Crowdfunding has been a boon for connected home technology gadgets. Canary was quite the hit on IndieGoGo, exceeding its $100,000 goal by about 1,860,000 to fund its development. Now, the $199 box is almost ready to start protecting homes around the world. Canary is a sensor you can place anywhere in the room that combines video, heat, humidity, and motion-sensing capabilities into one box that’s connected to your home network. An app on your smartphone or tablet alerts you to changes in your home. One of the big advantages of Canary is that the device learns habits, such as your comings and goings. Automatically adjusting for times it knows you’re not at home, it won’t set off the alarm for that 2AM baby feeding like it would if it was 2PM and everyone is at school or work. In all cases, Canary sings only to you, no fire departments called or some guy from the alarm company calling when you leave the water boiling too long on the stove. The wide-angle lens in Canary also features IR night vision, and the video can be streamed to anywhere you are for total piece of mind. So if you get an alert and are worried your house is on fire, just check the security feed to see the true state of your home. At $199 per unit, Canary is great for people without a lot of area to cover, like an apartment. Those looking to cover a large house with dozens of rooms might want to build up a system slowly to spread the cost out over time.
Apple investors and Netflix fans better start writing to their elected officials in Washington to oppose Comcast's $45 billion acquisition offer for rival Time Warner Cable. The reason? If the giant cable merger announced today is approved by regulators without any conditions to protect consumers, the deal will be a disaster both for users who want access to low-cost, Web-based entertainment and for the companies that want to deliver it. The acquisition could put a major hurt on Apple CEO Tim Cook and the company's shareholders, who've been hoping for more than a year that a digital entertainment device might help revive the company's fading revenue growth. The Comcast offer came amid reports this week that Apple was once again negotiating with Time Warner to license movies and TV programs for the long-rumored Apple TV platform. Without that type of premium content, any future Apple device will likely be a poorly-selling box that consumers can't watch much with. But in the wake of the Comcast's announcement, any leverage Apple may have gained in those talks by playing America's two largest cable rivals against each other has evaporated. It's as if Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has told the Apple CEO, "Here's what I think of your latest proposal to Time Warner, Mr. Cook!" Roberts is no fool. He and others in the cable industry have seen how Apple's iTunes store has eviscerated the profit margins of the music business.
Intel dropped a Google-sized rock in the digital signage pond in the middle of today's opening keynote at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. Intel's Jose Avalos, the company's director of digital signage, embedded and communications group, announced that, on the heels of the release of Google's Chromeboxes last week, the search engine and Internet services behemoth would be turning at least some of its focus to digital signage. The Chromeboxes could become very inexpensive digital signage media players, and the Chrome platform itself could make the back end cheaper as well, Google's Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Chrome for business and education, told Digital Signage Today in an interview following the keynote. "So really what it is is the Chrome platform and a few things that we're doing with the Chrome platform," Sheth said. "First is to make the hardware itself lower and lower cost and affordable — for example the new Chromebox we released with ASUS last week is only $179, and it's coming down and down and down in price — but then the bigger thing is, even if the hardware is low cost, it's very tough to maintain this kind of a distributed network of hardware, and that's what we really make possible with the Chrome platform."
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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