Why Home Automation Systems are at the Forefront of Energy Savings

Intelligent building efficiency is not just relegated to offices. As energy prices rise and incomes are squeezed, home automation systems will become a more enticing investment as their efficiency improves and costs decline due to innovation and scale. And, consumers will start paying attention: currently the average household pays over $100 a month for electricity according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Half of those costs are to keep the motor and compressors in operation in air conditioners and heaters. So if smarter systems are going to save consumers money, the work must start with the machines that cool us during summer and keep us warm during the frigid winter months.

And if consumers had the ability to control their home’s climate control systems remotely from a smartphone or a web application from a remote location, they could save money without sacrificing convenience and comfort. In my interview earlier this month with Emerson’s VP of Marketing at Emerson Climate Services, he shared with me some of the challenges, future benefits and upcoming trends in the home automation technologies market.

“We’re data hungry–we want it at our fingertips. At the same time, when it comes to our comfort and convenience, we want it easily and quickly with no distractions.” — Geoff Godwin describing the role of data in the development of cutting-edge home automation systems.

Currently less than two percent of homes in the United States have some form of home automation or smart grid system, but Godwin sees huge growth in the next four to five years. Communications protocols such as Zigbee have improved in their sophistication to match the growing complexity of HVAC and water heating systems that consume less energy than ones manufactured just a few years ago.

 

44% of U.S. broadband households interested in troubleshooting features for connected appliances

Parks Associates research shows consumers value connectivity in appliances as a means to protect their investment, with 44% of U.S. broadband households highly interested in smart troubleshooting features. The international research firm, host of the 17th-annual CONNECTIONS™ Conference, announced today Honeywell, Qualcomm, AlertMe, and Arrayent will discuss connected-home strategies in a special session that examines consumer and market trends driving creation of the "Internet of Things."

The session "Integrating Connected Home Platforms with Connected Devices," Tuesday, May 21, 11 a.m., moderated by Parks Associates, addresses new features and functionality created as companies add connectivity to controls, energy, security, and home management solutions.


"Internet-enabled devices are common in the home, so companies are developing connected-home strategies, creating scalable platforms that ultimately will enable the Internet of Things, where objects in the real world have an accompanying virtual object in the cloud," said Tom Kerber, director, research, home controls and energy, Parks Associates. "Understanding what offerings consumers want and will pay for is a fundamental issue to help grow this market. This session focuses on new products and services, consumer demand, and the key value propositions that prompt adoption." 

Sigma Designs updates Z-Wave SoC Portfolio for Affordable Home Automation

Sigma Designs is known for its video decoder chipsets, but they have been trying to transform into a one-stop shop for 'powering the new digital home' by making some strategic acquisitions. One of these was the 2008 purchase of the Danish company, Zensys, responsible for creating the Z-Wave home control technology.

Sigma Designs is announcing the fifth generation of Z-Wave SoCs today. The cost of the SoCs has gone down compared to the previous generation. Sigma claims improved RF performance and lower power consumption compared to previous generation products. Platform developers now also have more memory in the SoCs to work with. With this generation, the company is taking extra steps to ensure better returns for their customers. by providing customizable reference designs and enabling faster time-to-market for end products. A feature-heavy middleware stack is also being supplied.

Android invades the home: Can we get some Android home automation?

Smartphones really are the ultimate convergence devices. People no longer question whether they’ll replace cameras, digital audio players, portable TVs, handheld gaming consoles, or Sat Navs. The question now is – how many more things can they replace? Once you reach the stage where you’ve outlaid big cash for a seriously powerful pocket computer, it just makes sense to keep adding more potential uses. That has been the foundation of the app explosion. It is what has made smartphones the fastest selling tech in human history.

There’s one exciting frontier that Android has yet to really penetrate and that’s home automation. If you cast your mind back to Google I/O in 2011 you might remember Android@home and some talk about the mesh network. Sadly, an affordable Android home automation system did not immediately hit the market. In fact, we heard nothing more about it. Before you get too despondent, it looks like references to Google messing with a mesh network and Android@home have been spotted in version 4.2.2 of Android. Fingers crossed we might get some kind of exciting announcement at Google I/O in May. Full Article.

Bryston Unveils Complete Loudspeaker Lineup

Bryston, LTD (www.bryston.com) has announced the introduction of a complete line of high performance loudspeakers engineered for both music and home theater applications. The line will consist of eight models including the floorstanding Model T, Middle T and mini t along with a powered subwoofer called the T sub, two center channel offerings, an in-wall and an on-wall loudspeaker. Bryston's James Tanner has led the design initiative for the loudspeaker project, developing proprietary drivers, crossovers and enclosures while spearheading a rigorous testing regimen.

The Bryston loudspeakers were born from the challenge to construct a reference quality loudspeaker that could reproduce real world dynamics while minimizing distortion and compression. The engineering team at Bryston has devoted countless hours to innovative driver design, enclosure vibration analysis, crossover refinement, anechoic chamber measurements, and blind listening tests. The first model to reach completion, the Bryston Model T, was subjected to over 200 separate anechoic measurements during the design phase to ensure the highest level of accuracy and refinement. Bryston loudspeakers have also been engineered to reproduce the most difficult dynamic transients-to play very loud passages of music or movie soundtrack information without the distortion common to competitive products. "I think we met with a degree of skepticism when we first announced the loudspeaker project-and rightfully so. There are a lot of speaker companies already in the marketplace," reported Bryston's James Tanner. "But we set out to create an affordable reference quality loudspeaker and went to great lengths to achieve an end result that separates us from the competition-we are confident that these products will be quite well received," Tanner concluded. 

Why graphene speakers could become the audio industry's new gold standard

We’ve heard a lot about graphene being a “wonder material” that could be used for smartphone casings and antennas, but now it seems that some engineers have found a way to incorporate it into audio speakers and headphones as well. Technology Review reports that University of California Berkeley researchers Qin Zhou and Alex Zettl have found that graphene is the perfect material for constructing speaker diaphragms, which typically work best when made from a thin material that reduces the need to conduct expensive and energy-consuming “damping engineering.”

But given that most thin materials are also fragile, crafting a perfectly balanced speaker diaphragm can become challenging. This is where graphene comes in: It’s a two-dimensional material that measures just one atom thick and has been described by Nokia (NOK) as the “strongest material ever tested, having a breaking strength 300 times greater than steel.” In other words, it’s dream come true for audio engineers who are trying to construct the world’s best speakers and headsets.

CASATUNES LAUNCHES LINE OF MULTI-ROOM MUSIC SERVERS

CasaTunes®, the leader in streaming multi-room music solutions, today announced a line of CasaTunes Multi-Room Music Servers with seamless integration of popular multi-zone AV Receivers. The CasaTunes Music Servers start at 3 wired rooms and 5 wireless rooms and support up to 24 wired rooms with 10 wireless rooms.

"Our new CasaTunes Music Systems scale, both in terms of performance and cost, matching the needs of smaller homes as well as larger homes," said David Krinker, CEO of CasaTunes. "Our CasaTunes systems provide installers great flexibility, allowing them to install a wired-only solution, a wireless-only solution, or a hybrid wired and wireless solution. The Multi-Zone AV Receiver integration adds even more flexibility, allowing homeowners to leverage their current technology to power CasaTunes music servers throughout the house."

CasaTunes Music Systems distribute streaming music to a combination of wireless and wired speakers through Airplay speakers and devices, multi-channel amplifiers and multi-zone AV Receivers. Homeowners can listen to a different playlist in each room and all speakers are continuously synchronized without any echoes. To control music and audio programming by room, homeowners use the CasaTunes Smartphone (iPhone or Android) and tablet (iPad or Android) Apps, a web browser or keypads.  Full Press Release.

The Ube WiFi Smart Dimmer Will Control Your Lights And Your Sprinkler System As Well

For most of us, entering the house and turning on the lights involves a flick of a switch. Turning on another light is another switch, the fan, the air-con and so on. However with home automation starting to catch on, we wouldn’t be surprised if one day the majority of us lived in homes where our gestures could control more than one gadget from a single switch, and that’s what the Ube WiFi Smart Dimmer is hoping to accomplish. Making an appearance at SXSW, its creators have announced an upgraded version of its Smart Dimmer that will be able to control other smart devices at home.

As it stands, the Smart Dimmer does exactly as its name implies, which is adjust the lighting in your home by swiping on the touchpad. A single swipe turns your lights on/off, while using two fingers will adjust multiple lights. Now no longer content with merely adjusting the lighting in homes, the updated version of the Smart Dimmer will be able to control other smart devices, such as a smart water sprinkler simply by swiping the letter “W”, or enabling/disabling your home alarm by tracing the letter “A” on its surface. No word on when this updated version will be released, but for those interested in its current iteration can head on over to its Kickstarter page for the details.

 

Home Automation - Top cable technologies in 2013

Several major pay TV distributors are stepping up efforts to market home security and automation services to subscribers this year, offering subscribers the ability to monitor their homes with security cameras, and control lighting and thermostats.

Comcast charges subscribers $39.95 monthly for its Xfinity Home service, while Time Warner Cable's Intelligent Home service costs $33.95 monthly. Verizon has undercut its cable rivals with its Home Monitoring and Control service, which costs $9.99 monthly. AT&T hasn't yet detailed the pricing for its AT&T Digital Life product--a wireless service that it plans to launch in March.

For MSOs such as Comcast, supplying subscribers with gadgets such as outdoor night vision cameras, flood sensors and carbon monoxide detectors can help drive increased broadband revenue. Look for cable operators and other telecom providers to eventually add remote healthcare products to their home automation services. Amdocs, which supplies a billing system to Comcast and other telecom providers, has been pitching service providers a cloud-based eHealth Solutions product that could allow operators to supply subscribers with glucose monitors, blood pressure readers, pill dispensers and scales.

More from Fierce Cable article: Top 10 Cable Technologies of 2013

3DTV is Not Dead, It's Just Facing Reality Beyond the Hype

Contrary to what many at the press have been preaching since 3DTV was introduced in 2010, 3D is still alive and active in the industry, and many consumers still want to experience 3D at home.

What it should be dead is the approach of inflated advertising and improper reporting of 3DTV as a whole new television set or system that replaces what you have, although it appears that the market and the industry have finally adapted to the idea of considering 3D as what it should have been considered since day one: just a “feature”, one more feature of a good HDTV, to seldom enjoy a 3D movie or sport, then, when the 3D program is over, continue with everyday’s HD viewing. For this reason it is a must to have 3D transmissions backward compatible with HDTV transmissions.

As expected, CES 2013 showed many demonstrations of Ultra HDTV LED and OLED (even in Ultra HDTV resolution, such as Sony’s and Panasonic’s 56” OLED Ultra HDTV prototypes), and there were also 3D demos of the same Ultra HDTV and OLED panels, not to mention the huge 3D wall at the entrance of LG’s booth. Additionally, Stream TV Networks, Hisense, Toshiba and others demo their 1080p and Ultra HDTV auto-stereoscopic (no-glasses) 3D panels as well.  Full Article.

Is Home Automation the Next UX Frontier?

If there is one thing that UX and UI designers should take away from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, it is that the next big thing is home automation, and we better be ready for it.

From dishwashers with digital interfaces to smartphone apps that can manage an entire home heating and cooling system, this shift in home appliances means that these new digital interfaces will need just as much TLC as a new web app.

These transitions present some incredible opportunities but also plenty of challenges. The team at ÄKTA sat down to discuss the matter. Here are both the opportunities and the challenges that will come with home automation.

Breakdown of Current Silos

We imagine that this shift will create a breakdown of silos. We will no longer see "product design" and "digital UX” as two different pieces of the building process. Rather, we will start to focus on a more holistic user experience that covers everything from the physical product to the digital interface.

Because of this breakdown, cross-system and cross-platform areas of expertise will become invaluable. Take for example a smart washer by LG that we spotted at CES 2013. A repairperson brought in to fix this machine will now need to know how to fix network systems in addition to plumbing systems.

Full Interview:

Best Buy Reports $377 Million Net Loss in Q4, Schulze Makes No Buyout Offer

It is unfortunately safe to say that Best Buy has seen better days. Announcing their plan to let go of 400 employees from their headquarters on Tuesday, the big blue electronics supplier released another bit of bad news on Friday — their earnings for the 2012 fourth quarter.

According to an official release, Best Buy announced a net loss of $377 million on revenues of $16.7 billion in Q4, against an analyst expectation of $16.29 billion. CEO Hubert Joly commented on the profit decrease, stating that domestic sales offset the company’s failures overseas. However, cutting expenses with job cuts helped to narrow the Q4 losses towards the end of the quarter.

Its loss totaled something like $409 million or $1.21 per BBT share for three months before February, compared to a loss o $1.82 billion or $5.17 per share the year prior.

Digital Signage Expo 2013 underway this week in Las Vegas

HomeToys has partnered with DSE 2013 again this year and is providing a Specail Newspage devoted to news and announcements from this years event. Click here for the DSE 2013 HomeToys Newspage.

Digital Signage Expo is the world’s largest international tradeshow dedicated to interactive display technology, digital
signage, and digital out-of-home networks.  It’s a great way to discover technology that will draw attention to your business, increase sales, generate buzz, help save on overhead, and improve interactions with your customers.

SAVANT® Introduces WiFi Enabled Digital Thermostat

Savant Systems, LLC has announced the availability of the Savant Wireless Thermostat, SST-W100. The SST-W100 is a WiFi enabled digital thermostat designed to control Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems within any residential or commercial setting and integrate seamlessly into a Savant-controlled environment. The SST-W100 is a versatile thermostat for one and two stage control of forced air, radiant, heat pump and HVAC systems.

The Savant SST-W100, requiring only standard thermostat wiring at its mounting location, is ideal for retrofit installations thanks to its wireless communication to Savant's SmartSystem controllers. The SST-W100 provides access to temperature adjustments from anywhere in the home or from a remote location using any Savant interface. Multiple Savant thermostats may be networked over an existing WiFi network, enabling temperature and humidity adjustment from any SST-W100 in the home. Energy conservation is achieved by programming the HVAC system (using the HVAC Scheduler within the Savant TrueControl™ iPad® app) to automatically respond based upon outside temperature, season or time of day.

Android home automation appears in 4.2.2 update

Android's long-rumoured home automation capabilities may have been revealed in the inner workings of the latest 4.2.2 update.

The system configuration files within the update mention both mesh networking and Android@home, both of which in theory relate to home automation and Android.

Android@home was shown by Google more than two years ago and then disappeared almost instantly into the ether. Since then, Google hasn't mentioned it once. So could it be coming back?

Home automation is gradually becoming a bigger deal. CES this year had gadgets such as Belkin's iOS-controlled WeMo range of light switches and connected home gadgetry. Android integrating this kind of home automation directly into the OS makes sense.

The Android Open Accessory API also exists and is able to put hardware and applications together, provided there is an Android smartphone somewhere in between.

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Automation & Control - Featured Product

Advanced UPB Lighting Packages from Simply Automated

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