Using the Kindle Fire as a Home Automation Touchscreen

Ever since I saw the first homes with wall-mounted touchscreens, I've yearned for an affordable alternative. Was the Kindle Fire, the answer to my dreams. I ordered one in an attempt to find out. Like a kid waiting for Santa, I looked out the window every 15 minutes on Saturday morning for the UPS driver. After what seemed like an eternity (it was after 10:30 am after all), it arrived. I excitedly unboxed it and got to work. Within 10 minutes, I had the tablet up and running and controlling devices and events (albeit with a sample skin). A few hours later, I had my custom iPad screens adapted to the size of the Fire and deployed on the device. I now had my $199 Home Automation touchscreen. One in every important room was within my grasp and my budget.

Visual Presentations for the Modern Sports Bar

The ideal sports fan experience includes views available from any seat in the bar with multiple, large high-definition TVs positioned for ease of view.  The size of the bar will determine how many TVs can be utilized and whether a large projection-screen would work.  Customers are drawn to the mega screen for sports action, such as NASCAR.  The layout of the bar will determine the placement of the TVs.  Place as many TVs behind the bar as the space will allow.  There was a time when mirrors or paintings were mounted behind the bar because tube type televisions would not fit, but today these decorations are replaced by flat panel televisions, which need only inches from the wall for mounting. 

What can you expect in today's conference rooms?

To grow, a company has to spend money.  Many companies upgrade the technology for their employees, but they often forget the potential of their conference rooms.  Before the first piece of equipment is purchased, a company needs to evaluate how the room will be used, the esthetics of the room, and the layout. 

Lenovo Sets Web-Linked TV

Chinese personal-computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd. on Tuesday said it would soon unveil a "smart TV" product called LeTV as well as a new cloud-computing strategy, as it competes with others to diversify and address growing demand for Internet-connected devices. The company, which surpassed Dell Inc. in the third quarter to become the world's second-largest PC vendor by unit shipments after Hewlett-Packard Co., is the latest to enter the competition to offer Internet content on television. Lenovo didn't provide details on the capabilities of LeTV, but it comes as others have released smart TVs, which are expected to have computer-style features and could allow companies to directly sell movies, TV shows and other content. Search giant Google Inc. is gearing up to challenge the likes of Apple Inc. in the area with its Google TV operating system. Lenovo said the new LeTV will be an Internet-connected product and is expected to launch in the first quarter. In recent weeks, Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. have also announced plans for smart TVs.

Cyber Monday sales hit record $1.25 billion

Cyber Monday online sales set a record, led by department stores and home goods retailers, according to U.S. data released on Tuesday. Online sales reached $1.251 billion on Monday, up 22 percent from the same day last year, said comScore Inc, a closely watched Web tracking firm. IBM Benchmark, a unit of International Business Machines Corp, put the increase at 33 percent compared with Cyber Monday in 2010. Department stores saw online sales surge 60 percent this Cyber Monday, compared with last year, while sales of home goods rose 68 percent, IBM Benchmark added.

New Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface Is Available to Pre-order

Retail outlets looking for new, innovative ways to get hands-on with their customers will soon have a new tool – the Samsung SUR40. Companies are already using Microsoft Surface to give potential customers virtual tours of plane interiors, help them plan flights, provide them with the ability to create immersive photo books, and entice bank customers into brick and mortar branches. Those experiences only hint at how the new Surface device will be able to help businesses engage with customers, said Somanna Palacanda, director of Microsoft Surface.  Samsung and Microsoft announced today that a new, more versatile Microsoft Surface device is now available for pre-order, the near final stop on its journey from lab to marketplace. Now, businesses in 23 countries can visit the Samsung website to find a local reseller and place an order for the Samsung SUR40. Shipments are expected to start early next year.

CE Spurs Record Black Friday Sales

Earlier store openings, a bargain-hungry consumer and the lure of deeply discounted TVs and laptops contributed to the largest Black Friday sales haul in history this past weekend.  Americans spent a record $52 billion from Thanksgiving through Sunday, or $398.62 per shopper, a 9.1 percent increase from last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported, while traffic to stores and websites rose 6.6 percent to hit an historic high of 226 million visits. Broken out by channel, 62.2 percent of the total weekend spend took place in brick-and-mortar stores and 37.8 percent was transacted online, the trade group said. Black Friday proper was also one for the record books. According to market research firm ShopperTrak, sales at brick-and-mortar stores rose 6.6 percent the day after Thanksgiving to $11.4 billion, while foot traffic increased a 5.1 percent from last year.  

After four years of declines, TiVo adds new customers

TiVo has spent the last several years losing subscribers, dropping to mid-2000s customer levels in the second quarter of this year. But the DVR maker might finally be showing some positive momentum, reporting 117,000 net new customers in its third-quarter earnings report. Those new customers are the result of growth in TiVo's partnerships with pay-TV operators, spurred by the addition of partners like Virgin Media and RCN. And that strategy - based around getting cable companies to offer TiVo DVRs to their customers rather than the set-top boxes they've been using - could help the company grow even more over the next few quarters. In addition to its existing partnerships, TiVo will see some promotion from DirecTV soon, and Comcast is integrating its video-on-demand service to work with TiVo DVRs consumers can buy themselves. The company says its partnerships give it a potential footprint of 10 million homes between them, compared to the 2 million subscribers it currently has.

Has Netflix overextended itself?

Netflix agreed to sell $400 million in stock and convertible bonds on Monday in an effort to stockpile some cash. The filings were seen as the latest in a series of bad news for the company by investors, with shares down about five percent. But the raising of short-term funds brings up the question of how well Netflix has been managing its cash, particularly as the company has seen customer additions stall at home while investing heavily to expand internationally. Netflix has already committed billions of dollars to new streaming deals over the next few years, which would be fine if the company had ample cash in the bank or was still on an outstanding growth trajectory. Netflix finished the third quarter with just $366 million in cash and short-term investments, however, and with $200 million in long-term debt.

Cyber Monday Shoppers At The Ready

Discount-seeking cyber shoppers will hit the web early on Nov. 28, looking to take advantage of free shipping, said shopping site PriceGrabber. The PriceGrabber survey of 2,322 people found 39 percent intended to do their shopping on Cyber Monday over any of the other four days of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This is up 2 percent from last year. Ninety-two percent said this decision was based on the fact that this is the day most one-day sales and free-shipping offers took place. Other reasons cited for hitting the web on Monday instead of fighting the crowds Black Friday morning were to spend time with friends and family on Black Friday to discover what they wanted, 20 percent; family tradition to shop online that day, 6 percent; 5 percent consider it a chance to take a break from work, and 5 percent said their office Internet connection was faster than the one at home.

Control Protocol Design
A Guide for Controllable Hardware Manufacturers

This document is for developers of hardware devices which are intended for external control by automation systems, specialized control applications, or hardware controllers, via some sort of wired or wireless connection. Any such device must expose a 'control protocol' which defines the form and meaning of commands and information passing between the two involved parties. This document describes how to create a high quality control protocol, and the considerations thereof. The information in this document is intended to improve the quality of automation at the most fundamental level, because automation systems are no better than the extent to which they can reliably and conveniently provide control over the customer's devices, and long experience has shown that far too many devices have substandard control protocols. This document starts out fairly simply and generically, so if you already have some experience in this area, you may wish to skip forward a bit to the more detailed technical sections.

Roku Aims To Launch In UK And Canada In 2012

Roku is following Boxee in trying to go global, as internet TV operators of varying stripes compete for place in the living room. Roku says it will start retailing the UK and Canada from early 2012. That will go alongside what will have to be Roku's effort to find local content channel partners for the new markets. Candidates are likely to include Spotify, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), BBC iPlayer, ITV (LSE: ITV) Player, 4oD, Channel Five, Blinkbox and PlayJam. "Content can be free, ad supported or paid," Roky says. Roku's boxes now range from a $49.99 SD device to its $99.99 model.

Survey: More Americans to shop on Black Friday

Americans plan this year to go shopping in greater numbers on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year and unofficial kick-off the holiday spending season. Some 152 million shoppers say they will hit stores on November 25, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, up 10.1 percent from 138 million people last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, an industry group. For the November-December period, the NRF previously forecast retail sales would rise 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion, in what executives and analysts have said will be a more competitive season than last year. Major retailers are leaving little to chance. For instance, discount retailer Target Corp and department stores Macy's Inc and Kohl's Corp are opening their doors earlier than ever, at midnight on Thanksgiving.

Boxee Box Live TV dongle shipping for $49 in January 2012, pre-orders open today

 Boxee has just affirmed that the leaked Live TV dongle is legit, and it'll be splashing down on North American shores in January. The Boxee Box Live TV dongle will allow North American users to connect an antenna to their Box to watch channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in HD with no monthly fee -- assuming you're close enough to an OTA tower to receive said signals, of course. Once equipped, a Box will be able to fetch content from the major networks, Vudu, Netflix and Hulu, though you may want to spring for that bolstered internet connection. Boxee Live TV works with signals from HDTV antennas (using ATSC) or an unencrypted cable connection (using ClearQAM), and a portable antenna is included. Users who live out in the 'burbs may want to consider something a bit beefier.

Sony Considers Internet Rival to Cable TV

Sony Corp. is considering launching an Internet-based alternative to cable-TV service, people familiar with the situation said, posing the latest threat to the cable and satellite operators that dominate pay TV. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has approached several big media companies to negotiate the rights to offer their TV channels over the Web in the U.S., the people said. Sony is proposing to beam the channels over Internet connections to Sony-made devices, including PlayStation gaming consoles, TV sets and Blu-ray players, the people said. Sony has sold about 18.1 million PlayStation 3 consoles in the U.S. alone, according to NPD Group Inc., and many homes have other Internet-connected Sony devices. The biggest U.S. cable operator, Comcast Corp., has about 22.4 million video subscribers and serves a geographic area with over 52 million homes.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!