URC launches ccGen2 whole-house automation system

From the entry-level DIY smart home products that seem to be flooding the marketplace to the more sophisticated and comprehensive (not to mention expensive) automation systems, the home automation business is experiencing a boom right now. Somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum is URC, which offers a mid-level automation with it’s Complete Control and Total Control systems. Today URC announced it’s ccGEN2, which means Complete Control Generation Two, a two-way, Internet-based automation system scheduled to roll out through select distributors starting early next month with distributor Volutone, located in California and Nevada. The ccGEN2  line will include 12 different products, including two wand-style remotes, two in-wall keypads (one is a touchscreen), mobile apps and network system controllers. Doug Cole, senior vice president and general manager of URC, says:  “… we’re excited to offer ccGEN2 through our distribution partners as a newfound opportunity to make the most of the growing awareness and marketing for home automation in a simplified, yet powerful way. We expect this next generation line to take the Complete Control brand into the whole house and the future.” ccGEN2 products, with few exceptions, are not compatible with URC’s one-way, RF/IR Complete Control system or with Total Control products. The base system starts at about $ 1,000 with the main controller and the top of the line remote control with video capability. For the main controller and an app it is about $800. You can scale from there to add keypads and other things.  

Verizon drops Home Monitoring and Control service

Verizon has stopped accepting orders for its Home Monitoring and Control product, and will only allow FiOS customers who already subscribe to the $9.99 monthly service to continue using it, a spokesman said Monday.   Verizon introduced Home Monitoring and Control, which lets FiOS subscribers control security cameras, lighting, door locks and thermostats with their FiOS TV remotes, and through a mobile application and website, in 2011. It stopped accepting new orders in October, spokesman John Columbus told FierceCable.   Rival AT&T launched a wireless-based home automation service last year called AT&T Digital Life, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable market their respective Xfinity Home and IntelligentHome products to broadband subscribers.   Verizon officials suggested that the telco may introduce a new home automation product, but wouldn't say if the company is considering adopting a wireless-based approach similar to AT&T Digital Life.   "We are revisiting the service to more accurately reflect our vision for the connected home. As technology and consumer expectations evolve so must our offerings,"  Columbus said.       

Ex-Google employees announce Beep, the Chromecast of audio

Two former Google employees on Thursday announced Beep, an audio device designed to make it simple for users to stream music throughout their home speakers. Beep is a small copper device that connects to users Wi-Fi networks to play music from streaming services such as Pandora. The device is designed to make it easy for users to listen to music from the Internet without having to leave their smartphones hooked up to their speakers. The device was created by a team of 10 led by Daniel Conrad and Shawn Lewis, both of whom trace their roots back to Google. The duo began working on Beep a year and a half ago. “There’s no good way today to play the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world on your home speakers,” Conrad told The Times. “You’ve got it on your phone, you’ve got it on your laptop, but you don’t have it on your home speakers.” Conrad and Lewis said setting up a Beep device takes only a matter of minutes. Users connect the gadget to their speakers using an auxiliary or optical cable. They then download a mobile app to set up the device and connect it to the Internet. Once that’s done, users can begin playing music. The device connects directly to the Internet on its own, but users control it with an app on their Apple iOS and Android mobile devices.  

CONTROL4 CHOSEN BY TOLL BROTHERS FOR HOME AUTOMATION

Control4 Corporation (NASDAQ: CTRL), a leading provider of automation and control solutions for the connected home, today announced that it has been selected by Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE:TOL) (www.tollbrothers.com), a leading national builder of luxury homes, to provide Toll Brothers' home buyers the option to include the latest smart home automation technology in their new homes. Control4® solutions will be offered to buyers of select new Toll Brothers' homes throughout the U.S., and buyers will have access to professional and custom configuration by in-market certified Control4 specialists.  Under the agreement with Toll Brothers, prospective home buyers will be able to choose from several pre-configured Control4® automation packages. These packages feature high-performance automation controllers, intelligent lighting, thermostats, smart locks, touchscreens, multi-room audio/video solutions, and smart phone and tablet accessibility. New homeowners will also have access to additional automation capability and products via a network of independent automation specialists trained and certified by Control4 to customize the homeowner's smart home to their precise needs. 

Integrated Systems Europe 2014 - HomeToys has all the news from this years show

Integrated Systems Europe is the world’s largest tradeshow dedicated to professional AV and electronic systems integration.   ISE 2013 attracted over 44,000 attendees to its Amsterdam location, where 894 exhibitors occupied more than 33,000 square metres of total net floor space.    For well over a decade HomeToys.com has been covering ISE and sifting through all the news pages and product announcements to bring you a special ISE 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  ISE 2014 Newspage  for Exhibitor news and announcements.

The Internet of Things might not be what you're hoping for

Take a look at this chart. It shows Google's search trends for the term "internet of things", aka "IoT". That blip at the end lines up with CES -- the tipping point where suddenly talking about "IoT" became immensely fashionable. CES may have started the flywheel spinning, but it was Google's acquisition of Nest that built up sufficient momentum such that the whole IoT thing may not stop for years.   But there's a problem with IoT, and it's  ably summed up by internet satirists Joy of Tech :   Joy of Tech's riff keys into some online chatter that happened after Google's announcement about trust and privacy. In essence, whilst people were generally cool with trusting Nest's founders with private data about their home, they were not generally cool with trusting Google. In this scenario, can you think of anyone who would be generally trusted? Microsoft? Apple? Facebook? They all have their own agenda when it comes to personal data. Really, they have the same agenda, namely that in order to realise their enormous investment in technology, they somehow have to turn you into some kind of  asset .   Cont'd.  

Former Barnes & Noble CEO William J. Lynch Appointed CEO of Savant Systems

Today, Savant Systems, LLC, a leader in smart home products and technology, announced William J. Lynch has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Robert Madonna, the company’s founder and CEO since 2005 will continue to help steer Savant’s innovation in his ongoing role as the Chairman of the Board. “To take the innovative Smart Home platform the Savant team has built and refined over eight years, and be able to offer to a broader consumer audience for the first time is an incredible opportunity,” said William J. Lynch, CEO of Savant Systems. “Until now, the business has been concentrated in the luxury housing market. Starting this spring, we’re delighted to be able to offer incredible home automation, built upon the rigorous engineering principles that Savant established and continues to uphold, to the mass market. We look forward to working with our valued dealers to bring Savant Smart homes to millions of consumers. It’s an exciting time to be joining the company.”   Lynch, the former CEO of Barnes & Noble, transformed the bookseller into the leading retailer of content, digital media and reading devices. Lynch was responsible for leading the creation of the critically acclaimed NOOK devices and software and brought them to the consumer market. Under his leadership, Barnes & Noble introduced many award-winning, popular devices, including the world’s first Android color tablet and the first commercially successful touch eReader. During his tenure, more than 10 million devices were sold and the company achieved a strong share of the U.S. eBook and digital magazine market.  Prior to Barnes & Noble, Lynch held leadership and executive positions at HSNi, IAC, and Palm Computing.

All-Seeing Security System Allows Complete Home

Developed by Ontario-based smart monitor company Blacksumac, Piper received the necessary funding through Indiegogo in September 2013, earning over $300,000 in a single month. This recently-released product uses a Z-Wave to turn appliances off and on, video-monitor rooms, detect motion, record video, and provide home stats (temperature, humidity, etc.), all of which are accessible from a smartphone. The system even allows you to add if/then commands from the phone in case of intruders. For example, it’s easy to input a command for when a specific door is open, such as “send me a text” or “sound the siren.” Even if you have a furry friend at home, Piper’s setting can be altered so that your pet won’t set off alarms meant for a robber. The device is still a work in progress, with Blacksumac working to integrate voice command technology in the near future.   When you arrive home, there’s no need to input a code to turn off the alarms you’ve set. The system will use Blutooth to detect when you are in the area (assuming you have your phone) and shut off all security settings. By having the system completely accessible from your phone, there are some concerns about whether the system can be hacked, though no cases of such have arisen thus far.

Securing the Smart Home, from Toasters to Toilets

Hackers have long wreaked havoc on PCs via the Internet, leading to data breaches and computer crashes. Now that the rush is on to add connectivity to everything from crockpots to light bulbs, the stakes get even higher—and more personal (see “More Connected Homes, More Problems”). Antivirus software helped PCs, but you can’t simply install a software suite developed for your desktop on a smart toaster; as a result, connected home devices typically rely on the user going online and setting up a username and password for protection.   A number of tech companies and industry groups say that “smart” devices are hitting store shelves with little in the way of security protection. Security experts blame a number of factors for the problem: startups may put security in the backseat in their haste to get products out the door, and established companies that have traditionally operated offline—like stereo or TV manufacturers—could simply fail to realize that they need to protect against threats when it comes to Internet-connected gadgets.   “They’re not being stupid,” says Marc Rogers, lead security researcher at mobile security company Lookout. “It’s just not something they’ve had to deal with.”   So while companies roll out everything from “smart” lights and door locks that you can control with a smartphone to connected toilets and blood-pressure monitors, a movement is also afoot to make these products as secure as possible.

Broadcom says wireless home audio will be wicked cool with WICED

Broadcom says that it will get much easier to stream high-definition audio over WiFi networks around the home thanks to a new technology dubbed WICED. Broadcom will make chips that support the WICED Audio platform, and it is announcing a software development kit that will make it a lot easier for gadget makers to create advanced wireless audio gadgets for the home.    WICED stands for Broadcom’s Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices. It uses WiFi networking to stream HD audio over greater distances and without audio glitches. It features better synchronization of audio so that WiFi can deliver audio streams to multiple rooms in a home. It also supports Apple’s AirPlay protocol for streaming media from iOS devices.   That means you can stream from a WICED-compatible device and stream high-quality audio to wireless speakers in the home, using a WiFi network. You can do this without having to put your media player, such as an iPod, in a docking station or connect it with a cable. Home media devices can seamlessly connect to smart TVs, portable speakers, set-top boxes, and sound bars using the Digital Living Network Alliance standard or an advanced streaming application for Android.

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. 

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