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Thursday, November 20, 2014

By Jason Knott
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, CE Pro goes back to 2011 and revisits this look at five of the worst tech predictions ever made. Which predictions do you think have fallen short since then?

The custom electronics industry has had its share of really bad predictions.

Technology in general is rife with poor prognostications, just like weathermen and sports analysts.

If futurists were always right, we would all have flying cars, personal robots, underwater homes and jet packs!

One of my favorites is in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey during a scene in which the main character is on the moon using a videophone to speak to his family, except it’s a payphone!

So while the author Arthur C. Clarke or director Stanley Kubrick correctly predicted telepresence systems, they clearly did not predict cell phones.

On a more serious level, we have rounded up predictions for the custom electronics industry that have been off the mark.

Click here for 5 Worst Tech Predictions Ever

What bad predictions am I missing? Share in the comment section.


Sandy Ruby, now deceased former owner of Tech Hi-Fi in Boston, was the first person overheard uttering the phrase “eat their young” in reference to the consumer electronics industry.

By Chuck Schneider

Q: What do gray langur monkeys, gerbils, hamsters, house wrens, giant water bugs and the consumer electronics industry have in common?

A: They eat their young.

If those of you who have been in the business for a while never had the chance to meet Sandy Ruby, one of the founders of Boston-based Tech Hi-Fi, that’s a shame. Ruby, a Harvard- and MIT-educated mathematician and motorcycle racer, was also the founder of the ahead-of-its-time Computer City and the driving force behind the early success of Cambridge SoundWorks retail chain. He was also a very funny man with a sharp wit and a slightly cynical yet gentle sense of humor. He died way too young at 67 late in 2008.

Set the Wayback Machine to the fall of 1981. Sony’s iconic Walkman had made its U.S. debut at summer CES 1980, although it had been available in Japan for nearly a year before that. That it was a smash hit in Japan was not lost on one Richard Schram, former minority partner and senior buyer for Pacific Stereo, who was using his Pacific Rim contacts and expertise to start his own company—Parasound Products. Schram contracted his overseas factory contacts to manufacture a knockoff, beating all the big guys to the punch.

I worked for the New England Parasound rep and was thrilled to see a sample arrive in our office of a Parasound Walkman knock off that could be sold profitably for $99, a third less than the Walkman’s rigid retail of $149. My first stop? The buying offices of 70-plus store Tech Hi-Fi. It was early October and I was just in time for Christmas.

Tech certainly had a…

Posted by Chuck Schneider on 11/20 at 07:22 AM
Blogs, Displays, TVs, (10) Comments, Permalink

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dealers can add pet monitoring to their offering and earn a few extra bucks every month. Photo credit: Tagg

By Jason Knott

It’s estimated there are 70 million to 80 million dogs and 74 million to 96 million cats in the United States. About 37 percent to 47 percent of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30 percent to 37 percent have a cat.

For integrators who are already offering monitoring services for security intrusion, carbon monoxide, fire detection, video surveillance, energy management, home networking and home automation, adding the ability to monitor your clients’ pets seems like a no-brainer.

At the CE Pro Summit in Orlando last week, that idea that was generated from one of the business roundtable/idea sharing sessions got audible gasps of excitement from the 150+ integrators in the crowd. Dealers proposed charging $10 per month for the service, based on a $5 per month fee from the central station.

Indeed, there are several types of GPS dog tracking systems on the market that dealers can purchase and bring to customers, ranging from $79 to $200 in cost from companies like Garmin, Tagg, Whistle and Tractive. Pet stores like PetSmart are offering the collars with a monthly fee. There are even collars available with built-in mini GoPro style cameras.

More from the CE Pro Summit: 17 Tips for Successful Email Marketing

The key for integrators might be finding a way to incorporate the pet monitoring into an existing home control system, although it could be offered as a standalone service.

Let’s hope your database of information you keep on each of your clients includes their pets’ names (a good idea to…

Posted by Jason Knott on 11/17 at 11:21 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Security, Events, CE Pro 100, (1) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Springdeck marketing and business management software - one example of why CEDIA Expo 2014 was a big deal.

By Julie Jacobson

CEDIA Expo 2014 was fun, packed with great demos, brimming with innovative new products and teeming with eager students enjoying sold-out courses. Nothing new there.

But taking a step back and really thinking about the big picture, several important themes emerged, making CEDIA 2014 the most significant Expo to date. And, no, I don’t say that every year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever said it in my 21 years of Expos.

Since I tend to cover home automation, it should be no surprise that three of my themes center around the category.

Lower home automation pricing
More mainstream home control systems from the companies that brought us high-end super-customized solutions. I’ve harped on this enough over the past month, but it doesn’t get old.

Pioneers like Crestron and Elan, as well as newer companies in the custom-home-control business, are all pushing products that start at less than $1,000. The companies realize that inexpensive DIY products are changing the way consumers perceive the “correct cost” of smart-home technology.

Simpler system programming
The overall cost of a home automation system only starts with hardware. The real price reflects the labor required to install and configure a system. Even here, manufacturers have taken great care to reduce the cost of ownership, with software that lets technicians (or homeowners themselves) “add a room” by typing (or saying) the name of the room, and then “add a product” by simply pressing a button or two to enroll a device.

PHOTOS | Why CEDIA 2014 was ‘All That’

Configuring scenes is just as simple,…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 11/13 at 12:24 PM
News, Blogs, Slideshow, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, Events, CEDIA, (4) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Crestron’s George Feldstein, 1941-2014

By Julie Jacobson

My next visit to Crestron headquarters in Rockleigh, N.J., just won’t be as memorable. Nor will the next CEDIA Expo. That’s because George Feldstein won’t be there.

The CEO and founder of this pioneering commercial and home automation company passed away on November 4.

I had heard of this legend around the time we started EH Publishing in 1994, but I wouldn’t meet him until 2000 at an Electronic House Expo.

EHX was always an intimate show. Vendors didn’t bring their whole staff like they do to CEDIA Expo and other big shows. So I was surprised to see George there. I mean, he was the CEO of Crestron!

But he was just one of the guys – albeit, one of the goofier guys—joking around with customers and demonstrating products.

I asked what he was doing there and he looked at me like it was the stupidest question he’d ever heard.

“I love trade shows,” he told me.

Sure, George spent most of his time in the Crestron labs, inventing the next big thing, and working on patents for stuff most of us will never understand.

But he sure liked to get out and meet customers, and even, um, sometimes-cynical members of the press. He also liked to attend the grand openings of home theaters in veterans’ hospitals that he orchestrated through the Crestron Eagles program. He took great pride in giving back to those who gave for this country.

George was the classic mad scientist with his big glasses, big hair and rumpled suits. One of my fondest memories is when he served as my tour…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 11/05 at 07:59 AM
Blogs, (5) Comments, Permalink


Apple Watch home automation notifications for Lutron Caseta lighting controls

By Julie Jacobson

I finally got around to viewing the Apple keynote from September (video below), during which the company introduced its smart watch. The presentation reinforces my opinion that the product category will become a huge factor in home automation.

What hasn’t been reported all that heavily is the fact that Apple demonstrated three smart-home apps during the keynote – Honeywell thermostat control and Lutron Caseta lighting control.

Also demonstrated is an app to that lets users skip the check-in line and open doors with keyless locks at select Starwood Hotels. Starwood has been testing iOS and Android apps for Bluetooth LE locks in a couple of its Aloft hotels this year, and just announced recently that the option is now live in 10 of its Aloft and W hotels.

Apple’s new WatchKit allows manufacturers to create “rich, actionable notifications” for a tiny form factor. For example, the Twitter app offers the options to retweet, reply or ignore.

Users can customize their own “glances” to quickly scroll through their most-used screens, for example, pre-programmed lighting scenes.

Of course you can perform any of these feats (and much more) with a smart phone, but quite frankly you don’t.

Who pulls out their phone to activate an “intermission” scene – pausing the movie, illuminating a path to the kitchen—while watching TV? People are likely instead to hit the pause button on the remote, and then flip a few switches, even if they have a smart-home app on their phone.

But with a wearable, just press a button or wave a hand.

RELATED: Read entry

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 11/05 at 07:11 AM
News, Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (6) Comments, Permalink

Friday, October 17, 2014

By Grant Clauser

If you satisfy your craving for 4K (Ultra HD) TV programs with Netflix, prepare to start paying more for it. Netflix is raising the price of its service from $8.99 to $11.99 for people who want 4K video.

This, according to an article posted on Variety, is because producing and acquiring 4K video content is more costly than HD content. Of course, that 4K content is now extremely limited. If you sign up for Netflix’s premium “Family Plan” for 4K, you can watch Breaking Bad (in case you haven’t already seen it twice), House of Cards, The Blacklist, and Hollywood blockbusters like Smurfs 2.

Is $3 more a reasonable amount to pay for the ability to watch 4K content, especially when there’s so little of it? That’s a difficult question. Back in the day, cable companies also charged more for HD service packages even when there was barely anything to watch (they still do, but now their package options are so complicated there’s no apple to apple way to compare). Back then, the difference between SD and HD was pretty dramatic. Not only did programming go from 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9, it also offered dramatically better picture and sound quality.

Is 4K streamed from the internet as dramatic a difference as 1080p streamed from the internet? Honestly, no. It is, maybe, if you have a very large screen (70 inches and up) but for the average 55-inch TV, the 1080p picture you get from a Netflix stream will be pretty close in quality to the 4K one, especially if you’re sitting the typical 10 feet away…

Posted by Grant Clauser on 10/17 at 08:20 AM
News, Blogs, Video, Digital Media, (0) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

This diagram from Dolby depicts how discretely installers can setup a 5.1.4 system with Atmos-enabled speakers or modules residing with the same footprint as standard main and surround speakers.

By Robert Archer

A recent assignment to review Onkyo’s TX-NR636 A/V receiver sparked my interest in learning more about Dolby Atmos. Before writing the article, I requested a visit with a company local to CE Pro, Atlantic Technology, and its president and founder Peter Tribeman.

Meeting Tribeman at his company’s facilities, we discussed Atlantic Tech’s new Dolby Atmos speaker modules and the impact of Atmos on the home theater market before hearing the demo. Tribeman, as expected, proved to be wealth of information on the topics of Atmos, speaker design and market trends.

Spending an afternoon with him, he explained how Atmos delivers his “acoustic bubble” of immersion, which the home theater market has been trying to hone for decades he says.

“Atmos produces something that is three-dimensional,” he points out. “It’s as close to a commercial theater as I’ve ever heard.”

Sitting through a series of Atmos-encoded clips that are a part of a Dolby Atmos demonstration disc, I have to admit that any skepticism I had about the technology quickly evaporated. Best of all is the point that Tribeman makes on the Atmos’ rendering engine, which is called Dolby Surround (Dolby Surround is a term Dolby is using once again). He said this technology is so good that it can take soundtracks embedded with other formats to produce Atmos-like soundtracks to add value to existing media libraries. “This is the remarkable hidden gem of the new Dolby technology,” he states. “It provides an added dimension to existing soundtracks. That is worth the price of admission.”

Related: Read More…

Posted by Robert Archer on 10/15 at 02:19 PM
Blogs, Audio, Receivers, Speakers, Video, Blu-ray, Digital Media, Home Theater, (3) Comments, Permalink

Friday, October 03, 2014

This space designed with Crestron SpaceBuilder?

By Julie Jacobson

Because we had so much fun with Pyng, let’s again play, “What is Crestron up to Now?”

I was alerted to a trademark application for SpaceBuilder:

System for designing and implementing a lighting control system comprised of interactive worksheets and computer software.

The registration was filed under Computer & Software Products & Electrical & Scientific Products.

See. Wasn’t that fun?
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Posted by Julie Jacobson on 10/03 at 07:49 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Lighting, (1) Comments, Permalink

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tony Bennett last night helped host a special Sony listening party for his new album “Cheek To Cheek” with Lady Gaga. When Sony execs showed off the new NWZ-A17 Digital Walkman, the 88-year-old chimed in quickly, “Can I have one?”

By Jason Knott

I just spent an evening hanging out with Tony Bennett, who might be the coolest 88-year-old cat on the planet.  Bennett was the guest at a special Sony listening party event in New York City last night at Avatar Studios in midtown Manhattan, which is the same location he recently recorded his new No. 1 on iTunes album “Cheek to Cheek” with mega pop star Lady Gaga.

The album comes from Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment and Interscope Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.—both powerhouses in the High Resolution Audio (HRA) movement.

Myself and about 20 other media (as well as some minor celebrities like CBS News and Oprah gal pal Gayle King) were invited to meet Bennett and get a glimpse behind Sony’s strategy for HRA, which is defined by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”

The NYC event made me wonder: Why is Sony hanging its HRA hat—so to speak—on an album collaboration between an 88-year-old crooner and a 28-year-old pop star who wears meat dresses? My conclusion after last night: It’s actually a brilliant idea.

By piggybacking its HRA message on two famous artists with totally different fan bases, the company is ingeniously introducing the value of higher quality music to two key demographics – young millennials who download music all the time and older Baby Boomers who have the wealth to buy HRA equipment.

As attendees…

Posted by Jason Knott on 09/26 at 08:33 AM
Blogs, Slideshow, Videos, Audio, Media Center, (11) Comments, Permalink

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