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.  

After The Smart Phone: The Smart Home

A new decade is starting, where Smart Home is becoming a reality and the smart phone will become the dashboard of our Smart Home, together functioning as the drivers of the next technology curve - as the first chapter of the real Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything.

Three Hometoys Related Kickstarters And One Funded Product Available Now

The Core wireless speaker system / Artison RCC Nano / IoTuino: Arduino-compatible WiFi module for IoT / PIXEL V2: LED ART

New from ELAN Home Systems and Core Brands

Companies like Apple and Google are going to help drive the consumer's awareness of and demand for smart home control systems, and their entry into the market is going to produce a boon in business for those custom installation integrators that are prepared and trained to take advantage of the opportunities.

New at SpeakerCraft

For speakers, we're in the largest design refresh in the brand's history.

Ultimatte's SightDeck Revolutionizes Presentations and Distance Learning Applications

SightDeck uses Gefen Technology to Enable a Seamless Back-end Performance that Drives State-of-the-Art Corporate and Educational Presentation Environments

Customizable Multi-Zone Wireless Audio

With systems available that deliver audio quality better than the CD standard, no longer will there be compromises when wireless options are looked into. And by having a system completely agnostic to the source and the speaker, installers can now offer the same level of performance when adding to an already existing system that allows a profitable job for them and a level of quality the client demands.

Outfitting Your Outdoor Entertaining Areas with Smart Home Audio

When designing your outdoor sound system, use these helpful tips, from knowing the size of your yard and what areas will get sound to what type of activities you will host.

User Focus: Cyberworld Needs Better Personal Intelligence, Common Sense

Programmers often don't make it as easy as possible for authorized users to "do the right thing" with built-in hurdles that seem logical … to a programmer.

US Consumers are eager for the 'Internet of things' in the home, Savant survey reveals

Savant, the leading luxury smart home technology company, today released new survey results revealing that more than half of consumers in the United States believe that home automation will be an everyday feature in less than 10 years from now, and nearly one-fourth saying that the technology will be an everyday feature in less than five years. The survey further reveals that control/ease of use (69 percent) and convenience (58 percent) are the most important features for consumers when purchasing a new technology. Cost savings (41 percent) and safety and security (35 percent) were cited as the two primary considerations among consumers for the adoption of smart home automation systems.    "Consumers have spoken and want convenience and ease of use from their smart home technology said William J. Lynch, CEO, Savant. "For almost 10 years now, people with Savant Homes have seen how much easier automation makes their lives, and we are committed to bringing this experience to more and more homeowners."   

How the smart home will evolve

Right now we have some very successful point applications in the home. The Nest thermostat and the cloud recording device Dropcam, which is now owned by Nest, are two examples. But smart lighting like Philips Hue or smart door locks from a companies like Kwikset and August will pick up steam over the next few years.   We also have the introduction of some promising platforms from the likes of SmartThings, AlertMe, and Revolv (although Revolv’s platform doesn’t seem to have much of a future after its acquisition by Nest on Friday). These platforms, which Gigaom Research reviewed in its latest Sector Roadmap, often include hardware hubs with multiple radio protocols to enable easy communication with a multitude of smart devices, be they thermostats, lighting, energy management or security. The benefits of platforms is that they deal with device fragmentation and make visualizing the capabilities of the smart home in one governing app possible rather than having to access a different app for every piece of hardware. They also should allow developers to write code and create rules that affect multiple devices.   Cont'd..

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