Amazon rolls out free smart-home consultations

Ángel González for Seattle Times:  In a bid to spread the gospel of home automation, Amazon.com has rolled out free consultations from in-house experts that help customers build out a connected home.  The Smart Home Consultation advisers come to consumers’ homes to demonstrate smart home products, including the hugely popular Echo line of devices, and make personalized recommendations on what gadgets to buy. The service is now available in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Jose, Calif.  The service comes amid a big push by Amazon to give Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant, an edge in a brewing war among tech companies for dominance in the artificial-intelligence market. Cont'd...

Brilliant uses voice and touch commands to control your smart home

Dean Takahashi for VentureBeat:  Is the smartphone on its way out? San Mateo, Calif.-based Brilliant Home Technology announced that it has created the Brilliant Control, a smart lighting solution that gives anyone in the house the ability to access music, climate control, and other common smart home devices with just a simple touch or voice command. No smartphone is required. The Brilliant Control aims to replace existing light switches with a device that responds to both touchscreen and voice commands. Brilliant Control is available for preorder starting at under $200 at www.brilliant.tech. The device has a 5-inch touchscreen with 1080p resolution.   Cont'd...

Year-Over-Year Home Automation Revenue Grew Over 50 Percent

According to global information provider, The NPD Group, annual 2016 U.S. dollar sales of home automation products experienced growth of 57 percent versus 2015. Security and monitoring products continued to lead the category, making-up over 60 percent of dollar share. Smart entry devices, such as smart doorbells, saw an increase in dollar and unit sales of 171 percent and 206 percent, respectively, when compared to the year prior, according to NPD's Retail Tracking Service.  While awareness levels of many smart home devices have fluctuated, smart doorbells are an item within the smart entry space that saw growing awareness and ownership. Smart doorbell awareness increased four percentage points, and ownership increased two percentage points, according to the Connected Home Automation Report from NPD's Connected Intelligence.  Networked video cameras continue to be the most common component of today's smart home, as nearly one-third of smart homes have this feature installed. In fact, over the last year consumer demand for multi-packs of IP cameras has increased 129 percent in U.S. dollar sales versus 2015*.   Full Press Release:

Electrolux to Acquire Fast-growing Smart Kitchen Appliance Company Anova

Electrolux today announced it has agreed to acquire Anova, the U.S. based provider of the Anova Precision Cooker, an innovative connected device for sous vide cooking that enables restaurant-quality results in the home. The acquisition provides a significant opportunity for profitable growth in this emerging product category. Anova's direct-to-consumer business model and digital focus are also of strong strategic interest to Electrolux.  Anova was founded in 2013 and is growing rapidly amid popular acclaim for its innovative product, which was rated best cooking gadget of 2016 by reviewed.com.   Full Press Release:

EchoStar Pushes Fitness Overlays for Home Automation

Steve Donohue for The Donohue Report:  Dish Network sibling EchoStar has developed a system that could link a subscriber’s home fitness equipment with a television and home automation system. Dale Moutain, a software engineer for EchoStar and SmarDTV, is named as inventor on the patent application published on Thursday. EchoStar submitted the application, titled, “Fitness overlay and incorporation for home automation system,” last October. Abstract: Systems and methods for displaying fitness information with an electronic device may include receiving multimedia content at an input of the electronic device. The electronic device may provide the audiovisual content to a display device. The electronic device may also receive fitness information, and may provide this fitness information to the display device.   Cont'd...

Inside Tim Cook's Apple HomeKit-equipped smart home

Neil Hughes for AppleInsider:  During his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday, Cook revealed to analysts and the media that he has integrated HomeKit products, and the iOS 10 Home app, into his home routine. "This level of home automation was unimaginable just a few years ago, and it's here today with iOS and HomeKit," he said. While Cook didn't single out any accessories or products in detailing his routine, Apple's secure authentication for HomeKit gives the company strict control over approved accessories, providing consumers with a relatively small set of options. As of the end of 2016, there were about 100 HomeKit-compatible products available. As such, we can likely narrow down the HomeKit accessories Cook is using in his own home. Here are our recommendations on how you can get a HomeKit experience on par with the head of Apple.  Cont'd...

Control4 is First to add Cloud-Based Management for Connected Homes to High-Performance Routers

Control4 Corporation, a leading global provider of connected home solutions, announces the release and immediate worldwide availability of BakPak on Pakedge RK-1 Routers. A first for the industry, the integration of the latest release of BakPak management software with the router enables Control4 dealers to offer more homeowners the benefits of a monitored, intelligent home network.  BakPak proactively manages both the IP network and smart home devices, delivering real-time visibility of network health, allowing diagnostics and troubleshooting before problems happen to mitigate downtime, service calls, and unhappy customers. Now integrated with the ubiquitous network device, the router, Control4 is arming its dealers with a more robust tool to help them manage their customers' systems remotely.   Full Press Release:  

Powerley Unveils Energy-Driven Smart Home Experience

Powerley, the utility-led smart home technology pioneer, today introduced the next generation of its platform at DistribuTECH. Initially launched in 2015, Powerley’s new platform is the first and only smart home solution to provide real-time energy usage data while offering the full functionality of an automated home in one interface. “With our new introduction, Powerley is realizing the vision of connecting the smart grid to the smart home – addressing utility needs for energy efficiency, peak load management and customer loyalty while unlocking revenue streams from the smart home,” said Manoj Kumar, CEO of Powerley. “We believe that utilities are best positioned as the trusted channel to proliferate the smart home and with our new release we have put them in the driver’s seat.” Working with leading energy companies DTE Energy, AEP Ohio and BC Hydro among others, Powerley is now available to over 5 million households. This latest evolution of Powerley’s platform builds upon the company’s leadership in energy management – enabling energy utilities to drive energy efficiency and customer engagement while also building new connected revenue streams.   Full Press Release:

Apple strategy in 'smart home' race threatened by Amazon

Stephen Nellis for Reuters:   In less than a year, Amazon's combination of the Echo speaker system and the Alexa voice-controlled digital assistant has come close to delivering on the elusive promise of easy-to-use technology that can control gadgets in the home with a few spoken words. Yet Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) surprise success sets up a long-term battle with Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) and Alphabet Inc's Google (GOOGL.O) for primacy in the connected household. And the contours of that competition are following a classic tech industry dynamic. Amazon is pursuing an open-systems approach that allows quick development of many features, while Apple is taking a slower route, asserting more control over the technology in order to assure security and ease-of-use. The strategic importance of the "connected home" niche looms large: Amazon wants a way to own its customer interactions -mainly shopping online - without an Apple phone or a Google Web browser as an intermediary.  Apple needs to keep the iPhone at the center of customers’ lives, and has built a whole home automation architecture, called Homekit, into its smartphone.   Cont'd...

51% Would Trade Smart Home Device Data For Cost Savings

Chase Martin for IoT Daily:  When it comes to smart home devices, consumers seem to be open to sharing control and data if it means saving money. U.S. homeowners are interested in measuring and monitoring activities in the home, especially energy usage, and would share their data to receive a discount, according to new research from Parks Associates. More than a third (36%) of households said the idea of a system that monitors or manages energy usage in their home is very appealing. Slightly more (37%) said a security monitoring system is very appealing and almost as many (35%) said the same about a safety monitoring system, according to Parks Associates.  Cont'd...

Sears parlays brand reputation and service network with connected home line

Bruce Brown from DigitalTrends:  Meet the new brand, same as the old brands. Sears Holdings, the U.S. holding company that owns the Sears and Kmart retail chains, has repurposed and combined three of its best-known product names - Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard - into the new KCD brand for connected products, according to Twice. KCD president Tom Park pushed the focus on smart homes as a way to not only participate in the connected space market but bring to the relatively new market two elements he sees as missing: trust and reliability. Kenmore appliances bring a full century of history. Craftsman tools are known for their guaranteed durability and lifetime warranties. DieHard batteries have helped start automotive products for more than 50 years.  Cont'd...

Mattel's Aristotle Connects Wired Child, Smart Home

Elaine Low for Investors.com:  Alexa, play digger, digger," the redheaded, still-learning-to-speak toddler in the video appears to tell a small electronic device on a bedside stand. The family's new Amazon.com (AMZN) Echo Dot, one of the more popular voice recognition personal assistant devices, replies: "You want to hear a station from porn detected, porno ring tone, hot chick amateur girl …" Frantic relatives scramble to shut off the device as it veers into some highly NSFW (not safe for work) language. The now-viral video is a prime example of how cutting-edge language recognition tools fail when faced with kid-speak. Toy maker Mattel (MAT) recognized the failure as an opportunity: a market niche for a kid-focused, parent-controlled smart speaker amid a growing connected-home market.   Cont'd...

5 Top Home Automation Investments

Danny Vena for Fox Business:  If you're considering an investment in the home automation segment, there are a mind-boggling number of choices. You can invest in individual component manufacturers, professional systems installation companies, or managed services. We will look at some of the best in each category.  Home automation falls into three very broad categories. Let's look at a few potential investments in each: Professionally installed systems. Managed service systems. Do-it-yourself (DIY). Home automation is reaching into every aspect of our lives.    Cont'd...

Study: Insurers adopting smart home policies

Will Koblensky for Insurance Business:  A combination of consumer demand and industry interest could create a wave of smart home technology and IoT disruption for home insurers in the near future. According to an NTT Data report, 59% of surveyed home carriers say they’re making “strong progress” adding smart home technology to their coverage while 77% of those carriers are ramping up IoT initiatives. “We know that there aren’t that many products already out there, so these are initiatives designed to get them into the game,” Normand Lepine, insurance data and analytics lead for NTT DATA said. “We believe a lot of what’s going on right now is around strategy, potentially infrastructure. There are still a lot of challenges and they (carriers) know that. Until they really understand how this is going to be beneficial, they’re still going to go slowly.”   Cont'd...

Powerful home automation app Stringify comes to Android and adds IFTTT integration

Rita El Khoury for AndroidPolice:  Ever since I got my Wink Hub 2, one of the services I kept seeing in conversations when trying to bridge together different smart appliances and services was Stringify. The app was limited to iOS though, so I never got to use it because I wasn't going to carry my iPad around all the time to toggle a light bulb. But at CES, Stringify made a few announcements that we just came across (excuse the delay, we had tons of emails and releases to sift through) and that are sure to please Android users. Before going further, here's a quick rundown of what Stringify is for those of you who'd never heard of it. Think of it as a more powerful IFTTT. You're not limited to linking one trigger to one action, instead you can build flows that involve many services, conditional circumstances, and successive triggers and actions, like so: turn X on and Y off when I am home and only if it is night time. This kind of flow is impossible with IFTTT now. And for those of us who are Wink users, Stringify has a much better integration than IFTTT with Wink, letting you use your connected Wink things as triggers too, not just as actions, so you can have Stringify trigger a flow based on a door sensor being open in Wink, something that Wink's IFTTT collaboration doesn't do at all. However, the downfall of Stringify is that while it supports a lot of services and gadgets, it doesn't have as many partners as IFTTT.  Cont'd...

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