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.

The Hive Trio smart system promises to make connected homes more vocal

From TechHive:  Developed over an 18-month period by a team with 12 years of experience creating ZigBee and Z-Wave devices, the Hive Trio connected-home system comprises a smart hub melded with a whole-home audio system.
 
Choosing a smart hub is arguably the most challenging decision that any connected-home DIYer has to make. The hub, after all, is not just another cog in the smart home machine but the very linchpin around which the whole setup must revolve. Fortunately for all you DIYers out there, new devices are coming in thick and fast and the increasing competition is forcing manufacturers to think out of the box. The Hive Trio is one such attempt at adding a new twist to the whole smart hub concept.
 
Currently seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter, the Hive Trio smart home solution from Salt Lake City-based startup Hive Life consists of the Hive Hub, Hive Sound speaker system, and Hive App. While the Hive Hub has a lot going for it in terms of specs, the star attraction in this case is undoubtedly the Hive Sound.
 
The Hive Sound is a multi-room, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled speaker system that can blast out the same or different tunes to different corners of your connected home, to say nothing of its ability to fetch your favorite beats straight from a long list of streaming services including Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, NPR One, and Pandora. Providing entertainment, however, is not its sole purpose.

Take These 4 Steps Before Making Your House a Smart Home

From  of Time.com:  Companies selling smart home products are quick to say how easy it is to connect their devices to the Internet. And while most of the time they’re correct, they are sidestepping a big, thorny pitfall: namely, your home’s wireless network. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been working on turning my house into smart home, and have learned that nothing is more important — and infuriating — than my house’s Wi-Fi.
 
Here are four lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Be smart about where you put your Wi-Fi router.
2. There are no great ways to extend the range of your home’s Wi-Fi.
3. Hard-wiring your home is easier than you may think.
4. Power is a problem.
 

‚ÄčIntel buys Lantiq for connected home networking

From ZDNet:  Intel acquired Lantiq, which makes broadband and networking gear, in a move that broadens its connected home efforts.
 
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Lantiq is based in Munich, Germany and primarily serves broadband providers.
 
With the move, Intel becomes the latest tech giant to hop on the connected home bandwagon. Samsung has said its appliances will be connected to the Internet and tied together. Google owns Nest and everyone from Apple to Microsoft has some kind of connected home play.
 
Intel is looking to combine its cable gateway unit with Lantiq to tie together multiple devices---that will presumably run on its processors. Intel also has a strong Internet of things unit. Lantiq fills out the portfolio.
 
Lantiq would fit into the gateway portion of Intel's IoT platform.

 

littleBits Smart Home Kit Review by TechSpot

Read Full review by Shawn Knight of TechSpot:  Amenities like being able to remotely adjust the temperature inside your home or receiving a text when the laundry is done certainly sound appealing, but are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just try these features out for a week or two before committing to shelling out hundreds or thousands on a standalone IoT-enabled device?
 
With littleBits’ new Smart Home Kit, you can do just that.
 
For the uninitiated among us, littleBits is an ever-growing open source library of small electronic modules that easily connect together. Created by Ayah Bdeir, it started as a tool to help designers incorporate electronics into the prototyping process. Today, it’s much more than that. Think of them as Lego bricks for the iPad generation.
 
The Smart Home Kit we’ll be looking at today is tailor-made for home automation projects. It includes 14 modules and 11 accessories, enabling a vast array of creations that can add smart functionality to all sorts of appliances and gadgets you already own, or create entirely new ones.
 
 

Troubled Lockitron turns the corner with the introduction of its new smart lock, Bolt

From AppAdvice.com:  While the crowdfunding craze has helped to create a number of successful iOS accessory companies, there have also been more than a few spectacular failures. But Lockitron falls somewhere in between.
 
The company arrived on the scene all the way back in 2012 with its unique (at the time) smart and app-enabled deadbolt that cost $179. Flooded by a more-than-expected number of preorders, the company was unable to keep up with demand as the original Lockitron was plagued with hardware and software issues.
 
But the company has just introduced a new lock version named Bolt. There are some major differences compared to the original model.
 
Most importantly, the new version is retailing for just $99, which is significantly less than other competitors like the Kwikset Kevo and August Smart Lock. Purchasing the optional $77 bridge will allow users to control the lock from anywhere.
 
And instead of a fitting on top of your current deadbolt, the Bolt replaces it completely.

Building an Apple-powered smart home? Here's how non-HomeKit devices could work

From Jared Newman, MacWorld:  Your Apple-powered smart home of the future needn't be limited to the HomeKit ecosystem, but venturing outside will bring some restrictions.
 
HomeKit is Apple's upcoming framework for smart home devices such as lightbulbs, door locks, garage door openers, and thermostats. Many of these devices will connect directly to users' iPhones via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi—no separate hub device required—for unified voice control through Siri. They'll also be able to connect with an Apple TV, allowing for Siri voice controls when users are away from home.
 
Apple will also let users connect devices that aren't approved under the the Made for iPhone (MFi) program, using a separate bridge device that hooks them into HomeKit. This will allow companies like Insteon to make their existing range of smart home devices compatible with Apple's framework, even if they use alternative networking protocols such as ZigBee or Z-Wave.
 
But according to 9to5Mac's sources, these non-MFi devices won't have the same capabilities as products built with HomeKit in mind.  Cont'd...

URC to Combine Total Control and ccGEN2

From Residential Systems:  

URC made a surprising announcement today in response to dealer and distributor requests and discussions. The Harrison, NY, manufacturer is combining its two control systems lines, Total Control and ccGEN2, converging the software in the next two weeks. The move is intended to “make things easier on products, purchasing, training, programming, and marketing,” according to Cat Toomey, URC director of marketing.
 
“On our recent fall tour of a few thousand dealers, we realized clearly we are making things harder than they need to be and we should course correct some things,” Toomey stated. “It’s a significant change but one that is a good one for the business and the dealers to get, sell, and program URC product, better, faster, and easier.”
 
Regarding the ccGEN2 and Total Control announcement, Toomey explained that because ccGEN2 and Total Control have had different programming software, new drivers get added at different times and ccGEN2 dealers lose access to URC music and amp sources.

Are Retailers Eyeing The Market For Smart Home Installation Services?

From Michael Wolf for Forbes.com:

Today, Forbes and others reported on a massive new funding round for a Lowe’s-backed startup Porch.com to the tune of $65 million.  While Porch.com founder says he still controls the company, there is no doubt Lowe’s sees Porch.com as an important weapon in its expansion into the local installer services economy.
 
But the most interesting part about the Porch.com deal for me was thinking about how this nationwide network of local installers could help another Lowe’s strategic initiative – Lowe’s Iris – get traction.  Iris is the company’s smart home platform, which is the centerpiece of Lowe’s effort to put itself in control of a growing market that we at NextMarket forecast to be worth $7.8 billion in the US alone by 2019.
 
Smart home savvy readers are probably asking, “isn’t Lowe’s Iris a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) product?” It’s intended to be, but let’s be honest: DIY is the smart home industry’s big lie, since getting mass-market adoption will likely require a light-service channel to help Grandpa, Mom or even me install that new intelligent wall switch or smart water valve without electrocuting myself or flooding the house. Cont'd...

Xiaomi Unveils Smart Home Suite With Security Features

Xiaomi Corp. unveiled a new product called the Smart Home Suite with a group of four components that offer security features as it broadens its range of devices that can be controlled by mobile phone.

The suite includes a human motion sensor, and a pair of door and window sensors that can be used for home security, Xiaomi President Bin Lin said today at the GeekPark Innovation Festival in Beijing. The company will start a consumer test of the product Jan. 26, he said.

“In the past, motion sensors were very complicated and large in size, so that if you wanted a system you needed professional installation,” Lin told the conference. “For this suite, there is not a single nail or wire. These components are all very simple.”

Xiaomi in less than five years has grown to become the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor and, at $45 billion, the most-valuable technology startup. Now, Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun is pushing into Web-enabled devices for the home even as it challenges Samsung Electronics Corp. and Apple Inc. (AAPL) at the higher end of the mobile-device market.

It is CES week in LThe Smart Home Nudges Manufacturers Toward Sustainability

From Jennifer Tuohy for The Triple Pundit:

From lock manufacturers to heating and air conditioning companies, the smart home space is disrupting legacy industries. Big names in consumer products with decades of experience behind them have been caught off-guard by Kickstarter-powered startups and Silicon Valley CEOs.
 
The Nest Learning Thermostat, which debuted in 2011, was the first product to show what a nimble young company with high-tech brainpower behind it (in this case, two of Apple’s bright minds) could do to a space that many thought was set in stone. It took a little under five years, but the legacy companies are catching up — Honeywell launched its Nest alternative, the Lyric, late last year.
 
Is it too little, too late? Not at all. Don’t discount benefit of the decades of experience that legacy companies like Honeywell bring to the table. Bear in mind, Honeywell actually had a round thermostat first, in 1953.

 

As I discussed in my last article for Triple Pundit, this type of disruption drives development by forcing the big companies back to the drawing board to hopefully come up with even better products — ones that will save consumers even more money, use even less energy and lead us toward greater sustainability. Nowhere is this more relevant right now than in the smart home space.

NEEO, the Thinking Remote That Controls All Your Devices, Launches on Kickstarter

NEEO is a smart system that enables you to take control of all the devices in your home from one place. No more switching from one remote to another or from one app to another. There are two parts to NEEO, the brain and remote. The brain communicates with your devices and the remote recognises your touch and instantly displays your favourite media and settings. 

Unlike other smart home systems, the NEEO brain features antennae to support the seven major home automation standards. There are tens of thousands of devices in the unique database that NEEO has built from scratch. This allows full control for Apple TV, Sonos, Nest, HUE and many other devices, dating back over the past 10 years, right out of the box. 
 
Raphael Oberholzer, CEO and Co-founder of NEEO, explains: "Average remotes are inconvenient especially when you have one for every device and we have seen little innovation in that field in the past decades. We created NEEO so you can control all your devices instantly and with minimum effort so you're not jumping from remote to remote or app to app. To make it even more effortless we have designed NEEO so it recognizes you when you pick it up to give the ultimate personal experience. " 

 

WeMo's CES 2015 Lineup Prefaces Big Advances For Home Automation

Belkin’s WeMo home automation gadgets started off pretty modest in scope, but over the past few years they’ve launched more and more WeMo devices, first on their own and later with partners who have far more experience in specific verticals. This year at CES, WeMo expanded its LED smart lighting lineup with bulbs from OSRAM Sylvania and TCP. It also debuted new home sensors, which can help homeowners setup their system to better automate their smart connected appliances and accessories.
 
The WeMo lineup includes a keychain sensor, window and door open/shut sensors, alarm, motion and water flow sensors. Altogether they can help do anything from triggering different activities when specific individuals arrive or leave the home, enhance home security, or even monitor your entire home’s water usage with an easy-to-install flow sensor that can detect usage by different faucets, toilets and taps throughout your house.
 
WeMo’s model is smart: partner with the experts, and focus on the connected elements that make everything smart. Compared to others who work on the device with a more holistic approach in-house, however, the connected features of some of these partner appliances, like the Belkin WeMo-enabled Crockpot, can feel somewhat limited. But the new sensor suite should help coordinate things and build in a whole lot more genuine automation.

Shipments of Lighting Controls for Residential Applications Are Expected to Total Nearly 1.1 Billion through 2023

A recent report from Navigant Research analyzes the global market for residential energy-efficient lighting and lighting controls, including global market forecasts for light-emitting diodes (LEDs), incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent lighting through 2023. 

The market for residential energy-efficient lighting is in the midst of a transformation, particularly as prices for LEDs decrease and new lighting technologies emerge. Many residential applications center on LEDs that are connected, allowing for the remote control of and interaction between devices. Click to tweet: According to a recent report from Navigant Research, worldwide shipments of residential lighting controls are expected to total nearly 1.1 billion worldwide from 2014 through 2023. 
 
"The home energy management and home automation movements are ramping up, and smart lighting plays an important role in both," says Jesse Foote, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "Residential consumers are finding that connected lighting is a convenient way to manage energy and to also tie in elements of safety, security, and functionality - sometimes with just a couple swipes of a smartphone." 

It is CES week in Las Vegas.

International CES 2015; Bringing more than 3,500 exhibitors to unveil new technologies across 1.9 million net square feet to well over 160,000 visitors in Las Vegas this week.

New this year is something called the Smart Home Marketplace, a 25,000 square-foot exhibitor area dedicated to smart home tech. Think stuff like customized security monitoring and home automation -- and beyond. Major exhibitors will include companies like ADT, Bosch Honeywell, Lowe's and Logitech.
 
The HomeToys Team we'll be busy posting news and product announcements related to the "Smart Home" from this years show which you can view on our CES 2015 Newspage.
 
Make sure to check out our CES 2015 Tradeshow report for more great products rolled out at this years show.

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