Universal Electronics makes smart home bid with Ecolink acquisition

By Ben Munson for CEDMagazine:  Universal Electronics Inc. (UEI) is strengthening its position in the smart home market by acquiring Ecolink Intelligent Technology, a wireless home security and automation specialist.

UEI is spending about $12.4 million in cash and incentive-based considerations over the next five years to acquire Ecolink’s assets.

Those assets include over 25 issued and pending patents, related intellectual property and Ecolink’s smart home, wireless security and home automation business.

Ecolink will become a wholly owned subsidiary of UEI and continue being operated and marketed under the Ecolink name.

For Ecolink, the acquisition likely means a significant boost in market penetration.

For UEI, the purchase means a stronger foothold in the smart home/home automation market that’s becoming part of many cable companies’ and telco’ businesses.  Cont'd...

CastleOS Announces the First Windows 10 Smart Home Hub

CastleOS announces the upcoming CastleHUB will be the first Windows 10 smart home hub, featuring voice control with Cortana and the Kinect.

Using Cortana on Windows 10, or the Kinect for far-field control in a room, you can speak to your home! Actions as common as turning on lights, setting moods with color changing bulbs, controlling entertainment systems, adjusting heat and air conditioning, locking doors, monitoring security, watering the lawn, or even feeding the family pet are all possible by voice control and with the CastleOS app. The power of CastleOS with Windows 10 enables everyone to enjoy the highest level of true independent living in their own home, even if they are physically unable to use a mobile app or light switch!  Cont'd...

Quirky's Ben Kaufman steps down as CEO

Sarah Tew for CNET:  Ben Kaufman is stepping down as CEO of Quirky, the New York-based developer of crowd-sourced inventions Kaufman founded in 2009. The company announced the move via blog post on Friday, citing an "ongoing strategy to focus efforts and resources on Wink," its smart home-centric subsidiary.

That strategy marks a shift from reports earlier this year that Quirky was looking to sell Wink off to the highest bidder. Those efforts were reportedly put on hold in April after a botched security update locked many customers out of their Wink Hubs, the central communications device in Wink's smart home platform. Kaufman, however, confirmed that selling Wink was still a possibility in an interview with Fortune last month.  Cont'd...

Ecovent Closes $6.9 Million in Funding to Bring Room-by-Room Temperature Control and Comfort to Homeowners

Ecovent, the maker of the only intelligent home zoning system that delivers complete room-by-room climate control, today announced that it has closed a $6.9 million Series A funding round led by Emerson Climate Technologies, a business segment of Emerson (NYSE:EMR). The round includes participation from Tamarisc and Blue Fog Capital. 
Ecovent started the year being named Automation Product of the Year at CES 2015, and has struck a chord with consumers, bringing in more than $1 million in pre-orders. Ecovent is transforming the home by giving consumers control over their comfort in every room. Ecovent's advanced system of wireless vents and sensors intelligently diagnose the factors impacting room temperature and automatically adjust airflow into each room to achieve the perfectly desired temperature. With Ecovent, homeowners have the ability to control the temperature of each room individually through an app, saving energy and money by heating and cooling only the rooms that need conditioning instead of the entire home. 
"Today's cars allow passengers and drivers to set individual temperatures, yet most homes have only one adjustable zone, and it's time to change that," said Dipul Patel, CEO and co-founder of Ecovent. "We developed the Ecovent system to give people room-by-room temperature control in any home - automatically. It's incredibly exciting to have the support of an industry titan like Emerson to help us bring Ecovent to a larger audience as we change the way homeowners experience comfort in their homes."   Full Press Release:
 

Silicon Valley will soon become a massive player in home security

 Bob Bryan for BusinessInsider:  Currently, there are three types of home security on the market. The industry giants run traditional professionally installed and monitored systems, like what ADT offers and telecoms such as Comcast and AT&T have begun to roll out. These represent 93% of the home-security market, says Citi.

The next is self-installed and professionally monitored in which a customer installs the hardware and then pays a subscriber fee to have the house monitored by professionals. This category includes companies like SimpliSafe, Frontpoint, and Protect America. These companies have 4.7% market share.

Finally, self-installed and monitored systems such as Google's Nest and Dropcam or Apple's HomeKit-enabled devices leave it up to the user to set up their home security and use notifications to enabled devices to alert people. For these services there is no human monitoring the home security. They control 2.3% of the market, but not for long says Citi.

Based on research projections, Citi estimates that self-installed and monitored systems will control 34% of the market in five years, with professional system slipping to 61.6%. In the longer term, 20 years from now, these numbers are projected to basically switch with self-monitored systems holding 62.5% of the market and professional services making up 31.3%.  Cont'd...

PEEK INSIDE HONDA'S RADICALLY EFFICIENT, ENERGY-PRODUCING SMART HOME

By Jenny McGrath for DigitalTrends:  Last March, Honda showed off its state-of-the-art smart home, which is so energy efficient it actually produces more energy than it uses. But it wasn’t just a slick showpiece. For the last nine months, the Bennett/O’Hara family has been living in the Honda Smart Home on the University of California campus in Davis, and they like it so much, they’ve decided to extend their stay another year.

You can’t really blame them. It’s 1,944 square feet, runs on solar energy and battery power, and it doesn’t even need air conditioning. Everything from the lights to themusic is controlled through an iPad app. The blinds and lights are programmed to open and close automatically. Because its plans are all open-source and it produces more energy than it uses, it’s an excellent potential model for future California homes, because all new houses there will have to be net zero beginning in 2020.

If it seems odd for a car company to get involved in home automation, it’s because Honda is actually looking at the bigger picture. Honda and UC Davis researchers are looking at how devices work together, and how they can influence climate change, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The dishwasher is from Bosch and KitchenAid made the refrigerator, but the energy management system is Honda’s. The company also wanted someone in the family to drive about 30 miles per day, testing its electric Fit and accompanying charging equipment.  Cont'd...

Swann Enters the Connected Home Market with SwannOne

The SwannOne system begins with the SwannOne Smart Hub and iOS or Android app for easy control and endless applications. Then add on the SwannOne SoundView Camera to monitor and record what’s happening in your home. There is even a tamper detection feature which sends an alert to your phone if an intruder attempts to break or move the camera.

Built-in microphones are smart enough to analyze certain sounds like breaking glass, baby cries, car alarms, and even gunshots. It will only send a notification for major noise disturbances, and not innocent ones like a dropped wine glass on your kitchen tile. SwannOne also listens and protects the home from smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide threats by hearing the alarms going off, and launching an alert. If the user is not reachable, SwannOne can even connect with emergency services via an optional professional security monitoring service.

Apple's HomeKit Is Proving To Be Too Demanding For Bluetooth Smart Home Devices

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  It’s been more than a year since Apple AAPL -1.54% announced HomeKit, its system for connecting smart home devices through iOS. And as with all things Apple, expectations are high. Maybe too high.

So far, only five companies have launched HomeKit-certified smart home devices. What’s the hold up? Apple has thrown a plethora of challenges at hardware makers, and some developers say one of the biggest is complying with Apple’s strict security requirements on Bluetooth low energy devices.

Apple allows for either WiFi or Bluetooth low energy (LE)-enabled devices to get certified as a HomeKit accessory. Apple is requiring device makers using both WiFi and Bluetooth LE to use complicated encryption with 3072-bit keys, as well as the super secure Curve25519, which is an elliptic curve used for digital signatures and exchanging encrypted keys.  Cont'd...

The connected home needs HomeKit and Project Brillo as soon as possible

Nate Swanner for TNW News:  Google and Apple both have a solution for your connected home. Whether you’re interested in Project Brillo or HomeKit, the promise of a truly connected home is exciting, because let’s be honest — the connected home sucks right now.

In fact, I bristle at even calling current solutions a connected home. While devices might connect to your phone, they don’t link to one another, and that’s potentially much more important.

As an example, I’ll take my own “connected” home. I have some pretty great individual solutions in Simplicam, Scout Alarm, and August. I’ve also entertained other solutions to control things like a garage door or lawn sprinklers.

But to what end? Adding more to the mix only creates more disparate parts to my “smart” home. If my camera can’t talk to my home security system, why would I think the door lock could trigger itself when my connected outdoor lights go on at night?

It’s worth noting that some connected home security systems are all-encompassing (iSmartAlarm comes to mind), but those bundles don’t come close to bridging all the gaps.

Project Brillo, still in its infancy, has a lot of upside. For manufacturers wanting to build devices specifically for Brillo, Google has specs they can follow. Brillo is also based on “the lower levels of Android,” which opens it up in a big way for hardware manufacturers who may want to create simple solutions.  Cont'd...

Thread Wireless Networking Protocol Now Available

The Nest-led Thread Group expects the first Thread-certified home-automation products to be available to consumers late this year now that the organization has released the Thread specification. The new IP-based wireless networking protocol designed for low-power connected products in the home. Starting today, product developers who are members of the Thread Group can access Thread technical specifications and documentation to build Thread-compliant products. 
"Thread was designed to be the foundation of the Internet of Things in the home by allowing developers and consumers to easily and securely connect hundreds of devices within a low-power, wireless mesh network," said Chris Boross, president, Thread Group. "In the nine months since opening membership, more than 160 companies have joined the Thread Group, and now the group is launching the Thread technical specification, which has now completed extensive interoperability testing. Today's announcement means that Thread products are on the way and will be in customers' hands very shortly. I'm excited to see what kinds of products and experiences Thread developers will build." 

Target Opens Dedicated Store For Smart Home Gadgets

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  At an event on Thursday afternoon, Target will unveil what it calls the Target Open House, a 3,500-square-foot retail space located in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center with a house inside made of transparent walls and furniture. The transparent house is packed full of smart home gadgets.

More than 30 devices are placed around this demonstration house, including smart home gadgets like the August smart lock, the Nest learning thermostat and Sonos wireless speakers. But not all the devices are related to the home – Jawbone and Fitbit fitness trackers will also be present.

The space is focused on showing consumers what all these products do and how they can work together. Target is using an app called Yonomi, which syncs up connected devices together in the cloud, to get them talking to each other. For example, a baby monitor could detect if a baby starts stirring in a crib and could tell the Sonos speakers to play ambient background noise to soothe the baby back to sleep.  

Although it is a retail spot, Target wants the space to also be used for local smart home entrepreneurs to meet up, do product demos and give talks.  Cont'd...

Setting Up A Dual-WAN Router with a DSL and Cable Provider

Small Net Builder walks through setting up a Dual-WAN router. Dual-WAN routers allow you to setup your home network with service from two separate service providers (in the example a DSL and cable company):

Failover vs. Load Balancing

...
 

Better failure detection methods include pinging your ISP's default gateway, pinging a host on your ISP's network, pinging a host elsewhere on the Internet, resolving and pinging an FQDN (fully qualified domain name) or making a TCP connection to an external server.
 

...
 

With load balancing enabled, it is important to configure your router with the speeds of your Internet connections. Many dual WAN routers' default load balancing algorithm equally distribute traffic over both WAN connections. If your Internet connection speeds are not the same, your router needs to know both connection speeds to distribute the traffic load accordingly...

The two routers Small Net Builder uses in their setup article are the Linksys LRT224 ($175) and the ZyWALL 110 ($369). Neither of these routers have wireless radios so you will need to bridge to a separate device for that.

...

Bandwidth Management

Let's say I want to ensure my Netflix streaming device has enough bandwidth for smooth playback. Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD quality streaming.

I would start by giving my Netflix device a static IP address on my network. On the Linksys LRT224, the default LAN network uses the 192.168.1.0/24 subnet, and the DHCP range is 192.168.1.100-192.168.1.149. Thus, I could give my Netflix device a static IP address of 192.168.1.150.

In the Linksys LRT224 rule shown below , I've configured both WAN interfaces to allow all traffic to 192.168.1.150 a minimum of 5 Mbps and a maximum of 6 Mbps. The goal in bandwidth management is to give the traffic-sensitive device(s) enough bandwidth, without limiting bandwidth for other devices and users too much. If my Netflix rule turns out to be too low, I can always increase the minimum and maximum values in 500 kbps increments until it works as desired.

...

Rest of article (Small Net Builder)

Linksys LRT224 detailed review

ZyWALL 110 detailed review

Alarm.com IPO a watershed moment for the connected home market

BY JOEL GRIFFIN:  There was a time in the residential security market when having home automation features to go along with window and door contacts and motion detectors was simply a “nice to have” rather than a “must have” offering. The industry has evolved to the point, however, where even the term “home automation” is passé, having given way to the more commonly used terminology of “connected home” or “smart home” space in which security is part of much bigger overall solution for today’s homeowners.

The growing prevalence of this technology was further reinforced late last month when Alarm.com, one of the dominant players in the smart home space, launched an initial public offering on the NASDAQ.

According to John Mack, executive vice president, co-head of investment banking and head of mergers & acquisitions at Imperial Capital, which acted as a co-manager on the offering, the IPO serves as a “strong validation” for this paradigm shift that has taken place with regards to the integration of home security with automation and where the market could eventually go.

“I think it is very important for the overall security alarm industry to see what has really been the leading player in home automation software and has really played a key role in enabling the home automation side of this industry to be able to go public at a very attractive valuation and get a lot of very positive attention from the best of the investment community,” explained Mack. “A lot of the validation that came with a big valuation for Alarm.com is effectively a view of the potential for the whole industry.”  Cont'd...

Sony launches crowdfunding site, features e-paper home control

Tim Hornyak, IDG News Service:  Struggling electronics maker Sony has moved further into the crowdfunding scene by starting its own platform to raise funds for internally generated business ideas, including a new universal remote control with an electronic paper interface.

Launched Wednesday, First Flight is a crowdfunding and e-commerce platform designed to take product proposals from the ideas to sales. It’s only available in Japanese and is limited to Sony’s in-house projects.

First Flight has three stages, a teaser stage, in which new ideas can be previewed and discussed, followed by crowdfunding and e-commerce.

“One of the strengths and aims of First Flight is to facilitate ongoing dialogue with customers from initial development through to market introduction, by seamlessly connecting each phase from previewing and crowd funding to e-commerce,” a Sony spokeswoman said.  Cont'd...

Bluetooth speakers drive growth in home audio, says firm

The home audio market (wireless speakers, soundbars, Hi-Fi systems, A/V receivers and speaker docks) grew by 22% to ship 71 million units. Trade value also grew by 22%, generating just under US$10 billion worth of revenues in 2014, according to Futuresource Consulting.

Wireless speakers and soundbar shipments exceeded market expectations and accounted for the lion's share, far outweighing the decline in demand for traditional audio devices i.e. A/V receivers and Hi-Fi systems. The wireless speaker market was fuelled by strong growth in Bluetooth speakers in the lower end of the price spectrum and multi-room audio at the premium end.

Home audio devices increasingly offer wireless functionality and shipments with this feature grew by 93% from 27 million units in 2013 to 53 million units in 2014. Futuresource said it predicts that virtually all home audio devices will be wireless by 2019.

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