Sony Announces The First Delivery Mechanism For 4K Ultra HD Content

Some of you might recall that I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about 4K Ultra HD televisions. Other than the cost of entry ($ 25k!), the main barrier to 4K Ultra HD technology adoption is the content delivery (or lack thereof). Movie studios have the ability to film and produce motion pictures with 4K Ultra HD resolutions but there just hasn’t been a way to deliver those MASSIVE movie files to the TV. Blu-ray discs won’t support that high of a resolution and neither will most HDMI interfaces used on TVs.Sony

Yesterday Sony announced the first solution to this problem. Sony will be bundling ten 4K Ultra HD feature films with its 84-inch 4K Ultra HD TV, several classics and a few more recent films. This delivery system is a hard-disc media server that has the ability to be updated with new content in the future. Periodically Sony will update the offerings to the TV either via a “white glove” Sony Concierge service, where a Sony representative will hand deliver the content to your house, or by sending a BD-ROM disc to update the media server.

If 4K Ultra HD is ever going to take hold in the market then content must be regularly provided and easily delivered to the television. Sony’s announcement yesterday shows that it isn’t going to sit around and wait for that delivery mechanism to arrive. Sony is taking matters into its own hands by providing both the platform and the content all in one purchase, albeit a $ 25,000 purchase. Sony has stated that “more delivery solutions will continue to evolve rapidly, with further product and content announcements coming shortly” but as of yesterday, Sony took a big step forward towards driving 4K Ultra HD’s adoption.

Here is a list of the ten movies bundled with Sony’s TV:

• The Amazing Spiderman
• Total Recall (2012)
• The Karate Kid (2010)
• Salt
• Battle Los Angeles
• The Other Guys
• Bad Teacher
• That’s My Boy
• Taxi Driver
• The Bridge on the River Kwai

Control4 Blog

Mobile Computing Drives Thanksgiving Weekend Retail

Mobile computing

It was a record-setting weekend. In addition to a record box-office bonanza for Hollywood (led by Twilight, Skyfall and Lincoln), many have hailed this past Thanksgiving weekend as a welcome relief for worried retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, register receipts from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday totaled an estimated $ 59.1 billion, which was up from $ 52.4 billion in 2011. The total spending per shopper was up as well, rising 6 percent to $ 423.

Missing in these numbers is the fact that in-store purchases actually declined. Yes—the amount spent in bricks-and-mortar stores during the most important weekend in retail actually went down by 2 percent. But this was offset by a double-digit increase in online sales. According to some reports, almost 41 percent of consumers’ total weekend spending happened online. In other words, Cyber Monday seems to be staging a hostile takeover of Black Friday.

The results for Cyber Monday showed another dramatic change. Online sales were a full 30 percent up over last year’s retail take. According to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, 18 percent of holiday shoppers searched for deals using their mobile devices on Monday (up from 12 percent last year). And 13 percent of shoppers used their tablets or mobile phones to make purchases. This is almost double last year’s percentage of purchases from mobile devices.

According to IBM, “The iPad generated more traffic than any other tablet or smart phone, reaching nearly 10 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 8.7 percent and Android 5.5 percent. The iPad dominated tablet traffic at 88.3 percent followed by the Barnes and Noble Nook at 3.1 percent, Amazon Kindle at 2.4 percent and the Samsung Galaxy at 1.8 percent.”

But it’s not just shopping behavior that called out the importance of mobile computing. It was also the shopping itself. One report released during the Cyber Monday frenzy listed the top products that shoppers were searching for:

  1. Kindle Fire
  2. Uggs
  3. iPad
  4. iPod Touch
  5. iPad Mini
  6. Legos
  7. Amazon Kindle
  8. Wii U
  9. Kindle Fire HD

According to this list, six of the top nine search terms were for tablets. (No comment on the continued popularity of the aptly-named Uggs—that does not compute.) Amazon.com, which has maintained its primacy as the top online retailer, has said that its ten top-selling products include Kindles, Kindle accessories and digital content. Part of this is undoubtedly due to deep discounting, but it’s still a trend that can’t be ignored. In fact, the rise of tablet computers has led one senior researcher for the Consumer Electronics Association to suggest that the tablet may eventually move in status from second screen to primary screen.

So why is this important for smart homes? It seems obvious that any home automation system needs to include—by default—full control through tablets and mobile phones (including both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform). It also suggests that, with tablets becoming increasingly ubiquitous, both dealers and manufacturers need to continue to focus on coming up with smart solutions that link people’s mobile devices with their homes.

Control4 Blog

Conferencing … in Style.

Looking back to when I first started my journey in the working world, the conference rooms I remember were nothing more than glorified cubicles. Thin walls, a pull down screen, a long table and a door. Quite simply, boring. Nowadays, businesses are taking their meeting rooms more seriously—offering a space that embodies both character and functionality for potential clients and employees. Case in point, the Union Square Conference Room – located in the offices of Cloud9 Smarthome at the historic Union Square intersection in downtown Manhattan. From an automated chandelier to a full kitchen, I certainly wouldn’t mind having back-to-back meetings in these digs (or partake in the occasional cocktail party)!

Check it out here!

Conferencing

 

Control4 Blog

How The Smart Kitchen Can Enhance Your Thanksgiving

We hope everyone in the US has a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Please take the time to read this article that was recently featured in our Home Smart Home magazine. This article explains how a smart kitchen can greatly enhance your Thanksgiving experience and how a smart kitchen can really enhance your cooking experience the other 364 days of the year as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Read the full article here.

smart kitchen

 

Control4 Blog

Puttin’ on the Ritz

RitzThe Ritz-Carlton Residences, Chicago, Magnificent Mile is one of the latest additions to the Ritz-Carlton suite of luxury residential homes. What sets this one apart? Each of the units comes with a Control4 touch screen equipped with the Integrisys InteliPlex™ Portal, a cutting edge innovation that gives residents one-touch access to the building’s services and amenities through an easy-to-use graphical user interface. From the Control4 touch screen, residents can retrieve messages, connect to the concierge, valet or make a service request with building management—all with the touch of a finger. Residents will also be able to use it to check weather and news headlines, much the same way as with a smart phone or computer—except these messages will span everything from building bulletins and notes about package deliveries or maintenance requests to international news.

The system will also connect residents with as many as 12 full-time staff members as well as the private 12,000-square-foot Landmark Club on the 10th floor, which features a grand salon, a club dining room, a boardroom, a wine/billiard room, a screening room, a fitness center and a spa services area. Additionally, with full integration of Control4 technology, residents will be able to personalize their own home with control over everything from audio, video, lighting, climate and even window blinds.

I don’t know about you, but I may be moving to Chicago.

Check out the most recent story about Control4 & the Ritz Carlton in CustomRetailer here!

 

Control4 Blog

DHCP vs. Static IP—Which Is Better?

DHCPPeople often talk about the home controller being the “brains” of a smart home installation. Extending that metaphor a little further, you might consider your home network as the “nervous system” of your home automation setup. Your home network allows all of your various devices to receive instructions from the controller, and also to provide status updates and other information about what’s going on in the system.

In a Control4 system, most network components need an IP address. (Items on the Zigbee network, like switches and dimmers, thermostats and door locks, have their own network.) Media players, touch screens, network-enabled televisions, networked receivers, speaker points and other connected devices all need to be connected to the network either via Ethernet or a wireless connection. This is all done using IP (Internet Protocol) addressing.

Static IP Addressing

With static IP addressing, addresses are assigned manually, and have to be provisioned carefully so that each device has its own address—with no overlap. When you connect a new device, you would have to select the “manual” configuration option and enter in the IP address, the subnet mask, the default gateway and the DNS server(s). If you understood any of what I just said, you probably have the skills and knowledge necessary to manage static IP addresses on a home network. If it was basically gibberish, you’d probably be more comfortable with DHCP.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)

DHCP takes all of the manual work out of IP addressing. Generally, the device that’s at the “top” of your home network—whether it’s a standalone firewall or a router/gateway device or your Control4 home controller—will provide DHCP by default as a service on the network. When DHCP is enabled, a new device connected to the network asks the DHCP server for an address, and the server assigns one from its pool of unused locations. The server itself tracks which addresses are used and which addresses are available, and keeps a record of which addresses have been assigned to the various devices. This ensures that addresses don’t conflict with each other. However, it also means that, if a device goes offline, when it reconnects it may not have the same IP address it had before.

Mixing Configurations

It’s entirely possible to mix static IP and DHCP addressing schemes. Since the default DHCP address range is between 100 and 149, you’ll want to avoid all of the addresses between 192.168.1.100 and 192.168.1.149 when you’re assigning static IP addresses. That leaves the ranges from 2-99 and from 150-254 wide open, which is usually plenty for most home networks.

So Which Is Better?

DCHP provides true “plug and play” networking, but it can come at a cost. There is less control, so you can’t count on a particular device having a particular address if you have a networking challenge that requires this.

Because DHCP is a more-or-less “hands off” technology, there is a danger is that someone could plant an unauthorized DHCP server, which could direct traffic to a different router that is under that person’s control. This would make it possible to hijack the network for nefarious purposes. Also, because DHCP servers make it so easy to add new clients to the network, DHCP also makes it possible to join a network without explicit permission. This issue can be prevented by forcing a DHCP network to require authentication when adding a new device, but that kind of defeats the purpose of DHCP in the first place.

DHCP is especially dangerous when combined with an unprotected wireless network. You wouldn’t think this would happen very often, but homeowners who don’t understand the risks do this all the time. This makes it possible for someone to sit with a laptop in a car on the street and gain access to every network resource: every computer, every network drive, and every tablet or phone connected to the LAN. It’s like leaving your doors and windows open while at the same time leaving a welcome mat out for data and identity thieves.

For most home networks, fully dynamic or mixed addressing configurations are just fine. As long as all wireless networks are locked down and no “bad guys” can gain physical access to the network, DHCP is a good option for easy home networking. But if you are truly serious about network security—if you have sensitive data residing on your network or just want to make data or identity theft much less likely—you’re probably better off sticking with disabling DHCP and maintaining full manual control of your home network.

Control4 Blog

Selecting The Right Screen For Your Home Theater

Often times, when considering a theater room in a home, there is one important piece of equipment that gets ignored and yet directly impacts the experience: The Screen. A lot of money is spent on the projector, the receiver, the speakers, the media player and the seating but then too many people just project their video up on a white wall. The screen is just as important as the projector itself and selecting the right screen will greatly enhance your experience. You should expect to spend around 15-30% of the cost of your projector on your projection screen. Here are a few things to consider when selecting your screen:

Selecting Right Screen

  • Type of Screen:
    • Manual pull-down screens are great for entry level home theater installations. They are simple, reliable and affordable.
    • Fixed-frame screens are the most common for a dedicated theater room. Most high-end professional installers recommend fixed screens over retractable projection surfaces.
    • Electric/motorized screens are great for concealment. If you would like to hide your screen completely and use the room for other purposes when the projector isn’t in use, this is the way to go.
  • Size: The screen should occupy a minimum of a 30˚ field of view for the audience. What does that mean? The basic rule of thumb is to use a screen height that is approximately one third the distance from the screen to the audience seating.
  • Color & Gain: The color of the screen is more important than you might think and the gain, which is the screen’s reflective property, directly correlates with the color of screen you choose.
    • Matte white screens are great for dedicated theater rooms and any other space that you can directly control the lighting—such as a windowless area or a room equipped with blackout shades.
    • Gray screens help reject ambient light, which deepens black levels and contrast. These screens are better suited for multipurpose media rooms which typically have more natural, ambient light.
    • Screen gain is a measurement of a how much light is reflected by the projection surface. If you select a screen that has a gain above 1.0 then it will do a good job of distributing the light from the video projector across its surface. A high-gain screen can optimize the brightness of the projector, which can allow for a larger image area.
    • Half gain angle is the angle from the center of the screen where the brightness of the image is half of its peak. The wider this angle is, the better the viewing from the sides. This is mostly only important with larger theater rooms that seat several people.
  • Microperforation: This is when a screen has thousands of tiny holes in the screen which make it so that sound can be heard through speakers placed directly behind the screen. This is a great option if you would like to completely conceal your speakers but it will also increase the cost of your screen by quite a bit.

Control4 Blog

Project Spotlight: Sky Zone Sports

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT:

Entertainment. Energy. Fitness. Three words that describe Sky Zone Sports, a seemingly-endless sea of trampolines that provides people of all ages a fun, 3-D play experience, while giving them the benefit of physical activity and exercise. In this place, you can literally bounce off the walls.

What do you get when you combine this high -energy zone with the benefits of an automated Control4 system? You get a killer audio set-up which allows people to enjoy an inviting and energetic atmosphere.

Take a look!

Sky Zone

Control4 Blog

Control4 Gives Back: Bean All That You Can Bean

Today’s post is from Lauren Hemingway, our Lead Graphic Designer, and is about Control4 giving back. Enjoy!Give Back1

This year Control4 has made it possible for many employees to give back to their community by offering service opportunities throughout the year. Control4 employees have given volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity, The United Way, American Red Cross, Sub for Santa efforts, food drives and volunteer opportunities at the Utah Food Bank.

1 out of every 5 Utahns are unsure where their next meal will come from. In an effort to join forces with the Utah Food Bank, Control4 employees spent time sorting donated food items for distribution to local communities, and well, we counted beans. Okay not exactly counting so much as bean rationing. The food bank receives 34% of its donations from local commercial food distributors including the large 25 pound bags of black beans hefted and distributed on the day of Control4 volunteer efforts. Control4 employees spent time rationing out the 25 pound bags into 1 pound bags for easier distribution among Utah families. And yes, we did “spill the beans.” A few times, actually. But overall it was a success. According to the Food Bank, most food donations come from local food drives, which constitute 8% of total donations.

 

Give Back2Interested in making a difference in the lives of hungry Utahn’s? The Utah food bank has made it easy for you to give food or time. Learn how you can help.

Control4 Blog

 

Mom = Sherpa

SherpaOne thing nobody tells you before you become a parent is how many bags are involved. As a busy, working woman, I have to be prepared for anything and my life has to be fairly portable –so I already had an oversized purse, a computer bag and a gym bag. Needless to say, I kind of felt like a bag lady even before the children arrived. Now we also have a diaper bag for the little one, a book bag for the older one, and on many occasions I also have somewhere between 2 and 12 grocery bags. That is a lot of stuff to carry! I think I need Sherpa training. Or at least a good Yak.

 

Over the years, I have gotten better at juggling my gear – but I still breathe a sigh of relief when I manage to push the door to the house open, and the lights are on. We have them programmed so that when it gets dark, the lights in the foyer automatically come on so I don’t have to walk into a dark house with my arms full of kids, groceries and bags, bags, bags. I’m pretty sure I could figure it out. My nose isn’t usually carrying kids or holding a gallon of milk. It could probably be used as a lighting-device operator. But I have to say, I’m pretty happy that these brilliant techy people I work with figured out how to make my lights flip on magically so I don’t have to go there.

 

Control4 Blog