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Evolutions in the CE World

WOW! This past year and the recent CES 2011 Show in Las Vegas has left my mind blown.

  • Analog is dead (by mandate now), twilight period is in full flow now. Those little yellow, green, red and blue RCA connections will be useless soon enough.
  • HDMI is going to be coming on strong now, or is it??? (What does the cloud to do video distribution?)
  • Tablets are set to explode on the market. Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and will serve multiple purposes, driven by software in the form of “apps”.
  • CE (consumer electronics) are becoming more co-mingled than ever, working towards convergence, but still somewhat fragmented. Manufacturers agree there should be standards, but then create their own flavor.
  • The “Cloud” (that means keeping stuff on the internet) is becoming the norm for storing data and content
  • Autos are finally becoming more convergent with our personal technologies and homes, Auto Apps are here now.
  • Even TVs are becoming a “Smart” now, they have built in Ethernet connections, whole computers and even touchscreens, in some cases. They will run Apps similar to smart phones.

There are so many new devices and ways to use the new devices it is almost mind boggling. First there were iPhone’s, then iPads, now Androids and tablets abound, which can do just about anything a home PC or laptop could do (sometimes more), and in some cases with a faster connection. The fundamental way in which we connect to our world is changing, and fast.

We are moving from an “install software on your PC and look for almost anything on the internet (you had to search – pull the data)” to an “everything is on the internet (cloud) and Apps (mini software) automatically pulls down the information you want/need (you don’t have to search – data is pushed, you just grab it)”.

Almost everything, any product you can now buy, can now be connected via WiFi,RS232, ethernet, Zigbee/Zwave, Blutooth, etc. Hardware and software are becoming more and more integrated and convergent. You can talk to your phone, tell it to take you somewhere, and it pulls up a map, ask if you want to navigate to it, then it pulls up another app, turns on your GPS and starts telling you how to get there. Like it should have been all along, right? But it actually really works now, and pretty good too. These little mobile devices/computers/life capsules/entertainment systems can do just about anything. Just about…

These new handy “phones” can serve as your media device (storage and distribution), security control, home control system and more, and made to work relatively seamlessly if parts and software are thoughtfully designed and integrated. They can assist in taking your controls, media, etc from your home, to your car, to your office and to meetings when needed. You can even use your Android phone as a “HotSpot”, or remote WiFi connection now, meaning when you check into that expensive hotel, you don’t need to pay them the $10/night internet fee, just connect to your super fast phones 3G or 4G network and get your work done.

We’ve all seen the commercials showing that you can use your smartphone to control your homes various systems. Of course, many overlook the fact that you still need those controllable systems, HVAC, lighting, Audio/video, etc, installed in your home for those handy little apps to actually work. So don’t get too excited to run out and get that app they keep showing on TV. We’ve actually had calls asking why an app someone purchased doesn’t turn on their lights. We ask if they had any lighting controls installed and were told, “a switch is there”. Well, it won’t just control any device. That device, light switch, thermostat, TV, etc, needs to be controllable in one form or another and be able to communicate (IP, IR, RS232, etc) so that the App can “talk” to it. Consider this when getting new apps and products. Be sure to do your research, or purchase these systems with advice from your local integrator, and see that the electronics you are purchasing are easily integrate-able with these new mobile devices and apps. Most things are, but some are harder to manage and get working, than others.

They key to all of these new tools, is to get everything working well and working together, converging your technologies. A good systems integrator should already be embracing these technologies (Android, iPhone, remote control of homes/businesses). Many of us have been designing in remote controlling of homes since the late 1990′s. Most of those systems, still function great. They key to making these systems work, is designing the system with components that are able to communicate with each other through some middle-ware (control system, etc).

There is some setup to getting the Android and iPhone, in some cases, to do all that you want, when you want, without having to dig through the 9000 apps you’ve downloaded. This is key to getting the value out of your phone, rather than having it be a time wasting “tool” that now takes more to figure out, then it relieves you of. Hiring a knowledgeable integrator to assist in creating a plan for your connected lifestyle, can go a long way in enabling many of the features you want and getting the best system in place for your needs. Insuring that you are getting the right products, that not only can be controlled by one of these apps, but also connect to and work with the other devices in your home (energy monitoring, home control, lighting, your car, etc). A knowledgeable systems integrator can also assist in designing a system that allows you to control your office or even your car, with the same device(s).

Things are changing, and changing fast. Some are afraid of this change. Whether we like it or not, these changes are here and most likely will revolutionize the way we live, work, play and even think. I say embrace it and see where it take us. But… do your research and get the right toys, eh, tools for the job.

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