Logitech Decides To Retain Its Harmony Remote Division

Logitech took to the wires today to announce the Harmony Ultimate Hub, a device that turns an iPhone or Android device into a universal remote, is available for purchase. It’s $100.

But more importantly, Logitech also announced that it decided to keep the Harmony division within the company rather than spinning it out into its own company, turning the division, once again, into a startup fighting for attention in the wild electronic forest.

Once upon a time, May 5, 2004 to be exact, Logitech acquired the privately held Intrigue Technologies of Canada, maker of the famed Harmony remote controls, for $29 million in cash. Fast forward nine years. Logitech did the company right, pushing out countless quality products under the Harmony name, cementing it as a leader in the market. However, with growth slowing, Logitech was pondering spinning the division back out into the wild.

As today’s press release states, the company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. Apparently the success of the Harmony Ultimate, a universal remote that merges the touch capability found in a smartphone with the traditional remote controls, changed Logitech’s mind. The new remote “exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”

Thermostat Maker Ecobee Launches Home Automation API

You may never need rise from the couch or get out of bed again. Home automation is becoming increasingly popular with apps that control ceiling fans, sprinkler systems, garage doors, kitchen appliances, you name it. Along that line of thinking, temperature control company Ecobee has just released a public API that lets third-party apps read, update and poll information about its home thermostats.

The Toronto-based company develops a range of wifi-enabled thermostats for residential and commercial markets. Its API focuses on the company’s line of Smart thermostats, intended for home use. By releasing an open API, Ecobee is betting developers will use it to create a range of home solutions that bring homeowners more choice, comfort, energy savings and peace of mind.

The company already offers a suite of mobile apps that control its Smart thermostats from anywhere, but Ecobee believes the RESTful API, which returns JSON, will feed a new level of innovation.

“Ecobee’s API platform enables an active community of forward thinkers to build the next generation of connected home applications. Our customers will benefit from a wide range of convenient solutions that will simplify their lives,” said Stuart Lombard, the company’s president and CEO.

Partners currently working on apps for the Ecobee platform include Mi Casa Verde, Smart Things, The UBI, Earth Networks, Integral Analytics, Auto Grid, Energy Sherlock, MMB Research Solutions.

iControl Networks Launches New Self-Installable Smart Home and Lifestyle Solution

 iControl Networks announced iControl Touchstone™, a new self-installable, self-managed smart home solution for broadband service providers focused on lifestyle services. iControl Touchstone is powered by iControl's award-winning OpenHome™ software platform, and offers a connected home experience that consumers can install and manage themselves. iControl Touchstone will be initially deployed across the U.S. by Comcast as Xfinity Home Control.

iControl Touchstone enables service providers to offer consumers a full range of innovative home management and monitoring services. As a self-installable solution, it opens the door for new distribution opportunities, including online and retail, which are desirable alternatives for broadband service providers seeking an initial go-to-market offering.

iControl Touchstone provides innovative home monitoring, comfort, control, automation and energy management, and can be assembled and installed by the end-user, eliminating the need for a professionally trained technician. iControl Touchstone allows customers to:

  • Stay connected to their homes with live video feed and event-driven video capture via in-home cameras, enabling them to see what’s happening while they’re away.
  • Remotely control and manage their homes with the power to turn on/off lights and appliances and adjust thermostat temperature via the web or mobile applications.
  • Customize their systems by scheduling personalized, automated alerts, for example, to confirm when the kids arrive home from school, which generate email and text alerts with optional photo/video clip.
  • Go green with energy-saving thermostat, lighting and small appliance control and automation.

Microsoft working on home automation for the Xbox 720

It is being reported that Microsoft has acquired home entertainment and automation startup R2 Studios, by the Wall Street Journal. Started in 2011, this Silicon Valley company recently launched applications that allow for users to control multiple aspects of their home from smartphones. Could this mean that Microsoft is getting closer to the Xbox being the central piece in the living room that controls all facets of the home? It sure looks like it with this news.

The acquisition sees the small team joining Microsoft’s Xbox division, and Microsoft will retain rights to some of the patents that R2 Studios owns, which relate to controlling electronic devices.

With home automation becoming a growing trend in the U.S. today, the next Xbox could very well have the ability to control multiple facets of the homes that they are used in, and take an even further step away from being a video game console. The Xbox 360 saw a huge swing in its userbase utilzing the console for digital downloads and streaming video options found on the Xbox Live dashboard.

The only commercial application that R2 Studios has released to this point is a $99 application that lets users control lighting, thermostats, security systems, and other products via Android devices.

News from InfoComm 2013

With InfoComm 2013 wrapping up, we saw hundreds of press releases and product announcements coming out of this years show.

Check out our InfoComm 2013 Newspage for some of the interesting news from this years show.

Stay tuned for our InfoComm 2013 reports to see the key new products introduced at this years event.

InfoComm 2013 underway in Orlando.

Every summer, the best and brightest of the professional audiovisual communications industry gather at InfoComm to learn new skills, discover innovative solutions, network with each other and celebrate their successes. They come to Collaborate, Communicate and Connect.

Attracting more than 925 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees from over 90 countries, InfoComm is the largest pro AV show in the world. This years show took place n us June 8-14, 2013 (exhibits, June 12-14), at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering InfoComm and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Make sure to check out our special InfoComm 2013 Newspage for Exhibitor news.

WiSee Gesture Recognition System for Home Automation Works Without Cameras, Specialty Sensors

Home automation, gesture control, and smart sensors have the potential to help disabled people and aging folks lead independent lives. Smart floors, cameras, body-worm devices, and motion sensors are some of the ways that people can be monitored inside their own home, but each has its drawbacks. They require a lot of investment and home rewiring, can affect personal privacy, or simply demand too much attention from their users.

Researchers at University of Washington have taken a different approach, harnessing the potential of at-home wireless networks to deduce what the people inside are doing. The system uses traditional wireless routers to detect changes in reflected WiFi signals, which turn out to have characteristic signatures that can be identified and correlated with specific gestures. Here’s a video from UW demonstrating the functionality of the WiSee:

RaspLogic brings drag-and-drop programming to Raspberry Pi for home automation

RaspLogic aims to provide a simple, affordable, method of implementing home automation, using the Raspberry Pi as the platform, and supplying an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for setting up logic and feedback loops:

"The software is written in C# language on .NET so it works on any operating system. However, to take one example, say you want your MP3 player to start playing when you get up in the morning, you need some reference on a common platform and Raspberry Pi is the only one common platform where people can do this without spending too much money. For $25 you can have a common platform that’s already distributed in every place around the world." - Dario Tolio, RaspLogic

At its simplest, RaspLogic could enable the automation of outside lights or a sprinkler system, but it could also be used for more complex operations, such as sending you an SMS or email alert when someone rings your doorbell, and allowing for a virtual conversation with your visitor from wherever you are, or setting up irrigation rules that are weather-dependent (i.e. if there's rain in the forecast, don't water today).

SmartThings opens developer and inventor toolkits for home automation platform

As we’ve recently and frequently discussed, home automation and the Internet of Things is taking off at a fast pace. One of the companies that’s pioneering the new technology is SmartThings, who announced today at the AllThingsD: D11 conference that they are publicly rolling out their developer and inventor toolkits.

SmartThings crowd-funded their operation in 2012 through Kickstarter, raking in over $1.2 million, well beyond their $250,000 goal. They used all that cash to bolster the number of “things” linked to the platform, allowing the SmartThings hub to connect to and control door locks, thermostats, humidity sensors, IR remotes, power outlets, light switches, presence sensors, and any number of additional functions provided by the available accessories.

Out of the box, the SmartThings platform can already do things like alert you when you leave windows open and it starts to rain using a humidity sensor, or automatically adjust the thermostat, turn off the lights, and close the garage door when you leave the house.

The developer and inventor toolkits open up the platform even further to functionalities limited only by the creativity and inventiveness of its users. While transparency is always a great benefit, perhaps the best part of an open platform is the ability to leverage the collective talent and resources of a huge user base.

HDBaseT Alliance Membership Tops 60 as HDBaseT Gains Adoption Worldwide

The HDBaseT Alliance (Booth #2889) at InfoComm 2013 next month will announce it has doubled in size in less than a year to more than 60 member companies. The HDBaseT Alliance InfoComm exhibit will feature dozens of new HDBaseT-enabled components across new categories including new projectors from Hitachi and NEC, displays from Panasonic and AV receivers from Pioneer.

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 growth of HDBaseT since InfoComm 2012 in terms of adoption rate, the product ecosystem and the HDBaseT Alliance membership exceeds what even we had hoped for," said Micha Risling, Marketing Committee Chair, the HDBaseT Alliance. "We're heading into InfoComm 2013 having added several new Alliance members this year including Belkin, Epson, Pioneer, Onkyo and Hitachi, and visitors to our booth will see the fully interoperable HDBaseT ecosystem of end-to-end solutions." 

Home automation via your face: Here's Google Glassware for Nest

Developer James Rundquist has just unveiled Glass Nest, an app for Google Glass that controls your Nest home thermostat directly from your nerdy, nerdy face.

Nest is a highly automated “smart” thermostat made by the same folks who created the iPod.

And, in case you’ve been on a silent yoga retreat for the past year, Google Glass is the eponymous search company’s latest attempt to penetrate every aspect of your waking life. It’s a visor-shaped bit of hardware that places a small, clear screen at eyeball-level. You interact with it primarily via voice.

Using the Nest app, you can tell your Glass unit to change the temperature to N degrees and tell Nest when you’re going away or coming home, all the better to put your home temperature control system into or out of away mode. 

Sony launches smaller, less-expensive 4K Ultra HD TVs

Sony will begin selling smaller, less-expensive versions of its new XBR 4K Ultra HD TVs.

The Japanese tech company was one of the first to roll out 4K Ultra HD sets late last year. That technology is supposed to offer quadruple the resolution of current HD TVs and an even more crystal-clear image than before.

Sony's first foray with the new TV technology was an 84-inch set it began selling in November for $25,000. But starting Thursday evening the company's new 55-inch and 65-inch models will go on sale at Santa Monica's Video & Audio Center. The two models cost $4,999 and $6,999, respectively, and will be available at other retail stores this weekend.

Although the 55-inch and 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TV models are much more expensive than regular HD TVs, Sony's model marks a significant price drop for the 4K Ultra HD technology. Sony's rivals, Samsung and LG, also sell sets, but theirs are only available in models larger than 80 inches with price tags of nearly $40,000 and $17,000, respectively.

Sony officially unveiled the two sets this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but Thursday marks the U.S. launch of the two TVs. The company's U.S. launch of its latest tablet, the Xperia Tablet Z, also will take place Thursday.

Xbox One Wants To Own Your Living Room

Microsoft revealed its newest video game console, the Xbox One, to an eager audience today. It’s continuing down the path it started with the Xbox 360, seeking nothing short of  total domination where your entertainment options are concerned. All the Xbox Ones will come packaged with an upgraded version of Microsoft’s Kinect. The company promises better voice and physical feature recognition. To demonstrate, they switched seamlessly from playing games to watching TV with vocal commands.

According to presenters, the need to search for a remote or even remember what channel your favorite programs come on will be a thing of the past. The new Xbox home page keeps a running tab of what you did last including your music, TV and gaming options.

The social media influence is heavy this console generation. PlayStation 4′s controller even has a “share” button on it. Xbox One is following suit with a trending display that shows what content is popular among two categories: your friends and the rest of the world.

“Snap mode” allows the numerous programs on your Xbox One to run in concert. As an example, the first J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” ran during the presentation. Then we saw Internet Explorer come up in a separate window and search for times when “Star Trek: Into Darkness” was showing. Speaking of movies, the Xbox One will contain a Blu-Ray drive. Yes, the software giant guessed horribly wrong with the HD-DVDs on Xbox 360. They’d appreciate it if we don’t rub that in too much.  Full Article:

5 Automation Startups Pushing Technology Forward

In the world of home automation, there are two big issues to overcome: one is the price and the other is integration and centralization. Right now, many people have DIY home automation controlled by numerous apps. Homeowners have to open one app to water their yard and another one to change the thermostat. This simply doesn’t make sense, and some people think it’s more trouble than its worth. Fortunately, in addition to the established home automation companies like Control4, URC, Crestron, and others, a few key startups are starting to take a more centralized approach to automation.

Often, it’s the little guys that cover the most ground with new technology. Keep an eye on these startups as they change the face of home automation. In addition to making features more cost-effective, they’re all gravitating toward the centralized approach that makes much more expensive automation solutions so convenient.

1. R2 Studios, 2. Brandcast, 3. Revolv, 4. Ninja Blocks, 5. HutGrip. Read More here:


Allure Energy Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit against Nest Labs

Allure Energy, Inc. has filed suit against Nest Labs, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on the grounds of patent infringement through the design, manufacture and sale of smart thermostats under the name "Nest Learning Thermostat." The complaint contends the Nest Learning Thermostat infringes on U.S. Patent No. 8,442,695 for the invention of an "Auto-Adaptable Energy Management Apparatus." 

Kevin Imes, president and CEO of Allure Energy, first began developing a smart thermostat in 2009, filing its patent application in 2010, to manage home temperature and energy usage. Allure Energy also developed and patented "Proximity Control Technology" that instantly adapts to a user's daily schedule to provide automatic comfort and energy savings at home based on the distance a user may be from a residence.


"Allure Energy invented an elegant energy management solution through our EverSenseTM product line, which uses patented Proximity Control Technology we began developing back in 2009," said Imes. "With our own capital, we created a smart and original thermostat control that also syncs music, reports local weather and offers energy tips, and filed all the required patent documentation well before Nest Labs launched its products." 

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