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...

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:

The new Echo Dot gives Amazon the top spot in the smart home market

BI Intelligence:  Amazon announced the upcoming release of the second-generation Echo Dot, the smaller version of its popular Echo voice controlled speaker.

The new device will be available starting on October 20and can currently be pre-ordered. The company also announced it would be lowering the price, selling Dots in packages of six or 12, expanding into new markets, and will be offering a white version.

These four announcements will help Amazon drastically increase its total addressable market for the Echo line of products:  Click here for more...

Will Hackers Outsmart the Smart Home? Why Security Needs to Happen at the Design Level

ABI Research:  The advent of home automation and rapid rise of smart home connected devices is seeing some vendors and new startups scramble to become a part of the movement, with ABI Research forecasting 360 million smart home device shipments by 2020. But many companies are leaving major security flaws in the wake of their hurried attempts to penetrate the market, producing products riddled with bugs and unpatched vulnerabilities. Ignoring cybersecurity at the design level provides a wide open door for malicious threat actors to exploit smart home products.

“We see an alarming increase in ransomware in smart TVs and IP cameras, code injection attacks, evidence of zero-day threats, and password eavesdropping for smart locks and connected devices,” says Dimitrios Pavlakis, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “The current state of security in the smart home ecosystem is woefully inadequate. Smart home device vendors need to start implementing cybersecurity mechanisms at the design stage of their products.”

Numerous attack vectors have been identified in popular smart home communication protocols, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi. Many companies are creating and selling easy-to-tamper smart locking systems, easy-to-hack sensor systems, and products that host a plethora of software vulnerabilities.  Cont'd...

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...

The Apple Home arrives next week but it won't change the smart home market as we know it

BI Intelligence:  At its September event, Apple announced a new iPhone 7, equipped with faster processing, a better camera, and added features.

Additionally, the tech giant announced that iOS 10, the next version of its iPhone operating system, will be available for download on September 13. This means Apple Home will become a native app available on compatible iPhones with iOS 10 onSeptember 13.

The Home app, which manages compatible devices, is the final and central part of the Apple smart home ecosystem. The app is built off the Apple HomeKit developer framework, which was released in 2014, and it aims to conquer technological fragmentation within the smart home ecosystem.

When testing the new system, BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, found that many of the devices were simple plug-and-play devices.  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:

Mark Zuckerberg made a smart home AI and it's almost finished

JACOB KLEINMAN for TechnoBuffalo:  Back in January, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his personal challenge for the year would be to develop an artificial intelligence capable of controlling his house similar to J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man. Now the Facebook CEO says he’s almost ready to show off the new AI.

“I hope to have a demo, hopefully next month,” he said during a Facebook Town Hall Q&A session broadcast live from Rome on Monday, August 29.

Zuckerberg’s AI is capable of controlling the house, including connected lights and thermostat. It was developed with help from Facebook engineers and uses voice recognition along with face recognition software. So it can do things like open the gate to his house without needing to receive a specific command first.  Cont'd...

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...

Bosch shoulders into the smart home with three new products and IFTTT

Andrew Gebhart for CNet:  Back in 2014, Bosch introduced the Home Connect app with the intention of making it an all encompassing solution. At this year's IFA trade show in Berlin, the German company is bringing that dream closer to fruition.

Bosch showed off three new products and announced integration with online rules platform IFTTT at this morning's press conference. It shows the company's intention to make a concerted push into the smart home with its own products, while allowing the system to remain open to wider integration.  Cont'd...

Sonos Is Adding Third-Party App Support

Janko Roettgers for Variety:  Sonos is finally going beyond its own app: Spotify users will soon be able to control their Sonos speakers straight from the Spotify app, the company announced at an event in New York Tuesday. Support for Spotify Connect will be added “in the coming weeks,” said Sonos head of Software development Antoine LeBlond.

Previously, Sonos owners had to access Spotify’s service through the Sonos app, which essentially meant that they had to switch between two apps for listening to music at home and on the go. With the new third-party app integration, Spotify’s app is also getting the ability to manage zones, meaning that consumers will be able to decide which speakers the music will play on.  Cont'd...

Read Sonos Press Release here:

Lowe's integrates Amazon Alexa into its smart home hub to control lights, temperature with voice commands

Nat Levy for GeekWire:  Lowe’s is the latest company to take advantage of Alexa, the digital brain that powers Amazon Echo.

The home improvement giant earlier this week began rolling out voice-integrated skills for Iris, its smart home system. The new skills allow users to control Iris devices throughout the house with the sound of their voice. That means users can now say things like, “Alexa, set the temperature to 72 degrees,” or “Alexa, turn on the ceiling fan.”

Lowe’s makes a host of smart products under its Iris division, and not all of them are Alexa-integrated yet. For now it’s mostly thermostats, fans and light switches.  Cont'd...

Coldwell Banker Introduces First-Ever Smart Home Staging Kit

Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC, the original Silicon Valley real estate start-up, today announced that it has signed a supplier agreement with Worthington Group, Ltd., to directly supply the industry's first Smart Home Staging Kit directly to sellers who list their homes with Coldwell Banker®. 
The Smart Home Staging Kit, available on Worthington Group's smart home staging website, allows participating sellers to enhance their homes and meet the guidelines of the newly released Smart Home Definition that was jointly developed by Coldwell Banker and CNET, the leading online technology reviewer. Coldwell Banker agents can then market qualified properties as a Smart Home bearing a Smart Home icon on the listing and inclusion on the brand's smart home resource site, coldwellbanker.com/smarthome.  Full Press Release:
 

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...

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