Quirky has been relatively quiet over the last couple of months, and on Tuesday it became clear why, when CEO Ben Kaufman announced seven new connected home devices at an event in New York City. Created in conjunction with GE, the new products make it clear that Quirky is focused taking the smart home to the mainstream. Perhaps the most intriguing device is Norm, a sensor that Quirky is calling the "death of a thermostat." I got to check it out, along with Quirky's other new products, after the event. Up close, Norm really doesn't look like anything particularly special. It's just a small white box—about the size of a stack of Post-it notes—that's meant to take the place of your current HVAC thermostat. Unlike traditional models, or even other connected ones like the Nest Learning Thermostat, however, Norm doesn't show you a readout of the temperature or have any visible buttons (save for one on the bottom edge). Instead, it connects to the Wink app on your mobile device, and allows you to monitor or control the temperature from there. Rest assured, you can still adjust the temperature on the box itself—one tap will turn the temperature down, while two taps turns it up.
INSTEON, creators of the world's premier home automation and control technology, announced that its connected home products and kits are now available in more than 1,500 Walmart stores across the nation, just in time for the holiday season. "Our presence in Walmart stores marks the arrival of mainstream adoption of connected home devices," said Joe Dada, CEO, INSTEON. "We are proud that INSTEON is leading the charge and are thrilled to see our products on Walmart shelves as we enter into the busiest shopping season of the year." In addition to their availability in select Walmart stores across the country, these and many more INSTEON products are available for online purchase at Walmart.com.
Well this one came out of nowhere: Amazon is building a speaker that's controlled with your voice. It's called Echo, and Amazon tells The Verge it will be "shipping in the coming weeks." Available on an invite-only basis to start, Echo is regularly priced at $199. But for a limited time, Amazon will offer Echo for $99 to Prime members who receive an invite. Amazon says the black, cylindrical speaker is always connected to the cloud and will provide information, music, news, weather, and more whenever you ask for it. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from Google — only it's an Amazon product. The built-in voice recognition can hear users from across the room, according to Amazon, essentially acting as a Siri-like personal assistant crammed inside a speaker. It listens to user requests using seven microphones and can understand your voice even while playing music. "These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction," reads the product's page. The speaker also produces 360-degree audio to fill an entire room. It'll play music from Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Plus. And it's fully Bluetooth compatible, making playback from Spotify, Pandora, and other audio apps possible. Companion smartphone apps on Android and Fire OS will launch upon availability to help buyers set up and get started with the speaker, but everyone else (including iOS users) will need to access it via a web app. Amazon tells The Verge that a dedicated iOS app is in the works.
Parks Associates reports that approximately two-thirds of U.S. broadband households are unfamiliar with smart home products or services. Further, few consumers know what smart home devices and services are, who sells them, or where to buy them. New research, IoT for Smart Home Devices and Controllers, published by Parks Associates with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, analyzes the results of a Q2 2014 survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households. The results include recommendations for the connected home industry, analysis of consumer demand for smart home products, and strategies to raise awareness of smart home devices and their sales channels. “Today, smart home service providers control almost every aspect of their offerings while consumers make only one choice - the service provider,” said Tricia Parks, CEO and Founder, Parks Associates. “Deploying open solutions that give consumers a degree of control over their ecosystem represents a major competitive element and an opportunity to increase revenue and business opportunities for software, hardware, and service players. However, consumers have to know where to find these devices, so these companies also need better promotion of their sales channels.”
When most people think of Sharp, they likely think about really big TVs. However, in an effort to help you clean up your home theater, the company has been working on something even bigger than their TVs, and it’s finally ready for its coming-out party. Today, Sharp unveiled its new media player, which uses dual wireless technologies to transmit both high resolution audio and video without cables. Sharp calls it the Sharp High Resolution Audio Player, but the name doesn’t do the device justice — it’s way more than just a high-res audio player. Sharp has been developing its futuristic new player, the model SD-WH100U, for years. In fact, we caught a glimpse of what this technology could do in early 2013 at CES, and the prototype version of today’s device thoroughly impressed, able to send crystal clear audio and video to a surround sound speaker system and TV that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional wired setup. Using the wide open spaces of the 5.2-5.8 GHz frequency band, the player is able to transmit high resolution audio at up to 24bit/96kHz from FLAC, WAV, and even DSD files over the up-and-coming WiSA (Wireless Speakers and Audio) standard. It also plays SACDs and Blu-rays, and thanks to an adapter that speaks the Wireless HD protocol, WiHD, it also sends top-notch 1080p HD video to any TV.
Savant, the leading luxury smart home technology company, today released new survey results revealing that more than half of consumers in the United States believe that home automation will be an everyday feature in less than 10 years from now, and nearly one-fourth saying that the technology will be an everyday feature in less than five years. The survey further reveals that control/ease of use (69 percent) and convenience (58 percent) are the most important features for consumers when purchasing a new technology. Cost savings (41 percent) and safety and security (35 percent) were cited as the two primary considerations among consumers for the adoption of smart home automation systems. "Consumers have spoken and want convenience and ease of use from their smart home technology said William J. Lynch, CEO, Savant. "For almost 10 years now, people with Savant Homes have seen how much easier automation makes their lives, and we are committed to bringing this experience to more and more homeowners."
Right now we have some very successful point applications in the home. The Nest thermostat and the cloud recording device Dropcam, which is now owned by Nest, are two examples. But smart lighting like Philips Hue or smart door locks from a companies like Kwikset and August will pick up steam over the next few years. We also have the introduction of some promising platforms from the likes of SmartThings, AlertMe, and Revolv (although Revolv’s platform doesn’t seem to have much of a future after its acquisition by Nest on Friday). These platforms, which Gigaom Research reviewed in its latest Sector Roadmap, often include hardware hubs with multiple radio protocols to enable easy communication with a multitude of smart devices, be they thermostats, lighting, energy management or security. The benefits of platforms is that they deal with device fragmentation and make visualizing the capabilities of the smart home in one governing app possible rather than having to access a different app for every piece of hardware. They also should allow developers to write code and create rules that affect multiple devices. Cont'd..
Google's Nest continues digesting enzyme-rich startups from the smart home sector, acquiring Revolv this time in a move that brings with it the talent needed to push the Works with Nest platform. A Google acquisition itself, Nest's purchase of Revolv follows up its $555 million acquisition of Dropcam just a few months earlier. Revolve had already developed its own platform to connect smart products to one another, but the expertise behind that software will go into making Nest's Works with Nest code more attractive to developers of smart things. "We have been inspired by Nest since our foundation, and are thrilled to be part of the Nest family," says Revolv. Together, we're going to create some amazing products and continue to unify the connected home as part of the Works with Nest program."
Home-automation startup Avi-on Labs launched a crowd-funding campaign to bring its Bluetooth mesh-network home-automation products to North America in the spring. The devices will include multiple GE-brand products from Jasco, which is making a GE Bluetooth Smart Light Dimmer, Smart Light Switch, Smart Indoor Plug, Smart Indoor Dimmable Plug, and Smart Outdoor Plug. They will join an on-wall, battery-powered movable light switch made by Avi-on and a Bluetooth Smart Light bulb. The products will be available in the spring. Avi-on created a hub-less home-automation system that is controlled from Android and iOS apps, which let users turn lights on and off, dim lights, put lights on schedules, and group lights. Home systems can also be controlled from a Bluetooth light switch. Consumers can control and manage almost an unlimited number of household products, including lamps, fans, small appliances, stereos, HVAC systems, and outside lights, the company said.
Authometion, the startup engaged in IoT solutions for WiFi home automation applications, has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise €50,000 by November 17 to kick-off preorders of their first set of products that allows homeowners to transform their homes into smart homes. The first product released by Authometion is IoTuino, an Arduino-compatible tiny core module (56×23 mm) incorporating a low-power WiFi module and radio transceiver. IoTuino has been completely designed and engineered in-house by Authometion after almost two years of research and development. The goal of the product is to offer all makers and developers the opportunity to work with a powerful yet miniaturized microcontroller for rapid prototyping and to leverage the Arduino open-source electronics platform to build plenty of IoT devices. "IoTuino is the perfect partner for DIY Home Automation applications," said company founder and CEO Pietro Moscetta. "It can be embedded into any object to immediately embrace the IoT revolution." IoTuino is based on an ATMega328P microcontroller and includes a built-in low-power Wi-Fi module (IEEE802.11 b/g/n), a 512Kb SPI Flash, a 2.4 GHz radio transceiver, and an integrated mini USB programming port.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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