LittleBits' New Kit Connects Old Appliances to the Internet

LittleBits, which makes brightly colored modules that snap together to create electronic circuits, is now selling a $249 DIY kit for those who want to turn their analog abodes into WiFi-enabled smart homes. The set extends the use of the recently launched cloudBit, giving users a menu of projects that include a remote pet feeder, a smart air-conditioner, and a garage door monitor. It essentially allows people to build their own IoT hardware without having to wait for companies like Nest, GE, or Apple to roll out another product. “The electronics industry pretty much remains a very top-down industry that is very much controlled by large companies, by experts, by engineers,” says LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir. “Very few people are able to gain access and innovate in it.” Her three-year-old startup makes it as easy to customize hardware as it is to assemble Ikea furniture.   The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 bits, including the cloudBit as well as five new ones: an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a number counter (which, for instance, can be attached to the temperature sensor to display Fahrenheit or Celsius values), a threshold (which can turn a sensor into a trigger module), and an infrared transmitter (which can be paired with an AC switch to turn appliances on or off). The company includes an infographic poster cataloging a host of potential projects, from a device that adds toilet paper to your digital grocery list when someone takes the last roll to an alarm that sounds when your fridge is left open too long. Makers can control the devices through the LittleBits-hosted Web app; their own API, or IFTTT (If This Then That), a service that connects to a channel like Twitter or Facebook to trigger an action such as a tweet or Facebook status update.

Will Lasers Be The Future For Projectors?

In the future, I expect the familiar projection bulbs that we have used for decades will be phased out and replaced by laser/LED technology, as this light source puts out much less heat and are quieter, allowing for more placement options.

Bluetooth and ZigBee: A new standards war brewing?

Just like there are WiFi/Bluetooth combo products today, capable of "talking" both WiFi and Bluetooth, there will be devices in the future that can "talk" both ZigBee and Bluetooth. Trying to pit one technology against the other does not do right to either of them, creates a standards war, and stalls the market.

Upcoming Tradeshow, Conference & Exhibition Summary
Jan, Feb, Mar 2015

With the New Year comes the end of the Holiday Tradeshow lull and of course CES and the many events centered around it!

European manufacturer of the wireless home automation system FIBARO comes to U.S.

Fibar Group, European manufacturer of the wireless home automation system FIBARO comes to U.S.

The Pros, Cons of Software vs. Hardware RAID

With today's vastly improved, more powerful CPUs, the performance differences between hardware and software RAID options have been virtually eliminated.

Smarten Up: Win More Home Buyers Through Effective Audio Branding

As a homebuilder, you have an opportunity to convey numerous positive sounding audio messages about your brand - from the quality of your work to the top-quality products that go into your work - throughout your showhome.

Miller Outdoor Theatre Takes the Leap to Digital Signage Displays

Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre Installs Peerless-AV® Xtreme™ 55″ Daylight Readable Display to Increase Advertising and Enhance Electric Vibe

Start-Ups Place Bets On The Smart Home

The fledgling home-automation market is growing quickly and continuing to attract new companies. Some of the newest entrants include Ecovent, Snupi Technologies, Cielo WiGle and Droplit. iDevices, the maker of Bluetooth kitchen and outdoor-grill thermometers, also plans an entry. The newcomers enter a market whose U.S. unit sales will grow in 2015 by 20 percent to 24.9 million units and grow at 20 percent rates in 2016 and 2017, a Parks Associates/Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) report shows. The units include smart thermostats, networked cameras, smart door locks, water-leak detectors, smart smoke and CO detectors, smart light bulbs and switches, smart plugs and outlets, smart power strips, and the like. Despite the gains, only 10 percent of U.S. households have at least one smart-home device, and no single device has an ownership rate exceeding 6 percent, the Parks/CEA survey found. The survey also found that 62 percent of broadband-connected households in the U.S. are unfamiliar with smart-home products, almost 70 percent don’t know where to buy them, but 20 percent intend to buy one or more smart-home devices in the next 12 months.

Busy Samsung stirs many pots, from smart home to VR to health tech

Samsung on Wednesday detailed its latest tools for developers -- including a new sensor-filled wearable reference design -- to get them excited about making apps customized for its devices. Samsung is hosting its second annual developers conference at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, the same venue where Apple and Google host their yearly confabs. The conference is part of Samsung's effort to work with startups and become a bigger part of Silicon Valley. The South Korean company has long been at the forefront of hardware advancements, but it has struggled with software and services.   Samsung hasn't said how many people have registered to attend, but last year's event, which was held at a smaller venue, had 1,300 participants. The company has more than 200 people lined up to speak over the course of three days.   In particular, Samsung's developers conference will be focus on digital health, smart home, virtual reality and wearables.   The company introduced software development kits for the sectors, including the Samsung Digital Health SDK, a beta SDK for Samsung Smart Home and an S Pen SDK. The New Look SDK allows developers to take advantage of the curved screen of the Note Edge phablet, and a Gear S SDK lets app makers create software that applies to the smartwatch's standalone features. The Gear S includes its own cellular modem, making it the first Samsung smartwatch that doesn't need to be constantly connected to a smartphone.  

Hands On With Norm, Quirky's 'Thermostat Killer'

Quirky has been relatively quiet over the last couple of months, and on Tuesday it became clear why, when CEO Ben Kaufman announced seven new connected home devices at an event in New York City.   Created in conjunction with GE, the new products make it clear that Quirky is focused taking the smart home to the mainstream. Perhaps the most intriguing device is Norm, a sensor that Quirky is calling the "death of a thermostat." I got to check it out, along with Quirky's other new products, after the event.   Up close, Norm really doesn't look like anything particularly special. It's just a small white box—about the size of a stack of Post-it notes—that's meant to take the place of your current HVAC thermostat. Unlike traditional models, or even other connected ones like the Nest Learning Thermostat, however, Norm doesn't show you a readout of the temperature or have any visible buttons (save for one on the bottom edge). Instead, it connects to the Wink app on your mobile device, and allows you to monitor or control the temperature from there. Rest assured, you can still adjust the temperature on the box itself—one tap will turn the temperature down, while two taps turns it up.

INSTEON Connected Home Products Available at Select Walmart Stores Near You

INSTEON, creators of the world's premier home automation and control technology, announced that its connected home products and kits are now available in more than 1,500 Walmart stores across the nation, just in time for the holiday season.  "Our presence in Walmart stores marks the arrival of mainstream adoption of connected home devices," said Joe Dada, CEO, INSTEON. "We are proud that INSTEON is leading the charge and are thrilled to see our products on Walmart shelves as we enter into the busiest shopping season of the year."    In addition to their availability in select Walmart stores across the country, these and many more INSTEON products are available for online purchase at Walmart.com. 

Amazon just surprised everyone with a crazy speaker that talks to you

Well this one came out of nowhere: Amazon is building a speaker that's controlled with your voice. It's called Echo, and Amazon tells The Verge it will be "shipping in the coming weeks." Available on an invite-only basis to start, Echo is regularly priced at $199. But for a limited time, Amazon will offer Echo for $99 to Prime members who receive an invite. Amazon says the black, cylindrical speaker is always connected to the cloud and will provide information, music, news, weather, and more whenever you ask for it. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from Google — only it's an Amazon product. The built-in voice recognition can hear users from across the room, according to Amazon, essentially acting as a Siri-like personal assistant crammed inside a speaker. It listens to user requests using seven microphones and can understand your voice even while playing music. "These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction," reads the product's page. The speaker also produces 360-degree audio to fill an entire room. It'll play music from Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn Plus. And it's fully Bluetooth compatible, making playback from Spotify, Pandora, and other audio apps possible. Companion smartphone apps on Android and Fire OS will launch upon availability to help buyers set up and get started with the speaker, but everyone else (including iOS users) will need to access it via a web app. Amazon tells The Verge that a dedicated iOS app is in the works.

Parks Associates: 62% of Consumers Unfamiliar with Smart Home Products or Services

Parks Associates reports that approximately two-thirds of U.S. broadband households are unfamiliar with smart home products or services. Further, few consumers know what smart home devices and services are, who sells them, or where to buy them. New research, IoT for Smart Home Devices and Controllers, published by Parks Associates with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, analyzes the results of a Q2 2014 survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households. The results include recommendations for the connected home industry, analysis of consumer demand for smart home products, and strategies to raise awareness of smart home devices and their sales channels. “Today, smart home service providers control almost every aspect of their offerings while consumers make only one choice - the service provider,” said Tricia Parks, CEO and Founder, Parks Associates. “Deploying open solutions that give consumers a degree of control over their ecosystem represents a major competitive element and an opportunity to increase revenue and business opportunities for software, hardware, and service players. However, consumers have to know where to find these devices, so these companies also need better promotion of their sales channels.”

Sharp's new High Resolution Audio Player could spell the death of the A/V receiver

When most people think of Sharp, they likely think about really big TVs. However, in an effort to help you clean up your home theater, the company has been working on something even bigger than their TVs, and it’s finally ready for its coming-out party. Today, Sharp unveiled its new media player, which uses dual wireless technologies to transmit both high resolution audio and video without cables. Sharp calls it the Sharp High Resolution Audio Player, but the name doesn’t do the device justice — it’s way more than just a high-res audio player.   Sharp has been developing its futuristic new player, the model SD-WH100U, for years. In fact, we caught a glimpse of what this technology could do in early 2013 at CES, and the prototype version of today’s device thoroughly impressed, able to send crystal clear audio and video to a surround sound speaker system and TV that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional wired setup.   Using the wide open spaces of the 5.2-5.8 GHz frequency band, the player is able to transmit high resolution audio at up to 24bit/96kHz from FLAC, WAV, and even DSD files over the up-and-coming WiSA (Wireless Speakers and Audio) standard. It also plays SACDs and Blu-rays, and thanks to an adapter that speaks the Wireless HD protocol, WiHD, it also sends top-notch 1080p HD video to any TV.  

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