Wi-Fi-connected doorbell DoorBot shrinks down, adds new features

When CNET last wrote about DoorBot, Bot Home Automation was pitching its Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell/security camera combo device on crowd-funding site Christie Street. Having achieved its $250,000 goal, DoorBot is now almost ready to ship to its initial round of backers.

The company was on-hand at the PepCom event in New York City with a DoorBot demo (hence our video above). Since we first heard about the product, a few things have changed in regard to its specs and pricing. Its core function, letting you see who's at your door through a mobile app, remains intact.

Some of its biggest updates come by way of the hardware in the final production units, compared with what BOT showed during fundraising. A more efficient design gives it 33 percent size reduction overall, according to BOT and an accompanying diagram. You can also hardwire the DoorBot directly to your doorbell wiring now, and BOT has replaced the standard battery compartment with a USB rechargeable internal battery. The company says it has also added a security screw to the design, which should allay fears that the device might be tempting to steal, and a level on the mounting hardware, to simplify installation.

Honeywell voice-activated thermostat has its say

Honeywell has been playing catch-up in the smart thermostat game of late. Their $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is extremely capable, but came on the heels of the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat; a slightly panicked response to a surprise competitor.

But today’s announcement from Honeywell serves as a reminder that an industry rival can be a good thing -- it tends to speed up innovation and it makes us consumers feel like we’re being courted. Not too shabby.

I’m talking about the newly announced $349 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control.

And if you think it looks a lot like the $249 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat I recently reviewed, you would be right. It is essentially the same: you will still be able to control your heating and cooling remotely using Honeywell's Total Connect Comfort app for Android and iOS, you can still change the background color to suit your mood or wall color, and it will still learn your habits over time. But the $349 model comes with a pretty major update: cloud-based voice-recognition tech.

To activate voice control on this thermostat, you simply say, "Hello, thermostat." You can be anywhere in your house -- provided it's no more than 25 feet away -- and the far-field voice-control tech takes care of the rest. It claims to cancel out any background noise so it's ready to listen intently for your commands. Honeywell also says that this model will add more commands to enhance your level of interactivity over time -- I'm pretty excited to test that functionality.

HDMI 2.0: What you need to know

The HDMI Forum, the nonprofit body that oversees the HDMI specification, recently announced version 2.0. There were numerous changes, not least support for higher frame rates than are possible with the current 1.4 specification.

Do you need to upgrade? Will your cables still work? What does this mean for the future of TVs? Do you care? Answers for all these questions (except maybe the last one) below...

First, here's where we are now. The until-now most recent version of the HDMI specification was version 1.4. It specified a number of things, like 4,096x2,160-pixel resolution up to 24 frames per second, or 3,820x2,160 up to 30fps. If you've bought any gear with an HDMI connector in the past few years, it's probably version 1.4. It carried over all the features and support from previous versions, plus added 3D, Audio Return Channel, and so on.

2.0 for 4K
With the TV industry moving inexorably toward Ultra HD "4K," it was clear there needed to be more bandwidth in the connection to handle the future's higher resolutions and frame rates. On that front, HDMI 2.0 delivers, supporting "4K" (2160p by the Forum's explanation) up to 60fps. This allows for full-resolution 4K 3D, along with higher-frame-rate 2D content, like (potentially) home videos and computer games (PC, not PS4/Xbox One). Since almost all movies are shot at 24fps, this increase is less important for feature films or scripted TV shows.

Full Article:

HDBaseT Alliance at CEDIA 2013: See the Next Generation of HDBaseT Technology

The HDBaseT Alliance (Booth #2830) at CEDIA 2013 will showcase several new HDBaseT-enabled home entertainment audio/video receivers, projectors, displays and other components from several Alliance members including NEC, Onkyo and Pioneer. 

"We're going to show a sampling of the ever-growing HDBaseT product ecosystem so the professional installers and systems integrators attending CEDIA will be able to see first-hand how they can reduce the time and complexities of each job by leveraging the HDBaseT technology end-to-end," said Micha Risling, Marketing Committee Chair, the HDBaseT Alliance. 

The HDBaseT technology, powered by Valens chipset, enables all-in-one connectivity between HD video sources and remote displays through a single 100m/328ft CAT5e/6 cable, delivering uncompressed high definition 4k video, audio, Internet, control signals and up to 100 watts of power. 

The HDBaseT Alliance will demonstrate the HDBaseT Multimedia Home Connectivity Solution, and HDBaseT home theater set-up connected to a single-wire TV. In addition, The Alliance booth will feature HDBaseT-enabled products from dozens of vendors, including: AquaVision, Atlona, Crestron, Emcore, Epson, Geffen, Hall Research, Hitachi, Integra, Kordz, Kramer, NEC, Onkyo, Panasonic, Pioneer, Primeview, Savant Systems, Shenzhen Shunxun Electronics Co., Ltd, Shinybow, Silver Telecom and Wyrestorm. 

Plugging Home Electrical Systems into the Future: Bellatrix System's New bRight Switch

Bellatrix Systems today announced the launch of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for its sleek, new modular electrical control system for homes and businesses. The bRight Switch™ system includes smart switches that can be customized to perform multiple functions as well as multi-port outlets that combine high voltage and low voltage, eliminating the need for most wall chargers. bRight Switch integrates safely with the infrastructure of both new and existing construction and its design allows flexibility for future inventions and technological advancements. The Indiegogo campaign will launch on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 with a funding goal of $400,000. 

bRight Switch represents several firsts. It is the first and only system to offer an Android-based, full-color LCD touch screen controller system for homes or businesses. It is also the first self-learning light switch control system to learn users' behaviors.

D-Tools Unveiling Workflow-Enhancing Native iPAD® Mobile Quoting App at CEDIA EXPO 2013

D-Tools, Inc., the worldwide leader in system integration software, today announced that the Company will unveil a new IOS-based iPad® companion app for its flagship product, SIX 2013. Available in Q4 for partners worldwide, this new release adds mobile quoting capabilities that enable Commercial and Residential AV integrators to generate quotes natively on an iPad then bring them into SIX 2013 for further project design and management. Delivering on D-Tools' commitment to streamline product updates and enhancements by consolidating them into an annual release, this new companion app will immediately extend the highly functional D-Tools workflow to mobile sales and specification teams. 

A native IOS application, the D-Tools iPad® app leverages D-Tools' extensive manufacturer product library by enabling integrators to access and integrate product category and package data from their SIX 2013 catalog while working with customers in the field. Integrators can enter client and contact information into the iPad app, then walk prospective customers through available installation scenarios in order to create a quote for approval. Once complete, the resulting quote can then be imported into SIX 2013 for additional design work and synchronization. The iPad app utilizes many of D-Tools' workflow concepts, including the specification of locations and systems, which allows integrators to provide packages or pre-configured systems for inclusion in the quote. Labor and general pricing will be calculated to give the customer an accurate proposal, which can then be signed off for approval on the spot.

Flowton Technologies Looks To Revolutionize Home Automation With Motion Gestures, Needs Cash

The likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the land where dreams are born (or are crushed), and yet another intrepid group of techies-come-entrepreneurs is looking to raise money via crowdfunding. Flowton Technologies is a group that makes a “natural interface” controller for the home that allows users to control things with voice and gesture, and they need $150,000 to get from prototype to production.

With the Flowton Controller, you’ll be able to walk into your house, say “I’m home”, and turn the lights on; control your TV with gestures in the air; adjust the thermostat without leaving the couch or using any other device; and more. It’s akin to the Leap Motion controller but for home automation.

There are three parts to the system: the Flowton Controller, the Flowton IR blaster, and the Flowton Smart Plug. 

The controller includes a 1.7GHz ARM processor, 2GB of RAM, an RGB camera, two microphones, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a depth camera port (for something like a Kinect). This device lets you control a device by waving your hand in a plane, but also moving it back and forth in 3D.  Full Article:

Flowton Technologies Looks To Revolutionize Home Automation With Motion Gestures, Needs Cash

he likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the land where dreams are born (or are crushed), and yet another intrepid group of techies-come-entrepreneurs is looking to raise money via crowdfunding. Flowton Technologies is a group that makes a “natural interface” controller for the home that allows users to control things with voice and gesture, and they need $150,000 to get from prototype to production.

With the Flowton Controller, you’ll be able to walk into your house, say “I’m home”, and turn the lights on; control your TV with gestures in the air; adjust the thermostat without leaving the couch or using any other device; and more. It’s akin to the Leap Motion controller but for home automation.

 
There are three parts to the system: the Flowton Controller, the Flowton IR blaster, and the Flowton Smart Plug. 

The controller includes a 1.7GHz ARM processor, 2GB of RAM, an RGB camera, two microphones, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a depth camera port (for something like a Kinect). This device lets you control a device by waving your hand in a plane, but also moving it back and forth in 3D.  Full Article:

NPD DisplaySearch Reports Growing Global LCD Digital Signage Market

Global revenues for LCD public displays (i.e., digital signage) shipments rose 22 percent, from $733.6 million in Q1'12 to $896.9 million in Q1'13, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch"Quarterly FPD Public Display Shipment and Forecast Report." Unit shipments grew 5 percent in the same period, from 514,800 to 539,000.

The majority of the revenue increase can be traced to the shift in shipments of larger-sized, higher-priced displays and increased shipments of displays with super narrow bezels, which are mainly used as a component in the build-out of video walls and other digital signage applications.

"We are starting to see the improved financial results of the planned shift in production to larger-sized panels," said Todd Fender, senior analyst of professional and commercial displays with Santa Clara, Calif.-based NPD DisplaySearch. "Premium models increasingly will be shipped with smaller bezels, higher brightness and higher resolutions — which all lead to higher average selling prices."

Amazon Launches A Home Automation Store Featuring Smart Locks, Sensors, Thermostats & More

Amid a bevy of Amazon-related announcements surrounding Kindle – some intentional (the arrival of Kindle MatchBook), some not (news of an updated Kindle Paperwhite leaked a bit early) – Amazon has also quietly launched a new storefront focused on Home Automation products, including things like programmable thermostats, smart locks, sensors, video monitors, and more.

The new website aims to centralize the now numerous options involving smart home hardware and services under one roof, organizing products into broad, high-level categories, like “Energy Management,” “Entertainment,” and “Monitoring,” which you can then further drill down into via sub-categories like “Lightbulbs” or “security cameras,” “televisions” or “alarms,” and so on.

Additionally, Amazon’s Home Automation store is set up to be newbie-friendly with introductory guides to a variety of product categories like door locks, thermostats, and controllers, for example. There’s even a special section of the storefront that breaks out the “new and innovative” products from companies like Kwikset, Wimoto, SmartThings, and others.

Smart Home Services To Reach $10.9 Billion in 2017

Nowadays, home automation systems have become much better, less nerdy and more widely used, in large part due to the embrace of “smart home” services from the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

In fact, it’s these new smart home service offerings from the big telco and cable providers that will help drive the smart home services market from under $2 billion worldwide in 2012 to $10.9 billion by 2017 according to a new report from NextMarket Insights.

So why is your local cable, Internet and phone provider getting into the home automation game? In large part because those same triple-play offerings they provide you are under attack from the likes of Internet video and voice over IP and smart home services provide a new and attractive new revenue stream.

Of course, companies like Comcast have been experimenting with offerings like home security for at least six or seven years, but only in the last couple years have cable and telcos embraced smart home services in a bigger way. This new love for the smart home has been helped along by the emergence of new software-powered services from companies such as iControl Networksand AlertMe, who provide a underlying “white-label” service to which your phone or cable company then can affix their own their brand name.

Other smart home platform providers such as Alarm.com have gone outside of the telco and cable provider channels and partnered with a network of home security dealers, riding their 2,500 security partners to over 1 million customers in North America.

Enblink turns any Google TV device into a home automation control center

Meet Enblink: a dongle that plugs into any Google TV device and turns it into a home automation control hub. Enblink works with any Z-Wave enabled gadget, from door locks and lamps to security sensors and video cameras. The dongle itself will serve as a Z-Wave radio (once it's passed through the Z-Wave certification process) when plugged into your GTV device of choice. From there, its software runs atop GTV's Android underpinnings and leverages the device's CPU to control the locks and lights in your abode. A companion app for Android turns your phone into a remote control and monitor for appliances hooked into the Enblink system, plus there's an iOS app currently in development. Input from mobile devices goes through Amazon Web Services, which relays commands to the dongle to execute your bidding from afar.

It's up for pre-order right now for $85, with the price rising to $99 when it officially goes on sale sometime in the next month or two. Of course, if you're streaming video to your mobile device, there's an ongoing fee (of undetermined cost) for the privilege once you've used up your free allotment of 30 seconds of streaming per day. Regardless, by leveraging existing GTV hardware and AWS to do the lifting on the backend, Enblink is a fraction of the cost of many purpose-built home automation base stations. So if you're a home automation geek that counts yourself among those very few with a Google TV and a slew of Z-Wave toasters, locks and light bulbs, your ship has, at long last, come in.

6 home automation companies merge into 1 super company for the super rich

Six home technology companies are merging to form one super-company that caters to the super-rich. Dubbed VIA International, it will provide a premium home automation experience to people with a lot of money to spend on their homes.

Cyber Sound, DSI Entertainment, Engineered Environments, Paragon Technology, S3 Aurant, and Studio AV are joining forces to become a full-service home technology provider with distribution across the country, or at least where “ultra-high net worth clients” live. Before the merger, the companies were based in regions across the Western United States, in Colorado, Utah, Northern and Southern California, Arizona, and Montana. They build and install systems for home movie theaters, speaker systems, lighting control, security, and energy management.

“The merger of leading home technology integrators to form VIA International will transform the entire residential systems industry,” Randy Stearns, CEO and founding partner of VIA International said in a statement. “Together, we are elevating a fragmented, project-based business model into a consolidated and streamlined service provider that emphasizes providing a concierge-level experience over multiple years in multiple homes, not simply a one-time, product-centric solution.”

SAVANT® Introduces SmartLighting Wi-Fi Lighting Control System

Savant Systems, LLC has announced the introduction of their SmartLighting Wi-Fi 802.11-based lighting control products, delivering a versatile solution that can be used as both a standalone lighting control platform or as part of a complete Savant automation system. Featuring a dimmer inside each Wi-Fi-connected keypad, Savant has created the ultimate customizable solution ideal for both new construction and retrofit lighting control that can be integrated without rewiring the home or commercial facility. Savant's SmartLighting technology expands the brand's presence in the growing connected home marketplace with a versatile Wi-Fi-based lighting control system. 

 
Once the Wi-Fi lighting control keypads have been connected to existing line voltage and lighting load wiring in the wall, they become a powerful and secure networked device that can be controlled using Savant's new standalone lighting control iOS app or as part of a larger Savant ecosystem. 

Best Buy surges 13% on earnings

Best Buy's stock rallied Tuesday after the electronics retailer reported a substantial gain in quarterly earnings, helped by aggressive cost cutting.

Best Buy said earnings jumped to $266 million in the quarter ended Aug. 3, compared with $12 million in the year-ago quarter.

The company's stock jumped as much as 12.8% to $34.65. That helped it unseat Netflix as the S&P 500's top performer this year.

Chief Executive Hubert Joly said Best Buy cut $65 million in annualized costs. He said the company has managed to slash $390 million in nine months, as part of an effort to cut $725 million.

Looking ahead, Joly was a little cautious, noting that Best Buy has incurred some additional costs and an interruption in same store sales growth as it rolls out its new Samsung Experience Shops and Microsoft Windows Stores. Same-store sales slipped 0.4% for the quarter, but Joly said they would have been flat to slightly higher if not for the Samsung roll-out.

 

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Light sockets; Not just for lights anymore

Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!