With 7 mini houses, the first Sonos store lets you hear as you would at home

Keith Nelson Jr. for DigitalTrends:  Home is where the heart is and the heart of Sonos’ new 4,200-square-foot retail store is a recreation of the home experience. Located in New York City’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, multiroom audio pioneer’s first ever retail store was built following one core acoustic principle: 50/50. “We wanted a 50/50 environment. 50 percent diffusion and absorption, 50 percent reflective,” said  Whitney Walker, general manager of Sonos Stores, during a tour of the store, referring to the different manners in which sound interacts with the store’s surrounding environment.

The result is a retail store that never feels as if it is trying to sell you anything other than a good listening experience. The highlights of the store are the seven listening rooms, each designed to “recreate that experience of going to somebody’s home” and hearing new music, according to Siegel. Cont'd...

5 hot home theater trends

Marc Saltzman, Special for USA TODAY:  If you don’t know where to start, the following are five trends to consider before your summer Netflix binge session.  4K with HDR:  There’s two things you need to know about 4K TVs.

For one, they look spectacular, due to the fact these televisions deliver four times the resolution of 1080p HD TV – instead of 2 million little dots (“pixels”) that make up the image, we’re talking more than 8 million. There’s so much detail in the picture it’s almost like being there.

Secondly, thanks to falling prices and more 4K content than ever before, there’s never been a better time to invest in 4K TV (otherwise known as “UHD” or “Ultra High Definition”).  Cont'd...

Wink will add Uber, Fitbit, and IFTTT to its smart home controller

Business Insider:  Wink’s smart home controller, known as the Relay, received an update that integrates services from Uber and Fitbit, as well as the capability to communicate with other devices over the If This Then That (IFTTT) protocol, reports PC Mag.

The Relay is a touchscreen device installed on the wall that controls smart home devices connected by Wink. The update will allow users to see how many steps they have taken that day by tapping into their Fitbit data, and allow users to order Uber rides through their controller.

Integrating the IFTTT communication protocol will allow the Wink Relay to send one-time commands to other smart home devices that support the protocol. Users can create specific "recipes" with the protocol to automate specific tasks.  Cont'd...

The Home Automation House: IFSEC's Brand-New Interactive Feature

Adam Bannister for IFSEC Global:  IFSEC has introduced an interactive Home Automation House for it 2016 edition, with products integrated and demoed – through a Control4 system – from Lilin, Nest, Qmotion, 2N Telecommunications and Texecom.

US home automation innovator Control4 is building the exhibit and its technology forms the backbone around which the other technologies – which include lighting, security and cinema/audio system – are integrated.

Visitors can see how products in the Home Automation House – which you can find right at the centre of IFSEC – integrate with one another seamlessly to create a living environment optimised for security, comfort, leisure and convenience.  Click here to find out more about the exhibitors with technology in the Home Automation House.

Sears doubles down on the smart home with new Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard products

Michael Brown for TechHive:  Sears continues to shed its image as a staid, old-school retailer, introducing yet another line of new products for the smart home at an event in New York City on Wednesday. Among the 12 new products: A sensor-laden refrigerator that tracks how many times its doors have opened, a clothes washer that can be started from afar using a smart phone, a garage-door opener that sends alerts when you forget to close it, and a series of tool chests with Bluetooth locks. The company also extended its Kenmore brand to televisions for the first time ever; surprisingly, however, its first generation of Kenmore HD and 4K/UHD sets won’t be connected smart TVs.

“The home is the largest investment an American family is going to make,” Sears’ president of Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard brands Tom Park. “Our philosophy around the connected home is that these brands have been trusted for generations. If we can offer connected products that provide convenience and save consumers money, that’s important.”  Cont'd...

The Smart Home Has Been Built Into Boats for 50 Years.

Zach Lyman for GreenTechMedia:  For over two millennia, the marine industry has been a focal point of human innovation. This was by necessity; innovations in aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, navigation, system resiliency, space optimization and others have all improved crew health and survival rates, sped global trade and generally helped ensure we didn’t sail off the edge of the earth.

Marine systems have been proven via relentless iteration to satisfy society’s desire for adventure, exploration and expansion. They have taken us to the farthest reaches of our known world and brought us safely back again.

Custom-built yachts have always been a luxury of the wealthy. They likely always will be. Boat-building is a bespoke industry that emphasizes individuality and craftsmanship over scale and affordability. Yet luxury and premium products have an incredibly important role to play in our rapidly changing world. A startling amount of innovation occurs when price is no object and there is total independence to dream big.  Cont'd...

Vyo Is a Fascinating and Unique Take on Social Domestic Robots

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  A group of researchers including Michal Luria, Guy Hoffman, Benny Megidish, Oren Zuckerman, Roberto Aimi, and Sung Park from IDC Herzliya, Cornell, and SK Telecom have developed a prototype social robot called Vyo. Vyo is “a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface for smart home devices.” Nothing new there, but what sets Vyo apart is how you interact with it: it combines non-anthropomorphic design with anthropomorphic expressiveness and a tactile object-based control system into a social robot that’s totally, adorably different. But is it practical?  Full Article:

Why Nest's woes are typical of the smart home industry

Hayley Tsukayama for The Washington Post:  Tony Fadell’s decision to step down from the helm of Nest last week came as a surprise but not a big one.

The problems specific to the smart appliance company — which is owned by Google — have been well-documented. But the questions that now loom over Nest aren’t isolated to this one firm, but over the entire smart home industry in general.

Nest, after all, was supposed to be the trailblazer leading the smart home revolution. When Google put down $3.2 billion to buy it in 2014, it appeared to make sense. The company was already a fixture in consumers’ online lives, and the purchase would give Google an entry point into their offline lives. The charismatic Fadell seemed to be the right pioneer, given his product experience at Apple that he could apply to Google’s more open computing vision.  But Nest proved to be a less-than-ideal poster child.  Cont'd...

Home Automation, IoT Could Cut Energy Consumption 10 Percent, Says Study

CTA Study:  The increasing use of home automation technology through the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential for substantial energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, according to a new study released by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™.

The study, The Energy Savings Potential of Home Automation Technology, finds that widespread adoption of home automation products such as temperature, circuit, and lighting control, if used for energy savings purposes, could collectively avoid up to 100 million tons of CO2 emissions and reduce total residential primary energy consumption by as much as 10 percent — savings that are more than consumer electronics’ share of residential primary energy consumption (8.4 percent), according to a separate CTA study.

CTA’s new study reports the overall U.S. technical energy savings potential from several individual approaches ranges from 0.3 to 1.1 quadrillion Btu (quads) of primary energy consumption, or from 1 to 5 percent of total residential primary energy consumption. The study’s findings, which represent the best current estimates of achievable savings, highlight several areas where home automation could deliver energy savings, including connected thermostats, HVAC zoning, and control of window shades, circuits, and lighting.  Cont'd...

Survey: 48 percent of utility executives believe the smart home will revolutionize the industry

Antenna, a public relations agency focused on energy and smart technology companies, today announced new survey results that found nearly half of surveyed utility executives believe the smart home will revolutionize the utility industry. This surging optimism for the smart home represents a departure from the industry's traditional skepticism of new technologies, while also putting the utility industry at odds with a more cautious view of the smart home currently held by consumers.

"Antenna's research confirms that many in the utility industry now believe in the transformative power of the smart home to remake the grid for the better," said Antenna Vice President Matt Stewart. "However, there's a clear disconnect between utility visions of roses and rainbows and their customers' more frustrating early-adopter experiences. Antenna is honored to work with dozens of innovative companies across energy and smart technology to help bridge this critical gap and move the energy market forward."   Full Press Release:

Google announces Google Home smart hub and upgraded Assistant voice engine

Ryan Whitwam for Extreme Tech:  Google has let Amazon basically own the connected home assistant market for the last year and a half with the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. Now, Google is leveraging its extensive natural language processing engine to launch Google Home, a connected hub that brings voice commands to your house. Google has also been working on making its system of voice commands more conversational, which it now calls Google Assistant.

Google has had voice search capabilities built into Android phones for years at this point. You can even trigger searches with the “OK Google” hotword. However, this is connected to your phone, which is a personal device with your own apps, settings, and data. A home assistant like the newly announced Google Home (and Amazon Echo) is intended to provide voice features to anyone in the family from anywhere in a room.  Cont'd...

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...

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...

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.

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