The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® today announced the finalists for the 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards. Presented by CEA’s TechHome Division to honor outstanding achievement in custom home electronics, winners will be announced at an awards reception on Friday, March 18, 2011, during the 12th annual Electronic House Expo (EHX). EHX 2011 returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, March 17-19, 2011. CEA’s Mark of Excellence Awards honor the most innovative custom home electronics products, services and installation technologies. Entries are submitted in Supplier and Systems Integrator categories, and reviewed by a panel of independent industry experts. Each category features Platinum and Gold awards for outstanding industry achievement. The Mark of Excellence Awards Reception will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, Room W221, on Friday, March 18 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $49 and can be purchased online. Click to view the finalists for the 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards.
Elan has developed an aggressively priced demo system that dealers can use to demonstrate an Elan g! home-control system in their showrooms or in customers' homes. Dealers can also use the system to control all of the systems in a demo room. The system, which ships in preconfigured demo mode, consists of a controller, 7-inch touchscreen, 4-inch tabletop touchpad, HR2 remote, amplifier, two tabletop Sunfire speakers, a Panasonic IP camera, g! Pro Apps, and all parts needed to connect the products except for a TV, which is needed to demonstrate the system's on-screen display. The demo system is sold pre-configured in demo mode, enabling dealers to play music, view and control the IP camera, and demo all other system applications. The standardized icon-based interface runs across TVs, touchscreens, touchpads, PCs, iPhones and iPads. The system's IP backbone enables control from around the world.
Amazon.com said Tuesday morning that it has launched a video-streaming media plan for subscribers to its Prime service - in direct competition with Netflix Inc. "Competition is good for consumers and the studios, bad for Netflix," said Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan, who carries a sell rating on Netflix shares. Amazon said it will allow subscribers to its Prime service the ability to stream unlimited, commercial-free movies and TV shows. The company said more than 5,000 titles are available through the service. Prime customers pay $79 a year for access to free, two-day shipping on most orders from the online retail giant. The video streaming service will be available free of additional charge to these subscribers, Amazon said.
Russound has announced, just two months after the Colorado vNet division was to be shuttered for a second time, that the brand has once again been revived. "Colorado vNet is back - stronger than ever! We're moving forward with the product line and have some exciting developments in the works," Charlie Porritt , CEO of both Colorado vNet and Russound, wrote in a letter Friday to dealers. He added that the revived Colorado vNet will add both an IP-based digital music streamer and iPad application.
By Joseph Palenchar -- TWICE, 2/18/2011 New York - Meridian America significantly scaled back its dealer base and product selection beginning in 2009 yet posted a 12 percent sales gain in 2010, CEO Peter Wellikoff told TWICE. Meridian grew by focusing more resources on fewer, more committed dealers and by taking more of a luxury position in the A/V market, he explained. With its greater focus on the luxury market, Meridian brought in new staff with a luxury-market background and opened up its U.S. headquarters here for use as a dealer showroom to demonstrate Meridian's high-end audio and video products to high-level business executives, athletes and actors who don't shop in retail stores, Wellikoff said. The company plans to make this strategy "bi-coastal," he noted. Meridian also began to support dealers whose high-profile customers want a demo in their own homes. For these dealers, Meridian flies out products and staff to set up and demo a system in the potential customer's home and let the homeowner live with it for a day. About 90 percent of the time, Meridian staff makes the presentation to the consumer, but the dealer sets up the appointment and profits from the sale. All home demos to date have closed a sale, Wellikoff noted.
Redbox, whose brick-red DVD vending machines are scattered across the country, is aiming to have a Netflix-like video streaming subscription service up and running by the end of 2011, company executives told investors this week. The development of the service has taken longer than expected because it has involved negotiations with several potential go-to-market partners, according to Coinstar CEO Paul Davis, speaking at a Feb. 16 analyst day. Coinstar is Redbox's parent company. "So we could have moved a lot quicker quite a few months ago had we decided to do this on our own," Davis said, according to a transcript of the presentation. "But we made a conscious decision as a team to not do it on our own because the price tag of doing that was prohibitive. We also didn't feel like we could have an offering working on our own that would distinguish ourselves and be a real winning proposition." Davis did not disclose which companies Redbox has been approaching about a partnernship. Separately, Amazon.com reportedly is readying a service that would stream 5,000 movies and TV shows members of its $79-per-year Prime free-shipping membership program.
CEDIA Region 1 is proud to announce the short list for the CEDIA Awards 2011. From English country homes to stunning super yachts sailing the world and private villas in Arabia and Africa, this year's short list celebrates the best residential custom installation projects with a heady mixture of excellence touched by the exotic. "We are delighted with the high standard of entries in this year's Awards which has proved a major challenge for our judges in the short-listing process" says Robert Hallam, CEDIA Chairman and Chair of Judges. "We are also really pleased to see integrators from across the Region participating in the scheme. A total of 10 different countries have competed in the scheme this year with entries from the UK, Netherlands, Cyprus, Portugal, South Africa, UAE, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and France, helping to increase awards entries by 16% on 2010. The Awards provide a great showcase for our industry, and this year the breadth, depth and quality of integration and innovation is as impressive as ever". View Shortlist here.
US online video service Hulu is branching out into world cinema, adding hundreds of classics from the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini to its line-up. The company has struck a deal with the Criterion Collection, adding 150 titles to its premium Hulu Plus subscription service from today, with a further 650 to come. The roster of directors also includes Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, Luis Bunuel, Jean Cocteau, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and a string of others - not to mention Charlie Chaplin, although the latter's selection will initially comprise only some early shorts.
Cisco and home control supplier Control4 have entered into an agreement in which Cisco will invest in Control4, use Control4 technology in Smart Grid infrastructure and services that it will sell to utilities, and sell Cisco-branded and Control4-branded products. Under the global agreement, Cisco will sell products through its value-added resellers (VARs) into homes in conjunction with utilities' deployment of Cisco's Smart Grid technologies, which are designed to reduce energy consumption. Cisco will also sell products through its VARs to developers of so-called greenfield cities, built on the outskirts of existing cities usually outside the U.S. In both channels, VARs would sell products to control energy use as well as home automation and control lighting, entertainment, communication and security systems. As a broad rule, control systems would be Cisco-branded, and peripherals such as lighting-control systems would be Control4-branded. The deal provides Control4 with additional resources as well as worldwide distribution channels that "will expand our reach dramatically" by "leveraging the Control4 platform to every single home in these communities," said Control4 CEO Will West. The deal will also open up opportunities for custom integrators who could later add onto a basic Cisco Smart Grid EMS 100 energy-management system, he said.
Boxee announced today that Netflix streaming media is finally available to owners of the company's Boxee Box. In order to access Netflix streaming media, users will need to either wait for the automatic update to take effect within the next 24 hours or manually update their set-top boxes. "Netflix support was the most common request we had on our blog comments, forum posts, tweets, etc.," Boxee CEO Avner Ronen said in a blog post accompanying the announcement. "We heard you loud and clear. We were bummed that we could not make it happen earlier, but are very excited to have it out today." When the Boxee Box first launched in November, the company said that it would make Netflix available by the end of 2010. After hitting some snags, it promised that Netflix was "still on track" for a launch at the end of January. Earlier this month, Boxee said in a blog post that it wasn't able to hit its self-imposed deadline because it had "not yet satisfied Netflix's security requirements." Luckily, that wait is finally over. But now Boxee has some catching up to do. Netflix streaming media has been running for quite some time on several of the device's competitors, including the Apple TV, Roku set-top boxes, and the Logitech Revue, among others.
3net, the joint venture television network from Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation today announced that DIRECTV will be the first distributor to launch 3net, the 24/7 3D network, beginning February 13, 2011. 3net will initially be available to millions of DIRECTV customers across the country. 3net will go live at 8:00 PM ET on DIRECTV (channel 107) with a primetime slate featuring world premieres of new, one-hour, native 3D original programs CHINA REVEALED and FORGOTTEN PLANET, in addition to the world 3D television premiere of INTO THE DEEP 3D. Throughout February, the network will offer an unprecedented rollout of original 3D series and new program debuts every night at 9:00 PM ET. 3net will deliver compelling, native 3D content to the marketplace and thus serve as a critical driver for consumer adoption of in-home 3D entertainment. The partnership's commitment to the emerging 3D market is historic, with plans for the channel to offer viewers the largest library of native 3D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011.
The HomeGrid Forum (HGF) today announced a new liaison agreement with the ZigBee® Alliance to extend their collaboration on the ZigBee Smart Energy™ standard development. This work will pave the way for consumers and utilities to use ZigBee Smart Energy version 2.0 wireless or wired networks to further advance Smart Grid programs and deliver new energy, financial and environmental savings. Both organizations will collaborate on ensuring ZigBee Smart Energy version 2 and HomeGrid Forum's ITU-T G.hn and G.hnem standards can be utilized in a wide variety of smart grid usage models. When finalized, applications such as AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), Demand Response (DR), Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV) and any other Smart Grid application/service that needs a reliable Home Area Network (HAN) or distribution/access network will benefit. "ZigBee Smart Energy is a leading home area network and AMI standard that helps consumers gain greater control of their energy use," said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. "Working with HomeGrid will give energy service providers, utilities and consumers another wired choice when implementing either wired or wireless home area networks or utility links to smart meters."
The new Apple TV is already a hit, having sold more than 1 million units in just three months after its release, but the device could become even more popular if it becomes a hub for social games. New code in the next version of Apple TV's operating system hints at gaming capabilities being added - which could lure in a whole new fan base for the broadband set-top box, and could create a whole new revenue stream for Apple. Engadget reports that new code in the iOS 4.3 beta firmware has references to "ATVGames" and "ATVThunder," which could make it not just a streaming device but a gaming device as well. Social gaming is already incredibly popular on other iOS devices, to the tune of 19 million users spending more than 22 minutes per day using gaming apps on their iPhones, iPads and iPhone touch devices. That's on par with the number of viewers for popular TV programs such as Sunday Night Football and Dancing with the Stars, suggesting there could be more of an audience for games on Apple TV than for actual video viewing.
We came across a fun product at ISE 2011 that we wanted to share. Unique Automation's unique bathomatic™ bath management system is a modular kit which can be fitted to any bath, bathomatic™ automatically controls the pre-programmed filling, water temperature, water depth and emptying of the bath water. It will also maintain temperature and automatically add bubble bath or fragrance, as required, on site or remotely. The system has now been developed to suit a range of applications both domestic and commercial, including hotels and care homes.
Coming out of CES this year, one of the main stories was the debut of new "passive" 3D TVs, announced by companies including LG, Toshiba, and Vizio. One big promise of passive 3D is that you can wear lightweight, inexpensive polarized glasses like the ones you get in movie theaters, rather than the bulkier, more expensive active-shutter glasses required by current 3D sets. The first passive 3D TV to hit the market is Vizio's 65-inch VT3D650SV ($3,700), a 1080p LCD TV that uses an edge LED backlight. We bought a set as soon as it was available and recently completed preliminary testing in our TV labs. For purposes of comparison, we pitted the new Vizio set against Panasonic's top-rated TC-P65VT25 ($4,300) plasma 3D TV. It's no secret that we've so far found plasma to be a better technology for 3D, primarily due to the lack of ghosting, so we were curious to see how the Vizio passive set stacked up. In general, there is a lot to like about the VT3D650SV. For one thing, the polarized glasses are very comfortable to wear; they weigh just 0.7 ounces, so they felt very similar to wearing regular sunglasses. We also liked that you get four pairs of glasses with the TV, with additional pairs expected to cost from $10 to $30. That's a far cry from the $130 to $150 you have to shell out for active glasses. In addition, the passive 3D glasses dim the image less than any of the active-shutter glasses we've tried, enabling the Vizio to produce the most satisfyingly bright picture we've experienced when viewing 3D.
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