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Smart Devices For Smart Homes


Every year 549.5 million smart home devices are expected to be delivered worldwide. This corresponds to a growth of 26.8 percent compared to the previous year, according to figures from IDC market researchers. Especially in the market for intelligent assistants, the competition is getting tougher. Today, we are taking a closer look at how sales figures are developing, which smart assistants are popular and whether Amazon, Google or Apple will dominate.

The two dominant categories in this area are Smart Speakers and video entertainment products. They will account for 71 percent of the market this year and will have an annual growth rate of 12 percent through 2022, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker. The video entertainment segment, i.e. primarily smart TVs and digital media adapters, will account for the largest share of the smart home market. IDC also expects strong growth in the area of intelligent home surveillance and smart security solutions.

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Smart TVs

The television set is the heart of many homes. That's why manufacturers and platform vendors are competing by building intelligent assistants and other over-the-top services into these devices. Currently, Alexa from Amazon is leading the way in this area. But the Google Assistant is likely to become dominant in the future as more and more international brands support it and customers already know it from their smartphones. As a result, the demand for the Google Assistant on televisions is expected to rise soon.

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Nevertheless, the number of delivered televisions or digital media adapters with smart assistants is still small, he said, because intelligent speakers have so far dwarfed the other form factors that can be used with smart assistants at home. This trend is set to change soon, as more and more entertainment devices with built-in intelligent assistants are now coming onto the market. Amazon already presented its Fire TV Cube with Alexa and LG showed a whole range of new TV sets with Google Assistant.

In addition to razor-sharp images up to UHD and OLED, smart TVs are also characterized by their energy efficiency and advanced technology. Some Smart TVs are equipped with voice and counter control, which enables operation by voice instructions or hand movement. In addition to these revolutionary features, the Smart TV can be connected to the home router, so that the media and application diversity of modern Smartphones can also be enjoyed on TV. Control via apps or browser is possible. Apps work similarly to those on the smartphone. Some apps are pre-installed. It must be noted that paid services can usually only be used via app (e.g. Spotify). When using a browser, the Internet pages are displayed as on a PC if there is no app for the desired service. However, not all Smart TVs have browsers. One of the central features of Smart TVs is networking with other devices.

For example, it is possible for the Smart TV to transfer its program received via cable, satellite or antenna to other devices in the network - such as Smartphones or tablets. This allows flexible reception throughout the house, such as on the terrace or in bed. Streaming from other storage devices connected to the network is also possible. The TV receives the data as a data stream and the desired content can be selected via the on-screen menu. Some newer devices in the smart home also serve as a smart home control center, through which all devices in the smart home can be controlled. For example, the newer Smart TV's have integrated security solutions that allow, for example, HD feeds from surveillance cameras to be streamed directly to the TV.

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Blu-ray Players

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Blu ray players are in high demand despite the increasing popularity of video streaming platforms on the Internet. Ultra-HD quality is easily brought into the living room by Blu-ray Discs. Compared to streaming, they even have some advantages. However, in order to take advantage of these benefits, you need the right Blu-ray player to enjoy the film. Our recommendations for 4K & Full HD devices can be found in our article. The recommendations are based on tests and estimations of Amazon users. The advantages and disadvantages of Blu-rays compared to DVDs and streaming services are explained in the video.

Blu-rays have advantages over internet streaming, for example the independence from a fast internet connection or the availability, which is often limited for some movies and series, especially in Germany. Content is usually only available for a limited time on platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and the selection varies from provider to provider. In addition, the picture and sound quality of films on Blu-ray is currently even better.

The big disadvantage of Blu-rays is their price, however, because a current movie on Ultra HD Blu-ray costs over 30 Euros and thus twice the monthly subscription with streaming providers. Who sets nevertheless on Blu ray, still has the selection between Playern in different equipment and in several price ranges. With our recommendations we orient ourselves at expert opinions and at customer reviews. In addition we took the best-sellers of the Blu ray Player on Amazon under the magnifying glass and evaluated it on the basis our own criteria.

What else can I do with my Blu-ray player?

Current Blu-ray players score points not only in the quality of picture and sound, but also with various additional functions: Bonus view or picture-in-picture is the ability of the player to insert a video commentary or similar into the running movie. In addition, almost all devices support BD-Live and thus a feature with which you can load additional content to Blu-ray from the Internet. Depending on the disc, these are documentaries, trailers or games. The playback of compressed multimedia files from a USB memory, i.e. a memory stick or an external hard drive, is also part of the standard repertoire today. Moreover, many, though not all models, can be connected to the home network via LAN or WLAN if you want to stream content from local servers, for example from a NAS disk. You can also access online services such as YouTube, Netflix, Maxdome or social networks like Facebook and Twitter with increasing frequency. But: Blu-ray players usually don't offer you the range of functions of smart televisions. Of course, Blu-ray players also accept self-burned BD blanks from Blu-ray burners.


Smart Speakers

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The competition for dominance in the intelligent loudspeaker segment is becoming increasingly fierce. Intelligent loudspeakers are one of the most important applications for smart assistants. The interest and popularity of these devices and platforms is growing rapidly, which is said to be mainly due to the major marketing campaigns of Amazon, Google and Apple.

Amazon's Alexa speakers continue to hold the lion's share of the market. But Google is gaining on us and shows that this gap can be closed quite quickly. Apple, on the other hand, is struggling with sluggish sales of its HomePod, due to the high prices and poorer performance of its smart assistant platform Siri compared to Alexa and Google Assistant.



Portable Audio Recorders


Field recorders, i.e. compact recording devices that record on memory cards, have been around for about 10 years. A lot has changed during this time.

What is a mobile digital recorder?

A mobile digital recorder is a portable device for recording audio signals such as voices, instruments or sounds. Mobile digital recorders are also called field recorders.
What are the differences between mobile digital recorders?

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Mostly "handheld recorders" are used, which have built-in microphones for recording. There are many differences. This starts with the number of inputs and separately recordable tracks, there are different storage media, recording formats, display sizes and resolutions, and many different extras.

Battery life has improved dramatically, and practically every device can now last for more than 10 hours on one charge. The quality of the microphone capsules that are built in or supplied with the device has also improved steadily. Many field recorders finally offer level stable line inputs - important for desk recording! In addition, memory cards have become bigger and cheaper, so that today you can record many, many hours of audio material even without MP3 compression. And the devices have become faster. While the first field recorders sometimes had yawningly long boot times, current models are ready for use within seconds. Important for spontaneous recordings!
 
By the way, there has also been a change in batteries: Eneloop battery packs with reduced self-discharge are highly recommended for mobile recording devices. This means that the field recorder remains immediately ready for use even after a long period of non-use.

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Network Attached Storage

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For many years, the topic "NAS" was only discussed in small or medium sized companies of professional home users. Today, however, network storage is on everyone's lips, as the topic of "data security" has become much more important in recent years. A NAS server is nothing else than a network storage. NAS" stands for Network Attached Storage, which means "network attached storage". Here, several (at least 2) hard disks are located in a small housing, which has a CPU as well as main memory, similar to a small PC. Of course, there are still some NAS servers with only one hard disk, but this is less useful for a NAS, as the HDDs (Hard Disk Drive) have an increased risk of failure here, as they do not support RAID, but more about this later in the article. Since you can now not only store your data on a NAS, but also use it as a multimedia center, it has become very interesting even for beginners in this field. The great feature is that you can control your NAS completely without your own screen via your browser on your PC. You also have the possibility to access your data no matter where you are in the world.

A NAS server can be used as a backup solution or media center for downloading files or streaming music and videos.

Being used as a backup solution or data center makes NAS servers also interesting for individuals and small businesses.

Rather aim for contrast: In contrast to cloud services, users of a NAS server always have the upper hand when it comes to data protection and security issues.

It shows its strengths especially when large amounts of data need to be accessible on multiple devices.

Many models can be specially adapted for the respective purpose or retrofitted at a later date.



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