It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy. That was the whole point, according to the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh: “We tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training,” they write. It is really simple. The portable socket attaches to a window like a leech to human skin. On its underside, it has solar panels: The solar panels suck energy from the sun. The charger converts that energy into electricity. You plug in to the charger. Even better, the charger stores that energy. After five to eight hours of charging, the socket provides 10 hours of use. You can pop it off the window, stick it in your bag, and use it to charge up your phone with solar energy, even if you’re sitting in a dark room.
At a special listening and audition event today, Sony Electronics introduced its 2013 Home Audio product lineup, highlighting the STR-DN1040 Audio/Video Receiver and the HT-CT660 Soundbar. Available in June, both products boast of Sony's legendary commitment to quality sound, and are packed with connectivity and accessibility features. Both the STR-DN1040 receiver, priced at $599, and the HT-CT660 soundbar, priced at $399, will be available at Sony Stores and http://store.sony.com, as well as retailers nationwide. "Our rich audio legacy leads consumers to expect continued innovation and performance from Sony audio products," said Neal Manowitz , director of Sony Electronics' Home Audio group. "The newest AV receiver in our line has the simplest, most user-friendly interface, which when combined with a world first and only AVR feature set of built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, raises the bar with respect to usability, and does so with knockout sound performance. Likewise, the new soundbar extends the Sony line and brings theater-like, high-definition sound to any room in the house, with Bluetooth ease and convenience."
The company is entering the home automation space — launching its Digital Life initiative in 15 markets beginning Friday. Kevin Peterson, senior vice president of AT&T Digital Life says the IP-based system will make customers' lives easier by simplifying home management — allowing for customizable features accessible from any PC or mobile device. The idea, which has been under development for over a year now, is for AT&T to offer pre-packaged bundles and monitoring of your home automation. The company wants to create that system for you by letting you shop for what you want — either online or in a retail location — and offering certified specialists to install the sensors and equipment. There are different packages to choose from, depending on your needs. A camera package, for instance, will let you view video from inside or outside your home. The energy package controls your thermostat and lights while a water-detection package can check for water in your basement and alert you or turn it off.
Many open source home automation projects have relied on driving proprietary devices, but the newly created Open Home Control project aims to change that by creating a framework for hardware devices that can be integrated with open sourced home automation platforms such as the respected openHAB software. The home automation system will provide a framework for creating a large network of different devices that offer AES-256 data encryption and can resend data packets when transmission is disrupted. Devices in the network will use Atmel microcontrollers such as the ATMega168 in combination with HopeRF wireless transceivers on 868MHz. Firmware for the system is developed in C and compiled with the GCC compiler. WinAVR is the chosen development environment, although compiling under Linux also appears to be possible. Design guidelines on the site give further information about the hardware and firmware. The project is still young, but a handful devices are already available: a base station to act as a master control for the OHC network, a temperature and humidity sensor, a remotely switchable power socket, and a dimmer designed to work with specialised Osram fluorescent tube power supplies. The number of available devices is set to increase along with the growing community of contributors the project hopes to attract. The project's software is available from its GitHub repository and is licensed under the GPLv3 . Hardware and schematics are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence.
With only 18 employees, Zonoff, a Malvern-based startup (Pennsylvania) managed to raise $3.8 million to continue the development of their comprehensive software that helps you, the consumer, control your home electronic systems, with a single app installed on your iPhone or iPad. Basically, Zonoff provides a simple solution in terms of home connectivity, suggesting that their service – a platform which includes a home, cloud and an app software is enough to control electronic devices wirelessly and make them communicate one with another. The home software: This is the core of Zonoff’s advanced technology, being able to turn any “always-on” device into a home controller. That means that a simple electronic item, like your Blu-ray player for instance, becomes a smart one…and therefore, understands your commands. The cloud software: We’re already used to cloud solutions, so this is not a new approach, but definitely an indispensable one. The cloud software “enables remote access and device management”. The idea was to give the costumers the possibility to interact with their homes, away from home. The app software: It runs on smartphones and other mobile devices. With an user-friendly interface, the app allows you to set the clock alarm, turn on the lights and so on, changing once and forever the way we interact with our homes. The cutting-edge home automation technology was first introduced to the public in January, during CES 2013.
CEA's 11th Annual 'State of the Builder' Study Finds Strong, Stable Market for Installed Home Technologies
The overall growth of the home technology market remained consistent from 2011 to 2012, demonstrating home technology has a strong, stable foothold, according to new findings in the 11th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) ® . Technology installations in new homes reached or exceeded 2008 levels, providing more evidence that the market for built-in home technologies is well on the road to recovery. Structured wiring remains the most common installed technology (70 percent), followed by monitored security (44 percent) and home theater pre-wire systems (27 percent). “These installed technology trends signify that some home technologies have made the transition from luxuries to standard options,” said Chris Ely, senior manager of industry analysis, CEA. Home technologies have become valuable marketing tools for new homes. Builders say they continue to find that marketing these technologies is important; close to half of builders surveyed (49 percent) said they find it much more or somewhat more important to market these technologies today.
Coming soon are two fresh bundles bearing the Harmony name: the Ultimate and Smart Control. At the heart of both is the Smart Hub, a palm-sized box somewhat similar to the Harmony Link. It receives commands from remotes via RF, or from smartphone apps via WiFi, and in turn, broadcasts its own orders to your A/V setup using IR and Bluetooth. It's especially useful for those wanting to hide their kit away in cabinets, as it translates inputs into IR signals that'll bounce around those secluded spaces. Optional extender nodes will also pipe IR into other nearby recesses. To do that though, the Hub needs instructions, which is where remotes and apps come in. The new Ultimate remote (aka the Touch Plus) is last year's Touch remote with a few refinements, including the addition of a trigger-like nub on the underside to improve grip. It uses IR, Bluetooth or RF (to the Hub) to control up to 15 devices, and is programmed using Logitech's software for PCs that pulls settings from a database of 225,000 home entertainment products. The Ultimate's 2.4-inch touchscreen serves as a number pad, a favorite channel list for easy hopping, and is the home of one-touch "activities," which are basically macros for issuing multiple commands. Set up an activity for "Play Xbox," for example, and in one touch it'll turn on your console, switch your TV to the correct source, select the right channel on your amp, and so on. It'll even tell Philips' connected Hue lightbulbs to set a mood. Jump on past the break for more.
Vienna-based Alarm.com, the purveyor of home automation technology, is trying to position itself as a kind of operating system for the home. It has begun allowing other companies to plug their technology into its system in the same way software developers create applications for Microsoft or Apple computers, tablets and phones. Alarm.com announced its initial partnerships last week at the International Security Conference in Las Vegas. Homeowners that use LiftMaster electric garage door openers and Lutron lights and window shades will be able to control them using the Alarm.com Web site and app. Jay Kenny, vice president of marketing, said Alarm.com’s Platform Connect allows the company to quickly expand the number of products a homeowner can automate and control using the company’s system. “The more applications that they can draw to that platform the greater the value, in the same way the Apple app store draws applications from all sorts of developers and that brings greater value to that platform,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research.
Playing music in multiple rooms around the house can be an expensive endeavor, with products like Sonos costing upwards of $300 per speaker. If you’ve already got a handful of phones, tablets and laptops connected to existing speakers around the house, why not sync them together so they’re all playing the same songs at the same time? Speakerfy, an app that officially launches on iPhone and iPad this week, and on Windows and Android next week, is a quick and dirty way to make it happen. It allows you to synchronize audio playback on multiple phones, tablets and laptops, so you can listen to the same music while wandering from room to room. (Whole-home audio isn’t Speakerfy’s primary intended function. It’s actually billed as a “social sound” app, allowing people to listen to music together across devices. Yes, it’s an app for silent discos. No, I’m not hip enough to partake in said discos. Whole-home audio it is.) Speakerfy streams audio over your local Wi-Fi network, or over a shared mobile hotspot, to any device that’s also running the app. Just send an invite to the devices you want to connect, then choose a song, album or playlist from your music collection. The other devices will start playing music in time with the host device.
Linear LLC has added Z-Wave lighting products to its line of wireless residential and commercial offerings. The new products represent a benchmark for Linear as the company seeks to unify wireless lighting control products with existing security and access control systems, and other Z-Wave products. This powerful smart chip and compact protocol enable two-way RF communications among Z-Wave enabled devices. Linear is now manufacturing, selling and distributing Z-Wave lighting control products that include: wall dimmers, wall switches, wall outlets, lamp modules, appliance modules, 3-way switches/dimmers, fixture modules, as well as international versions of the same products. Linear will also utilize its extensive OEM resources to manufacture Z-Wave products for partner companies seeking their own intelligent lighting solutions. The products also fit in nicely with Linear's recent acquisition of 2GIG Technologies since 2GIG's GO! Control platform is Z-Wave certified and provides an elegant and user-friendly control panel for the management of lighting, security, access control and more. Z-Wave enabled products represent the world's largest ecosystem of interoperable smart products giving Linear dealers more options and opportunities in a variety of segments. "The addition of Z-Wave lighting products gives Linear customers access to a widely adopted wireless control protocol that is easy-to-install, modular, affordable and intelligent," said Duane Paulson, senior vice president of product and market development. "The extensive product offerings and adoption of the Z-Wave protocol across many industries will create opportunities for Linear dealers in new and existing markets."
There are a lot of reasons why sound bars are taking over home audio, but one of them is increasingly obvious: AV receivers are terrible. While receivers are fine for enthusiasts who know what they're doing, they're a frustrating experience for everyone else. Most technology gets better over time, but AV receivers seem frozen in amber, with giant chassis, thick inscrutable manuals, and onscreen interfaces that could only generously be called "standard-definition." They're embarrassingly backward compared with the rest of your home theater gear, yet they remain a begrudging necessity for those who want something better than a sound bar. AV receivers don't have to be this bad, but they need to completely reinvent themselves to stay relevant. Here's where they should start. Click for Full article by Matthew Moskovciak of CNET.
Linear, LLC a subsidiary of Nortek, Inc. (Nasdaq: NTK), has closed on its acquisition of 2GIG Technologies, which will become part of the security and control group within Linear. The acquisition of 2GIG was announced by Nortek in February 2013. With the acquisition, Linear's dealers and OEM partners gain access to 2GIG's Go!Control platform, the first widely adopted integrated security and automation system that includes a system CPU, touchscreen interface, Z-Wave radio for automation, cellular radio for communications with a central station, and narrow-band RF for communicating with security sensors. 2GIG also provides a wide range of wireless peripherals including thermostats, panic buttons, keyfobs, glass break detectors and wireless carbon monoxide detectors, all of which can be integrated into a home automation system that can be remotely monitored, managed and controlled via the Internet. "Acquiring 2GIG positions Linear as one of the world's top-tier hardware developers and manufacturers in the rapidly growing residential security and home automation markets," said Michael O'Neal, president of Linear. "We're especially excited about the synergy between the brands since 2GIG offers products that can be leveraged by Linear and its dealers to grow their businesses. At the same time, Linear offers products that can expand and enhance the 2GIG home automation platform, potentially opening doors to new market opportunities."
Consumers are taking studios' commitment to UltraViolet seriously. UltraViolet accounts have surged from 9 million to 11 million since the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Approximately 9,000 titles are available to UltraViolet consumers. The service allows customers to buy a product once and store it in the cloud to play on any device. However, the service has not been without its hiccups. “[Consumer tech support] problems have gone down very pronouncedly in the last six to nine months as we’ve rolled out improvements,” said Mark Teitell, per Home Media Magazine. Teitell is the GM and executive director for the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the cross-industry consortium of companies behind UltraViolet. “We’d love it to be zero, but it’s a pretty low and manageable pace right now,” he said. UltraViolet can now easily merge accounts and consolidate usernames and passwords. According to a survey done by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, more than 55 percent of home entertainment consumers are aware of UltraViolet and 50 percent said that an UltraViolet enabled title would make them more likely to purchase. Since consumers are currently at the crossroads of disc and digital, having the title provided to them in both formats at purchase has become important.
With a flick of the wrist, residents of a futuristic home developed in Spain can browse Internet pages displayed on the living room walls, switch off a giant projected alarm clock in the bedroom or transform the entire interior into a busy streetscape or tranquil beach. It may seem light years ahead of current "smart home" technology, but this prototype apartment in Fuenterrabia, a city in Spain's northern Basque country, is far from the realms of fantasy. In fact, the technology used to create the interactive interior is the same as that already being used in video games. The team behind the prototype have linked projectors which beam interactive applications on to walls to Kinect motion sensors, developed by Microsoft for its X-box 360 console, thus allowing residents to control their environment simply by waving their hands. It seems to work like magic. In the morning, a wave at the wall will switch off the alarm and display your diary at the same time. If you fancy a change of scenery, just one small gesture will splash video on every wall, turning half of the apartment into a busy urban street or picturesque seascape, complete with sound effects. "The project is a working prototype of a smart home," said its creator, Ion Cuervas-Mons, at a visual presentation of the project to AFP in Madrid. Full Article:
Intelligent building efficiency is not just relegated to offices. As energy prices rise and incomes are squeezed, home automation systems will become a more enticing investment as their efficiency improves and costs decline due to innovation and scale. And, consumers will start paying attention: currently the average household pays over $100 a month for electricity according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Half of those costs are to keep the motor and compressors in operation in air conditioners and heaters. So if smarter systems are going to save consumers money, the work must start with the machines that cool us during summer and keep us warm during the frigid winter months. And if consumers had the ability to control their home’s climate control systems remotely from a smartphone or a web application from a remote location, they could save money without sacrificing convenience and comfort. In my interview earlier this month with Emerson’s VP of Marketing at Emerson Climate Services, he shared with me some of the challenges, future benefits and upcoming trends in the home automation technologies market. “We’re data hungry–we want it at our fingertips. At the same time, when it comes to our comfort and convenience, we want it easily and quickly with no distractions.” — Geoff Godwin describing the role of data in the development of cutting-edge home automation systems. Currently less than two percent of homes in the United States have some form of home automation or smart grid system, but Godwin sees huge growth in the next four to five years. Communications protocols such as Zigbee have improved in their sophistication to match the growing complexity of HVAC and water heating systems that consume less energy than ones manufactured just a few years ago.
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