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...

Icontrol Adds Analytics for Smarter Homes

Mari Silbey for LightReading:  If the first phase of the smart home is about adding sensors to light bulbs and door locks, the second phase is about collecting and analyzing data to make the smart home even smarter. Icontrol is moving on to the second phase, announcing that it has teamed up with Canadian company mnubo to bring data analytics to its popular smart home platform.

There's been no question that analytics will play a large role in connected homes of the future. It's a short leap from telling your home to flip the lights when the front door opens to having the smart home system understand that a door opening means the lights should come on, or that at 6 p.m. the family is headed home and the lights and temperature should be adjusted accordingly. With data collected over time, a machine learning system for the smart home can start to predict user preferences.

Icontrol believes it has an advantage in this emerging phase of the market because its scale means it has more data to work with than many of its competitors. The company is the dominant platform provider in the US cable industry, and Icontrol says its software is already tracking more than 26 million sensors and devices. The platform is expected to manage more than 100 billion transactions worldwide in 2015.  Cont'd...

Play with 100 smart home gadgets at new Sears showroom

By Benny Evangelista for SF Gate:  Sears is trying to connect with the Bay Area’s tech-savvy crowd with a smart home device showroom in its San Bruno store.

The retail chain opened a 4,000-square-foot Connected Solutions showroom in its Tanforan mall outlet this week, giving customers an Apple Store-style experience with more than 100 smart home gadgets, from video doorbells to Internet-connected garage door openers and light bulbs.

Sears is also building smaller showrooms with about half the number of products in 200 stores around the country. But Sears wanted to plant its flagship showroom near Silicon Valley.

Legrand Debuts New Home Automation Platform Intuity

By Howard Whitman for Dealerscope:  Electrical and digital building infrastructure specialist Legrand has unveiled Intuity, its new home automation platform specifically developed for homebuilders.

According to the company’s announcement, Intuity was created to give “production homebuilders and installers serving the mainstream housing market a cost-effective, modular and repeatable solution for controlling entertainment, security and comfort within a home.”

“Homeowners today expect connectivity and control in new homes,” stated Legrand VP & General Manager for its On-Q and NuVo lines Fritz Werder. “Most new homebuyers are making home automation a priority. Intuity gives builders a unique, easy-to-install platform that meets buyer expectations without delaying the building process.”

Werder said Intuity was created to provide homebuilders with a modular, easy-to-sell home ecosystem that would support homeowners’ most-requested home technologies. Cont'd...

One Quarter of Millennials Have Begun Building Smart Homes and Four-in-Ten Want One, According to The NPD Group

Millennials are on the road to building smarter homes. According to The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Home Automation Advisory Service, Millennials are twice as likely as the total population to have a smart home product installed in their residence.
The array of smart home products evaluated include network connected security and monitoring devices, sensors, system controllers, smart lighting, power, and appliances. One-in-four Millennials (23 percent) already installed at least one of these products in their homes, compared to 12 percent of the total population. Millennials will continue to drive the growth in this market as four-in-ten (41 percent) of this age group are already aware of and interested in owning smart home products.
A key factor that is driving this early growth is that the smart home market is no longer just for home owners. Renters are as likely as home owners to have smart home products installed, and are three times more likely to be part of the millennial age group. More than a third of renters are between the ages of 18-34.
“Today’s smart home products no longer require professional installation and ongoing subscriptions, many are now plug-and-play options,” said John Buffone, executive director, Connected Intelligence. “The product mix such as smart cameras, lights, and plugs, fits the lifestyle of both home owners and renters which opens up a larger, younger and more tech-savvy consumer market.”

With layoffs at Leeo and Wink for sale, is the smart home crumbling?

by Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  Early adopters, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have bought into the idea of a smart home, but mainstream consumers haven’t.

Leeo, a company that makes a connected nightlight that doubles as a smoke detector for the mobile era and has raised $37 million in funding, laid off about 30% of its staff Wednesday. Earlier this month, we reported that product manufacturing shop Quirky was unwilling to support its home hub software company Wink and it has put it up for sale, according to sources. Meanwhile, a home automation management device built by startup Ninja Blocks failed to raise funding and shut down.

Smart home startups like Goji and Plum are so late to market with their products that supporters who gave them money through their crowd-funding campaigns have given up on them. Goji’s smart lock was supposed to ship 18 months ago. Now the company is only shipping a small number of locks and plans to fulfill all other orders by August. Plum, a connected Wi-Fi light switch maker founded by the former head of CEDIA, the trade association for professional home automation installers, announced its product in early 2013 and plans to ship later this year. They were supposed to be ready in August 2013.

With $454 million invested in connected home companies last year, there is plenty of money riding on the smart home. According to CB Insights data, smart home startups took in a little over $1 billion in funding between 2012 and 2014.  Cont'd...

In The U.S. Smart Home Market, Don't Rule Out China

Jim Kim for TechCrunch:  The smart home industry won’t be advanced by throwing as many sensors into a device as possible or creating a robot controlled by voice commands. Similarly, the industry isn’t waiting for a breakthrough technological advance to finally achieve its potential. The technologies essential to developing smart home products — Bluetooth and product sensors that make up the Internet of Things — aren’t new; they’ve been around for decades.
To establish market dominance, companies must develop ecosystems or a unified platform of elegant user experiences to enable the convergence of the full range of smart devices.
Asian consumer electronics companies, especially recent Chinese wunderkinds such as Xiaomi have been building a tremendous production advantage based on three key elements: engineering, manufacturing and massive scale.
With rapid innovation cycles that produce high-quality, low-priced goods, Chinese companies have the scale and consumer base to set the standard for interoperability — possibly before they even enter the U.S. smart home market. U.S. companies that want to thrive should redouble their efforts in providing products with real utility to the customer while closely monitoring the progress of Chinese companies. Their very survival could depend on it. 

June Seeks to Change the Kitchen for the Home Cook

Today, the team behind such technologies and products as the iPhone, Apple Watch, GoPro and FitBit have announced the June Intelligent Oven — a powerful and easy-to-use computer-based countertop oven designed to bring the kitchen into the smart home era and make everyone a better cook. 

June combines professional-grade technology with a powerful quad-core processor, built-in camera, sensors and Internet connectivity to take out the guesswork of making perfectly cooked foods. The result is the world's most intelligent oven, and the next evolution in cooking for the digital age. 

June has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Foundry Group, First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures, and Founders Fund Angel to accelerate product development, manufacturing, and recruiting. 

A HomeKit Forecast: From Zero To 180 Million Gadgets By 2020

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  HomeKit is Apple’s attempt to bring sanity to the smart home space (and also sell a lot of iOS devices while they’re at it), but unlike Apple Watch the effort involves a whole bunch of hardware partners. In fact, it’s probably the first major Apple strategic initiative that is as much about other companies hardware as its own, which is what makes HomeKit both so compelling for the industry and challenging for Apple itself.
Compelling because many believe Apple’s entry into the smart home will bring both consumer attention and possibly more coherence to what’s been a fairly fractured market to this point. In my view this may be the biggest impact of HomeKit, alongside putting a core smart home control app on iOS devices.
Long term, we expect HomeKit to become one of the most important platforms for companies building connected devices for the home, to the tune of 180 million HomeKit enabled devices shipping annually by 2020.

This Is Microsoft's Big Secret Windows 10 Feature

John Patrick Pullen for Time:  When Microsoft announced this week that Windows 10 would be available July 29, Start Button devotees the world over rejoiced. But the return of everyone’s favorite app launcher is just one of many new features rolled into the forthcoming operating system. The biggest and most exciting element added to Windows computers is one that went largely unmentioned: smart home control.
Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other.
“AllJoyn technology is like dial-tone for things,” says Philip DesAutels, a senior director of IoT at The Linux Foundation. What he means is this new protocol harkens back to how when you bought something to plug into your home’s phone jack — an answering machine, a cordless phone, a fax — it would just work. The idea behind AllJoyn is that whatever smart home products you buy, no matter the manufacturer or which wireless method they use to connect, when they get plugged in, they are detected and connected to all the other AllJoyn devices on the network.  Cont'd...

First Apple HomeKit-Certified Smart Home Devices Launch

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  Five startups are announcing the launch of the very first HomeKit-certified devices today. HomeKit is Apple’s standard for how third-party smart home gadgets connect in iOS.
 
These five HomeKit-compliant devices include:
  • Ecobee’s $250 WiFi-connected thermostat.
  • Elgato’s line of sensors that collect data on air quality, humidity, air pressure, temperature as well as energy and water consumption.
  • iHOME’s smart plug that allows users to turn on and off appliances wirelessly.
  • Lutron’s bridge device that connects the HomeKit standard with its connected lighting system.
  • Insteon’s bridge device that connects its massive catalogue of existing home automation devices with HomeKit.
Each of these device makers had to go through Apple’s MFi (“Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad”) program to achieve certification. Apple requires device makers to install an authentication chip in their product as well as go through extensive usability testing to make sure the products live up to Apple’s lofty standards.

IKEA's Building a Super Cheap and Versatile Smart Home System

Adam Clark Estes for Gizmodo:  Smart lighting systems like Philips Hue are futuristic and awesome and, typically, expensive. But IKEA wants to offer this type of technology to the masses. The Swedish flatpack furniture empire is developing an entire smart home system, and it looks futuristic and awesome and, you guessed it, cheap.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. IKEA’s been inching into the home electronics business very deliberately, and it’s only natural that it would want to upend the burgeoning smart home market. Creating with a connected lightbulb system makes good sense. We already saw IKEA’s affordable, motorized sit/stand desk last fall. Then, came IKEA’s versatile and customizable wireless charging system that hit stores this spring. But next fall, the so-called Home Smart II Lighting Collection will take things to a new level.
At least, IKEA says it’s going to do this. I recently visited IKEA’s headquarters in Älmhult, where the company was showing off all kinds of new goodies, from vegetarian meatballs to couches made out of paper. At an event that I can only describe as a science fair for furniture, I learned a little bit about how the new lighting system will work. Since I didn’t test the products themselves, I’ll offer you IKEA’s description of the system, which is being developed in collaboration with Frog Design.  Cont'd...

Google is trying to solve the smart home's biggest problem

By Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge:  The promise of the smart home is a world of appliances that anticipate your needs and do exactly what you want them to at the touch of a button, but that vision devolves into chaos when none of those devices can actually talk to each other. That's more or less the state of the smart home today, but now Google is trying to offer a solution.
At its developers conference this afternoon, Google announced two pieces of software for the smart home and the broader collection of connected devices around us, increasingly known as the internet of things. Those two pieces are Brillo, an operating system, and Weave, a common language for devices to talk to one another. And importantly, Weave doesn't have to run on Brillo — so appliance manufacturers can theoretically add it on to their existing products.
With Weave, Google is creating a "common language" that devices can use to talk about things like locking a door, taking a photo, or measuring moisture. Google will keep adding more functions as it thinks of them, and developers will be able to submit their own functions, which Google will vet and potentially add in. Weave devices are even required to go through a certification program to ensure that they work properly.

A new "Home" app from Apple could make smart homes easier for users.

By Adriana Lee for ReadWrite:  Since Apple announced its HomeKit smart home initiative last year, it's been mostly quiet about just how iPhones and other Apple gadgets will wrangle those connected devices. Now, however, the company may have a fancy new app in the works—complete with virtual rooms, a clever and apparently easy-to-grasp metaphor for running a smart home.
 
Apple’s approach, according to a 9to5Mac report, will be to launch a new "Home" app for controlling smart-home gadgets—think smart locks, sensors, garage openers, thermostats, lights, security cameras and other connected appliances. The Home app will sort gadgets by function and location into a visual arrangements of virtual rooms
 
The goal is to simplify the otherwise bewildering task of finding, adding and controlling smart devices and appliances from Apple and other companies.

Samsung wants everyone to build smart home gadgets on its new platform

From Josh Lowensohn for The Verge: If you plan on building or buying a connected gadget in the immediate future, Samsung wants to be inside of it. Today the company announced Artik, a collection of small system-on-chips designed to power everything from wearable devices to home appliances.
The Artik line is made up three different sizes, what Samsung is calling the Artik 1, 5, and 10. The one is the tiniest of the bunch, measuring at 12mm by 12mm, and runs off a coin cell battery for what Samsung says is "several weeks." It has Bluetooth LE, an accelerometer, a 9-axis motion sensor, a gyroscope, a magnetometer, and a cost of less than $10. Samsung envisions companies using it for Bluetooth tags (like Tile), location beacons, and wearables. The larger Artik 5 (which is a little larger than a quarter) is like a small computer, and adds Wi-Fi, ZigBee wireless, and onboard 720p video decoding. Samsung says a good use case of the Artik 5 would be something like on-board chips for drones. Lastly, the Artik 10 — which is the most like a small computer and will run about $100 — adds more storage, 1080p video decoding, and a 1.3GHz Octa Core processor, all things Samsung says will be useful for media hubs, home servers, and personal cloud storage devices.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!