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American Amplifier Techonologes

The 2013 International CES

(Last update 1/26/13)

Once again the The 2013 CES has packed Las Vegas as no other convention, even the NAB, does. 

Even as the world economy lurches around, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the other two main hotel/centers - the Venetian and the Mandalay Bay - buzzed with displays, meetings, Press Events, and a cast of attendees from every part of the world.

Information from CES indicates over 3250 exhibitors had signed up to share 1.9 million square feet of exhibition space.

The final attendance figures - nearly 160,000 - are also a new record.

Proving that we have not seen it all, some 20,000 new products are being introduced this year.

THE HEADLINE

Subject to change, the big headline for broadcasters is that Sprint announced their decision to activate the FM chips in some of their Android and Windows smart phones. Jeff Smulyan of Emmis was a prime mover in this effort. He called it a "important start."

However, do not look for FM radio to be in wide use any time soon. Firmware tuners like the NextRadio app - expected late in 2013 - are not always available for current models. Features do seem more ad oriented than user friendly. And then, too, there is the antenna issue. The input to the FM chip is often not even connected (one representative of Sprint noted "there is no room for an FM antenna"). Without earphones, most phones still will be deaf. But radio executives still consider this is as a major advance.

At the risk of inserting a mini-editorial here, more than a few think what radio needs is less new "features" but more of a certain 7-letter word: Content.

OF SPECIAL INTEREST TO BROADCASTERS

Meanwhile, several manufacturers were showing off their latest HD radio iteration or implementation of iHeart radio. The new features provide traffic information or an "Active Alert" system that functions sort of like RDS, in that it "wakes" up a radio if a CAP message is available.

Other displays suggest there is going to be an interesting fight to see who and what gets into auto dashboards in time goes on. WiFi, WiMax, IP by Cell, broadcast (remember that?), USB and hard drive feeds, etc.

THE CHAIRMAN SPEAKS


 

 

 

 

 

Genachowski

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made several points on Wednesday's program. First he is committed to move soon to set more bandwidth for Internet WiFi, to relieve congestion - especially at places where large numbers of people gather, like conventions, sports events, airports, etc. (and find it difficult at best to make things work).

Genachowski's eye is on some 200 MHz at around 5 GHz - sure to bring a lot of affected parties out  of the woodwork - many of them government agencies who do not want to give up their piece of spectrum. Genachowski also wants to continue the other auctions for spectrum space, as his vision of realigning who uses what evolves.

One prominently visible FCC item was interesting to note. The publication bins had a number of copies of a Public Notice advising that it was illegal to sell or use jammers in this country. 


American Amplifier Techonologes


 

EAS RELATED

Eton has quite reputation for emergency radios - as shown by their connections with the Red Cross. At CES, Eton displayed a number of their multo-power, solar/crank/battery radios.

This year they had several new weather radios, including a digital unit featuring a flashing red, orange, or green bar to indentify the alert level. Wireless remote speakers can also be placed around the house or office.

Other emergency radios used analog tuning and LED lamps.

LaCrosse also has introduced a new weather radio which has some special features, for example a button allowing the user to set it for Tornado warnings only. AM/FM/WX tuners are included as well as a LED lamp. And the NOAA and the FEMA hosted several presentations discussing the hits and misses of the current alerting systems, and what may lie ahead.

QUICK TAKES

Ok, so you have already guessed that hundreds of manufacturers have raced to provide accessories for the iPad Mini, the new Apple plug, and the Android phones, like the Samsung. Covers, handles, mounts for desk use, speakers to deal with cell phone laws in many places, and zillions of protective cases, some better than others. Entire walls of iPad/iPod/iPhone covers and accessories were shown - users can mix or match colors and designs - or even have custom covers made from a favorite photo.

Several companies showed rugged covers, some using hammers (real hammers, not EV635s) to demonstrate resistance to shock.

Would you like to have a phone cover to protect your phone from being dropped off a 150-foot tower? The claims are there.

Interestingly, OtterBox already has one broadcast fan: he reported his phone was saved by his Otterbox after being dropped from the top of a tower he was climbing. (Intentional field tests are not recommended.)

   

Plus there were a lot of new apps shown - this year especially in a section devoted to personal health care, such as using wearable tracking your blood oxygen, pressure, heartbeats, caloric activity, etc. A whole large section of the exhibit floor was devoted to these products. On the other hand, among the more "out there" products was the "Hapifork." an electronic fork that vibrates if you eat too fast.


BEM Speaker Trio

Bluetooth speakers continue to be shown in increasing quantities, as users demand more and easier ways to play their music or other content around the home or office, or just to share with friends. Some very nice sounding Bluetooth speakers were shown, at prices ranging from $49 to $400, and up. One, bem (with a vowel marking over the e, making it "beam"), has a very nice "Trio" package with three cubes that you can take anywhere with about 120 feet or so of the base unit, and play audio in different rooms, on the porch, or carry wherever you roam in the home.

Others, including the units from JBL/Harmon add a large backup battery to the great sounding audio - so you can go longer - or recharge your cell phone, etc.

There are a lot of uses for a headset that does not even go in the ear. The AfterShokz open ear Bluetooth headsets are designed for sports use, so users are not overly isolated from ambient sounds while running, for example.

By using bone conduction these headsets also are able to allow provide crisp, clear audio even for those who normally need hearing aids. It might be a good product for a busy studio, since you do not have to pull it off and put it on repeatedly to hear others in the room.

Those of you who have read Dana Puopolo's reviews on headsets by Monoprice will be interested to know that the company had a booth to display their entire line of "price disruptive" products - quality gear at very aggressive pricing. The company's products are growing through all categories.

CONNECTING STUFF

Another trend: there are a number of companies on the floor showing various new ways to "connect" gear, trying to overcome the complicated and sometimes archane "pairing" gymnastics, for example. VOXX held a press conference, for example, with some very interesting products, including docks where you just place your phone, for example, on the base. It instantly connects to speakers, and recharges the phone. New clock radios with modern functions, audio streamers, car audio and video control centers which integrate rearview cameras and Siri applications (want to tell your car to turn on and warm up? You can. Or find a restaurant close by... etc) - well, you get the idea: you can spend a lot of money on these toys! Perhaps fortunately, most were not for sale on the floor. But you can be sure orders were taken!

In dealing with current technology, the car companies, especially, continued to show "connected" vehicles, which integrate Internet access and streaming along with other apps to make the car a rolling office and/or entertainment center, and at the same time keep some semblance of safety. The ultimate goal is science fiction slowly coming true: Audi and Lexus displayed the ability to control  cars without a driver - the passengers just read, work, surf the Internet, or enjoy the ride.

THE CONNECTED HOME (and Transmitter site)

This all plays into the "Connected Home" features that have been growing in the past couple of years.  With an IP connection, you now can do anything from check on your baby, activate a camera on site, set the thermostat, lock or unlock your doors, check on what is in your refrigerator, and much more - all at your command from an app.

The potentials are unlimited. Many of the webcams are worth a look to provide more security for the transmitter site - and copper. Motion sense, alarms, video alerts, all are becoming affordable, even for large sites. (And it only takes one copper theft prevention to prove the value.)

Integration is continuing to make things easier, but we are still in the building phase. It takes a lot of different apps to do all of the above.

The continuing efforts to be "green" are showing some improved products. Some new LED lamps are now solving the heat/lifespan issues quite well.

Recycled products, wireless chargers, and similar items were all over.

One company that has been at it a while, P3 International, continues to expand their Kill-A-Watt line with units that help identify Phantom Power suckers, as well as wireless and two-module units that allow you to see what is happening at a more comfortable distance.

In the computer-hardware area, one of the more impressive displays came in the Lenovo area. The ThinkPad products, formerly a part of the IBM family, have had some major upgrades. The Yogi (consumer version) or the Helix (business level) combine laptops and tablet computing in some ingenious ways.

QUICK TAKES

An annual "The Last Gadget Standing" competition sponsored by Living in Digital Times, with voting online and live at the event, give victory to Lenova's new 27-inch all-in-one Table PC  - not unlike those interesting table computers shown on some TV shows like Hawaii 5-0 - and the Lumina Keyboard+ in the hardware section and MyScript Calculator in the apps division.

TV TIME

TVs are a large part of the CES. This year, a new attempt to make 3D more popular - and without the special glasses - was demonstrated by several makers. One eye-popper was LG, at the entrance to the Central Hall. The huge display was a stunning 3D affair that literally made you think the picture came out and wrapped around the viewer.

But, realistically, one has to admit it is mostly gimmick. Few programs or films truly can utilize 3D in any non-gimmicky way. That may be why, up to this point the public has not really grabbed on to the 3D concept in the numbers the manufacturers had hoped for; perhaps this year will get more interest.

Another concept product that did not perform well on the floor was the Haier "eye control" tv. Supposedly your eye movements would change channels and volume, etc. It sort of worked - if you did not wear glasses - but appears headed back to the drawing board.

At the same time, more than a dozen companies showed products designed to connect and allow WiFi streaming of video, audio, and other materials. Some of them were essentially the same size as a flash drive.

OTHER STUFF

There were a lot of interesting ideas shown in the "New Tech" section of the floor. Some were concepts, some were early versions of products that have not yet found a market.

For example, consider the SimulTALK sports headset, an earphone product that comes with a built-in "loop" to hang around your neck. That way the cord never is pulling on the earpieces. It could make things very easy on remotes. 

A fair number of these new companies were looking for funding - and a few sought "crowd funding," with web sites seeking small amounts of money from many people. As an example, one company seeking funds to produce iPad holder/docks needs $25,000 and they will place the first order.

As might be expected, several companies released new smartphones - Sony had the Xperia Z, Huawei had their Ascend Mate. High Definition video was, of course stunning - the LG display was not the only  product. Ultra HD is the new term. LG also had a touchscreen Ultra HD, and Sony the first Ultra HD OLED display; bendable OLEDs came from Samsung.

In the "no, we are really not ready for this" Department, a few folks were passing around pictures of the iPotty. Yes. The iPotty, a combination training potty and iPad holder. We could put a picture of it here, but why?

There is more to come. This article will grow a bit over the next week as we get over the flu and add more info and pictures.

SIDE POINT

The flu season was definitely here, as in most places around the country. The number of people sniffing, coughing, and sneezing can make one wonder if the prudent course is to wear a mask on the floor - and not shake hands with anyone! It is hard to avoid anytime you are crowded in with 160,000 of your closest friends. This is an issue with all large conventions where people come in from all over the world. No flu shot will completely protect you. Vitamin C, a lot of fluids, and a lot of rest are the best protections.

Just a word of warning to those of you getting ready for the NAB Spring Show!

 

 

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