5 open source home automation tools

Jason Baker for OpenSource.com - The Internet of Things isn't just a buzzword, it's a rapidly expanding reality.

With an ever-expanding number of devices available to help you automate, protect, and monitor your home, it has never before been easier nor more tempting to try your hand at home automation. Whether you're looking to control your HVAC system remotely, integrate a home theater, protect your home from theft, fire, or other threats, reduce your energy usage, or just control a few lights, there are countless devices available at your disposal.

But at the same time, many users worry about the security and privacy implications of bringing new devices into their homes. They want to control who has access to the vital systems which control their appliances and record every moment of their everyday lives. And understandably: In an era when even your refrigerator could now be a smart device, don't you want to know if you fridge is phoning home? Wouldn't you want some basic assurance that, even if you do give a device permission to communicate externally, that it is only accessible to those who are explicitly authorized?  Cont'd...

Report: Google builds an Amazon Echo alternative while Nest turns to security

Jared Newman for TechHive:  Google and Nest reportedly have a bunch of new smart home products in the works, but there may not be much collaboration happening between the two Alphabet subsidiaries.

On the Google side, the search giant may be working on a competitor to Amazon’s Echo connected speaker, according to The Information (via The Verge). The story reveals no details about the product, but it seems like an obvious fit for Google, which has already made voice controls a centerpiece of its Android Wear smartwatch platform. A device that answers Internet queries and controls other smart home products could very well tie into Google’s broader efforts to create a new platform for the Internet of Things.

Earlier this month, Recode reported that Nest had explored its own Echo-like product. But Nest ultimately abandoned the plans, partly out of concerns that an always-listening virtual assistant with ties to Google might freak people out. The Information now reports that Nest wanted to be involved with Google’s connected-speaker efforts, but was rebuffed.

Where does that leave Nest? The company may now be turning its attention to home security, with three projects in development. Cont'd...

URC to Launch HomeSet at ISC 2016, Targeting Security Dealers with Home Automation

From CEPro:  Popular provider of custom-oriented audio, video and smart home technology, URC will launch new system at ISC West 2016 ‘specifically for the home security channel.' Is Vera by MiOS the new partner?

URC is a longtime provider of universal remote controls for the masses, and in the past decade has become a major force in the custom home automation market. But the company’s audio, video and smart-home control systems have been marketed almost exclusively to A/V and automation specialists.

That’s about to change at ISC West 2016 next month, when the company will introduce HomeSet, “an exciting product line specifically for the home security channel,” according to URC’s exhibitor profile.

The description reads in full:  URC, leader in smart home automation, introduces the HomeSet control system. Leveraging a rich heritage in control technology, URC has developed this exciting product line specifically for the home security channel. It’s complete and provides the conveniences your customers demand including integration with Sonos and Nest products.  Full article:

Got an old phone? Make it into a home security camera.

Valentina Palladino for Ars Technica:  Smart security cameras are one of the easiest ways to start transforming your normal home into a connected home. Everyone knows about Alphabet's Nest cam, but there are plenty of other cameras to consider from companies including Samsung, D-Link, and Canary. However, you don't have to drop $200 on a bulbous eye-looking camera if you don't want to—there are apps for that. Numerous Android and iOS apps claim to use your old smartphone's cameras to replicate the features of these dedicated cams, letting you check in from your current smartphone whenever you want.

These security apps have nearly the same features as regular smart cameras but are free to download and require no extra hardware. Even older phones are powerful enough to be repurposed. That doesn't mean the apps are quite as good as purpose-built security cameras, though. We looked into the differences between home security cameras and their smartphone equivalents (specifically the apps Manything and Alfred) to see if one method of monitoring your home is better than the other.  Cont'd...

Qolsys Security and Smarthome Platform Approved for Alarm Capital Alliance Dealer Program

Qolsys, provider of best-in-class residential security and smarthome solutions, announced today that its home security and smart home platform has been approved for distribution in the Alarm Capital Alliance (ACA) Dealer Program. This approval allows ACA dealers to offer the most advanced technology to their customers and expands the reach of the Qolsys IQ Panel platform into new residential markets. 
"We've been very impressed with the advanced technology and continuous innovations that Qolsys has brought to the home security industry," said Amy Kothari, President and CEO of ACA. "After offering the IQ Panel solution in a few of our 'My Alarm Center' branches for more than a year, we've been able to deliver attractive features while achieving increased RMR and customer satisfaction. We are pleased to roll this out to our dealer network."   Full Press Release:
 

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:

How Do You Sell Lots Of Smart Home Gear? Scare Off A Burglar, Natch

Michael Wolf  for Forbes:  Being a startup in the smart home industry can be tough. Not only is there lots of competition, but usually you have to spend lots of time and money educating the consumer about what your product does.

Smart home gear tailored towards home security has it a little easier, since most consumers understand that security keeps bad guys away. But when your product is a sub-$100 device with no 24/7 monitoring like the big boys, you then have to spend much of your time creating a compelling message that your low-cost gear can do the job.

This was the challenge faced by Korner, a Seattle startup that makes a patented, ultra-low-cost security sensor. The device, which comes in packs of three for $98, can be stuck on any window or door and sounds an alarm when it senses movement. This sounds great but, if you’re like me, you wonder if putting your safety and security in the hands of such a low cost system is a good idea.  Cont'd...

Mobile World Congress 2016 is underway!

Despite a slow start due to the transportation strike, MWC is quite abuzz. We’ve already seen exciting product announcements, the opening keynote, and some great demonstrations in every hall. Mobile World Congress, or MWC, is an annual gathering for the mobile industry and related industries, organised by the GSMA, and held in Barcelona, Spain, the Mobile World Capital.

MWC offers a world-class exhibition, award-winning conference programme, and outstanding networking opportunities. With 94,000+ attendees, MWC offers the  opportunity to do more business in four days than in a month’s worth of meetings or in a year’s worth of travel, because everyone who is part of the industry is in Barcelona for MWC.

In short: if you’re in mobile, or an industry that supports mobile, or are looking to make contacts in the mobile industry, you simply have to attend MWC in 2016.  Check out the MWC Blog for updates.

Sigma Designs Announces Break-Through Z-Wave® UL Component Recognition

Sigma Designs, Inc.®, a leading provider of intelligent system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for Smart TV and Internet of Things (IoT) for Smart Home, today announced their Z-Wave modules models ZM5101, ZM5202, and ZM5304 with protocol SDK version 6.60 have been evaluated to UL's standards for home security, enabling new applications for professional security sensors and other devices in the multi-billion dollar home security business in the US. 

Professional security sensors such as door and window and motion sensors make up the majority of security devices in the home, which are estimated to represent installation of about 20 million units per year. These devices typically utilize non-standard one-way radios operating at 300/400 MHz frequencies. Since these devices use one-way communication, their effective security and reliability can be compromised. The number one problem faced by security companies is false alarms, which represent more than 50% of the service calls they receive, creating a substantial cost impact. One-way sensors simply cannot evaluate a false alarm. Since Z-Wave is a true two-way network technology, it can identify the actual sensors and be requested to re-check conditions multiple times to reduce these false alarms. Migrating to state-of-the-art two-way sensors will improve the overall security and reliability of security systems and will also represent a substantial competitive advantage for Z-Wave.  Full Press Release:

Bluetooth Gateway Smart Starter Kit navigates home automation

Alun Williams for ElectronicsWeekly.com:  Low-power Bluetooth comms are a well-established known entity, but with the increasingly prevalence of all things IoT, are you aware of how to interface them to the Internet, Web and Clouds? It can be done in various ways and the Bluetooth SIG is aiming to simplify or clarify the path with itsGateway Smart Starter Kit.

This is the boast:  This kit shows you how to move data from all of your Bluetooth sensors into the cloud without a mobile device while giving you the ability to control all of them from one place.

The guide shows how to connect Bluetooth devices or sensors to the web using Bluetooth GAP/GATT RESTful APIs, using a Bluetooth gateway on a Raspberry Pi board. Further, it shows how to communicate and control these devices from the Web.  Cont'd...

U.S. Intelligence Head Suggests Agents Might Use Smart Home Tech for Spying

Patrick Sisson for Curbed:  The Internet of Things and smart home technology promise a more wired, intelligent, and—as product designers suggest—responsive environment. But, according to a Guardian story, those internet-connected appliances may also provide information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In testimony to the Senate yesterday on threats facing the nation, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers that agents might take advantage of this new generation of home technology.

"In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials," he was quoted as saying.

Many security experts have warned about the potential security implications of the Internet of Things and smart home devices, but Clapper's statement was one of the most direct by the leader of an intelligence agency.  Cont'd...

1.4 Million App Developers Are Building For The Smart Home

David Bolton for ConnectedWorld:  App developers who are already invested in the Internet of Things are more likely to build apps for the smart home over other usages.

A recent report by VisionMobile [PDF] said that out of the 4.5 million people identified as IoT developers in 2015, 1.4 million were focused on smart home apps. According to VisionMobile’s IoT Megatrends 2016 report, there are seven distinct IoT areas that app developers work in—smart home, retail, industrial, wearables, smart city, medical and connected car—with the opportunities offered by connected homes a clear favorite.

Retail IoT apps, wearables and industrial versions attract around one million app developers each, while the connected car is of interest to 700,000 people. People have become used to the concept of IoT and recent research by Gartner said that there could be as many as 700 million smart homes by 2020. Cont'd...

What it's like to spend a year with an app-powered security camera

Alex Heath for TechInsider:  For about a year I've been using Canary's all-in-one home security system to monitor my apartment. I live in New York City, and it's already saved me from a possible rat infestation.

Canary bills itself as an all-in-one home security system for $200 and no required monthly fees. The New York startup's sleek, cylindrical piece of hardware features a 1080p video camera with infrared night vision and a motion detector. It also has a (quite loud) siren and the ability to detect the room temperature and air humidity.

Where Canary really shines is its mobile app, which lets you look through the device's camera from anywhere via your home internet connection. You can't pan or zoom as you watch, but the camera's wide-angle lens should capture most of any room you place it in.  Cont'd...

The Next Stop in Home Security: A Lightbulb With a Memory

EVA RECINOS for PSFK:  Smart technology in the home can make things more convenient—but it can also make homes safer. ComfyLight hopes to make use of this potential, creating a lightbulb that discourages burglars .

The wireless lightbulb screws on like a regular bulb. It syncs with an app on user’s phone and begins keeping track of regular movements. When a user walks into a room, the system automatically switches lights on and then turns them off when the user leaves.

As co-founder Stefanie Turber explains on ComfyLight’s Kickstarter video, the lighting system “acts like you’re home by turning the light on and off and it recognizes unexpected movements at your place.”

Once a user leaves his-her home and activates security mode, ComfyLight simulates the user’s patterns of movement and switches lights on and off to mirror them. While away from home, users can keep track of activity through an app on your phone—and see if ComfyLight detected something unusual.  Cont'd...

Control4 Rolls Out New Line of Smart Home Solutions Starting at $600 MSRP

 Control4 Corporation, a leading global provider of smart home solutions, today announces and ships its EA Series, a new line of entertainment and automation controllers, which represents the next generation platform for smart home innovation, featuring high-resolution audio, high-performance automation, and Control4's broad interoperability. 
With three separate models, the Control4 EA Series is designed and priced to deliver exceptional automation power, reliability, and high-impact entertainment experiences for any single-room or whole-home project. The new line is powered by the Control4 Operating System which manages entertainment sources from hundreds of the world's leading brands, streams popular music services, and controls and automates lighting, security systems, thermostats, door locks, cameras, and more, all with a single remote or app.   Full Press Release:
 

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