Here's Why You're Paying $200 to Rent a Clunky TV Set-Top Box

Todd Shields for Bloomberg:  Imagine watching TV without paying the cable company for the blinking set-top box, using a gadget of your choice that makes it easy to switch between cable channels, streaming programs and online shows.

The idea, simple in concept, is proving difficult in execution.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is pushing a plan to force cable companies to give up their control over set-top boxes, "unlocking" the marketplace as he puts it.

But he’s drawn opposition from lawmakers in both parties, not to mention some of the most active corporate lobbyists in Washington. Comcast Corp. and the cable industry -- which stands to lose $20 billion a year in box rentals -- say it’s unnecessary and are fighting it. So are Hollywood studios, DirecTV owner AT&T Inc., and CBS Corp. Even a fellow commission Democrat said Wheeler’s plan set for a Sept. 29 vote is flawed.  Cont'd...

Apple Stepping Up Plans for Amazon Echo-Style Smart-Home Device

Mark Gurman & Ian King for Bloomberg:  Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant, according to people familiar with the matter.

Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects. Like Amazon Inc.’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said. Apple hasn’t finalized plans for the device and could still scrap the project.

If a product reaches the market, it would be Apple’s most significant piece of new hardware since the company announced the Apple Watch in 2014.  Cont'd...

Raspberry Pi Home Automation System Hits Kickstarter

Julian Horsey for GeekyGadgets:  Zip The Fish has created a new Raspberry Pi adapter which has been specifically designed to enable a wide variety of home automation features allowing you to transform any property from a single small room to a large hotel smarter, say its developers.

Watch the promotional video linked below to learn more about the Zip The Fish Pi home automation system which has been specifically designed for the Raspberry Pi.

Main Features of the Zip The Fish Pi include :

– More power for PI – Three different power supplies up to 3A each.
– Micro USB power supply input
– Uninterruptible power supply: Seamless switching between three power sources. There is the possibility to connect small or large batteries – a special chip takes care of battery health, including charge and protection.

Full article and video:

A series of tubes: What's next for home automation

Peter Sayer for PCWorld:  "A series of tubes" is one of the most famous explanations of what makes the internet work, but it's also what many Europeans use to heat their homes. That's made room-by-room heating automation difficult -- until now.

Heating systems in Europe typically circulate hot water from a boiler to radiators around the home, with the pump and boiler controlled by a central thermostat. Programmable timers can boost the temperature on winter evenings or lower it at night.

Generally, though, such control is an all-or-nothing, whole-home affair, making it impossible to heat the living room only in the evening but warm the bathroom for a morning shower. Smart controllers like Nest and its European competitors Tado and Netatmo can't change that, as the series of tubes in most homes doesn't allow for independent control of different heating zones.  Cont'd...

L U C Y Smart Home Assistant Launches On Kickstarter

Oliver Winkler has designed and developed the new smart home assistant that incorporates a touchscreen display, together with camera and voice control technology to help you manage your life.
The L.U.C.Y. home assistant has this week launched via Kickstarter with the aim of raising €100,000 and is available to back with pledges starting from just €358 for early bird backers.

L.U.C.Y. takes the form of a 17 inch display complete with companion application. Watch the promotional video below to know more about what L.U.C.Y. is capable of providing and how she can help your day run even smoother.  Kickstarter Page:

Sony's Xperia Agent robot is a cute, friendly smart-home butler

Raymond Wong for Mashable:  Sony has reintroduced the Xperia Agent at tech showcase IFA 2016, adding some new tricks, including the ability to connect to a smart coffee machine to make you a caffeinated cup.

Also, the last time we saw Sony's adorable little personal home-assistant robot, Xperia Agent, it didn't have a screen on its body. Now it does.

The Xperia Agent is still at concept stage, but it's getting more and more smart-home features as it edges towards the production line.

Sony showed off how it could now connect to a Nestlé smart coffee machine and serve up a caffeine fix at your command. 

It's really no more special than pushing a button on a smartphone app and having a connected machine start dripping out coffee, but it's undeniably more fun to see a small robot do so, while dancing along on your counter and blasting out notifications, such as the time and weather.  Cont'd...

Best Buy Finally Figures Out the Internet

Shelly Banjo & Shira Ovide for BloombergGadfly:  Best Buy's quarterly financial results on Tuesday were downright Amazon-like: Consecutive quarters of double-digit online sales growth. Hot new products including virtual-reality headsets and techy watches. Words like "exploration" and "experimentation."

Gone were the store-closing announcements of quarters past, along with talk of bad weather or other tired excuses for why consumers aren't shopping (many of which we've heard from Target, Macy's and other retailers in recent weeks). Shares surged 19 percent on the news, marking Best Buy's biggest one-day stock gain since 2001.  Cont'd...

Genesis Teams Up With Amazon To Bring Connected Cars To Connected Homes

PR Newswire:  "Did I lock the car?" "How can I warm up my car on a snowy morning without going outside, get my news and still get to work on time?" These are questions that can leave many car owners feeling frazzled. But not G80 and G90 owners, as Genesis is the first automaker to launch an Alexa skill, allowing remote voice commands to control connected cars. Genesis Connected Services can take care of these tasks and more from inside the home using the Alexa voice service on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. The new Alexa skill for Genesis is available today across Alexa-enabled devices.

"We're excited to bring the convenience of voice and Alexa to the Genesis G80 and G90," said Steve Rabuchin, vice president, Amazon Alexa. "With this innovative Alexa implementation, customers can now start their car, and get the heat going all just by asking Alexa from the comfort of their own home. We can't wait for our customers to try it out."  Cont'd...

Consider the Audience: Your Presentation Is About Informing, Persuading, Not Selling

Whether your executive has been asked to make a one-hour keynote or be part of a five-person panel session, here's a dirty little secret … smart speakers don't try to fill the allotted time!

HoloLens concept lets you control your smart home via augmented reality

By Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  There’s no doubt that device-filled connected smart homes are on the way. The real question is how we’re going to control them.

That was the starting point of a nifty proof-of-concept project created by interaction designer Ian Sterling and software engineer Swaroop Pal during a recent HoloLens hackathon in San Francisco. Their augmented reality pitch shows how smart devices could be controlled with glances and gestures — in what Sterling calls a “virtual Zen mode,” complete with calming lights and sounds.  Full Article:

iRobot CEO: Robotics Is An IoT Solution

Meghan Ottolini for CRN:  Could robotics provide solutions that would help the Internet of Things to go mainstream? iRobot CEO Colin Angle believers IoT-integrated robots can solve issues around IoT device mapping and maintenance.  “In order for the Internet of Things to work, we need maps,” Angle said. “We need to understand where all these devices are. We need to maintain them, and a robot can do that on its own every day.”

Angle used the example of the simple Roomba robot, which quickly learns where walls meet and furniture lies.  “While it’s doing that, why not build a map?” Angle proposed.

That way, as the Roomba cleans, it can also test whether connected lights are still operative. That type of robot can also be used to turn lights on and off depending on room usage to save energy.  Cont'd...

Are prices driving away potential smart home consumers?

DAVID CURRY for ReadWrite:  Almost every product in the house now has a smart alternative, Nest revolutionized the thermostat and smoke detector, August built a smartphone connected door lock, and Samsung launched a smart fridge.

Even with the abundance of smart alternatives, Lux Research says there is still disconnect between the consumer and manufacturer. Price is the most obvious issue, despite manufacturers lowering prices in the past year, they are still too high for consumers that aren’t fully invested in the usefulness of smart home devices.

Lux Research also argues that retrofitting may have helped major smart home firms like Nest and Samsung keep customers on board. Some, after purchasing first generation tech, decided not to purchase the second generation, either due to cost or lack of additional features.

“Current prices [for smart home appliances] are three times higher and will have to be lower for manufacturers to push smart appliances for mass adoption,” said Jessica Hernández, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report. “Also, businesses can benefit by focusing on retrofit technologies as a bridge for smart appliance adoption, drawing in products such as refrigerators and air conditioners that have a long life cycle.”  Cont'd...

With 7 mini houses, the first Sonos store lets you hear as you would at home

Keith Nelson Jr. for DigitalTrends:  Home is where the heart is and the heart of Sonos’ new 4,200-square-foot retail store is a recreation of the home experience. Located in New York City’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, multiroom audio pioneer’s first ever retail store was built following one core acoustic principle: 50/50. “We wanted a 50/50 environment. 50 percent diffusion and absorption, 50 percent reflective,” said  Whitney Walker, general manager of Sonos Stores, during a tour of the store, referring to the different manners in which sound interacts with the store’s surrounding environment.

The result is a retail store that never feels as if it is trying to sell you anything other than a good listening experience. The highlights of the store are the seven listening rooms, each designed to “recreate that experience of going to somebody’s home” and hearing new music, according to Siegel. Cont'd...

5 hot home theater trends

Marc Saltzman, Special for USA TODAY:  If you don’t know where to start, the following are five trends to consider before your summer Netflix binge session.  4K with HDR:  There’s two things you need to know about 4K TVs.

For one, they look spectacular, due to the fact these televisions deliver four times the resolution of 1080p HD TV – instead of 2 million little dots (“pixels”) that make up the image, we’re talking more than 8 million. There’s so much detail in the picture it’s almost like being there.

Secondly, thanks to falling prices and more 4K content than ever before, there’s never been a better time to invest in 4K TV (otherwise known as “UHD” or “Ultra High Definition”).  Cont'd...

Wink will add Uber, Fitbit, and IFTTT to its smart home controller

Business Insider:  Wink’s smart home controller, known as the Relay, received an update that integrates services from Uber and Fitbit, as well as the capability to communicate with other devices over the If This Then That (IFTTT) protocol, reports PC Mag.

The Relay is a touchscreen device installed on the wall that controls smart home devices connected by Wink. The update will allow users to see how many steps they have taken that day by tapping into their Fitbit data, and allow users to order Uber rides through their controller.

Integrating the IFTTT communication protocol will allow the Wink Relay to send one-time commands to other smart home devices that support the protocol. Users can create specific "recipes" with the protocol to automate specific tasks.  Cont'd...

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