Why Apple wants to be the smart home's nerve center

Lora Kolodny for TechCrunch:  On Monday, Apple announced that it would make an app called Home available to users soon, allowing them to connect and control all of their HomeKit-enabled smart home devices from their iPads, iPhones or even Watches. Per an earlier TechCrunch report live from the event, the Home app will let users control a Fantasia-like orchestra of smart gadgets from one place, including everything from smart doorbells and locks, to thermostats, light bulbs, humidifiers and entertainment systems. And the app will let users engage Siri to tweak the settings on those devices, of course. But why is Apple intent on becoming a universal remote, or a nerve center, for the smart home? Frankly, consumers are not yet buying IoT devices and services with the fervor hoped for by consumer electronics and appliance brands.   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...

How to Choose the Safest IoT Device for your Home

Alexandra Gheorghe for MacWorld:  Growth in the consumer market for Internet of Things gadgets is accelerating at an impressive speed, and forecasters predict 25 billion devices will be online by 2020. Thus, users can choose from a wide array of products available on the market. On Amazon.com, for instance, around 400 search results relate to smart thermostats. But which product is best? After filtering the huge list by price and reviews, you are left with a handful of good options. Maybe some are more visually appealing than others, so, you select those that fit the aesthetics of your home. But where does security fit in? Is it among your top three selection criteria? Unfortunately, most users prefer convenience over security. This known tradeoff is also partially due to the lack of standardization. There is no “security star” rating for consumer IoT devices. Needless to say, most consumers don’t have the tools and skills needed to differentiate products based on their security posture. Such a system seems difficult to implement at this stage of IoT development.   Cont'd...

Atari now makes smart home products

Jacob Kastrenakes  for The Verge:  Someday soon, you may be able to buy a network-connected dog collar made by Atari.  Atari announced today that it's partnering with Sigfox to get into the Internet of Things business. Together, they intend to create connected home, pet, lifestyle, and safety products. Work on the new products will begin sometime this year; there's no date yet for when they'll begin to roll out or exactly what products we might see. While it may sound strange to hear that Atari, the classic video game company, is now making smart home products, it's not quite as weird as it sounds. That's because Atari isn't necessarily going to be all that involved in the development of these new devices. Instead, Atari is going to be the brand name under which Sigfox will create and sell its own IoT products, offering it better name recognition with consumers.   Cont'd...

TAYLOR MORRISON SCALES A SMART HOME SOLUTION TO PRODUCTION BUILDING

Kayla Devon for BuilderOnline:  The Interactive Home is Taylor Morrison’s trademarked term for its smart home offering, which its Houston division first launched with Legrand, an electrical and home automation product manufacturer, in 2012. Last year the company started to look for a better solution that could work across all its product lines. Legrand ultimately won the contract once again because of its newly updated Intuity Home Intelligence platform and the vendor’s experience with Taylor Morrison. Jim Ellison, VP of sales and marketing for Taylor Morrison’s Houston division, says the company wanted the ability to scale the smart home solution to its various price points from $190,000 to over $1 million. According to Legrand, the Intuity Home Intelligence system is meant to bring home automation to the masses, by being scalable to both a consumers’ and a home builders’ needs and price points.   Cont'd...

Netatmo Connect launches to make its smart home tech smarter

Michael Sawh for Wareable:  Good news Netatmo fans, the smart home company has announced a new Connect platform that will allow developers to tap into its connected kit, including the Welcome indoor camera, thermostat and weather station. Hot on the heels of Nest's decision to expand its Works with Nest program, the French company also wants to bring smart home tech closer together and this is definitely a step in the right direction. The platform is broken down into three programmes all of which will enable connected objects, services and apps to hook up with Netatmo products. First up is Netatmo Weather, where developers can take advantage of weather data measured by global Netatmo weather stations to provide users with a accurate local forecasts. Next is Smart Home, where interactions can be created between Netatmo products and other connected tech. Lastly, there's the opportunity to develop for Enterprise with the hope of helping customers to analyse energy consumption.   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:

CEDIA DEVELOPS HOME TECHNOLOGY CERTIFICATE PROGRAM FOR COLDWELL BANKER REAL ESTATE

RealEstateRama:  CEDIA and Coldwell Banker Real Estate have collaborated to offer a home technology certificate program to Coldwell Banker Real Estate independent agents. The newly developed curriculum, which will be taught by CEDIA representatives, will help agents better represent the value of home technology. “Home technology is a source of convenience, security, and comfort in homes across the United States, with almost half of all Americans previously sharing with us that they either already own or plan to invest in home technology by the end of 2016,” said Budge Huskey, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. “We believe it is imperative for our affiliated agents to learn about home technology and engage with the professionals who install it.Partnering with CEDIA to provide this course was an easy choice and we’ve already seen a great amount of excitement from our agents surrounding this new offering.”   Full story.

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...

Nest open-sources its home automation network protocol, Thread

Ken Yeung for VentureBeat:  Nest has released an open-sourced version of its Thread protocol, making its home automation network technology more broadly available to developers. The introduction of OpenThread is expected to give parties interested in working with open-source technology all the benefits of building on Thread — allowing them to continue innovating without dealing with the current limitations of the protocol. This project is the company’s first open-source initiative. Created by Nest, Samsung, ARM, Atmel, Dialog Semiconductor, Qualcomm Technologies, and Texas Instruments, Thread was intended to be the standard for connected home devices and apps. When it was announced in 2014, the protocol was described as providing a common network language that products like smart thermostats and smoke alarms could use to talk with each other.   Cont'd...

​Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave: Why smart home standards matter

Dan Sung for Wareable:  Wi-Fi has proved to be a really effective way of getting our laptops, our tablets, our phones and even our TVs and stereo systems to talk to the internet but it's not working for the smart home. The Internet of Things has more subtle needs than these big-batteried, regularly charged or permanently powered items, and clunky old Wi-Fi can't handle the pressure of getting scores of small sensors talking. You might have heard of names ZigBee, Z-Wave and, more recently, Thread but what do they do? And should be you considering them when planning your smart home? Read on to find out. Why standards matter:  Let's say you fill your home with connectable devices. They're sitting there - your washing machine, your door lock, your toasted sandwich maker or whatever - and they're bursting with notifications to send to you and to each other.   Cont'd...

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