From thermostats that can automatically adjust the temperature in your home to light bulbs that change color depending on the music you're listening to, the market is getting flooded with home automation tech right now. But convenience and novelty alone won't convince everyday consumers to spend extra money on Internet-enabled household appliances. According to Kevin Meagher, the general manager of Lowe's smart home division, there's one critical reason smart home technology will take off with consumers: safety. Speaking at Business Insider's annual Ignition conference, Meagher cites devices like smart smoke detectors that issue you notifications if the battery is about to die . "Connectivity brings a new dimension [to safety]," he said. Imagine a stove that could automatically turn off when it's not in use. Devices like this could be especially ideal for assisted living situations, since the gadgets would be capable of shutting down automatically to avoid dangerous situations. "When you've got an 80-year-old parent living on their own, what do they need a smart stove for?" Meagher said. "Every day of the week I'd pay [extra] for a smart stove that would switch things off."
For Airbnb hosts who want to keep tabs on their homes, a full home security system might be overkill. They’re expensive, and live cameras and motion detectors invade guests’ privacy. So how do they make sure guests keep the volume down, aren’t smoking inside and don’t ransack their home? A new device called Point combines microphones with environmental sensors to detect anything out of the ordinary in your home while you are away. A broken window while you’re at work, the sound of your teenagers throwing a raging party, Grandad sneaking an unauthorized after-dinner cigar. “They want to have peace of mind and know that everything is fine, but they don’t want or need full security systems,” said Nils Mattisson, co-founder of Form Devices, the start-up that makes Point. Small, round and plastic, Point looks like a traditional smoke alarm crossed with a speaker. Sounds are matched with data from the other sensors to figure out what might have happened — a loud crash followed by a drop in temperature might mean a window was broken. It hears when an existing smoke detector goes off and sends an alert, though it’s not certified as an official smoke detector on its own. It has a microphone that can detect sounds outside that the human ear could pick up. Environmental sensors pick up temperature; the particle sensor can tell what’s in the air.
Home-automation supplier Insteon is out to grab market share with the launch of a new flagship hub with an introductory price of only $39, compared with its predecessor’s $129. It’s promoted as the lowest-priced hub on the market. It’s also free with select kits that include home-automation devices, such as light switches and smart plugs. The company didn’t say how long the introductory price would last. Despite the lower price, the new hub adds such key enhancements as a 50 percent increase in wireless range, field upgradability, easier setup and a status screen that displays live updates of connected-device status. The hub is also smaller than its predecessor. The company didn’t specify a range. “We’ve demolished barriers in order to reach the broadest customer demographic,” said CEO Joe Dada. Insteon’s hub connects to more than 200 Insteon-brand devices, including lamp dimmers, thermostats and LED bulbs. The products use dual-band wireless RF and powerline technology for redundancy to ensure control signals reach all connected devices in a home. Products are monitored and controlled from iOS, Android and Windows smartphone and tablet apps and from computers.
Anyone looking to increase their online privacy and keep their files, documents and media safer but also accessible through a cloud storage solution, may be interested in the new system called NUZii. NUZii has been designed by a company of the same name and has taken to Kickstarter to raise the necessary $65,000 to help the cloud storage and home automation system make the jump into the manufacturing stage. Its creator explain a little more bout their new cloud storage solution and home automation device : “The NUZii is the World’s First Smart Life Platform. By combining a powerful cloud storage solution, a self-learning home automation system and internet security with one unified interface, we re-imagined how the Internet of Things should be. NUZii has a very advanced yet easy-to-use cloud storage system. It backs up your content from all of your devices so that you can access them from anywhere. You can also share your files instantly and securely with anyone, which means you don’t have to wait to upload 100 holiday photos before sharing them.
Water heaters, despite their ubiquity and role as the 2nd largest consumer of home energy and hub of its plumbing network, have largely been excluded from the "smart home" trend. Aquanta changes that by being the first water heater controller to combine near-universal retrofit-ability, networked home compatibility and advanced analytics that enable "learning" controls for smart cycling of its heating. The Kickstarter campaign allows interested parties to support Aquanta's development and receive an Aquanta unit upon its commercial availability in mid-2015. "Most people don't know that water heating is the 2nd largest consumer of energy in their home," said Sunnovations Chief Executive Officer Matt Carlson. "Aquanta is designed to save homeowners money, while at the same time provide enhanced controls and maintenance alerts like water heater leak detection. Water heaters are a sometimes overlooked but critical part of the fabric of our lives, and Aquanta will bring groundbreaking convenience, control and insight to their operation and energy usage." Aquanta is designed to be easily installed on a home's existing water heater, and will work with the vast majority of hot water storage tanks found in North America and elsewhere in the world. Its enabling technology is its proprietary enthalpy sensor, which can highly accurately measure both energy going into a water heater as well the energy being used. Aquanta's software uses the sensor data to "learn" and control the water heating according to a homeowner's usage patterns. The user interface will be web-based, with integrations planned into the major smart home platforms on the market.
Starting on November 27 and running through the first of December, Best Buy will offer discounts on the Nest Learning Thermostat, and Dropcam HD network-connected security camera. The two products normally retail for $250 and $149, respectively, but will go for $200 and $100 during the Black Friday deal. Also included in the deals is the Philips Hue Starter Kit ($200), which includes a set of three Wi-Fi connected, app-controlled, color-variable LED light bulbs and an accompanying network hub. Best Buy won’t be selling the kits at a discount, but if you’re willing to dish out 200 bucks on one, they’ll throw in a Philips Hue Bloom Accent Light ($80) for free. And the best part? You won’t be forced to wade through crazed crowds of Black Friday deal hunters to get your hands on these gizmos. In addition to offering these deals at brick-and-mortar locations, Best Buy will also offer them to customers who visit its website.
LittleBits, which makes brightly colored modules that snap together to create electronic circuits, is now selling a $249 DIY kit for those who want to turn their analog abodes into WiFi-enabled smart homes. The set extends the use of the recently launched cloudBit, giving users a menu of projects that include a remote pet feeder, a smart air-conditioner, and a garage door monitor. It essentially allows people to build their own IoT hardware without having to wait for companies like Nest, GE, or Apple to roll out another product. “The electronics industry pretty much remains a very top-down industry that is very much controlled by large companies, by experts, by engineers,” says LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir. “Very few people are able to gain access and innovate in it.” Her three-year-old startup makes it as easy to customize hardware as it is to assemble Ikea furniture. The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 bits, including the cloudBit as well as five new ones: an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a number counter (which, for instance, can be attached to the temperature sensor to display Fahrenheit or Celsius values), a threshold (which can turn a sensor into a trigger module), and an infrared transmitter (which can be paired with an AC switch to turn appliances on or off). The company includes an infographic poster cataloging a host of potential projects, from a device that adds toilet paper to your digital grocery list when someone takes the last roll to an alarm that sounds when your fridge is left open too long. Makers can control the devices through the LittleBits-hosted Web app; their own API, or IFTTT (If This Then That), a service that connects to a channel like Twitter or Facebook to trigger an action such as a tweet or Facebook status update.
The fledgling home-automation market is growing quickly and continuing to attract new companies. Some of the newest entrants include Ecovent, Snupi Technologies, Cielo WiGle and Droplit. iDevices, the maker of Bluetooth kitchen and outdoor-grill thermometers, also plans an entry. The newcomers enter a market whose U.S. unit sales will grow in 2015 by 20 percent to 24.9 million units and grow at 20 percent rates in 2016 and 2017, a Parks Associates/Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) report shows. The units include smart thermostats, networked cameras, smart door locks, water-leak detectors, smart smoke and CO detectors, smart light bulbs and switches, smart plugs and outlets, smart power strips, and the like. Despite the gains, only 10 percent of U.S. households have at least one smart-home device, and no single device has an ownership rate exceeding 6 percent, the Parks/CEA survey found. The survey also found that 62 percent of broadband-connected households in the U.S. are unfamiliar with smart-home products, almost 70 percent don’t know where to buy them, but 20 percent intend to buy one or more smart-home devices in the next 12 months.
Samsung on Wednesday detailed its latest tools for developers -- including a new sensor-filled wearable reference design -- to get them excited about making apps customized for its devices. Samsung is hosting its second annual developers conference at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, the same venue where Apple and Google host their yearly confabs. The conference is part of Samsung's effort to work with startups and become a bigger part of Silicon Valley. The South Korean company has long been at the forefront of hardware advancements, but it has struggled with software and services. Samsung hasn't said how many people have registered to attend, but last year's event, which was held at a smaller venue, had 1,300 participants. The company has more than 200 people lined up to speak over the course of three days. In particular, Samsung's developers conference will be focus on digital health, smart home, virtual reality and wearables. The company introduced software development kits for the sectors, including the Samsung Digital Health SDK, a beta SDK for Samsung Smart Home and an S Pen SDK. The New Look SDK allows developers to take advantage of the curved screen of the Note Edge phablet, and a Gear S SDK lets app makers create software that applies to the smartwatch's standalone features. The Gear S includes its own cellular modem, making it the first Samsung smartwatch that doesn't need to be constantly connected to a smartphone.
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, 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.
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 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.”
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.
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."
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