Your Smart Home Devices Might be Smart, but Are They Secure?

By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Products often rely on mobile apps to connect to cloud-based servers in order for you to “talk” to your security cameras. If you can control smart devices via the Internet, chances are good that some even smarter stranger with hacking skills might stand a chance of doing so.

“Consumers should think hard about the benefits they will gain from an IoT device, and weigh those against a ’worst-case’ risk,” said Mark Stanislav, a Rapid7 senior security consultant and member of BuildItSecure.ly, a pro-bono industry initiative that helps vendors create more secure products.

Rapid7 helps companies manage security services.

“For instance, is the Internet-connected Web camera you want to put into your home worth the potential risk that someone on the Internet may be able to snoop on it if a flaw is found? It’s worth thinking about the placement of a device like that and how much privacy would be lost in that sort of scenario.  

“This simple ‘risk-versus reward’ is a great test for consumers to make any time they are about to purchase an IoT device,” Mr. Stanislav said.  Cont'd...

Google's new patent is full of ideas for smart home gadgets

From DigitalTrends:  Nest and Dropcam are just the beginning for Google’s entrance into the smart home, according to a patent filed in September 2014 called “Security Scoring in a Smart-Sensored Home.”
 
Published yesterday, the patent deals with connected devices that “communicate with each other and/or with a central server or a cloud-computing system to provide any of a variety of useful home security objectives.” It’s not surprising, given that Nest and its “Works with Nest” developer program recently made the smart thermostat and smoke-and-CO2-detectors play with August smart locks, Philips Hue light bulbs, and Withings sleep system. But the patent shows Google is planning on doing more than operating in conjunction with third-party smart devices: It just may start cranking out its own.
 
There are a few drawings and mentions of smart products Google doesn’t yet make, including smart plugs, wall switches, nightlights, and connected doorbells and doorknobs. Then there’s a smart alarm clock that wakes you up earlier when the roads will be icy or an accident is tying up traffic. But it goes beyond just connecting everything in your home; Google wants to tie the community together, too. A burglary three houses down would cause your lights to flick on and your smart lock to engage.
 

 

How to Ride the Smart Home Wave

From Adam Gettings for Techonomy: There's a sizeable "smart home" wave building. The smart home and building technology market was $4.8 billion in 2012 and a report by Allied Market Research predicts it will grow to $35.3 billion by 2020.
 
Not surprisingly, many startups, retailers, and established tech companies hope to ride the wave. Surfing is hard to do. Not everyone will get the timing right. But some strategies will make it a lot less likely that companies will wipe out.
 
Open Up Your Platform:  Everyone's racing to make their own smart home platform, but few of them are open. Now I don't mean open source, like the Android Open Source Project or Apache Hadoop-those projects are incredible for the technology industry, but open source isn't right or always possible for every company. Rather, I mean these smart home platforms need to be open by offering APIs and other developer toolkits to allow easy interoperability with other products within the ecosystem (or even allowing other brands to license their technology to create totally new products). Developers understandably want to maintain control over their products, but too tight of control can also limit a product's potential.  Cont'd...

Listnr is a Home Automation Device With Ears

Jennifer Allen for Paste Magazine:  Automating your home is already possible through a variety of different remotes and devices, but how about something that relies upon sound? That’s the thinking behind Listnr, the latest device that aims to make life seem a little more futuristic, as well as convenient.
 
At its simplest, it allows you to connect a smart light-bulb to it, thereby allowing you to turn the lights on or off by snapping your fingers. You can program Listnr to react to any kind of sound, such as a clap, snap, or a stomp of your feet—the latter being useful when your hands are full. Besides simply turning on or off, you can set up the gadget to change to specific colors if you so wish, setting the mood perfectly. It goes one step further, too.
 
It’ll also understand emotion from sounds, such as when your baby is communicating. Via a notification system, Listnr can tell if your baby is crying, laughing, screaming, or simply gurgling, soon sending you a heads up to your smart phone.

Xiaomi Launches New Series of Smart Home Products

Marvell (NASDAQ: MRVL) - a worldwide leader in providing complete silicon solutions from mobile communications to storage, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud infrastructure, digital entertainment and in-home content delivery and Kinoma software enabling the "Smart Life and Smart Lifestyle," - today announced that Xiaomi has launched a smart module built on the Marvell IoT chipset; the module also has been integrated into Xiaomi's smart air purifier and smart hub, part of its portfolio of smart home product offerings. The new design wins build on the previously announced Xiaomi's smart-plug and extends the partnership between two leading companies in the Smart Home industry. Powered by the Marvell IoT chipset, the Xiaomi smart module integrates Wi-Fi connection and complete communication protocol with Xiaomi Cloud, which enables third-party manufacturers to upgrade to smart devices from traditional devices. This module supports multiple functions, including power on device detect, firmware upgrades, network reliability and consistency maintenance of the connection status indication. 

"I am very pleased with our collaboration with Xiaomi in launching a new series of Smart Home devices for the vast consumer base in China. Smart Home is an integral part of the fast-growing Internet of Things market," said Weili Dai, President and Co-Founder of Marvell. "I am very proud that Marvell is leading the industry with the broadest technology portfolio and end-to-end silicon and software solutions. With our continued collaboration with top global ecosystem partners such as Xiaomi, we are committed to bringing the benefit of IoT technologies to billions of consumers around the world." 

 

Neurio Launches to Make the Whole Home "Smart" With Only One Sensor

Neurio is an intelligent, open platform that with only one sensor brings smart home capabilities to the entire home, with future versions providing intelligence for all existing appliances. As the "brain of the home," Neurio connects both older appliances and newer "smart" devices to allow users to easily track, monitor and better understand how their home is operating, such as letting the user know when their kids come home, or if they forgot to turn something off before leaving for the day. 
 
Neurio makes it simple, affordable and practical to bring smart home technology, and its benefits, to the masses. 
 
A Single Sensor Monitoring Energy Use Habits Means Saving Money 
 
Successfully funded via Kickstarter, Neurio is now shipping to backers and is currently available for pre-order at www.neur.io. The Neurio Sensor costs $249 and users have the potential to save money quickly by recognizing energy use patterns and habits. The Neurio platform, which features a single sensor attached to a home's circuit box, allows for home intelligence and monitoring right out of the box. 

LINQ Home Launches Energy-saving Smart Vent Crowdfunding Campaign

LINQ Home, a maker of energy-saving home automation products, today announced the launch of a Kickstarter Campaign to improve Heating and Cooling through smart vents.

LINQ is providing households with unprecedented control over HVAC systems. By sensing the temperature in each room and adjusting dampers on every vent, LINQ’s system enables room-by-room temperature control. The system routes air to the rooms that need it, and not to those that don’t. Air flow data processed through algorithms, opens and closes the vents and prevents strain on the furnace or AC unit. Rooms reach their set points faster, run times of HVAC equipment are reduced, and the increased efficiency translates to money savings and consistent comfort.

“I couldn’t believe the temperature variances between the rooms in my home,” said Jason Griggs, founder and CTO of LINQ Home. “When I first started testing our Smart Vent system there was a 12 degree difference between rooms. The variance resulted in seemingly endless thermostat wars.”

LINQ Smart Vents have all the perks of a zoning system, at less than half the price, and with none of the inconvenience of construction. The simple-to-install, retrofittable system saves users up to 50% on monthly heating and cooling costs.

CSR will give Bluetooth gear in the smart home super powers

From Stacy Higgenbotham for GigaOM:  This year is going to be a big one for Bluetooth technologies in the smart home. Thanks to some updates in the Bluetooth standard from a year ago, we’re seeing products such as light bulbs, outlets and more using the radio technology to connect devices. But it’s not just the standards update that’s helped; a few firms have also introduced software that have allowed companies to turn their Bluetooth radios into a mesh network that offers more resiliency and range for the technology.

One of the more popular is CSRmesh, the software designed by CSR, the company that helped invent Bluetooth and is now in the process of being acquired by Qualcomm. Now a year old, and primarily used in lighting products like those out from Samsung or Avi-On, the CSRmesh tech lets you group up to 64,000 bulbs or devices together.
 
But it can do so much more. And soon it will. I took some time to discuss the technology with Rick Walker, who is in marketing with CSR to discover what’s next for the technology and whether we may see it integrated into the official Bluetooth standard anytime soon.

 

Reliant Launches Integrated Home Security, Automation Solutions

The smart home is more accessible than ever with the launch of Reliant’s new suite of home security packages and automation tools. These solutions help customers connect anywhere, anytime, to what is often their largest investment – their home.

Retail electricity customers can now sign up for a customizable security package from Reliant, or enroll in a new electricity plan that offers a home automation package. These new advances provide a broad customer-focused platform for integrating emerging and future home technology innovations.

“We are passionate about powering people at home and on the go and with these new security and home automation solutions, we can make life easier and more comfortable for consumers,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant. “Customers can conveniently and remotely control devices in their home through a new app – all from the comfort of their couch or from thousands of miles away.”

The security solution offers 24/7 professional, live security monitoring services, expert installation and remote access via mobile devices and computers. Customers on the go can use the app to:

  • Arm/disarm their security system;
  • Open/close their garage door and know when it’s open or closed;
  • Turn on/off their lights even when away from home;
  • Unlock/lock their doors remotely to let family, friends, contractors or others into their home; and
  • Keep an eye on their home with video cameras that record based on specific actions, such as when the alarm is triggered.

In addition to the new security offering, customers who want home automation can sign up for a select Reliant Free WeekendsSM 24 plan that includes an easy to install package with a smart thermostat, smart plug and gateway device. 

Reliant Launches Integrated Home Security, Automation Solutions

The smart home is more accessible than ever with the launch of Reliant’s new suite of home security packages and automation tools. These solutions help customers connect anywhere, anytime, to what is often their largest investment – their home.

Retail electricity customers can now sign up for a customizable security package from Reliant, or enroll in a new electricity plan that offers a home automation package. These new advances provide a broad customer-focused platform for integrating emerging and future home technology innovations.

“We are passionate about powering people at home and on the go and with these new security and home automation solutions, we can make life easier and more comfortable for consumers,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant. “Customers can conveniently and remotely control devices in their home through a new app – all from the comfort of their couch or from thousands of miles away.”

The security solution offers 24/7 professional, live security monitoring services, expert installation and remote access via mobile devices and computers. Customers on the go can use the app to:

  • Arm/disarm their security system;
  • Open/close their garage door and know when it’s open or closed;
  • Turn on/off their lights even when away from home;
  • Unlock/lock their doors remotely to let family, friends, contractors or others into their home; and
  • Keep an eye on their home with video cameras that record based on specific actions, such as when the alarm is triggered.

 

In addition to the new security offering, customers who want home automation can sign up for a select Reliant Free WeekendsSM 24 plan that includes an easy to install package with a smart thermostat, smart plug and gateway device. 

Everything We Know About Apple's Smart Home

From John Patrick Pullen for Time.com:  Here’s what you need to know to plan for your Apple-centric connected home:
 
Siri will become your digital butler, turning up the heat and closing blinds at your command. But how that happens deserves some explaining. Requiring neither a new hardware device nor an operating system upgrade, Apple’s smart home capabilities will let users discover, configure, create actions for and control smart home devices using their iPhone’s operating system.
 
As an element already baked into Apple’s iOS 8, its integration will be seamless and largely invisible to consumers. If you’ve ever used Apple’s AirPlay technology to stream audio to a speaker or video to an Apple TV, you’re already familiar with how it operates.
 
But developers know the technology as HomeKit, the programming framework responsible for running Apple’s connected home ecosystem. Like AirPlay (and CarPlay and iBeacon, other Apple-approved interfaces for connecting with third-party products), HomeKit is designed to streamline communications between Apple’s gear and accessories like web security cameras, smart plugs, thermostats, and more. This framework ensures that however complex a third party company’s device is, in the eyes of iPhone users, it will just work (to paraphrase the late Steve Jobs).
 
In other words, when you tell Siri to “turn on the downstairs lights,” no matter the room, or the make and model of smart home lighting solutions, the connected lights in your home’s downstairs will turn on.  Cont'd...

 

British Gas Buys UK Smart Home Pioneer AlertMe In $100M Deal

The connected home may still be a distant mirage for most average consumers, but in the meantime the technology is becoming big business. Today, British Gas announced it will buy AlertMe, a developer of platforms for running various domestic “smart” devices, in a deal worth £65 million ($100 million), lining up the energy company to provide smart services covering heating, lighting and more. The net cost to British Gas and its owner Centrica will be £44 million ($68 million), after accounting for an existing 21% investment in the company.
 
In addition to being an investor, British Gas was a user of its services, specifically in its Hive product, which lets you control your heating and hot water remotely. Hive is in use by 150,000 customers today.
 
Smart home technology may sound like a novelty to some, but it is more than that. It is a way of improving the efficiency and cost associated with energy use, and in many cases it can make everyday life simpler and easier for people.
 
Founded in 2006, Cambridge, UK-based AlertMe was an early mover in connected home technology — the idea of giving “dumb” services like your heating a network connection that helps calibrate and control them in a more efficient way. (And here’s an interesting fact: AlertMe was a partner of Google’s in one of the search giant’s earliest attempts to tackle the smart home, the now-defunct Powermeter.)

The Internet of Anything: The Startup Bringing the Smart Home to Apartment Renters

From Klint Finley for Wired.com:  Smart homes are here.
You can use motion sensors to trigger smart light switches. You can program smart thermostats to warm only the rooms that people are actually using. You can even control smart power outlets with your mobile phone, setting appliances to turn on and off at certain times of day.
 
The problem is that all this gear is pretty expensive. And generally, you’re forced to install each system by hand—or hire someone to do it, which makes things even more expensive. And if you’re renting? Forget about it. These devices are almost completely out of reach you’re not allowed to retrofit your home.
 
All those barriers make it particularly difficult for young people to embrace what we now call the Internet of Things—and they’re typically the ones who are most interested in experimenting with new technologies. Sce Pike, the co-founder of the Portland, Oregon-based startup IOTAS, points out that only 36 percent of people under the age of 35 own their own homes, according to the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
 
But Pike and IOTAS aim to solve this problem. The company works with real estate developers to build Internet-of-Things tech into apartment buildings, so that renters get access to it without having to pay upfront costs. The idea is to bring the smart home to everyone, to finally push it into the mainstream.
 
IOTAS is starting simple, with motion sensors, light switches, and power outlets. Using the company’s mobile app, you can create custom rules for your apartment. You could have IOTAS turn off all your apartment’s lights when you go into your bedroom after 10pm. Or maybe even tell it to blink your kitchen lights when you get a text message from your boss.
 
The system operates via a central online service. This could be included with your rent, or offered for an additional fee, like a utility. If you opt-out of the service, all the lights and outlets would still work just as they do in a normal apartment. And if your internet connection goes down—or if the cloud service can’t be reached—existing rules will still work. You just won’t be able to create new ones or use the app as a remote control.  Cont'd...

 

ISE 2015 underway in Amsterdam

Integrated Systems Europe 2015 is now underway in Amsterdam.  With over 1000 scheduled exhibitors and 50,000 attendees this years show will be Europe's largest ever AV Systems integration exhibition.

This year they will be offering a dedicated "Discovey Zone" showcasing the first time exhibitors at ISE.  As well they have divided the show floor into 4 technology areas:  : Digital Signage; Residential Solutions; Unified Communications and Smart Building.

As usual The HomeToys Team we'll be busy posting news and product announcements from this years show which you can view on our ISE 2015 Newspage.

RadioShack will close over 1,700 stores following bankruptcy filing

From Emily Gera for Polygon:  Long-running electronics company RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy last week, will see the closure of 1,784 stores across North America by March 31, the company confirmed in court documents.
 
RadioShack plans for the closures to come in three waves, the first of which will be completed by Feb. 17 and see the closure of 162 stores. The second will see 986 stores closed by Feb. 28, followed by a final purge of 636 stores by the end of March.
 
Despite filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, some stores will continue to exist. RadioShack operates 4,485 stores across the U.S. and it was reported General Wireless had plans to purchase between 1,500 and 2,400 stores. As part of an agreement with wireless service provider Sprint, 1,750 RadioShack stores will also be transformed into a combination Sprint/RadioShack retailer.
 
According to the Delaware court filing, RadioShack representatives said the company had $1.2 billion in assets and $1.38 billion in debt.

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