Smart Home Device Buyers Want Support

By Aaron Baar for MediaPost:  Although they have been tagged as one of the bright spots for the coming year in the consumer electronics sector, makers of smart home devices need to be concerned about user-friendliness if they want them to truly take off. According to a survey conducted by support.com, which provides tech support and support center services, nearly a third (31%) of smart home system owners struggle with the complexity of setup. In addition, 43% of potential smart home device buyers are concerned about how complex setting up the system might be.  “Complexity is starting to impede adoption,” Alex Polous, Support.com’s vice president of marketing, tells Marketing Daily. “If we want to increase adoption, we need to look at the user experience and not just the flashy features.” Still, 37% of current smart home device owners installed the devices themselves, and 61% want to attempt to fix the issues on their own. Providers, then, should offer an array of support options for different customers and for different stages of ownership, he says.   Cont'd...

Making Sense of Smart Home Tech at CES 2016

Dan Tynan for Yahoo Tech:  The problem with smart home technology in 2016 isn’t a lack of intelligence; it’s a failure to communicate. As more  new ‘smart’ devices appear — and we saw a passel of them at CES 2016, from smart showers to beds, belts, blenders, toothbrushes and more — the same stumbling blocks remain. All of them will talk to your smartphone, but most of them won’t talk to each other. To get the most Jetsons-like experience from your smart home, different devices need to speak the same language. If you want your smart bed to notice when you are awake, open your smart blinds, tune your smart audio system to Morning Edition, and tell your smart coffee maker to start brewing, all of these devices need to be communicating on the same radio frequency using the same protocols. At the moment, though, there are more than half a dozen smart home protocols — like Apple Homekit, Samsung’s Smart Things, Google’s Brillo, Lowe’s Iris, and AllJoyn, as well as old standbys like Zigbee and Zwave. And that’s just a partial list.   Cont'd...

CES 2016 - Smart Homes of the Future

Harriet Taylor for CNBC:  High tech is coming, again, to your home.  Tech companies and appliance makers are showing off their latest lines of connected devices promising to make consumers' lives better, safer and happier at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Much has been made about the market opportunity underlying smart homes, but consumers are not yet convinced. The Consumer Technology Association acknowledges this, forecasting that sales of wearable devices will be quadruple sales of smart home devices in 2016, reaching 38 million and 9 million units sold, respectively. One difference, compared to CES in years past, is that companies are putting less effort into becoming the de facto platform for your entire house, and more into delivering specific products.  Cont'd...

Lowe's to add emergency dispatch service for Iris DIY smart-home systems

Stephen Lawson for CIO:  Smart-home gadgets look cool, but the services connected to them may be more valuable to many owners in the long run. Home-improvement chain Lowe's plans to make more of those services available to do-it-yourselfers. By the middle of this year, owners of Lowe's Iris home gadgets will be able to buy professional monitoring, including dispatching of first responders in case of emergency. It will cost US$19.99 per month and will become available in select markets as licensing allows. Security and life safety are two of the big reasons consumers are buying into the Internet of Things. Broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast install smart-home systems built around things like connected burglar alarms. For example, AT&T's website advertises professionally monitored home security and automation systems starting at $39.99 per month with a two-year contract.   Cont'd...

CES 2016: LG And Samsung battle for smart home leadership

By ROB ENDERLE for TechSpective:  LG and Samsung are planning to do battle for control of your home at CES. Samsung is bringing its acquired SmartThings technology to TVs to provide a central hub from which your home can be controlled. LG just announced it is going to showcase its Smarthome Hub at CES as well. Each idea has its merits and problems, but I think LG is closer to what we initially need than Samsung is. Let me explain. Right now the concept of the Smart Home is a mess and it has been a mess ever since X10 went to that technology graveyard in the sky. We have a bunch of warring “standards” that don’t interoperate, mixed conformance with the standards that do exist, and the end result is that when you buy into a smart home solution, chances are you will be creating an insane stupid house that constantly doesn’t do what you paid a ton of money to get it to do. Currently we have 4 major legacy smart home platforms: X-10 which started it all back in the 1970s but is mostly gone today, ZigBee and Z Wave which are alliances, and Insteon which is tied directly to one company. Recently a 5th joined this group called Alljoyn which was created by Qualcomm the most powerful player in the smartphone world. With smartphones becoming the most likely controller for the new smart home, there was a chance that this alliance could do what the others had not–create something that actually works.   Cont'd...

SmartThings And Samsung Team Up To Make Your TV A Smart Home Hub

Jordan Crook  for TechCrunch:  Samsung and SmartThings are buddying up to introduce Samsung’s latest line of Smart TVs, complete with SmartThings platform integration so folks can use their TVs as an interface to control the home. There is no shortage of internet-connected devices out there, from standard security systems and smart lighting systems all the way to the connected kettle. But a connective language that unifies those devices is harder to come by. SmartThings is aiming to introduce that by teaming up with potential interfaces, including the Amazon Echo and this most recent foray into Smart TVs. With this latest move, owners of the new 2016 Samsung SUHD TVs will be able to use their television as a controller for more than 200 SmartThings-compatible devices.   Cont'd...

5 Ways Smart Home Gadgets Can Leave You Vulnerable

Jess Bolluyt for CheatSheet:  All kinds of creative tech companies, large and small, are building interesting smart home devices. While they promise to make your house or apartment smarter, more energy-efficient, and more closely tailored to your needs and preferences, they have a few drawbacks, most notably that many of them aren’t as secure as you’d hope. As Bitdefender recently noted in a post for Mashable, users want exciting tech products on fast timelines, which leaves designers and developers scrambling to offer ever-more-capable devices on shortening development cycles. That “rush to market” can result in poorly-constructed software, and unfortunately, the first thing to go is often proper consideration for security. Devices from smart TVs to thermostats to routers have all been found to neglect basic security measures. While we’re just as excited about the prospect of using technology to make our homes smarter and more capable, it’s important to be aware of the ways that Internet of Things devices can compromise your security.  Cont'd...

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...

One-Third Of Homes Primed For Smart-Home Technology

By: Joseph Palenchar for Twice:  Smart-home technology is used by 21 percent of all U.S. households, and another 36 percent are viable future customers, a Strategy Analytics analysis concluded. The research and consulting company also surveyed online households about what they’d be willing to pay for and found the list topped by devices that allow for remote or automatic water shut-off if a leak is detected. That’s followed by devices that automatically adjust lights and thermostats based on who is home, a panic-button feature that turns on all lights in the house, remote monitoring and control of door locks, and motion-sensing camera s with visual notification.   Cont'd...

Home Automation Protocols: What Technology is Right for You?

From ElectronicHouse:  There are a wide variety of technology platforms, or protocols, on which a smart home can be built. Each one is, essentially, its own language. Each language speaks to the various connected devices and instructs them to perform a function. Choosing a smart home protocol can be tricky business. Obviously, you want one that will support a large number of devices, as well as one that offers the best possible device interoperability (the ability for devices to talk to each other). But there are also other factors to consider, such as power consumption, bandwidth and, of course, cost. Following is an overview of some of the most popular home technology platforms on the market. While not intended to be the “be-all, end-all” treatise on which protocol is best for your smart home project, it’s a great place to start.   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...  

Open source HomeBridge links 3rd-party smart home devices like Nest to Apple's HomeKit

By Blair MacGregor for AppleInsider:  Homebridge is currently available on GitHub,and works by emulating the iOS HomeKit API through user-contributed modules called Plugins. Each plugin corresponds with a different manufacturer, with the list including smart home titans Nest and Sonos, as well as lesser known manufacturers like Indigo Domotics, Netatmo and Wemo. Both the Homebridge database as well as the Plugins can be installed through a command line prompt as global NPM modules and are compatible with Linux-based systems as well as the Raspberry Pi.  The most obvious use case for using Homebridge to connect with HomeKit is integration with Siri, allowing a user to use voice commands (e.g. "Siri, unlock the front door") for a variety of tasks.  While third-party apps like Home or MyTouchHome have been available for some time, Apple has yet to release an app that functions as a central hub to control multiple HomeKit-connected smart devices, which makes a project like this necessary for those who don't want to wait for Apple. However, some smart home manufacturers like Phillips have introduced devices like the Hue Bridge, which enables users of Phillips' own line of smart light bulbs and accessories to connect their system to HomeKit.    Cont'd.. .

Consumers Aren't Buying the Smart Home, But Insurers Are

By Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  The industry has stalled. But while consumers are scratching their heads, property and casualty insurers have been testing connected doorbells, water sensors, smoke detectors and dozens of other devices. On the life insurance side, wearables and other devices are also in the R&D labs, although that’s less of a focus for this story, since consumers have tended to adopt wearables more readily than the connected home concept. On the P&C side, State Farm is launching a program that will give an all-in one connected security device called the Canary to first responders soon. Last month, American Family created an innovative program with connected doorbell provider Ring, that offered customers a discount if they bought the device, but also would reimburse your deductible if someone managed to break in. American Family also subsidizes the cost of a Nest Protect smoke alarm. USAA has backed a connected car startup called Automatic, while Progressive  PGR 0.10%  has already teamed up with Zubie, another connected car device maker, to deliver discounts on auto insurance for drivers who share data. For insurance firms, the decision to back these startups can range from helping to prevent losses, which can boost profits, and helping make the insurer a more positive and proactive presence in people’s lives. Ryan Ryst, director of innovation at American Family, says that in creating programs around connected devices, an insurance company has a chance to remind people that insurers are acting to protect policy holders.   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...

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