Survey: 48 percent of utility executives believe the smart home will revolutionize the industry

Antenna, a public relations agency focused on energy and smart technology companies, today announced new survey results that found nearly half of surveyed utility executives believe the smart home will revolutionize the utility industry. This surging optimism for the smart home represents a departure from the industry's traditional skepticism of new technologies, while also putting the utility industry at odds with a more cautious view of the smart home currently held by consumers.

"Antenna's research confirms that many in the utility industry now believe in the transformative power of the smart home to remake the grid for the better," said Antenna Vice President Matt Stewart. "However, there's a clear disconnect between utility visions of roses and rainbows and their customers' more frustrating early-adopter experiences. Antenna is honored to work with dozens of innovative companies across energy and smart technology to help bridge this critical gap and move the energy market forward."   Full Press Release:

Google announces Google Home smart hub and upgraded Assistant voice engine

Ryan Whitwam for Extreme Tech:  Google has let Amazon basically own the connected home assistant market for the last year and a half with the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. Now, Google is leveraging its extensive natural language processing engine to launch Google Home, a connected hub that brings voice commands to your house. Google has also been working on making its system of voice commands more conversational, which it now calls Google Assistant.

Google has had voice search capabilities built into Android phones for years at this point. You can even trigger searches with the “OK Google” hotword. However, this is connected to your phone, which is a personal device with your own apps, settings, and data. A home assistant like the newly announced Google Home (and Amazon Echo) is intended to provide voice features to anyone in the family from anywhere in a room.  Cont'd...

Smart-home technology must work harder to create smarter consumers

Robert S. Marshall for TechCrunch:  Attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year were confronted with a head-spinning volume of smart-home devices. From $5,000 refrigerators that can communicate when you’re running low on milk and eggs, to the ability to control lights, locks and thermostats from your mobile app or TV screen, these products and technologies all show very nicely — until the point when consumers are left to calculate when their smart-home investments will translate into cost savings, energy efficiency and enhanced convenience.

Really smart companies and entrepreneurs have built impressive pieces of the smart-home puzzle, but these pieces have not been connected yet in a way that has, to date, empowered a smarter consumer.

Parks Associates home energy management data released in March 2016 show 70 percent of households with smart-energy devices report saving money due to reduced energy consumption. However, the research firm noted challenges for vendors selling smart-energy devices based on cost savings, as 83 percent of U.S. broadband households do not know the price they are paying for electricity.  Cont'd...

Home automation start-up iGloo to raise $7m and hit US after wowing Microsoft

Yolanda Redrup for Financial Review:  An Australian start-up that has developed an app to enable old household appliances to be upgraded for home automation systems, will expand to the US and raise $7 million after impressing executives at tech giant Microsoft. 

iGloo uses Bluetooth technology to enable home heating systems, lights, blinds and other appliances to be controlled by a mobile app. Its development has been buoyed by support from Microsoft after a local executive saw co-founders Kaye Priest and David Cowie presenting it at the Melbourne Home Show two years ago.

The business is now readying to raise $7 million in capital, $5 million of it from the United States, which it intends to get under way once it has established a US office this month.

"Microsoft invited us to their headquarters in Seattle last year and facilitated a meeting between us and the largest manufacturer of gas fires in the United States," Ms Priest told The Australian Financial Review.  Cont'd...

Bowers and Wilkins sells to a tiny home automation startup

Billy Steele for enGadget:  Bowers & Wilkins has been cranking out solid audio gear for the better part of three decades, but it's being acquired by a company that's only been around since 2014. Eva Automation, a Silicon Valley startup founded by former Facebook CFO (and San Francisco 49ers co-owner) Gideon Yu, is the new owner of the audio brand. Little is known about the company other than its 40-person staff has the somewhat vague mission of "making products that will change how people interact and think about the home." Although it has been around for two years, Eva Automation hasn't released any products yet.

The most obvious question is why a trusted name in audio would sell to such a young company. Well, Bowers & Wilkins CEO Joe Atkins hinted at a sale last year before talks with Eva began. Atkins also admitted that the company doesn't have the know-how to build audio gear that leverages the cloud, despite a range of devices that allow users to play music with features like AirPlay. We'll have to wait a while to see any new products, as Yu says the first new gear is planned for mid-2017. Perhaps Amazon's Echowill see some competition next summer.  Cont'd...

Logitech's Harmony app will let you control your smart home from your Android TV

Micah Singleton for The Verge:  Logitech wants you to be able to control your smart home from any device, including your TV. The company has released a version of its Harmony remote app for Android TVs. The app, which is in beta, is designed to work with Sony's Android TVs, but will also work with the Nexus Player.

If your smart home is controlled via a Logitech Harmony Hub, you can control just about everything including your lights, thermostat, blinds, and home entertainment system through a nice tile layout straight from your TV. You can download the Harmony for TV app from the Play Store today. And if you don't own a Sony TV and would still like to use the app, Android Police has an APK that can help with that.

Teaako raises $1.8M for smart-home light switches

Taylor Soper for GeekWire:  Seattle-based Deako has raised $1.8 million to help fuel growth of its smart-home light switch product.
The 15-person company raised the fresh cash from a mix of angel investors and micro-VCs, and has reeled in $3.3 million to date. It develops simple switches that let people control lights in their house by either touch or a smartphone app.

Deako’s customers are not home-buyers but rather home-builders and their electricians, who install the product in new homes.

“It’s difficult for people to swap out their existing bulbs,” Deako CEO and co-founder Derek Richardson told GeekWire. “We thought it would be best if a home or apartment already has our product when they move in. Our vision is that everyone should be able to benefit from a smart-home, and the best way to do that is for products to be pre-installed when you move in.”  

Richardson said the idea to launch Deako about one year ago came about after he bought a new house and needed to swap out the light switches. He did research around in-home smart lighting and “everything was ugly, expensive, and complicated.”  Cont'd...

John Lewis launches smart home department

Ecommerce News:  The Internet of Things is wildly popular among consumers. UK department store chain John Lewis has now launched a new smart home department to showcase all kinds of gadgets that should make the consumer’s life at home more convenient.

John Lewis launched a 93 square meter department dedicated to gadgets, such as an oven that can be turned on from the office or a bedside device that measures the quality of sleep. According to the department store chain, it’s the largest fixed retail offering dedicated to smart home technology in the UK.  

John Lewis decided to open the new department after an 81 percent increase in sales of smart home products in the past year at the British store. Also, 18 times more people searched its website for smart home products in 2015, compared to the previous year.  Cont'd...

Amazon Lead The Home Automation Market By Selling 3 Million Echo Devices

By: John Dewey for TechNewsToday:  Amazon has been making huge strides ever since it launched the popular speaker, Echo. A market research firm, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), revealed yesterday that the e-commerce giant has sold almost 3 million Echo speakers since its launch, as reported by GeekWire.

The online retail giant launched Amazon Echo in 2014. The company initially launched the device on an invite-only basis but it was made available for the general public in June 2015. In addition, the sales of the device slowly increased as the word spread out among consumers about its abilities such as it can control the lights or thermostat of any connected house.

According to CIRP, the awareness about the device among customers has doubled in the last year. Moreover, the market research firm based its conclusions on the survey of 2000 consumers in the US who bought the Echo via the company’s website.  Cont'd...

Yonomi CEO on why smart home hubs will be obsolete

Lily Prasuethsut for Wareable:  The Internet of Things is a burgeoning industry that seemed like it was going to take off several years ago, but the hubbub has since died. That doesn't mean the interest is gone though - rather no one really knows what to do with all their smart devices. 

Take for example, Apple HomeKit or Nest, or Samsung's SmartThings platforms. They're all ready and available - but not quite. Most products still require you to download third party apps just to connect to HomeKit in order to use Siri.

Essential reading: Follow Our quest to build the ultimate smart home

Physical hubs are available but that means you'll need yet another piece of hardware in your already crowded smart home. Essentially, there's no glue holding these products together - at least not one that's good enough to overcome the saturated market.

That's where Yonomi comes in. The app wants to quiet the smart home static by bringing in one simple system so all of your gadgets have their own place to call home. We spoke with Yonomi co-founder and CEO Kent Dickson to figure out why there's no solid platform, and learned how the company plans on changing the smart home space.  Cont'd...

The Mess at Nest Echoes the Mess in the Smart Home

Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  In January 2014, Google (now under the parent umbrella corporation Alphabet) said it would purchase Nest for $3.2 billion, which validated the hopes and dreams of hundreds of startups that were also building connected products for the consumer home.

After the deal was announced, the VC world went mad searching for investments, while larger companies searched for potential acquisition targets. At industry events that year, everyone I ran into with a connected product or a KickStarter was in talks to sell out or score more funds.

But two years later, the reality has set in as entrepreneurs in the space are dealing with a skeptical customer base and the challenges of seeing their grand vision for a connected home get mired in rival standards. Meanwhile, economic concerns are leading tech companies to prepare for everything from a nuclear winter to a mild recession.  Cont'd...

Why The Amazon Echo Is The iPhone Of The Smart Home

Michael Wolf for Forbes:  If you’re like me, remembering how different using a mobile phone was back in 2006 is getting increasingly difficult. That’s because today we live in a world so completely transformed by the iPhone, it seems as if it’s always been that way.

But looking back, things were indeed very different. If you used a smartphone at all back then (something the vast majority of consumers did not), chances are it was a Blackberry. If you tried to use the Internet on your phone, you might remember the “mobile Internet” experience, such as it was, was pretty horrible. Most consumers at the time still used basic feature phones, and industry analysts predicted that smartphone adoption would grow, but not at nearly the eye-popping rate we would soon see in the age of the iPhone.

As we now know, the transformative nature of the iPhone quickly changed nearly every assumption we had about mobile phones and, as a result, had a ripple effect that resulted in nearly every company in mobile (and pretty much every industry) changing their own approach to the market.

In many ways, I think the the Amazon Echo is an equally transformative product for the smart home. Whether it’s how early Echo owners are interacting with their device or its how Amazon itself is rewriting the rules of competition,  the two products share a number of industry-disrupting similarities.  Cont'd...

Home security 101: Local vs. cloud camera storage

Megan Wollerton for CNET:  Cameras are a key component of home security, acting as your eyes and ears when you aren't home. While there are a ton of different models available on the market today with a ton of different features, one piece of this buying decision is pretty universal regardless of your other camera must-haves: video storage. But there are two main types of video storage to choose from -- local and cloud -- and they're very, very different.

Not only will selecting between local and cloud storage help you narrow down your options fast, it will also help you set your priorities for your broader security system and smart home preferences down the road.

Local storage:  As the name suggests, this type of video storage saves your clips and other footage locally. Compatible cameras have microSD card slots that can generally handle anywhere from 16GB to 128GB cards. Sometimes, a microSD card is included with your camera purchase; other times, you're expected to buy your own.  Full Article:

These Lego-Like Batteries Plug In To Store Solar Power At Home

Adele Peters for Co-Exist:  Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician.

The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together.

"Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved.

With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together.

For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated.  Cont'd...

Amazon just made another really smart home product

Tim Stenovec for Business Insider:  There are plenty of dumb uses of "smart" technology.Toothbrushes, slow-cookers, anddog collars are just a few, to say nothing of far more expensive products like fridges.

But on Monday, Amazon actually released a "smart" product that is incredibly useful: a $45 water pitcher from the king of water filtration products.

If you've ever owned a Brita pitcher filtration system, which filters tap water, then you may know where this is going. 

The water filter monitors how much water has been filtered, and will automatically order a new filter when it gets close to the time you should replace it. By the time the filters is used up, a new filter will already be shipped to you.

But the genius here is that apart from the initial setup, you don't actually have to do anything. Ever!  Cont'd...

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