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...

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...

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...

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

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