Everything We Know About Apple's Smart Home

From John Patrick Pullen for Time.com:  Here’s what you need to know to plan for your Apple-centric connected home:   Siri will become your digital butler, turning up the heat and closing blinds at your command. But how that happens deserves some explaining. Requiring neither a new hardware device nor an operating system upgrade, Apple’s smart home capabilities will let users discover, configure, create actions for and control smart home devices using their iPhone’s operating system.   As an element already baked into Apple’s iOS 8, its integration will be seamless and largely invisible to consumers. If you’ve ever used Apple’s AirPlay technology to stream audio to a speaker or video to an Apple TV, you’re already familiar with how it operates.   But developers know the technology as HomeKit, the programming framework responsible for running Apple’s connected home ecosystem. Like AirPlay (and CarPlay and iBeacon, other Apple-approved interfaces for connecting with third-party products), HomeKit is designed to streamline communications between Apple’s gear and accessories like web security cameras, smart plugs, thermostats, and more. This framework ensures that however complex a third party company’s device is, in the eyes of iPhone users, it will just work (to paraphrase the late Steve Jobs).   In other words, when you tell Siri to “turn on the downstairs lights,” no matter the room, or the make and model of smart home lighting solutions, the connected lights in your home’s downstairs will turn on.   Cont'd...  

British Gas Buys UK Smart Home Pioneer AlertMe In $100M Deal

The connected home may still be a distant mirage for most average consumers, but in the meantime the technology is becoming big business. Today, British Gas announced it will buy AlertMe, a developer of platforms for running various domestic “smart” devices, in a deal worth £65 million ($100 million), lining up the energy company to provide smart services covering heating, lighting and more. The net cost to British Gas and its owner Centrica will be £44 million ($68 million), after accounting for an existing 21% investment in the company.   In addition to being an investor, British Gas was a user of its services, specifically in its Hive product, which lets you control your heating and hot water remotely. Hive is in use by 150,000 customers today.   Smart home technology may sound like a novelty to some, but it is more than that. It is a way of improving the efficiency and cost associated with energy use, and in many cases it can make everyday life simpler and easier for people.   Founded in 2006, Cambridge, UK-based AlertMe was an early mover in connected home technology — the idea of giving “dumb” services like your heating a network connection that helps calibrate and control them in a more efficient way. (And here’s an interesting fact: AlertMe was a partner of Google’s in one of the search giant’s earliest attempts to tackle the smart home, the now-defunct Powermeter.)

The Internet of Anything: The Startup Bringing the Smart Home to Apartment Renters

From Klint Finley for Wired.com:  Smart homes are here. You can use motion sensors to trigger smart light switches. You can program smart thermostats to warm only the rooms that people are actually using. You can even control smart power outlets with your mobile phone, setting appliances to turn on and off at certain times of day.   The problem is that all this gear is pretty expensive. And generally, you’re forced to install each system by hand—or hire someone to do it, which makes things even more expensive. And if you’re renting? Forget about it. These devices are almost completely out of reach you’re not allowed to retrofit your home.   All those barriers make it particularly difficult for young people to embrace what we now call the Internet of Things—and they’re typically the ones who are most interested in experimenting with new technologies. Sce Pike, the co-founder of the Portland, Oregon-based startup IOTAS, points out that only 36 percent of people under the age of 35 own their own homes, according to the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.   But Pike and IOTAS aim to solve this problem. The company works with real estate developers to build Internet-of-Things tech into apartment buildings, so that renters get access to it without having to pay upfront costs. The idea is to bring the smart home to everyone, to finally push it into the mainstream.   IOTAS is starting simple, with motion sensors, light switches, and power outlets. Using the company’s mobile app, you can create custom rules for your apartment. You could have IOTAS turn off all your apartment’s lights when you go into your bedroom after 10pm. Or maybe even tell it to blink your kitchen lights when you get a text message from your boss.   The system operates via a central online service. This could be included with your rent, or offered for an additional fee, like a utility. If you opt-out of the service, all the lights and outlets would still work just as they do in a normal apartment. And if your internet connection goes down—or if the cloud service can’t be reached—existing rules will still work. You just won’t be able to create new ones or use the app as a remote control.   Cont'd...  

ISE 2015 underway in Amsterdam

Integrated Systems Europe 2015 is now underway in Amsterdam.  With over 1000 scheduled exhibitors and 50,000 attendees this years show will be Europe's largest ever AV Systems integration exhibition. This year they will be offering a dedicated "Discovey Zone" showcasing the first time exhibitors at ISE.  As well they have divided the show floor into 4 technology areas:  : Digital Signage; Residential Solutions; Unified Communications and Smart Building. As usual The HomeToys Team we'll be busy posting news and product announcements from this years show which you can view on our  ISE 2015 Newspage .

RadioShack will close over 1,700 stores following bankruptcy filing

From Emily Gera for Polygon:  Long-running electronics company RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy last week, will see the closure of 1,784 stores across North America by March 31, the company confirmed in court documents.   RadioShack plans for the closures to come in three waves, the first of which will be completed by Feb. 17 and see the closure of 162 stores. The second will see 986 stores closed by Feb. 28, followed by a final purge of 636 stores by the end of March.   Despite filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, some stores will continue to exist. RadioShack operates 4,485 stores across the U.S. and it was reported General Wireless had plans to purchase between 1,500 and 2,400 stores. As part of an agreement with wireless service provider Sprint, 1,750 RadioShack stores will also be transformed into a combination Sprint/RadioShack retailer.   According to the Delaware court filing, RadioShack representatives said the company had $1.2 billion in assets and $1.38 billion in debt.

The Hive Trio smart system promises to make connected homes more vocal

From TechHive:  Developed over an 18-month period by a team with 12 years of experience creating ZigBee and Z-Wave devices, the Hive Trio connected-home system comprises a smart hub melded with a whole-home audio system.   Choosing a smart hub is arguably the most challenging decision that any connected-home DIYer has to make. The hub, after all, is not just another cog in the smart home machine but the very linchpin around which the whole setup must revolve. Fortunately for all you DIYers out there, new devices are coming in thick and fast and the increasing competition is forcing manufacturers to think out of the box. The Hive Trio is one such attempt at adding a new twist to the whole smart hub concept.   Currently seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter, the Hive Trio smart home solution from Salt Lake City-based startup Hive Life consists of the Hive Hub, Hive Sound speaker system, and Hive App. While the Hive Hub has a lot going for it in terms of specs, the star attraction in this case is undoubtedly the Hive Sound.   The Hive Sound is a multi-room, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled speaker system that can blast out the same or different tunes to different corners of your connected home, to say nothing of its ability to fetch your favorite beats straight from a long list of streaming services including Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, NPR One, and Pandora. Providing entertainment, however, is not its sole purpose.

Take These 4 Steps Before Making Your House a Smart Home

From  John Patrick Pullen  of Time.com:  Companies selling smart home products are quick to say how easy it is to connect their devices to the Internet. And while most of the time they’re correct, they are sidestepping a big, thorny pitfall: namely, your home’s wireless network. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been working on turning my house into smart home, and have learned that nothing is more important — and infuriating — than my house’s Wi-Fi.   Here are four lessons I’ve learned so far: 1. Be smart about where you put your Wi-Fi router. 2. There are no great ways to extend the range of your home’s Wi-Fi. 3. Hard-wiring your home is easier than you may think. 4. Power is a problem.   Full Article:

​Intel buys Lantiq for connected home networking

From ZDNet:  Intel acquired Lantiq, which makes broadband and networking gear, in a move that broadens its connected home efforts.   Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Lantiq is based in Munich, Germany and primarily serves broadband providers.   With the move, Intel becomes the latest tech giant to hop on the connected home bandwagon. Samsung has said its appliances will be connected to the Internet and tied together. Google owns Nest and everyone from Apple to Microsoft has some kind of connected home play.   Intel is looking to combine its cable gateway unit with Lantiq to tie together multiple devices---that will presumably run on its processors. Intel also has a strong Internet of things unit. Lantiq fills out the portfolio.   Lantiq would fit into the gateway portion of Intel's IoT platform.  

littleBits Smart Home Kit Review by TechSpot

Read Full review by Shawn Knight of TechSpot:  Amenities like being able to remotely adjust the temperature inside your home or receiving a text when the laundry is done certainly sound appealing, but are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just try these features out for a week or two before committing to shelling out hundreds or thousands on a standalone IoT-enabled device?   With littleBits’ new Smart Home Kit, you can do just that.   For the uninitiated among us, littleBits is an ever-growing open source library of small electronic modules that easily connect together. Created by Ayah Bdeir, it started as a tool to help designers incorporate electronics into the prototyping process. Today, it’s much more than that. Think of them as Lego bricks for the iPad generation.   The Smart Home Kit we’ll be looking at today is tailor-made for home automation projects. It includes 14 modules and 11 accessories, enabling a vast array of creations that can add smart functionality to all sorts of appliances and gadgets you already own, or create entirely new ones.    

Troubled Lockitron turns the corner with the introduction of its new smart lock, Bolt

From AppAdvice.com:  While the crowdfunding craze has helped to create a number of successful iOS accessory companies, there have also been more than a few spectacular failures. But Lockitron falls somewhere in between.   The company arrived on the scene all the way back in 2012 with its unique (at the time) smart and app-enabled deadbolt that cost $179. Flooded by a more-than-expected number of preorders, the company was unable to keep up with demand as the original Lockitron was plagued with hardware and software issues.   But the company has just introduced a new lock version named Bolt. There are some major differences compared to the original model.   Most importantly, the new version is retailing for just $99, which is significantly less than other competitors like the Kwikset Kevo and August Smart Lock. Purchasing the optional $77 bridge will allow users to control the lock from anywhere.   And instead of a fitting on top of your current deadbolt, the Bolt replaces it completely.

Building an Apple-powered smart home? Here's how non-HomeKit devices could work

From Jared Newman, MacWorld:  Your Apple-powered smart home of the future needn't be limited to the HomeKit ecosystem, but venturing outside will bring some restrictions.   HomeKit is Apple's upcoming framework for smart home devices such as lightbulbs, door locks, garage door openers, and thermostats. Many of these devices will connect directly to users' iPhones via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi—no separate hub device required—for unified voice control through Siri. They'll also be able to connect with an Apple TV, allowing for Siri voice controls when users are away from home.   Apple will also let users connect devices that aren't approved under the the Made for iPhone (MFi) program, using a separate bridge device that hooks them into HomeKit. This will allow companies like Insteon to make their existing range of smart home devices compatible with Apple's framework, even if they use alternative networking protocols such as ZigBee or Z-Wave.   But according to 9to5Mac's sources, these non-MFi devices won't have the same capabilities as products built with HomeKit in mind.   Cont'd...

URC to Combine Total Control and ccGEN2

From Residential Systems:    URC made a surprising announcement today in response to dealer and distributor requests and discussions. The Harrison, NY, manufacturer is combining its two control systems lines, Total Control and ccGEN2, converging the software in the next two weeks. The move is intended to “make things easier on products, purchasing, training, programming, and marketing,” according to Cat Toomey, URC director of marketing.   “On our recent fall tour of a few thousand dealers, we realized clearly we are making things harder than they need to be and we should course correct some things,” Toomey stated. “It’s a significant change but one that is a good one for the business and the dealers to get, sell, and program URC product, better, faster, and easier.”   Regarding the ccGEN2 and Total Control announcement, Toomey explained that because ccGEN2 and Total Control have had different programming software, new drivers get added at different times and ccGEN2 dealers lose access to URC music and amp sources.

Are Retailers Eyeing The Market For Smart Home Installation Services?

From Michael Wolf for Forbes.com: Today, Forbes and others reported on a massive new funding round for a Lowe’s-backed startup Porch.com to the tune of $65 million.  While Porch.com founder says he still controls the company, there is no doubt Lowe’s sees Porch.com as an important weapon in its expansion into the local installer services economy.   But the most interesting part about the Porch.com deal for me was thinking about how this nationwide network of local installers could help another Lowe’s strategic initiative – Lowe’s Iris – get traction.  Iris is the company’s smart home platform, which is the centerpiece of Lowe’s effort to put itself in control of a growing market that we at NextMarket forecast to be worth $7.8 billion in the US alone by 2019.   Smart home savvy readers are probably asking, “isn’t Lowe’s Iris a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) product?” It’s intended to be, but let’s be honest: DIY is the smart home industry’s big lie, since getting mass-market adoption will likely require a light-service channel to help Grandpa, Mom or even me install that new intelligent wall switch or smart water valve without electrocuting myself or flooding the house. Cont'd...

Xiaomi Unveils Smart Home Suite With Security Features

Xiaomi Corp. unveiled a new product called the Smart Home Suite with a group of four components that offer security features as it broadens its range of devices that can be controlled by mobile phone. The suite includes a human motion sensor, and a pair of door and window sensors that can be used for home security, Xiaomi President Bin Lin said today at the GeekPark Innovation Festival in Beijing. The company will start a consumer test of the product Jan. 26, he said. “In the past, motion sensors were very complicated and large in size, so that if you wanted a system you needed professional installation,” Lin told the conference. “For this suite, there is not a single nail or wire. These components are all very simple.” Xiaomi in less than five years has grown to become the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor and, at $45 billion, the most-valuable technology startup. Now, Chief Executive Officer Lei Jun is pushing into Web-enabled devices for the home even as it challenges Samsung Electronics Corp. and Apple Inc. (AAPL) at the higher end of the mobile-device market.

It is CES week in LThe Smart Home Nudges Manufacturers Toward Sustainability

From Jennifer Tuohy for The Triple Pundit: From lock manufacturers to heating and air conditioning companies, the smart home space is disrupting legacy industries. Big names in consumer products with decades of experience behind them have been caught off-guard by Kickstarter-powered startups and Silicon Valley CEOs.   The Nest Learning Thermostat, which debuted in 2011, was the first product to show what a nimble young company with high-tech brainpower behind it (in this case, two of Apple’s bright minds) could do to a space that many thought was set in stone. It took a little under five years, but the legacy companies are catching up — Honeywell launched its Nest alternative, the Lyric, late last year.   Is it too little, too late? Not at all. Don’t discount benefit of the decades of experience that legacy companies like Honeywell bring to the table. Bear in mind, Honeywell actually had a round thermostat first, in 1953.   As I discussed in my last article for Triple Pundit, this type of disruption drives development by forcing the big companies back to the drawing board to hopefully come up with even better products — ones that will save consumers even more money, use even less energy and lead us toward greater sustainability. Nowhere is this more relevant right now than in the smart home space.

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