Mobile World Congress 2016 is underway!

Despite a slow start due to the transportation strike, MWC is quite abuzz. We’ve already seen exciting product announcements, the opening keynote, and some great demonstrations in every hall. Mobile World Congress, or MWC, is an annual gathering for the mobile industry and related industries, organised by the GSMA, and held in Barcelona, Spain, the Mobile World Capital.

MWC offers a world-class exhibition, award-winning conference programme, and outstanding networking opportunities. With 94,000+ attendees, MWC offers the  opportunity to do more business in four days than in a month’s worth of meetings or in a year’s worth of travel, because everyone who is part of the industry is in Barcelona for MWC.

In short: if you’re in mobile, or an industry that supports mobile, or are looking to make contacts in the mobile industry, you simply have to attend MWC in 2016.  Check out the MWC Blog for updates.

Sigma Designs Announces Break-Through Z-Wave® UL Component Recognition

Sigma Designs, Inc.®, a leading provider of intelligent system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for Smart TV and Internet of Things (IoT) for Smart Home, today announced their Z-Wave modules models ZM5101, ZM5202, and ZM5304 with protocol SDK version 6.60 have been evaluated to UL's standards for home security, enabling new applications for professional security sensors and other devices in the multi-billion dollar home security business in the US. 

Professional security sensors such as door and window and motion sensors make up the majority of security devices in the home, which are estimated to represent installation of about 20 million units per year. These devices typically utilize non-standard one-way radios operating at 300/400 MHz frequencies. Since these devices use one-way communication, their effective security and reliability can be compromised. The number one problem faced by security companies is false alarms, which represent more than 50% of the service calls they receive, creating a substantial cost impact. One-way sensors simply cannot evaluate a false alarm. Since Z-Wave is a true two-way network technology, it can identify the actual sensors and be requested to re-check conditions multiple times to reduce these false alarms. Migrating to state-of-the-art two-way sensors will improve the overall security and reliability of security systems and will also represent a substantial competitive advantage for Z-Wave.  Full Press Release:

Bluetooth Gateway Smart Starter Kit navigates home automation

Alun Williams for ElectronicsWeekly.com:  Low-power Bluetooth comms are a well-established known entity, but with the increasingly prevalence of all things IoT, are you aware of how to interface them to the Internet, Web and Clouds? It can be done in various ways and the Bluetooth SIG is aiming to simplify or clarify the path with itsGateway Smart Starter Kit.

This is the boast:  This kit shows you how to move data from all of your Bluetooth sensors into the cloud without a mobile device while giving you the ability to control all of them from one place.

The guide shows how to connect Bluetooth devices or sensors to the web using Bluetooth GAP/GATT RESTful APIs, using a Bluetooth gateway on a Raspberry Pi board. Further, it shows how to communicate and control these devices from the Web.  Cont'd...

Smart Love: The Future Smart Home Promises to Help Us Unplug

Julia Allison for Huffington Post:  Could a smart thermostat reduce the divorce rate? Could a connected fridge be the key to unlocking relationship woes? According to the findings of a new survey commissioned by Intel, a quarter of Americans believe it can. The report goes on to hint that in the future, the all encompassing phrase "IoT" won't just stand for the Internet-of-Things, it will herald in a new terminology, built around the idea of the "Intimacy-of-Things." In other words, things (and their endless maintenance) would no longer block, but actually aid our intimacy.

For anyone who shares domestic duties with a partner (and that's most of us), we quickly realize that the constant maintenance required due to the wear and tear of the things we own often leads to wear and tear on our romance. Very few people find it sexy to argue over household chores. The American dream of owning a home comes with a little nightmare, the often-overwhelming amount of time, energy and cash it takes to maintain that home. Light bulbs burn out, furnaces strain and dishwashers leak. Home sweet home doesn't always ring true when our homes seem to be where our to-do lists go to multiply.  Cont'd...

1.4 Million App Developers Are Building For The Smart Home

David Bolton for ConnectedWorld:  App developers who are already invested in the Internet of Things are more likely to build apps for the smart home over other usages.

A recent report by VisionMobile [PDF] said that out of the 4.5 million people identified as IoT developers in 2015, 1.4 million were focused on smart home apps. According to VisionMobile’s IoT Megatrends 2016 report, there are seven distinct IoT areas that app developers work in—smart home, retail, industrial, wearables, smart city, medical and connected car—with the opportunities offered by connected homes a clear favorite.

Retail IoT apps, wearables and industrial versions attract around one million app developers each, while the connected car is of interest to 700,000 people. People have become used to the concept of IoT and recent research by Gartner said that there could be as many as 700 million smart homes by 2020. Cont'd...

What it's like to spend a year with an app-powered security camera

Alex Heath for TechInsider:  For about a year I've been using Canary's all-in-one home security system to monitor my apartment. I live in New York City, and it's already saved me from a possible rat infestation.

Canary bills itself as an all-in-one home security system for $200 and no required monthly fees. The New York startup's sleek, cylindrical piece of hardware features a 1080p video camera with infrared night vision and a motion detector. It also has a (quite loud) siren and the ability to detect the room temperature and air humidity.

Where Canary really shines is its mobile app, which lets you look through the device's camera from anywhere via your home internet connection. You can't pan or zoom as you watch, but the camera's wide-angle lens should capture most of any room you place it in.  Cont'd...

Control4 Acquires Pakedge Device & Software

Control4 Corporation (NASDAQ:CTRL), a leading global provider of smart home solutions, today announced the acquisition of Pakedge Device & Software, Inc., a leader in advanced networking products and cloud network-management services for both wireless and wired networking solutions for the connected home and business.
"The connected consumer, connected home, and connected business opportunity is expanding along with the complexities of supporting thousands of different devices and services in homes and business around the world," said Martin Plaehn, Control4 Chairman and CEO. "By embracing networking as an expanded core-competency, integrating it tightly with our entertainment and automation capabilities, and delivering a single cloud-based reporting and management solution, Control4 will be able to harness the expanding opportunity, bring more simplicity to the complicated, and increase satisfaction for our end customers."   Full Press Release... 
 

Amazon Is Winning the Smart Home Race -- and Nobody Is Noticing

From MotleyFool:  Amazon first targeted the smart space with the Echo -- a multifunction home speaker that, while initially suffering criticism around its practicality (not unlike the Fire Phone), acts more like a capable virtual assistant with each software release. Alexa, the artificial intelligence built by Amazon to power Echo, can stream music from various services, update your calendar, or pull sports scores and restaurant recommendations for you.

But the Echo's fastest-growing use case is as a voice-activated hub to control your smart home. What makes it stand out from the competition is Alexa's powerful voice recognition capabilities -- something Amazon has worked very hard to make best in class, and for good reason.

Voice has already become the simplest method for running common smartphone tasks -- setting quick reminders or asking for directions without unlocking and navigating the device. It's the most natural and reflexive human medium for communication; untethered and hands free, voice doesn't require you to set down your bags, wash your hands, or jumble through your pockets to use your phone.  Cont'd...

Control4 Rolls Out New Line of Smart Home Solutions Starting at $600 MSRP

 Control4 Corporation, a leading global provider of smart home solutions, today announces and ships its EA Series, a new line of entertainment and automation controllers, which represents the next generation platform for smart home innovation, featuring high-resolution audio, high-performance automation, and Control4's broad interoperability. 
With three separate models, the Control4 EA Series is designed and priced to deliver exceptional automation power, reliability, and high-impact entertainment experiences for any single-room or whole-home project. The new line is powered by the Control4 Operating System which manages entertainment sources from hundreds of the world's leading brands, streams popular music services, and controls and automates lighting, security systems, thermostats, door locks, cameras, and more, all with a single remote or app.   Full Press Release:
 

A Disappointing Consumer Electronic Show (CES) For Home Automation

Mike Krell for Forbes:  Ultimately, my problem and disappointment with the CES home automation offerings this year was the fact that there were too many undifferentiated products and not enough simple solutions.

It seemed that most companies wanted to focus on their single use product or application, and I’ve got to say, I was underwhelmed—especially with the differentiation from product to product. How much differentiation can there be in a doorbell or lock? Don’t get me wrong; I saw a few unique things. However, my belief is that 5 years from now all home automation products will be pretty much the same, and the products won’t address what the consumers really want. Why? Because it’s not about the products.

Consumers today may be thinking of just buying a product such as a doorbell, lock or camera, but when you talk to most people, what they want is to use technology to change or enhance their lifestyles. Consumers want to use technology to make their lives simpler and easier. I like to call these lifestyle solutions “scenes”. Scenes are derived from the way we (want to) live.   Cont'd...

6 New Routers That Can Handle All Your Smart Home Needs

Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  Routers, those typically ugly-looking devices that provide Wi-Fi, have long been a weak link in home network security. Hackers can take advantage easy-to-guess passwords and lax manufacturing standards by an industry that has long focused on price over security, asdetailed Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal.

Homeowners, for their part, haven’t exactly focused on network security either. Many have no idea what routers do and instead rely on their Internet service provider to include them in their modems.

When ISPs started charging monthly rental fees of $4 to $7 for modems, some consumers started buying their own home networking gear. But most people still shop based on price.

Even those looking for high-end features don’t have much to choose from. Most routers come with only a limited number of extras.  That is changing though.  Cont'd...

92% of Security Installers/Integrators See Home Automation as a Future Revenue Generator

Adam Bannister for IFSEC Global:  Polling the views of hundreds of installers, IFSEC Global found that 92% saw the ‘smart home’ – whereby lighting, heating, alarms and other household functions are interconnected and remotely controlled via smartphone or PC – as a potential area for diversification.

No surprise, then, that almost as many – 88% – would be more likely to attend IFSEC International if a dedicated home automation zone were introduced.

“In the top end of the market, people are spending hundreds of thousands on smart home technology,” write one installer who completed the survey. “There are a few cheap end products out there, but the most important factor here is that products can be retro-fitted and not too expensive.

“It would be great to see a security system that integrates as one package.  As far as we are aware this does not exist. We’ve been trying to push the home automation side, but are still seeking the right product.”

A similar proportion – 86% – would visit if an area dedicated to ‘smart buildings’ – essentially the same concept applied to commercial premises – area were launched.

Which is indeed what is happening, on both fronts: for the first time IFSEC International will feature a dedicated Smart Zone for its 2016 edition, comprising a replica ‘smart home’ fitted out with the latest home automation innovations from top exhibitors including Y3K, Lilin and Control 4.  Cont'd...

Shrinking Space in RF Poses Challenges to AV Integrators

By Kelleigh Welch for AV Network:  Picture your desk—you have a computer, a phone, a few folders with information about your latest project, a photo of your dog, all carefully arranged in their own designated space. Now cut the size of your desk in half—you can still fit everything in the space, it’s just a lot more cramped.

Such is the case with the wireless spectrum as the FCC continues to auction off pieces designated for TV broadcast and wireless microphone systems. Currently, wireless systems have access to the 470 to 698 mHz frequencies, but on March 29, 2016, this range will get smaller as pieces are auctioned off to mobile broadband companies.

So what does this mean for integrators? To start, with fewer frequencies to work with, integrators need to future proof their systems by choosing reliable and efficient wireless systems.

“Right now, if you are designing or putting together a concept for an install, you need to choose systems that are spectrally efficient. You have to look for attributes that can serve your install, with a wide tuning coverage,” explained Nick Wood, category director for wireless systems, Shure.  Cont'd...

Smart Home Device Buyers Want Support

By Aaron Baar for MediaPost:  Although they have been tagged as one of the bright spots for the coming year in the consumer electronics sector, makers of smart home devices need to be concerned about user-friendliness if they want them to truly take off.


According to a survey conducted by support.com, which provides tech support and support center services, nearly a third (31%) of smart home system owners struggle with the complexity of setup. In addition, 43% of potential smart home device buyers are concerned about how complex setting up the system might be. 

“Complexity is starting to impede adoption,” Alex Polous, Support.com’s vice president of marketing, tells Marketing Daily. “If we want to increase adoption, we need to look at the user experience and not just the flashy features.”

Still, 37% of current smart home device owners installed the devices themselves, and 61% want to attempt to fix the issues on their own. Providers, then, should offer an array of support options for different customers and for different stages of ownership, he says.  Cont'd...

Making Sense of Smart Home Tech at CES 2016

Dan Tynan for Yahoo Tech:  The problem with smart home technology in 2016 isn’t a lack of intelligence; it’s a failure to communicate.

As more  new ‘smart’ devices appear — and we saw a passel of them at CES 2016, from smart showers to beds, belts, blenders, toothbrushes and more — the same stumbling blocks remain. All of them will talk to your smartphone, but most of them won’t talk to each other.

To get the most Jetsons-like experience from your smart home, different devices need to speak the same language. If you want your smart bed to notice when you are awake, open your smart blinds, tune your smart audio system to Morning Edition, and tell your smart coffee maker to start brewing, all of these devices need to be communicating on the same radio frequency using the same protocols.

At the moment, though, there are more than half a dozen smart home protocols — like Apple Homekit, Samsung’s Smart Things, Google’s Brillo, Lowe’s Iris, and AllJoyn, as well as old standbys like Zigbee and Zwave. And that’s just a partial list.  Cont'd...

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