A Year Without Cable TV

A little over a year ago, I went cold turkey with Cable. I had literally everything that one of the big providers could offer (as my sister-in-law worked there, and we owned a two-flat with her). In this article, I'll share my experiences and the current state of play with TV in my house. Mark Anderson is a long-time home theater enthusiast and lives on the bleeding edge of Home Automation. He will be covering everything related to Home Automation and AV. He is also a regular contributor to avystemsmag.com, where he covers commercial AV and automation.Please welcome Mark to the HomeToys team.

NFC coming to a smart phone near you

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. So, what does this mean? If you attend a trade show and meet someone, whom you would like to exchange business cards, you both can touch your NFC smart phones to the other's show badge and the information is exchanged. You no longer have to carry a pocket full of business cards, or have to sort cards after the show.

Z-Wave Announces 600th Certified Product

The Z-Wave Alliance, the consortium behind the world's largest ecosystem of interoperable wireless control solutions, today announced that it has certified its 600th product. This major milestone solidifies its position as the leading consortium dedicated to Home Control and Smart Energy development. The 600th Z-Wave product is a Whole House Energy Meter designed to provide timely and accurate consumption data. Six months ago, saw the 500 th certified Z-Wave product: a goal that took almost 6 years to reach. Today, the announcement of a 600 th product indicates rapid growth in Z-Wave. What are the primary factors for the growth? Read Mark's take on this here.

Spotlight on Ultraviolet

Spotlight on Ultraviolet Ultraviolet promises to be the digital movie locker in the cloud. Momentum seems to be gathering with a few major players (Samsung, Amazon and Paramount) signing up recently. I decided to take it for a spin and see if the reality matched the PR hype.

2012 will be the year of Home Automation

I know what you're thinking: another "year of X" prediction that has as much chance of coming to fruition as I have of winning the lottery. (I'm still waiting for smell-o-vision.) So, why am I so keen to stake my reputation on this? One reason: the number of entry level systems appearing on the market. We'll be reviewing some of these over coming months, but for now we'll just list some of the major contenders. Mark Anderson is a long-time home theater enthusiast and lives on the bleeding edge of Home Automation. He will be covering everything related to Home Automation and AV. He is also a regular contributor to avystemsmag.com, where he covers commercial AV and automation.Please welcome Mark to the HomeToys team.

Is Windows Media Center Alive?

Windows Media Center is one of the best and most underrated products produced by Microsoft. As a cord-cutter, I use it as my TV guide, DVR and a whole lot more. In the last few months, I've attempted to find three key plug-ins. Not one exists. It seems developers interests lie elsewhere these days. So is this a nail in WMC's coffin. I hope not.

Speaker Impedance, Your Amplifier And You.

In the audio world, simple spec numbers rarely adequately describe real-world performance. When a speaker is specified as being "8-Ohms," that is really an oversimplification of a complex issue. A speaker's impedance is different at different frequencies!

PARKS ASSOCIATES FORECASTS OVER 60% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS WILL HAVE AN ENERGY MANAGEMENT NETWORK BY 2022

Retailers, service providers, and utilities are all entering the U.S. market for energy management, which will help drive annual subscription revenues from these systems to over $180 million by 2015, according to Parks Associates. The international research firm hosts Smart Energy Summit: Engaging the Consumer in Austin, Texas, February 28-March 1, an annual event focusing on new technologies, partnership opportunities, and consumer-oriented energy management solutions. “Energy management is being bundled with home monitoring and control, security, broadband, and video services,” said Tom Kerber, Director, Research, Home Controls and Energy, Parks Associates. “Next week, we will hear insights into partnership opportunities that can generate recurring revenues, reduce customer attrition, develop value-added services, and engage consumers in new ways with energy management solutions.”  

Advert on Oxford Street shown only to women

An interactive hoarding at a London bus stop aims to show a 40-second advertisement only to women and girls. The screen showing the short video campaign, by children's charity Plan UK, is located at a bus stop opposite Selfridges on Oxford Street. A camera will measure facial features of the person standing at the screen to decide whether it is a man or a woman. It guesses right 90% of the time. If it is a male, the screen will direct him to the charity's campaign website.

Texas McDonald's deploys digital signage nutrition info kiosk

Iowa-based creative design company QA Graphics recently announced the completion of an interactive digital signage nutritional kiosk for Jonathan Chan, owner and operator of a McDonald's franchise in Richardson, Texas. The nutritional kiosk allows customers to review the restaurant's menu items and nutritional information. As customers walk into the lobby of the re-opened Richardson McDonald's they can view the restaurant menu and nutritional information on a 42-inch LCD interactive display. When interacting with the kiosk, customers can browse the full menu to see images along with nutritional facts for the extensive menu. The nutrition breakdown provides information for calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, sodium and other dietary requirements including fiber, cholesterol, sugars, calcium and iron. To develop the solution, QA Graphics worked directly with Chan, who owns and operates three franchise locations. QA Graphics said this is the first McDonald's location to provide this interactive experience solution for customers.

AVC Group Launches Global Training Program

The AVC Group, in a effort to provide its international distributor network with a new level of training support, has begun a comprehensive training program that combines trade show, Internet, and field-based classes into one global training initiative. According to Ken Johnsen, international training manager at The AVC Group, the new program was rolled out last month at ISE 2012 and featured brand specific training on the Elan, Niles, Xantech, Sunfire and Aton brands. "Over a five-day period we trained a large percentage of our European distributor partners and their trainers on every aspect of each brand's product line," Johnsen said. "We are now taking this same integrated approach and bringing it to every part of the world." The entire focus of The AVC Group's international education effort, Johnsen emphasized, is to "train the trainers" to be complete experts in all of the five brands' product offerings. "Our goal is to provide our distributors with the tools they need to successfully represent any brand within The AVC Group. To achieve this goal, we are combining trade show, internet, and field-based classes into a single comprehensive program that allows for the largest number of trainers to be trained in the most time and cost-efficient way possible. These training courses will culminate in a certificate of completion for various products and techniques unique to the brands of The AVC Group."  

It's cool to have rabbit ears again.

Largely relegated to obscurity decades ago, old-fashioned television broadcasts—over the airwaves and not via cable or satellite—are enjoying an unexpected revival in the digital era. With an increased array of online-video programming now drawing viewers' attention, companies are starting to pitch consumers on complementing online video streamed from the Web with broadcast-TV signals as a way to save money on cable subscriptions. If it gains traction, this trend could undercut part of the rationale for selling off TV spectrum in voluntary auctions, approved by Congress on Friday, aimed at freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband. There are signs that consumers are responding. TV-antenna seller Richard Schneider of St. Louis says sales at his company are soaring. Mr. Schneider's Antennas Direct sold 70,000 antennas in January, and he expects to double last year's sales of about 600,000. That was up from 400,000 antennas in 2010.

Apple TV taken off store shelves; refresh coming soon?

If you're looking to buy an Apple TV, you're going to have an exceedingly difficult time doing so. As of this writing, BestBuy.com and Walmart.com don't even list the Apple TV on their sites, and Amazon has stopped selling it. Apple's online store is the only major e-commerce Web site CNET has come across that lists the Apple TV, and actually has the set-top box in stock. AppleInsider, which first reported on the news, says it's a similar story in many brick-and-mortar stores around the country, with one Best Buy sales representative telling the blog that "it doesn't look like we'll be getting [the Apple TV] back." So, what's going on? All signs point to an Apple TV refresh.  Full Article from CNet:

Get creative with digital signage

Quebec’s Hotel de Glace doesn’t let the cold climate get in the way of showcasing its corporate sponsors. The hotel thanks its sponsors by running at least a half-dozen digital signage systems in the public areas. What’s interesting about this is two things: Snow isn’t exactly “wired” for electricity The innards of technology doesn’t exactly like it when the ambient temperature is 28 degrees Farenheit But the Hotel de Glace technology team found out a way to run electricity throughout the site by scooping out snow and running wires AND by using fur creatively to wrap around the sensitive parts of the displays. So, the managers have been creative about finding a way to showcase the sponsors very publicly. The team also didn’t let a little thing like frigid air get in the way of installing a sophistical point of sale system in the ice bar.  Read full article here:

Boxee may launch a DVR subscription service

Boxee is considering the launch of a DVR subscription service for users of its new Live TV tuner, according to a user survey the startup sent out over the weekend. A Boxee-powered DVR subscription service could cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per month if the company follows through with the offering. Boxee recently released its Live TV tuner, which allows owners of the Boxee Box to receive over-the-air TV programming through the device. The tuner currently doesn't support any DVR functionality, but there have been numerous requests to add this to the Boxee Box, and the startup has said that it is looking into such a possibility.

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