This startup's connected outlets can make your smart home even smarter

By Stacey Higginbotham for Fortune:  I’m testing a $160 package of three outlets from a startup called Zuli. The outlets allow me to plug in any device and turn it on and off remotely, set schedules, gather energy consumption, and, if the device is a lamp, I can dim it. But the real magic comes into play when you have three of these outlets plugged into your home, because then they can track where you are and offer presence awareness. Presence is big. To get to a truly smart home, devices need more context, and knowing where people are in the home is a crucial piece of context. For example, one of the most popular Internet connected devices in the home is probably the Nest thermostat. It can sense when you are home or away based on a proximity sensor in the thermostat. But because thermostats are usually located in out-of-the-way locations, a lot of people find themselves working away in an isolated corner of the house only to realize their thermostat has switched to away mode because they haven’t walked in front of the thermostat in a while.   Cont'd...

CHROMECAST AUDIO COULD ARRIVE SEPT. 29, WILL WI-FI ENABLE YOUR HOME SPEAKERS

By Chris Leo Palermino for Digital Trends:   While we reported about the Chromecast 2 earlier today, it sounds like that’s not the only Chromecast that Google will be debuting on Sept. 29. The tech giant is also working on Chromecast Audio, a separate device focused on “Wi-Fi-enabling the speakers in your home,” according to 9to5Google. Allegedly called “Hendrix” internally, the music-focused Chromecast will attach to speakers via a standard 3.5mm headphone cable. The new device will allow users to listen to music and other audio like podcasts (and maybe even online radio?) via wi-fi from Android devices or the Chrome browser. Chromecast currently supports Google Play Music, Pandora, Rdio, and — as of recently — Spotify. It will have ‘multi-room support,’ which means that it may have the ability to play the same audio through multiple speakers.   Cont'd...

Apple Reveals Future 'Home Automation Hub' for Apple TV in 'Siri Remote' Trademark Filing

When launching the reinvented Apple TV device last week Apple noted that the all-new Apple TV was built from the ground up with a new generation of high-performance hardware and introduced an intuitive and fun user interface using the 'Siri Remote™.' Well, the trademark symbol presented beside 'Remote™' may be a little premature as Apple just filed for this trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Although the filing was made public today, the actual date is noted as being September 9, 2015, the day that the Siri Remote was officially launched during Apple's Hey Siri San Francisco event. One more thing: Apple hints in their trademark filing that Apple TV will become the hub for home automation as we predicted back in 2014. Apple's idea of a home automation system may have humbly started with an Apple patent application filed back in January 2010 regarding a smart-home energy management dashboard system. Then came word that Apple was about to introduce a new smart home platform during their 2014 World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). That became reality with the introduction of Apple's new HomeKit that revealed "Siri Integration" as noted as the last point of the slide presented below from WWDC 2014. In a Patently Apple special report covering Apple's WWDC event specifically on HomeKit, the following was stated: …it's very possible that Apple could be thinking of integrating their new Home App right into Apple TV and finally bringing to market a true in-home digital hub that we've been waiting for. Is it a pipedream? Only time will tell.   Cont'd...  

Wireless Multiroom Audio: Room For More?

By: Joseph Palenchar for Twice:  Sales growth is slowing in wireless multiroom audio even as more companies enter a market whose top brand – Sonos — enjoys almost a 90 percent dollar share of the market at the retail level. So you’d think the market would be in the midst of a shakeout, shrinking margins, and a downward spiral in average selling prices. But you’d be wrong, at least for now. Some audio suppliers see ASPs and retail-level margins holding steady or rising as high-performance audio brands begin to play in a market established by Sonos 10 years ago. And they aren’t too worried yet about slowing growth because the household penetration rate is still very low. Only 2 percent, or 3 million, of the country’s 116 million households have wireless multiroom-audio speakers, according to estimates from Yamaha, which entered the market in August.   Cont'd...

LG Smart Sensor Can Turn Your Low-Tech Appliances To Smart Home Appliances

By Alexandra Burlacu, Tech Times:  The Smart ThinQ Sensor is designed to work with traditional, low-tech home appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and others, turning them into smart appliances or, as LG puts it, making them "smart-aware." Once attached to home appliances, this circular Smart ThinQ Sensor gets feedback such as temperature or vibration and transmits its readings to the Smart ThinQ app on the user's smartphone. LG offers examples to illustrate how this will work out when paired with existing home appliances. Attached to a traditional washing machine, for instance, the Smart ThinQ device can sense when the machine completes a laundry cycle, sending a notification to the user's smartphone. Attached to a refrigerator, it can send the user a notification when a food item is approaching its expiration date. Connected to an air conditioner or some other such appliance, the Smart ThinQ allows users to remotely control the appliances via the smartphone app.   Cont'd...

Philips Just Made It Stupid Simple To Install Smarthome Lighting

Mark Wilson for FastCompany:  A lot of intelligent people believe that a platform like Apple’s HomeKitwill be the way we control the smart home of the future. But I'd bet on it looking a lot more like the new wireless dimming kit from the Philips Hue line—subtle technology that eliminates the need for electricians and apps at the same time. Each kit runs $40, and it includes a white Hue bulb and a dimming remote. All you have to do is screw in the bulb to install it—and up to ten others can piggyback on this same network. The remote uses theZigBee radio protocol to control them in tandem, and it promises to last a minimum of three years, or 50,000 uses, before it needs its battery replaced. Better still? This remote fits into a sticky base plate that adheres to your wall and looks like any standard light switch. In other words, rather than hiring an electrician to wire up the connection, or googling how to install dimmers without electrocuting yourself, Hue’s new kit allows you to install home lighting as easily as duct taping a switch to a wall.   Cont'd...

Nest Labs preparing to launch second generation smart thermostat

By David Curry, ITProPortal:  Arguments could be made for a new device, but Nest has been quickly approaching a second version of its smart thermostat. The company’s premiere product in many circles, it has won countless awards for its intelligent design and software tuning system. Nest will enhance the wireless capabilities of the second smart thermostat, alongside updating the service to offer more potential savings. The design should stay around the same as it is now, no need to change what isn’t broken. There have been rumours of an audio product and Google Glass in the pipeline. We do not think either of these products will be coming this year. Instead, Nest is focused on updating its product line to make everything fresh.

Will future homes feature built-in recycled water systems?

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter:  A small group gathered on a recent afternoon outside a $1 million model home on Cloudbreak Lane here. The five-bedroom house offered a Mediterranean tile roof, teal-green shutters and arched entryway. Designer touches inside included a walk-in pantry, motion-sensing faucets and optional oversized wine cabinet. But it was a plain, gray metal box on the side of the house that grabbed the most attention. Avery Kintner, a green building consultant, brought a group of students from University of California, San Diego, to see the box's secrets. The 5-foot-wide container held pipes, filters, a tub and other mechanics. It's a system designed to help the future residents of this house survive the ongoing drought and any future ones. The structure takes leftover water from the house's showers, sinks and laundry and filters it, then returns it to irrigate the front landscaping. The complex under construction, a development from KB Home called "Sea Cliff" is the first in the state built with so-called graywater piping in all houses.  Cont'd...

Ecovent Closes $6.9 Million in Funding to Bring Room-by-Room Temperature Control and Comfort to Homeowners

Ecovent, the maker of the only intelligent home zoning system that delivers complete room-by-room climate control, today announced that it has closed a $6.9 million Series A funding round led by Emerson Climate Technologies, a business segment of Emerson (NYSE:EMR). The round includes participation from Tamarisc and Blue Fog Capital.  Ecovent started the year being named Automation Product of the Year at CES 2015, and has struck a chord with consumers, bringing in more than $1 million in pre-orders. Ecovent is transforming the home by giving consumers control over their comfort in every room. Ecovent's advanced system of wireless vents and sensors intelligently diagnose the factors impacting room temperature and automatically adjust airflow into each room to achieve the perfectly desired temperature. With Ecovent, homeowners have the ability to control the temperature of each room individually through an app, saving energy and money by heating and cooling only the rooms that need conditioning instead of the entire home.  "Today's cars allow passengers and drivers to set individual temperatures, yet most homes have only one adjustable zone, and it's time to change that," said Dipul Patel, CEO and co-founder of Ecovent. "We developed the Ecovent system to give people room-by-room temperature control in any home - automatically. It's incredibly exciting to have the support of an industry titan like Emerson to help us bring Ecovent to a larger audience as we change the way homeowners experience comfort in their homes."   Full Press Release:  

Silicon Valley will soon become a massive player in home security

  Bob Bryan for BusinessInsider:  Currently, there are three types of home security on the market. The industry giants run traditional professionally installed and monitored systems, like what ADT offers and telecoms such as Comcast and AT&T have begun to roll out. These represent 93% of the home-security market, says Citi. The next is self-installed and professionally monitored in which a customer installs the hardware and then pays a subscriber fee to have the house monitored by professionals. This category includes companies like SimpliSafe, Frontpoint, and Protect America. These companies have 4.7% market share. Finally, self-installed and monitored systems such as Google's Nest and Dropcam or Apple's HomeKit-enabled devices leave it up to the user to set up their home security and use notifications to enabled devices to alert people. For these services there is no human monitoring the home security. They control 2.3% of the market, but not for long says Citi. Based on research projections, Citi estimates that self-installed and monitored systems will control 34% of the market in five years, with professional system slipping to 61.6%. In the longer term, 20 years from now, these numbers are projected to basically switch with self-monitored systems holding 62.5% of the market and professional services making up 31.3%.   Cont'd...

PEEK INSIDE HONDA'S RADICALLY EFFICIENT, ENERGY-PRODUCING SMART HOME

By Jenny McGrath for DigitalTrends:  Last March, Honda showed off its state-of-the-art smart home, which is so energy efficient it actually produces more energy than it uses. But it wasn’t just a slick showpiece. For the last nine months, the Bennett/O’Hara family has been living in the Honda Smart Home on the University of California campus in Davis, and they like it so much, they’ve decided to extend their stay another year. You can’t really blame them. It’s 1,944 square feet, runs on solar energy and battery power, and it doesn’t even need air conditioning. Everything from the lights to themusic is controlled through an iPad app. The blinds and lights are programmed to open and close automatically. Because its plans are all open-source and it produces more energy than it uses, it’s an excellent potential model for future California homes, because all new houses there will have to be net zero beginning in 2020. If it seems odd for a car company to get involved in home automation, it’s because Honda is actually looking at the bigger picture. Honda and UC Davis researchers are looking at how devices work together, and how they can influence climate change, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The dishwasher is from Bosch and KitchenAid made the refrigerator, but the energy management system is Honda’s. The company also wanted someone in the family to drive about 30 miles per day, testing its electric Fit and accompanying charging equipment.   Cont'd...

Apple's HomeKit Is Proving To Be Too Demanding For Bluetooth Smart Home Devices

Aaron Tilley for Forbes:  It’s been more than a year since Apple AAPL -1.54% announced HomeKit, its system for connecting smart home devices through iOS. And as with all things Apple, expectations are high. Maybe too high. So far, only five companies have launched HomeKit-certified smart home devices. What’s the hold up? Apple has thrown a plethora of challenges at hardware makers, and some developers say one of the biggest is complying with Apple’s strict security requirements on Bluetooth low energy devices. Apple allows for either WiFi or Bluetooth low energy (LE)-enabled devices to get certified as a HomeKit accessory. Apple is requiring device makers using both WiFi and Bluetooth LE to use complicated encryption with 3072-bit keys, as well as the super secure Curve25519, which is an elliptic curve used for digital signatures and exchanging encrypted keys.   Cont'd...

Thread Wireless Networking Protocol Now Available

The Nest-led Thread Group expects the first Thread-certified home-automation products to be available to consumers late this year now that the organization has released the Thread specification. The new IP-based wireless networking protocol designed for low-power connected products in the home. Starting today, product developers who are members of the Thread Group can access Thread technical specifications and documentation to build Thread-compliant products.  "Thread was designed to be the foundation of the Internet of Things in the home by allowing developers and consumers to easily and securely connect hundreds of devices within a low-power, wireless mesh network," said Chris Boross, president, Thread Group. "In the nine months since opening membership, more than 160 companies have joined the Thread Group, and now the group is launching the Thread technical specification, which has now completed extensive interoperability testing. Today's announcement means that Thread products are on the way and will be in customers' hands very shortly. I'm excited to see what kinds of products and experiences Thread developers will build." 

Setting Up A Dual-WAN Router with a DSL and Cable Provider

Small Net Builder walks through setting up a Dual-WAN router. Dual-WAN routers allow you to setup your home network with service from two separate service providers (in the example a DSL and cable company): Failover vs. Load Balancing ...   Better failure detection methods include pinging your ISP's default gateway, pinging a host on your ISP's network, pinging a host elsewhere on the Internet, resolving and pinging an FQDN (fully qualified domain name) or making a TCP connection to an external server.   ...   With load balancing enabled, it is important to configure your router with the speeds of your Internet connections. Many dual WAN routers' default load balancing algorithm equally distribute traffic over both WAN connections. If your Internet connection speeds are not the same, your router needs to know both connection speeds to distribute the traffic load accordingly... The two routers Small Net Builder uses in their setup article are the Linksys LRT224 ($175) and the ZyWALL 110 ($369). Neither of these routers have wireless radios so you will need to bridge to a separate device for that. ... Bandwidth Management Let's say I want to ensure my Netflix streaming device has enough bandwidth for smooth playback. Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD quality streaming. I would start by giving my Netflix device a static IP address on my network. On the Linksys LRT224, the default LAN network uses the 192.168.1.0/24 subnet, and the DHCP range is 192.168.1.100-192.168.1.149. Thus, I could give my Netflix device a static IP address of 192.168.1.150. In the Linksys LRT224 rule shown below , I've configured both WAN interfaces to allow all traffic to 192.168.1.150 a minimum of 5 Mbps and a maximum of 6 Mbps. The goal in bandwidth management is to give the traffic-sensitive device(s) enough bandwidth, without limiting bandwidth for other devices and users too much. If my Netflix rule turns out to be too low, I can always increase the minimum and maximum values in 500 kbps increments until it works as desired. ... Rest of article (Small Net Builder) Linksys  LRT224 detailed review Zy WALL  110 detailed review

Icontrol Adds Analytics for Smarter Homes

Mari Silbey for LightReading:  If the first phase of the smart home is about adding sensors to light bulbs and door locks, the second phase is about collecting and analyzing data to make the smart home even smarter. Icontrol is moving on to the second phase, announcing that it has teamed up with Canadian company mnubo to bring data analytics to its popular smart home platform. There's been no question that analytics will play a large role in connected homes of the future. It's a short leap from telling your home to flip the lights when the front door opens to having the smart home system understand that a door opening means the lights should come on, or that at 6 p.m. the family is headed home and the lights and temperature should be adjusted accordingly. With data collected over time, a machine learning system for the smart home can start to predict user preferences. Icontrol believes it has an advantage in this emerging phase of the market because its scale means it has more data to work with than many of its competitors. The company is the dominant platform provider in the US cable industry, and Icontrol says its software is already tracking more than 26 million sensors and devices. The platform is expected to manage more than 100 billion transactions worldwide in 2015.   Cont'd...

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