Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Media Keeps Consumers Connected

Looking at BIGresearch's Simultaneous Media Studies, today's consumer feels a need to stay connected and that need is driving the adoption and usage of new media.

Consumers' usage of TiVo/Replay TV, Satellite Radio and iPod/MP3 Players lead the way with regular usage for TiVo/Replay TV up 88.1%, 79.9% for Satellite Radio and 72.1% for iPod/MP3. Meanwhile, traditional media usage has declined as consumers seek to integrate new media options into their busy lifestyles. Joe Pilotta of BIGresearch concludes "What should be apparent... is that the mobile, intermittent and attentive lifestyle is a fact and connectivity is key to this lifestyle." BIGresearch (Click on Complimentary Top Line Findings.)

So why do you care as a property owner? Because most apartment buildings hinder, much less help to enable, the connected lifestyle. TiVo has all kinds of great features, and most people that own one don't know how they ever watched TV without it, yet many buildings aren't optimized to let residents make full use of the technology. It's just been in the past few years that buildings have been wired for data services, and most owners still subject themselves to the limitations of partnering with a single service provider. NMHC surveys show that poor service affects retention, so it's important to know both what your residents want and how your communities need to be wired to provide quality services.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tech Forecast '07

For their December issue, Multi-Housing News interviewed executives from some of the industry's leading vendors to get their thoughts about what technologies and software capabilities will be big in 2007. Companies offering their input included London Computer Systems, Saflok, First Advantage SafeRent and PropertyBridge. Multi-Housing News

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

AT&T Accuses TWC of Network Sabotage

AT&T is alleging in a lawsuit that Time Warner Cable employees conducted a "methodical invasion" of AT&T's network facilities in apartment buildings. Time Warner had no immediate comment on the suit, which alleges millions of dollars in "willful, wanton and systematic" damage. Houston Chronicle

...And the saga continues. Although the names might have changed, we have noted this fight before, and it's something that is likely only going to get worse as long as apartment owners allow it to happen. If you're going to allow multiple providers onto your property, make sure that you have a plan and that you understand who is responsible for all those wires, especially if you're the one who owns them. Ideally, each provider should ride on their own network so no two companies have to share at the property level. Otherwise, stories like this one will persist, and your residents will be the ones that suffer because of it.

New TVs Lead to More Home Parties

To the chagrin of movie theaters everywhere, more than half of all Americans say they are staying home more than they did two years ago to enjoy high-tech entertainment. And new technology such as wide-screen and HDTV has turned TV-watching into a social event, according to research conducted by Synovate. Marketing Daily

TVs are only getting cheaper and better, which means this trend will continue to increase and we need new ways of thinking about living unit design and materials. Flat-panel televisions are good-looking, and essentially serve double duty as entertainment devices and status symbols. As more residents come home from Best Buy with their new 50" LCDs, it's important to be thinking about how living room walls may need to be reinforced at locations near TV outlets to accommodate for hanging of these behemoth beauties. Also, as more people stay home and invite friends over to enjoy a game or a movie, improved sound dampening will become increasingly important in dense communities.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Save Energy and Space

As energy management systems become increasingly popular, it will be important for multifamily property owners to utilize those systems that give them an increased level of control not only at the appliances themselves, but from leasing offices and corporate offices.

We'll have more on remotely-manageable energy management systems in future posts, but for now, I want to mention the tax credits available to owners that install tankless water heaters in their communities. Last year, the government approved a credit of up to $300 per unit on tankless heaters like those offered by Rinnai to promote the energy savings of these heaters. Besides conserving energy, these water heaters conserve space, too - a typical apartment unit can gain 16 square feet of living space by replacing a conventional water heater with a tankless model!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fast Stat: Video Quality

84% of online households consider video quality to be important in their home entertainment system.

From CEA Market Research, Home Theater Opportunities, September 2006.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fast Stat: Energy Management

32% of new home buyers who did not purchase an energy management system say they regret not purchasing one.

From CEA Market Research, New Home Buyer and Technology Purchases, 2006.

More Phone Customers Cutting the Cord

Harris Interactive released the results of a nationwide online survey of adults conducted in August, which focused primarily on consumers' attitudes toward receiving advertising messages on their cell phones. Wireless advertising is growing, but is still a long way from mass acceptance by consumers or any relevant uses for our industry. Harris Interactive

More interesting, though, was the fact that 38% of wireless subcribers say they now consider wireless to be their primary form of communication, and 36% believe that cell phone service is more direct than land line phone service. Granted, this survey was only given online, but considering the fact that there are over 200 million cell phones in the U.S., it certainly means that more and more consumers are cutting the cord and going wireless only.

This trend hits the multifamily industry in a number of different ways. Owners can't cut the expense of wiring for land line phone service yet, but cellular network boosters are increasingly becoming a reasonable investment at most properties. Don't stop there, though - fewer land lines mean changes to access control and security systems, intercoms, and even some TV networks. Do your homework to find equipment that doesn't rely on hardwired phone communications, and you'll find your building will be the one dialed in to your residents' lifestyle.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blurry Line Between TV and Web

Broadcast and cable networks are moving shows between TV and the Web platforms, seeking ways to make money from downloads and online advertisements. "This is definitely the Wild West in some ways," said Adam Berrey, VP of marketing and strategy at online video company Brightcove. Washington Post

In one of the experiments fusing TV and Internet, "iVillage Live" is a daytime talk show premiering today that is giving viewers the chance to see their homemade videos on TV. The videos will be selected from among the most popular submitted to the show's companion site. MediaPost

This melding of technology platforms could have a number of possible implications for property owners. Besides an ever-growing need for bandwidth to accommodate HDTV programs and streaming Internet downloads, this trend could mean that traditional agreements with service providers will get increasingly sticky. Programming distributors now will not only have to provide quality telecom services, but also will have to offer an appealing mix of multi-platform programming deals. Any provider not offering the right mix of both service and programming choices will be at a serious disadvantage, but property owners will have to do a lot more to keep themselves educated about the options their residents want most.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shopping for the "Verizon Experience"

Companies including Verizon and AT&T have recently have opened stores that let customers browse, handle the products and ask questions. "The big proposition here is to experience the product and try it," said Robert E. Ingalls Jr., EVP and CMO of Verizon Communications. "Seeing it, touching it and feeling it gives them a better opportunity to make a decision." NY Times

A byproduct of increased competition, service providers that are vying for your residents' business are reaching out to them in many different ways like this to win them over. These stores can be great learning tools for your property staff, too. They're an easy way to keep up on the latest technologies available, and they'll give you a good idea whether your property is offering competitive service or whether you have some catching up to do.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

DirecTV On-Demand

DirecTV plans to launch its high-speed video-on-demand (VOD) service sometime next spring, which will give customers access to a large library of TV shows and movies anytime they want. Customers will use a high-speed data connection to download on-demand programming from the Internet to watch on their TVs. At first, HD programming won't be available, but the system is capable and will most likely include it late in 2007. Sky Report

DirecTV probably has one of the better video offerings out there today for multifamily, but they still need to roll out VOD to keep up with the cable companies' offerings. Be careful, though - this system completely changes DirecTV's approach. There are significant advantages to offering satellite video to your residents, but you need to make sure you have someone on your team who understands these future systems and can get them properly deployed at your community.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Owners Caught in the Crossfire

As phone and cable companies fight for customers, the high-stakes competition has gone beyond marketing offers and superior service. Service providers across the country are accusing each other of damaging equipment and shoddy work. A consultant quoted in the article mentions that such equipment damage and misplaced wiring is "often unavoidable... where rivals either share equipment or keep it side-by-side." NY Times

Property owners are getting caught squarely in the middle of this fight. It is critical that you have clearly defined language in your agreements that determines who will respond to issues at your site and how long that company has to do so. Keep an eye on local rates, as well. Prices will continue to fall as these companies go at each other for market share - make sure that the offer at your property is competitive with the current offers, and use them as a negotiating tool with your providers if you can.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Phone Service Via Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi advocates say the technology can provide an inexpensive alternative to existing phone service, but it's a technology that's still evolving and ethical and legal issues concerning its use are raising potential obstacles. NY Times

Landline telephone service is under attack from cell phones, the cable company, VoIP providers like Vonage and Skype, and now anyone within distance of a wireless access point. It's probably still not a great idea to leave landline phone wiring out of your building, but you need to be aware of the alternatives and know how to address residents that want these other options. Suttle is one company that has addressed this issue - they offer a module that lets the resident choose any phone provider without requiring any rewiring to the unit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Two Years Until All-Digital

A very interesting piece about the number of technological, material and political hurdles faced by the telecom industry as the 2009 transition to digital broadcasting approaches. Potential headaches include cable interference and the installation of digital broadcast equipment on crowded transmission towers. As Scripps Howard VP of Engineering Michael Doback told B & C, "People haven't considered, or maybe even understood, the mammoth scope of what we are undertaking." Broadcasting & Cable

Is your property ready for all-digital broadcasting? Given how much we like to watch TV in this country, it's probably a good idea to assess your property's technology infrastructure and assemble a plan now... before the deadline passes.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

AT&T Aims to Create Digital Living Room

AT&T's Homezone service combines satellite TV and broadband to deliver a complete entertainment package to customers, all from a single set-top box. The Homezone launch is a reaction to prevent AT&T customers from leaving for bundled cable company offerings. San Francisco Chronicle

Keep an eye on these offers - as more companies are able to offer quality "triple-play" solutions, it will become more difficult to differentiate between telecom providers. Make sure you understand what programming and services your residents value most.

Wine Goes High-Tech

eSommelier is a touchscreen residential wine management server designed by Media Access Solutions. The system can provide information about each bottle provided by Robert Parker, and it also includes the ability to grab bottle labels via Google Images. The eSommelier could be a great idea for an upscale property that offers a community wine cellar. CE Pro

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Top 10 "Green" Products Recognized

BuildingGreen Inc., a Battleboro, Vt.-based publishing firm that focuses on environmental issues, announced its Top 10 Green Building Products awards for 2006 at the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference. Multi-Housing News

Of particular note for multifamily properties is the WeatherTRAK irrigation control system offered by HydroPoint Data Systems Inc. WeatherTRAK conserves water by using watering schedules based on both physical landscape features and actual weather data that is wirelessly transmitted to controllers every day. The product also has a Water-Efficient Landscaping credit from LEED.

Panasonic Offers Plasma Concierge Service

Over the holiday season, Panasonic is opening up its Panasonic Plasma Concierge program to anyone who wants to learn about HDTV. The program, usually only available to Panasonic HD plasma owners, offers information on basic and technical information about HD sets. Let your staff get educated, mention it in your December issue of your community newsletter, or post a link to the page on your property's website. CE Pro

HD Programming Still Confusing to Many Consumers

The big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Home Depot are making big pushes to sell HDTVs this holiday season, but a new report by Frank N. Magid Associates shows that consumers continue to be confused about what HDTV is and how to get it. The study found that only 47% of consumers buying an HD set planned to watch TV programs in HD, versus 63% two years ago. It also found that 30% of HDTV owners have yet to add HD service through their video provider, and those customers that have made the upgrade complain that HD stations tend to occupy the farthest reaches of the channel range. USA Today

As a property owner, you already know it's important to offer the latest in competitive telecom services such as HDTV, but you also need to make sure that your residents have resources available to answer the questions they will inevitably have. Keep your leasing staff current on the services available at your property, and lean heavily on your provider to furnish any additional informational materials to keep your residents happy with their advanced services.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

HDTV for the Masses

Lower pricing from retailers like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and others means that more people than ever will be coming home this holiday season with a new HDTV. Be sure that your video provider and your building's cabling can deliver the great picture that your residents will expect. Mercury News

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Did You Know?

According to Digital Life Discoveries, HDTV is the most likely entertainment purchase with 38% intending to buy, followed by iPod/PMPs (22%). Once consumers have made their decision to invest in HDTV, they will want to bring it home to enjoy watching their Hi Def channels on it. And, what about those avid iPod fans? (See our June 8th post) Can you think of anything better than being able to listen to the music on your iPod on your home audio system? The question is: does your building have the infrastructure to support residents' growing technology demands?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Yahoo! On the Go

On Wednesday, July 19, it was announced that Motorola will embed Yahoo! services on tens of millions of phones. Yahoo! formed a similar partnership with Nokia in January. The new ties between Internet companies and hardware makers promise to give consumers quicker access to personal Internet information compared to what is currently available on most cell phones today. Read more of the story here.

With more and more residents opting to forgo traditional land lines, and use the their cell phone as their primary phone, it is becoming increasingly important that they can count on reliable cell phone coverage. MDU owners have started to recognize this trend, and have started to add cell signal amplifier systems to improve network coverage and phone service for residents while they are at home.

Its paying attention to trends like these that will define which communities potential residents will flock to, and what properties continue to stand out from the rest. We'll keep you posted on more trends that affect the MDU market. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Digital Living" on CNN

A CNN employee recently gave a tour of her new Atlanta condo, which features a full range of technology amenities, including access control, video surveillance, "digital artwork" and signage, a wired clubhouse and fitness center, and wireless Internet hotspots. There isn't any mention of any of the telecom services or other technology amenities that might be available in the living units, but it's worth the watch to see how much of an impact the other types of systems have on a typical resident's living experience and perceptions of her new home. Full video from CNN.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Than Just High Definition

The Santa Clara Consulting Group (SCCG) says that by the year 2010, the market for products based on new blue-laser technologies should exceed $28 billion in worldwide factory sales. Read more Blu-ray technology sales projections here. Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of the next-generation optical disc format. The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and this extra capacity combined with the use of advanced video and audio programming will offer an HD experience like never before seen. The technology is already supported by such companies as Apple, HP, Samsung, Pioneer and others. Seven major movie studios have already announced titles for movies they plan on releasing on discs using Blu-ray technology. "High-definition content will be a central focus for companies in the consumer electronic, gaming, entertainment and PC industries for the next five years. Blue-laser disc technology is a critical component to the development of these markets," said David Bunzel the managing director for SCCG.

For the multi-unit property owner or developer, this again raises the question, "How much bandwidth does my property need?" Blu-ray technology allows residents to record their favorite HD programs onto disk, and still retain the HD quality they love. Technology like this and others play a big role in your decision for service providers. If resident loyalty is what you want, it is now even more critical to make sure that you provide services and channels that residents will crave and that complement the gadgets they own. Stay tuned as the developments for Blu-ray and other technologies for HDTV emerge.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Microsoft in Your Living Room...Again

The folks at Microsoft are looking for a way into your residents’ living rooms… again. Microsoft currently has the Xbox 360 video game console and new computer software that focuses on multimedia. Their influence in the world of set-top boxes for digital television has been minimal at best, but they are well-positioned to become a huge player in the Internet TV (IPTV) market, having already secured deals with telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon. Although IPTV isn’t mainstream yet, Forbes reports that industry estimates show there could be almost 90 million IPTV subscribers only five years from now. Full story from Forbes

Internet TV is slowly becoming worthy of the average property owner’s attention. It offers a number of great features, but will require a LOT of bandwidth, especially for people who still like to channel surf or have discovered the joys of HDTV. Add to that, a gaming system like the Xbox 360 that connects to the Internet, and music, photos and videos streaming throughout every apartment, and what you get is a lot of stress on the typical copper based property network. This is further confirmation that the need for FTTP technology is a necessary component for future MDU community planning. The need for bandwidth by residents is only going to increase. More than ever, prospective residents will begin to use a property’s ability to support their technology needs in deciding where to live. Even if they don't consider it at first, they’ll appreciate your forethought once they move in and start hooking up all their gear. Easy-to-use technology that anticipates users’ needs well into the future – now that’s something even Gates would appreciate.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Digital Music Sounds Better Than Ever

Market research company Ipsos recently conducted a poll that found that one in five Americans older than 12 owns some type of portable digital music device. Not surprisingly, younger customers and men are more likely to own such devices. Full story from BBC.

Younger residents have a fast-paced lifestyle that is centered around technologies that allow them to keep in touch with friends and tune out the rest of the world. Older residents, such as empty-nesters, want a refuge from the rest of the world and want to enjoy their music, movies, news and TV without any hassles.

With this in mind, you may want to consider planning your communities to provide better solutions that enable your residents to enjoy their technologies simply and seamlessly. For example, take the MP3 story above: the player that dominates this market right now is Apple's iPod (See our post on 06/08/06). Does it makes sense to offer a docking station for iPods in each unit, or maybe as an upgrade option? In competitive markets, quite possibly. Channel Vision, Sonance and others offer good options at prices that aren't terribly unreasonable. But watch out: Microsoft has an iPod contender of their own on the way.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Can cable handle HDTV?

Consumers are buying HDTVs in larger numbers than ever, and they love what they see, right? Maybe not, if they're cable subscribers. HD needs a big pipe to bring you that crystal clear picture, which has cable operators scrambling to find the bandwidth to accomodate the future of TV. But their solutions might just give subscribers headaches. Full story from USA Today.

So as usual, we ask the question: what does it mean for multifamily? Well, think about it... the cable providers' issues are multiplied several hundred-fold in a typical community. Not only do they have to provide enough bandwidth to enable one subscriber to enjoy that new LCD screen, they have to do it over several hundred units. I'm not saying they won't be able to do it - the technology is improving all the time. But if you're going into a new deal with the local franchise, you should be careful to make sure that your residents will be getting all the channels and services that they expect. USA Today does a good job of covering most of the issues here, but there's a lot more for us to cover in terms of satellite and digital TV as they relate to apartments. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Verizon wants to make TV more enjoyable

Verizon Communications wants to offer interactive menus, remote control improvements and on-screen "widgets" in an effort to out-think the competition and deliver an improved television experience for consumers. Full story from Forbes.

The phone companies now offer TV, cable companies now offer phone service, and they both want to sell you Internet service and cell phones. The satellite guys think they have something to offer, too. The competition will be great for the consumer, but all these choices bring up some huge questions for multifamily developers: What the heck am I supposed to do now? How am I supposed to wire my building? Will those exclusive access and marketing agreements cut it in the era of ultimate consumer (read: your resident) choice? Telecom providers are doing a lot to offer better services at better prices; now developers are going to have to do the same. Let us know what you think.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Students Say iPods More Popular Than Beer

A study recently released by the Student Monitor named Apple's iPod music player as the most "in" thing among undergraduate college students. Almost three-quarters of the students surveyed said that iPods were "in" - more than bar hopping, video games and social networking. Check out the article here.

What does it mean for apartments? Well, a lot. Younger residents have immersed themselves in the "digital lifestyle", so you better be ready for it. They have a limitless appetite for media and information - and they expect it to be fast and available on the go. Whether it's iPod docking stations, high speed Internet access, wireless networks, cell phone network boosters, or a Slingbox, there are all kinds of creative things you can do to leverage the technologies that your residents already embrace to increase loyalty to your property. We want to hear from you... how have you used technology as a selling point at your communities?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Security Update from ISC '06

The major topic of this year's 2006 International Security Conference was “Urban Security”- the securing of public urban spaces. Some of the technologies may have applications for the multifamily marketplace as well.

IP video technology appears to be here to stay. In fact, it has so thoroughly permeated the security world that even Cisco Systems had a booth at this year's show!

IP video is now a part of most manufacturers’ alarm system offerings, but IP monitoring is still not mainstream. Several vendors were offering adapters that allow existing alarm dialers to communicate over IP networks. There are some basic issues, though - cost being the biggest one for multifamily owners!

Fire alarm manufacturers have now started to offer IP monitoring capabilities, but acknowledge that acceptance by local Authorities has been slow and arduous. For a complete review of the products on display for multifamily at ISC 2006, click here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

5 Million VoIP Lines By Year's End

According to Forrester Research, it is predicted that over 5 million Americans will be using VoIP lines by the end of 2006. Click here to read the full article from USA Today. As the use of IP phones lines and cell phones continues to cut into the market for traditional copper phone lines, multifamily developers will face some interesting decisions in the near future.

VoIP lines offer a quality service that surpasses the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) lines in many ways, but most VoIP providers have a long way to go before E911 services are sufficiently refined for mass deployment (such as in a bulk contract) in a multifamily development. (Click here to read about the case where the State of Texas is suing Vonage related to 911 services.)

So can a developer that plans to offer VoIP and other advanced telecommunications services get by without installing copper for POTS? Well, in the words of one communications attorney, "There may come a time when traditional POTS is a thing of the past, but for now the decision to go that route requires you to weigh the cost savings against the possible resident dissatisfaction and liability concerns."

Stay tuned, because this is a story that will continue to develop as VoIP keeps pushing further into the mainstream. Next time, we'll look at the third piece of this puzzle - cell phones have become extremely commonplace as the primary phone line, especially among younger demographics. If that's the case, do developers need to start thinking about boosting cell phone signals inside their buildings?

Monday, January 16, 2006

CES 2006: New Products for Multifamily

If you’re not one of the 150,000 lucky enough to attend the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas every January, here are the basics: it is the largest, most-attended tradeshow in the country, and it is possibly the greatest indicator of how technology will influence your residents’ daily lives, and what products they’ll be using, in the near future. Here’s our birds-eye view of the show, the trends to watch, and the products you may want to consider for your next project.

Personal Computing and Networking
Clearly, the personal computer and the home network are center-stage in today’s world of consumer electronics. Industry giants like Microsoft, Google, Intel, Sony and Yahoo presided over the keynotes and the majority of the media coverage. The top five consumer electronics manufacturers by sales in 2005 were Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Apple, Toshiba, and Panasonic. H-P and Toshiba are almost entirely in the PC market, and Sony, Apple, and Panasonic benefited greatly from PC sales.

There were quite a few exhibitors showing networking products using powerline and coax media, as well as Cat5 and wireless devices. Asoka had a full line of powerline Ethernet products, including MDU products. Multilet has teamed with Winegard to offer networking over existing coax, and AuraOne Systems won an Innovations Award for a product designed to extend 802.11 networks over existing coax, but not DBS (satellite), systems. Corinex also showed a line of products offering connectivity over Cat5, coax, powerline or wireless, up to 200Mbps. D-Link was showing their “GamerLounge” routers that were designed to prioritize gaming devices to minimize lag.

Although still very much a niche solution, broadband over powerline is gaining traction among some manufacturers. Panasonic showed a line of powerline Ethernet adapters, as well as IP cameras, and a new wireless telephone system that integrates landline telephones, cellular phones, and video cameras.

Service Providers and the Small Screen
HDTV was the second focus of the show, with a plethora of new HDTV sets of all types and sizes. At Bill Gates’ keynote speech, he announced that DirecTV would soon be integrated with Microsoft Media Center Edition PC’s, presumably through a DirecTV tuner card (and presumably HDTV!).

DirecTV also showed several portable video players that can download video directly from a DirecTV digital video recorder (DVR), and also a line of flat-panel LCD TV’s with integrated DirecTV receivers in partnership with Humax, which should be a godsend for Clubhouses and Fitness Centers where there is no good location for the receiver boxes!

Dish Network was also showing “PocketDish” personal video recorders (PVR’s) with direct download, and also integrated TV sets (although they said they were not offering the screens for sale), as well as a single-coax solution for dual-tuner HD DVR’s. Dish was also showcasing the VOOM HD channel lineup.

Verizon took over the Press Room, with several spaces showcasing their FiOS optical fiber services, and lots of PR staff, although they were not showing any MDU-specific solutions. Their set-top boxes are from Motorola and are capable of interfacing with IP video systems as well as conventional CATV QAM overlay distribution. The boxes also integrate with a home network to transport both incoming and locally-originated content. They were also showcasing some novel consumer-friendly features such as one-button access to local weather data.

Audio and the IPod Effect
Although Apple was saving its energy for their separate MacWorld show, there were plenty of iPods and associated accessories on display everywhere at CES, along with many competitors hoping for a slice of the leftover market share. Many manufacturers were showing docking cradles, with a number of them offering integration with the iPod controls and display. The most amusing product I saw at CES was an iPod docking station with a vacuum-tube amplifier!

Denon has a new A/V receiver with front and rear ports for an iPod, including video connection and the ability to display program information on the front panel. Their receiver also features HDMI switching and up-conversion, RS-232 and Ethernet control ports, XM radio, and automatic setup with an included microphone. The up-conversion means that a single HDMI cable is all that is needed to connect with a projector. Yamaha and Sony also have new A/V receivers, but the Denon was unique.

Russound showed an iPod docking station that connects to their new receiver with a single Cat5 cable. They also have a new line of intercom products with door stations, which can use distributed audio speakers for communications.

Channel Vision was showing an iPod dock that mounts in a single-gang wall box, and comes in two versions – one that provides remote line-level audio terminals, and another that functions as a local source input to a Cat5-based A-Bus system. This should be a great add-on for clubhouses and condos. The Sonance iPort is a similar concept, but comes with a flush wall mount and a much higher price tag. The Sonance system, however, can also deliver video and control signals, and can be upgraded in the field.

In non-iPod-related audio news, Sonos was showing a new Zone Player that featured line-level outputs instead of the integrated power amplifiers in its current line. Audioplex was showing a new media link that allowed transmission of audio and video signals over Cat5 cable, which may be useful for adding remote sources to Clubhouse audio/video systems.

Apartment Automation
Several new products appear to have potential for full-home control for apartments, condominiums and townhouses. The newest entry in the field was from Monster Cable, which was showcasing its “Home of the Future” in a series on demo rooms. They were showing a new whole-house control system that integrates all devices and controllers, so remotes, keypads, PC’s, web tablets, PDA’s, and cell phones can all be used interchangeably to control system functions. The system features an animated avatar who guides the end user through the setup process, so they claim that very little dealer support will be needed to program and update the system. Given Monster Cable’s marketing skills, this may be an attractive offering, and a good company to partner with.

Monster was also showcasing their M-Design furniture line, that offers high-end furniture with built-in features to accommodate high-end audio and video systems, including plasma screens with built-in frames or with mirrored fronts to hide the sets, furniture designed to hold TV sets and components, and even sofas with built-in subwoofers. It is all designed to please the most discerning interior designers.

Control4 also had a large booth showcasing their entire product line of automation controls, which CTO Eric Smith said are all shipping in quantity now. Their price points make them an attractive offering as upgrades for the townhome/condo market, and they are interested in working on multifamily projects.

HAI was also showing their new touchscreen panel with video capability, which lends itself to better integration with audio/visual and security systems. The system is now compatible with the Russound CAV 6.6 and Nuvo distributed audio systems, and is now also available without security, for applications which require separate dedicated security systems. HAI President Jay McLellan was also just elected to Chairman of the CEA TecHome Division.

Xantech was showing a new hand-held version of its touchscreen remote controller, which is fully compatible with their wall-mounted models, and a new audio server that will display on the touchscreens.

We want to congratulate CEA for a very smooth-running show this year – a deluge of pre-show information, and plenty of buses, made this the best CES experience ever! And next year, if you’d like to see the future of consumer electronics for yourself, we encourage you to attend – just book your room early; this show gets more popular every year!