Bluetooth speakers drive growth in home audio, says firm

The home audio market (wireless speakers, soundbars, Hi-Fi systems, A/V receivers and speaker docks) grew by 22% to ship 71 million units. Trade value also grew by 22%, generating just under US$10 billion worth of revenues in 2014, according to Futuresource Consulting.

Wireless speakers and soundbar shipments exceeded market expectations and accounted for the lion's share, far outweighing the decline in demand for traditional audio devices i.e. A/V receivers and Hi-Fi systems. The wireless speaker market was fuelled by strong growth in Bluetooth speakers in the lower end of the price spectrum and multi-room audio at the premium end.

Home audio devices increasingly offer wireless functionality and shipments with this feature grew by 93% from 27 million units in 2013 to 53 million units in 2014. Futuresource said it predicts that virtually all home audio devices will be wireless by 2019.

Icontrol Adds Analytics for Smarter Homes

Mari Silbey for LightReading:  If the first phase of the smart home is about adding sensors to light bulbs and door locks, the second phase is about collecting and analyzing data to make the smart home even smarter. Icontrol is moving on to the second phase, announcing that it has teamed up with Canadian company mnubo to bring data analytics to its popular smart home platform.

There's been no question that analytics will play a large role in connected homes of the future. It's a short leap from telling your home to flip the lights when the front door opens to having the smart home system understand that a door opening means the lights should come on, or that at 6 p.m. the family is headed home and the lights and temperature should be adjusted accordingly. With data collected over time, a machine learning system for the smart home can start to predict user preferences.

Icontrol believes it has an advantage in this emerging phase of the market because its scale means it has more data to work with than many of its competitors. The company is the dominant platform provider in the US cable industry, and Icontrol says its software is already tracking more than 26 million sensors and devices. The platform is expected to manage more than 100 billion transactions worldwide in 2015.  Cont'd...

Play with 100 smart home gadgets at new Sears showroom

By Benny Evangelista for SF Gate:  Sears is trying to connect with the Bay Area’s tech-savvy crowd with a smart home device showroom in its San Bruno store.

The retail chain opened a 4,000-square-foot Connected Solutions showroom in its Tanforan mall outlet this week, giving customers an Apple Store-style experience with more than 100 smart home gadgets, from video doorbells to Internet-connected garage door openers and light bulbs.

Sears is also building smaller showrooms with about half the number of products in 200 stores around the country. But Sears wanted to plant its flagship showroom near Silicon Valley.

Legrand Debuts New Home Automation Platform Intuity

By Howard Whitman for Dealerscope:  Electrical and digital building infrastructure specialist Legrand has unveiled Intuity, its new home automation platform specifically developed for homebuilders.

According to the company’s announcement, Intuity was created to give “production homebuilders and installers serving the mainstream housing market a cost-effective, modular and repeatable solution for controlling entertainment, security and comfort within a home.”

“Homeowners today expect connectivity and control in new homes,” stated Legrand VP & General Manager for its On-Q and NuVo lines Fritz Werder. “Most new homebuyers are making home automation a priority. Intuity gives builders a unique, easy-to-install platform that meets buyer expectations without delaying the building process.”

Werder said Intuity was created to provide homebuilders with a modular, easy-to-sell home ecosystem that would support homeowners’ most-requested home technologies. Cont'd...

One Quarter of Millennials Have Begun Building Smart Homes and Four-in-Ten Want One, According to The NPD Group

Millennials are on the road to building smarter homes. According to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Home Automation Advisory Service, Millennials are twice as likely as the total population to have a smart home product installed in their residence.
The array of smart home products evaluated include network connected security and monitoring devices, sensors, system controllers, smart lighting, power, and appliances. One-in-four Millennials (23 percent) already installed at least one of these products in their homes, compared to 12 percent of the total population. Millennials will continue to drive the growth in this market as four-in-ten (41 percent) of this age group are already aware of and interested in owning smart home products.
A key factor that is driving this early growth is that the smart home market is no longer just for home owners. Renters are as likely as home owners to have smart home products installed, and are three times more likely to be part of the millennial age group. More than a third of renters are between the ages of 18-34.
“Today’s smart home products no longer require professional installation and ongoing subscriptions, many are now plug-and-play options,” said John Buffone, executive director, Connected Intelligence. “The product mix such as smart cameras, lights, and plugs, fits the lifestyle of both home owners and renters which opens up a larger, younger and more tech-savvy consumer market.”

With layoffs at Leeo and Wink for sale, is the smart home crumbling?

by Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  Early adopters, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have bought into the idea of a smart home, but mainstream consumers haven’t.

Leeo, a company that makes a connected nightlight that doubles as a smoke detector for the mobile era and has raised $37 million in funding, laid off about 30% of its staff Wednesday. Earlier this month, we reported that product manufacturing shop Quirky was unwilling to support its home hub software company Wink and it has put it up for sale, according to sources. Meanwhile, a home automation management device built by startup Ninja Blocks failed to raise funding and shut down.

Smart home startups like Goji and Plum are so late to market with their products that supporters who gave them money through their crowd-funding campaigns have given up on them. Goji’s smart lock was supposed to ship 18 months ago. Now the company is only shipping a small number of locks and plans to fulfill all other orders by August. Plum, a connected Wi-Fi light switch maker founded by the former head of CEDIA, the trade association for professional home automation installers, announced its product in early 2013 and plans to ship later this year. They were supposed to be ready in August 2013.

With $454 million invested in connected home companies last year, there is plenty of money riding on the smart home. According to CB Insights data, smart home startups took in a little over $1 billion in funding between 2012 and 2014.  Cont'd...

Nest Has Released a Better Dropcam Called Nest Cam

Nest, the prized home automation company acquired by Google, is showing off its own acquisitions.

It’s another indication that the five-year-old company, led by its ambitious CEO Tony Fadell, is trying to cement itself as the leader of the emerging connected device industry and sell itself as autonomous from its big parent.

At a press event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Nest announced its third product, Nest Cam, a wireless home camera retailing for $199, joining its digital thermostat and smoke detector. Along with the new camera, Nest announced its own cloud service called Nest Aware, a $10-per-month subscription service that lets you store footage captured with the camera.

The new Nest Cam captures video in 1080p HD, is supposedly simpler to set up and boasts advanced low-light video-capture capabilities. Nest also unfurled several software and product flourishes for its Internet-connected flagship products, the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke detector.

Full Article:

Alarm.com sets terms for $98 million IPO

Alarm.com Holdings, a cloud-connected home security and energy platform with 2.3 million subscribers, announced terms for its IPO on Monday. 
The Vienna, VA-based company plans to raise $98 million by offering 7 million shares at a price range of $13 to $15. At the midpoint of the proposed range, Alarm.com would command a fully diluted market value of $669 million. 
Alarm.com, which was founded in 2000 and booked $176 million in sales for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015, plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol ALRM. Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and BofA Merrill Lynch are the joint bookrunners on the deal. It is expected to price during the week of June 22, 2015.

Google Nest Labs' New Home Security Camera Revealed

Google Inc.’s GOOGL Nest Labs is gearing up to release a wireless home security camera to expand its range of "Internet of Things" (IoT) product lineup. The information became public through leaked images on U.S. website Droid-Life.
The revelation comes a week before Nest’s press conference on Jun 17 in London and San Francisco, CA, where it is slated to unveil the next-generation of the wireless camera Dropcam, called the Nest Cam.
Droid Life noted that Nest and Google have been testing the new camera for some months now. The images reveal that the camera looks similar to a Dropcam, which Nest Labs acquired in June last year for $555 million in cash. Dropcam is a video-monitoring and Internet home security camera maker.
Nest Cam is the latest development of Google’s Nest brand since it acquired the home automation startup in Jan 2014 for $3.2 billion. Nest Labs focuses on offering simple and aesthetically pleasing hardware, software and services, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Energy Services and Nest Protect: Smoke + Carbon Monoxide.

In The U.S. Smart Home Market, Don't Rule Out China

Jim Kim for TechCrunch:  The smart home industry won’t be advanced by throwing as many sensors into a device as possible or creating a robot controlled by voice commands. Similarly, the industry isn’t waiting for a breakthrough technological advance to finally achieve its potential. The technologies essential to developing smart home products — Bluetooth and product sensors that make up the Internet of Things — aren’t new; they’ve been around for decades.
To establish market dominance, companies must develop ecosystems or a unified platform of elegant user experiences to enable the convergence of the full range of smart devices.
Asian consumer electronics companies, especially recent Chinese wunderkinds such as Xiaomi have been building a tremendous production advantage based on three key elements: engineering, manufacturing and massive scale.
With rapid innovation cycles that produce high-quality, low-priced goods, Chinese companies have the scale and consumer base to set the standard for interoperability — possibly before they even enter the U.S. smart home market. U.S. companies that want to thrive should redouble their efforts in providing products with real utility to the customer while closely monitoring the progress of Chinese companies. Their very survival could depend on it. 

June Seeks to Change the Kitchen for the Home Cook

Today, the team behind such technologies and products as the iPhone, Apple Watch, GoPro and FitBit have announced the June Intelligent Oven — a powerful and easy-to-use computer-based countertop oven designed to bring the kitchen into the smart home era and make everyone a better cook. 

June combines professional-grade technology with a powerful quad-core processor, built-in camera, sensors and Internet connectivity to take out the guesswork of making perfectly cooked foods. The result is the world's most intelligent oven, and the next evolution in cooking for the digital age. 

June has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group, First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures, and Founders Fund Angel to accelerate product development, manufacturing, and recruiting. 

A HomeKit Forecast: From Zero To 180 Million Gadgets By 2020

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  HomeKit is Apple’s attempt to bring sanity to the smart home space (and also sell a lot of iOS devices while they’re at it), but unlike Apple Watch the effort involves a whole bunch of hardware partners. In fact, it’s probably the first major Apple strategic initiative that is as much about other companies hardware as its own, which is what makes HomeKit both so compelling for the industry and challenging for Apple itself.
Compelling because many believe Apple’s entry into the smart home will bring both consumer attention and possibly more coherence to what’s been a fairly fractured market to this point. In my view this may be the biggest impact of HomeKit, alongside putting a core smart home control app on iOS devices.
Long term, we expect HomeKit to become one of the most important platforms for companies building connected devices for the home, to the tune of 180 million HomeKit enabled devices shipping annually by 2020.

This Is Microsoft's Big Secret Windows 10 Feature

John Patrick Pullen for Time:  When Microsoft announced this week that Windows 10 would be available July 29, Start Button devotees the world over rejoiced. But the return of everyone’s favorite app launcher is just one of many new features rolled into the forthcoming operating system. The biggest and most exciting element added to Windows computers is one that went largely unmentioned: smart home control.
Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other.
“AllJoyn technology is like dial-tone for things,” says Philip DesAutels, a senior director of IoT at The Linux Foundation. What he means is this new protocol harkens back to how when you bought something to plug into your home’s phone jack — an answering machine, a cordless phone, a fax — it would just work. The idea behind AllJoyn is that whatever smart home products you buy, no matter the manufacturer or which wireless method they use to connect, when they get plugged in, they are detected and connected to all the other AllJoyn devices on the network.  Cont'd...

First Apple HomeKit-Certified Smart Home Devices Launch

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  Five startups are announcing the launch of the very first HomeKit-certified devices today. HomeKit is Apple’s standard for how third-party smart home gadgets connect in iOS.
 
These five HomeKit-compliant devices include:
  • Ecobee’s $250 WiFi-connected thermostat.
  • Elgato’s line of sensors that collect data on air quality, humidity, air pressure, temperature as well as energy and water consumption.
  • iHOME’s smart plug that allows users to turn on and off appliances wirelessly.
  • Lutron’s bridge device that connects the HomeKit standard with its connected lighting system.
  • Insteon’s bridge device that connects its massive catalogue of existing home automation devices with HomeKit.
Each of these device makers had to go through Apple’s MFi (“Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad”) program to achieve certification. Apple requires device makers to install an authentication chip in their product as well as go through extensive usability testing to make sure the products live up to Apple’s lofty standards.

IKEA's Building a Super Cheap and Versatile Smart Home System

Adam Clark Estes for Gizmodo:  Smart lighting systems like Philips Hue are futuristic and awesome and, typically, expensive. But IKEA wants to offer this type of technology to the masses. The Swedish flatpack furniture empire is developing an entire smart home system, and it looks futuristic and awesome and, you guessed it, cheap.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. IKEA’s been inching into the home electronics business very deliberately, and it’s only natural that it would want to upend the burgeoning smart home market. Creating with a connected lightbulb system makes good sense. We already saw IKEA’s affordable, motorized sit/stand desk last fall. Then, came IKEA’s versatile and customizable wireless charging system that hit stores this spring. But next fall, the so-called Home Smart II Lighting Collection will take things to a new level.
At least, IKEA says it’s going to do this. I recently visited IKEA’s headquarters in Älmhult, where the company was showing off all kinds of new goodies, from vegetarian meatballs to couches made out of paper. At an event that I can only describe as a science fair for furniture, I learned a little bit about how the new lighting system will work. Since I didn’t test the products themselves, I’ll offer you IKEA’s description of the system, which is being developed in collaboration with Frog Design.  Cont'd...

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