Smart Home Startups Are on the Rebound, But Barely

Adam Rowe for Tech.co:  Funding for smart home startups is looking up. According to the latest data from CB Insights, funding amounts are on track to be 30 percent better than they were in 2015. That’s only the total amount of funding, though: The actual number of deals is still on pace to remain even. Both the amount and the number of deals are well below the smart home interest peak in 2014, however.

In short, smart home startups are showing signs of weathering the 2014 bubbleand continuing to march towards profits.  Cont'd...

HomeToys.com - Special Tradeshow Coverage of CEDIA 2016.

CEDIA 2016 will be held from September 13th - 17th in Dallas, Texas . This HomeToys.com Special Tradeshow report aims to bring you news, articles and products from this years event.

Who is best positioned to build a smart home assistant?

Jan Dawson for recode:  There has been a lot of talk recently about advancements in the smart home arena, especially about new ways to control smart home devices. I have heard Amazon’s Echo referred to as a smart home device, and just this week, web service IFTTT announced new partnerships that are intended to allow smart home devices to connect in an automated fashion to other devices and services.

However, what we’re still missing when it comes to the smart home is a true smart home assistant — a counterpart, if you will, to the smart assistants that come baked into every modern smartphone operating system. This post dives into what that means in practice, and who might be best positioned to deliver on this vision.  Cont'd...

IFTTT Looks To Cement Its Position In The Smart Home Market

Daniel Fuller for Android Headlines:  App enthusiasts and/or home automation fans are likely already quite familiar with IFTTT. One of the bigger forces in the Android tinkering world, IFTTT stands for If This Then That, and it’s actually a pretty accurate description of what the app does. Essentially, users can use triggers and recipes to make the app look for a condition to happen on a device or in an app. Once that happens, it will trigger a specified action, even if that action takes place elsewhere, so long as everything is rigged up right. IFTTT users can create a variety of mind-blowing functions, so it’s no surprise that the app found its way onto the Amazon Echo and that was apparently, only the beginning.

IFTTT has officially given the go-ahead for the guts of their app, the recipes and their capabilities, to find homes in new products. Naturally, the first wave of IFTTT recipients will be home automation products. Since IFTTT is already integrated with the Amazon Echo and programmable recipes can use an IoT hub as a conduit rather than transmitting from device to device, home automation is a natural fit for IFTTT. Using a web-based backend, IFTTT and the 40,000 some odd recipes that the firm has publicly released can now run on just about any device, and talk to just about any other device. The idea is that IFTTT will act as a backend for crosstalk between devices and services that would otherwise require a decent amount of time and money in engineering.  Cont'd...

Windows 10 moves closer to smart-home centerpiece with big Internet of Things deal

Agam Shah for IDG News Service via PCWorld:  Lazy people will love Windows 10 and its ability to automate home tasks, and the operating system's smart-home credentials are getting a serious boost with a recent internet of things pact.

Microsoft wants to put Windows 10 at the center of smart homes. The company wants users to be able to tell the operating system's Cortana voice assistant to switch on a light, open a door, release food for a cat, and even check the contents of a refrigerator.

For Windows 10 to be successful, the OS will have to work with a wide range of smart home and IoT devices, and that goal has taken a big step forward thanks to a recent agreement between standards bodies the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Thread Group. The two organizations will work together on improving interoperability between smart home and IoT devices.

This means devices running Windows 10 will be able to connect with most smart home products and program home automation tasks based on events or times of the day.  Cont'd...

Staples abandons its smart home hopes

David Priest for CNet:  Staples has officially announced that it's handing over sales and support for its home automation system Connect to Z-Wave Products. Though the exact terms of the deal remain undisclosed, Z-Wave has purchased Staples' inventory and licensed the Staples Connect brand to use moving forward. According to representatives at Zonoff, the company that has supported Connect's software and will continue to do so with Z-Wave, users should experience no practical change to their Connect automation systems.

This transition isn't a surprise to many industry watchers. Staples stopped selling the Connect hub months ago, and rumors began to swirl that the office supply retailer might be planning to unplug its internet of things ecosystem altogether. In April, the company said it would be releasing a statement about Connect's future sometime in the coming weeks. As many users waited anxiously, Staples finally opted to keep Connect alive, handing it off to a third-party caretaker.  Cont'd...

Rentals and Smart Home Survey Finds Competitive Edge

Andrew Burger for TeleCompetitor:  Travelers are more willing to make a reservation for short-term rental housing if the housing has smart home features, according to a rentals and smart home survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence for  smart home products provider August Home, Inc.

Eighty percent of vacation guests and 92% of business travelers said they would be more likely to complete a reservation for short-term accommodation rentals that were equipped with smart home technology, such as smart door locks, lighting, smart TVs, entertainment systems and doorbell cameras.  Cont'd...

HoloLens concept lets you control your smart home via augmented reality

By Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  There’s no doubt that device-filled connected smart homes are on the way. The real question is how we’re going to control them.

That was the starting point of a nifty proof-of-concept project created by interaction designer Ian Sterling and software engineer Swaroop Pal during a recent HoloLens hackathon in San Francisco. Their augmented reality pitch shows how smart devices could be controlled with glances and gestures — in what Sterling calls a “virtual Zen mode,” complete with calming lights and sounds.  Full Article:

APIs: From Connected Home Into Programmable Platform

CXOtoday News Desk:  Consumers will increasingly use digital personal assistants to interact with consumer services in the connected home, says Gartner. Gartner predicts that, by 2019, in at least 25 percent of households in developed economies, the digital assistants on smartphones and other devices will serve as the primary interface to connected home services.

“In the not-too-distant future, users will no longer have to contend with multiple apps; instead, they will literally talk to digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant,” said Mark O’Neill, research director at Gartner. “Some of these personal assistants are cloud-based and already beginning to leverage smart machine technology.”

Digital personal assistants show the potential to satisfy wants and needs by delivering experiences that connect services, configure devices and even order and deliver products. Personalized, context-aware information can also be presented as it is wanted or needed — for example, suggestions for restaurants near planned meetings, or recommended temperature settings for the home to optimize energy consumption and comfort in line with the weather.  Cont'd...

Control4: Apple Home App will help Home Automation Industry

Rob Stott for Dealerscope:  Not to say that the Home app is a killer to companies/platforms like Control4 and Crestron, but Apple is clearly encroaching on their space.

That said, the aforementioned companies don’t necessarily see this as a problem. Rather, as Paul Williams, Control4’s VP of Solutions, put it, it’s more of an opportunity.

“We would put this in the category of something that we think helps the smart home automation market,” Williams recently told Technology Integrator. “much like when, in the rise of the Internet of Things and IoT, what it’s really done has opened up consumers’ eyes to the possibilities. We’ve said, long before IoT came around, the biggest hurdle that we have in this space for us and other manufactures that specialize in home automation is customer awareness. Customers don’t even realize that this technology is available, that they can even do these kind of things, that there’s these sophisticated but simple-to-install and simple-to-use home automation systems that allow them to have great experiences in their homes.”  Full article:

Six Google Patents describe a new Home Automation System Covering Home Security

Patently Apple:  Late last month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a series of six Google patents regarding a future home security system that will part of a larger home automation system that will be revealed over time. 
In today's brief non-Apple patent report we cover an overview of Google's six patents relating to a future home security system that will eventually be a part of a greater home automation system. Google's first security system patent filing is titled "Home Security System with Automatic Context-Sensitive Transition to Different Modes."  Full Article:
 

CHRON Unveils Long-Awaited Brand: Introducing Zen Technologies

Focusing on achieving balance in today's lifestyle is the essence of the new Zen brand, empowering customers to enjoy peace of mind at home and at work. Zen is passionate about providing innovative technology that deepens the connection between people and the things they care about most - their families, homes and businesses. In simple terms, Zen connects you to your world, your way.

This Utah Company Has Emerged As The Biggest Smart Home Player

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  On the first warm summer week of the year in Provo, Utah, the headquarters of Vivint Smart Home appears quiet. It’s not till you make your way to the second floor that you stumble upon a flurry of activity. That’s where row after row of cubicles house mostly young men in their 20s, many sporting beards and tattoos. Some stand or pace about the room with headsets on, their eyes focused on sales scripts. Others stare into the distance past suburban office parks and toward the scrubby foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Mawkish soft rock plays in the background. Above the cubicles, a monitor flashes the names and numbers of top salespeople. This year’s prize for the number-one seller is a trip to Hawaii.

It’s a pretty low-tech operation, especially when you consider these reps are selling the future. Along with an army of 2,500 door-to-door salespeople across the United States and Canada (and a few in New Zealand), these 200 or so Utahans are aggressively pushing the Vivint smart home. They have already managed to persuade more than a million homeowners to pay between $40 and $80 a month to have their houses come to life with Internet-connected thermostats, lights, door locks, doorbells, garage door openers, cameras and sensors, whether they are made by Vivint or one of its partners.  Cont'd...

Wink will add Uber, Fitbit, and IFTTT to its smart home controller

Business Insider:  Wink’s smart home controller, known as the Relay, received an update that integrates services from Uber and Fitbit, as well as the capability to communicate with other devices over the If This Then That (IFTTT) protocol, reports PC Mag.

The Relay is a touchscreen device installed on the wall that controls smart home devices connected by Wink. The update will allow users to see how many steps they have taken that day by tapping into their Fitbit data, and allow users to order Uber rides through their controller.

Integrating the IFTTT communication protocol will allow the Wink Relay to send one-time commands to other smart home devices that support the protocol. Users can create specific "recipes" with the protocol to automate specific tasks.  Cont'd...

Smart Home Products: Only 30% Of Consumers Even Know Where To Get Them

Chuck Martin for IOT Daily:  Some serious marketing dollars may have to be spent just to get consumers aware of smart home products and how to go about getting one.

Most consumers don’t know where to turn to buy smart home products or services, that is, if they even know about them.

The reality is that smart home devices are relatively new and not likely to be on the average person’s radar until they need or want a particular new or replacement device for their home.

And when someone decides they want a so-called smart home device, many don’t know where to turn at that point, based on a new study.

Fewer than a third (30%) of households are familiar with where to buy smart home products or services, according the study by Parks Associate

And of those, fewer than half (40%) prefer to buy the smart products at retail outlets, particularly home improvement stores.

But there still is a gap between stores selling smart products and consumers acquiring them.  Cont'd...

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