The Future is Wireless

The Future is Wireless

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It’s hard to imagine a world without wires, but that’s precisely where we may find ourselves in the next few years, with 2018 serving as an especially pivotal moment in wireless adoption and breakthroughs. For years, manufacturers have promised an end to “wirey, tangled-mess woes,” but it’s looking as if they are now making good on their promise. With the prevalence of Wi-Fi in homes, cafes, airports, and basically anywhere else you may find yourself needing internet, the need for physical network cables, like ethernet cables, have pretty much become obsolete. And speaking of cafes and airports: many of them now offer free wireless charging stations.

 

Since Apple unveiled their commitment to the Qi wireless charging standard in their latest iPhones this past fall, the wireless charging industry, which had been plagued by a lack of standardization, seems to be siding with Qi from here on out. Soon after the big Apple announcement, Powermat, who provide wireless charging mats at Starbucks, said that they will add Qi compatibility to their product. But Apple isn’t the only company who has sided with Qi: Samsung (Galaxy S8, Note 8), IKEA, and a plethora of automobile manufacturers have began to support Qi wireless charging. Who else will begin to support this standard in 2018? We expect a lot more manufacturers to follow suite. However, this sort of charging isn’t technically wireless (the charging mat still needs to be plugged into an outlet). But there are a few companies who are creating charging options that are truly wireless, such as Energous, Ossia, and Wi-Charge. (To learn more about these companies, check out this blog post).

 

To the irritation of many users, smartphones are doing away with the 3.5mm audio jack, paving the way for the exclusive use of Bluetooth wireless headphones (unless you use a dongle to plug your wired headphones into your phone’s Lightning port or USB-C port). But companies like Apple and Google would rather you spend $150+ on a pair of their wireless AirPods or Pixel Buds. And unfortunately for all us audio-enthusiasts out there: the audio quality produced by Bluetooth headphones is worse than a wired headset because audio is re-compressed over Bluetooth. So, the extinction of the audio jack on the smartphone may solve the problem of having to untangle your headphones before each use, but it significantly cheapens the user’s listening experience.  

 

But there are many things to look forward to in the years ahead: there’s the expansion of wireless charging for laptops and 5G wireless services, just to name a few. And we’re sure to see many more innovations down the road, because wireless technology is essential to the smart home of the future. But one thing we know for sure: with Blackfire technology embedded into a smartspeaker, smart TV, set top box, smartphone and more, the whole home can be wirelessly connected. Combining individual entertainment systems to work together, creating a truly connected smart home is non trivial – it requires precise synchronization, low latency for lip sync, and a general reliability over standard Wi-Fi (the best and most commonly used communication protocol for the home.) Something like this has not been done before – until now.

Blackfire provides the industry’s only wireless and entertainment-centric infrastructure software framework built from the ground up to both overcome the limitations of Wi-Fi when used for media applications, and meet the needs of wireless entertainment-related consumer applications and products. It’s not enough to merely have Wi-Fi connectivity between consumer products. Real-time exchanges of entertainment content require a common framework that can work reliably over Wi-Fi, and has a rich set of features for a broad spectrum of entertainment products. Blackfire technology also supports low latency and multi-channel, which other wireless solutions do not.

 

It may be hard to imagine a world without wires, but with Blackfire in your entertainment devices, cutting the cord has never felt more seamless.

Revenge of the Smart TV

Revenge of the Smart TV

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According to research firm Parks Associates, 45% of U.S. broadband households own a Smart TV, “making it the most commonly used platform for streaming video content among this group.” Additionally, roughly 60% of the those surveyed said that the device display on a Smart TV is easier to navigate and easier to find content than other connected devices, such as a set top box (STB).

 

Despite the high praise from devoted users, overall sales of Smart TVs, including those with 4K/Ultra HD resolution, have plateaued in recent years. “As a result, we are seeing new partnerships among device manufacturers focused on ways to improve or refresh the UI [user interface] of the smart TV, to make the device easy to use and a single point of content in the living room,” says Jennifer Kent, Director of research quality and product development at Parks Associates.

 

Additionally, streaming services are only gaining in popularity. Thanks to engaging, original content and an abundance of mainstay classics, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are gradually killing cable. Data from financial services company Raymond James “shows that 31 percent of Internet users polled in November cited a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu as their primary source of video content, up from 24 percent a year ago and only a few percent behind the 35 percent of survey respondents who named cable as their primary video source.” (Sound and Vision) That means, now, more than ever, entertainment device manufacturers need to start designing their products with streaming at the forefront.

 

Another feature that has been gaining traction over the last few years is voice control, and we should expect to see more entertainment devices, such as Smart TVs, unveil voice control functionality in 2018. Research from Parks Associates shows that “consumer demand is pushing voice control into the connected entertainment area” fueling it’s growth in the market.

 

This study proves that instead of having many disparate devices that play media throughout the home, consumers want to have access to all their entertainment content – such as music and video streaming services – from one central place. And what better place than the living room TV? Establishing the living room TV as a central hub from which all entertainment content can be easily accessed (and sent out to other devices in a multi-room setup) cuts down on the confusion for what can be played from which device. It’s time the TV stepped into the 21st century…

Implemented into the home’s central Smart TV, Blackfire’s revolutionary new protocol, The Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) framework, allows users to to create a wireless, whole home entertainment system. With the Blackfire RED framework embedded in wireless speakers and the Smart TV, users can finally enjoy a truly wireless, connected home. The Blackfire RED framework is the most synchronous, reliable, and cost effective wireless solution on the market, and can be integrated into a broad spectrum of high quality voice service applications as well. Many companies have already stepped into the future by leveraging Blackfire’s technology. Now is your chance. Join the Blackfire Revolution today.

Throwback Thursday: Billboard Magazine Debuts the 1st Music Chart

Throwback Thursday: Billboard Magazine Debuts the 1st Music Chart

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On this day in 1936, Billboard Magazine debuted their “music hit parade,” the first-ever chart that ranked national record sales. Founded in 1894 as a trade publication for bill posters, by the early 20th century, the magazine shifted its focus to different aspects of the entertainment industry, such as circuses and burlesque shows. As music began to be more accessible through technological advancements like the phonograph, record player, radio and jukebox, Billboard began to cover more of the music industry. For their first “music hit parade” published on January 4, 1936, jazz violinist Joe Venuti took the Number 1 spot. In 1955, the Billboard Hot 100 chart of top-selling songs was introduced, followed later by the Billboard 200 for top-selling albums. To this day, the Billboard charts serve as the magazine’s “most enduring and influential” achievement.

CES 2018: One Week Countdown

CES 2018: One Week Countdown

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The Consumer Technology Association’s annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is only one week away, and boy are we excited! For those who don’t know, CES is the largest consumer electronics show in the world, showcasing more than “3,900 exhibiting companies, including manufacturers, developers and suppliers of consumer technology hardware, content, technology delivery systems and more…with more than 170K attendees from 150 countries.” (CES). At last year’s CES, we were witness to paper-thin TVs, autonomous vehicles, multi-screen gaming laptops, VR headsets, and, of course, every connected device imaginable with Amazon’s Alexa built-in. But what will CES 2018 bring to the ever-changing technology landscape?

 

Here are a few things we know so far:

 

Samsung always makes a big splash at CES, and we’re hoping that 2018 is no different. Rumors are circulating that Samsung’s “bendable” smartphone, the Galaxy X, could be debuted during the show, as well as the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus, and a huge 150-inch TV featuring MicroLED technology.

 

Judging by their CES 2018 event tagline: “Reality has never been so exhilarating,” it seems that this year, Lenovo is all in for VR. The computer manufacturing company is hosting a launch event the first day of the show, most likely to unveil its standalone Google Daydream VR headset.

 

In the past, Google has made their presence known at CES through their third-party hardware partners, but this year, the search engine giant will take center stage themselves with a large outdoor booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center. And what will they be showcasing? Most likely the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL, the new Google Home Mini and Google Home Max, and the latest Daydream View virtual reality headset. But this is CES, so there are possibilities for a surprise as well – a new Chromebook, perhaps?

 

One of the main highlights at CES over the past few years has been the incredible showcase of autonomous, electric, and concept cars. It doesn’t look like last year’s “Tesla Killer,” Faraday Future, will be making an appearance this time around, after a turbulent year for the electric car company forced them to halt production on the FF 91, at least for now. However, it seems that Fisker, an automotive company based out of Southern California, will be taking the reigns from Faraday Future at CES 2018 with the debut of their latest luxury electric automobile, Emotion, with a reported range of over 400 miles. We’re also looking forward to more impressive concept cars from Toyota and Hyundai, which recently announced their “New Mobility Experience” at CES 2018, which will “introduce its vision of the car of the future, new and original future car technologies, as well as disclose its developments in autonomous driving, electrification and cockpit experience, including products that have the potential to be mass-produced within the next one to three years.”

 

Regardless of what the thousands of CES exhibitors show, we are certain that this year will have one major parallel to last year: and that’s more Amazon Echo and and Google Home product integration. So, what new, connected smart home devices can we expect to see at the show this year? A talking blender? How about an Alexa-enabled toilet? We’ll have to wait a few more days to find out.

 

CES will descend upon Las Vegas Nevada next week from January 9 – January 12, 2018.

Throwback Thursday: The Beatles’ “White Album” Hits #1

Throwback Thursday: The Beatles’ “White Album” Hits #1

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On this day in 1968, The Beatles’ ninth studio album, “The Beatles” (more commonly referred to as the “White Album” due to its plain white sleeve with no graphics) reached Number One on U.S. charts, remaining there for nine weeks. The four-sided album was released in late November of that year and featured celebrated songs such as “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Dear Prudence,” and “Blackbird.” Critically and commercially, the album was a success, however, it was during these recording sessions that the band began to experience great tension. Fights over creative differences, drug use, and the presence of Yoko Ono plagued the making of the album, with Ringo Starr even briefly quitting the band in August. With tensions continuing to mount amongst the band members, The Beatles would ultimately break-up in April of 1970.