Chromecast Audio Is Now An Inexpensive Hi-Res Wireless Home Audio System

By Leo Markus for ImmortalNews:  Google’s Chromecast Audio just became the inexpensive solution for wirelessly streaming music throughout a home or office with its latest update’s incorporation of multi-room streaming support, Google announced on Thursday. As if multi-room support wasn’t enough for one update, the small WiFi enabled device–which plugs directly into a speaker, allowing it to wirelessly stream music over the radio waves–now offers support for high-resolution audio up to 96KHz/24bit lossless audio playback. Google launched Chromecast Audio just a couple of months ago as an inexpensive way to connect speakers to streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and obviously Google Play Music.
The device, which costs $35, now allows you to blast the same song throughout multiple rooms — effectively grouping speakers together to create an expansive listening environment. In order to do so, users employ the latest Chromecast app, which allows for groups to be setup.  Cont'd...

Open source HomeBridge links 3rd-party smart home devices like Nest to Apple's HomeKit

By Blair MacGregor for AppleInsider:  Homebridge is currently available on GitHub,and works by emulating the iOS HomeKit API through user-contributed modules called Plugins. Each plugin corresponds with a different manufacturer, with the list including smart home titans Nest and Sonos, as well as lesser known manufacturers like Indigo Domotics, Netatmo and Wemo.

Both the Homebridge database as well as the Plugins can be installed through a command line prompt as global NPM modules and are compatible with Linux-based systems as well as the Raspberry Pi. 

The most obvious use case for using Homebridge to connect with HomeKit is integration with Siri, allowing a user to use voice commands (e.g. "Siri, unlock the front door") for a variety of tasks. 

While third-party apps like Home or MyTouchHome have been available for some time, Apple has yet to release an app that functions as a central hub to control multiple HomeKit-connected smart devices, which makes a project like this necessary for those who don't want to wait for Apple. However, some smart home manufacturers like Phillips have introduced devices like the Hue Bridge, which enables users of Phillips' own line of smart light bulbs and accessories to connect their system to HomeKit.   Cont'd...

Consumers Aren't Buying the Smart Home, But Insurers Are

By Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  The industry has stalled. But while consumers are scratching their heads, property and casualty insurers have been testing connected doorbells, water sensors, smoke detectors and dozens of other devices. On the life insurance side, wearables and other devices are also in the R&D labs, although that’s less of a focus for this story, since consumers have tended to adopt wearables more readily than the connected home concept.

On the P&C side, State Farm is launching a program that will give an all-in one connected security device called the Canary to first responders soon. Last month, American Family created an innovative program with connected doorbell provider Ring, that offered customers a discount if they bought the device, but also would reimburse your deductible if someone managed to break in. American Family also subsidizes the cost of a Nest Protect smoke alarm. USAA has backed a connected car startup called Automatic, while Progressive  PGR 0.10%  has already teamed up with Zubie, another connected car device maker, to deliver discounts on auto insurance for drivers who share data.

For insurance firms, the decision to back these startups can range from helping to prevent losses, which can boost profits, and helping make the insurer a more positive and proactive presence in people’s lives. Ryan Ryst, director of innovation at American Family, says that in creating programs around connected devices, an insurance company has a chance to remind people that insurers are acting to protect policy holders.  Cont'd...

Apple Said to Suspend Effort to Develop Live TV Service

From Bloomberg Business:  Apple Inc. has suspended plans to offer a live Internet-based television service and is instead focusing on being a platform for media companies to sell directly to customers through its App Store, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

While Apple isn’t giving up entirely on releasing a live-TV service, its plan to sell a package of 14 or so channels for $30 to $40 a month has run into resistance from media companies that want more money for their programming, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing a prospective product.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves said at a conference earlier Tuesday that Apple had put its live TV plans “on hold.”

The struggle highlights the difficulty new entrants face in trying to persuade media companies to overhaul the conventional pay-TV bundle, which costs about $85 a month. To break the logjam, Apple would either have to charge more, or the media companies would have to accept less.  Cont'd...

Home Automation Market Poised to Grow to US$ 21.0 Bn Globally by 2020

Zion Research has published a new report titled “Home Automation (Luxury, Mainstream, DIY (Do It Yourself) and Managed) Market by Networking Technology (Wired, Power-line, Computing Network and Wireless) for Lighting, Safety and security, HVAC, Entertainment and Other (Robotics and Heath care) Applications – Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2014 – 2020”. According to the report, global home automation market was valued at around USD 5.0 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach USD 21.0 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of around 25% between 2015 and 2020.

Home automation is the residential extension of building automation. Home automation is all about automation of the home and household activity. Key aspects involved in home automation includes centralized control of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, security locks of gates and doors and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. Home automation for the elderly and disabled can provide increased quality of life for persons who might otherwise depends upon someone else for their day to day activity.  Cont'd...

Target Updates Smart Home Store

By: Christopher Caen, Theory Associates for Twice:  When Target opened its Open House in San Francisco earlier this year, it signaled that the world of smart homes and the Internet of Things (IoT) was finally exiting the hobbyist stage.

As these products are entering the consumer mainstream, Target realized that it needed a different retail presence and a higher touch to explain the benefits of these innovative new products. The Open House was the result, a retail destination that was part consumer experiment and part mad laboratory for these new devices, with interactive tables, a mock home installed in the middle of the store with connected products in place, and a data-driven tracking system to watch where people went within the house and which items caught their attention.

That data has led to the latest reset of the store, with Christmas right around the corner. As Target has figured out more of what is pulling in consumers, and what they are interested in, the store and the product selection has shifted. For instance, with the importance of common platforms that allow different devices to talk to one another, there is now a lab area where visitors can get a better understanding of the ecosystems that tie these products together.  Cont'd...

Bosch launches smart home subsidiary

John Greenough for Business Insider:  German appliance maker Bosch announced it will launch Robert Bosch Smart Home GmbH, a smart home subsidiary, in the first quarter of 2016, according to evertiq. The company will create a single mobile application that can connect to and control the smart home appliances and sensors Bosch offers. It will also be able to connect to compatible devices from other smart home device manufacturers. The move by Bosch highlights how many appliance makers and retailers are attempting to build the software applications necessary to connect to and control the smart home appliances they make.  Cont'd...

Belkin Is on a Mission to Fix WeMo's Buggy Smart Home Software

By Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  The WeMo line of devices has been around since 2012, and has expanded gradually to include outlets, light switches, light bulbs, as well as a line of sensors that was shown at CES, the consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas last January but are still not out yet. However, WeMo products have a huge and glaring problem. The software running them is terrible. It has been beset by security issues, customer complaints, and generally can drive a user batty.
However, that’s about to change. Taylor said last week that the WeMo team has been focused on repairing the software and that in January WeMo’s users should expect an update. This means that daylights savings time won’t break all your schedules as sometimes happens. Or adding something to your Wi-Fi network won’t inexplicably confuse every WeMo device in the house. Or that one day your WeMo products will just decide that they no longer want to respond to their product names. Every WeMo user has a story, and like Tolstoy, every WeMo user is unhappy in their own way.  Cont'd...

Smart home solutions helped to drive double-digit growth in home security over past two years

A new Parks Associates report finds smart home offerings have helped revitalize the residential security industry, as the number of households with monitored security rose over 15% in the past two calendar years. The New Face of Home Security - 2015 Edition reports approximately 21 million U.S. homes have professionally monitored security, with another 1.5 million with monitoring in a second home. 
"By the end of 2015, nearly six million professionally monitored homes will also have smart home control as part of their security system," said Tom Kerber, Director, Research, Home Controls & Energy, Parks Associates. "Smart home is firmly entrenched as part the U.S. security industry, thanks to both push and pull factors. Companies such as Vivint, AT&T, and ADT have been aggressive in offering smart home features with their systems, while security owners are open to new technologies. Security households are 150% more likely than non-security households to state that they keep up with technological innovations and like to own the latest devices."   Full Press Release.

ZigBee home automation design kits use RPi-based gateway

Eric Brown for  Silicon Labs unveiled reference designs for home automation and lighting networks, based on its ZigBee SoC and middleware plus a Raspberry Pi-based gateway.

Silicon Labs, which bills itself as the ZigBee market share leader, has integrated its ZigBee “Golden Unit” Home Automation (HA 1.2) software stack, “EM358x” ZigBee mesh networking SoC, and various ZigBee sensor and lighting technologies in several reference designs for home automation. The Dimmable Light Switch, Connected Lighting, Door/Window Contact Sensor reference designs work with a WiFi and Ethernet ready ZigBee Gateway Reference Design that runs Linux on a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B SBC.
The “cost-effective” ZigBee reference designs are intended to reduce the complexity of connecting ZigBee devices, such as lights, dimmer switches, and door/window contact sensors. The Golden Unit ZigBee middleware, which connects all these gateways, enables LED lights to reliably join, interoperate, and detach from a mesh network, says Silicon Labs. The Golden Unit stack can scale from a few light nodes to hundreds on the same network, says Silicon Labs. Complete schematics, layout, and bill of materials (BOM) are offered for all reference designs.  Cont'd...

Dojo Is Designed To Protect Your Smart Home From Itself

Natasha Lomas for TechCrunch:  Israeli startup Dojo-Labs is launching out of stealth today after more than a year working on its connected home security device. No, not another Wi-Fi spy camera trying to engender a sense of vicarious paranoia in the buying public to convince folk with money to burn they need to ceaselessly surveil their property (and/or family).

Rather this startup has it eye on securing the connected smart home from the threat posed by, well, all the devices that comprise the connected smart home.

Dojo’s first (eponymous) device — available for pre-order now, with a shipping date of early March 2016 — aims to create a consumer-friendly security and control interface at the network layer that the company claims is capable of spotting and blocking anomalous behavior by connected devices on your home network. Whether that behavior is down to hackers trying to infiltrate your devices remotely. Or your devices trying to send your personal data somewhere they shouldn’t be, surreptitiously — perhaps by manufacturer design (hello smart TVs!).  Cont'd...

Flex to Bring the Intelligence of Things 'Home' with Wink Acquisition

Flex , the sketch-to-scale™ solutions company that designs and builds intelligent products for a connected world, has entered into an agreement to acquire Wink, the smart home platform that enables smart products to work together seamlessly, and connect and communicate globally.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Flex will enhance its strategy of driving the Intelligence of Things™, and helping the world Live smarter™. Wink improves the functionality and usefulness of disparate devices in the home by allowing them to communicate with each other, while enhancing usability through a shared common interface in the Wink mobile app.

Flex has been a strategic partner to Wink, serving as their primary supplier of hardware and firmware, including the Wink HUB and Wink Relay, which include core IP developed within Flex. After the acquisition, Wink will remain a separate entity and corporation, with its own management structure for day-to-day activities and operations. Flex will look to leverage Wink's platform and provide current and future Flex customers with improved connectivity in a rapidly expanding open ecosystem. Full Press Release:

Rent a smart home? Some multi-family buildings are going automated

By Jenny McGrath for Digital Trends:  When we put together our list of smart-home gadgets that are good for apartment dwellers and renters, a lot of light bulbs, locks, and switches made the list. Wiring and affixing things to the wall just isn’t worth the hassle when you’ll be moving out in a year or two — or when you risk the wrath of a landlord.

But lots of tenants would like the option of smartening up their homes, even if they are just temporary homes. A few multi-family dwellings actually want in on making buildings more energy efficient or solving some common headaches that come with balancing security and convenience (think key fobs to enter a locked entrance).

StratIS makes app-based tech for apartments, dorms, and hotels that helps property managers control energy, automation, and security. They can use special tablets to oversee a bunch of properties, while those living there can use a smart thermostat without having to buy it themselves and uninstall it when moving out.  Cont'd...

Could This Single Device Protect Your Smart Home?

Joseph Bernstein for BuzzFeed News:  Sense is a smart router combined with software that sits on top of and monitors all of the connected devices in your house. It reads all the traffic coming into those devices in real time and analyzes it using F-Secure’s cloud security network, “an analytics engine and information repository for malware and a variety of other digital threats.”

When Sense detects unwanted or malicious traffic — say, a botnet trying to connect to your smart television — it simply blocks it.

By drawing all of the IoT devices in the home into one protected network, Sense presents a remarkably elegant solution to a problem the cybersecurity world has been worrying about for a long time.  Cont'd...

Study - Smart Home Technology Will Have Greater Impact Than Wearables

New GfK research shows that half of US consumers believe smart home technology will have a major impact on their lives – a higher level than wearables or cloud computing and equal to mobile payment systems.

The study, which covered seven countries, asked consumers to choose which of 11 leading-edge technologies – from 3D printing to augmented/virtual reality to Internet of Things -- would be important to their lives. (Respondents could choose as many technologies as they wished.)

In the US, 51 percent of consumers picked smart home, versus 50% for mobile payments – a statistical tie; these compare to global levels of 54% for mobile payments and 51% for smart home. (The global figures cited here represent five of the seven countries in the full survey – US, UK, Germany, Brazil, and South Korea; data for China and Japan will be released later.)

Four in ten (42%) US consumers cited wearables – significantly higher than the global score of 33% -- while cloud computing came in at 41%.

Full Press Release:

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