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...

Big-I is a smart home robot that will stalk your family

Brittany Vincent for enGadget:  Siri, Alexa and Cortana are helpful around the house, but can their respective tech follow you around the house like something out of a science fiction movie? Big-I, the personal robot, can do just that.

The robot resembles a cuddly trash can, standing at waist length with one large "eye" where the trash can's lid would be. It's actually sort of cute, when you think about it. Big-I can see, hear, move and respond to voice commands you program it with, including IFTTT-like instructions. The robot is seen in its promotional clip reminding a father to send jackets with children if the temperature is below a certain threshold. It's told to play music when the father raises his hand a specific way.

The robot's open API and unique operating system mean there's room for customization as well, in addition to integration with your smart home appliances like lights and thermostat systems. It can also be educated, meaning you could potentially train your own little personal housekeeper. Just make sure Roomba doesn't see it and get jealous.  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...

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...

Now You Can Hide Your Smart Home on the Darknet

Andy Greenberg for WIRED:  The Privacy Software Tor has aided everything from drug dealing marketplaces to whistleblowing websites in evading surveillance on the darknet. Now that same software can be applied to a far more personal form of security: keeping hackers out of your toaster.
On Wednesday, the privacy-focused non-profit Guardian Project, a partner of the Tor Project that maintains and develops the Tor anonymity network, announced a new technique it’s developed to apply Tor’s layers of encryption and network stealth to protecting so-called “Internet of things” or “smart home” devices. That growing class of gadgets, ranging from refrigerators to lightbulbs to security cameras, are connected to the Internet to make possible new forms of remote management and automation. They also, as the security research community has repeatedly demonstrated, enable a new breed of over-the-Internet attacks, such as the rash of hackers harassing infants via baby monitors or the potential for hackers tosteal your Gmail password from your fridge.  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:

This Utah Company Has Emerged As The Biggest Smart Home Player

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  On the first warm summer week of the year in Provo, Utah, the headquarters of Vivint Smart Home appears quiet. It’s not till you make your way to the second floor that you stumble upon a flurry of activity. That’s where row after row of cubicles house mostly young men in their 20s, many sporting beards and tattoos. Some stand or pace about the room with headsets on, their eyes focused on sales scripts. Others stare into the distance past suburban office parks and toward the scrubby foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Mawkish soft rock plays in the background. Above the cubicles, a monitor flashes the names and numbers of top salespeople. This year’s prize for the number-one seller is a trip to Hawaii.

It’s a pretty low-tech operation, especially when you consider these reps are selling the future. Along with an army of 2,500 door-to-door salespeople across the United States and Canada (and a few in New Zealand), these 200 or so Utahans are aggressively pushing the Vivint smart home. They have already managed to persuade more than a million homeowners to pay between $40 and $80 a month to have their houses come to life with Internet-connected thermostats, lights, door locks, doorbells, garage door openers, cameras and sensors, whether they are made by Vivint or one of its partners.  Cont'd...

Smart Home Products: Only 30% Of Consumers Even Know Where To Get Them

Chuck Martin for IOT Daily:  Some serious marketing dollars may have to be spent just to get consumers aware of smart home products and how to go about getting one.

Most consumers don’t know where to turn to buy smart home products or services, that is, if they even know about them.

The reality is that smart home devices are relatively new and not likely to be on the average person’s radar until they need or want a particular new or replacement device for their home.

And when someone decides they want a so-called smart home device, many don’t know where to turn at that point, based on a new study.

Fewer than a third (30%) of households are familiar with where to buy smart home products or services, according the study by Parks Associate

And of those, fewer than half (40%) prefer to buy the smart products at retail outlets, particularly home improvement stores.

But there still is a gap between stores selling smart products and consumers acquiring them.  Cont'd...

Is DIY smart home tech hobbled by poor app functionality?

Cate Lawrence for ReadWrite:  In Argus Insights’ newest “Smart Home 360” report, it’s clear there’s a strong distinction between consumer perception of the apps associated with the most popular Smart Home Service Providers and MSOs (Multiple System Operators) and the apps coming with Do It Yourself (DIY) devices.

Argus Insights found that — from over 56,000 app and device reviews — ADT andSuddenlink are the least liked of MSOs and service providers and their associated apps saw a drop in both the tone and volume of feedback over the last month, an indication that frustrated users could be moving to other providers.

This is consistent with previous research that demonstrates a high degree of satisfaction by customers in DIFM (“Do it for me”) installations.

However, Vivint’s Sky app, Cox Communications Homelife app, Xfinity Home app and Alarm.com app all trended up — an impact of both new releases and subscriber growth.  Cont'd...

How to Invest in Smart Home Technology

Greg Miller, Senior Analyst for Wall Street Daily:  Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed the promises and perils of the Smart Home, as well as why this segment is on the cusp ofbreaking into the mainstream.  Naturally, it’s time to ask: “How can I profit from this?”

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.  Ideally, there would be one or two tickers predicted to soar from the rising Smart Home trend, but there isn’t such a company out there yet.  However, there are still ways to participate in the upcoming boom.  It will require some creativity and careful investing, specifically in companies with small current exposure to the area.  Here are some guidelines for investing in the Smart Home – and for avoiding expensive mistakes.  Cont'd...

Comcast and Alarm.com to acquire smart home company Icontrol

Harrison Weber for VentureBeat:  Comcast and security company Alarm.com have entered into agreements to acquire and divvy up Icontrol, an 11-year-old Internet of Things and home security company founded in Palo Alto and now based in Austin, Texas.

Comcast previously invested an undisclosed sum into Icontrol and relies on the company’s tech to power parts of its connected home and home security platform.

In this multi-part deal, Comcast says it’s buying Icontrol’s Converge platform and wholesale business, which “powers the Xfinity Home touch-screen panel and back-end servers, allowing them to communicate with and manage security sensors in the home, as well as supporting home-automation devices like cameras and thermostat.”  Cont'd...

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