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...

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,  Full Press Release:

Smart Home Startups Are on the Rebound, But Barely

Adam Rowe for  Funding for smart home startups is looking up. According to the latest data from CB Insights, funding amounts are on track to be 30 percent better than they were in 2015. That’s only the total amount of funding, though: The actual number of deals is still on pace to remain even. Both the amount and the number of deals are well below the smart home interest peak in 2014, however.

In short, smart home startups are showing signs of weathering the 2014 bubbleand continuing to march towards profits.  Cont'd... - Special Tradeshow Coverage of CEDIA 2016.

CEDIA 2016 will be held from September 13th - 17th in Dallas, Texas . This Special Tradeshow report aims to bring you news, articles and products from this years event.

Who is best positioned to build a smart home assistant?

Jan Dawson for recode:  There has been a lot of talk recently about advancements in the smart home arena, especially about new ways to control smart home devices. I have heard Amazon’s Echo referred to as a smart home device, and just this week, web service IFTTT announced new partnerships that are intended to allow smart home devices to connect in an automated fashion to other devices and services.

However, what we’re still missing when it comes to the smart home is a true smart home assistant — a counterpart, if you will, to the smart assistants that come baked into every modern smartphone operating system. This post dives into what that means in practice, and who might be best positioned to deliver on this vision.  Cont'd...

IFTTT Looks To Cement Its Position In The Smart Home Market

Daniel Fuller for Android Headlines:  App enthusiasts and/or home automation fans are likely already quite familiar with IFTTT. One of the bigger forces in the Android tinkering world, IFTTT stands for If This Then That, and it’s actually a pretty accurate description of what the app does. Essentially, users can use triggers and recipes to make the app look for a condition to happen on a device or in an app. Once that happens, it will trigger a specified action, even if that action takes place elsewhere, so long as everything is rigged up right. IFTTT users can create a variety of mind-blowing functions, so it’s no surprise that the app found its way onto the Amazon Echo and that was apparently, only the beginning.

IFTTT has officially given the go-ahead for the guts of their app, the recipes and their capabilities, to find homes in new products. Naturally, the first wave of IFTTT recipients will be home automation products. Since IFTTT is already integrated with the Amazon Echo and programmable recipes can use an IoT hub as a conduit rather than transmitting from device to device, home automation is a natural fit for IFTTT. Using a web-based backend, IFTTT and the 40,000 some odd recipes that the firm has publicly released can now run on just about any device, and talk to just about any other device. The idea is that IFTTT will act as a backend for crosstalk between devices and services that would otherwise require a decent amount of time and money in engineering.  Cont'd...

Windows 10 moves closer to smart-home centerpiece with big Internet of Things deal

Agam Shah for IDG News Service via PCWorld:  Lazy people will love Windows 10 and its ability to automate home tasks, and the operating system's smart-home credentials are getting a serious boost with a recent internet of things pact.

Microsoft wants to put Windows 10 at the center of smart homes. The company wants users to be able to tell the operating system's Cortana voice assistant to switch on a light, open a door, release food for a cat, and even check the contents of a refrigerator.

For Windows 10 to be successful, the OS will have to work with a wide range of smart home and IoT devices, and that goal has taken a big step forward thanks to a recent agreement between standards bodies the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Thread Group. The two organizations will work together on improving interoperability between smart home and IoT devices.

This means devices running Windows 10 will be able to connect with most smart home products and program home automation tasks based on events or times of the day.  Cont'd...

Staples abandons its smart home hopes

David Priest for CNet:  Staples has officially announced that it's handing over sales and support for its home automation system Connect to Z-Wave Products. Though the exact terms of the deal remain undisclosed, Z-Wave has purchased Staples' inventory and licensed the Staples Connect brand to use moving forward. According to representatives at Zonoff, the company that has supported Connect's software and will continue to do so with Z-Wave, users should experience no practical change to their Connect automation systems.

This transition isn't a surprise to many industry watchers. Staples stopped selling the Connect hub months ago, and rumors began to swirl that the office supply retailer might be planning to unplug its internet of things ecosystem altogether. In April, the company said it would be releasing a statement about Connect's future sometime in the coming weeks. As many users waited anxiously, Staples finally opted to keep Connect alive, handing it off to a third-party caretaker.  Cont'd...

Rentals and Smart Home Survey Finds Competitive Edge

Andrew Burger for TeleCompetitor:  Travelers are more willing to make a reservation for short-term rental housing if the housing has smart home features, according to a rentals and smart home survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence for  smart home products provider August Home, Inc.

Eighty percent of vacation guests and 92% of business travelers said they would be more likely to complete a reservation for short-term accommodation rentals that were equipped with smart home technology, such as smart door locks, lighting, smart TVs, entertainment systems and doorbell cameras.  Cont'd...

HoloLens concept lets you control your smart home via augmented reality

By Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  There’s no doubt that device-filled connected smart homes are on the way. The real question is how we’re going to control them.

That was the starting point of a nifty proof-of-concept project created by interaction designer Ian Sterling and software engineer Swaroop Pal during a recent HoloLens hackathon in San Francisco. Their augmented reality pitch shows how smart devices could be controlled with glances and gestures — in what Sterling calls a “virtual Zen mode,” complete with calming lights and sounds.  Full Article:

APIs: From Connected Home Into Programmable Platform

CXOtoday News Desk:  Consumers will increasingly use digital personal assistants to interact with consumer services in the connected home, says Gartner. Gartner predicts that, by 2019, in at least 25 percent of households in developed economies, the digital assistants on smartphones and other devices will serve as the primary interface to connected home services.

“In the not-too-distant future, users will no longer have to contend with multiple apps; instead, they will literally talk to digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant,” said Mark O’Neill, research director at Gartner. “Some of these personal assistants are cloud-based and already beginning to leverage smart machine technology.”

Digital personal assistants show the potential to satisfy wants and needs by delivering experiences that connect services, configure devices and even order and deliver products. Personalized, context-aware information can also be presented as it is wanted or needed — for example, suggestions for restaurants near planned meetings, or recommended temperature settings for the home to optimize energy consumption and comfort in line with the weather.  Cont'd...

Control4: Apple Home App will help Home Automation Industry

Rob Stott for Dealerscope:  Not to say that the Home app is a killer to companies/platforms like Control4 and Crestron, but Apple is clearly encroaching on their space.

That said, the aforementioned companies don’t necessarily see this as a problem. Rather, as Paul Williams, Control4’s VP of Solutions, put it, it’s more of an opportunity.

“We would put this in the category of something that we think helps the smart home automation market,” Williams recently told Technology Integrator. “much like when, in the rise of the Internet of Things and IoT, what it’s really done has opened up consumers’ eyes to the possibilities. We’ve said, long before IoT came around, the biggest hurdle that we have in this space for us and other manufactures that specialize in home automation is customer awareness. Customers don’t even realize that this technology is available, that they can even do these kind of things, that there’s these sophisticated but simple-to-install and simple-to-use home automation systems that allow them to have great experiences in their homes.”  Full article:

Six Google Patents describe a new Home Automation System Covering Home Security

Patently Apple:  Late last month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a series of six Google patents regarding a future home security system that will part of a larger home automation system that will be revealed over time. 
In today's brief non-Apple patent report we cover an overview of Google's six patents relating to a future home security system that will eventually be a part of a greater home automation system. Google's first security system patent filing is titled "Home Security System with Automatic Context-Sensitive Transition to Different Modes."  Full Article:

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