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.

 

Samsung To Sell Under-$9K 55-inch Curved OLED TV

Samsung will begin selling on its web site and through select specialty dealers its first Curved OLED TV: the 55-inch Model KN55S9C. At $8,999.99, it enters the market at $6,000 less than competitor LG’s 55-inch Curved OLED, introduced three weeks ago at the Magnolia Design Center in Best Buy’s flagship Richfield, Minn. store.

Samsung vice president of Home Entertainment Dave Das said the price was achieved due to “better than anticipated yields,” which led to the company’s being able to deliver product at such a low price point.

He said the metallic-frame curved aspect of the set, which Samsung is referencing in marketing materials a “Timeless Arena’ that evokes the curved shape of an arena, would serve to distinguish it on a typical sales floor, where consumers are generally faced with a wall of “me-too” flat-panel TVs. The decision to market strategically through the same specialty channel through which Samsung has been marketing its  $40,000 85-inch Ultra HD, however, means that that dealer group will likely be better able to make the case for purchase through its caliber of sales personnel, Das said.

Home Automation Market Forecast to Grow at 78% CAGR to Exceed 351 Million by 2018

By 2018, ABI Research expects annual home automation device shipments to exceed 351 million, growing at a CAGR of 78%. ZigBee dominated IEEE 802.15.4 and claimed the top share of node shipments at 4.5 million, narrowly beating out proprietary protocol offerings.

Senior analyst Adarsh Krishnan, comments, "ZigBee is enjoying success in the home automation market because, as an open standard technology, multiple IC vendors are creating ZigBee chipsets. Quite simply, open standard technologies are considered less risky and highly scalable when compared to the closed ecosystems of proprietary RF technologies." 

Another wireless communication protocol that has gained traction in the home automation market is Z-Wave. Recent managed service initiatives that offer home automation as a service are using the Z-Wave protocol to connect low-power home automation devices. Z-Wave enjoys support from consumers, especially in the DIY segment, because the interoperability of the wide portfolio of vendor products. As a result, consumers have choice regardless of the distribution channel or supplier. 

Smart devices that use the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol part of Bluetooth v4.0 single-mode specification will experience the highest growth in the category, reaching over 133 million units by 2018. Practice director Dan Shey explains, "Consumer electronics (CE), including smartphones, tablets, and laptops equipped with Bluetooth are a major contributor to Bluetooth growth in home automation. Not only do these devices drive production economy of scale advantages but CE's are also growing role as a tool for managing and interacting with home automation systems." 

 

No batteries! Wireless tech recycles airborne radio waves

A world full of Internet-connected devices is a giant step closer to reality thanks to a new communications system that works without batteries or wires for power.

Just as we use mirrors to reflect light, or turbines to catch the wind, this technique — known as "ambient backscatter"— co-opts transmissions from TV and cellular towers and reflects them to exchange information between wireless devices. These waves serve as both a source of power and carriers of information.

"We just use existing signals all around us," Shyam Gollakota, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, explained to NBC News.

He and colleagues built a proof-of-concept system consisting of credit-card-size electronic devices that use antennas to detect, harness and reflect a TV signal, which is then picked up by similar devices.

Since TV signals are reflected off buildings, cars, trees and everything else in a city as it travels from a transmission tower to a TV set, the extra reflection doesn't degrade the signal. "Our reflection is yet just another reflection," Gollakota said.

The prototype devices communicate with each other over a distance of several feet. They flash little LED lights when they receive a signal from another device.

The applications of the technology are limitless: a keychain that sends out a text message to its owner's mobile phone when it falls out of a pocket, for instance; or an array of pad-like sensors embedded in a roof that relay a message to a homeowner when a water leak is detected.

Revolv home automation hub hits preorder: Controls Sonos, Hue, more

Multi-platform home automation hub Revolv has gone up for preorder, offering a $299 way to harness your Sonos, Hue lighting, Yale automatic locks, and more, all from a single app. The smart home base-station – previously known as Mobiplug – packs a total of seven radios so as to communicate with a broad variety of popular remote-control kit, with support for automated macro routines based on your location, the current time, and more.

Currently, while streaming music systems like Sonos and wireless multi-color LED lighting systems like Philips Hue offer a more cost-effective way to get smart home functionality that might once have cost many thousands of dollars, there’s no unified way to control them all. Instead, users generally end up with multiple individual apps, each suited to one platform but not any others.

Revolv aims to address that, by bridging the connectivity of multiple platforms into a single base station. According to the company, setup is effectively automatic once you’ve plugged it into a power supply: the hub scans first for the home WiFi network, then for any compatible devices, associating itself with them instantly if possible or, if not, with a simple “push button discovery” system.

Z-WAVE CAPABILITIES TO BE DEMONSTRATED IN MOST REMOTE HOME-AUTOMATION DEMONSTRATION EVER RECORDED

Shout it from the mountain top: home automation is reaching new heights -- 26,906 feet, to be exact. 

That's the height of Cho Oyu, the sixth-highest mountain in the world. And that's where an amateur mountain climber will demonstrate the home automation capabilities of Z-Wave using a variety of devices powered by Z-Wave technology. By virtue of the remote location, rugged environmental condition, and lack of technical support capabilities, it is being dubbed the "most remote home automation demonstration ever recorded." 

The climb Cho Oyu and the subsequent demonstration -- officially titled the "Z-Wave Himalayan Expedition by Kwikset®" -- will be performed by named Mariusz Malkowski, a 40-year-old technical services manager at Sigma Designs, a member of the 200-member Z-Wave Alliance. Malkowski has climbed world-class mountains on four continents, many of them by himself. Using no supplemental oxygen, Malkowski is scheduled to begin his ascent on September 10 and will conclude his descent on or around October 6. 

Using only his smartphone, Malkowski will control various home automation scenes set up in the Z-Wave booth at the CEDIA Expo in Denver (CEDIA is the leading tradeshow in the residential electronic systems industry). Scenes will include locking and unlocking a Kwikset SmartCode™ Deadbolt Lock with Home Connect™ Technology and adjusting temperature on his Remotec Thermostat, as well as controlling other Z-Wave Devices. The purpose is to show end-users the dependability of Z-Wave technology, as well as highlighting the overall benefits of home automation. 

Go from clueless to competent with home-theater crash course

I’m talking, of course, about the holy grail of the living room: the home theater.

I’m here now to pass this knowledge on to you. Although a lot has changed since I slogged through miserable shifts, pretending I actually like talking to strangers, a lot of the basic tenants still hold true.  Think of this as a survival guide; you’re going to want to do your own research and ask your own questions, but what follows are some very important considerations and points of understanding. By the time you’re finished reading this, you should have a better sense of what to look for while shopping around; at the very least, you’ll understand what “contrast ratio” means.

Don't pay attention to contrast ratio:

Since I did just promise I’d explain this, contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest a television can display and the darkest. If you’ll recall your middle-school science class for a moment, white and black are at opposite ends of the color spectrum. A television’s contrast ratio is the measurement of the luminance ratio between the two. Put simply, the higher the number, the deeper, more realistic a TV’s picture should be. Higher contrast ratio sets can generally produce more colors and more accurate colors. You’ll see contrast ratio plastered all over TV specs (usually written as 1:X). The problem is, there’s no standardized measurement for contrast ratio.  Read Full Article.

Home automation company Control4 shares make trading debut

Shares of Control4 Corp., a Salt Lake City-based company that provides home automation systems, made their trading debut on the Nasdaq stock market Friday morning.

The company, which was founded in 2003 and has automated more than 120,000 homes since then, sold 4 million shares of its stock for $16 each, raising $64 million.

At the close of trading Friday, the company’s shares were $20.05, up $4.05 (25.31 percent) per share for the day.

In midday trading, the company’s shares were up $3.40 over their initial offering price, or 21.25 percent.

"This is one important day of many more to come," said Martin Plaehn, Control4’s president and chief executive. "There are tens of millions of families that can benefit from our technology and our goal is to connect the devices in those homes so they can all work together and improve people’s lives."

Why LG Bypassed Specialty Retailers on OLED TV Launch

LG Electronics USA is bypassing the specialty CE channel to give Best Buy's Magnolia stores a jump on selling its new CURVED OLED 55-inch TVs. LG launched the set at the Magnolia Design Center in Best Buy's flagship Richfield, Minn., store on Monday.

While consumers can see and order the $14,999 OLED TV at the Richfield location, the sets won't begin shipping for a few weeks. Best Buy will roll out the TVs at Magnolia stores in nine cities - including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio - during the summer.
 

James Fishler , senior vice president marketing LG Electronics USA, said the OLED TVs will be available to specialty dealers "in a couple of months." He would not provide a specific timeframe or say which dealers would have access to the sets. The Magnolia stores, he said, are one of the best venues for LG to introduce its new TV technologies.

"It's hard for manufacturers to get credit for enhancements in picture quality," Fishler told Dealerscope before the unveiling of the CURVED OLED TV at the Richfield Best Buy. "That's why we decided to partner with Magnolia, because they have the staff that can help explain it and simply showcase it."

 

Some Home Automation Systems Are Rife with Holes, Security Experts Say

A variety of network-controlled home automation devices lack basic security controls, making it possible for attackers to access their sensitive functions, often from the Internet, according to researchers from security firm Trustwave.

Some of these devices are used to control door locks, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, lights and other sensitive systems.

The Trustwave researchers plan to discuss vulnerabilities they discovered in several such products during a presentation Thursday at the Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas.

One product analyzed by the Trustwave researchers is called the Insteon Hub and is a network-enabled device that can control light bulbs, wall switches, outlets, thermostats, wireless Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and more.

"When you first set up the Insteon Hub, you're asked to set up port forwarding from the Internet to the device, so basically you're opening up access to it to anybody from the Internet," said David Bryan, a Trustwave researcher who reviewed the device after buying one to use in his house.

The Insteon Hub can be controlled from a smartphone application that sends commands to it over the local network or the Internet, he said.

When inspecting the traffic coming from his phone over the Internet and into the Insteon Hub, Bryan discovered that no authentication and no encryption was being used. Furthermore, there was no option to enable authentication for the Web service running on the Insteon Hub that receives commands, he said.

"This meant that anybody could have turned off my lights, turned on and off my thermostat, changed settings or [done] all sorts of things that I would expect to require some sort of authorization," Bryan said.

Attackers could use Google or the SHODAN search engine, or could perform port scans, to locate Insteon Hub devices connected to the Internet, Bryan said.

Insteon, the company in Irvine, California, that manufactures the device, was notified of the issue in December, according to the researcher. A new version of the product that uses basic authentication for the Web service was released in March, he said.

3D TV autopsy: Did it finally die, or was it never alive to begin with?

If you were shopping for a TV three years ago, you were probably bombarded with all kinds of talk about how cool 3D was and how it was the “next big thing” in TV viewing. Movies and sports would never be the same again, with characters and players popping out of screens and into your living room as if they were right in front of you. It’s now 2013, and 3D is but a footnote that barely measures up to smart TV features and the looming 4K Ultra HD resolution TVs. It all begs the question: Why didn’t 3D ever take off the way it was expected to?

There is no single answer to that question, but a variety of factors may have led to 3D’s seeming irrelevance. During CES 2010, 3D was all the rage on the show floor, and it seemed like an ideal situation for manufacturers and consumers, alike. It was relatively easy for TV makers to incorporate into flat-panel LCDs and plasmas, and it wasn’t going to cost consumers a premium to get the extra dimension onscreen. This may have looked like a perfect storm, but once you got past the action, it was all smoke and mirrors.

The introduction of 3D TVs around 2010 came smack dab in the middle of the fallout from the financial crisis, and TV sales were already flattening before the first 3D flat-panels could hit retail. With only a slight bump up in price and the promise of a flurry of 3D content, manufacturers thought this was the ticket to spurring more growth and churning dollars out of your wallet.

Read Full Article:

ZigBee Home Automation Standard Version 1.2 Ratified

The ZigBee® Alliance, a global ecosystem of organizations creating wireless solutions for use in energy management, commercial and consumer applications, today announced that an update to ZigBee Home Automation has been ratified and is now available for product development. The new version is fully interoperable with the earlier versions of the standard. 

ZigBee Home Automation is the industry leading standard helping to create smarter homes that enhance the comfort, convenience, security and energy management for the consumer.  ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 adds several important new features that improve the battery life for security sensors to over seven years, standardize pairing of devices and simplify installation and maintenance for consumers and custom installers alike. These features have a significant impact on operational and device costs to service providers and quality of service to consumers. 

ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 includes enhancements to functions in devices such as door locks and support for additional devices including smart appliances and electrical measurement devices. The standard incorporates new features resulting from a collaboration with the Energy@home initiative, an Italian collaborative and ZigBee Alliance partner, which will benefit consumers by integrating new devices and raising consumer awareness of energy usage without necessarily connecting to an electric utility. 

LG Begins Selling First OLED HDTV In The U.S.

LG Electronics announced the first U.S. availability of the revolutionary new OLED HDTV, combining the pinnacles of picture quality and design to deliver the ultimate in display technology for home entertainment. 

At a VIP launch event today at Best Buy's flagship Magnolia Design Center store in Richfield, Minn., senior executives from LG Electronics USA and Best Buy officially introduced the new LG CURVED OLED TV for the U.S. market, allowing American consumers to enjoy the unparalleled visual experience in person. 

As LG's exclusive OLED TV launch partner, Best Buy today began selling the 55-inch class (54.6-inch diagonal) LG CURVED OLED TV (Model 55EA9800) at the Richfield store. In the coming weeks, Magnolia stores inside Best Buy in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio will display and begin selling the thin new premium TV at a suggested price of $14,999. Over the summer, the new TV is expected to roll out to select Magnolia inside Best Buy locations nationwide. 

The U.S. launch solidifies LG's early lead in the OLED TV race. Global demand for OLED TV is expected to grow to more than 7 million units by 2016, according to DisplaySearch. LG is the first company to commercialize both the flat screen OLED TV, which has been sold to consumers in Korea since January, and the innovative new CURVED OLED TV, which began sales in Korea in April. 

Microsoft Has an Operating System for Your House

Researchers at Microsoft have released software aimed at making it easier for homes to be monitored, automated, and controlled using computers and the Internet. It also paves the way for developers to create apps that can be “installed” into homes with numerous different devices to make use of them in new ways.

Although Internet-connected products for the home—including security cameras, thermostats, and motion sensors—are readily available, it can be challenging to install them, and they typically work independently. The new software from Microsoft, called Lab of Things, provides a centralized virtual dashboard for monitoring and controlling different “smart home” devices. It also provides standards for building “apps” for homes with the Lab of Things software installed.

Microsoft researcher Arjmand Samuel announced the Lab of Things software this week at Microsoft’s annual Faculty Summit, held for researchers from inside and outside the company. He said it was needed because the challenges of installing and running collections of home automation devices are holding back research into new possible uses for the technology.

The Lab of Things software “lowers the barrier to deploying field studies in connected homes,” he said, explaining that trials of home automation systems that combine multiple types of sensors and other devices are typically small-scale and short-lived due to the inconveniences for both researchers and the volunteers who welcome them into their homes.

Providing a common platform will help ready technology for consumers who want to automate or augment their home, said Samuel, by making it easier for researchers to try out new ideas and create home automation apps.

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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!