Why The Amazon Echo Is The iPhone Of The Smart Home

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  If you’re like me, remembering how different using a mobile phone was back in 2006 is getting increasingly difficult. That’s because today we live in a world so completely transformed by the iPhone, it seems as if it’s always been that way.

But looking back, things were indeed very different. If you used a smartphone at all back then (something the vast majority of consumers did not), chances are it was a Blackberry. If you tried to use the Internet on your phone, you might remember the “mobile Internet” experience, such as it was, was pretty horrible. Most consumers at the time still used basic feature phones, and industry analysts predicted that smartphone adoption would grow, but not at nearly the eye-popping rate we would soon see in the age of the iPhone.

As we now know, the transformative nature of the iPhone quickly changed nearly every assumption we had about mobile phones and, as a result, had a ripple effect that resulted in nearly every company in mobile (and pretty much every industry) changing their own approach to the market.

In many ways, I think the the Amazon Echo is an equally transformative product for the smart home. Whether it’s how early Echo owners are interacting with their device or its how Amazon itself is rewriting the rules of competition,  the two products share a number of industry-disrupting similarities.  Cont'd...

Qolsys Security and Smarthome Platform Approved for Alarm Capital Alliance Dealer Program

Qolsys, provider of best-in-class residential security and smarthome solutions, announced today that its home security and smart home platform has been approved for distribution in the Alarm Capital Alliance (ACA) Dealer Program. This approval allows ACA dealers to offer the most advanced technology to their customers and expands the reach of the Qolsys IQ Panel platform into new residential markets. 
"We've been very impressed with the advanced technology and continuous innovations that Qolsys has brought to the home security industry," said Amy Kothari, President and CEO of ACA. "After offering the IQ Panel solution in a few of our 'My Alarm Center' branches for more than a year, we've been able to deliver attractive features while achieving increased RMR and customer satisfaction. We are pleased to roll this out to our dealer network."   Full Press Release:
 

Smart Home Trial Aimed At Improving Elder Care


Eoin Blackwell for Huffington Post:  Elderly Australians may soon have access to 'home smart' technology that can alert healthcare providers or family if they have taken a fall or not taken medication.

The release of the breakthrough technology follows a joint trial by technology provider Samsung and Deakin University.

Over the next few weeks, five homes in Geelong, Victoria, will be used to test a technology ecosystem specifically designed to help address challenges associated with in-home aged care.

Using small, battery-powered sensors developed by Samsung, the Australian developed Holly Smart Home Project will be able to monitor aged care homes and can alert healthcare providers when strange activity is detected in or around the home.

The sensors are placed around the house -- motions sensors, sensors under the bed for sleep tracking, door sensors, in cupboards, fridges, etc -- and stream information to a program named Holly, whose artificial intelligence coordinates the information to make certain predictions about your behaviour, said Rajesh Vasa, Professor of Software and Technology Innovation at Deakin University.  Cont'd...

Mozilla's New Projects May Lead to Smart Home Virtual Assistant

ANDREW E. FREEDMAN for Tom's Guide:  Move over, Siri and Alexa. Mozilla is working on its own virtual assistant, but not just for your phone. A series of projects by the developers of the Firefox browser is laying the groundwork for a helper that will control your home through the Internet of Things.

The first is Project Link, the brains, which Mozilla describes as a "personal user agent" that will learn how you like to interact with all of your smart home devices , and then help automate their functions.

Project SensorWeb will create sensors, as well as an open platform to share the data from those sensors. Not only will the sensors help Project Link learn about each user's environment, but the data can be crowdsourced to provide developers with detailed information for more advanced  programs. The first of these projects will be a PM2.5 air pollution sensor network, so that individuals and governments can better get a sense of the air quality in different parts of the world.  Cont'd...

How Do You Sell Lots Of Smart Home Gear? Scare Off A Burglar, Natch

Michael Wolf  for Forbes:  Being a startup in the smart home industry can be tough. Not only is there lots of competition, but usually you have to spend lots of time and money educating the consumer about what your product does.

Smart home gear tailored towards home security has it a little easier, since most consumers understand that security keeps bad guys away. But when your product is a sub-$100 device with no 24/7 monitoring like the big boys, you then have to spend much of your time creating a compelling message that your low-cost gear can do the job.

This was the challenge faced by Korner, a Seattle startup that makes a patented, ultra-low-cost security sensor. The device, which comes in packs of three for $98, can be stuck on any window or door and sounds an alarm when it senses movement. This sounds great but, if you’re like me, you wonder if putting your safety and security in the hands of such a low cost system is a good idea.  Cont'd...

Webcast - Terminating Larger Size Cables with Platinum Tools Connectors

With the recent increase in popularity of Category 6A cables, cabling-system installers are now working more and more frequently with dramatically increased cable sizes. Terminating these larger-size cables to standard connectors, which are optimally designed for smaller cables, can be a challenge. New connectors and solutions have been developed to solve the termination and workmanship issues that arise when installers terminate larger-size cables.

This webcast seminar will cover the following termination practices and principles:

  • Terminating Category 6A cable to Category 6A shielded connectors
  • Terminating Category 5e and Category 6 cable to Category 6 shielded connectors

Sponsored by Honeywell and Platinum Tools, the seminar will use Honeywell’s Category 5e, 6 and 6A cable as well as Platinum Tools’ Category 6 and 6A shielded connectors to demonstrate cable preparation and termination techniques. The demonstrations will provide step-by-step instructions on completing the termination of these larger-size cables.  View Webcast:

Competition for Alexa? LG Uplus announces new voice-controlled smart home gadgets

Ry Crist for CNET:  With the success of the Amazon Echo, the online mega-retailer's increasingly popular smart speaker, it was inevitable that we'd start seeing competitors begin to emerge, just as it's inevitable that tech journalists will begin making cheesy "is there an Echo in here?" jokes as it happens. So, let's just get this out of the way.  Is there an Echo in here?

It seems like there might be. LG Uplus, a South Korean cellular carrier that's a subsidiary of LG, is rolling out a pair of voice-activated smart home products, including an always-on, always-listening smart speaker that boasts the same sort of far-field voice recognition technology as the Amazon Echo. Dubbed the IoT Hub, the device will let users control connected lights, thermostats, locks and more using basic voice commands. It even has a colorful (and familiar-looking) ring of LED lights up on top.

Device no. 2 is the tvG Woofer Set Top Box. It's essentially a thin pedestal packed with a four-channel speaker, two subwoofers, and microphones designed to hear you no matter where you are in the room, regardless of background noise. You'll slip it under your television set, then pipe your home entertainment audio through it. If you want to search for something to watch, you'll be able to do so using voice commands.  Cont'd...

Touchless gesture control upgrades at #MWC2016

By Mellisa Tolentino for SiliconAngle:  At Mobile World Congress, Elliptic Labs AS introduced a new way for consumers to interact with smart home devices. Forget about voice control, think Jedi powers. The company’s new EASY IoT (Internet of Things) software introduces touchless gesture control to your connected home devices such as smart thermostats, kitchen appliances, lighting controls, and security systems to name a few. It uses ultrasound technology to control gadgets with conductor-like ease.
At MWC, Elliptic Labs will demonstrate how EASY IoT works on a connected lamp, smoke detector, and wireless speaker. EASY IoT will be offered to mobile manufacturers in hopes of building in the technology for as many core devices as possible. The more ubiquitous EASY IoT, the broader its market reach. This tactic relies heavily on willing business partners and will require transparent methods for sharing data sets and open source technology. This would ideally result in consumer adoption through necessity instead of heavy marketing and backward integration.  Cont'd...
 

Mobile World Congress 2016 is underway!

Despite a slow start due to the transportation strike, MWC is quite abuzz. We’ve already seen exciting product announcements, the opening keynote, and some great demonstrations in every hall. Mobile World Congress, or MWC, is an annual gathering for the mobile industry and related industries, organised by the GSMA, and held in Barcelona, Spain, the Mobile World Capital.

MWC offers a world-class exhibition, award-winning conference programme, and outstanding networking opportunities. With 94,000+ attendees, MWC offers the  opportunity to do more business in four days than in a month’s worth of meetings or in a year’s worth of travel, because everyone who is part of the industry is in Barcelona for MWC.

In short: if you’re in mobile, or an industry that supports mobile, or are looking to make contacts in the mobile industry, you simply have to attend MWC in 2016.  Check out the MWC Blog for updates.

Sigma Designs Announces Break-Through Z-Wave® UL Component Recognition

Sigma Designs, Inc.®, a leading provider of intelligent system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for Smart TV and Internet of Things (IoT) for Smart Home, today announced their Z-Wave modules models ZM5101, ZM5202, and ZM5304 with protocol SDK version 6.60 have been evaluated to UL's standards for home security, enabling new applications for professional security sensors and other devices in the multi-billion dollar home security business in the US. 

Professional security sensors such as door and window and motion sensors make up the majority of security devices in the home, which are estimated to represent installation of about 20 million units per year. These devices typically utilize non-standard one-way radios operating at 300/400 MHz frequencies. Since these devices use one-way communication, their effective security and reliability can be compromised. The number one problem faced by security companies is false alarms, which represent more than 50% of the service calls they receive, creating a substantial cost impact. One-way sensors simply cannot evaluate a false alarm. Since Z-Wave is a true two-way network technology, it can identify the actual sensors and be requested to re-check conditions multiple times to reduce these false alarms. Migrating to state-of-the-art two-way sensors will improve the overall security and reliability of security systems and will also represent a substantial competitive advantage for Z-Wave.  Full Press Release:

Bluetooth Gateway Smart Starter Kit navigates home automation

Alun Williams for ElectronicsWeekly.com:  Low-power Bluetooth comms are a well-established known entity, but with the increasingly prevalence of all things IoT, are you aware of how to interface them to the Internet, Web and Clouds? It can be done in various ways and the Bluetooth SIG is aiming to simplify or clarify the path with itsGateway Smart Starter Kit.

This is the boast:  This kit shows you how to move data from all of your Bluetooth sensors into the cloud without a mobile device while giving you the ability to control all of them from one place.

The guide shows how to connect Bluetooth devices or sensors to the web using Bluetooth GAP/GATT RESTful APIs, using a Bluetooth gateway on a Raspberry Pi board. Further, it shows how to communicate and control these devices from the Web.  Cont'd...

Smart Love: The Future Smart Home Promises to Help Us Unplug

Julia Allison for Huffington Post:  Could a smart thermostat reduce the divorce rate? Could a connected fridge be the key to unlocking relationship woes? According to the findings of a new survey commissioned by Intel, a quarter of Americans believe it can. The report goes on to hint that in the future, the all encompassing phrase "IoT" won't just stand for the Internet-of-Things, it will herald in a new terminology, built around the idea of the "Intimacy-of-Things." In other words, things (and their endless maintenance) would no longer block, but actually aid our intimacy.

For anyone who shares domestic duties with a partner (and that's most of us), we quickly realize that the constant maintenance required due to the wear and tear of the things we own often leads to wear and tear on our romance. Very few people find it sexy to argue over household chores. The American dream of owning a home comes with a little nightmare, the often-overwhelming amount of time, energy and cash it takes to maintain that home. Light bulbs burn out, furnaces strain and dishwashers leak. Home sweet home doesn't always ring true when our homes seem to be where our to-do lists go to multiply.  Cont'd...

1.4 Million App Developers Are Building For The Smart Home

David Bolton for ConnectedWorld:  App developers who are already invested in the Internet of Things are more likely to build apps for the smart home over other usages.

A recent report by VisionMobile [PDF] said that out of the 4.5 million people identified as IoT developers in 2015, 1.4 million were focused on smart home apps. According to VisionMobile’s IoT Megatrends 2016 report, there are seven distinct IoT areas that app developers work in—smart home, retail, industrial, wearables, smart city, medical and connected car—with the opportunities offered by connected homes a clear favorite.

Retail IoT apps, wearables and industrial versions attract around one million app developers each, while the connected car is of interest to 700,000 people. People have become used to the concept of IoT and recent research by Gartner said that there could be as many as 700 million smart homes by 2020. Cont'd...

What it's like to spend a year with an app-powered security camera

Alex Heath for TechInsider:  For about a year I've been using Canary's all-in-one home security system to monitor my apartment. I live in New York City, and it's already saved me from a possible rat infestation.

Canary bills itself as an all-in-one home security system for $200 and no required monthly fees. The New York startup's sleek, cylindrical piece of hardware features a 1080p video camera with infrared night vision and a motion detector. It also has a (quite loud) siren and the ability to detect the room temperature and air humidity.

Where Canary really shines is its mobile app, which lets you look through the device's camera from anywhere via your home internet connection. You can't pan or zoom as you watch, but the camera's wide-angle lens should capture most of any room you place it in.  Cont'd...

Control4 Acquires Pakedge Device & Software

Control4 Corporation (NASDAQ:CTRL), a leading global provider of smart home solutions, today announced the acquisition of Pakedge Device & Software, Inc., a leader in advanced networking products and cloud network-management services for both wireless and wired networking solutions for the connected home and business.
"The connected consumer, connected home, and connected business opportunity is expanding along with the complexities of supporting thousands of different devices and services in homes and business around the world," said Martin Plaehn, Control4 Chairman and CEO. "By embracing networking as an expanded core-competency, integrating it tightly with our entertainment and automation capabilities, and delivering a single cloud-based reporting and management solution, Control4 will be able to harness the expanding opportunity, bring more simplicity to the complicated, and increase satisfaction for our end customers."   Full Press Release... 
 

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