Solar Energy Becoming a Key Component in the Connected Home

Some of the most important innovations happening in energy today are happening far from the national media headlines. But these small changes will go a long way to making power more reliable, competitive, and local, with solar energy playing a central disruptive role that could dominate energy in the next century.

One of those moves happened yesterday, when SunPower bought a $20 million stake in Tendril and agreed to license its Energy Services Management Platform software. Here's what the deal means over the next few years.

At its core, Tendril is essentially an energy data company. It collects and analyzes data about consumers' energy usage patterns, primarily learned from partnerships with utilities. SunPower can use this data in its installations to optimize a home's renewable energy consumption, provide stored energy when it's needed, adapt to changing policies for solar, and even improve sales by finding its ideal customers.

You can think of SunPower's capabilities with Tendril as a piece of the home of the future. SunPower will provide local energy production with solar panels, and with energy storage and connected devices SunPower can intelligently plan energy production and consumption based on consumers' desires. If a consumer wants to consume as little energy as possible the system can be set for that, just as it could be set to consume as much of your own energy production, or optimize for cost if there are rewards for sending energy to the grid at peak times. All of this will work in the background, similar to a car's eco mode, but it'll work to make energy more dynamic and controllable for consumers.

Nortek Inc. announced that its Linear subsidiary has been renamed Nortek Security & Control

Nortek Inc. (Nasdaq: NTK) announced today that its Linear LLC subsidiary has been renamed Nortek Security & Control, LLC. Linear, 2GIG and GoControl will be the subsidiary's cornerstone brands, each targeting key markets. Strongly positioned with product portfolio synergies and the ability to cross-pollinate technology across the broader Nortek family, Nortek Security & Control provides a broad range of smart home solutions to OEMs, telecoms, major retailers, managed service providers, security dealers, custom installers and DIY consumers. 

"Nortek's Linear business has been transformed during the past few years, as we have become a market leader not only in the security industry but the broader home control and automation sector, as well," said Nortek President and Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Clarke. "Linear's legacy includes 50 years as a pioneer in the wireless access control market and industry-leading capabilities in the design, engineering and manufacturing of sensors and connected devices. Our 2013 acquisition of 2GIG Technologies accentuated these strengths by bringing us more brands and capabilities, as well as complete solutions for the broader home automation space." 

LUCIS Technologies Introduces NuBryte, a Smart Home Lighting and Safety Console to Make any Home a Smart Home

LUCIS Technologies today unveiled a cloud-based smart home lighting and safety console, NuBryte, for all of a household’s connected needs such as automated lighting, home safety, and energy management. Users simply need a screw driver and basic wiring skills to replace any light switch with the NuBryte console, immediately transforming their home into a smart home. When installed, people can control and protect their home via a touch screen control pad, or the free NuBryte iPhone app. The standalone system also provides easy-to-understand energy reporting, which helps people reduce energy usage and save money.
NuBryte’s integrated home security system – quickly becoming one of the central components of a smart home or building – interrupts intruders with flashing lights, and alerts users via their phones, allowing them to also activate the system’s built-in camera to quickly take action. NuBryte currently provides a family calendar, intercom communications, gives weather updates and alerts, and features an open API to support complementary features from other sources.

A new home for the smart home at CES 2015

Smart-home products were on broad display at various venues across Las Vegas at CES 2014. At this coming show, the smart home gets its own dedicated exhibit space as part of a new convention area in the Sands Hotel dubbed Tech West. We'll still be running all over town to meet with various other smart-home vendors, but having an official, Consumer Electronics Association-sanctioned home at the show is at least one indicator of this smart-home category's proliferation this past year.
Scan the exhibitor list for the smart-home section at Tech West and some notable vendors stand out among the 62 listed currently. German-appliance maker Bosch is the chief sponsor. You'll also find Honeywell, ADT, Big Ass Fans, Kwikset Kevo tech-provider Unikey and First Alert showing off connected-household products.
While the companies on that list have put out some interesting devices and services over the last year or so, some larger names in the smart-home space are either showing their wares elsewhere, or they're not listed as official exhibitors at all.  Cont'd....

ELAN® Debuts World's First Universal Remote Controller Featuring Built-In Whole Home Control

A universal remote controller that offers complete home control is now a reality through the new ELAN® g1 Controller from Core Brands' ELAN Home Systems. Requiring no monthly contract and offering a wide variety of home control functionality, the ELAN g1 is leaps and bounds ahead of other low-cost home control solutions. ELAN has been making the easiest-to-use, yet most powerful home control solutions for more than 25 years, and this is the brand's first entry into the sub-$1,000 market. That means for about the price of a new TV, users can gain complete control, not just of their televisions and home theaters, but also of their entire homes. 

The ELAN g1 lets homeowners use a single handheld remote control to manage up to 16 zones of security, two electronic door locks, an audio/video receiver with up to 32 connected TVs, up to 24 lighting keypads, three thermostats, three IP surveillance cameras and up to 16 groups of irrigation. With ELAN's deep experience in home control, the system is designed to be fully expandable to grow with any user's home or budget. 

OpenMotics improves home automation

OpenMotics is an open source home automation hardware and software system that offers features like switching lights and outputs, multi-zone heating and cooling, power measurements, and automated actions. The system encompases both open source software and hardware. For interoperability with other systems, the OpenMotics Gateway provides an API through which various actions can be executed.

The project first started 10 years ago with basic hardware modules for switches and outputs. Since then the number of modules has increased to create an extensible full-featured home automation system. The modules include a Gateway module that is the heart of the system which drives all other modules. An Input module for reading the status of the switches. An Output module that toggles lights, outlets or other devices. And others like a Dim Control module, a Sensor module and a Power module for measuring the power consumed by each appliance in your home.
Two years ago we decided to open source the software running on the Gateway module, all firmware running on the other modules and the schematics and PCBs (printed circuit boards) for all modules. The choice to open source the project was very conscious—at OpenMotics we believe there are three fundamental problems with the existing commercial home automation offerings.  Cont'd...


LOWE'S EXEC: Here's The Real Reason People Will Start Caring About Smart Home Gadgets

From thermostats that can automatically adjust the temperature in your home to light bulbs that change color depending on the music you're listening to, the market is getting flooded with home automation tech right now.

But convenience and novelty alone won't convince everyday consumers to spend extra money on Internet-enabled household appliances.

According to Kevin Meagher, the general manager of Lowe's smart home division, there's one critical reason smart home technology will take off with consumers: safety.

Speaking at Business Insider's annual Ignition conference, Meagher cites devices like smart smoke detectors that issue you notifications if the battery is about to die.

"Connectivity brings a new dimension [to safety]," he said.

Imagine a stove that could automatically turn off when it's not in use. Devices like this could be especially ideal for assisted living situations, since the gadgets would be capable of shutting down automatically to avoid dangerous situations.

"When you've got an 80-year-old parent living on their own, what do they need a smart stove for?" Meagher said. "Every day of the week I'd pay [extra] for a smart stove that would switch things off."

Home security device ditches video for audio surveillance

For Airbnb hosts who want to keep tabs on their homes, a full home security system might be overkill. They’re expensive, and live cameras and motion detectors invade guests’ privacy. So how do they make sure guests keep the volume down, aren’t smoking inside and don’t ransack their home?
A new device called Point combines microphones with environmental sensors to detect anything out of the ordinary in your home while you are away. A broken window while you’re at work, the sound of your teenagers throwing a raging party, Grandad sneaking an unauthorized after-dinner cigar.
“They want to have peace of mind and know that everything is fine, but they don’t want or need full security systems,” said Nils Mattisson, co-founder of Form Devices, the start-up that makes Point.
Small, round and plastic, Point looks like a traditional smoke alarm crossed with a speaker. Sounds are matched with data from the other sensors to figure out what might have happened — a loud crash followed by a drop in temperature might mean a window was broken. It hears when an existing smoke detector goes off and sends an alert, though it’s not certified as an official smoke detector on its own.
It has a microphone that can detect sounds outside that the human ear could pick up. Environmental sensors pick up temperature; the particle sensor can tell what’s in the air.

New Insteon Home-Automation Hub Goes To $39

Home-automation supplier Insteon is out to grab market share with the launch of a new flagship hub with an introductory price of only $39, compared with its predecessor’s $129. 

It’s promoted as the lowest-priced hub on the market. It’s also free with select kits that include home-automation devices, such as light switches and smart plugs. 
The company didn’t say how long the introductory price would last. 
Despite the lower price, the new hub adds such key enhancements as a 50 percent increase in wireless range, field upgradability, easier setup and a status screen that displays live updates of connected-device status. The hub is also smaller than its predecessor. The company didn’t specify a range. 
“We’ve demolished barriers in order to reach the broadest customer demographic,” said CEO Joe Dada. 
Insteon’s hub connects to more than 200 Insteon-brand devices, including lamp dimmers, thermostats and LED bulbs. The products use dual-band wireless RF and powerline technology for redundancy to ensure control signals reach all connected devices in a home. Products are monitored and controlled from iOS, Android and Windows smartphone and tablet apps and from computers.

NUZii Smart Life Is A Self-learning Home Automation And Cloud Storage System

Anyone looking to increase their online privacy and keep their files, documents and media safer but also accessible through a cloud storage solution, may be interested in the new system called NUZii.
NUZii has been designed by a company of the same name and has taken to Kickstarter to raise the necessary $65,000 to help the cloud storage and home automation system make the jump into the manufacturing stage.
Its creator explain a little more bout their new cloud storage solution and home automation device :
“The NUZii is the World’s First Smart Life Platform. By combining a powerful cloud storage solution, a self-learning home automation system and internet security with one unified interface, we re-imagined how the Internet of Things should be.
NUZii has a very advanced yet easy-to-use cloud storage system. It backs up your content from all of your devices so that you can access them from anywhere. You can also share your files instantly and securely with anyone, which means you don’t have to wait to upload 100 holiday photos before sharing them.

Sunnovations Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Aquanta

Water heaters, despite their ubiquity and role as the 2nd largest consumer of home energy and hub of its plumbing network, have largely been excluded from the "smart home" trend. 
Aquanta changes that by being the first water heater controller to combine near-universal retrofit-ability, networked home compatibility and advanced analytics that enable "learning" controls for smart cycling of its heating. The Kickstarter campaign allows interested parties to support Aquanta's development and receive an Aquanta unit upon its commercial availability in mid-2015.
"Most people don't know that water heating is the 2nd largest consumer of energy in their home," said Sunnovations Chief Executive Officer Matt Carlson. "Aquanta is designed to save homeowners money, while at the same time provide enhanced controls and maintenance alerts like water heater leak detection. Water heaters are a sometimes overlooked but critical part of the fabric of our lives, and Aquanta will bring groundbreaking convenience, control and insight to their operation and energy usage." 
Aquanta is designed to be easily installed on a home's existing water heater, and will work with the vast majority of hot water storage tanks found in North America and elsewhere in the world. Its enabling technology is its proprietary enthalpy sensor, which can highly accurately measure both energy going into a water heater as well the energy being used. Aquanta's software uses the sensor data to "learn" and control the water heating according to a homeowner's usage patterns. The user interface will be web-based, with integrations planned into the major smart home platforms on the market. 

Best Buy is slashing prices on all manner of smart home gear this Black Friday

Starting on November 27 and running through the first of December, Best Buy will offer discounts on the Nest Learning Thermostat, and Dropcam HD network-connected security camera. The two products normally retail for $250 and $149, respectively, but will go for $200 and $100 during the Black Friday deal.
Also included in the deals is the Philips Hue Starter Kit ($200), which includes a set of three Wi-Fi connected, app-controlled, color-variable LED light bulbs and an accompanying network hub. Best Buy won’t be selling the kits at a discount, but if you’re willing to dish out 200 bucks on one, they’ll throw in a Philips Hue Bloom Accent Light ($80) for free.
And the best part? You won’t be forced to wade through crazed crowds of Black Friday deal hunters to get your hands on these gizmos. In addition to offering these deals at brick-and-mortar locations, Best Buy will also offer them to customers who visit its website.


LittleBits' New Kit Connects Old Appliances to the Internet

LittleBits, which makes brightly colored modules that snap together to create electronic circuits, is now selling a $249 DIY kit for those who want to turn their analog abodes into WiFi-enabled smart homes. The set extends the use of the recently launched cloudBit, giving users a menu of projects that include a remote pet feeder, a smart air-conditioner, and a garage door monitor. It essentially allows people to build their own IoT hardware without having to wait for companies like Nest, GE, or Apple to roll out another product.

“The electronics industry pretty much remains a very top-down industry that is very much controlled by large companies, by experts, by engineers,” says LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir. “Very few people are able to gain access and innovate in it.” Her three-year-old startup makes it as easy to customize hardware as it is to assemble Ikea furniture.
The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 bits, including the cloudBit as well as five new ones: an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a number counter (which, for instance, can be attached to the temperature sensor to display Fahrenheit or Celsius values), a threshold (which can turn a sensor into a trigger module), and an infrared transmitter (which can be paired with an AC switch to turn appliances on or off). The company includes an infographic poster cataloging a host of potential projects, from a device that adds toilet paper to your digital grocery list when someone takes the last roll to an alarm that sounds when your fridge is left open too long. Makers can control the devices through the LittleBits-hosted Web app; their own API, or IFTTT (If This Then That), a service that connects to a channel like Twitter or Facebook to trigger an action such as a tweet or Facebook status update.

Start-Ups Place Bets On The Smart Home

The fledgling home-automation market is growing quickly and continuing to attract new companies. Some of the newest entrants include Ecovent, Snupi Technologies, Cielo WiGle and Droplit. iDevices, the maker of Bluetooth kitchen and outdoor-grill thermometers, also plans an entry.

The newcomers enter a market whose U.S. unit sales will grow in 2015 by 20 percent to 24.9 million units and grow at 20 percent rates in 2016 and 2017, a Parks Associates/Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) report shows.

The units include smart thermostats, networked cameras, smart door locks, water-leak detectors, smart smoke and CO detectors, smart light bulbs and switches, smart plugs and outlets, smart power strips, and the like.

Despite the gains, only 10 percent of U.S. households have at least one smart-home device, and no single device has an ownership rate exceeding 6 percent, the Parks/CEA survey found. The survey also found that 62 percent of broadband-connected households in the U.S. are unfamiliar with smart-home products, almost 70 percent don’t know where to buy them, but 20 percent intend to buy one or more smart-home devices in the next 12 months.

Busy Samsung stirs many pots, from smart home to VR to health tech

Samsung on Wednesday detailed its latest tools for developers -- including a new sensor-filled wearable reference design -- to get them excited about making apps customized for its devices.

Samsung is hosting its second annual developers conference at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, the same venue where Apple and Google host their yearly confabs. The conference is part of Samsung's effort to work with startups and become a bigger part of Silicon Valley. The South Korean company has long been at the forefront of hardware advancements, but it has struggled with software and services.
Samsung hasn't said how many people have registered to attend, but last year's event, which was held at a smaller venue, had 1,300 participants. The company has more than 200 people lined up to speak over the course of three days.
In particular, Samsung's developers conference will be focus on digital health, smart home, virtual reality and wearables.
The company introduced software development kits for the sectors, including the Samsung Digital Health SDK, a beta SDK for Samsung Smart Home and an S Pen SDK. The New Look SDK allows developers to take advantage of the curved screen of the Note Edge phablet, and a Gear S SDK lets app makers create software that applies to the smartwatch's standalone features. The Gear S includes its own cellular modem, making it the first Samsung smartwatch that doesn't need to be constantly connected to a smartphone.


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