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 Fluance.com 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:

CES 2016 - Autonomous Cars Set To Dominate

BY DAVID GILBERT For International Business Times:  As cars become less about horsepower and torque and more about the technology inside, CES has become one of the most important showcases of the year for auto manufacturers. It's a sea change in how cars are built and marketed, with technology now the core, rather than an added feature. Connected, autonomous and electric vehicles will all be on display at CES 2016, with some of the world’s most talk-about companies in the field looking to make a major impact.

First up will be Faraday Future, the secretive startup based in Los Angeles and backed by a Chinese billionaire. It is set to unveil its first ever concept design on Jan. 4, and while all the company has said so far is that it will be an electric vehicle, it is widely believed to feature autonomous capabilities.

While Faraday Future is a relative unknown, one of the world’s biggest automotive companies, Ford, will also be at CES announcing news about the autonomous car it has been testing internally for several years. Among the announcements expected is apartnership with Google to build some of Google’s fleet of self-driving cars.  Cont'd...

Honda Smart Home Opens Up Breakthrough Data Streams

Kyle Field for CleanTechnica:  When I first heard of the Honda Smart Home (HSH), my first question was, “Wait, why is Honda playing with Smart Homes?” Digging deeper reveals that this new endeavor aims to build on some of the core principles of Honda while, at the same time, stretching the company into new areas, such as tapping into the benefits of home automation when paired with an EV that carries around a large battery everywhere it goes. One of the key tenets of this exploratory initiative is open-source data sharing, and Honda just took a very large step in this direction by opening up a ton of new data streams (200!) at 1-minute intervals.
I really enjoy the type of data being gathered by the integrated Honda Energy Management System and can appreciate just how impactful this data can be, as it allows anyone to go in, download the data, and play with it to their heart’s content. Summarize, roll up, drill down, average, min/max… the excel geek in me is tingling with the possibilities. I am especially interested in how this type of a central “energy brain” in a home essentially allows users to see exactly what parts of their home are performing well or not.  Cont'd...
 

Chromecast Audio Is Now An Inexpensive Hi-Res Wireless Home Audio System

By Leo Markus for ImmortalNews:  Google’s Chromecast Audio just became the inexpensive solution for wirelessly streaming music throughout a home or office with its latest update’s incorporation of multi-room streaming support, Google announced on Thursday. As if multi-room support wasn’t enough for one update, the small WiFi enabled device–which plugs directly into a speaker, allowing it to wirelessly stream music over the radio waves–now offers support for high-resolution audio up to 96KHz/24bit lossless audio playback. Google launched Chromecast Audio just a couple of months ago as an inexpensive way to connect speakers to streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and obviously Google Play Music.
The device, which costs $35, now allows you to blast the same song throughout multiple rooms — effectively grouping speakers together to create an expansive listening environment. In order to do so, users employ the latest Chromecast app, which allows for groups to be setup.  Cont'd...
 

Apple Said to Suspend Effort to Develop Live TV Service

From Bloomberg Business:  Apple Inc. has suspended plans to offer a live Internet-based television service and is instead focusing on being a platform for media companies to sell directly to customers through its App Store, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

While Apple isn’t giving up entirely on releasing a live-TV service, its plan to sell a package of 14 or so channels for $30 to $40 a month has run into resistance from media companies that want more money for their programming, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing a prospective product.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves said at a conference earlier Tuesday that Apple had put its live TV plans “on hold.”

The struggle highlights the difficulty new entrants face in trying to persuade media companies to overhaul the conventional pay-TV bundle, which costs about $85 a month. To break the logjam, Apple would either have to charge more, or the media companies would have to accept less.  Cont'd...

Records 31 to 45 of 111

First | Previous | Next | Last

Energy & Other Home Systems - Featured Product

WaterCop + Z-Wave Technology = Complete water control

WaterCop + Z-Wave Technology = Complete water control

The WaterCop family of products continues to grow! We now offer Z-wave technology that allows remote control of a home's main water supply via phone or internet. It's perfect for people who want peace of mind that they can shut off water in homes from nearly anywhere using Z-wave protocol. Z-wave joins systems WaterCop Pro, LeakStop, WaterCop Classic, Outdoor, and Large Valve (1 ½"-4") Integration. Visit www.watercop.com to learn more.