CES 2016: LG And Samsung battle for smart home leadership

By ROB ENDERLE for TechSpective:  LG and Samsung are planning to do battle for control of your home at CES. Samsung is bringing its acquired SmartThings technology to TVs to provide a central hub from which your home can be controlled. LG just announced it is going to showcase its Smarthome Hub at CES as well. Each idea has its merits and problems, but I think LG is closer to what we initially need than Samsung is. Let me explain.

Right now the concept of the Smart Home is a mess and it has been a mess ever since X10 went to that technology graveyard in the sky. We have a bunch of warring “standards” that don’t interoperate, mixed conformance with the standards that do exist, and the end result is that when you buy into a smart home solution, chances are you will be creating an insane stupid house that constantly doesn’t do what you paid a ton of money to get it to do.

Currently we have 4 major legacy smart home platforms: X-10 which started it all back in the 1970s but is mostly gone today, ZigBee and Z Wave which are alliances, and Insteon which is tied directly to one company. Recently a 5th joined this group called Alljoyn which was created by Qualcomm the most powerful player in the smartphone world. With smartphones becoming the most likely controller for the new smart home, there was a chance that this alliance could do what the others had not–create something that actually works.  Cont'd...

SmartThings And Samsung Team Up To Make Your TV A Smart Home Hub

Jordan Crook  for TechCrunch:  Samsung and SmartThings are buddying up to introduce Samsung’s latest line of Smart TVs, complete with SmartThings platform integration so folks can use their TVs as an interface to control the home.

There is no shortage of internet-connected devices out there, from standard security systems and smart lighting systems all the way to the connected kettle. But a connective language that unifies those devices is harder to come by. SmartThings is aiming to introduce that by teaming up with potential interfaces, including the Amazon Echo and this most recent foray into Smart TVs.

With this latest move, owners of the new 2016 Samsung SUHD TVs will be able to use their television as a controller for more than 200 SmartThings-compatible devices.  Cont'd...

5 Ways Smart Home Gadgets Can Leave You Vulnerable

Jess Bolluyt for CheatSheet:  All kinds of creative tech companies, large and small, are building interesting smart home devices. While they promise to make your house or apartment smarter, more energy-efficient, and more closely tailored to your needs and preferences, they have a few drawbacks, most notably that many of them aren’t as secure as you’d hope.

As Bitdefender recently noted in a post for Mashable, users want exciting tech products on fast timelines, which leaves designers and developers scrambling to offer ever-more-capable devices on shortening development cycles. That “rush to market” can result in poorly-constructed software, and unfortunately, the first thing to go is often proper consideration for security. Devices from smart TVs to thermostats to routers have all been found to neglect basic security measures. While we’re just as excited about the prospect of using technology to make our homes smarter and more capable, it’s important to be aware of the ways that Internet of Things devices can compromise your security.  Cont'd...

CES 2016 - Autonomous Cars Set To Dominate

BY DAVID GILBERT For International Business Times:  As cars become less about horsepower and torque and more about the technology inside, CES has become one of the most important showcases of the year for auto manufacturers. It's a sea change in how cars are built and marketed, with technology now the core, rather than an added feature. Connected, autonomous and electric vehicles will all be on display at CES 2016, with some of the world’s most talk-about companies in the field looking to make a major impact.

First up will be Faraday Future, the secretive startup based in Los Angeles and backed by a Chinese billionaire. It is set to unveil its first ever concept design on Jan. 4, and while all the company has said so far is that it will be an electric vehicle, it is widely believed to feature autonomous capabilities.

While Faraday Future is a relative unknown, one of the world’s biggest automotive companies, Ford, will also be at CES announcing news about the autonomous car it has been testing internally for several years. Among the announcements expected is apartnership with Google to build some of Google’s fleet of self-driving cars.  Cont'd...

One-Third Of Homes Primed For Smart-Home Technology

By: Joseph Palenchar for Twice:  Smart-home technology is used by 21 percent of all U.S. households, and another 36 percent are viable future customers, a Strategy Analytics analysis concluded.

The research and consulting company also surveyed online households about what they’d be willing to pay for and found the list topped by devices that allow for remote or automatic water shut-off if a leak is detected. That’s followed by devices that automatically adjust lights and thermostats based on who is home, a panic-button feature that turns on all lights in the house, remote monitoring and control of door locks, and motion-sensing camera s with visual notification.  Cont'd...

Home Automation Protocols: What Technology is Right for You?

From ElectronicHouse:  There are a wide variety of technology platforms, or protocols, on which a smart home can be built. Each one is, essentially, its own language. Each language speaks to the various connected devices and instructs them to perform a function.

Choosing a smart home protocol can be tricky business. Obviously, you want one that will support a large number of devices, as well as one that offers the best possible device interoperability (the ability for devices to talk to each other). But there are also other factors to consider, such as power consumption, bandwidth and, of course, cost.

Following is an overview of some of the most popular home technology platforms on the market. While not intended to be the “be-all, end-all” treatise on which protocol is best for your smart home project, it’s a great place to start.  Cont'd...

Honda Smart Home Opens Up Breakthrough Data Streams

Kyle Field for CleanTechnica:  When I first heard of the Honda Smart Home (HSH), my first question was, “Wait, why is Honda playing with Smart Homes?” Digging deeper reveals that this new endeavor aims to build on some of the core principles of Honda while, at the same time, stretching the company into new areas, such as tapping into the benefits of home automation when paired with an EV that carries around a large battery everywhere it goes. One of the key tenets of this exploratory initiative is open-source data sharing, and Honda just took a very large step in this direction by opening up a ton of new data streams (200!) at 1-minute intervals.
I really enjoy the type of data being gathered by the integrated Honda Energy Management System and can appreciate just how impactful this data can be, as it allows anyone to go in, download the data, and play with it to their heart’s content. Summarize, roll up, drill down, average, min/max… the excel geek in me is tingling with the possibilities. I am especially interested in how this type of a central “energy brain” in a home essentially allows users to see exactly what parts of their home are performing well or not.  Cont'd...
 

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...

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