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Friday, January 23, 2015
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Whoops!


By Julie Jacobson

Here’s the story: Soap Inc., which promised to make smart home automation routers, had two founders – Brandon Jeffrey Jones and Alexander Davis Jones.

Brandon Jones declared bankruptcy a few years before the duo launched Soap on Kickstarter in 2014. Kickstarter kicked the company out for non-performance, at which point Alex Jones declared bankruptcy (more on the bankruptcies and suspicious pasts).

Shortly thereafter, the brothers fled to Indiegogo.

$300,000 later and not a shred of evidence that Soap hardware or software exists, the brothers this week launched yet another campaign on Indiegogo. In something of a Ponzi scheme, the company admits to using the third campaign to fulfill commitments from its past campaign.

Apparently the duped backers have been contacting Indiegogo officials for quite some time, with allegations of fraud.

Whether or not the operation is a scam – we don’t know for sure – Indiegogo shouldn’t allow a company to re-launch a campaign under suspicious circumstances such as these.

Certainly Indiegogo and Kickstarter and the others can’t police all activity on their crowd-funding sites, but in this case it seems Indiegogo had fair warning.

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RELATED: More Scoop on Soap

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Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/23 at 07:34 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, (11) Comments, Permalink


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CE ProS yawn at the business stories.


By Julie Jacobson

CE Pros aren’t reading the right stuff. They skip past vital business-oriented stories and dwell on scandals, personalities, newfangled technologies and breezy fare.

Yet when you ask dealers, in survey after survey, about their shortcomings, they overwhelmingly cite business acumen including accounting, sales, legal, marketing, HR, operations, recurring revenue and the like.

I agree that that stuff can be boring as heck to read, but CE Pro does a pretty good job of making it interesting. And still, if we post it, dealers don’t click. And so we sometimes get into a self-perpetuating cycle of posting fewer dealer profiles and business features, favoring more attention-getting product, personality and technology pieces.

We recently posted a list of the top 20 most popular stories on CEPro.com for 2014 by number of page views.

The list shouldn’t surprise anyone. In general, the most-visited articles feature themes with wide appeal – DIY home automation systems like Wink and the now-defunct Revolv; emerging smart-home protocols; Staples, Lowe’s, Home Depot and other mass-market initiatives; and anything that looks like Sonos.

Hey, we’re not knocking technology stories ... but would a little business learnin’ kill ya?

Consumers, bloggers, analysts, manufacturers and “the industry” are drawn to stories like these, so naturally our Top 20 list is skewed towards the broader market.

READ BUSINESS-RELATED STORIES HERE

But even when we get to more CI-oriented pieces, readers still prefer personalities over practicality.

Jeremy Burkhardt’s launch of Origin Acoustics (#8 on the list) and Read entry

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/23 at 07:30 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, (0) Comments, Permalink


Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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The closure of HomeSecurityStore.com may portend a grim future for niche home security and home automation stores.


By Julie Jacobson

Low-cost online reseller HomeSecurityStore.com has closed. The popular low-cost provider of home security and home automation systems no longer emblazons its phone number (888-501-7870) across the company Web site.

And if you call the number you get a message indicating the company is closed.

All of the menu items appear to be dead: “Sorry that is not a valid entry. Please try again.”

There are no bankruptcy listings for Home Security Store in the Pacer online legal directory at this time.

A representative at the store’s professional alarm monitoring partner (Alarm Relay), which sells security monitoring for a mere $8.95 per month, confirms that Home Security Store is “no longer around.” But Alarm Relay still remains as a standalone central monitoring station since 1972.

“This has taken a number of manufacturers by surprise including yours truly,” a vendor tells CE Pro. “I and many others always considered them to be rock solid.”

According to HomeSecurityStore.com, the business was founded in Southern California in 1995 and “has grown into a multi-million dollar business.”

The vendor who contacted CE Pro about the store closure says, “If they had troubles, what does that mean for other online retailers?”

Indeed, the mass-market awareness of home security and automation has, ironically, hurt the niche providers, however large they may be. Amazon and virtually all other major online electronics retailers have changed the landscape.

HomeSecurityStore sold such brands as 2Gig, Honeywell, DSC, Interlogix, Elk, iSmartAlarm. Kwikset, Channel Vision and Nexia.
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JULIE JACOBSON


Thursday, January 15, 2015
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How to coil a cable.


By Julie Jacobson

A very very VERY experienced integrator sent me a link to this video with the comment, “Old dog, new tricks.”

It’s like that lesson CEDIA’s David Pedigo learned about rolling out foil and plastic wrap without popping the tube out of the box (I didn’t know that one either.)

In this video, the London School of Sound shows how to coil a cable without it knotting up in the unravel.



Oh, and here’s a great approach to rolling up a long extension cord.

MORE STORIES UNDER ‘SLOW NEWS DAY

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/15 at 11:37 AM
News, Blogs, Wire and Cable, Installation, (10) Comments, Permalink


Tuesday, January 13, 2015
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Neil Young’s Pono high-resolution music player is available for pre-order for $399 and is expected to start shipping next month. To support the player, the company is offering a library of high-resolution music downloads from artists ranging from Led Zeppelin and The Doors to Miles Davis and Elton John.


By Robert Archer

I’ve now hit my breaking point. I will be the first one to admit I am not a huge Neil Young fan, but I respect his career and fans, which include colleagues Jason Knott and Arlen Schweiger.

Reading a recent story published by the New York Post infuriated me. Young is a musician that has been writing, recording and performing music longer than I’ve walked the earth, and he is trying to bring a higher level of musical quality to the masses through the development of his Pono high-resolution audio player and companion music service.

Apparently, Young’s efforts aren’t good enough for some, including some people who call the man “the boss.” According to the Post’s story, Pono executives are essentially telling people the decision to offer high-resolution audio files is nothing more than a money grab.

You can say what you will about Young, his guitar solos are like fingernails on a chalkboard to someone like me who worships the guitar alter of Randy Rhoads and Guthrie Govan, but I do not doubt the authenticity of Young’s commitment of raising the musical bar that’s stagnated since the early 1980s. In fact, a strong case could be made that music quality has gone downhill throughout the past few decades due to the “loudness wars” that have crushed the dynamic range of modern recordings.

Young, along with manufacturers such as Sony, Bryston, Meridian, HDTracks and the many others that are supporting high-resolution audio, deserve our allegiance. 

Of course from…

Posted by Robert Archer on 01/13 at 08:37 AM
Blogs, Audio, Video, Digital Media, (17) Comments, Permalink


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Soap shows soap-on-a-rope and a promotional video at CES 2015, where they “spoke to almost every booth that had a home automation or connected device, and almost all were interested in being supported on the Soap platform.”


By Julie Jacobson

Ah, where to begin with Soap, Inc., which used Kickstarter and then Indiegogo to fund a smart router with ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth (BLE), Insteon and software to tie it all together.

Founders Alex and Brandon Jones have been famously quiet on Indiegogo, where the brothers have racked up more than $261,000 on a goal of $42,000. Unfulfilled backers have called the operation a scam. I have repeatedly suggested that Soap isn’t a scam, just an incompetent organization.

Now the Joneses plan to launch a new Indiegogo campaign, seemingly to refund Soap’s original backers, and they seriously think it’ll fly. We’ll get to that in a bit.

We thought Soap’s appearance at the recent CES 2015 might convince the livid backers that Soap had something, but Brandon Jones showed up with little more than Soap-branded stickers, soap-on-a-rope, a goofy grin and no interest in speaking with the press.

But Soap’s impression of the show was rosy, according to the latest update on Indiegogo:

We were able to make really beneficial contacts with companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft and about 100 others.  We spoke to almost every booth that had a home automation or connected device, and almost all were interested in being supported on the Soap platform.

To prove his point, Brandon posts a picture of the Soap booth with two people staring at the soap.

The reputation of the Jones brothers is now getting worser and worser.

In the most recent typo-laden Indiegogo update, they report that they’re abandoning their hardware play and doing some me-too software instead.

RELATED:

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 01/13 at 08:37 AM
Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (15) Comments, Permalink


Friday, January 02, 2015
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Eve by Elgato


By Avi Rosenthal

As I reflect on 2014, it has been a truly incredible year for the Connected Home market.

We got started with the epic $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest by Google, and there were several other mergers, acquisitions and well-funded startups.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been flooded with ideas and concepts for how we will - or should - live in a connected home.

Major retailers including Lowe’s, Staples and Home Depot and to a lesser extent Best Buy launched or boosted their Connected Home initiatives and the world was introduced to Wink.

But as exciting as 2014 was, 2015 should prove to be even more earth shattering. As I look though the list of exhibitors at CES next week I am impressed with the sheer volume of vendors showing connected devices. Just three years ago, the number of exhibitors showing these types of devices could be counted on one hand.

I am looking forward to browsing through Eureka Park and the West Hall of the Sands to find the next great connected solution. Some people will try to tell you what to see or where to go at the show, but I have found in my many years of going to CES (more than 20) that you cannot predict the energy of the show or what you will find by wandering the halls.

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Posted by Avi Rosenthal on 01/02 at 12:09 PM
Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Security, Events, CES, (2) Comments, Permalink


Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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Reporters heart Nest.


By Avi Rosenthal

InfoWorld editor Galen Gruman, who posted a story this month called “Home automation is a solution in search of a problem,” is sadly misinformed about the smart home.

His “proof” of the stupidity of home automation is that a single start-up (Oort) has a silly product.

And like so many other reporters dripping with Nest envy, he explains why that maker of thermostats and smoke detectors does everything right.

In a word, his article is misguided. In two words: very misguided.

Gruman writes that a Nest thermostat “monitors your usage and patterns, as well as local weather, then regularly optimizes your heating and cooling accordingly.”

True, but it does so ineffectively. That is why so many users turn the learning and automation features off.

“Smart” devices are only as smart as the person who sets them up. A device or system can guide you in your decision-making but you still must tell it what you want to automate and what you don’t.

As CE Pro’s Julie Jacobson writes in her most recent 5 Trends piece about the “learning home,” TiVo used to guess what you liked to watch, and then auto-record the recommended shows, thus devouring your hard drive. Now TiVo uses your behavior to suggest related shows, but it’s up to you to hit the “record” button.

It is true we are just scratching the surface of the potential of these connected devices – especially those of the learning variety – but it’s odd that Gruman points to Nest’s learning thermostat today as “a great…


Tuesday, December 30, 2014
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What happened in 1978 in Vegas ... you know the rest.


By Chuck Schneider

From what I’ve seen and heard over the years, there are three camps regarding the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

In “Camp One” are the show junkies who attend every show—CES, CEDIA Expo, local distributor shows, even shows outside of their industry. At the other extreme is “Camp Three” who think that all trade shows suck and are a total waste of time, money and resources.

Smack in the middle is “Camp Two.” Members of this group occasionally go to CEDIA Expo and attend local shows with some regularity, but not CES. They have a ton of excuses—too far, bad time of year, too big, no longer relevant, too expensive, no longer for my class of trade.

Camp One is already changing planes in Dallas or Chicago and there’s nothing I can do to alter Camp Three’s minds. So today I’m reaching out to the Camp Two folk by giving them some solid reasons to go to Vegas.

CES 1978 Flashback: Off-site at Caesar’s Palace

I’ll start with a true story. Let’s jump into the proverbial DeLorean and head back to January 1978, the first year the winter CES took place in Las Vegas. I was working as the buyer for a national chain of stores “owned” by a guy who eventually was found guilty in federal court of securities fraud and did some serious time in prison. (I call it my dark period.)

A local rep, who usually handled fringe flea market products, had called me to set up an “off-site” appointment to view a new full line of electronics that he said was going to knock…

Posted by Chuck Schneider on 12/30 at 12:28 PM
Blogs, Events, CES, (1) Comments, Permalink


Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 725HD projects all that.


By Julie Jacobson

I never owned a projector. I never needed a projector. I’ve never had space for a projector. I could care less about projectors.

But then we had family converging on our modest place in Carlsbad, Calif. – four from L.A., four from Minnesota and two from Texas – and we wanted to continue the tradition of watching “White Christmas.”

Obviously, this was not my family’s tradition but it’s a darn good movie and we couldn’t squeeze everyone around our luscious 55-inch Sony 4K set in the family room. What to do?

A movie under the stars seemed like a good idea and we had a sizable wall on which to project. So I bought a cheap 130-inch Elite Screens screen online for $100.

Now for the projector.

I called my rep friend Kevin Klotzbach of Frontline Sales and Marketing in the Twin Cities, and asked for recommendation. I needed something that was inexpensive since we won’t be using it often, good enough to project a 130-inch image in a mostly-dark environment, and fairly portable (I had some gracious offers for used Runco and Digital Projection units, but not for this weak, arthritic soul, thank you).

Kevin suggested an Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 725HD projector ($549 MSRP). I didn’t look at the specs or the product, I just ordered it on Kevin’s recommendation.

When the unit arrived, I was pleased that it was so small and lightweight but wondered if this tiny thing could do the trick, despite its three chips and promise of 2800 lumens. When I finally looked at the specs and noticed it was 720p, I was sure…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 12/24 at 08:52 AM
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