Another day, another smart home company is coming alive. But this latest one, Leeo, has some pretty big names behind it–including the main people responsible for creating products like Beats headphones and the video game Guitar Hero as well as executives from CIA-backed big data company Palantir and robotics company RoboteX. And after a year and a half in stealth mode, Palo Alto-based Leeo has already amassed a team of 60 employees and $37 million in venture capital from Formation 8, Visionnaire Ventures and German utility giant E.ON . What exactly does this smart home startup do that’s getting so much money and talent? Well, Leeo isn’t ready to talk about specific products it’s coming out with yet, but the company’s explanation of how it’s approaching the industry is a bit different than other smart home companies. From the very beginning, Leeo is focusing on working with hulking incumbents like telecommunication companies and utilities to help roll out services onto the company’s smart home product line. That will make Leeo a bit of a mix between an enterprise and consumer product company.
Logitech announced it is bringing its expertise and leadership in universal remotes to the home control market with new home automation product compatibility and four new products. The new Harmony® Living Home lineup gives you easy access and control over a wide library of entertainment and home automation devices, all from one centralized control system. "Harmony led the path for simplifying home entertainment, and now we've taken that expertise to also simplify home automation," said Chad Thompson, senior director of worldwide marketing and product management. "As more connected devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat™, Philips® hue lights and August™ Smart Locks come to market and enter the home, there's more of a need than ever before for a centralized way to simply control all of the home's devices - the Harmony Living Home lineup does just that." With just a few easy steps your remote, tablet or smartphone can now control your TV, set-top box, speakers, lighting, thermostat, door locks, window shades and other popular devices. Plus, you can easily combine multiple devices into Activities to trigger at once so you can power on your TV, dim your lights, adjust the temperature and open your window shades all at the same time. You can start an Activity with one touch of your remote or mobile device, automatically on a custom schedule, or by passing a sensor. You can even trigger Activities from the Harmony Mobile App when you're not at home.
CEDIA EXPO 2014 showed steady growth in attendance and exhibitor participation. More than 480 exhibitors and 18,500 attendees from 82 countries participated in the 2014 event in Denver. Professional and overall attendance both grew by 3%, and the overall exhibitor footprint also saw growth with a 14% increase in the square footage of the show floor. “CEDIA EXPO continues to be a vital venue for home technology decision makers to connect and experience the latest and greatest the industry has to offer,” said Don Gilpin, CEDIA Executive Director and COO. “Not only did attendees see where the industry is going on the show floor, they also saw it in the classroom. CEDIA EXPO offered 110 training sessions, 48 of which were new, offering attendees avenues to stay up to date on the skills they need to remain competitive in the industry. From product launches and demos to networking and training events, CEDIA EXPO 2014 proved to be a fantastic success." Attendees remained consistent in their professional development with CEDIA training and this year’s certification offerings. All CEDIA Certification exam sessions sold out and 40+ training classes were sold out.
The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) recognized the outstanding work of its members at the annual Electronic Lifestyles® Awards Celebration Saturday night. The honorees included over 40 winning projects in the Designer Awards competition, 11 Manufacturers' Excellence Awards winners, the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and this year's top volunteers. Also at this year's Awards Celebration, CEDIA paid special recognition to the founding members of the association as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration. The Designer Awards competition, which honors the best projects completed by home technology professional members in the past year, featured winners in such categories as Best Integrated Home, Best Media Room, Best Hidden Installation, and Best Home Theater. The Designer Awards winners were determined by a panel of expert judges that included home technology professionals, architects, and interior designers. Also recognized were the three winners in the CEDIA/HGTVRemodels.com People's Pick Awards, which were voted on by visitors to HGTVRemodels.com. The Manufacturers' Excellence Awards honorees included 10 Best New Product winners, one Sustainable Lifestyle Product Innovation winner, and three inductees into the Product Hall of Fame. The winners were selected by a panel of home technology professional judges. The full list of award winners can be viewed at here . For all the News and announcements from this years show make sure to check out our SPECIAL CEDIA NEWSPAGE & Check out our Special CEDIA Tradeshow Report.
CEDIA 2014 is underway in Denver, Colorado with training sessions beginning on September 10th and the Show room floor opening up on the 11th. This years show used the slogan "Hyper-Change" to signify the ongoing evolution of the residential AV market and promises to showcase "New Products, New Innovations and New Demands." Showcasing a full spectrum of the Home Technology trends that are relevant today and tomorrow CEDIA 2014 hosted thousands of visitors browsing the booths of nearly 500 exhibitors. As well over 100 courses will be offered that cover home automation, home theater, audio video, systems integration and networking. As usual HomeToys.com is on hand to see what was what at this years show. Stay tuned for our Special CEDIA Tradeshow Report. For all the News and announcements from this years show make sure to check out our SPECIAL CEDIA NEWSPAGE.
Companies are starting to pick sides in the home automation race, and Sony just made its choice. The company announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this week that it is joining Qualcomm 's AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of tech and consumer companies utilizing Qualcomm's open-source AllJoyn home automation platform. Sony's move means there's yet another company pushing an alternative home automation platform to Apple 's forthcoming HomeKit. Qualcomm has collected an impressive group of peers for its home automation platform, including Microsoft , LG, Panasonic , Haier, Sharp , and about 60 other companies. And while Sony's move won't derail Apple's HomeKit plans , the growing number of companies joining the AllJoyn proves just how heated this competition is becoming. AllJoyn -- like many other open-source home automation platforms -- enables third-party devices to easily connect to each other, communicate with other devices, and pair together for combined automation.
Want proof that the smart home is big? Check out the whopper private equity investment that KKR has made in Savant. Savant said it has raised $90 million from its founder Robert Madonna and affiliates of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR). The round will help Savant navigate a space where it has played for years but is suddenly seeing an influx of competitors at both the low and high end. Savant is a bit unusual in that it’s designed for luxury homes and professional installers. The company uses Apple hardware and has built software that models itself on Apple’s ease of use and attractiveness. Touches such as taking a picture of your living room and then programming that picture to act as the touch screen for your home controls are an example of how friendly the Savant experience is. You just touch the lamp in your picture and it turns on. It’s fun. In the last year Savant has taken its high-end ethos and moved closer to the DIY market with a cheaper product called the Savant Smart Series. Instead of running on a Mac Mini it uses a Linux server stored in a closet or cabinet somewhere. That cheaper product will still run you around $1,600 for the basic set up.
Elgato will be an exhibitor at IFA Berlin this year, but the company has already announced the introduction of its new HomeKit to the market, with supposed full iOS 8 integration. The HomeKit will be fully compatible with Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform once iOS 8 launches. Elgato’s HomeKit will feature the Eve product line which comprises of various smart home sensors such as light bulbs, door and window locks, thermometers for air and water temperature monitoring, smoke detectors and smart plugs. With this in mind, Elgato plans to become the competition for Samsung’s Smart Home system that will also launch at IFA in a couple of days. The Eve brand in the HomeKit features Bluetooth accessories which will monitor almost everything in your house, from smoke, to air, water, humidity, air pressure, energy and water consumption. All the information these sensors gather will be automatically fed into iOS 8′s HomeKit application so that you can monitor everything from your iPhone. HomeKit will also provide users with tips and tricks on how to improve their environment.
Icontrol Networks, a leader in connected home technology and innovation, today announced that SmartHome Ventures has chosen Icontrol to power the newly-launched PEQ (pronounced "peek") home automation system, available now at www.mypeq.com, and at select Best Buy store locations and on BestBuy.com beginning August 31st. With this announcement, the best-in-class Icontrol smart home platform is now available for consumers to purchase and use right out of the box. "Our goal is to give consumers as many options as possible, whether they prefer a professionally-installed and monitored solution, a self-installed package they can purchase and build upon, or an all-in-one device," said Jim Johnson, executive vice president and general manager at Icontrol. "We are excited to provide another option for consumers who want to take advantage of the ease and convenience of a connected home." All PEQ-compatible devices have been certified through the Icontrol OpenHome™ Developer Program, the first community for application and device makers to partner on a common platform. This means PEQ customers will have access to a growing number of connected home devices, and developers can market their innovations to an even larger market of connected home customers. Icontrol software currently manages more than 22 million sensors and devices, representing the most widely used connected home platform in the industry.
Demand For Wireless High Resolution Home Theater Audio Sparks Growth in Wireless Speaker and Audio Association
The Wireless Speaker and Audio (WiSA®) Association, an industry group dedicated to bringing, high resolution, wireless, multi-channel audio products to the home theater market, continues its fast growth with the addition of six new members. According to Raiyska Iyer, Market Research Analyst for Futuresource Consulting, home audio represents an enormous opportunity for manufacturers and retailers with wireless speakers and soundbars growing at 181% and 81% annually. To date, wireless audio solutions have been limited to only a stereo experience, the key advantage of WiSA-compliant components is that it is the first solution to offer high-resolution audio from 2.0 to 7.4 channels. And, WiSA-compliant systems are fully interoperable, allowing the consumer the convenience and freedom-of-choice to mix and match components from different manufacturers. "The surge in membership and the adoption of WiSA-compliant products is a reflection of the Association's category leading wireless audio solution," said Tom Lee, president of the WiSA Association. "WiSA members are able to deliver what consumers want, a full multi-channel, wireless home theater experience. The interference-free, wireless high-resolution audio products are easy to set up and interoperate with other compliant CE devices like HDTVs, set-top-boxes, gaming devices and more."
Microsoft is betting on the future of the smart home, and it's hoping to discover that future within its own ranks. Earlier this summer, the company announced plans to launch a start-up accelerator focused specifically on home automation and the Internet of Things. It was a move made partly in an attempt to compete with Apple and Google, both of which have made significant strides in home automation. It's also a simple acknowledgement of a market that's expected to double in size over the next five years. This past week, Microsoft announced the 10 start-ups that will participate in the accelerator program, which will run from September to December of this year on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus. The chosen outfits were selected from a pool of more than 400 candidates. "The goal of this Accelerator is simple: to help a new generation of companies create smarter and safer homes," said Steven Guggenheimer, chief evangelist at Microsoft Developer Experience, in a statement. "We share the belief that over time the home automation trend will fundamentally change how we interact with and manage our homes — making them more efficient, communicative and ultimately safer." Full List:
For most of its brief existence, the modern smart home has offered a frustratingly fragmented user experience. A maze of competing, proprietary ecosystems has forced consumers to pick a "side" (be it Staples Connect, Lowes Iris, Quirky Wink, or Belkin WeMo) and sacrifice otherwise attractive products on the altar of compatibility. Some see a potential solution in IFTTT (If This Then That), a free service that gives websites, apps, and devices a simple way to interact with one another. Major brands—including Philips, Nest, and even Belkin and Quirky—have already made their products compatible with IFTTT. This week home security giant ADT announced that it's developing an IFTTT "channel" for its Pulse home automation system. At its most basic, IFTTT lets you create "recipes" with the tech you use every day as the ingredients. The recipes follow a simple template in which "triggers" set off associated "actions."
Electronics retailer Best Buy is entering the crowded home automation market through a deal with startup Smart Home Ventures, which designed its offering around ease of use. Called Peq (pronounced “peak”), the service costs $9.99 a month for an unlimited number of gadgets connected to a wireless hub, which are sold in kits ranging in cost from about $120 to $490. Best Buy will start selling the products at 250 stores at the end of the month. Peq will also be available online and through a telecom company that is yet to be announced, according to a company representative. As with most smart home offerings, the makers of Peq assume the primary draw for consumers is home security. Over time, the company expects consumers to add other connected devices, such as lamp modules and thermostats. The monthly service charge covers the ability to watch live video on a smartphone and record twenty video clips and 40 images a day. It also sends text or email alerts in response to certain occurrences, such as when a door or window sensor is tripped at an unexpected time.
Samsung is making a big push into being the center of the smart home today with its acquisition of SmartThings, which allows people to sync up their connected gadgets onto a single smartphone app and hardware hub. The company isn’t releasing the acquisition price, but TechCrunch reported a $200 million pricetag when first caught word of the deal last month. “From the beginning, our goal has been to make a platform every human being could use—and to make every home a smart home,” said SmartThings cofounder and CEO Alex Hawkinson in phone call today. “This will help us reach a massive scale. We saw an opportunity to bring SmartThing’s vision to hundreds of millions of customers.” Founded in 2012, SmartThings told me a few months ago it was currently only in “tens of thousands” of homes, but growing at a quick pace of 20% new installations every month. According to the two companies, SmartThings will operate as an independent company and will be moving from its home base of Washington D.C. over to Samsung’s Open Innovation Center in Palo Alto. The Open Innovation Center acts as an investing arm and startup accelerator for U.S. companies that Samsung is interested in.
Parks Associates today announced Internet of Things (IoT) research showing nearly 4% of U.S. households will have a smart home controller by the end of 2014, with an estimated increase to nearly 6% by 2015. The firm's Evolution of Smart Home and the Internet of Things, which includes data from a 1Q 2014 survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households, also reports 64% of all smart devices currently in households operate as part of a security or home controls system. Smart devices include motorized door controls, lighting controls, networked security camera, and programmable thermostats, among other devices. "The smart home is an emerging market with multiple channels, from service channels to retailers such as Staples and Lowe's," said Tom Kerber, Director, Research, Home Controls & Energy, Parks Associates. "The majority of smart devices installed today were acquired as part of a security or home controls system deployed by a providers such as ADT, Comcast, or AT&T. However, consumers are starting to buy individual products such as smart programmable thermostats and smart smoke detectors in greater numbers and install them as stand-alone devices-but with the expectation that these new devices will interact with all existing and future devices in the home."
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