Category: Home / building automation and security

AVM releases HomePlug AV500 access point that is ready for home automation

Article – in German language

Internet per Stromleitung: Anschluss der Powerline an Steckerleisten kann die Leistung beeinflussen | NetzwerkTotal.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

Product Page (German language)

My Comments

AVM, known for their premium Fritz!Box routers have launched their latest HomePlug AV500 wireless access point which is a device that I consider important for stone-built European country houses that are “Wi-Fi difficult”. This unit, known as the AVM FritzPowerLine 546E provides a Wi-Fi segment to the dual-stream 802.11n specification for the 2.4GHz band and supports WPS push-button client-device setup as has been talked about in this article concerning WPS in a multi-access-point network.

But it is also ready for the IPv6 home networks which are a reality for anyone using a recent high-end consumer or small-business router and will become common as more countries roll out next-generation broadband.

But the FritzPowerline 546E is one of the few HomePlug access points equipped with a filtered mains outlet which you can plug equipment in to. AVM takes this further by making this socket a switched socket which works with their home-automation software. For that matter, this function is manageable through the device’s Web user interface and provides not just instant remote “on-off” but a time-switch function.

What I see of this device is that it isn’t just like other HomePlug wireless access points but is offering more functionality in a different way. This is especially as the HomePlug powerline network is being considered very clearly in the UK and Europe as a viable no-new-wires network segment.

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Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Articles

Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Dropcam Pro: A Burlier Webcam To Help You Keep Watch Over Your Home | Gizmodo

My Comments

Dropcam have revised their Dropcam Pro IP-based surveillance camera and offered for US$199. But they have offered a unit that could be considered above average for a consumer-grade cloud-supported IP camera and this is brought about by a dual-band Wi-Fi network interface, the implementation of Bluetooth 4.0 technology and the use of above-average optics and audio recording techn0logy.

Most Wi-Fi-based IP cameras that connect to the home network only work to the 802.11g/n technologies that use the 2.4GHz band. But the newly-refreshed Dropcam Pro implements the dual-band Wi-Fi technology which means it can use the uncluttered 5GHz waveband.

Impressively the new Dropcam Pro implements the Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready technology to add a few capabilities to it. One is to be able to use the companion mobile-platform app to enrol the camera in to your small network’s Wi-Fi segment even if your router doesn’t support WPS one-touch setup. This is an alternative to the “own-access-point” setup routine where the device becomes its own access point during the setup phase.

Another bonus is that the Dropcam Pro can work with sensor devices that exploit the Bluetooth Smart profile. For that matter, Dropcam are working on expsing an application-programming interface to allow third parties to develop hardware and software that works with this camera to add a range of smarts to it.

One highly-obvious sensor application that will take advantage of Dropcam Pro’s Bluetooth Smart Ready feature would be a door sensor which uses a magnet and reed switch to alert if a door is open. Here, the Dropcam Pro could be set up to record for a few seconds to a minute in real-time when that door is open.

The optics and microphone are above avarage for this class of IP camera with an all-glass lens and a highly-sensitive condenser microphone. This will also be a bonus for the software-based ecosystem that will give the camera some extra intelligence. Even the software offers tricks familiar to those of us who watch crime dramas and spy movies where the camera can send coarse images in its stream but can allow zooming in on an area of the captured footage.

I would see this as a race to provide highly-capable IP-based video surveillance technology to the small business and home user as these technologies trickle down from equipment targeted at the larger installations.

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An electric kettle that uses the Wi-Fi home network to let you know it’s ready

Article

A Wi-Fi Kettle That Messages Instead of Whistling When It Boils

My Comments

We are seeing more of the so-called “app-cessories” become available for most of the household appliances that are part of our lives. These have the household appliance and other devices gain Bluetooth to a mobile device or use the home network to link to the same mobile devices or regular computers and implement an app to add the extra functionality to these appliances. It will become the way where your iOS or Android device will become crowded out with the apps that are part of the “app-cessory” trend.

Now the electric kettle or jug has bitten this trend with a base that connects to the home network via Wi-Fi. Here, the “iKettle” electric jug works with a smartphone app that and your home network to add certain functions that drop in to your lifestyle.

For example, if you like to make that cup of tea late at night while you catch up on a favourite TV show lingering on that TiVo device or “prowl around” Facebook on that iPad on the kitchen island bench, you don’t have to worry about the loud whistle that it makes when the water’s boiled waking the rest of the household up. Instead, it effectively “pages you” through your mobile device.

Similarly, you could set it to start boiling at a known time so that the water’s ready so you can make that pot of plunger coffee when you have surfaced for the day. This is achieved using the same app exposing a timer function. This function also includes the ability to set up particular temperatures such as the 95 degrees Celsius ideal for making coffee and tea; or 55 degrees Celsius  setting for water you quickly boil up for washing dishes because the water heater packed it in.

A problem that I see with the “app-cessory” concept as it is that most manufacturers can create their own islands and not allow the devices to be exposed to control and monitoring applications and setups other than their own setup. This can avoid the idea of creating environments where a device can respond to another device in a manner to create the “lifestyle mood” or assist its users. For example, having a kettle like this could interlink with a screen to guide a person with dementia through the process of making a cup of tea or similarly, if you have your kettle full before you leave home, you could have it start boiling when you enter your alarm code to disarm your house alarm as you arrive.

At least there is the flourishing concept of making a smartphone work with appliances as a lifestyle device.

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The first door lock to exploit Bluetooth Smart technology

Article

Kwikset Kevo cylindrical deadbolt in use - Kwikset press imageLock Your Doors with Bluetooth Smart Technology | Bluetooth Blog

From the horse’s mouth

Kwikset

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Kwikset have released the first door lock to exploit the nascent Bluetooth Smart technology that is part of the iPhone 4 onwards as well as an increasing number of Android and Blackberry smartphones.

Like most of these “cutting-edge” electromechanical door locks, this unit is a “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt, most likely because this form-factor is considered very popular on the American house’s front door. From the outside, the Kevo deadbolt looks like any other lock of this type but has a distinct blue ring that lights up under certain circumstances. This, and the fact that it still works with the regular key, keeps a perceived aesthetic and useability comfort zone that householders have valued with these locks.

But the Kevo deadbolt implements a proximity-based operation technique where you have a supplied key fob or a smartphone running the Kwikset Kevo app acting as the virtual key fob releasing this lock when you are near it from the outside. This will light up the blue ring on the outside and you touch the lock’s bezel to cause the bolt to retract/

Like most, if not all. of these “smart-locks”, the Kwikset deadbolt is its own access-control system with the ability to log when a person has opened the door. It also supports time-limited and “one-shot” keys so you can limit when a person has access to the premises, which is a boon with most of us who engage tradespeople, carers or even want to have friends and family around and factor in early arrivals. This even supports the ability to allow a user to send a key via email to another user which can play its part in many different ways such as a family member or friend who is lodging at your house while they are in town.

But the Kwikset Kevo deadbolt is more or less standalone in nature and not able to work with a home network. Personally, I would like to see this and other locks of this kind support the integration with home networks and home-automation systems either at purchase or through an aftermarket kit that exposes these functions to the network technology that you are using at a later date. The reason I support the use of an aftermarket kit is the fact that these products can be in service for many many years and upgrading towards newer network functionality should avoid the need to junk a perfectly good lockset.

This is one of many trends that are affecting the residential door lock and bringing this device towards the online and mobile era.

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Nest intends to turn the smoke alarm on its head

Article

Nest’s Next Big Product Will Reportedly Be a Smoke Detector

My Comments

Nest, which was a company founded by the people who designed the Apple iPod and iPhone devices, had reworked the design of the programmable central-heating thermostat by implementing a round shape and having it also work via a home network to enable Web-driven and app-driven programming and control. This unit even used a “learning” concept for its automatic comfort-control functionality as well as tracking the energy efficiency of your heating or cooling system.

Now, they intend to release a smoke/carbon-monoxide detector that does more than sound a local alarm when there is smoke or excessive carbon monoxide in the house. This will use the home network as a basic fire-alarm reporting system but also implement a gesture-driven alarm-mute function which would come in handy if your cooking had tripped the alarm.

Of course, like Nest’s thermostats, this would implement an extraordinary design that makes it less like your father’s old station wagon.

But this is one of many devices that are defining newer directions for home automation and security and making this concept more ubiquitous and user friendly for most households.

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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2013–Part 2

IFA LogoIn my first part of the series on this year’s International Funkaustellung 2013 trade show, I had covered the personal IT trends that were being underscored here. These were the rise and dominance of the highly-capable Android smartphone, the arrival of the large-screen “phablet” smartphones, Sony offering high-grade digital-photo abilities to smartphones and improving on these in their smartphones, the convertible and detachable-keyboard notebook-tablet computers becoming a mature device class as well as the arrival of the smartwatch as a real product class.

Now I am focusing on what is to happen within the home for this second part.

Television-set and home AV technology

The television set is still considered an integral part of the connected home, especially as a group-viewing display device for content delivered via the Internet or the home network.

4K Ultra-high-definition TVs

Most of the activity surrounding the 4K ultra-high-definition TV technology has been with manufacturers releasing second-generation 4K models with the focus on the 55” and 65” screen sizes. It is also the time when the HDMI 2.0 connection specification, which yields the higher throughput for the 4K ultra-high-definition video plus support for 32 audio streams and more, has been called and most of these manufacturers are accommodating this in their second-generation designs whether baked in or as a firmware update as in the case of Sony’s newly-released 55” and 65” 4K designs.

Panasonic had initially held off with releasing a 4K set but released the Smart VIERA WT600 which is a 55” OLED 4K which had the “second-generation” credentials like the aforementioned high-speed HDMI 2.0 connection. LG had launched a pair of 4K models with one having a 50-watt soundbar and “micro-dimming” which adjusts the screen brightness in an optimum manner for the video material. Even Haier, the Chinese consumer-goods manufacturer had jumped in on the 4K bandwagon.

There are still the very-large-screen 4K UHDTV sets with screens of 84” to 94”. Now Samsung have launched 4K models with astonishing screen sizes of 98” and 110”.

At the moment, there is some work taking place concerning the delivery of content with the 4K screen resolution. Sony have set up a download-based content delivery service with the FMP-X1 hard-disk-based media player and based around a rental-based or download-to-own business model. Samsung is partnering with Eutelsat to deliver 4K UHDTV broadcasts to the home using satellite-TV technology as well as others working with the Astra satellite team to achieve a similar goal.

OLED TV screens

Another key trend that is affecting the “main-lounge-room” TV set is the OLED display reaching 55” and above in screen size. Those of you who own or have used a Samsung, HTC or Sony smartphone will have seen this technology in action on the phone’s display.

Samsung and LG have increased their factory output of these large-size screens which has allowed the material price of these screens to become cheaper. Here, it has allowed for more manufacturers to run an OLED model in their lineup, whether with a flat display or a convex curved display. Most of these models are 4K displays and have a 55” screen. Haier even went to the lengths of designing a 55” flat OLED TV that is in a housing that can’t easily be tipped over while LG had fielded a model with a flat OLED screen and a model with a curved OLED screen.

For that matter, LG improved on the aesthetics of the flatscreen TV by implementing a “picture-frame” design which make the TV look like a beautiful large piece of art on the wall. This was augmented with a screenshow collection of artworks that are part of the TV’s firmware.

Other TV and home-AV trends

Brought on by the Philips Ambilight background-lighting initiative, some of the manufacturers are integrating LED-based background lights in to their TVs to provide the complimentary lighting. Philips even took this further with the ability to synchronise LED-based multicolour room lighting with their set’s Ambilight background lighting.

What I also suspect is happening with TVs destined for the European market is that they will be equipped with DVB-T2 digital TV tuners. This is to complement the arrival of DVB-T2 TV-station multiplexes in various countries that are primarily offering HDTV broadcasts.

Sony is also taking a stab at high-grade home audio by building up a file-based music distribution system that implements hard-disk-based media players with one downloading the music as files and syncing it to these hard-disk media players. Like SACD, this technology is meant to sound as good as the studio master tapes. Comments have been raised about the provision of two different files for each album or song – one that is mastered to best-quality standards where there is the full dynamic range another file, packaged as an MP3 perhaps, that has compression and limiting for casual or “noisy-environment” listening.

The home network

TV via the home network

Broadcast-LAN devices

There has been a fair bit of activity on the “broadcast-LAN” front courtesy of the SAT-IP initiative for satellite TV which I previously touched on. This has manifested in a few satellite-based broadcast-LAN boxes that are equipped with multiple tuners showing up at this year’s show including one 2-tuner model from Devolo and one four-tuner DLNA-equipped model from Grundig.

Similarly, SiliconDust have brought in the SimpleTV service model to Europe which provides a network-hosted PVR and broadcast-LAN setup for regular TV. I would see this has having great traction with Europeans because all of the European countries have free-to-air offerings anchored by the well-funded public TV services like BBC, ARD/ZDF, France Télévisions, and DR which yield content of high production and artistic quality. AVM have also used this show to launch a SAT-IP-compliant broadcast-LAN setup for the DVB-C cable-TV networks that exist primarily in Europe but links to an existing Wi-Fi network segment which wouldn’t let the device do its job in an optimum manner.

Other TV-over-Internet technology

Philips has also joined in the “over-the-top” cloud-driven TV party that Intel and Google were in by putting up their concept of a “virtual-cable” service delivered via the Internet.

LAN technologies

Wi-Fi wireless networks

Even though the 802.11ac high-speed Wi-Fi wireless network standard isn’t ratified by the IEEE, nearly every major manufacturer of home-network equipment has at least one, if not two, wireless routers that support this technology. Some even supply USB network-adaptor dongles that allow you to benefit from this technology using your existing computer equipment.

HomePlug powerline networks

There have been a few HomePlug AV2 adaptors appearing with the Continental-style “Schuko” AC plug on them, such as the Devolo dLAN 650+ and the TP-Link TLP-6010 but the manufacturers wouldn’t really state whether these fully work to the HomePlug AV2 standard. They are typically rated at 600Mbps for their link speed and are at the moment the Single-stream type.

As for Devolo, they have launched the dLAN 500 WiFi which is a HomePlug AV 500 “extension access point” for wireless networks. Here, Devolo have made an attempt in the right direction for “quick setup” of multiple-access-point Wi-Fi segments by implementing a “settings-clone” function. But this works using the HomePlug AV backbone and only where you use multiple dLAN 500 WiFi access points on the same backbone.

Home Automation

Some of the appliance manufacturers have gone down the “connected path” by equipping some of the top-end appliance models with Wi-Fi connectivity and implementing a manufacturer-developed dashboard app for the iOS and/or Android mobile platform. Here, these apps either work as a secondary control surface for the appliance or provide extended setup and configuration options that aren’t available on the appliance’s control surface.

Samsung went about this with their high-end washing machine where they use this connectivity as a remote “dashboard” so you can know if the machine is underway and on the correct cycle or be able to be notified when the washing is done. Philips uses a similar setup for their multifunction countertop cooker but it allows you to determine a recipe on your phone and dump that down to the cooker. But this, like a similarly-equipped coffee machine was really a proof-of-concept machine.

Thomson had offered a convincing home-automation kit which uses its own connectivity technology but can connect to Z-Wave or Zigbee networks using a bridge module. My question about this kit is whether you can start out with what is supplied but grow beyond by adding in the extra modules from Thomsom or other third parties as required.

Other Trends

This year has become a key year for vehicle builders to push forward connected app-driven infotainment and telematics in their vehicles that will hit European roads. It implements a mobile broadband connection to the car via the driver’s smartphone or another device along with apps for popular online services optimised for safe use in the car or to work with the car.

It has been exemplified by Ford implementing a “SYNC AppLink” setup that allows users to control favourite smartphone apps from their vehicle’s dashboard, including the ability to support voice control.

Conclusion

It certainly shows that at this year’s IFA, the personal IT products like tablets, convertible notebook computers and large-screen smartphones are becoming a very diverse and mature product class while the 4K ultra high definition TV technology is gaining some traction as a real display class.

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An increasing number of home systems and personal health devices link to our mobile devices

Article

Home, health devices controlled by apps on the rise | The Age (Australia)

My Comments

A trend that is becoming very real in this day and age is for more appliances, home systems and personal healthcare devices to be linked to the home network and the Internet.

This is typically manifested in the form of the devices having control apps being made available for smartphones and tablets that run on common mobile-computing platforms, especially iOS and Android. Typically the device would like to the smartphone or tablet either via a direct Bluetooth link or the home network with the mobile computing device linking to that network via Wi-Fi wireless. Some of these devices that promote “cloud-driven” or “remote-access” functionality make use of the Internet connection offered by the home network or the mobile computing device.

Of course, you have to remember that the use of the “cloud” word is primarily about the vendor or service provider providing either simplified remote access to the device or having user data being stored on the vendor’s servers.

A lot of the apps offer various device control or monitoring functions, with some of the apps linking to a remote Web server for storing user data. This is more so with personal healthcare devices where the goal is to keep a record of measurements that the device obtains on behalf of the user.

Of course, the mobile-computing-platform app may not he the only way to benefit from the connected device’s online abilities. Here, the device could work with a Web-based dashboard page that users can view with a Web browser on their regular-platform or mobile-platform computing device. This situation would come in handy if the concept is to provide more information at a glance or provide greater control of the device.

There is a reality that by 2022 a household with 2 teenage / young-adult children will maintain 50 Internet-connected devices compared to 10 such devices in 2013 according to OECD data and this situation is being described as the “Internet Of Things”.

But there are some issues here with the current ecosystem for these devices and apps. For example, if a user has more appliances and other devices from different manufacturers or service providers, the smartphone or tablet will end up being crowded out with many different apps. The same situation may occur as a device comes to the end of its useful life and is replaced with a newer device which may be from a different vendor. It can lead to users finding it difficult to locate the monitoring or control apps that they need to use for a particular device.

Here, the situation could be rectified through the use of application standards like UPnP so that one can develop apps that can manage many devices from different vendors.

This could also encourage innovation such as the design of “car-friendly” apps or voice-agent (Siri / S-Voice) plugins so that one could benefit from a monitoring or control app when they leave or arrive in the car. Similarly, the software would need to exploit the abilities that iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 / 8 / RT offer within their platforms for “at-a-glance” viewing or user notifications.

It is a change that could take place over the years as the home network exists to be the easy-to-manage small network for an increasing number of devices.

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Honeywell launches the answer to the NEST thermostat

Article

http://www.engadget.com/2013/04/10/honeywell-wi-fi-smart-thermostat/

From the horse’s mouth

Honeywell

Product Page

My Comments

Over the last few years, a Californian start-up had designed the NEST programmable central-heating thermostat which integrates with your home network via Wi-Fi for control via your computer or similar devices.

Now Honeywell, who is a well-known company in the central heating and air-conditioning field, have answered this device with a touchscreen-operated device, known as the WiFi Smart Thermostat, that also links with your home network. This uses an interface that most of us would find common with our smartphones or tablets; or with the recent HP multifunction printers like the OfficeJet 8600 series or the Photosmart 7510.

Like a lot of these network-based home automation devices, this thermostat uses Web-driven remote and local access for management. This can be facilitated through the mytotalconnectcomfort.com Web dashboard page or a client app for the iOS and Android mobile platforms. It facilitates the ability to have your heating or air-conditioning at home set to the preferred comfort temperature before you head home so you arrive at a comfortably warm or cool home.

It can work with most HVAC systems that use an outboard thermostat and also keeps tabs on humidity so you could use your refrigerated air-conditioning system to control overly-humid environments. The display uses a “multi-colour” background so you can have it integrated with your home décor as well as user control over its illumination so it doesn’t appear to be glowing too much.

Of course, it can work with most heating and air-conditioning systems but there are some setups which these thermostats need to cater for. One would be to work with hydronic (hot-water-based) systems that manage domestic hot water as well as room heat – a setup common in UK and Europe; as well as central heating and air-conditioning served by two separate systems – a setup common in Australia.

The NEST thermostat and the Honeywell WiFi Smart Thermostat will open up the market to increased real interest in network-enabled HVAC control.

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AT&T–the first telco to offer home automation as a mainstream product

Alarm system keypad

The monitored alarm system could be sold as part of your telephony, cable TV and Internet service

Article

AT&T to launch Digital Life in 15 markets, hopes to enter home automation field  | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

AT&T

Product Site

My Comments

AT&T has just become one of the first main telecommunications companies to offer the concept of home security and automation to their customers. Initially this service will appear in 15 markets after they thought of eight markets. They will then achieve a goal to have 50 US markets switched on to this service by end of 2013. This is although a handful of ISPs including a few French and British operators are running home security and automation as the “fifth play” service.

This service, known as AT&T Digital Life will feature the 24/7 monitored alarm service which will let you and the police or fire brigade know about emergencies including where they occur in your home like what most monitored alarm systems are capable of doing. As well, the service will let you manage and control home security and automation functions through the use of programs and alerts including non-time-specific events such as you opening the garage door causing lights to come on or the heating or cooling to be adjusted to the “comfort” setting.

They reckon that this will be a wireless-centric experience with a variety of sensors and controlled devices including movement, glass-break, carbon-monoxide, water-leak sensors with controlled devices including lighting and heating controllers and electromechanical door locks.

What would typically happen is that the telcos and similar firms would resell monitoring services from established alarm-monitoring companies like ADT and Chubb. Then they would integrate the control functionality through a Web dashboard that has their branding on it. This could easily be facilitated through the security monitoring firms that the telecommunications or cable-TV firm engage to protect their premises having their business relationship strengthened by being in a position to wholesale the service to the telco’s retail customers.

Similarly the wired-broadband link provided by the telco, rather than a separately-sold link could end up as the monitoring link. This can be augmented with the use of a wireless-broadband link sold to the customer as the mobile solution for an “eggs in one basket” deal serving as a fail-safe link.

I would be observing which ISPs, telcos or cable-TV providers would offer one or more home-security and automation packages as an attachment to a multiple-play ( fixed and mobile) telephony, TV and (fixed and mobile) Internet service package. Here, I would observe whether these services are broadly advertised across common media like the TV ads or large display ads in the womens’ magazines and local newspapers.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2013–Part 3

Introduction

In Part 1, I had covered the home entertainment direction with such technologies as the 4K UHDTV screens, smart TV, and the presence of alternate gaming boxes. Then in Part 2, I had covered the rise of touchscreen computing, increased pixel density the 802.11ac Wi-Fi network segment amongst other things. Now I am about to cover the mobile-computing technology which is infact a strong part of the connected lifestyle.

Mobile technology

Smartphones

A major direction that is showing up for smartphones is the 5” large-screen devices that have been brought about by the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones. These are described as “phablets” because they are a bridge device between the traditional 4” smartphone and the 7” coat-pocket tablet.

Sony are premiering the new Xperia premium Android phones which are the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL 5” standard with 1080p display. The Xperia ZL is a dual-SIM variant of the XPeria Z. As well, Huawei have increased their foothold in the US market by offering more of the reasonably-priced regular smartphones.

There has been some more effort towards standardised wireless charging for the smartphone. This is although there are two groups promoting their standards – the Power Matters Alliance and the Wireless Power Consortium who maintain the Qi (chee) wireless-charging standard. Examples of this include Toyota implementing the Qi standard in their 2013 Avalon vehicles and Nokia integrating it in to their Lumia 920 smartphones.

On the accessories front, Invoxia had launched an iPhone dock which connected two desk phones to the iPhone. The original device used the iPhone as an outside line for the desk phones whereas the current version launched here also works as a VoIP terminal for the desk phones. It also works with a supplied iOS softphone app to have the iPhone as a softphone for the VoIP setup.

Tablets

Now there is an increasing number of the 7” coat-pocket tablets which were previously dismissed in the marketplace but made popular by the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire. The Windows-RT-based devices were showing up more as a 10” tablet or a detachable-keyboard hybrid device.

Polaroid, trying to keep their brand alive in consumers’ minds after the demise of their legendary instant-picture cameras, have launched a few of the Android tablets. One is a 7” unit pitched for use by children. Here, this model uses 8Gb onboard storage and microSD expansion, 2-megapixel camera and works only with 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks. It is built in a rugged form to withstand little ones’ handling but can work well for environments where a coat-pocket tablet device could cop a lot of hard wear-and-tear. The M10 is a 10” variant with a brushed-metal finish.

RCA fielded an 8” Android tablet that is made by Digital Stream and has integrated TV tuners. Here, it could pick up conventional ATSC digital TV and mobile ATSC (Dyle) broadcasts and works to the Android ICS. Personally, I would suspect that this device could be sold out to other markets, perhaps under other brands and equipped with local-spec tuners like DVB-T tuners.

Mobile technology

The ARM-based microprocessor has raised the ante for more powerful work by offering the same number of processor cores as the newer IA-32 or IA-64 processors used in regular computers. Yet this could allow for increased computing power with less power requirements thus making the embedded devices, smartphones and tablets that use RISC processing do more.

Here, NVIDIA launched the Tegra 4 which is a4-core ARM CPU that can yield faster response from tablets and smartphones. Samsung raised the bar with their Exynos 5 Octa which is an 8-core ARM CPU.

Samsung used this event to show a prototype 5.5” (1280×720) flexible screen and a 55” flexible screen as a proof-of-concept. As well, LG increased the pixel density by exhibiting a 5.5” 1080p smartphone screen.

The connected home

There has been very little happening concerning home automation and security through the past years of the Consumer Electronics Show but this year, the connected home has increased its foothold here.

This is demonstrated through the concept of mobile apps being used to control or monitor appliances, thermostats, security systems and the like.

Here, Motorola demonstrated a “Connected Home” router being a device that allows you to control a network-enabled central-heating thermostat using an app on an Android phone. What I liked of this was that the mobile device used to manage that thermostat wasn’t just the Apple iPhone and you were able to move away from that hard-to-program wall thermostat.

This has been brought about through the Nest thermostat opening up the market for user-friendly thermostats for heating / cooling systems. Here, this could lead to a commercial-style heating-control setup with a small wall-mounted box that works as a temperature sensor but may have a knob or two buttons for you to adjust the comfort level “on the fly”. Then you use your smartphone, tablet or computer that runs an easy-to-understand app to program comfort levels for particular times of particular days.

Alarm.com, a firm who provide monitoring for home automation and security sold through large retailers, has provided a “dashboard app” for their equipment that works on their platform. This app runs on the common mobile-phone platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 8) so you can use your phone to check on the state of things with your Alarm.com setup.

Similarly, the Securifi Almond+ 802.11ac Wi-Fi router was exhibited at this year’s CES. This is a regular home network router but has integrated Zigbee / Z-Wave wireless home-automation-network support. Here, this device can be seen as a dashboard for the connected home and they are intending to fund this with a Kickstarter campaign.

As for appliances, Dacor integrated a 7” Android tablet into their high-end wall oven and this provides for guided cooking including recipe lookup. Of course, Samsung hasn’t let go of the Internet fridge dream and exhibited a four-door fridge with an integrated app-driven screen that can work alongside their Android phones and tablets. They also exhibited a top-loading washing machine that uses an LCD control panel and is able to be controlled with a smartphone.

This is part of the “Internet of things” and this concept was underscored by a few manufacturers becoming charter members of the “Internet Of Things Consortium”. It is about an open-frame vendor-independent infrastructure for interlinking home automation / security, consumer entertainment, and computing devices using the common standards and common application-programming interfaces.

Automotive Technology

Of course the car is not forgotten about at the Consumer Electronics Show, and is considered as an extension of our connected lives.

A main automotive drawcard feature for this year are the self-driving cars; but the core feature for now are the app platforms for vehicle infotainment systems. Infact, Ford and GM are encouraging people to develop software for their infotainment setups. This is exploiting the fact that midrange and premium cars are increasingly being equipped with Internet connections and highly-sophisticated infotainment systems that have navigation, mobile phone integration and media playback.

Here, you might think of navigation, Internet radio / online content services and communications services. It may also include “one-touch” social destination sharing amongst other things.

For example, Google Maps to come in to Hyundai and Kia cars as part of their UVO connected infotainment platform. The first vehicle to have this is the Kia Sorrento (model-year 2014). Similarly Hyundai are implementing the MirrorLink smartphone-user-interface-replication technology in the infotainment setups.

As well. TuneIn Radio and Apple Siri integration are to be part of model-year 2013 Chevrolet Sonic & Spark cars. Ford has implement the Glympse social-destination-sharing software as part of their SYNC AppLink platform.

Similarly, Pioneer are extending the AppRadio functionality across most of their head-units so you can have certain iOS apps managed from the dashboard. They have also provided connectivity options for Apple’s iPhone 5 device with its Lightning connector and iOS 6 platform.

Last but not least

Pebble were showing a Kickstarter-funded concept of an E-paper smartwatch that interlinks with your smartphone. Here. I was wondering whether E-paper and E-ink could become the new LCD display for devices that can rely on an available-light display. It was also a way where these “smartwatches” were having us think back to the 80s where the more features and functions a digital watch had, the better it was and you could start showing off that watch to your friends.

Conclusion

This year has underscored a few key trends:

  • the 4K UHDTV display and displays with increased pixel density being mainstream,
  • the acceptance of touchscreen computing with regular computers courtesy of Windows 8,
  • the arrival of very lightweight laptop computers,
  • NFC becoming a common setup method for smartphones and consumer AV,
  • the draft 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi network segment being exhibited with relatively-mature equipment,
  • the 5” smartphone and 7” tablet becoming mainstream mobile options

and has shown up what can be capable in our connected lives. Who knows what the next major trade shows will bring forth, whether as a way to “cement” these technologies or launch newer technologies. Similarly, it would be interesting whether these technologies would catch on firmly in to the marketplace.

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