Amazon just surprised everyone with a crazy speaker that talks to you

Well this one came out of nowhere: Amazon is building a speaker that's controlled with your voice. It's called Echo, and Amazon tells The Verge it will be "shipping in the coming weeks." Available on an invite-only basis to start, Echo is regularly priced at $199. But for a limited time, Amazon will offer Echo for $99 to Prime members who receive an invite. Amazon says the black, cylindrical speaker is always connected to the cloud and will provide information, music, news, weather, and more whenever you ask for it. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from Google — only it's an Amazon product.

The built-in voice recognition can hear users from across the room, according to Amazon, essentially acting as a Siri-like personal assistant crammed inside a speaker. It listens to user requests using seven microphones and can understand your voice even while playing music. "These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction," reads the product's page. The speaker also produces 360-degree audio to fill an entire room. It'll play music from Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Plus. And it's fully Bluetooth compatible, making playback from Spotify, Pandora, and other audio apps possible. Companion smartphone apps on Android and Fire OS will launch upon availability to help buyers set up and get started with the speaker, but everyone else (including iOS users) will need to access it via a web app. Amazon tells The Verge that a dedicated iOS app is in the works.

Parks Associates: 62% of Consumers Unfamiliar with Smart Home Products or Services

Parks Associates reports that approximately two-thirds of U.S. broadband households are unfamiliar with smart home products or services. Further, few consumers know what smart home devices and services are, who sells them, or where to buy them. New research, IoT for Smart Home Devices and Controllers, published by Parks Associates with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, analyzes the results of a Q2 2014 survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households. The results include recommendations for the connected home industry, analysis of consumer demand for smart home products, and strategies to raise awareness of smart home devices and their sales channels.

“Today, smart home service providers control almost every aspect of their offerings while consumers make only one choice - the service provider,” said Tricia Parks, CEO and Founder, Parks Associates. “Deploying open solutions that give consumers a degree of control over their ecosystem represents a major competitive element and an opportunity to increase revenue and business opportunities for software, hardware, and service players. However, consumers have to know where to find these devices, so these companies also need better promotion of their sales channels.”

Sharp's new High Resolution Audio Player could spell the death of the A/V receiver

When most people think of Sharp, they likely think about really big TVs. However, in an effort to help you clean up your home theater, the company has been working on something even bigger than their TVs, and it’s finally ready for its coming-out party. Today, Sharp unveiled its new media player, which uses dual wireless technologies to transmit both high resolution audio and video without cables. Sharp calls it the Sharp High Resolution Audio Player, but the name doesn’t do the device justice — it’s way more than just a high-res audio player.
Sharp has been developing its futuristic new player, the model SD-WH100U, for years. In fact, we caught a glimpse of what this technology could do in early 2013 at CES, and the prototype version of today’s device thoroughly impressed, able to send crystal clear audio and video to a surround sound speaker system and TV that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional wired setup.
Using the wide open spaces of the 5.2-5.8 GHz frequency band, the player is able to transmit high resolution audio at up to 24bit/96kHz from FLAC, WAV, and even DSD files over the up-and-coming WiSA (Wireless Speakers and Audio) standard. It also plays SACDs and Blu-rays, and thanks to an adapter that speaks the Wireless HD protocol, WiHD, it also sends top-notch 1080p HD video to any TV.


US Consumers are eager for the 'Internet of things' in the home, Savant survey reveals

Savant, the leading luxury smart home technology company, today released new survey results revealing that more than half of consumers in the United States believe that home automation will be an everyday feature in less than 10 years from now, and nearly one-fourth saying that the technology will be an everyday feature in less than five years.

The survey further reveals that control/ease of use (69 percent) and convenience (58 percent) are the most important features for consumers when purchasing a new technology. Cost savings (41 percent) and safety and security (35 percent) were cited as the two primary considerations among consumers for the adoption of smart home automation systems. 
"Consumers have spoken and want convenience and ease of use from their smart home technology said William J. Lynch, CEO, Savant. "For almost 10 years now, people with Savant Homes have seen how much easier automation makes their lives, and we are committed to bringing this experience to more and more homeowners." 


How the smart home will evolve

Right now we have some very successful point applications in the home. The Nest thermostat and the cloud recording device Dropcam, which is now owned by Nest, are two examples. But smart lighting like Philips Hue or smart door locks from a companies like Kwikset and August will pick up steam over the next few years.
We also have the introduction of some promising platforms from the likes of SmartThings, AlertMe, and Revolv (although Revolv’s platform doesn’t seem to have much of a future after its acquisition by Nest on Friday). These platforms, which Gigaom Research reviewed in its latest Sector Roadmap, often include hardware hubs with multiple radio protocols to enable easy communication with a multitude of smart devices, be they thermostats, lighting, energy management or security. The benefits of platforms is that they deal with device fragmentation and make visualizing the capabilities of the smart home in one governing app possible rather than having to access a different app for every piece of hardware. They also should allow developers to write code and create rules that affect multiple devices.  Cont'd..

Google Nest buys smart home automation startup Revolv

Google's Nest continues digesting enzyme-rich startups from the smart home sector, acquiring Revolv this time in a move that brings with it the talent needed to push the Works with Nest platform.
A Google acquisition itself, Nest's purchase of Revolv follows up its $555 million acquisition of Dropcam just a few months earlier. Revolve had already developed its own platform to connect smart products to one another, but the expertise behind that software will go into making Nest's Works with Nest code more attractive to developers of smart things.
"We have been inspired by Nest since our foundation, and are thrilled to be part of the Nest family," says Revolv. Together, we're going to create some amazing products and continue to unify the connected home as part of the Works with Nest program."

Avi-On Teams With Jasco In Home Automation

Home-automation startup Avi-on Labs launched a crowd-funding campaign to bring its Bluetooth mesh-network home-automation products to North America in the spring.

The devices will include multiple GE-brand products from Jasco, which is making a GE Bluetooth Smart Light Dimmer, Smart Light Switch, Smart Indoor Plug, Smart Indoor Dimmable Plug, and Smart Outdoor Plug. They will join an on-wall, battery-powered movable light switch made by Avi-on and a Bluetooth Smart Light bulb.

The products will be available in the spring.

Avi-on created a hub-less home-automation system that is controlled from Android and iOS apps, which let users turn lights on and off, dim lights, put lights on schedules, and group lights. Home systems can also be controlled from a Bluetooth light switch.

Consumers can control and manage almost an unlimited number of household products, including lamps, fans, small appliances, stereos, HVAC systems, and outside lights, the company said.

Home Automation Company Launches New Product with Crowdfunding Campaign

Authometion, the startup engaged in IoT solutions for WiFi home automation applications, has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise €50,000 by November 17 to kick-off preorders of their first set of products that allows homeowners to transform their homes into smart homes. 

The first product released by Authometion is IoTuino, an Arduino-compatible tiny core module (56×23 mm) incorporating a low-power WiFi module and radio transceiver. IoTuino has been completely designed and engineered in-house by Authometion after almost two years of research and development. The goal of the product is to offer all makers and developers the opportunity to work with a powerful yet miniaturized microcontroller for rapid prototyping and to leverage the Arduino open-source electronics platform to build plenty of IoT devices. "IoTuino is the perfect partner for DIY Home Automation applications," said company founder and CEO Pietro Moscetta. "It can be embedded into any object to immediately embrace the IoT revolution." IoTuino is based on an ATMega328P microcontroller and includes a built-in low-power Wi-Fi module (IEEE802.11 b/g/n), a 512Kb SPI Flash, a 2.4 GHz radio transceiver, and an integrated mini USB programming port. 

Ubi, the voice-activated control system for your home, is finally out of beta

After more than two years of closed beta testing, Ubi, the voice-controlled home computer system for your home, is finally ready for general release.
If you didn’t happen to catch the device during its hugely-successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2012, the device is a lot like HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Armed with a slew of different sensors and an Internet-connected brain, it’s able to detect when you’re in a given room, and can also understand spoken commands.
It’s certainly not the first voice-activated home control system to hit the market, but unlike products that run through Siri or Google Now, Ubi doesn’t always rely on your smartphone. It’s a standalone device that plugs directly into your wall, so you don’t need to have your phone handy to issue commands. That said, the creators did build voice control into the accompanying smartphone app as well, so it’s still possible to control stuff via voice when you’re out and about, or simply in a different room.


Thread Home Automation Group Accepting New Members

The Thread Group announced that it has opened membership and will begin accepting applications from companies interested in using the Thread protocol in their products. The Thread Group was established in July by seven companies including Nest Labs, Samsung Electronics, Big Ass Fans, Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Freescale® Semiconductor, and ARM, to develop Thread, a new IP-based wireless mesh networking protocol designed specifically for the home.

“Thread enables products in the home to securely communicate with one another in ways that were not possible before,” said Chris Boross, president, the Thread Group, and technical product manager, Nest Labs. “Thousands of companies have already expressed interest in Thread, and we look forward to seeing how they will use Thread technology to build the next generation of the connected home.”

The organization said Thread was designed to overcome the technical roadblocks that have prevented widespread adoption of the connected home. Thread enables product developers and consumers to easily and securely connect more than 250 devices to a low-power, IP-based wireless mesh network that also includes direct Internet and cloud access for every device.

Xiaomi Unveiled Company's Home Automation Devices In China

Xiaomi is a Chinese company most known for it affordable and yet well-built smartphones. In Asia, people are calling this company China’s Apple, which is a good fit I guess. Xiaomi’s hardware and software are often inspired by Apple’s products, or so it seems. Xiaomi Mi4 and Redmi 1S are probably company’s most known products. The former is Xiaomi’s 2014 flagship while the latter is an extremely affordable device which carries rather good specifications and design, this device is extremely popular in India where Xiaomi is selling it as part of “Flash Sales” via Indian retailer Flipkart.
This Chinese manufacturer has serious plans to bring its business abroad, they’re already active in Italy, India and will soon be in South America. Xiaomi has other countries in plan soon as well. It seems they want to differentiate in their products lineup as well, other than expanding their business geographically. After teasing company’s “Mi Home” smart box yesterday on its official webpage along with some other smart products which are used through that box, Xiaomi announced all of those today. This Chinese manufacturer announced 4 new product as part of their very own smart home lineup, Mi Smart Remote Center, Ants smart camera, Mi Smart Power Plug / Socket and Yeelight Smart Lightbulb. The first one is of course the smart box itself which is basically a router for all other of these devices, or as Xiaomi calls it, smart Remote Control Center. The second one is the Ants Smart Camera, this little gadget has a viewing angle of 111 degrees, a resolution of 720p and it comes with 4-times optical zoom. You can make voice calls through it without a problem considering it has an embedded microphone and a loudspeaker. Xiaomi’s Smart Socket, on the other hand, lets your remotely switch power on and off, it has a USB port. You’ll be able to do this via the special app for your smartphone of course. Yeelight is the 3rd device we’ll talk about, this is a Bluetooth 4.0-powered smart bulb which lets you adjust its color and light via the aforementioned smartphone app.

Best Buy Adding Home-Automation Departments

Best Buy is rolling out home-automation departments to more than 400 stores this fall.

The “Connected Home” sections are expected to be in place by Thanksgiving and will feature more than 100 products from established vendors and startups.

The assortment will include security cameras and monitoring service from Dropcam; smart thermostats from Nest and Honeywell; smart lighting from Philips/Hue; smart locks from Kwikset; garage door accessories from Chamberlain; and wireless on-off switches from Belkin WeMo.

The departments will also spotlight networking equipment (routers, modems and range extenders), plus TV, Internet, phone and security services from cable companies, DirectTV and ADT. 

Latest Apple TV update enables remote access relay for HomeKit connected accessories

HomeKit support in the Apple TV is yet another sign that the company's streaming set-top box is likely to become Apple's official hub for a connected home. AppleInsider first predicted in June that Apple wouldn't likely begin selling "iLight" or "iLock" products, instead leaving those efforts to third-party developers and hardware makers.
Of course, HomeKit support in the Apple TV paves the way for future models to expand further upon this functionality. For example, a new microphone-equipped Apple TV with always-on "Hey Siri" support could be used to turn off the lights downstairs and raise the temperature when you go to bed, playing nicely with a wide range of different smart-home accessory makers.
The Apple TV is long overdue for an update, last having seen a minor, silent hardware refresh in January of 2013 with a redesigned CPU. The hardware is essentially the same as the model released in March 2012.

CEA Examines the Future of Consumer Technology in Five Technology Trends to Watch

he Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) today unveiled five cutting-edge technologies that will significantly impact the CE industry during the opening session "Five Disruptive Techs to Watch" at CEA's Innovate! Conference being held this week in Phoenix, AZ. The session, moderated by CEA Senior Vice President of Communications and Strategic Relationships Jeff Joseph, included The Envisioneering Group's Richard Doherty; Disruption Corp.'s Paul Singh; and CNET Reviews Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine. 

Based on CEA's annual publication, Five Technology Trends to Watch, the session introduced each of the five topics with man on the street videos of consumers filmed on the National Mall in Washington, DC to gauge their familiarity with the five technology trends. The 2015 edition highlights Big Data, the rise of the machines (Internet of Things, robotics and driverless cars), digital health and the quantified self, entertainment and immersive content including augmented reality, and business models in the innovation economy. 
Geared toward industry professionals, this publication provides in-depth analysis of each trend and outlines related issues and market forecasts for the coming year. Each section also explores consumer perspectives, partnerships and key players. 


Cisco, Acer, others join Intel-backed IoT standards group

"Internet of things" standards groups are rallying the troops for efforts to make thermostats, door locks, sensors and other connected devices find each other and share information.

On Thursday, the Open Interconnect Consortium announced it has gained 27 new members, including Cisco Systems, Acer, chip maker Mediatek and home IoT hub maker SmartThings, since the group was founded in July. The group's founding members include Intel, Samsung Electronics and Dell. The OIC also named the people on its board of directors, which will be led by Jong-Deok Choi, the deputy head of Samsung's Software R&D Center.
The group says its mission is to ensure that devices such as wearables, remote controls, appliances and handsets can easily communicate and exchange information regardless of operating system, form factor or service provider. Member companies will contribute open-source code to build up the technology to make this possible, the group says. It plans to initially develop standards for discovery, connectivity and device authentication.
But the OIC isn't the only organization pushing for a common approach in this area. On Tuesday, the Thread Group, backed by Google's Nest Labs business as well as ARM Holdings and other founding companies, opened up its membership and laid out plans to certify Thread products starting next June. Connectivity is also a focal point for Thread, which is developing a networking software stack. 


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