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." 

Home Automation Finally Simple with New Cloud Services

Now, several companies are trying to make home automation easy by creating technologies that allow software and services that connect the disparate gadgets and get them to perform several tasks together — such as opening the front door, turning on the lights and firing up the stereo when you pull into the driveway.

 

One of those companies is a startup called Revolv. The company makes a single small box, called a hardware hub, which is designed to control all the devices in a home, whether they use common wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or relatively obscure ones, such as ZigBee or Z-Wave.

"Our hardware hub has seven different radios,” said Revolv co-founder Mike Soucie. "It can talk to all these devices, depending on what language they speak." This could include thermostats, locks, security cameras, garage-door openers and even those automated drapes.

One neat feature on the hardware hub is its ability to use a single smartphone app in place of the individual apps for each connected device, such as a wireless lock or a Sonos streaming music player.

But Revolv takes its hardware hub one step further by incorporating Geosense technology. Through the home Wi-Fi network, the hardware hub connects to the company's cloud service to automate tasks based on your location.

HouseLogix Launches Patented Wireless Speech Control Module for Home Automation

HouseLogix, a Pennsylvania-based provider of advanced hardware and software products for home control, today announces the release of VoicePod®, its patented wireless speech control device for home automation systems. VoicePod adds both voice recognition and speech synthesis capabilities to popular home control systems such as Control4. Users simply say "Hello VoicePod" from anywhere in a room to activate VoicePod and then issue voice commands such as "turn on the lights", "secure the house", "good morning" and "listen to music". Utilizing embedded speaker-independent voice recognition technology that requires no web access, VoicePod instantly interprets speech commands for voice control of TV, music, thermostats, lighting, shading, door locks, cameras and more.

VoicePod provides many handy voice control features that add speed, convenience and safety to everyday living. For example, users can select TV channels simply by speaking a channel name.

Hands-free control of thermostats is also supported. Users can even ask VoicePod questions such as "what is the house status?" or "what is the weather forecast?" and VoicePod verbally delivers the requested information. VoicePod can also speak in response to any event, alerting users to security concerns such as open garage doors or unusual temperatures or weather conditions.

CEA Announces New Standard Group for Connected Home and Smart Energy

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® announced today that it is forming the R7.8 Working Group 2 to develop a new standard to enable home electronics to communicate energy use data to smart energy management systems and apps. The new standard will be called CE-Energy Usage Information (CE-EUI) and will conform to the North American Energy Standards Board Energy Usage Information (NAESB -EUI) model, which forms the basis for the national Green Button initiative.

“Product manufacturers already understand how much energy a device will use during operation, based on its design,” said Brian Markwalter, senior vice president of research and standards at CEA. “By programming that information into the device and enabling the device to calculate how much energy it uses over time, manufacturers can help homeowners accurately capture the data for their energy management systems and applications.”

The standard will be compatible with the new Green Button “Download My Data” and “Connect My Data” initiatives. Green Button defines how consumers and authorized third-party services can access a history of their home’s total energy usage and cost based on smart meter readings. By enabling each device to report its own energy usage, consumers will be able to see the energy each CE-EUI-compliant device consumes and make better informed decisions. The standard will be network agnostic, operating over networks, such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet, ZigBee and Z-Wave, that are an existing part of the home ecosystem.

InfoComm China 2013 Sees 20-percent Attendee Increase at Beijing Show

In its 8th year, InfoComm China 2013 continues to grow, drawing 19,431 attendees, a 20-percent increase compared with the 2012 show, to the China National Convention Center in Beijing.

The three-day annual pro audiovisual show, held in early April, has grown so much since its inception that next year it will fill the entire CNCC, according to show organizers.

"We are really thrilled by this year's success, as it once again proved companies in China are recognizing the importance of pro AV in providing a competitive edge to their businesses,” said Richard Tan, the show’s general manager.

He added, “The potential for sustainable growth in the Chinese AV market is enormous! Through InfoComm China, our exhibitors will share their expertise of the application of pro AV technology and innovations to help more companies achieve breakthroughs in their businesses."

The show, organized by InfoCommAsia Pte Ltd. And InfoComm International, expanded from four halls to six this year, with a gross exhibition area of nearly 35,000 square meters hosting more than 300 exhibiting companies.

According to exhibitors, the show’s success was twofold; the huge growth of China’s pro AV market, as well an increase in targeted marketing and public relations for the show.

ACTP Launches TiO Home Automation Brand

TiO is a new approach to home automation, one driven by an “outside in” philosophy that focuses on the customer experience, according to the company. TiO home automation solutions will provide professional integrators with an easy-to-install, elegant home automation solution that offers powerful features, maximum flexibility and a new pricing model that will allow home automation to reach a broad base of consumers.

“TiO is driven by our vision to provide homeowners with an experience that seamlessly captures their mood and provides them with comfort and peace of mind,” said Mike Anderson, president and CEO of ACTP. “TiO is unlike any other home automation system because it truly allows the customer to control how the system interacts with their daily life. We’ve designed the TiO system to be simple and intuitive enough for the consumer to perfectly match their moods and create satisfying and powerful experiences in their home. We want to deliver a solution that adapts to the customer instead of asking the customer to adapt to the system.”

TiO systems will run on Android-enabled devices, allowing users to better utilize the world’s most popular mobile platform. Each system will be easily configured by a professional integrator via the convenience of an Android tablet.

Eyes-on with Ninja Blocks 'home automation for hackers'

Ninja Blocks look a fair bit different than they used to, however -- the 3D-printed case has been traded up for something that looks a lot more like a final, saleable product. In fact, it looks a little like a router or an external hard drive, albeit one with color-changing ninja eyes. The company was also talking up the home automation possibilities of its platform a bit more than the straightforward sensor pitch. In a buzz phrase, the company is calling this "home automation for hackers."

Using the Ninja Rules app, you can turn lights and appliances on and off, get alerts for things like your wash and monitor your home, without writing code -- of course, knowing how helps. The whole platform is extremely open to users, and inside the case, you'll find a Beagle Bone and Arduino board, both accessible by pulling at the handy "Hack Me" tag that hangs on its side. The base system will run you $199. More information can be found in a video after the break.

Commercial Building Automation Market to Top $43 billion by 2018

After years of steady but low growth the commercial building automation systems (BAS) market is experiencing a rapid period of change and investment. Traditionally, growth and adoption has been closely tied to new building completion but new entrants and new connectivity are driving greater investment. Over the next five years the building automation services market will grow to $43 billion, up from $35 billion this year. 

Two key factors are driving a new round of growth. Greater environmental and financial demands have raised the appeal of reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings and the benefits for optimizing building automation systems. In addition, a new level of connectivity that stretches the reach of BAS's from new sensors and actuators through to cloud application management and data analysis. 

"This is a market long dominated by a handful of major players who deploy and manage commercial building management systems," says Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research. "Now these players are developing new ways to integrate and compete with a host of new service offerings." 

Just stick this portable outlet to your window to start using solar power

 

It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.

That was the whole point, according to the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh: “We tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training,” they write.

It is really simple. The portable socket attaches to a window like a leech to human skin. On its underside, it has solar panels:

The solar panels suck energy from the sun. The charger converts that energy into electricity. You plug in to the charger.

Even better, the charger stores that energy. After five to eight hours of charging, the socket provides 10 hours of use. You can pop it off the window, stick it in your bag, and use it to charge up your phone with solar energy, even if you’re sitting in a dark room.

 

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