Making the Smart Home Smarter

Making the Smart Home Smarter

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In his entertaining recent editorial, CNBC Technology Product Editor, Todd Haselton, experienced, firsthand, the frustration that many smart home enthusiasts have endured for a long time: smart home products that don’t work with one another. Typically, manufacturers don’t want their customers to “mix and match” products, but rather, they “encourage” them to stay loyal to their brand by deliberately limiting compatibility with competitors. But what manufacturers don’t realize is that these “technology islands” are actually discouraging potential users from buying any smart home products at all. Aside from the more geeky early adopters (ok, my hand’s up), smart home gadget users don’t want to invest in a brand and have that brand become obsolete within the next few years (i.e. “choose wrong”) so many people just aren’t choosing at all. As Haselton points out: “How do you choose which one to go with? It’s almost like the VHS vs. Betamax wars.”

 

A simple solution to this problem, as Haselton notes, is “one single standard that works for everything.” At Blackfire Research, we’ve done just that. A few years back, Blackfire Research founder and CEO, Ravi Rajapakse, became frustrated – much like Haselton himself and countless other smart home gadget lovers – when he realized that there was no seamless way to transfer and share entertainment media throughout his own home. What was once a personal project to create a multi-room entertainment system soon became ten years of research into a revolutionary new protocol, which we call The Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) framework. The Blackfire RED framework can stream both HD 5.1 audio and 4K video, simultaneously, across multiple devices – all over the standard WiFi you already have. As well as connecting light bulbs, thermostats and door locks, Blackfire also works as a bridge between your smart home and your entertainment systems – with precise synchronization, low latency for lip sync, and overall reliability. Because ultimately, that is what smart home owners want – to mix and match devices while having their music and movies available to them anywhere in the home.

 

Oh yeah, did we mention that Blackfire enabled products are compatible with each other, even across brands? Just look for our logo on select Harman/Kardon, Onkyo, Pioneer, Integra, and HTC devices. It’s just one of the many ways Blackfire Research is making the smart home a whole lot smarter.

Why your WiFi sucks and what you can do about it

Why your WiFi sucks and what you can do about it

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Imagine your perfect Smart Home. Would it have facial recognition locks so you wouldn’t have to worry about ever losing your keys? Or how about tinted windows that adjust to the amount of sunlight coming in, maintaining a perfect temperature inside at all times? If you’re anything like me, your perfect Smart Home would have a completely wireless, multi-room entertainment system, capable of streaming 4K video and 5.1 channels of discrete audio to speakers and screens placed throughout the home. That idea isn’t impossible today, however, it’s not being done. At the moment, the vast majority of home entertainment systems are wired, and their placement is dictated by cable lengths. And TVs are limited to soundbars that may reduce movies and music into a garbled monophonic fizz. This means that multi-room entertainment systems, a staple for Smart Home Entertainment, aren’t all that common or attractive, unless you’re into the whole tangled-wired-mess vibe.

The most cutting-edge technology for TV today is 4K, or Ultra High Definition (UHD). 4K TVs give flicker-free pictures at 60 frames per second, and up to 10 bit color. To send a 4K TV signal and 5.1 audio signal wirelessly, you’d need to transmit data at just over 80 Megabits per second (MB/s) to avoid any obvious visible artifacts. The newest WiFi routers you can buy use the 802.11ac standard to send data at a 5GHz frequency, which is a theoretical max data rate of 1.3 Gigabits per second (Mb/s).

So, if wireless, multi-room entertainment systems capable of streaming 4K video and 5.1 channels are possible, why isn’t it being done? The problem is in your WiFi. Conventional WiFi runs on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) which was designed in the 1960’s for transferring files down wired Ethernet lines, not streaming real-time video and wireless audio for the Smart Home.

 

TCP is outdated.

Let’s take a closer look at TCP. TCP was originally designed to break a file into smaller packets of data, and send it piece by piece down a twisted-pair wired network connection to a router. The goal was for all the packets to eventually get to the router, no matter how long it took the file to get there. This is called “asynchronous.” Remember back in the day when you’d download music from Napster or LimeWire and it took an entire afternoon to get just a few songs? Yeah, that’s basically it.

Routers in those days could only handle so many packets at a time before choking.The lost packets were retransmitted, and so each file could only be sent to one destination on the network at a time. And if packets were getting lost, TCP would not only retransmit the lost packets, but also send the packets at a slower rate allowing the router to digest all the packets it was being sent to prevent further data loss.

 

TCP is wasting your precious bandwidth.

Today, in a 5GHz wireless network, it is much more likely that packets are lost through interference (transmission loss) than the router getting choked (continuous data congestion at the router). So, TCP’s approach of throttling back the data rate makes bandwidth congestion worse, not better. Tom’s Hardware site did a benchmark test of TCP vs the raw data transmission without all it’s throttling back. With TCP, they measured between 114 and 180 MB/s across five top router brands. Without TCP re-transmission they could reach 606 to 637MB/s with those same five routers.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that using wireless streaming services like Spotify or Netflix is not like sending an email. Music and video streaming have much higher demands than file transfer: packets of a streamed audio or video file have to arrive and be processed at a speed that allows a constant stream of packets to arrive reliably so there are no dropouts in the music or movie. And, if you just so happen to have multiple wireless TVs and speakers, they each have to receive the same data simultaneously.

Network interference can come from intentional transmitters, like other routers and WiFi devices on the same or adjacent channel, a cell phone or a nearby mesh-network music system, or unintentional transmitters, like a microwave oven. Noise changes by the microsecond, and with each millimeter of position- so perhaps think twice before opening that package of microwavable popcorn if you’re streaming a movie to multiple wireless speakers using a network built on TCP.

 

Enter Blackfire RED.

When it comes to creating your perfect Smart Home of the future, why not start today? Remember earlier when I mentioned that wireless, multi-room entertainment systems capable of streaming 4K video and 5.1 channels aren’t being done? Well, with Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) protocol, it can be done, and easily. Blackfire RED can interpret all that network interference and identify where it is coming from. Blackfire RED is synchronous, multipoint, and has an intelligent adaptive algorithm for managing packet retransmission, resulting in improved signal reliability, tighter synchronization, and reduced latency. And the best part? Blackfire RED works completely wirelessly throughout your home.

The idea of your perfect Smart Home doesn’t have to remain a distant fantasy. Truly connected, wireless Smart Home Entertainment is possible today, but your current WiFi is built on an outdated protocol that can’t support the latest technology (or technology of the future). You don’t still walk around with a pager, do you? Why do we upgrade some technologies and not others? I know you’ve ditched the pager. Now go ahead, ditch TCP and say hello to twenty-first century Smart Home Entertainment.

Blackfire Research Introduces the Blackfire Red Framework

Blackfire Research Introduces the Blackfire Red Framework

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Blackfire Research Introduces Blackfire RED, a New Wireless Real-time Entertainment Distribution Framework, Rescuing Consumers from “Entertainment Islands” in the Home

Blackfire RED Provides a Common Wi-Fi Framework for Entertainment Consumption in the Home, Enabling New Capabilities and Disrupting the $50B Smart Home Entertainment Product Landscape

 

SAN FRANCISCO – June 12, 2017 – Blackfire Research Corp, the wireless Smart Home Entertainment company, today announced the availability of Blackfire RED, a Real-time Entertainment Distribution framework. Blackfire RED is 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 is not enough to just 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. This is what Blackfire RED offers, making it an essential component to truly enable smarter Home Entertainment. Blackfire RED rescues consumers from “islands” of incompatible media devices, and finally allows Smart Home owners to enjoy all of their digital content wirelessly, synchronously and seamlessly throughout the home, including high-quality 5.1 audio and 4K video on multiple devices over standard Wi-Fi.

“The Smart Home industry is due for a shake-up,” said Adam Wright, Senior Research Analyst, Consumer IoT, IDC. “While the initial IoT concept has evolved into the Connected Home, we still see that Home Entertainment is lagging behind due to unreliable connectivity and lack of interoperability, among other issues. The Smart Home industry has been in need of a solution that has the ability to link all of these excellent, yet disparate, smart devices. Reliable, real-time connectivity between devices and the ability to work together seamlessly is essential for the Smart Home ecosystem to move past this innovation plateau.”

Top global audio brands, including Harman Kardon, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Integra have already licensed the Blackfire RED framework and are currently shipping products that leverage its capabilities. The Blackfire RED framework is comprised of:

  • A Software Engine; a small lightweight piece of software, embedded in consumer electronic products, and is network, chipset and operating system agnostic, making integration easy.
  • A Communication Protocol, that allows Blackfire RED enabled products to talk to each other, over a standard network stack. This was designed and tailored specifically to overcome the limitations of traditional Wi-Fi by working around the effects of interference and ensuring a reliable, high-speed connection.
  • A Programming Interface that allows easy real time distribution and handling of entertainment content from and to the products.

 

“Today’s Smart Homes, while certainly more intelligent than a decade ago, have left consumers stranded,” said Ravi Rajapakse, founder and CEO, Blackfire Research Corp. “Smart technology has created entertainment islands, but I wanted my entertainment to be accessible anywhere in my home without compromising on performance or quality, which is what led me to create Blackfire RED. I wanted to see the Smart Home Entertainment promise through to fruition and for people to finally have the wireless entertainment experience for both audio and video that they have long deserved.”

 

Blackfire RED features and capabilities include:

  • Reliable multi-room, multi-channel, low latency wireless audio and video over Wi-Fi;
  • Advanced multi-source media pipeline handling for services such as Google Chromecast Audio and Spotify Connect;
  • Native integration into Smart TVs, enabling the TV itself to decode and send multi-channel audio to wireless speakers;
  • Wireless 4K video for transmitting audio and video from a Smart Set Top Box simultaneously to multiple TVs and speakers throughout the home;
  • Voice AI integration into multi-room, enabling a whole-home voice-control system.
  • Easy integration into all smart devices.

 

Blackfire Research

Blackfire Research is making the Smart Home smarter, bridging the islands of entertainment in the home and disrupting the $50B Smart Home Entertainment market with its Blackfire RED, wireless real-time entertainment distribution framework. Based in in San Francisco, California, Blackfire has perfected the industry’s only high-performance wireless software framework that is reliable, fast, and flexible, enabling Smart Homeowners to play all of their audio and video content synchronously and seamlessly throughout the home. Today, leading global audio brands rely on the company’s solutions for real-time wireless media distribution and consumers have now come to recognize the Blackfire logo as a symbol of quality. For more information, please visit: www.bfrx.com.

 

Media Contact

Allyson Scott

McGrath/Power Public Relations and Communications

+1 (408) 727-0351

AllysonScott@mcgrathpower.com

Consumer Electronics Veteran Joins Blackfire Research Leadership Team

Consumer Electronics Veteran Joins Blackfire Research Leadership Team

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FORMER RAZER EXECUTIVE, RUBEN MOOKERJEE, NAMED VP OF GLOBAL SALES AND DISTRIBUTION

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – December 7, 2016 – Blackfire Research, the leading developer of wireless technology for home entertainment, today announced that Ruben Mookerjee has joined the executive team as VP of Global Sales and Distribution.

Mookerjee joins Blackfire Research with more than 30 years of Consumer Electronics experience, most recently serving as the Vice President and General Manager at Razer, the dominant brand and global leader in PC gaming.

“We are thrilled to have Ruben head up our Sales and Distribution,” says Blackfire Research founder and CEO, Ravi Rajapakse. “He brings a unique background in consumer products that combines technology with business development and sales distribution. I have known Ruben for several years, and am delighted to have his leadership and expertise on the Blackfire team.”

Prior to Razer, Mookerjee headed up the PC Components business at Corsair, where he also led the acquisition of Simple Audio, a networked audio player. Mookerjee held executive positions at Logitech (NASDAQ: LOGI), Labtec and Hewlett Packard. Mookerjee holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kingston University, London.

“I first met Ravi several years ago, and was instantly intrigued by his vision and the robust technology developed by the Blackfire Research team”, said Mookerjee. “There is a lot of wireless technology out there, but they all trade off performance for convenience. Blackfire Research has opened up the possibility of a wireless future, from 4K video to 5.1 audio, that can be screened around the home without compromising the integrity of the product or the user’s experience.”

About Blackfire Research

Founded in 2006, Blackfire Research (www.bfrx.com) develops wireless software technology and hardware solutions for high-performance, wireless home entertainment systems. Blackfire Research is built on patented Internet Protocol technologies designed to wirelessly stream media to multiple devices simultaneously over standard Wi-Fi. Through partnerships with global, industry leaders, Blackfire creates products that allow movie, TV, and music lovers to wirelessly create the home entertainment experience they desire.

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  Redefining Smart Home Entertainment

Rescuing You From Entertainment Islands

With the advancement of smart phone capabilities and the growth of internet content, we are under the illusion that we can receive what we want, anywhere, any time. This is far from true, especially when it comes to home entertainment systems. Rather than allow us to enjoy our music, video or rich media applications wherever we want in our home, our Smart TVs, stereo systems, PCs, and speakers have stranded us on “entertainment islands” that prevent whole-home wireless connectivity. At Blackfire Research, we’re getting entertainment content off these islands, so you can mix and match your media, playing to anywhere, from anywhere, any way you want in the home. 

With over 30 patents, we’re making the smart home smarter. We’ve developed a software solution called the Blackfire RED framework, built from the ground up to overcome the limitations of conventional wireless. Blackfire RED does what nothing else can - stream both HD 5.1 audio and 4K video simultaneously across multiple devices over standard Wi-Fi, all while looking and sounding spectacular. 

If you think you’ve heard or seen this before, trust me you haven’t. Doing this is hard. Otherwise somebody else would have already done it.

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