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.

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.   

Swann Flies Into Home Automation Market

DIY security supplier Swann Security is expanding into DIY home automation with the launch of SwannOne, a security-focused home-automation system controlled from apps.   The system uses such wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Z-Wave to monitor and control home systems. The pricing of the products and optional service plans were not disclosed.   The SwannOne system is built around a hub that connects wirelessly to multiple products, including the SoundView Camera with Wi-Fi. It features encrypted HD video streaming, motion detection, night vision, and optional cloud-storage service plans to store audio and video for the past seven or 30 days. With a service plan offering audio analytics, the camera’s built-in microphone detects and identifies sounds such as breaking glass, car alarms, a baby’s cry or gun shots, and also notifies users.

Amazon reportedly exploring wearables and home automation

Amazon.com Inc will boost staffing at its secretive Silicon Valley-based hardware unit by at least 27 percent over the next five years as it tests Internet-connected "smart" home gadgets such as a one-button device to order supplies. This expansion comes as Lab126 tests connected-home devices that could open up a new front in its war against Goog l e  Inc and App le Inc , two people familiar with Lab126's activities said recently. The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Technology companies see Internet-connected dishwashers, thermostats and other household devices that can "talk" to one another as ways to fuel demand for products and services. But skeptics say many of these devices cost too much for most consumers and could take years to go mainstream. Amazon is testing a simple wi-fi device that could be placed in the kitchen or a closet, allowing customers to order products like detergent by pressing a button, one of the people said. Lab126 is also interested in wearable devices, the other person said. Both sources stressed that such devices may never come to market.  

Wink announces Relay, touchscreen display and control pad for the connected home

Wink, the company that connects you with all of the smart products in your home, today announced Relay. Replacing a light switch, Relay conveniently controls and monitors your connected home from one central location. Relay brings all of the convenience of your smart home to your wall, so that you can keep your phone in your pocket. This Wi-Fi-connected control pad acts as a command center by interacting with more than 100 products from 15 trusted brands that already work with Wink. Relay is available today for presale on Amazon for $300.00.    "Done right, the smart home connects you to what you want, when you need it...bringing conveniences of safety, security, and automation. That doesn't mean you should have to see your work email when you lock your door," says Brett Worthington, VP/GM of Wink. "Relay allows you to have control of your home without having to look at your phone."    DIYers can install Relay by replacing any light switch. Once installed, Relay will automatically connect with all Wink App Ready products, from light bulbs to garage door openers, as well as Wink App Compatible products that use the Wink HUB to connect. Watch Relay in action here.    Relay's 4.3" multi-touch LCD display makes it easy to monitor everything in one place. The two mechanical buttons act as replacement light switches, perfect for controlling smart bulbs, or they can be programmed to turn other smart home products on or off with a single click.

Creators Of Beats And Guitar Hero Launch Smart Home Startup Leeo

Another day, another smart home company is coming alive. But this latest one, Leeo, has some pretty big names behind it–including the main people responsible for creating products like Beats headphones and the video game Guitar Hero as well as executives from CIA-backed big data company Palantir and robotics company RoboteX.   And after a year and a half in stealth mode, Palo Alto-based Leeo has already amassed a team of 60 employees and $37 million in venture capital from Formation 8, Visionnaire Ventures and German utility giant E.ON .   What exactly does this smart home startup do that’s getting so much money and talent? Well, Leeo isn’t ready to talk about specific products it’s coming out with yet, but the company’s explanation of how it’s approaching the industry is a bit different than other smart home companies. From the very beginning, Leeo is focusing on working with hulking incumbents like telecommunication companies and utilities to help roll out services onto the company’s smart home product line. That will make Leeo a bit of a mix between an enterprise and consumer product company.

Logitech Harmony Extends Its Expertise in Controlling the Living Room to the Entire Home

Logitech announced it is bringing its expertise and leadership in universal remotes to the home control market with new home automation product compatibility and four new products. The new Harmony® Living Home lineup gives you easy access and control over a wide library of entertainment and home automation devices, all from one centralized control system.  "Harmony led the path for simplifying home entertainment, and now we've taken that expertise to also simplify home automation," said Chad Thompson, senior director of worldwide marketing and product management. "As more connected devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat™, Philips® hue lights and August™ Smart Locks come to market and enter the home, there's more of a need than ever before for a centralized way to simply control all of the home's devices - the Harmony Living Home lineup does just that."  With just a few easy steps your remote, tablet or smartphone can now control your TV, set-top box, speakers, lighting, thermostat, door locks, window shades and other popular devices. Plus, you can easily combine multiple devices into Activities to trigger at once so you can power on your TV, dim your lights, adjust the temperature and open your window shades all at the same time. You can start an Activity with one touch of your remote or mobile device, automatically on a custom schedule, or by passing a sensor. You can even trigger Activities from the Harmony Mobile App when you're not at home. 

Apple, Inc. Just Gained Another Competitor in the Smart Home Space

Companies are starting to pick sides in the home automation race, and Sony just made its choice. The company announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this week that it is joining Qualcomm 's AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of tech and consumer companies utilizing Qualcomm's open-source AllJoyn home automation platform. Sony's move means there's yet another company pushing an alternative home automation platform to  Apple  's forthcoming HomeKit.   Qualcomm has collected an impressive group of peers for its home automation platform, including  Microsoft  , LG,  Panasonic  , Haier,  Sharp  , and about 60 other companies. And while Sony's move won't  derail Apple's HomeKit plans , the growing number of companies joining the AllJoyn proves just how heated this competition is becoming. AllJoyn -- like many other open-source home automation platforms -- enables third-party devices to easily connect to each other, communicate with other devices, and pair together for combined automation.

Savant gets $90M from KKR

Want proof that the smart home is big? Check out the whopper private equity investment that KKR has made in Savant. Savant said it has raised $90 million from its founder Robert Madonna and affiliates of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR). The round will help Savant navigate a space where it has played for years but is suddenly seeing an influx of competitors at both the low and high end.   Savant is a bit unusual in that it’s designed for luxury homes and professional installers. The company uses Apple hardware and has built software that models itself on Apple’s ease of use and attractiveness. Touches such as taking a picture of your living room and then programming that picture to act as the touch screen for your home controls are an example of how friendly the Savant experience is.   You just touch the lamp in your picture and it turns on. It’s fun. In the last year Savant has taken its high-end ethos and moved closer to the DIY market with a cheaper product called the Savant Smart Series. Instead of running on a Mac Mini it uses a Linux server stored in a closet or cabinet somewhere. That cheaper product will still run you around $1,600 for the basic set up.

Elgato to launch HomeKit with full iOS 8 integration

Elgato will be an exhibitor at IFA Berlin this year, but the company has already announced the introduction of its new HomeKit to the market, with supposed full iOS 8 integration. The HomeKit will be fully compatible with Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform once iOS 8 launches. Elgato’s HomeKit will feature the Eve product line which comprises of various smart home sensors such as light bulbs, door and window locks, thermometers for air and water temperature monitoring, smoke detectors and smart plugs. With this in mind, Elgato plans to become the competition for Samsung’s Smart Home system that will also launch at IFA in a couple of days.   The Eve brand in the HomeKit features Bluetooth accessories which will monitor almost everything in your house, from smoke, to air, water, humidity, air pressure, energy and water consumption. All the information these sensors gather will be automatically fed into iOS 8′s HomeKit application so that you can monitor everything from your iPhone. HomeKit will also provide users with tips and tricks on how to improve their environment.  

Icontrol Networks Powers SmartHome Ventures' PEQ Home Automation System

Icontrol Networks, a leader in connected home technology and innovation, today announced that SmartHome Ventures has chosen Icontrol to power the newly-launched PEQ (pronounced "peek") home automation system, available now at www.mypeq.com, and at select Best Buy store locations and on BestBuy.com beginning August 31st. With this announcement, the best-in-class Icontrol smart home platform is now available for consumers to purchase and use right out of the box.  "Our goal is to give consumers as many options as possible, whether they prefer a professionally-installed and monitored solution, a self-installed package they can purchase and build upon, or an all-in-one device," said Jim Johnson, executive vice president and general manager at Icontrol. "We are excited to provide another option for consumers who want to take advantage of the ease and convenience of a connected home."  All PEQ-compatible devices have been certified through the Icontrol OpenHome™ Developer Program, the first community for application and device makers to partner on a common platform. This means PEQ customers will have access to a growing number of connected home devices, and developers can market their innovations to an even larger market of connected home customers. Icontrol software currently manages more than 22 million sensors and devices, representing the most widely used connected home platform in the industry. 

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