Apple fans hope to see iTV at WWDC

Apple TV 1080p (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
Apple TV 1080p (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
Apple TV rear panel (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
Apple TV rear panel (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
Apple TV remote (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
Apple TV remote (image courtesy Apple Inc. ©2012)
BeClose dashboard (courtesy BeClose ©2012)
BeClose dashboard (courtesy BeClose ©2012)

Next week, the city of San Francisco will host the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), an annual gathering that gives developers an in-depth look at the latest in iOS and Mac OS X. As always, speculation about which new products will be unveiled has Apple fanboys in a frenzy.

The debut of the iPhone 5 is not anticipated. More likely is the launch of a thinner than ever before, re-designed MacBook Pro notebook line, featuring solid state hard drives and Intel's Ivy-bridge family of processors. Details about iOS 6 and an improved version of Siri are also expected to be forthcoming.

But what about Steve Jobs' trademark "one more thing?" If CEO Tim Cook adheres to his predecessor's format, what super-cool item will he save for last? Many are hoping it will be the Apple iTV, a full-size HD television set powered by an Apple-designed user interface.

Last week, at Walt Mossberg's All Things Digital (D10) conference, Apple's CEO hinted that the company was pondering an expansion of its TV offerings. Cook, however, declined to say one way or the other whether Apple was ready to start manufacturing big-screen TVs.

Apple's current foothold in video home entertainment is Apple TV, a set-top box featuring 1080p programming from iTunes, Netflix, and Vimeo. The cloud-based system also allows you to rent/purchase movies or buy TV shows from the iTunes Store, all of which can be viewed on a connected HDTV.

Apple TV currently offers over 15,000 movies and over 90,000 TV episodes. The user interface also offers live sports from MLB, NBA and NHL, as well as Internet content from YouTube and Flickr. You can also access purchased content you have stored on your iOS devices.

With AirPlay, you can even stream or mirror content from an iPad or iPhone to Apple TV, and  by using the Remote App, a free download available from the App Store, you can control Apple TV with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

I still think the Roku 2 XD has the advantage when it comes to content (see this Fox 8 Morning News video), particularly if you have Amazon Prime. Roku, however, doesn't offer AirPlay, support a wired Ethernet connection, or provide an optical audio output connection (S/PDIF). Apple TV does.

If you already own one or more iOS devices and don't care about Amazon Instant Video, free movies on Crackle, or the hundreds of special interest channels offered by Roku, Apple TV is probably the way to go. It fits beautifully into the iTunes-iOS device ecosystem.

Apple TV
has a suggested retail price of $99. Also required are a wireless/wired broadband Internet connection, an HD TV capable of 1080p/720p resolution, and an HDMI cable.

That takes care of the present. Now, let's see what happens onstage next week at Moscone West. Stay tuned.

Wireless system provides peace-of-mind for caregivers

We've all see the TV commercial where an elderly lady falls down and can't get up. If only she was wearing a personal alert pendant. Help would be there with the press of a button.

A wireless transmitter worn like a necklace seems like a good idea, but is this really the best way to provide emergency assistance for seniors living alone?

BeClose
believes they have a better solution. The company offers an affordable wireless system comprised of a base unit and wireless sensors placed throughout the house. Once installed, the system actually learns the subject's daily routines, so significant changes do not go unnoticed.

After about two weeks, the subject's activities and patterns (eating, sleeping, comings and goings) are compiled into a baseline, called the dashboard, which authorized parties can access via the Internet. The web page also allows the system to be configured remotely.

Thereafter, if a deviation from the norm occurs, the dashboard displays alerts in red (causes of concern), yellow (notable events), or green (routine events). If it's a red alert, the software can also generate a text, email, or phone call.

Studies show that personal emergency response systems based simply on wearing a wireless panic button don't always work in real-life situations. The subject might not be wearing the device when a mishap occurs, might be too disoriented to press the button, or might be reluctant to have police or EMT personnel rush to the scene and break down the door.

BeClose is passive in nature, so the subject's inability or reluctance to "pull the trigger" never comes into play. The base station is totally wireless, the monitored apartment or home doesn't need an Internet connection, and the system doesn't use or interfere with land line telephone service.

The system can be equipped with wall-mounted alarm buttons, panic pendants, bed sensors, chair sensors, toilet seat sensors, motion sensors, water sensors, and door sensors, all battery-powered.

Although additional features are in the works, BeClose currently does not offer video surveillance, audio monitoring, or confirmation that subjects are taking their medication.

Systems start at $299 (with 3-sensors), plus $49/month (with 12-month contract) for the cellular monitoring service. Additional buttons and sensors are $75 each. For more information, visit BeClose.com.