John Lewis launches smart home department

Ecommerce News:  The Internet of Things is wildly popular among consumers. UK department store chain John Lewis has now launched a new smart home department to showcase all kinds of gadgets that should make the consumer’s life at home more convenient.

John Lewis launched a 93 square meter department dedicated to gadgets, such as an oven that can be turned on from the office or a bedside device that measures the quality of sleep. According to the department store chain, it’s the largest fixed retail offering dedicated to smart home technology in the UK.  

John Lewis decided to open the new department after an 81 percent increase in sales of smart home products in the past year at the British store. Also, 18 times more people searched its website for smart home products in 2015, compared to the previous year.  Cont'd...

Amazon Lead The Home Automation Market By Selling 3 Million Echo Devices

By: John Dewey for TechNewsToday:  Amazon has been making huge strides ever since it launched the popular speaker, Echo. A market research firm, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), revealed yesterday that the e-commerce giant has sold almost 3 million Echo speakers since its launch, as reported by GeekWire.

The online retail giant launched Amazon Echo in 2014. The company initially launched the device on an invite-only basis but it was made available for the general public in June 2015. In addition, the sales of the device slowly increased as the word spread out among consumers about its abilities such as it can control the lights or thermostat of any connected house.

According to CIRP, the awareness about the device among customers has doubled in the last year. Moreover, the market research firm based its conclusions on the survey of 2000 consumers in the US who bought the Echo via the company’s website.  Cont'd...

Yonomi CEO on why smart home hubs will be obsolete

Lily Prasuethsut for Wareable:  The Internet of Things is a burgeoning industry that seemed like it was going to take off several years ago, but the hubbub has since died. That doesn't mean the interest is gone though - rather no one really knows what to do with all their smart devices. 

Take for example, Apple HomeKit or Nest, or Samsung's SmartThings platforms. They're all ready and available - but not quite. Most products still require you to download third party apps just to connect to HomeKit in order to use Siri.

Essential reading: Follow Our quest to build the ultimate smart home

Physical hubs are available but that means you'll need yet another piece of hardware in your already crowded smart home. Essentially, there's no glue holding these products together - at least not one that's good enough to overcome the saturated market.

That's where Yonomi comes in. The app wants to quiet the smart home static by bringing in one simple system so all of your gadgets have their own place to call home. We spoke with Yonomi co-founder and CEO Kent Dickson to figure out why there's no solid platform, and learned how the company plans on changing the smart home space.  Cont'd...

The Mess at Nest Echoes the Mess in the Smart Home

Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  In January 2014, Google (now under the parent umbrella corporation Alphabet) said it would purchase Nest for $3.2 billion, which validated the hopes and dreams of hundreds of startups that were also building connected products for the consumer home.

After the deal was announced, the VC world went mad searching for investments, while larger companies searched for potential acquisition targets. At industry events that year, everyone I ran into with a connected product or a KickStarter was in talks to sell out or score more funds.

But two years later, the reality has set in as entrepreneurs in the space are dealing with a skeptical customer base and the challenges of seeing their grand vision for a connected home get mired in rival standards. Meanwhile, economic concerns are leading tech companies to prepare for everything from a nuclear winter to a mild recession.  Cont'd...

Why The Amazon Echo Is The iPhone Of The Smart Home

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  If you’re like me, remembering how different using a mobile phone was back in 2006 is getting increasingly difficult. That’s because today we live in a world so completely transformed by the iPhone, it seems as if it’s always been that way.

But looking back, things were indeed very different. If you used a smartphone at all back then (something the vast majority of consumers did not), chances are it was a Blackberry. If you tried to use the Internet on your phone, you might remember the “mobile Internet” experience, such as it was, was pretty horrible. Most consumers at the time still used basic feature phones, and industry analysts predicted that smartphone adoption would grow, but not at nearly the eye-popping rate we would soon see in the age of the iPhone.

As we now know, the transformative nature of the iPhone quickly changed nearly every assumption we had about mobile phones and, as a result, had a ripple effect that resulted in nearly every company in mobile (and pretty much every industry) changing their own approach to the market.

In many ways, I think the the Amazon Echo is an equally transformative product for the smart home. Whether it’s how early Echo owners are interacting with their device or its how Amazon itself is rewriting the rules of competition,  the two products share a number of industry-disrupting similarities.  Cont'd...

Home security 101: Local vs. cloud camera storage

Megan Wollerton for CNET:  Cameras are a key component of home security, acting as your eyes and ears when you aren't home. While there are a ton of different models available on the market today with a ton of different features, one piece of this buying decision is pretty universal regardless of your other camera must-haves: video storage. But there are two main types of video storage to choose from -- local and cloud -- and they're very, very different.

Not only will selecting between local and cloud storage help you narrow down your options fast, it will also help you set your priorities for your broader security system and smart home preferences down the road.

Local storage:  As the name suggests, this type of video storage saves your clips and other footage locally. Compatible cameras have microSD card slots that can generally handle anywhere from 16GB to 128GB cards. Sometimes, a microSD card is included with your camera purchase; other times, you're expected to buy your own.  Full Article:

These Lego-Like Batteries Plug In To Store Solar Power At Home

Adele Peters for Co-Exist:  Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician.

The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together.

"Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved.

With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together.

For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated.  Cont'd...

Amazon just made another really smart home product

Tim Stenovec for Business Insider:  There are plenty of dumb uses of "smart" technology.Toothbrushes, slow-cookers, anddog collars are just a few, to say nothing of far more expensive products like fridges.

But on Monday, Amazon actually released a "smart" product that is incredibly useful: a $45 water pitcher from the king of water filtration products.

If you've ever owned a Brita pitcher filtration system, which filters tap water, then you may know where this is going. 

The water filter monitors how much water has been filtered, and will automatically order a new filter when it gets close to the time you should replace it. By the time the filters is used up, a new filter will already be shipped to you.

But the genius here is that apart from the initial setup, you don't actually have to do anything. Ever!  Cont'd...

Competition for Alexa? LG Uplus announces new voice-controlled smart home gadgets

Ry Crist for CNET:  With the success of the Amazon Echo, the online mega-retailer's increasingly popular smart speaker, it was inevitable that we'd start seeing competitors begin to emerge, just as it's inevitable that tech journalists will begin making cheesy "is there an Echo in here?" jokes as it happens. So, let's just get this out of the way.  Is there an Echo in here?

It seems like there might be. LG Uplus, a South Korean cellular carrier that's a subsidiary of LG, is rolling out a pair of voice-activated smart home products, including an always-on, always-listening smart speaker that boasts the same sort of far-field voice recognition technology as the Amazon Echo. Dubbed the IoT Hub, the device will let users control connected lights, thermostats, locks and more using basic voice commands. It even has a colorful (and familiar-looking) ring of LED lights up on top.

Device no. 2 is the tvG Woofer Set Top Box. It's essentially a thin pedestal packed with a four-channel speaker, two subwoofers, and microphones designed to hear you no matter where you are in the room, regardless of background noise. You'll slip it under your television set, then pipe your home entertainment audio through it. If you want to search for something to watch, you'll be able to do so using voice commands.  Cont'd...

Smart Love: The Future Smart Home Promises to Help Us Unplug

Julia Allison for Huffington Post:  Could a smart thermostat reduce the divorce rate? Could a connected fridge be the key to unlocking relationship woes? According to the findings of a new survey commissioned by Intel, a quarter of Americans believe it can. The report goes on to hint that in the future, the all encompassing phrase "IoT" won't just stand for the Internet-of-Things, it will herald in a new terminology, built around the idea of the "Intimacy-of-Things." In other words, things (and their endless maintenance) would no longer block, but actually aid our intimacy.

For anyone who shares domestic duties with a partner (and that's most of us), we quickly realize that the constant maintenance required due to the wear and tear of the things we own often leads to wear and tear on our romance. Very few people find it sexy to argue over household chores. The American dream of owning a home comes with a little nightmare, the often-overwhelming amount of time, energy and cash it takes to maintain that home. Light bulbs burn out, furnaces strain and dishwashers leak. Home sweet home doesn't always ring true when our homes seem to be where our to-do lists go to multiply.  Cont'd...

Best home theater in a box: Take the guesswork out of pairing a surround-sound system with your TV

Theo Nicolakis for TechHive:  An HTIB contains everything you need for the audio element of a true home theater system. They typically include five speakers (right, left, and center speakers for the front of the room, left and right surround channels for the rear sides of the room, and a subwoofer for deep bass and low-frequency effects), precut cables, and an A/V receiver that ties the entire system together, much like the conductor in a symphony.

We evaluated three HTIB systems, on its own merits. The one that’s exactly right for you will require you to balance your wants, needs, and must-haves. Since our primary consideration was performance in a home-theater setting, Onkyo’s $899 HT-S7700 is our top pick, because it’s the only one of the three systems to support the immersive audio technology Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos supports height as well as surround channels. Onkyo also did the best job of balancing features and performance, and it was the easiest system to set up.  Full Review:

Amazon Is Winning the Smart Home Race -- and Nobody Is Noticing

From MotleyFool:  Amazon first targeted the smart space with the Echo -- a multifunction home speaker that, while initially suffering criticism around its practicality (not unlike the Fire Phone), acts more like a capable virtual assistant with each software release. Alexa, the artificial intelligence built by Amazon to power Echo, can stream music from various services, update your calendar, or pull sports scores and restaurant recommendations for you.

But the Echo's fastest-growing use case is as a voice-activated hub to control your smart home. What makes it stand out from the competition is Alexa's powerful voice recognition capabilities -- something Amazon has worked very hard to make best in class, and for good reason.

Voice has already become the simplest method for running common smartphone tasks -- setting quick reminders or asking for directions without unlocking and navigating the device. It's the most natural and reflexive human medium for communication; untethered and hands free, voice doesn't require you to set down your bags, wash your hands, or jumble through your pockets to use your phone.  Cont'd...

AUDIOFluance Announces Fi70, First Wireless Speaker With Dual 8″ Woofers

ByJustin Jelinek for Techaeris:  Fluance continues to raise the bar on audiophile-quality wireless speakers. They started with theirbookshelf Fi30, and later upgraded that to the Fi50. They’ve recently announced their Signature Series floor speakers, a pair of powerhouse speakers. Today, Fluance has announced a new wireless Bluetooth speaker, the Fluance Fi70. The Fi70 is sure to start a conversation before silencing that conversation with powerful music.

Based on what we’ve seen from Fluance, I’m confident the Fi70 is going to sound fantastic, but even more so, anyone who sees it is sure to comment on its looks first. This is a uniquely shaped speaker, but it’s got more than enough power that people shouldn’t focus on its looks for too long.

The Fi70 is the first wireless speaker with dual 8″ woofers, meaning this thing is going to move some air for sure. Backing up those 8″ woofers are 5” woven glass fiber midrange drivers and 1” neodymium tweeters. Couple all of those speakers with a 280 watt amplifier, and you’ve got yourself a party waiting to happen. You can read more about the Fluance Fi70 in the full press release below, or you can head directly over to and order one of your very own for $499.  Cont'd...

The Next Stop in Home Security: A Lightbulb With a Memory

EVA RECINOS for PSFK:  Smart technology in the home can make things more convenient—but it can also make homes safer. ComfyLight hopes to make use of this potential, creating a lightbulb that discourages burglars .

The wireless lightbulb screws on like a regular bulb. It syncs with an app on user’s phone and begins keeping track of regular movements. When a user walks into a room, the system automatically switches lights on and then turns them off when the user leaves.

As co-founder Stefanie Turber explains on ComfyLight’s Kickstarter video, the lighting system “acts like you’re home by turning the light on and off and it recognizes unexpected movements at your place.”

Once a user leaves his-her home and activates security mode, ComfyLight simulates the user’s patterns of movement and switches lights on and off to mirror them. While away from home, users can keep track of activity through an app on your phone—and see if ComfyLight detected something unusual.  Cont'd...

From NetworkWorld - Interview with the creators of EZ-Wave, a Z-Wave hacking tool

The synopsis for Breaking Bulbs Briskly by Bogus Broadcastsmentions the promise of smart energy and building automation, as well as the many unintended vulnerabilities that are introduced in the rush to bring IoT devices to market. The researchers believe “the ability to physically damage hardware by abusing network access is particularly interesting.” I agree.

Frustrated by the “lack of functionality in current Z-Wave hacking tools,” ShmooCon presenters Joseph Hall and Ben Ramsey created and released a new, open source EZ-Wave tool. Not only did the duo discuss how to use the tool for pen-testing Z-Wave wireless automation networks, they also discussed “a rapid process for destroying florescent lights.” They added, “Once access is gained to an automated lighting system, regardless of the protocol used, we  demonstrate how to destroy florescent lamps rated for 30K hours within a single night of abuse.” Full Article:

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