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System Integration for the Connected Home


It's Not TV, It's a TV App

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How soon will TV transform from wall-mounted 4K flat-screens to a 99-cent app in a VR/AR App Store?

That’s a question few will ponder this week as the National Association of Broadcasters gathers in Las Vegas for the NAB Show 2016. TV has both defined and enlarged mass communication for more than a half-century. No one in their right mind would suggest that big-screen TVs might go away – ever!Shelly Palmer

Well, no one ever said I was in my right mind. I’m not “liquored up” on the scatter market, and TV sales in an election year/Olympic year are cyclical. Yes, people are making real money right now and the TV business (from an advertiser sales perspective) is doing great. But a few technological breakthroughs have caught my attention in the past few weeks, and they’re worth a discussion.

VR and AR at F8

VR (Virtual Reality) is for gamers, education, sports and adult entertainment (which has led the transformation of video technology as far back as anyone can remember). AR (Augmented Reality), a different technology which some say is more difficult to work with, is for navigating and augmenting experiences in the real world. Last week at F8, the Facebook team told us what we already knew: big headsets will evolve into a pair of glasses as soon as technologically possible. The question is, when?

AI and Machine Learning

AlphaGo recently beat 9-dan Go Master Lee Sedol 4 games to 1, demonstrating a system of Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning algorithms that should have gotten everyone’s attention. Computers that can pattern match at or near human capabilities (or closely enough to do the jobs we are asking them to do) are a gigantic stepping-stone toward the seamless Natural Language Processing (NLP), Image Recognition and spatial navigation required to make VR and AR awesome. These fields of data-scientific research are progressing at an exponential rate. Computers are going to have capabilities required to bring us very believable virtual and augmented worlds. The question is, when?

We Talk to Things and They Talk Back

Amazon Echo, Siri, OK Google, Cortana, my car and a bunch of other “things” in my life now understand me and are in training to talk back in useful ways. “Alexa temperature” is an easy one. “Alexa, what’s my schedule for tomorrow?” It responds by reading my calendar. “Alexa, remind me about lunch 15 minutes in advance.” I don’t need to tell it why I want to be reminded – it doesn’t care; it just does what it’s told. “Alexa, play Mozart.” If you’re a prime member, try it. It’s super fun. Talking to things, which is facilitated by advanced AI and Machine Learning tools, is an important step toward TV as an app. You won’t have to type your searches; you’ll just say what you want. The question is, when?

TV Apps

Chatbots Are the Future

Why open an app to do something when you can just send a quick txt message and accomplish your goal? Dumb chatbots let you send a simple txt message to order a pizza, buy movie tickets, book a flight, schedule an appointment, set a reminder, etc. Smart chatbots are going to change everything. By adding AI and machine learning systems behind the scenes, the chatbots will become interfaces into a world of capabilities. Txting a message such as “Set a meeting with jeff on tue” will initiate a negotiation between your calendar and Jeff’s calendar. The system will figure out the best time for you to meet, when and where or will offer suggestions for a better day. You won’t deal with any of it; the system will do the work.

This has huge implications for TV as an app. You won’t ever need to know anything about what show is on what network or even the name of the show. You’ll txt something like “TV show with the skateboarder I follow on Snapchat” and the chatbot will start playing the latest episode or give you some other options to view or interact with the omni-channel property. You can’t even call this a TV show; it’s an IP-delivered video property with a full array of digital and social components. AI-empowered chatbots are on the way. The question is, when?

Sooner than You Think

If you look closely at all of the related technologies required to change the way we consume media, it is clear that the primordial techno-soup is brewing. My guess is that smartphones will cease to exist in their present form within a decade. Big-screen TVs will cease to be the “best” way to watch football in about the same timeframe. Local bandwidth will empower group viewing with headsets or glasses or whatever they evolve into even sooner, probably 60 months or less. And everything we think we know about media consumption will seriously change. Millennials in movie theaters? Sunday gatherings for football? Mass media measured as a function of the number of users of fixed devices? Set-top boxes? Sets?

This may be an amazingly profitable year for the TV business, and for reasons that have nothing to do with television technology or consumer behavior, profits may continue to rise. But sometime in the very near future, something awesome is going to emerge from today’s frothy primordial techno-soup – and I would not be surprised to see it change the very structure of the TV business. TV as an app or as a chatbot service … imagine the possibilities!

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is President & CEO of Palmer Advanced Media, a strategic advisory and business development practice focused at the nexus of technology, media and marketing with a special emphasis on data science and data-driven decision making. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert and a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN.

Go Shelly Palmer or @shellypalmer

The ECI Top 10 for 2015

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As 2015 heads to a close, it is customary to reflect on the year it has been. So join us as we check what we think are the top ECI-- and custom installation-related-- stories of the past 365-or-so days...

2015 The 4K TVs Start Trundling In: Global TV shipments might be technically on a decline, but analysts point out at least one bright industry spot-- 4K TVs. CES and IFA saw the likes of LG, Sony and Panasonic (among others) present higher-resolution TVs, and with the increasing availability of content taking advantage of such displays one should hope consumers will start picking up such sets.

First 8K TV Hits the Market: Speaking of TV, Sharp already has the next-next big thing as it launches the LV-85001, an 85-inch TV with 8K (not 4K) resolution. Aimed at early adopter within the B2B and B2C markets, it is available in Japan and, as far as content goes, handles 8K test transmissions from national broadcaster NHK.

Virtual Reality Edges Towards the Mainstream: 2015 did not actually see the release of any big name virtual reality headsets, but news involving the revamped product category came thick and fast. The Facebook-owned Oculus revealed the final version of the Rift, as did Samsung with the smartphone-powered Gear VR. Meanwhile Google presented an update on the View-Master, and even Valve announced a collaboration with HTC in VR headsets.


Samsung Gear VR Reaches Consumer Version

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Samsung presents the consumer version of the Gear VR, the smartphone-powered virtual reality headset developed in collaboration with Rift maker Oculus.

Samsung Gear VRImprovements on the previous "Innovator Edition" headset include lighter construction (by 22%, Samsung says), foam cushioning for additional comfort and an improved touchpad controller on the temple.

The headset also fits more Samsung smartphones-- namely the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge-- through the addition of sliding clamps allowing users to insert larger phones. The smartphones should provide a similar VR experience, since all have 2560x1440 resolution displays.


Canon Takes on Consumer VR

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Canon might be the next consumer VR contender, as the company's Canon Expo 2015 houses an unusual-looking "secret" prototype headset users need to hold using a pair of handles.

Canon VR headsetBeing an early prototype, the unnamed device lacks built-in audio, requiring the addition of external headphones. What it does have is a pair of 2560x1440 5.5-inch LCD displays (for total 5k resolution), a lens assembly featuring 3 glass elements per eye and 120-degree field of view, making it superior to the likes of the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR.


RIP Lutron Founder Joel Spira

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Lighting control and home automation pioneer, Lutron Electronics founder Joel Spira, died Wednesday 8 April of natural causes at his home in Springfield Township, Pa., aged 88.

Joel SpiraSpira created the first solid-state dimmer in 1959, which he launched through Lutron following his founding of the company in 1961 together with his wife Ruth. Their work in lighting control was honoured by the Smithsonian Institute in 2010, where the solid state dimmer is found next to artifacts from Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

He was honored with a CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.


Wireless Communication Standards for the IoT

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by Cees Links, CEO, GreenPeak Technologies

Cees Link

GreenPeak Technologies CEO, Cees Links, writes this white paper providing an overview of the most important contenders around the IoT Wireless Communication Standards. We are looking at wireless networking technologies.

Overview of the different IoT wireless communication standards (mapped on the ISO layering model)

For the sake of argument and to keep it simple, I have left out the cellular standards, although we do recognize that they do play an important role in the IoT (and the so-called M2M business).

I also left out RFID, which can be quite useful for the IoT for security purposes, but is less contentious as it is more an electronic bar code replacement instead of doing real (two-way) communication as such.

Also for simplicity we have left out the proprietary pseudo standards like ANT+, Z-Wave and EnOcean, for the simple reason that, like other “non-standard” proprietary standards, in the long run, they will not be able to survive against industry accepted international standards.


The ECI Top News for 2014

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2014As this year comes to a close, we get around to decide which CI industry stories were the most important. Was Apple buying Beats, or was it Jeremy Burckhart's return to the industry? Take a moment to gather your Top 10 before comparing it with ours below!

Big names take on automation: Home automation was the new hotness of 2014. How hot? Google coughed up no less than $3.2 billion to buy smart thermostat maker Nest Labs, Samsung revealed the Smart Home platform at CES 2014 and Apple integrated the HomeKit device control platform in iOS 8. Expect the smart home opportunity to grow even bigger come next year.

Jeremy Burkhardt is back: the man behind SpeakerCraft made his return this year with Origin Acoustics. The comeback was not without its controversies, as it followed the failed acquisition of outdoor audio maker SoundCast, not to mention non-compete lawsuits from former employers Nortek.

Pioneer drops home electronics: Pioneer had enough in 2014, seeing how it sold 51% of Pioneer Home Electronics to private equity company Baring as part of a new operation joined by Onkyo. Why did it sell out? The company clearly sees no future in CE, and instead wants to focus on the more lucrative auto electronics market.