Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2016”

Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2016”


As 2016 winds down and draws to a close, it is time to look back on the events – as well as the music – that helped shape and define a tumultuous year. Popular online music journal Pitchfork has shared their ranking of ‘The 50 Best Albums of 2016,” which features the bold and welcome return of A Tribe Called Quest after an 18-year hiatus, the final album from the otherworldly David Bowie, and not one, but both, of the Knowles sisters, who, in their albums Lemonade and A Seat at the Table, have redefined the modern protest song. Take a look to see if your favorite album of 2016 made the cut.


Blackfire Research Announces Industry’s First WiFi Surround Sound Solution for Smart TVs and Set Top Boxes

Blackfire Research Announces Industry’s First WiFi Surround Sound Solution for Smart TVs and Set Top Boxes


Blackfire ImmersionXD delivers a low-latency, multi-channel audio solution for TV and set top box manufacturers

SAN FRANCISCO – December 27, 2016 – Blackfire Research, the leading developer of wireless solutions for home entertainment, today announced the availability of Blackfire ImmersionXD – the industry’s first low-latency WiFi surround sound software solution for television and set top box (STB) manufacturers. Blackfire ImmersionXD (IXD) enables smart TVs and set top boxes to deliver the ultimate home theater experience.

Built on patented technology, Blackfire IXD streams stereo, multichannel 5.1 or 7.1 audio from the TV or STB – including OTT streaming services and connected devices such as BluRay disc players. Blackfire IXD also supports multiroom media streaming, transforming the smart TV or set top box into a whole home media center.

“Instead of creating yet another proprietary wireless network in your living room, we use a standard WiFi network”, said Ravi Rajapakse, Founder and CEO of Blackfire Research.  “By utilizing standard WiFi together with our patented technology, Blackfire IXD mitigates network interference and delivers exceptional performance and improved reliability.”   

The Blackfire IXD solution includes software integrated into the Smart TV or set top box motherboard and Blackfire IXD enabled speakers.  Blackfire IXD reference modules and speakers are available.

Blackfire IXD will be available for demonstration from January 5-8, 2017 during the CES Show in Las Vegas.  Contact Blackfire Research for more information at info@bfrx.com

About Blackfire Research

Blackfire Research (www.bfrx.com) develops wireless software 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 build the home entertainment experience they desire.


Media Contact:
Stephen Lambright

Consumer Electronics Veteran Joins Blackfire Research Leadership Team

Consumer Electronics Veteran Joins Blackfire Research Leadership Team



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.

Retail Drives Smart Home Innovation

Retail Drives Smart Home Innovation

By Rohit Verma
The popular focus on smart home technology is on home automation, such as smart lighting, environmental control, smart appliances and home security. These technologies make up a rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar market. However, that is small change compared to retail. The retail market accounts for a quarter of the U.S. economy, or, about 100 times that of home automation (in 2015, U.S. GDP was $18 trillion and consumer spending accounted for roughly $12 trillion, of which, retail spending was $4 trillion). Growth in retail tracks the economy and has been slow – for instance, Q2 2016 growth was 2% year-over-year.  Online retail, however, expanded 16% over the same period and is now almost 10% of overall retail spending. It is no wonder then, that fighting to win control over this huge prize is the driving force behind The Smart Home Wars.  


­   The (re)tail winds have shifted the smart home industry to not necessarily make smart products for the home, but rather, making a home smarter so it can buy products. The most ferocious battle for smart home domination is between Amazon and Google, and this battle is already transforming how we interact with our homes.


A River Runs Through Your Smart Home

With revenues of $100 billion, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon is relentless in its goal to establish and maintain strong, long-term relationships with their customers. They pride themselves on making innovations to make purchasing easier, already taking immense strides to make the home “smarter” for purchases. It comes as no surprise that Amazon’s smart home product direction is geared toward enabling growth in retail sales through immediacy and ease of use.  Amazon’s Dash buttons and the Amazon Echo, along with the Echo’s siblings, the Dot and the Tap, are poster children for a smart home in its formative years.  Dash buttons are essentially free ($4.99 for a $4.99 credit), and each is associated with one of a few hundred household products, such as Bounty paper towels, Tide laundry detergent, even Diet Coke. The Dash Button is simple: a press of a button initiates the product’s purchase and delivery to you (all through Amazon). However, Amazon’s most major advancement in smart home technology is the Echo. Echo is a Wi-Fi connected smart speaker, whose key innovation is its skillful application of voice recognition and AI responses. It can play music, provide web search results, and control home automation devices all through voice command.  Amazon wants to make the Echo indispensable in the home, and provides a platform for third parties to write programs that leverage the Echo’s voice recognition and connectivity.  This will make the Echo’s value increase over time as its functionality expands, much like the Google and Apple app stores. However, the Echo’s main value to Amazon is it’s ability to maintain shopping lists and make purchases from an increasing selection of products through Amazon. This is the biggest step in smart home technology and has set the bar for any competing devices. As investment continues, the Echo will eventually be able to make most of your household purchases on demand or (where AI technology and the market is headed) predictively. This will lead to consumers making more purchases through, and increased loyalty with, the Amazon ecosystem.  


OK Google…

Google has proven itself the leader in developing AI technologies, placing it at the forefront of innovation for smart home solutions. Although a bit late to the direct-to-consumer marketplace, Google’s heavy investment in AI has it marching into battle with a fully loaded arsenal. When you have $80 billion in cash, you take a few chances. To have a more direct presence in the home, Google has bought Nest and Dropcam, released Chromecast Audio, Chromecast Video and Google OnHub, and even made their own Amazon competing retail delivery service - Google Express.  Most recently and most loudly, Google has released Google Home, a voice-activated smart home speaker.  Google Home was unveiled earlier this Fall to positive consumer and critical reviews. Like the Echo, you can use Google Home to search the web, set reminders and play music from your Spotify account (as well as other streaming services). However, a major reason behind the introduction of Google Home is defensive. Internet advertising continues to comprise the vast majority of Google’s revenue. And, a large part of that revenue is related to retail.  U.S. internet advertising revenue was at $60 billion in 2015, and growing at 23% quarter-over-quarter in Q4 2015.  Of that $60 billion, 22% was from retail, and another 13% from fields closely related to retail. It is the loss of this revenue that Google is threatened by with Amazon’s smart home successes.  Consumers using devices like Amazon’s Echo and Dash undermine Google’s growth in its search revenue: the more a company like Amazon gets consumers to buy directly through their platforms, the lower the need for individuals to search and browse the web to find products, and the less money Google makes through ad sales. Google must protect their search business at all costs.



The Two Tower Speakers

Amazon Echo and Google Home. Two similarly shaped speakers with similar functionality and similar intent.  So, who will win the “Smart Home Wars?” On the one hand, we have a retail giant with a clear focus on consumers and the ability to churn out innovative products. On the other, a company with, probably, the largest collection of software talent and massive AI skills. Each is fighting for the future of their core business. There are two distinct directions their smart home innovations favor. Amazon is all in for ease of purchase, it’s “one stop shop.” If Amazon makes their shopping experience the most intuitive and convenient, they have a large shot at controlling the retail market. For consumers, however, the captivity of convenience will alleviate pricing pressure on Amazon and lead to higher prices.  At least, prices that are higher than they would otherwise have been. Google is repurposing its basic search engine for smart home products and AI, making it easier for individuals to find the best value for their retail purchases. Google’s investment in AI technology also means that it leads the industry in the most innovative ways to predict what you may want, or need, for your home. The winner may well be decided by whether consumers prefer convenience (Amazon) or whether the ability to find the best deal is more important (Google).


Back to the Smart Future

Conventional wisdom predicts a bright future for smart home products and solutions. It’s still in the early stages, so what shape the products take and what revenue streams the solutions inspire will only unfold in time.  The importance of retail is driving Amazon and Google to make the Echo or Home indispensable, and to try and make them the “hub” of the future smart home. However, the market is young and growing rapidly each year, and there will inevitably be additional competitors in this space - Apple will certainly play a part, Microsoft will likely build something based on Cortana, Samsung and LG are working on voice-based assistants, and other players like AT&T, Comcast, and Sony seem poised to enter the field. Amazon and Google chose the humble speaker.  The ubiquity of speakers and their naturalness for two-way communication through the clever use of voice interface and AI makes this the most compelling effort so far. But they still have a long way to go. While a hub based on home entertainment is persuasive, consumers are still looking for products that can not only replace existing ones, but connect the entire home into one large system. Amazon and Google’s focus on retail and associated aspects of the smart home experience has led to initiatives that do not meet consumers’ complete home entertainment needs. The natural path for the “Next Big Thing” in smart home technology will incorporate comprehensive wireless home entertainment into the hub:  speakers throughout the whole home with multi-channel 5.1 capability, TVs with varying streaming and gaming platforms, and your smart phone, all connected, all on standard Wi-Fi.

The battle is just beginning, with the field, and combatants, not yet fully defined. The war is nowhere near over.

About Rohit Verma - Rohit is the head of  corporate strategy and CFO at Blackfire Research Corp. He has held executive management positions in wireless and software technology companies, as well as management consulting at A.T. Kearney, with an expertise in strategy, corporate finance, and business development. Rohit holds a Ph.D. in economics from The University of Pennsylvania with a focus on strategy, and received his undergraduate degree in computer science and mathematics.
Pitchfork’s “50 Best Holiday Songs of All Time”

Pitchfork’s “50 Best Holiday Songs of All Time”


The Holiday Season has arrived, and with it, come those same, familiar, Christmas songs played nonstop on the radio (and in every store) from Black Friday through New Year’s Day. Even if you’ve developed a frosty attitude towards them over the years, you have to admit, these melodies sure are catchy, and guaranteed to get you settled into the Season of Giving. And, as popular online music journal Pitchfork notes, there are quite a few Christmas tunes that make for excellent music. Check out the link below for Pitchfork’s list of “The 50 Best Holiday Songs of All Time.”

Didn’t see your favorite Christmas song on the list? Add yours in the Comments Section below!