Training also experienced record growth with over 6300 course registrations representing a 50% participation increase. CEDIA EXPO 2013 was described as "phenomenal," "energized," and "exceeding expectations." "The show has far exceeded our expectations," said  Joaquin Rivera , vice president of sales for Stewart Filmscreen. "We have a much better attendance and not just in terms of numbers. The attendees are happy and positive and they have jobs in the pipeline and that makes a huge difference." "This is our second year exhibiting and we'll be back again next year," said  Justin Jordan , vice president of client relations for Monoprice. "Turn out has been great both from customers who know us and those who don't know us. We've gotten a lot of leads and it's been a great opportunity to build our brand awareness explain who we are and explain our product sets."  

Obstacles to future proofing home automation

When contemplating a home-automation project — as with many other technology decisions — the right place to start is ensuring you’re purchasing something that is future proof. As a veteran of the networking industry, future proofing is a technology decision that has some well-understood rules. Computer networking benefits from open standards that drive interoperability, and our customers in turn benefit from fierce competition as well as the knowledge that an open, generally interoperable standard reduces their risk. Even if you buy an Ethernet switch from a vendor that stops supporting it (or worse, goes out of business), a switch can provide years of useful service because it, by definition, works with many devices that come after it. Home automation depends heavily on tying together sensors, controllers, and an application framework.  Unfortunately, the lesson of having common standards to drive that networking has yet to become apparent in the products available on the market.  There are several network technologies that are used in home automation today, but none is fully suitable for creating a market.  One of the reasons why there is extensive hobbyist work done by programmers writing and modifying code on the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms is that the market for shrink-wrapped automation devices has been unable to grow without a technology framework that allows good ideas to be developed and “plug into” an existing system.   Full Article:

CEDIA 2013 - Tradeshow Report

For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering CEDIA and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. We have compiled a list of some new product releases from this years show below.

Update from CEDIA 2013

There were many new exhibitors at CEDIA, along with hundreds of returning companies. It is impossible to cover all of the new product introductions. We did see an evolution of product offerings, which demonstrated both convenience as well as superb quality.

CEDIA 2013 Special News Report

This is our special news page where you can read about and post news and announcements about products and services exhibited at CEDIA 2013.

Challenges in Developing the Internet of Things

In the end, the business models that reward innovation, are open, and fully interoperable at all levels will be successful. The Internet of Things will only come into being when the interoperability challenges are conquered.

Beyond Like: Smartphones--Powerful Business and Consumer Tools

In 1960, computer theorist J.C.R Licklider said that in a few years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

GreenPeak’s GP565 – ZigBee for smart Remote Controls

GreenPeak's GP565 - ZigBee for smart Remote Controls

The GP565 Smart Home RF chip for remote controls supports voice control, motion sensing and the new ZRC 2.0 protocol. The GP565 is optimized for advanced & low cost ZigBee RF4CE remote controls. • 120k or 248k Flash (8k or 16k RAM) memory • 40-pin footprint to support a keyboard scanner interface or other IO interfaces required for remote controls. • Reduced current consumption and improved receiver sensitivity and output power • Patented Antenna Diversity technology enables superior range and WiFi/Bluetooth interference rejection