Amazon reportedly exploring wearables and home automation

Amazon.com Inc will boost staffing at its secretive Silicon Valley-based hardware unit by at least 27 percent over the next five years as it tests Internet-connected "smart" home gadgets such as a one-button device to order supplies. This expansion comes as Lab126 tests connected-home devices that could open up a new front in its war against Goog l e  Inc and App le Inc , two people familiar with Lab126's activities said recently. The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Technology companies see Internet-connected dishwashers, thermostats and other household devices that can "talk" to one another as ways to fuel demand for products and services. But skeptics say many of these devices cost too much for most consumers and could take years to go mainstream. Amazon is testing a simple wi-fi device that could be placed in the kitchen or a closet, allowing customers to order products like detergent by pressing a button, one of the people said. Lab126 is also interested in wearable devices, the other person said. Both sources stressed that such devices may never come to market.  

Wink announces Relay, touchscreen display and control pad for the connected home

Wink, the company that connects you with all of the smart products in your home, today announced Relay. Replacing a light switch, Relay conveniently controls and monitors your connected home from one central location. Relay brings all of the convenience of your smart home to your wall, so that you can keep your phone in your pocket. This Wi-Fi-connected control pad acts as a command center by interacting with more than 100 products from 15 trusted brands that already work with Wink. Relay is available today for presale on Amazon for $300.00.    "Done right, the smart home connects you to what you want, when you need it...bringing conveniences of safety, security, and automation. That doesn't mean you should have to see your work email when you lock your door," says Brett Worthington, VP/GM of Wink. "Relay allows you to have control of your home without having to look at your phone."    DIYers can install Relay by replacing any light switch. Once installed, Relay will automatically connect with all Wink App Ready products, from light bulbs to garage door openers, as well as Wink App Compatible products that use the Wink HUB to connect. Watch Relay in action here.    Relay's 4.3" multi-touch LCD display makes it easy to monitor everything in one place. The two mechanical buttons act as replacement light switches, perfect for controlling smart bulbs, or they can be programmed to turn other smart home products on or off with a single click.

Creators Of Beats And Guitar Hero Launch Smart Home Startup Leeo

Another day, another smart home company is coming alive. But this latest one, Leeo, has some pretty big names behind it–including the main people responsible for creating products like Beats headphones and the video game Guitar Hero as well as executives from CIA-backed big data company Palantir and robotics company RoboteX.   And after a year and a half in stealth mode, Palo Alto-based Leeo has already amassed a team of 60 employees and $37 million in venture capital from Formation 8, Visionnaire Ventures and German utility giant E.ON .   What exactly does this smart home startup do that’s getting so much money and talent? Well, Leeo isn’t ready to talk about specific products it’s coming out with yet, but the company’s explanation of how it’s approaching the industry is a bit different than other smart home companies. From the very beginning, Leeo is focusing on working with hulking incumbents like telecommunication companies and utilities to help roll out services onto the company’s smart home product line. That will make Leeo a bit of a mix between an enterprise and consumer product company.

Logitech Harmony Extends Its Expertise in Controlling the Living Room to the Entire Home

Logitech announced it is bringing its expertise and leadership in universal remotes to the home control market with new home automation product compatibility and four new products. The new Harmony® Living Home lineup gives you easy access and control over a wide library of entertainment and home automation devices, all from one centralized control system.  "Harmony led the path for simplifying home entertainment, and now we've taken that expertise to also simplify home automation," said Chad Thompson, senior director of worldwide marketing and product management. "As more connected devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat™, Philips® hue lights and August™ Smart Locks come to market and enter the home, there's more of a need than ever before for a centralized way to simply control all of the home's devices - the Harmony Living Home lineup does just that."  With just a few easy steps your remote, tablet or smartphone can now control your TV, set-top box, speakers, lighting, thermostat, door locks, window shades and other popular devices. Plus, you can easily combine multiple devices into Activities to trigger at once so you can power on your TV, dim your lights, adjust the temperature and open your window shades all at the same time. You can start an Activity with one touch of your remote or mobile device, automatically on a custom schedule, or by passing a sensor. You can even trigger Activities from the Harmony Mobile App when you're not at home. 

Unlikely Champion: A Leader Steps Forward to Advance Flash Memory Image

Woz, the storage/flash industry superhero, sees video content as a way for people to reach out and communicate with people in a new, more effective way.

CEDIA 2014 - Tradeshow Report

CEDIA 2014, this years show used the slogan "Hyper-Change" to signify the ongoing evolution of the residential AV market and promises to showcase "New Products, New Innovations and New Demands." As usual HomeToys.com was on hand to see what was what at this years show. Below is a list of some of the new products featured at CEDIA 2014.

CEDIA 2014 - Special News Report

Here are all the press releases that we have published for the show --- and you can still submit your show news if you haven't done that already.

CEDIA Will Be Here Before You Know It

CEDIA EXPO 2014 where you can see change. You will be able to touch, and be transformed by the products and trends driving the residential market. There will be a wealth of new ideas and products, and you should be there.

Apple, Inc. Just Gained Another Competitor in the Smart Home Space

Companies are starting to pick sides in the home automation race, and Sony just made its choice. The company announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this week that it is joining Qualcomm 's AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of tech and consumer companies utilizing Qualcomm's open-source AllJoyn home automation platform. Sony's move means there's yet another company pushing an alternative home automation platform to  Apple  's forthcoming HomeKit.   Qualcomm has collected an impressive group of peers for its home automation platform, including  Microsoft  , LG,  Panasonic  , Haier,  Sharp  , and about 60 other companies. And while Sony's move won't  derail Apple's HomeKit plans , the growing number of companies joining the AllJoyn proves just how heated this competition is becoming. AllJoyn -- like many other open-source home automation platforms -- enables third-party devices to easily connect to each other, communicate with other devices, and pair together for combined automation.

Savant gets $90M from KKR

Want proof that the smart home is big? Check out the whopper private equity investment that KKR has made in Savant. Savant said it has raised $90 million from its founder Robert Madonna and affiliates of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR). The round will help Savant navigate a space where it has played for years but is suddenly seeing an influx of competitors at both the low and high end.   Savant is a bit unusual in that it’s designed for luxury homes and professional installers. The company uses Apple hardware and has built software that models itself on Apple’s ease of use and attractiveness. Touches such as taking a picture of your living room and then programming that picture to act as the touch screen for your home controls are an example of how friendly the Savant experience is.   You just touch the lamp in your picture and it turns on. It’s fun. In the last year Savant has taken its high-end ethos and moved closer to the DIY market with a cheaper product called the Savant Smart Series. Instead of running on a Mac Mini it uses a Linux server stored in a closet or cabinet somewhere. That cheaper product will still run you around $1,600 for the basic set up.

CEDIA 2014 - Some Perspectives - Part 1

We interviewed several companies about CEDIA to find out what the show means for them and how they take advantage of the opportunities it provides. Here is what Russound, OSD Audio and Muxlab had to say.

CEDIA 2014 - Some Perspectives - Part 2

We interviewed several companies about CEDIA to find out what the show means for them and how they take advantage of the opportunities it provides. Here is what ChannelVision, Elk Products and Monitor Audio had to say.

Elgato to launch HomeKit with full iOS 8 integration

Elgato will be an exhibitor at IFA Berlin this year, but the company has already announced the introduction of its new HomeKit to the market, with supposed full iOS 8 integration. The HomeKit will be fully compatible with Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform once iOS 8 launches. Elgato’s HomeKit will feature the Eve product line which comprises of various smart home sensors such as light bulbs, door and window locks, thermometers for air and water temperature monitoring, smoke detectors and smart plugs. With this in mind, Elgato plans to become the competition for Samsung’s Smart Home system that will also launch at IFA in a couple of days.   The Eve brand in the HomeKit features Bluetooth accessories which will monitor almost everything in your house, from smoke, to air, water, humidity, air pressure, energy and water consumption. All the information these sensors gather will be automatically fed into iOS 8′s HomeKit application so that you can monitor everything from your iPhone. HomeKit will also provide users with tips and tricks on how to improve their environment.  

Icontrol Networks Powers SmartHome Ventures' PEQ Home Automation System

Icontrol Networks, a leader in connected home technology and innovation, today announced that SmartHome Ventures has chosen Icontrol to power the newly-launched PEQ (pronounced "peek") home automation system, available now at www.mypeq.com, and at select Best Buy store locations and on BestBuy.com beginning August 31st. With this announcement, the best-in-class Icontrol smart home platform is now available for consumers to purchase and use right out of the box.  "Our goal is to give consumers as many options as possible, whether they prefer a professionally-installed and monitored solution, a self-installed package they can purchase and build upon, or an all-in-one device," said Jim Johnson, executive vice president and general manager at Icontrol. "We are excited to provide another option for consumers who want to take advantage of the ease and convenience of a connected home."  All PEQ-compatible devices have been certified through the Icontrol OpenHome™ Developer Program, the first community for application and device makers to partner on a common platform. This means PEQ customers will have access to a growing number of connected home devices, and developers can market their innovations to an even larger market of connected home customers. Icontrol software currently manages more than 22 million sensors and devices, representing the most widely used connected home platform in the industry. 

Microsoft invests in these 10 smart-home startups

Microsoft is betting on the future of the smart home, and it's hoping to discover that future within its own ranks.   Earlier this summer, the company announced plans to launch a start-up accelerator focused specifically on home automation and the Internet of Things. It was a move made partly in an attempt to compete with Apple and Google, both of which have made significant strides in home automation. It's also a simple acknowledgement of a market that's expected to double in size over the next five years.   This past week, Microsoft announced the 10 start-ups that will participate in the accelerator program, which will run from September to December of this year on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus. The chosen outfits were selected from a pool of more than 400 candidates.   "The goal of this Accelerator is simple: to help a new generation of companies create smarter and safer homes," said Steven Guggenheimer, chief evangelist at Microsoft Developer Experience, in a statement.   "We share the belief that over time the home automation trend will fundamentally change how we interact with and manage our homes — making them more efficient, communicative and ultimately safer."   Full List:

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