Beyond Thermostats: Ecobee Dreams Of Being A Billion-Dollar Smart Home Giant

Jared Newman for FastCompany:  For the last nine years, Ecobee hasn't strayed from being a maker of smart thermostats.

Unlike rival Nest, Ecobee never built its own smart home platform, and hasn't expanded into new product categories. The $170 Ecobee3 Lite, announced last week, is the company's first new hardware in two years, and it's just a budget variant of the existing Ecobee3, ditching room sensor support while knocking down the price by $80.

So far, the singular focus has served Toronto-based Ecobee well. Thermostats are the most popular type of self-installed smart home devices, according to The NPD Group, and Ecobee—whose revenues have been doubling every year—is not far behind Nest in sales. Ecobee hopes to reach first place in 2017.  Cont'd...

Smart Home Technology Is Revolutionizing The Music Industry

Beth Kotz for Hypebot:  The steady march of progress through technology has radically altered the way many industries operate, and perhaps nowhere is that effect more evident than in the music industry. The movement toward digital media has changed everything from the way music is produced to the way it is discovered, purchased and consumed by listeners.

Now, the Internet of Things, and in particular the rise of interconnected “smart” home technology, promises to once again revolutionize the way the music industry operates and engages with consumers. Rather than being tethered to a PC or laptop, listeners equipped with smart tech can now discover and stream music seamlessly throughout their homes.

The Streaming Revolution

In the not-too-distant past, listeners needed to venture out to the store and purchase a CD in order to enjoy their favorite music. Word-of-mouth recommendations, television and radio were the most common ways to discover new music. With the explosion of streaming, however, a vast universe of music is now placed at users' fingertips for instant, affordable listening.  Cont'd...

3,200 Connected Home Devices At Best Buy

Chuck Martin for IoTDaily:  Any consumers who go shopping specifically for a smart, connected home device this holiday season are going to face a bewildering assortment.

The number of products ranging from smart appliances and home control systems to smart security systems and streaming media devices is now in the thousands at Best Buy alone, according to a new study.

The study on consumer attitudes toward smart appliances is based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 consumers each in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany, conducted by Futuresource Consulting.

Researchers counted more than 3,000 connected home devices being sold at Best Buy. The tally provides a general idea of the largest and smallest categories.  Cont'd...

7 ways to keep your smart home from being hacked

Kari Paul for MarketWatch:  As the recent announcement that 500 million Yahoo email accounts were hacked shows, emails and passwords are never fully safe. On a daily basis, hackers use strategies like phishing scams to steal usernames and passwords, posing as a bank or other legitimate establishment to trick users. Consumers should be wary of any email asking for personal information and always check the sender address to be sure it’s based at the website the sender claims to be (like an email address versus a deceptively similar location like or No measure will guarantee users won’t be hacked (email addresses can even be spoofed, and there are ways to check for this by tracing IP addresses). But a number of actions can be taken to lower the risk of hacking and secure your home.  Cont'd...

Smart Linux Home Hubs Mix IoT with AI

Eric Brown for  Industrial, rather than home, applications will likely dominate the Internet of Things (IoT) market in the years to come. Yet, in the early going, the home automation market has had the greatest visibility. And it hasn’t always been pretty.

Despite steady growth, retail sales have yet to achieve inflated expectations. Too many companies promised and failed to deliver interoperability with a growing catalog of often buggy smart home products. The lack of essential applications, complex installation, and in many cases, high prices, have also conspired against the segment.

Yet the smart home segment appears to be rebounding with the help of maturing technology and IoT interoperability standards. There is particular interest in connecting voice-enabled AI assistants with the smart home in products such as Amazon’s Echo.  Cont'd...

Why Insurance Companies Want to Subsidize Your Smart Home

Stacey Higginbotham for MIT Technology Review:  Insurers such USAA and American Family have lately begun offering to strike a high-tech bargain: wire your home with Internet-connected devices such as a new thermostat, and get a discount on your home insurance policy in return.

Offers like that could speed up the adoption of smart gadgets, revamp the insurance business, and transform how we manage our homes. In the future, your insurer might call a plumber before a pipe bursts, for example. But the data needed to help prevent leaks or burglaries will also introduce new risks, such as vulnerabilities to data loss or ransomware.  Cont'd...

The UK Just Switched on Its Future Smart Home Power Grid

Mike Brown for Inverse:  The world’s first data transmission over a power grid has been successfully completed, paving the way for a decentralized future where smart houses tell each other how much energy they need. The tests, conducted by Reactive Technologies in the UK, sends data along the 50Hz electricity signal that passes through sub-station transformers that link up the country’s grid. The wires themselves have been used to send data before, but it’s getting through those transformers that’s never been done.

“We are keen to support innovative products like this one that can bring a real benefit for customers,” Cordi O’Hara, director of systems operator at National Grid, told The Guardian on Tuesday. “It represents another step forward in the development of the smart grid technologies that are going to play an increasingly important role in the energy systems of the future.”  Cont'd...


This Startup Wants To Smarten Up Your Smart Home Devices

Blake Montgomery for Buzzfeed:  Today, Thington launches. It’s a smart assistant app that aims to simplify smart home devices.

Thington’s distinctive feature? Thington Concierge, a conversational bot that helps you set up and control the smart things you’ve already set up in your home. From weather stations to light switches to security cameras, it supports a range of devices.

With its bot messenger interface, Concierge allows you to create rules for your house. You can set your lights to glow fluorescent during the day and incandescent during the night, or to turn on when you get home. Or, for example, you can program your Nest thermostat to lower the heat while you’re sleeping in your cozy bed, and then to raise the temperature before you wake up. And you can add people to a “Guest List” to give them access to your home’s controls when they’re visiting you. These kinds of combinations and features, Thington founders Tom Coates and Matt Biddulph believe, is their product’s competitive edge: It’s more like an assistant with a personality than a remote.  Cont'd...

9 things Google Home can do that Alexa can't

Taylor Martin for CNet:  Google announced its Amazon Echo competitor back at its I/O developer conference in May. Today, it made Google Home official with arelease date and price.

It also gave us a closer look at how the company plans to compete with the more established household assistant today, Alexa.

While Google has its work cut out in getting broad third-party support that includes other smart-home brands, there is already a healthy list of in-house features Google Home will be capable of out of the gate that Alexa could only hope to add in the future.

Here are nine things Google Home can do that Alexa can't.  Cont'd...

Can Google Catch Up to Amazon and Win the Smart Home Race?

Mathew Ingram for Fortune:  Google is famous for coming to the market late. The search-engine business was well established before it arrived, and yet the company managed to take the lead. It now dominates the category. But can it do the same thing in the smart home?

The web giant is expected to launch a standalone device called simply Google Home on Tuesday, a device that it hopes will become the centerpiece of the smart home, and provide some strong competition for the well-established Amazon Echo. But it will be an uphill battle.  Cont'd...

Step Up Your Smart-Home Security Now

NATHAN OLIVAREZ-GILES for The Wall Street Journal:  Connected cameras and other smart-home devices promise a Jetsons-esque future. But as a recent hijacking of more than 100,000 networked cameras and DVRs demonstrates, they also provide fertile ground for hackers.

“You should make the assumption that anything that’s internet accessible is hackable. If it has a camera or a mic built in, it can be taken over,” said Kenneth White, a security researcher and director of the Open Crypto Audit Project, a nonprofit that promotes cybersecurity.

To protect yourself, you have to have the right perspective. “You need to take this seriously, but not be afraid of it either,” he said. Once you accept that hacking happens, embrace the security at your disposal. Here are some easy tips to help you step up your smart-home defenses:  Cont'd...

Amazon Will Let the Mailman Unlock and Enter Your Smart Home

Mike Brown for Inverse:  Amazon is trialing a new technology that would allow delivery personnel to enter your smart home unaided, dropping off packages and hopefully not eating any grapes on the way out. It’s all thanks to two startups Amazon is reportedly partnering with two startups: Garageio, which makes smart garage doors, and August Home, which makes smart locks. The companies are working with the retail giant to give consumers the option at the checkout of granting one-time access to the delivery address.

A report from The Information, which revealed the initiative, explained that the feature could be useful for people concerned with leaving valuable packages on doorsteps. The service could also cut down on waste packaging, as Amazon could cut down on protection necessary for leaving parcels exposed to the elements. Although it’s not clear at this stage when the service will become widely available, Amazon has conducted a small series of tests in the Seattle area.  Cont'd...

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...

Houzz: Consumers Embracing Smart Home Technology

MEGAN SALZANO for HomeWorld Business:  Houzz’s recent home trends survey identified a growing consumer awareness and integration of smart home technology when it comes to home renovations and remodeling.

The survey revealed that 45% of renovating homeowners are incorporating smart technology, systems or devices into their home that can be monitored or controlled via smartphone, tablet or computer. Houzz’s 2016 U.S. Smart Home Trends Survey of nearly 1,000 homeowners in the midst of, planning, or who have recently completed a home renovation project, was conducted in collaboration with CEDIA.

According to the survey, renovated homes are more than twice as likely to include a smart system or device than before the renovation, 51% versus 20%, respectively. In terms of connected product category, the survey showed 25% of homeowners are installing smart devices for security and safety, 18% for entertainment, 14% for climate control and 12% for lighting. It also showed that 30% of upgraded smart home systems or devices can be controlled via a central hub and 26% include voice-controlled features.  Cont'd...

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