Ninja Sphere promises to turn your house into a smart home for $329

Back in January, a smart home device called Ninja Sphere made over $650,000 on Kickstarter. Now, its creators (Ninjablocks) has started accepting its first pre-orders outside the crowdfunding website for $329 per unit. But, what can a Ninja Sphere do in the first place? Well, this gesture-controlled device can monitor temperature, lighting and even energy usage, but that's just one of the things it's capable of. Ninjablocks touts it as a veritable multi-tasker that sends alerts if you've left appliances running when you go out and let you turn them off using your phone. With the proper IFTT recipes in place, it also lets you switch on the heater or AC before you get home, or switch on the lights at a set time using a phone or even a smartwatch.   Since the Sphere can connect to Bluetooth Low Energy devices, it can locate pets and items tagged with those small BLE locators like Gecko. It can even tell you if one of the things you've tagged has been moved and gives you the option to activate cameras in the room, if available.   cont'd..

Strong Q4 Expected In Home Automation

Mass-market home automation will come into its own in the fourth quarter, driven by widespread retail rollouts, a growing product selection, growing consumer awareness and falling prices, marketers and analysts told TWICE. If Apple launches its HomeKit home-automation initiative as expected in the quarter, awareness and sales will grow to even higher levels, thanks to the company’s massive advertising and promotion budget. Home automation will enjoy its largest retail/e-tail presence ever in the fourth quarter, said Z-Wave Alliance chairman Mark Walters. “We’ll see a lot more advertising this fourth quarter, including from Apple.” A strong brick-and-mortar presence, he added, is a “brand new” phenomenon. “Up until the past month or two, the products were bundled with service from telcos and other service providers, or you bought at e-tail as an early adopter.”

Leviton Launches Omni Notifier

Leviton announced the release of the 20A30-1 Omni Notifier, adding immediate e-mail notification to your smartphone or tablet.    This board is an attachment to the Omni and Lumina automation systems including OmniPro II, Omni IIe, Omni LTe, Lumina Pro, and Lumina. For zero fees, homeowners, business owners, facility managers and more can be notified immediately based on security or energy occurrences such as intrusion, temperature change, arming/disarming of security system, etc.  As an added benefit, the Omni Notifier board connects to internet time synching. Now your Leviton keypads, Touchscreens, and thermostats can be the most accurate clocks in the home or business.  "The Omni Notifier provides a new way for you to stay in touch with your home or business 24/7," said Jay McLellan, President of Leviton Security & Automation. "Our powerful automation systems have long been controlled via mobile apps and even telephoned homeowners and business owners, but now without any monthly fees, they can receive e-mails and text messages as well."

Here's Why The Do-It-Yourself Smart Home Market Will Reach $7.8 Billion By 2019

According to our latest report published today at NextMarket Insights, the DIY smart home is expected to grow in the US from $1.3 billion today to $7.8 billion by 2019, an annual growth rate of over 43%.   The bigger question, however, might be why consumers are willing to become their own smart home IT managers, when just a few years ago home automation and smart home networks often meant a professional installer.   That’s because nowadays that barriers around price and ease-of-use have dropped dramatically.  Instead of complex proprietary software and controllers, today most of these devices require no more than a iPhone or Android device and an Internet connection.  Some, like locks, may require a couple turns of a screwdriver, but installation is within the capabilities of most.   And chances are, things will get even easier. Apple, Google, Qualcomm and other are all busy creating industry initiatives around software frameworks and protocols that will do some behind-the-scenes heavy lifting to make devices talk together and generally work more seamlessly. Apple’s HomeKit, for example, will turn your iPhone into a central controller for many of these smart products, and likely remove the need to manage a bundle of different apps as your device collection grows.

Emberlight provides wireless smarts to regular bulbs

There’s been a boom of wireless-enabled smart bulbs over the past year or so. Although many will recognize popular models such as LIFX and Philips Hue, you can search Amazon and find plenty of options for Bluetooth wireless light bulbs. Some of them even have built-in speakers so you can remotely control both lights and sound.   But what about all of those old, non-smart bulbs you own? It feels like a shame to let them go to waste, especially if they happen to be favorites. Or, maybe you don’t want to buy a smart bulb due to fear of it breaking or burning out too soon, costing so much more in the long-run.   Discard those worries, since there exists a third option that brings the best of both worlds. Emberlight provides wireless features dimmable light bulbs. This compact device installs into sockets and acts like a middleman to the bulb screwed into it. Now, the light can be controlled from wall switches or remotely from a mobile device. You can even set it to turn on/off based on Bluetooth proximity from your smartphone.   Emberlight works with your existing wireless network, without the need of a hub. Once set up, you’d really never have to touch a lightswitch again. Whether you’re in or out of the home, you can receive notifications and have full control over every connected light bulb. Want the lights to turn on as soon as you come home? Done. Away on vacation and need the lights on at night to provide that lived-in look? Absolutely possible. Control any and lights that are hooked up to Emberlight.   Since Emberlight is more of an adapter and not a light bulb, there’s little worry about it burning out over time. When a bulb is bad, just replace it with a new one and Emberlight keeps working for you. Best of all, it costs the same or less than many smart light bulbs available on the market.  

Lowe's Helps Consumers Outsmart Summer with New Home Automation Products for Iris

Lowe's Companies, Inc. announced today the launch of new products for its Iris smart home solution that offer consumers added convenience, safety and efficiency this summer. The home improvement company continues to extend the breadth of connected devices with the addition of a smart garage door controller, electronic pet door, window blinds controller and hose faucet timer to make it easier to cut energy costs, reduce water usage and keep the home secure while consumers balance active summer schedules.    Since its launch in 2012, Iris has delivered on its promise to make home automation simple, affordable and scalable by giving consumers a single user interface that lets them monitor, control and customize a wide range of devices in and around the home. This new wave of products joins the 50 existing devices currently available for Iris - including security cameras, smoke detectors, water leak detectors and more. Iris offers the ultimate smart home experience with brand name products consumers already know and trust, including General Electric, Kwikset, Schlage, Whirlpool, Orbit Irrigation Products and PetSafe. Iris' open platform also supports dozens of other Zigbee and Z-Wave-enabled devices. 

Raspberry Pi Brings IoT (Internet of Things) to a Home Theater Soundbar

Right-Ear/Left-Ear Technologies selected Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized Linux computer, to add much-desired functionality to One Bar, its new home theater soundbar.  "We wanted to complement our soundbar's best-in-class 3D virtual sound performance with smart wireless and Internet connectivity," said Marty Zanfino, one of the founders. "Raspberry Pi provided a platform to do all that in a single, compact module. We had to write a lot of code, but Raspberry Pi had the necessary hardware and OS to support the functionality we required."  The list includes remote control via smart phones and tablets, Wi-Fi access point so phones and tablets can connect directly, and the ability to join a home Wi-Fi network to access Internet radio and music sites. Once connected, users enter a URL and One Bar's touchpad remote control keypad appears on their phone's and tablet's displays. 

Microsoft's Cortana Learns Some Home-Automation Tricks

Cortana, Microsoft’s vocal virtual assistant, is gaining the ability to control smart-home products like lights and thermostats.   Home-automation company Insteon, based in Irvine, California, is working on a Windows Phone 8.1 app slated for release later this year that aims to make it easier to do things such as turn on the lights or boost the temperature by issuing commands via Cortana like, “Insteon, turn off all the lights” or “Insteon, adjust living room thermostat temperature down.”   Cortana, which was announced in April and is built into Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 (which began rolling out to Windows Phone 8 users on Tuesday), can answer spoken queries like “What’s the traffic like on my way to work?” and respond to commands like “Change my 10 a.m. meeting to 11” or “Remind me to feed the cat when I get home” (see “Say Hello to Microsoft’s Answer to Siri”).   In many respects, it’s very similar to Google Now and Apple’s Siri, but unlike these competitors, Microsoft is allowing third-party developers to create apps that can be controlled using Cortana—a move that could inspire app developers to dream up new uses for the voice interface.  

Samsung In Talks To Scoop Up SmartThings For Around $200 Million

Google has Nest, Apple has HomeKit and Samsung has…SmartThings, we’re hearing. The deal was completed for around $200 million dollars, though it might have been less according to one source. SmartThin gs  is in the home automati on space , and allows you to connect devices like lights and doorlocks to a system controlled by your mobile phone. It has raised over $1 5 million from investors including Greylock, Highland Capital, First Round Capital, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, Yuri Milner’s Start Fund, David Tisch, A-Grade Investments, CrunchFund* and Box Group.   Samsung most likely bought the startup to get out ahead of Google’s Nest efforts. With this buy, Samsung obtains a mature home automation platform that just needs some marketing help. And Samsung has a hefty marketing budget. The larger arena at work here is the millions of connected devices that will populate our world — commonly referred to as the internet of things. In a nearly inevitable future where every device in our home has a live connection to the web, and can be controlled by our devices, device manufacturers are the ones most uniquely poised to offer holistic solutions to consumers.  

Introducing Thread: A New Wireless Networking Protocol for the Home

Recognizing the need for a new and better way to connect products in the home, seven companies today announced that they've joined forces to form the Thread Group (www.threadgroup.org) and develop Thread, a new IP-based wireless networking protocol. The charter of the Thread Group is to guide the adoption of the Thread protocol. Thread Group founding members consist of industry-leading companies including Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Samsung Electronics, Nest Labs, Freescale® Semiconductor, Big Ass Fans and ARM.  While currently available 802.15.4 networking technologies have their own advantages, each also has critical issues that prevent the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) from being realized. These include lack of interoperability, inability to carry IPv6 communications, high power requirements that drain batteries quickly, and "hub and spoke" models dependent on one device (if that device fails, the whole network goes down). With Thread, product developers and consumers can easily and securely connect more than 250 devices into a low-power, wireless mesh network that also includes direct Internet and cloud access for every device. 

Meet the smart hubs competing to control your home

From CNet. Perhaps the most overwhelming thing about the smart home revolution is the fact that so many of these new gadgets come with their own separate apps and control hubs. If you buy more than one or two, you'll end up needing a whole bookcase to store all of the blinking control centers plugged into your router, not to mention the fact that your various automation rules and schedules will probably be scattered across several different apps and websites. Wasn't home automation supposed to make things easier? It's a reality that's created a bit of a jump ball in home automation: whichever hub can best consolidate all of these smart devices into a single, dependable system -- complete with a killer app -- is going to be positioned especially well as the connected home continues to move into the mainstream. With several multipurpose smart hubs already out there, and even more coming on the horizon, here are the ones we've been keeping tabs on. 

Core Brands Debuts Next-Generation Niles Auriel Audio Controller That Simplifies Whole Home Audio

Powered by the new Niles Auriel software and app, the MRC-6430 is the first-in-its-class multi-room audio chassis that integrates multi-room audio and home theater control in a way that is both simple for the installer to set up and easy for the homeowner to enjoy.  "With Auriel and the MRC-6430 we are making multi-room audio simpler than ever to install and use," Yann Connan, Core Brands' Director, Audio Segment, said today. "The number one concern for buyers is that multi-room audio controllers are complicated, so we developed the Auriel software to show them just how accessible it can be. With any smartphone, tablet or Niles in-wall touch panel, users can now quickly select what source they want to play and in which rooms they want it to play. We had the system integrators in mind as well, with the flexibility to include both IP and IR controlled devices, complete GUI generation and six routable IR outputs for external component control. Auriel is wizard-based to reduce installation and set-up time to a fraction of other multi-room systems."  The Niles MRC-6430 multi-room audio controller delivers its amazing sound throughout the home using an intuitive user interface with options that include a handheld remote, a seven-button keypad, a choice of touch panel devices and of course smartphones, tablets and personal computers. The MRC-6430 makes it possible to listen to any source, in any room, at any time - even if someone is already listening to something different in another room. This means mom and dad can relax with smooth jazz in the kitchen while guests enjoy classic rock in the living room and the kids sing along to top 40 hits in the backyard, and each group can change their own volume and skip tracks right from their smartphone. 

Clime Is A Tiny Device Packed With Sensors To Help Home Automation

Home automation and connected objects seem to be the rage these days. We’ve seen efforts from companies like Philips, GE, and Nest, and now it looks like a device called Clime hopes to preside over that. As you can see in the image above, the device is tiny and looks a bit like a piece of candy. However what’s under the hood is an array of environmental sensors that will be able to measure things such as humidity, temperature, light, and even movement. The company claims that the device will have a battery life of 1.5 years, meaning that you will be able to deploy them in and out of your house without worrying about it running out of juice in the near future. While the company has been a little vague about the potential use of Clime, its website hints at home automation. Like we said due to the device’s range of sensors, you will be able to place it all over your house, so for example you could leave it outside and when its temperature sensor detects a rise in temperature, it will adjust your home’s thermostat to make it colder. Also with a light sensor, we can only imagine that when Clime detects that it is dark outside, it will turn on the lights in your house. This might come in handy during thunderstorms where it can get dark outside, or it can adjust itself to summer where it gets darker later, or winter where it gets darker earlier.

INSTEON Announces Availability of Popular Connected Home Products in Microsoft Retail Stores

INSTEON, creators of the world's best-selling home automation and control technology, today announced that its connected home devices are now available in Microsoft retail stores. Previously, INSTEON announced its all-new apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 and product availability on MicrosoftStore.com. In its continuing commitment to provide choice, value and service for its customers, Microsoft stores will offer three unique INSTEON kits -- a Starter Kit, Home Kit and Business Kit -- and five standalone devices, including the INSTEON Leak Sensor, Open/Close Sensor, LED Bulb, On/Off Module and Wireless Wi-Fi Camera. Prices will range from $29.99 to $79.99, with kits starting at $199. Microsoft employees will also be trained to help assist customers with questions regarding setup.  "Since launching INSTEON on MicrosoftStore.com, we have seen a lot of interest from Microsoft customers in our connected products," said Joe Dada, CEO, INSTEON. "Now that we are making those same products available to Microsoft retail customers, we are confident that our products will be equally as popular in stores."  The INSTEON family of devices turns any home into a connected home. INSTEON users are able to set up lighting scenes, schedule lights to automatically turn on and off, and monitor their homes via wireless cameras from any mobile device. INSTEON kits and modules allow users to receive instant notification alerts when doors and windows are opened or closed, or when there is a water leak in the home. INSTEON provides all of this and more via a free app with no monthly fees.   

First look at the Wink Hub, tech's latest dummy-proof home automation center

To make smart home products more accessible and less confusing for the mass market, Home Depot has teamed up with Quirky-owned Wink to create a line of connected devices that are centralized into one place: The Wink Hub. This $49 hub contains all the techy goodness that puts your “dumb” products on the Web with popular connection protocols: ZigBee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, to name a few. All the user has to do is set up the hub, purchase a Wink-certified product and scan the barcode of the item to connect it to your home network. The current Home Depot-Wink line works with a ton of popular home improvement brands, such as Chamberlain (garage door openers), Honeywell (thermostat), Rheem (water heater) and GE (lighting and kitchen appliances). Once connected, all the devices are controllable from within the Wink app. Users can set up timers, alerts, proximity settings and shortcuts. The app is available in both iOS and Android, with added compatibility for Android Wear. The Wink Hub connects to your home network without requiring Ethernet, so you can place it anywhere around the house. We stopped by the companies’ “Wink House” set up today and the app worked as advertised. The option to set up a one-click shortcut for various settings (such as Sleep to turn all the blinds and lights off and lock doors) is useful truly automating your home from a touch of a finger. It only takes about a second for the command to register from the app to seeing things in action, such as the lights changing colors or the garage door closing.

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