Sookbox showed off a prototype of their modestly priced high-performance home media “personal cloud” server/computer in the Eureka Park section of the Venetian. Sookbox is designed to take all of your media content – whether it’s your personal media, a subscription service, or media available for free from the internet – and host it on a single, unified framework so you can access it anywhere using a smartphone or tablet and allow you to play that content on any target device. Sookbox says it’s different from the typical media server product because of three things: the Sookbox software includes a true internet browser that eliminates the need for proprietary apps; the Sookbox framework devices are all IP addressable and globally accessible; and the Sookbox control app is open-source API, something which will hopefully encourage a great deal of creative development by other companies and even users. The main components of the Sookbox include the Sookbox Server with four HDMI outputs, 16 analog audio outputs, 1.5 TB storage capacity, simultaneous multizone delivery of content, and more. The Sookbox Stream Runner is a small, black-box-style device that provides two-way IP connectivity along with an HDMI connection for a display, 3.5 mm analog audio output, and built-in Wi-Fi. Sookbox says an unlimited number of Stream Runners can connect with any one Sookbox Server. The Sookbox Software is what glues the system together, includes a built-in browser, is iOS, Android, and Windows compatible, and allows for gaming without a location-dependent console. Pricing and final form factor hasn’t been determined, but 50 beta units will go into production later this month.
Home automation and energy management had a big presence at CES, and Nexia Home Intelligence came to the Show to show off some recent additions to the growing portfolio of Z-Wave-enabled devices that are compatible with the Nexia ecosystem. Primary among those were: the new Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt that provides keyless entry and built-in alarm technology that will notify you if someone tampers with the lock or tries to break into the home while you’re away; the new eMonitor Trane Energy Management Solution that monitors energy usage data 24/7 and provides overall energy usage reports, as well as real-time alerts and notifications of situations such as circuit overloads – or even if a freezer door has been left open; and new zoning capabilities with the Trane ComforLink II Control command center/thermostat that uses zone temperature sensors to figure out which areas of your home need additional heated or cooled air. (Unfortunately, the zoning features aren’t compatible with all HVAC systems – including mine…) While indoor/outdoor cameras, networked appliance and lighting control AC modules, wireless deadbolts, heating/cooling control, energy management, and web/smartphone control of the system are all features within the Nexia architecture, home AV control is not.
Noise-cancelling headphones are great for travelling and using in noisy public environments, but they’re not terribly useful when you want to watch a movie in your home theater. There, things like Sony PS3s, NAS drives, satellite receivers, and any other device with a built-in cooling fan that may happen to be sitting in your equipment rack – including, sometimes, cooling fans for the rack, itself – can be irritating sources of background noise that take away from the enjoyment of whatever it is you’re watching. Silentium’s AcoustiRACK ACTIVE (ARA) combines passive noise reduction with the company’s unique and highly effective active noise cancellation technology to achieve pretty incredible noise reduction levels of up to 30 dB. The ARA is specifically designed for data centers with racks of servers and other noisy, heat-producing components and has the ability to dissipate up to 8 KW of heat while also protecting the gear from dust. While I was at the Silentium booth, the folks there demonstrated how well their active noise cancellation technology is by displaying two wooden cabinets with identical exhaust fans built into the top. The first cabinet contained the fan and nothing else – and was appropriately noisy. The second cabinet included Silentium’s circuitry and hardware within the cabinet – and it was very noticeable how much more quiet the fan was compared to the untreated display cabinet. Silentium’s ARA racks (in 15U and 33U sizes) cost multiple thousands of dollars each, but the Silentium representative said the technology could potentially be adapted to home AV racks, as well.
Last year, one of the highlights of CES were the ivee voice-controlled talking radio and alarm clocks. This CES, ivee announced it’s tired of being just a bedtime companion. Later this year, ivee will introduce the ivee Sleek, a Wi-Fi, voice-activated intelligent “assistant” that can use natural language understanding, machine learning, and Wolfram Alpha’s computational knowledge engine to answer basic questions (regarding weather, stocks, or other internet-available information), obey commands (set alarms, reminders, and timers), and control a variety of Wi-Fi devices (thermostats, lights, security systems, etc.) ivee says the small, tabletop Sleek “assistant” will even be able to communicate with the super-slick Nest thermostat – something that most automation systems can’t do. The $199 ivee Sleek is available for preorder now and is scheduled to being shipping in May. (If you have any additional questions, you’ll have to ask ivee’s Sleek…)
Allure Energy’s new EverSense 2.0 is a “home environment and energy management product” – or, put another way, a next-generation, super-high-tech thermostat/home automation hub that can also be used for streaming music, viewing photos, and getting weather updates – with built-in Proximity Control and NFC technology. The new system allows homeowners with an Android phone running a mobile app called EverSense to change the home environment simply by setting the phone on a SyncPad triggering the EverSense 2.0 to turn lights on/off, adjust the temperature setting of the thermostat, and set the security system based on the user’s programmed preferences. In the future, homeowners will be able to add and control other smart devices within the EverSense ecosystem. While the owner is at home, NFC technology in the user’s Android phone will let the system know how to react based upon which SyncPad the phone is placed. When the homeowner leaves the house, though, the system will use its built-in proximity control technology to manage temperature and other aspects of the home’s environment based on how near or far from home the user happens to be. In other words, the EverSense system is smart enough to realize when you are away and when you are on your way home and will adjust the thermostat accordingly to save energy while you’re away while making sure that the house is comfortable when you arrive home. EverSense 2.0 units are expected to be available for sale directly to consumers sometime during the first quarter of 2013. Final pricing on the hardware hasn’t been announced. No monthly subscription fees are required.