Smart-home technology must work harder to create smarter consumers

Robert S. Marshall for TechCrunch:  Attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year were confronted with a head-spinning volume of smart-home devices. From $5,000 refrigerators that can communicate when you’re running low on milk and eggs, to the ability to control lights, locks and thermostats from your mobile app or TV screen, these products and technologies all show very nicely — until the point when consumers are left to calculate when their smart-home investments will translate into cost savings, energy efficiency and enhanced convenience.

Really smart companies and entrepreneurs have built impressive pieces of the smart-home puzzle, but these pieces have not been connected yet in a way that has, to date, empowered a smarter consumer.

Parks Associates home energy management data released in March 2016 show 70 percent of households with smart-energy devices report saving money due to reduced energy consumption. However, the research firm noted challenges for vendors selling smart-energy devices based on cost savings, as 83 percent of U.S. broadband households do not know the price they are paying for electricity.  Cont'd...

Nest open-sources its home automation network protocol, Thread

Ken Yeung for VentureBeat:  Nest has released an open-sourced version of its Thread protocol, making its home automation network technology more broadly available to developers. The introduction of OpenThread is expected to give parties interested in working with open-source technology all the benefits of building on Thread — allowing them to continue innovating without dealing with the current limitations of the protocol.

This project is the company’s first open-source initiative.

Created by Nest, Samsung, ARM, Atmel, Dialog Semiconductor, Qualcomm Technologies, and Texas Instruments, Thread was intended to be the standard for connected home devices and apps. When it was announced in 2014, the protocol was described as providing a common network language that products like smart thermostats and smoke alarms could use to talk with each other.  Cont'd...

​Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave: Why smart home standards matter

Dan Sung for Wareable:  Wi-Fi has proved to be a really effective way of getting our laptops, our tablets, our phones and even our TVs and stereo systems to talk to the internet but it's not working for the smart home.

The Internet of Things has more subtle needs than these big-batteried, regularly charged or permanently powered items, and clunky old Wi-Fi can't handle the pressure of getting scores of small sensors talking.

You might have heard of names ZigBee, Z-Wave and, more recently, Thread but what do they do? And should be you considering them when planning your smart home? Read on to find out.

Why standards matter:  Let's say you fill your home with connectable devices. They're sitting there - your washing machine, your door lock, your toasted sandwich maker or whatever - and they're bursting with notifications to send to you and to each other.  Cont'd...

Home automation start-up iGloo to raise $7m and hit US after wowing Microsoft

Yolanda Redrup for Financial Review:  An Australian start-up that has developed an app to enable old household appliances to be upgraded for home automation systems, will expand to the US and raise $7 million after impressing executives at tech giant Microsoft. 

iGloo uses Bluetooth technology to enable home heating systems, lights, blinds and other appliances to be controlled by a mobile app. Its development has been buoyed by support from Microsoft after a local executive saw co-founders Kaye Priest and David Cowie presenting it at the Melbourne Home Show two years ago.

The business is now readying to raise $7 million in capital, $5 million of it from the United States, which it intends to get under way once it has established a US office this month.

"Microsoft invited us to their headquarters in Seattle last year and facilitated a meeting between us and the largest manufacturer of gas fires in the United States," Ms Priest told The Australian Financial Review.  Cont'd...

Bowers and Wilkins sells to a tiny home automation startup

Billy Steele for enGadget:  Bowers & Wilkins has been cranking out solid audio gear for the better part of three decades, but it's being acquired by a company that's only been around since 2014. Eva Automation, a Silicon Valley startup founded by former Facebook CFO (and San Francisco 49ers co-owner) Gideon Yu, is the new owner of the audio brand. Little is known about the company other than its 40-person staff has the somewhat vague mission of "making products that will change how people interact and think about the home." Although it has been around for two years, Eva Automation hasn't released any products yet.

The most obvious question is why a trusted name in audio would sell to such a young company. Well, Bowers & Wilkins CEO Joe Atkins hinted at a sale last year before talks with Eva began. Atkins also admitted that the company doesn't have the know-how to build audio gear that leverages the cloud, despite a range of devices that allow users to play music with features like AirPlay. We'll have to wait a while to see any new products, as Yu says the first new gear is planned for mid-2017. Perhaps Amazon's Echowill see some competition next summer.  Cont'd...

5 misguided reasons for asking wireless carriers to manage smart home networks

Ira Brodsky for ComputerWorld:  Last week, a guest editorial by Jerome Rota of Greenwave Systems titled, “How to Bring the ‘Internet of Things’ to Life” appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Rota suggested that wireless operators should manage smart home networks using spectrum acquired in the FCC’s 600 MHz auction. This is a bad idea for several reasons.

1.   “Today a smart home nearly requires an IT specialist.”

The first products based on new technology are often difficult to set up and manage. Mr. Rota’s solution -- having wireless carriers perform these tasks -- could short-circuit the development of more user-friendly products and would saddle consumers with unnecessary monthly fees.  Cont'd...

Samsung Smart Home flaws let hackers make keys to front door

Dan Goodin for ArsTechnica:  Computer scientists have discovered vulnerabilities in Samsung's Smart Home automation system that allowed them to carry out a host of remote attacks, including digitally picking connected door locks from anywhere in the world.

The attack, one of several proof-of-concept exploits devised by researchers from the University of Michigan, worked against Samsung's SmartThings, one of the leading Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for connecting electronic locks, thermostats, ovens, and security systems in homes. The researchers said the attacks were made possible by two intrinsic design flaws in the SmartThings framework that aren't easily fixed. They went on to say that consumers should think twice before using the system to connect door locks and other security-critical components.  Cont'd...

Build A Twitter-Based Home Automation System With A Raspberry Pi

Thorin Klosowski for LifeHacker:  The Pi is hard wired into a home automation board that controls a fan, light, AC and the temperature. It’s then controlled over Twitter direct messages so it’s super easy to check the status or flip the toggle on any of the connected devices. The Twitter link is a pretty handy way to get around some of the programming requirements that would otherwise be required here, so it’s worth taking a look at how it’s done here if you’re making your own home automation controller. Head over to ARM Tutorials for the guide.  

Vivint Smart Home announces $100 million investment

Karissa Neely for Daily Herald: In its first round of venture capital funding, Vivint Smart Home, the Provo-based leading provider of smart home technology and services, announced a $100 million equity investment co-led by tech investor Peter Thiel and investment firm Solamere Capital.

The strategic investment will help fuel Vivint’s rapid growth and product innovation as it extends its preeminent position in the growing smart home market.

A venture capitalist and entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal, Thiel is known for backing transformational technology companies, and was the first outside investor in Facebook and is one of the largest shareholders of Airbnb.

“For Peter and Solamere to place their confidence in Vivint as the smart home leader is a huge validation of what we have built and where we are headed,” said Todd Pedersen, founder and CEO of Vivint Smart Home, in a press release. “The fact that they are investing in our future demonstrates their passion for our business and their vision for this industry. We look forward to working together to redefine the home experience.”  Cont'd...

Logitech's Harmony app will let you control your smart home from your Android TV

Micah Singleton for The Verge:  Logitech wants you to be able to control your smart home from any device, including your TV. The company has released a version of its Harmony remote app for Android TVs. The app, which is in beta, is designed to work with Sony's Android TVs, but will also work with the Nexus Player.

If your smart home is controlled via a Logitech Harmony Hub, you can control just about everything including your lights, thermostat, blinds, and home entertainment system through a nice tile layout straight from your TV. You can download the Harmony for TV app from the Play Store today. And if you don't own a Sony TV and would still like to use the app, Android Police has an APK that can help with that.

Thington, A New Super-Angel-Backed IoT Startup

Mike Butcher for TechCrunch:  Now, a San Francisco-based company, founded by Dopplr founder Matt Biddulph and ex-Yahoo Brickhouse Head of Product Tom Coates is building out a new consumer-facing product that combines Smart Home technology with their expertise in location, social networks and the web of data.

They previously formed Product Club as a way to find a product to build, while doing some consulting along the way. Now they are launching their new startup: Thington.

To do it they have raised Angel funding from some pretty well known tech people and investors,  including Ray Ozzie, Stewart Butterfield, Eric Wahlforss, Joi Ito, Marko Ahtisaari, Saul Klein, Loic Le Meur, Matt Rolandson and Samantha Tripodi. Terms were undisclosed.

“We’re making a better user interface and service layer that is respectful to manufacturers and open and we’re trying to be a couple of generations beyond what other people are doing,” says Coates.  Cont'd...

IHS: Smart home market to present challenges for security companies moving forward

SOURCE: SECURITYINFOWATCH.COM:  Security companies have played a pivotal role in the proliferation of smart home technology from the very beginning, however, these same firms will find themselves challenged in the coming years as several industry developments stand poised to disrupt the market’s status quo, according to a new research note from IHS Technology.

“Moreover, security companies will be challenged in 2017, when UL-compliant Z-wave sensors hit the market. (UL has approved the latest Z-Wave protocol for UL 1023 compliance, which means Z-Wave detectors can soon be used for professional alarm installations.) This milestone is significant, because most existing intruder alarms use one-way radios operating at 300/400 megahertz (MHz),” wrote Blake Kozak, principal analyst at IHS Technology, in the research note. “In order to remain competitive in 2016 and 2017, dealers and service providers need to consider flexible billing models as well as DIY installation with professional monitoring.”  Cont'd...

Smart-Home Suppliers Grow Selections & Connections

Joseph Palenchar for TWICE:  Smart-home suppliers are positioning themselves to get the most out of the market’s growth potential by expanding system capabilities, entering new niches and expanding their product selections.

Companies are also making their products more attractive to consumers by making them interoperable with other suppliers’ products.

The growth potential was underscored by a Parks Associates survey that found almost 20 percent of U.S. broadband households own at least one smart-home device, and a lot more consumers want them. About 49 percent of all broadband households plan to buy a smart-home product in the next 12 months, Parks found. Among consumers who own a security system, that percentage jumps to 65 percent.

“Security households, rather than being content with their current system, have a proclivity to add more smart features to their home,” said Parks president Stuart Sikes.

Here’s what suppliers are doing to leverage demand:  Full Article:

What happens in Zoe stays in Zoe - the privacy-oriented smart home hub

Christian de Looper for DigitalTrends:  The concept of the smart home is well and truly taking off, however there are a few things still holding it back. The smart home hub, for example, is still finding its place — we’ve seen the TV and other devices used used as a hub, but no market consensus has been reached. Not only that, but the more privacy-conscious among us are concerned about the fact that smarthome hubs are constantly beaming your own personal data to and from the cloud.

Zoe, from a company called Protonet, is aimed at changing that.

Zoe is designed to serve as the center for your smart home. The hub itself bears a simple design that can be customized to fit your décor. It is also aimed at being able to connect to every smart home product you might buy, supporting Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and even devices that connect through the cloud.  Cont'd...

Teaako raises $1.8M for smart-home light switches

Taylor Soper for GeekWire:  Seattle-based Deako has raised $1.8 million to help fuel growth of its smart-home light switch product.
The 15-person company raised the fresh cash from a mix of angel investors and micro-VCs, and has reeled in $3.3 million to date. It develops simple switches that let people control lights in their house by either touch or a smartphone app.

Deako’s customers are not home-buyers but rather home-builders and their electricians, who install the product in new homes.

“It’s difficult for people to swap out their existing bulbs,” Deako CEO and co-founder Derek Richardson told GeekWire. “We thought it would be best if a home or apartment already has our product when they move in. Our vision is that everyone should be able to benefit from a smart-home, and the best way to do that is for products to be pre-installed when you move in.”  

Richardson said the idea to launch Deako about one year ago came about after he bought a new house and needed to swap out the light switches. He did research around in-home smart lighting and “everything was ugly, expensive, and complicated.”  Cont'd...

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