My N3rd is a unique take on home automation

Home automation is one of those new things that’s really an old thing, but we still can’t get things to do their thing. Several OEMs have made passing attempts at getting us to buy into their home automation schemes, but that requires compromise. We don’t want compromise. My N3rd just might be the answer, though.

The smallish device promises big things. By attaching itself to your devices — any device — My N3rd can pretty much make your stuff do what you want it to do. The app, which looks fairly simple (and will be available for Android at launch), is used to connect to your N3rds (pronounced ‘nerds’, in case you were a bit confused) via WiFi. Being connected to your WiFi means you can play with stuff rom anywhere in the world.
 

Being connected to your stuff means you have ultimate control, and no real interface to master. You also don’t have to buy several of one kind of product, so outfitting your home with new LG or Samsung stuff simply isn’t necessary. You like that $20 Mr Coffee java maker? Great, N3rd it up.

My N3rd may not be the cleanest solution, as it will require a bit or wiring, but it’s one that could end up the most ubiquitous. The ability to work with anything in your home, even to simply turn things off and on from anywhere, is attractive to some. If you’re wondering how much it’s going to cost, Kickstarter donations of $75 or more actually puts the N3rd in your hand when they’re available. A simple electricians courses? Those vary in cost.

 

Enblink dongle now lets you control smart home devices with voice commands

If you haven’t heard of Enblink before, here’s the lowdown: It’s basically a little USB dongle that plugs into any Google TV device and transforms it into a home automation control hub. It works with any Z-Wave-compatible gadget in your house, which means you can use it to control just about everything – lamps, door locks, security sensors, thermostats, and more. The dongle itself is really just a Z-Wave radio. It plugs into your Google TV and leverages the CPU and Android operating system to handle all the control commands and provide a snazzy graphical user interface.

The company kicked off pre-orders for Enblink back in August of 2013, and now that development is chugging along smoothly, it’s decided to add voice controls to the mix for no additional cost. With this new and improved dongle, you’ll be able to remotely control connected Z-Wave devices with custom-made commands like “lamp-off,” “TV on,” or even ones as simple as “dim.”

Instead of relying on an embedded microphone to pick up your voice, Enblink gets commands from your smartphone, which is clever, but also somewhat counterintuitive. On one hand, this scheme allows you to use voice commands from anywhere in your house. However, if you’ve already got a smartphone app open, issuing a voice command seems like more work than just tapping a button. It’s definitely got some kinks to work out, but regardless, the addition of voice control is definitely a step in the right direction for home automation, and we’re excited to see it progress.

 

Google to acquire Nest for $3.2 billion

Google intends to make even more of a splash in Americans' homes. On Monday, it reached a deal to buy Nest, the maker of highly-styled digital smoke alarms and thermostats, for $3.2 billion in cash.
 
Nest, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has generated lots of buzz and sterling reviews for its aesthetic design approach to common everyday home appliances often overlooked by consumers.
 
Since its launch in 2011, the Nest Learning Thermostat has been a consistent best seller. The recently unfurled Protect (Smoke + CO Alarm) has landed rave reviews.
 
The acquisition thrusts Google squarely into multiple markets: search, e-mail, smartphones, PCs, tablets and — now — the home. Nest, in essence, puts Google in a prime position to cash in on the fledgling "The Internet of things" — a concept in which all digital devices in one's home are interconnected in some manner for maximum sharing of data. Nest also sharpens Google's design cred in the tech industry.
 

The magic of global innovation comes to life at the 2014 International CES

With amazing tech breakthroughs and thousands of new product introductions, innovation blossomed as new technologies came to life, redefining the future at the 2014 International CES®.  Owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) ®, the International CES is the global gathering place for all who thrive on the business of innovation.

CEA announced today that the 2014 CES wrapped as the largest in show history with a record two million net square feet of exhibit space housing more than 3,200 exhibitors. CES dazzled as the global gathering place for anyone involved in the business of consumer technologies with more than 150,000 industry professionals in attendance, including more than 35,000 from outside the United States.

“CES is amazing, magical, hands-on, incredible, innovative and inspiring!,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “This year’s show was an energizing display of where the future is headed, bringing to life cool new products from every industry that touches technology. One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week as we experienced the future. From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next generation smart phones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine.” 

Lowe's Unveils The Next Wave Of Products And Services For Its Iris™ Smart Home Solution

Since its debut in July 2012, Iris has delivered the vision of the smart home to consumers by making home automation simple, affordable and scalable. Consumers can customize systems with a wide breadth of connected home devices to monitor and control their homes from a single, easy-to-use interface. 

"Our goal when creating Iris was to make home automation systems simple, affordable and able to grow with customers' evolving needs," said Kevin Meagher, Lowe's vice president and general manager, Smart Home. "Lowe's relationship with our vendors allows us to develop and deliver the broadest range of connected home solutions to make homes safer, more efficient and easier to manage." 

Iris's newest product features, along with its expansive vendor relationships with brands consumers know and trust such as First Alert, Honeywell, Schlage, and Whirlpool, aim to deliver on the promise of the smart home today. The new Iris features will help consumers make their homes safer, more energy efficient and more easily managed; they include water shut-off valves that cut supply when a leak is detected, smart sprinkler systems to manage water consumption, the ability to link to smart meters to make energy consumption visible, additional energy saving devices and more convenient ways to program the home including a voice control feature, iVee, and universal garage door openers. 

Samsung enters home automation market with Smart Home at CES

The Samsung Smart Home Service will enable smart TVs, home appliances, and smartphones to be connected and controlled via a single integrated platform.  The Smart Home product and logo will debut at this year’s CES, and will roll out to consumers in the first half of 2014.

Samsung aims to partner with third-party vendors by extending the service to its products and services in hope of dominating the connected world.

The service will initially provide three main features: Device Control, Home View and Smart Customer Service.  These features will allow users to set up customized settings and use a dedicated app on their smartphone or smart TV to control and monitor their homes, even when they’re out of the house or country.

It can also be programmed to perform multiple tasks with a single command.  Simply say “Going out.” to your Galaxy Gear and selected connected devices such as your smart TV and lights will be turned off.  You can also customize the system for various situations, such as when going to sleep.  Thermostats will automatically be adjusted, lights dimmed or turned off, and surveillance cameras turned on.

CES 2014 - HomeToys has all the news from this years show

The best and brightest of the Home Technology and Integration industry journey to Las Vegas each January to search through the mass of people and products displayed at CES.

Attracting more than 3000 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees from nearly every country, CES is the top Electronics show in the world. This years show took place as usual from January 7th - 10th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering CES and sifting through all the news pages and product announcements to bring you a special CES Newspage devoted to the key trends and most important announcements to the Home Technology and AV Systems industry.

Make sure to check out our special CES 2014 Newspage for Exhibitor news and announcements.

Samsung Shape wireless audio platform expands with cheaper M5 speaker

From CNet - The Samsung Shape wireless audio system was clearly designed to take on Sonos, but when it launched back in October, there was only a single-speaker option -- the Shape M7.

Now the company is expanding the Shape lineup, with the newly-announced M5 speaker. The M5 will cost less than the $400 M7 but offers similar functionality, using the same Wi-Fi based standard to stream music throughout your home. The M5 will also support the same set of streaming music services, which includes Amazon Cloud Player, Pandora, Rhapsody, and TuneIn, in addition to music stored on your PC and smartphone. For multiroom setups, you'll need one Samsung Hub ($50) on your home network, which connects to your router and coordinates your wireless audio signals.

The Samsung Shape lineup will also be adding the Connect Box: a small set-top box that allows you to integrate Samsung Shape streaming audio to an existing home audio system, much like the similarly named Sonos Connect.

No other details about the M5 or Connect Box have been announced yet, but both products will be showcased at CES 2014, where I'll be able to get a hands-on look at the new devices.

 

8 Trends to Look for at CES 2014

Today the products are the star attraction at what's now the most important consumer electronics show in the world. Although a lot of us complain about having to go to Vegas to cover this event, the geek inside us wants the chance to play with the coolest tech gadgets on the market and be among the first to see products that will be out in the new year.

I also follow this show carefully as I often get to see trends in the works or developing and this helps give insight to what type of technology we will see in the marketplace in the relatively near future. Keep in mind that CES is specifically timed to show retailers the products that vendors plan to have in the market by the end of the second quarter, in time for the next year holiday season. With this in mind, here are the eight trends I see emerging during CES for 2014.

1. The car becomes a node in the Internet of things. 
2. 4K TVs and monitors will be cheaper.
3. Digital health moves to the forefront.
4. 2-in-1s take off. 
5. Curved televisions pull people in.
6. 3D printers revolutionize manufacturing.
7. Smart home and smart light bulbs come home.
8. Wearables continue trending.
 

Full Article:

LG Smart Appliances head to CES 2014 with LINE chat capability

Over the last few years at CES in January, LG has been showing off its ever improving smart appliances. At CES 2013, LG showed off smart appliances that were able to interact with the user via WiFi networks. At CES 2014 next month LG will be rolling out new and improved smart appliances.
 
These new appliance have Natural Language Processing capability to allow owners to communicate, control, and monitor the appliances via mobile messenger application LINE and the LG HomeChat service. LG says that LINE already has 310 million users around the world and using that messenger means that many people will have no learning curve.
 
LINE is available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Nokia Asha devices. It will also run on PC and Mac computers. The ability for the smart appliances to understand natural language means that the owner can message the appliances with "I'm going on vacation" and have the smart appliances respond with their own message.
 
The appliances will ask the owner "Should I convert to vacation mode?" If the owner says yes, all LG smart appliances in the home will convert to power saving modes and run vacation schedules for usage. The tech will also allow the user to receive real time status updates from their refrigerator no matter where they are using LINE. Multiple LG smart appliances will be on display at CES 2014 next month.

The business of home automation is enabling the internet of things

If we think about the homes that have a broadband connection today as the total addressable market for home automation, the home automation market size turns out to be around $8.8 billion at $100 spent per home or $880 billion at $10,000 for example in the U.S. If we are a little more conservative and say that only those broadband subscribers who use smartphones are targets, the range turns out to be about $5.63 – $563 billion. In order to capture this opportunity a number of business models have come into play. While these are not new business models, it is interesting to see how this opportunity is being captured.

1. The Free approach
2. Building block sales
3. Piecemeal
4. Integration
5. Subscriptions
6. DIY
 
The promise of double digit sales growth is attracting a number of players, big and small, to the home automation market. As competition heats up and prices decline, business models will evolve. But we will continue to see a wide spectrum of models in use as different players target different segments of the market. In fact players may adopt more than one business model to capture bigger pieces of the pie. 

Google EnergySense leaks, points to home automation

It looks like the Android@Home project has shifted to thermostat control during the silence, the first evidence of which has revealed itself in the form of a screenshot of the Google Play Store.

Based solely on this screenshot, EnergySense appears to be a smart thermostat control app that allows the user to control the temperature of their home no matter where they are. Profiles are available for home and away, and a great deal of the UI seems to be gesture based.
 

According to a report from The Information, Google is not building their own hardware for the pilot program. The program itself consists of both Google employees and trusted testers who are testing its viability. There’s currently no word on whether or not the project will ever make it to a consumer release stage, but it does seem like Google has put quite a bit of effort into the project already.

Last year Google didn’t mention Android@Home on stage at all during their keynote. If nothing gets announced before Google IO this year it is entirely possible that Android@Home will either be a focal point for the presentation, or this could be the result of Larry Page putting more wood behind fewer arrows and focusing on a single aspect of home automation first.

 

These smartplugs detect your presence for seamless home automation

Currently attempting to hit a $150,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, a group of engineers have developed a new type of smartplug that attempts to simplify the process of automating your home. Called the Zuli Smartplug, the device utilizes low-power Bluetooth in order to interact with your smartphone. Very similar to how the Kivo Kwikset front door lock will unlock based of the proximity of the homeowner’ssmartphone, the Zuli Smartplugs will activate and deactivate based on the proximity of a smartphone owner moving within a home. By simply adding the smartplug to lights within each room, a homeowner won’t have to fumble to find a light switch in a dark room. 

This is accomplished by purchasing a minimum of three Zuli Smartplugs and setting them up within multiple rooms of a home. The smartplugs start communicating and form a “Bluetooth mesh network” in order to detect someone’s presence. Of course, increasing the total number of plugs used in a home will improve the accuracy of the detection algorithm. Users can set up specific preferences for each room, ideal for personalizing the activation process. Interestingly, the iOS mobile app also switches automatically based on the room you are currently located in, thus providing a quick way to tweak settings for that room.

Get your control freak on with stick-anywhere home sensors

Like many other products for an Internet of Things at home, Mother and its Motion Cookies are controlled with various app functions, but they present data in an illustrated storybook format on your tablet screen. What else would you expect from a mom?

The Cookies can be attached to toothbrushes, cups, doors, pill bottles, fridge doors, and nearly everything else. They can detect motion and temperature, and continuously ping the Mother unit, so you know if they are in or out of your home.

They have batteries that last about a year, and a range comparable to home Wi-Fi.

They can report on the temperature of a child's room, whether you're walking enough every day, or when someone tampers with your stuff.

It all depends where and how you deploy the sensors, which use a 915-MHz radio link in North America. It's up to you to decide if you need a sensor on your toothbrush.

Pritzker Group Private Capital Acquires Milestone AV Technologies

Pritzker Group Private Capital announced that it has acquired Milestone for an undisclosed price from The Duchossois Group, which will retain a significant interest in the business and continue to have representatives serve on the board of directors.

Milestone designs, markets and distributes mounting equipment and display solutions for the audiovisual and digital signage markets. Its consumer and commercial products are sold principally under the Chief, Da-Lite and Sanus brands. Milestone serves more than 5,000 global customers, including professional AV dealers, regional home theater dealers, consumer electronics retailers, mass merchants and original equipment manufacturers. The company maintains global operations with offices in the U.S., Europe and China.

"Our acquisition of Milestone demonstrates Pritzker Group Private Capital's strategy of investing in clear market leaders with excellent management teams. We are well aligned with the Duchossois family in the view that our permanent, proprietary capital base allows our management teams to build great businesses over the long term" said Tony Pritzker, managing partner of Pritzker Group Private Capital, Chicago. "Together with the Milestone management team, we have a clear path forward that continues the company's long history of new product innovation, international growth and add-on acquisitions."

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