Report: Google builds an Amazon Echo alternative while Nest turns to security

Jared Newman for TechHive:  Google and Nest reportedly have a bunch of new smart home products in the works, but there may not be much collaboration happening between the two Alphabet subsidiaries. On the Google side, the search giant may be working on a competitor to Amazon’s Echo connected speaker, according to The Information (via The Verge). The story reveals no details about the product, but it seems like an obvious fit for Google, which has already made voice controls a centerpiece of its Android Wear smartwatch platform. A device that answers Internet queries and controls other smart home products could very well tie into Google’s broader efforts to create a new platform for the Internet of Things. Earlier this month, Recode reported that Nest had explored its own Echo-like product. But Nest ultimately abandoned the plans, partly out of concerns that an always-listening virtual assistant with ties to Google might freak people out. The Information now reports that Nest wanted to be involved with Google’s connected-speaker efforts, but was rebuffed. Where does that leave Nest? The company may now be turning its attention to home security, with three projects in development.  Cont'd...

URC to Launch HomeSet at ISC 2016, Targeting Security Dealers with Home Automation

From CEPro:  Popular provider of custom-oriented audio, video and smart home technology, URC will launch new system at ISC West 2016 ‘specifically for the home security channel.' Is Vera by MiOS the new partner? URC is a longtime provider of universal remote controls for the masses, and in the past decade has become a major force in the custom home automation market. But the company’s audio, video and smart-home control systems have been marketed almost exclusively to A/V and automation specialists. That’s about to change at ISC West 2016 next month, when the company will introduce HomeSet, “an exciting product line specifically for the home security channel,” according to URC’s exhibitor profile. The description reads in full:   URC, leader in smart home automation, introduces the HomeSet control system. Leveraging a rich heritage in control technology, URC has developed this exciting product line specifically for the home security channel. It’s complete and provides the conveniences your customers demand including integration with Sonos and Nest products.   Full article:

Got an old phone? Make it into a home security camera.

Valentina Palladino for Ars Technica:  Smart security cameras are one of the easiest ways to start transforming your normal home into a connected home. Everyone knows about Alphabet's Nest cam, but there are plenty of other cameras to consider from companies including Samsung, D-Link, and Canary. However, you don't have to drop $200 on a bulbous eye-looking camera if you don't want to—there are apps for that. Numerous Android and iOS apps claim to use your old smartphone's cameras to replicate the features of these dedicated cams, letting you check in from your current smartphone whenever you want. These security apps have nearly the same features as regular smart cameras but are free to download and require no extra hardware. Even older phones are powerful enough to be repurposed. That doesn't mean the apps are quite as good as purpose-built security cameras, though. We looked into the differences between home security cameras and their smartphone equivalents (specifically the apps Manything and Alfred) to see if one method of monitoring your home is better than the other.   Cont'd...

Why The Amazon Echo Is The iPhone Of The Smart Home

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  If you’re like me, remembering how different using a mobile phone was back in 2006 is getting increasingly difficult. That’s because today we live in a world so completely transformed by the iPhone, it seems as if it’s always been that way. But looking back, things were indeed very different. If you used a smartphone at all back then (something the vast majority of consumers did not), chances are it was a Blackberry. If you tried to use the Internet on your phone, you might remember the “mobile Internet” experience, such as it was, was pretty horrible. Most consumers at the time still used basic feature phones, and industry analysts predicted that smartphone adoption would grow, but not at nearly the eye-popping rate we would soon see in the age of the iPhone. As we now know, the transformative nature of the iPhone quickly changed nearly every assumption we had about mobile phones and, as a result, had a ripple effect that resulted in nearly every company in mobile (and pretty much every industry) changing their own approach to the market. In many ways, I think the the Amazon Echo is an equally transformative product for the smart home. Whether it’s how early Echo owners are interacting with their device or its how Amazon itself is rewriting the rules of competition,  the two products share a number of industry-disrupting similarities.   Cont'd...

Qolsys Security and Smarthome Platform Approved for Alarm Capital Alliance Dealer Program

Qolsys, provider of best-in-class residential security and smarthome solutions, announced today that its home security and smart home platform has been approved for distribution in the Alarm Capital Alliance (ACA) Dealer Program. This approval allows ACA dealers to offer the most advanced technology to their customers and expands the reach of the Qolsys IQ Panel platform into new residential markets.  "We've been very impressed with the advanced technology and continuous innovations that Qolsys has brought to the home security industry," said Amy Kothari, President and CEO of ACA. "After offering the IQ Panel solution in a few of our 'My Alarm Center' branches for more than a year, we've been able to deliver attractive features while achieving increased RMR and customer satisfaction. We are pleased to roll this out to our dealer network."   Full Press Release:  

Home security 101: Local vs. cloud camera storage

Megan Wollerton for CNET:  Cameras are a key component of home security, acting as your eyes and ears when you aren't home. While there are a ton of different models available on the market today with a ton of different features, one piece of this buying decision is pretty universal regardless of your other camera must-haves: video storage. But there are two main types of video storage to choose from -- local and cloud -- and they're very, very different. Not only will selecting between local and cloud storage help you narrow down your options fast, it will also help you set your priorities for your broader security system and smart home preferences down the road. Local storage:  As the name suggests, this type of video storage saves your clips and other footage locally. Compatible cameras have microSD card slots that can generally handle anywhere from 16GB to 128GB cards. Sometimes, a microSD card is included with your camera purchase; other times, you're expected to buy your own.   Full Article:

Smart Home Trial Aimed At Improving Elder Care

Eoin Blackwell for Huffington Post:  Elderly Australians may soon have access to 'home smart' technology that can alert healthcare providers or family if they have taken a fall or not taken medication. The release of the breakthrough technology follows a joint trial by technology provider Samsung and Deakin University. Over the next few weeks, five homes in Geelong, Victoria, will be used to test a technology ecosystem specifically designed to help address challenges associated with in-home aged care. Using small, battery-powered sensors developed by Samsung, the Australian developed Holly Smart Home Project will be able to monitor aged care homes and can alert healthcare providers when strange activity is detected in or around the home. The sensors are placed around the house -- motions sensors, sensors under the bed for sleep tracking, door sensors, in cupboards, fridges, etc -- and stream information to a program named Holly, whose artificial intelligence coordinates the information to make certain predictions about your behaviour, said Rajesh Vasa, Professor of Software and Technology Innovation at Deakin University.   Cont'd...

Mozilla's New Projects May Lead to Smart Home Virtual Assistant

ANDREW E. FREEDMAN for Tom's Guide:  Move over, Siri and Alexa. Mozilla is working on its own virtual assistant, but not just for your phone. A series of projects by the developers of the Firefox browser is laying the groundwork for a helper that will control your home through the Internet of Things. The first is Project Link, the brains, which Mozilla describes as a "personal user agent" that will learn how you like to interact with all of your smart home devices , and then help automate their functions. Project SensorWeb will create sensors, as well as an open platform to share the data from those sensors. Not only will the sensors help Project Link learn about each user's environment, but the data can be crowdsourced to provide developers with detailed information for more advanced  programs. The first of these projects will be a PM2.5 air pollution sensor network, so that individuals and governments can better get a sense of the air quality in different parts of the world.   Cont'd...

These Lego-Like Batteries Plug In To Store Solar Power At Home

Adele Peters for Co-Exist:   Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician. The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together. "Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved. With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together. For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated.   Cont'd...

How Do You Sell Lots Of Smart Home Gear? Scare Off A Burglar, Natch

Michael Wolf  for Forbes:  Being a startup in the smart home industry can be tough. Not only is there lots of competition, but usually you have to spend lots of time and money educating the consumer about what your product does. Smart home gear tailored towards home security has it a little easier, since most consumers understand that security keeps bad guys away. But when your product is a sub-$100 device with no 24/7 monitoring like the big boys, you then have to spend much of your time creating a compelling message that your low-cost gear can do the job. This was the challenge faced by Korner, a Seattle startup that makes a patented, ultra-low-cost security sensor. The device, which comes in packs of three for $98, can be stuck on any window or door and sounds an alarm when it senses movement. This sounds great but, if you’re like me, you wonder if putting your safety and security in the hands of such a low cost system is a good idea.  Cont'd...

Amazon just made another really smart home product

Tim Stenovec for Business Insider:  There are plenty of dumb uses of "smart" technology.Toothbrushes, slow-cookers, anddog collars are just a few, to say nothing of far more expensive products like fridges. But on Monday, Amazon actually released a "smart" product that is incredibly useful: a $45 water pitcher from the king of water filtration products. If you've ever owned a Brita pitcher filtration system, which filters tap water, then you may know where this is going.  The water filter monitors how much water has been filtered, and will automatically order a new filter when it gets close to the time you should replace it. By the time the filters is used up, a new filter will already be shipped to you. But the genius here is that apart from the initial setup, you don't actually have to do anything. Ever!  Cont'd...

Webcast - Terminating Larger Size Cables with Platinum Tools Connectors

With the recent increase in popularity of Category 6A cables, cabling-system installers are now working more and more frequently with dramatically increased cable sizes. Terminating these larger-size cables to standard connectors, which are optimally designed for smaller cables, can be a challenge. New connectors and solutions have been developed to solve the termination and workmanship issues that arise when installers terminate larger-size cables. This webcast seminar will cover the following termination practices and principles: Terminating Category 6A cable to Category 6A shielded connectors Terminating Category 5e and Category 6 cable to Category 6 shielded connectors Sponsored by Honeywell and Platinum Tools, the seminar will use Honeywell’s Category 5e, 6 and 6A cable as well as Platinum Tools’ Category 6 and 6A shielded connectors to demonstrate cable preparation and termination techniques. The demonstrations will provide step-by-step instructions on completing the termination of these larger-size cables.   View Webcast:

CoeLux: Artificial Sunlight

What is CoeLux? CoeLux is an optical system based on nano technology to artificially reproduce the natural light and visual appearance of the sun and sky. CoeLux offers a breakthrough opportunity for indoor architecture by creating the sensation of infinite space... ( product website )

Competition for Alexa? LG Uplus announces new voice-controlled smart home gadgets

Ry Crist for CNET:  With the success of the Amazon Echo, the online mega-retailer's increasingly popular smart speaker, it was inevitable that we'd start seeing competitors begin to emerge, just as it's inevitable that tech journalists will begin making cheesy "is there an Echo in here?" jokes as it happens. So, let's just get this out of the way.  Is there an Echo in here? It seems like there might be. LG Uplus, a South Korean cellular carrier that's a subsidiary of LG, is rolling out a pair of voice-activated smart home products, including an always-on, always-listening smart speaker that boasts the same sort of far-field voice recognition technology as the Amazon Echo. Dubbed the IoT Hub, the device will let users control connected lights, thermostats, locks and more using basic voice commands. It even has a colorful (and familiar-looking) ring of LED lights up on top. Device no. 2 is the tvG Woofer Set Top Box. It's essentially a thin pedestal packed with a four-channel speaker, two subwoofers, and microphones designed to hear you no matter where you are in the room, regardless of background noise. You'll slip it under your television set, then pipe your home entertainment audio through it. If you want to search for something to watch, you'll be able to do so using voice commands.   Cont'd...

Touchless gesture control upgrades at #MWC2016

By Mellisa Tolentino for SiliconAngle:  At Mobile World Congress, Elliptic Labs AS introduced a new way for consumers to interact with smart home devices. Forget about voice control, think Jedi powers. The company’s new EASY IoT (Internet of Things) software introduces touchless gesture control to your connected home devices such as smart thermostats, kitchen appliances, lighting controls, and security systems to name a few. It uses ultrasound technology to control gadgets with conductor-like ease. At MWC, Elliptic Labs will demonstrate how EASY IoT works on a connected lamp, smoke detector, and wireless speaker. EASY IoT will be offered to mobile manufacturers in hopes of building in the technology for as many core devices as possible. The more ubiquitous EASY IoT, the broader its market reach. This tactic relies heavily on willing business partners and will require transparent methods for sharing data sets and open source technology. This would ideally result in consumer adoption through necessity instead of heavy marketing and backward integration.   Cont'd...  

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