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...

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...

Now You Can Hide Your Smart Home on the Darknet

Andy Greenberg for WIRED:  The Privacy Software Tor has aided everything from drug dealing marketplaces to whistleblowing websites in evading surveillance on the darknet. Now that same software can be applied to a far more personal form of security: keeping hackers out of your toaster.
On Wednesday, the privacy-focused non-profit Guardian Project, a partner of the Tor Project that maintains and develops the Tor anonymity network, announced a new technique it’s developed to apply Tor’s layers of encryption and network stealth to protecting so-called “Internet of things” or “smart home” devices. That growing class of gadgets, ranging from refrigerators to lightbulbs to security cameras, are connected to the Internet to make possible new forms of remote management and automation. They also, as the security research community has repeatedly demonstrated, enable a new breed of over-the-Internet attacks, such as the rash of hackers harassing infants via baby monitors or the potential for hackers tosteal your Gmail password from your fridge.  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:
 

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...

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...

Is DIY smart home tech hobbled by poor app functionality?

Cate Lawrence for ReadWrite:  In Argus Insights’ newest “Smart Home 360” report, it’s clear there’s a strong distinction between consumer perception of the apps associated with the most popular Smart Home Service Providers and MSOs (Multiple System Operators) and the apps coming with Do It Yourself (DIY) devices.

Argus Insights found that — from over 56,000 app and device reviews — ADT andSuddenlink are the least liked of MSOs and service providers and their associated apps saw a drop in both the tone and volume of feedback over the last month, an indication that frustrated users could be moving to other providers.

This is consistent with previous research that demonstrates a high degree of satisfaction by customers in DIFM (“Do it for me”) installations.

However, Vivint’s Sky app, Cox Communications Homelife app, Xfinity Home app and Alarm.com app all trended up — an impact of both new releases and subscriber growth.  Cont'd...

How to Invest in Smart Home Technology

Greg Miller, Senior Analyst for Wall Street Daily:  Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed the promises and perils of the Smart Home, as well as why this segment is on the cusp ofbreaking into the mainstream.  Naturally, it’s time to ask: “How can I profit from this?”

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.  Ideally, there would be one or two tickers predicted to soar from the rising Smart Home trend, but there isn’t such a company out there yet.  However, there are still ways to participate in the upcoming boom.  It will require some creativity and careful investing, specifically in companies with small current exposure to the area.  Here are some guidelines for investing in the Smart Home – and for avoiding expensive mistakes.  Cont'd...

Comcast and Alarm.com to acquire smart home company Icontrol

Harrison Weber for VentureBeat:  Comcast and security company Alarm.com have entered into agreements to acquire and divvy up Icontrol, an 11-year-old Internet of Things and home security company founded in Palo Alto and now based in Austin, Texas.

Comcast previously invested an undisclosed sum into Icontrol and relies on the company’s tech to power parts of its connected home and home security platform.

In this multi-part deal, Comcast says it’s buying Icontrol’s Converge platform and wholesale business, which “powers the Xfinity Home touch-screen panel and back-end servers, allowing them to communicate with and manage security sensors in the home, as well as supporting home-automation devices like cameras and thermostat.”  Cont'd...

Opinion Article: Apple HomeKit: More Home Automation Waste

John C. Dvorak, Opinion Article for PCMag:  Home automation has been on the back burner for decades, and is something Icomplain about at least once a year. It was in the news again after Apple's WWDC this week, when observers looking to squeeze some news out of the long keynote seized on news about HomeKit.  This led me to the HomeKit homepage, which finally answered all my "what is it good for?" questions. Absolutely nothing!

Let's amuse ourselves with Apple's assertions. First, we are told to be on the lookout for the HomeKit seal of approval logo (above) for any sort of device we want to use within a HomeKit microcosm.

This ensures interoperability and security. Apple is using all sorts of proprietary protocols for these devices to protect users against house hacks that I've described in the past, where devices are controlled by smirking jokers on the net.  Cont'd...

Why Apple wants to be the smart home's nerve center

Lora Kolodny for TechCrunch:  On Monday, Apple announced that it would make an app called Home available to users soon, allowing them to connect and control all of their HomeKit-enabled smart home devices from their iPads, iPhones or even Watches.

Per an earlier TechCrunch report live from the event, the Home app will let users control a Fantasia-like orchestra of smart gadgets from one place, including everything from smart doorbells and locks, to thermostats, light bulbs, humidifiers and entertainment systems.

And the app will let users engage Siri to tweak the settings on those devices, of course.

But why is Apple intent on becoming a universal remote, or a nerve center, for the smart home?

Frankly, consumers are not yet buying IoT devices and services with the fervor hoped for by consumer electronics and appliance brands.  Cont'd...

How to Choose the Safest IoT Device for your Home

Alexandra Gheorghe for MacWorld:  Growth in the consumer market for Internet of Things gadgets is accelerating at an impressive speed, and forecasters predict 25 billion devices will be online by 2020. Thus, users can choose from a wide array of products available on the market.

On Amazon.com, for instance, around 400 search results relate to smart thermostats. But which product is best? After filtering the huge list by price and reviews, you are left with a handful of good options. Maybe some are more visually appealing than others, so, you select those that fit the aesthetics of your home. But where does security fit in? Is it among your top three selection criteria?

Unfortunately, most users prefer convenience over security. This known tradeoff is also partially due to the lack of standardization. There is no “security star” rating for consumer IoT devices. Needless to say, most consumers don’t have the tools and skills needed to differentiate products based on their security posture.

Such a system seems difficult to implement at this stage of IoT development.  Cont'd...

TAYLOR MORRISON SCALES A SMART HOME SOLUTION TO PRODUCTION BUILDING

Kayla Devon for BuilderOnline:  The Interactive Home is Taylor Morrison’s trademarked term for its smart home offering, which its Houston division first launched with Legrand, an electrical and home automation product manufacturer, in 2012. Last year the company started to look for a better solution that could work across all its product lines. Legrand ultimately won the contract once again because of its newly updated Intuity Home Intelligence platform and the vendor’s experience with Taylor Morrison.

Jim Ellison, VP of sales and marketing for Taylor Morrison’s Houston division, says the company wanted the ability to scale the smart home solution to its various price points from $190,000 to over $1 million. According to Legrand, the Intuity Home Intelligence system is meant to bring home automation to the masses, by being scalable to both a consumers’ and a home builders’ needs and price points.  Cont'd...

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Security & Communication - Featured Product

Yale Real Living™ Assure Lock™ with Bluetooth

Yale Real Living™ Assure Lock™ with Bluetooth

The new Yale Real Living™ Assure Lock™ with Bluetooth replaces conventional keys with digital keys accessed through the Yale Digital Keys app for Android and iOS mobile devices, and through an app for the new Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch. The Yale app allows homeowners to unlock doors, send keys to others, control when others have access, get a message when someone enters, and revoke a digital key at any time. Unlocking the deadbolt couldn't be simpler, whether using the Samsung Gear S2 or a smartphone. With the new Samsung Gear S2, touch the watch app to activate the digital key, then touch the lock screen to unlock the deadbolt. With a smartphone, Yale's "Twist and Go" technology allows the user to hold the phone vertically when approaching the door, then twist it 90 degrees to unlock the deadbolt. Homeowners can also unlock the deadbolt using its capacitive touchscreen and a four- to eight-digit code.