Former Barnes & Noble CEO William J. Lynch Appointed CEO of Savant Systems

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.

All-Seeing Security System Allows Complete Home

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.

Securing the Smart Home, from Toasters to Toilets

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 wireless home audio will be wicked cool with WICED

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.

The HomeToys CES 2014 Tradeshow Report

For well over a decade has been covering CES and sifting through all the news pages and product announcements to bring you a neatly compiled list of some of the new and interesting products we think are important to the Home Technology and AV Systems industry.

The Digital Signage Industry and Expo 2014

This year's exhibit floor will have 40 new companies and 38 companies from outside the USA showcasing solutions (some of them for the first time).

My N3rd is a unique take on home automation

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.  

The CES of Everything: Weathering the Battle for Eyeballs, Mindshare, Heart

Buckets Full - Filling every nook and cranny to overflowing, companies large and small helped draw more than 150,000 people to Vegas for the annual "hope to gawd you like me" CES event.

Enblink dongle now lets you control smart home devices with voice commands

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.  

The Xbox One Currently Does Not Support HDMI CEC

There was a lot of chatter on the industry blogs and podcasts right before Microsoft released the Xbox One regarding the support, or lack thereof, for HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC).

It's a Wrap!

The 2014 CES show was attended by 155,000 visitors, who spent $195 million to get a glimpse of what consumers can expect to see on the market.

Rise, Fall: Designing, Picking the Next Winner is No Easy Task

It's true that with many of the companies and products, much of the problem can be laid at the feet of management. They become overconfident that whatever they offer, consumers will snap them up.

Google to acquire Nest for $3.2 billion

Google intends to make even more of a splash in Americans' homes. On Monday, it reached a deal to buy Nest, the maker of highly-styled digital smoke alarms and thermostats, for $3.2 billion in cash.   Nest, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has generated lots of buzz and sterling reviews for its aesthetic design approach to common everyday home appliances often overlooked by consumers.   Since its launch in 2011, the Nest Learning Thermostat has been a consistent best seller. The recently unfurled Protect (Smoke + CO Alarm) has landed rave reviews.   The acquisition thrusts Google squarely into multiple markets: search, e-mail, smartphones, PCs, tablets and — now — the home. Nest, in essence, puts Google in a prime position to cash in on the fledgling "The Internet of things" — a concept in which all digital devices in one's home are interconnected in some manner for maximum sharing of data. Nest also sharpens Google's design cred in the tech industry.  

The magic of global innovation comes to life at the 2014 International CES

With amazing tech breakthroughs and thousands of new product introductions, innovation blossomed as new technologies came to life, redefining the future at the 2014 International CES®.  Owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) ®, the International CES is the global gathering place for all who thrive on the business of innovation. CEA announced today that the 2014 CES wrapped as the largest in show history with a record two million net square feet of exhibit space housing more than 3,200 exhibitors. CES dazzled as the global gathering place for anyone involved in the business of consumer technologies with more than 150,000 industry professionals in attendance, including more than 35,000 from outside the United States. “CES is amazing, magical, hands-on, incredible, innovative and inspiring!,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “This year’s show was an energizing display of where the future is headed, bringing to life cool new products from every industry that touches technology. One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week as we experienced the future. From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next generation smart phones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine.” 

Lowe's Unveils The Next Wave Of Products And Services For Its Iris™ Smart Home Solution

Since its debut in July 2012, Iris has delivered the vision of the smart home to consumers by making home automation simple, affordable and scalable. Consumers can customize systems with a wide breadth of connected home devices to monitor and control their homes from a single, easy-to-use interface.  "Our goal when creating Iris was to make home automation systems simple, affordable and able to grow with customers' evolving needs," said Kevin Meagher, Lowe's vice president and general manager, Smart Home. "Lowe's relationship with our vendors allows us to develop and deliver the broadest range of connected home solutions to make homes safer, more efficient and easier to manage."  Iris's newest product features, along with its expansive vendor relationships with brands consumers know and trust such as First Alert, Honeywell, Schlage, and Whirlpool, aim to deliver on the promise of the smart home today. The new Iris features will help consumers make their homes safer, more energy efficient and more easily managed; they include water shut-off valves that cut supply when a leak is detected, smart sprinkler systems to manage water consumption, the ability to link to smart meters to make energy consumption visible, additional energy saving devices and more convenient ways to program the home including a voice control feature, iVee, and universal garage door openers. 

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Featured Product

ELK Products -C1M1 Dual-Path Alarm Communicators with Remote Services

ELK Products -C1M1 Dual-Path Alarm Communicators with Remote Services

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