Amid a bevy of Amazon-related announcements surrounding Kindle – some intentional (the arrival of Kindle MatchBook), some not (news of an updated Kindle Paperwhite leaked a bit early) – Amazon has also quietly launched a new storefront focused on Home Automation products, including things like programmable thermostats, smart locks, sensors, video monitors, and more. The new website aims to centralize the now numerous options involving smart home hardware and services under one roof, organizing products into broad, high-level categories, like “Energy Management,” “Entertainment,” and “Monitoring,” which you can then further drill down into via sub-categories like “Lightbulbs” or “security cameras,” “televisions” or “alarms,” and so on. Additionally, Amazon’s Home Automation store is set up to be newbie-friendly with introductory guides to a variety of product categories like door locks, thermostats, and controllers, for example. There’s even a special section of the storefront that breaks out the “new and innovative” products from companies like Kwikset, Wimoto, SmartThings, and others.
Nowadays, home automation systems have become much better, less nerdy and more widely used, in large part due to the embrace of “smart home” services from the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. In fact, it’s these new smart home service offerings from the big telco and cable providers that will help drive the smart home services market from under $2 billion worldwide in 2012 to $10.9 billion by 2017 according to a new report from NextMarket Insights. So why is your local cable, Internet and phone provider getting into the home automation game? In large part because those same triple-play offerings they provide you are under attack from the likes of Internet video and voice over IP and smart home services provide a new and attractive new revenue stream. Of course, companies like Comcast have been experimenting with offerings like home security for at least six or seven years, but only in the last couple years have cable and telcos embraced smart home services in a bigger way. This new love for the smart home has been helped along by the emergence of new software-powered services from companies such as iControl Networksand AlertMe, who provide a underlying “white-label” service to which your phone or cable company then can affix their own their brand name. Other smart home platform providers such as Alarm.com have gone outside of the telco and cable provider channels and partnered with a network of home security dealers, riding their 2,500 security partners to over 1 million customers in North America.
Meet Enblink: a dongle that plugs into any Google TV device and turns it into a home automation control hub. Enblink works with any Z-Wave enabled gadget, from door locks and lamps to security sensors and video cameras. The dongle itself will serve as a Z-Wave radio (once it's passed through the Z-Wave certification process) when plugged into your GTV device of choice. From there, its software runs atop GTV's Android underpinnings and leverages the device's CPU to control the locks and lights in your abode. A companion app for Android turns your phone into a remote control and monitor for appliances hooked into the Enblink system, plus there's an iOS app currently in development. Input from mobile devices goes through Amazon Web Services, which relays commands to the dongle to execute your bidding from afar. It's up for pre-order right now for $85, with the price rising to $99 when it officially goes on sale sometime in the next month or two. Of course, if you're streaming video to your mobile device, there's an ongoing fee (of undetermined cost) for the privilege once you've used up your free allotment of 30 seconds of streaming per day. Regardless, by leveraging existing GTV hardware and AWS to do the lifting on the backend, Enblink is a fraction of the cost of many purpose-built home automation base stations. So if you're a home automation geek that counts yourself among those very few with a Google TV and a slew of Z-Wave toasters, locks and light bulbs, your ship has, at long last, come in.
Six home technology companies are merging to form one super-company that caters to the super-rich. Dubbed VIA International, it will provide a premium home automation experience to people with a lot of money to spend on their homes. Cyber Sound, DSI Entertainment, Engineered Environments, Paragon Technology, S3 Aurant, and Studio AV are joining forces to become a full-service home technology provider with distribution across the country, or at least where “ultra-high net worth clients” live. Before the merger, the companies were based in regions across the Western United States, in Colorado, Utah, Northern and Southern California, Arizona, and Montana. They build and install systems for home movie theaters, speaker systems, lighting control, security, and energy management. “The merger of leading home technology integrators to form VIA International will transform the entire residential systems industry,” Randy Stearns, CEO and founding partner of VIA International said in a statement. “Together, we are elevating a fragmented, project-based business model into a consolidated and streamlined service provider that emphasizes providing a concierge-level experience over multiple years in multiple homes, not simply a one-time, product-centric solution.”
Savant Systems, LLC has announced the introduction of their SmartLighting Wi-Fi 802.11-based lighting control products, delivering a versatile solution that can be used as both a standalone lighting control platform or as part of a complete Savant automation system. Featuring a dimmer inside each Wi-Fi-connected keypad, Savant has created the ultimate customizable solution ideal for both new construction and retrofit lighting control that can be integrated without rewiring the home or commercial facility. Savant's SmartLighting technology expands the brand's presence in the growing connected home marketplace with a versatile Wi-Fi-based lighting control system. Once the Wi-Fi lighting control keypads have been connected to existing line voltage and lighting load wiring in the wall, they become a powerful and secure networked device that can be controlled using Savant's new standalone lighting control iOS app or as part of a larger Savant ecosystem.
Best Buy's stock rallied Tuesday after the electronics retailer reported a substantial gain in quarterly earnings, helped by aggressive cost cutting. Best Buy said earnings jumped to $266 million in the quarter ended Aug. 3, compared with $12 million in the year-ago quarter. The company's stock jumped as much as 12.8% to $34.65. That helped it unseat Netflix as the S&P 500's top performer this year. Chief Executive Hubert Joly said Best Buy cut $65 million in annualized costs. He said the company has managed to slash $390 million in nine months, as part of an effort to cut $725 million. Looking ahead, Joly was a little cautious, noting that Best Buy has incurred some additional costs and an interruption in same store sales growth as it rolls out its new Samsung Experience Shops and Microsoft Windows Stores. Same-store sales slipped 0.4% for the quarter, but Joly said they would have been flat to slightly higher if not for the Samsung roll-out.
Samsung will begin selling on its web site and through select specialty dealers its first Curved OLED TV: the 55-inch Model KN55S9C. At $8,999.99, it enters the market at $6,000 less than competitor LG’s 55-inch Curved OLED, introduced three weeks ago at the Magnolia Design Center in Best Buy’s flagship Richfield, Minn. store. Samsung vice president of Home Entertainment Dave Das said the price was achieved due to “better than anticipated yields,” which led to the company’s being able to deliver product at such a low price point. He said the metallic-frame curved aspect of the set, which Samsung is referencing in marketing materials a “Timeless Arena’ that evokes the curved shape of an arena, would serve to distinguish it on a typical sales floor, where consumers are generally faced with a wall of “me-too” flat-panel TVs. The decision to market strategically through the same specialty channel through which Samsung has been marketing its $40,000 85-inch Ultra HD, however, means that that dealer group will likely be better able to make the case for purchase through its caliber of sales personnel, Das said.
By 2018, ABI Research expects annual home automation device shipments to exceed 351 million, growing at a CAGR of 78%. ZigBee dominated IEEE 802.15.4 and claimed the top share of node shipments at 4.5 million, narrowly beating out proprietary protocol offerings. Senior analyst Adarsh Krishnan, comments, "ZigBee is enjoying success in the home automation market because, as an open standard technology, multiple IC vendors are creating ZigBee chipsets. Quite simply, open standard technologies are considered less risky and highly scalable when compared to the closed ecosystems of proprietary RF technologies." Another wireless communication protocol that has gained traction in the home automation market is Z-Wave. Recent managed service initiatives that offer home automation as a service are using the Z-Wave protocol to connect low-power home automation devices. Z-Wave enjoys support from consumers, especially in the DIY segment, because the interoperability of the wide portfolio of vendor products. As a result, consumers have choice regardless of the distribution channel or supplier. Smart devices that use the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol part of Bluetooth v4.0 single-mode specification will experience the highest growth in the category, reaching over 133 million units by 2018. Practice director Dan Shey explains, "Consumer electronics (CE), including smartphones, tablets, and laptops equipped with Bluetooth are a major contributor to Bluetooth growth in home automation. Not only do these devices drive production economy of scale advantages but CE's are also growing role as a tool for managing and interacting with home automation systems."
A world full of Internet-connected devices is a giant step closer to reality thanks to a new communications system that works without batteries or wires for power. Just as we use mirrors to reflect light, or turbines to catch the wind, this technique — known as "ambient backscatter"— co-opts transmissions from TV and cellular towers and reflects them to exchange information between wireless devices. These waves serve as both a source of power and carriers of information. "We just use existing signals all around us," Shyam Gollakota, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, explained to NBC News. He and colleagues built a proof-of-concept system consisting of credit-card-size electronic devices that use antennas to detect, harness and reflect a TV signal, which is then picked up by similar devices. Since TV signals are reflected off buildings, cars, trees and everything else in a city as it travels from a transmission tower to a TV set, the extra reflection doesn't degrade the signal. "Our reflection is yet just another reflection," Gollakota said. The prototype devices communicate with each other over a distance of several feet. They flash little LED lights when they receive a signal from another device. The applications of the technology are limitless: a keychain that sends out a text message to its owner's mobile phone when it falls out of a pocket, for instance; or an array of pad-like sensors embedded in a roof that relay a message to a homeowner when a water leak is detected.
Multi-platform home automation hub Rev olv has gone up for preorder, offering a $299 way to harness your Sonos, Hue lighting, Yale automatic locks, and more, all from a single app. The smart home base-station – previously known as Mobiplug – packs a total of seven radios so as to communicate with a broad variety of popular remote-control kit, with support for automated macro routines based on your location, the current time, and more. Currently, while streaming music systems like Sonos and wireless multi-color LED lighting systems like Philips Hue offer a more cost-effective way to get smart home functionality that might once have cost many thousands of dollars, there’s no unified way to control them all. Instead, users generally end up with multiple individual apps, each suited to one platform but not any others. Revolv aims to address that, by bridging the connectivity of multiple platforms into a single base station. According to the company, setup is effectively automatic once you’ve plugged it into a power supply: the hub scans first for the home WiFi network , then for any compatible devices, associating itself with them instantly if possible or, if not, with a simple “push button discovery” system.
Shout it from the mountain top: home automation is reaching new heights -- 26,906 feet, to be exact. That's the height of Cho Oyu, the sixth-highest mountain in the world. And that's where an amateur mountain climber will demonstrate the home automation capabilities of Z-Wave using a variety of devices powered by Z-Wave technology. By virtue of the remote location, rugged environmental condition, and lack of technical support capabilities, it is being dubbed the "most remote home automation demonstration ever recorded." The climb Cho Oyu and the subsequent demonstration -- officially titled the "Z-Wave Himalayan Expedition by Kwikset®" -- will be performed by named Mariusz Malkowski, a 40-year-old technical services manager at Sigma Designs, a member of the 200-member Z-Wave Alliance. Malkowski has climbed world-class mountains on four continents, many of them by himself. Using no supplemental oxygen, Malkowski is scheduled to begin his ascent on September 10 and will conclude his descent on or around October 6. Using only his smartphone, Malkowski will control various home automation scenes set up in the Z-Wave booth at the CEDIA Expo in Denver (CEDIA is the leading tradeshow in the residential electronic systems industry). Scenes will include locking and unlocking a Kwikset SmartCode™ Deadbolt Lock with Home Connect™ Technology and adjusting temperature on his Remotec Thermostat, as well as controlling other Z-Wave Devices. The purpose is to show end-users the dependability of Z-Wave technology, as well as highlighting the overall benefits of home automation.
I’m talking, of course, about the holy grail of the living room: the home theater. I’m here now to pass this knowledge on to you. Although a lot has changed since I slogged through miserable shifts, pretending I actually like talking to strangers, a lot of the basic tenants still hold true. Think of this as a survival guide; you’re going to want to do your own research and ask your own questions, but what follows are some very important considerations and points of understanding. By the time you’re finished reading this, you should have a better sense of what to look for while shopping around; at the very least, you’ll understand what “contrast ratio” means. Don't pay attention to contrast ratio: Since I did just promise I’d explain this, contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest a television can display and the darkest. If you’ll recall your middle-school science class for a moment, white and black are at opposite ends of the color spectrum. A television’s contrast ratio is the measurement of the luminance ratio between the two. Put simply, the higher the number, the deeper, more realistic a TV’s picture should be. Higher contrast ratio sets can generally produce more colors and more accurate colors. You’ll see contrast ratio plastered all over TV specs (usually written as 1:X). The problem is, there’s no standardized measurement for contrast ratio. Read Full Article.
Shares of Control4 Corp., a Salt Lake City-based company that provides home automation systems, made their trading debut on the Nasdaq stock market Friday morning. The company, which was founded in 2003 and has automated more than 120,000 homes since then, sold 4 million shares of its stock for $16 each, raising $64 million. At the close of trading Friday, the company’s shares were $20.05, up $4.05 (25.31 percent) per share for the day. In midday trading, the company’s shares were up $3.40 over their initial offering price, or 21.25 percent. "This is one important day of many more to come," said Martin Plaehn, Control4’s president and chief executive. "There are tens of millions of families that can benefit from our technology and our goal is to connect the devices in those homes so they can all work together and improve people’s lives."
LG Electronics USA is bypassing the specialty CE channel to give Best Buy's Magnolia stores a jump on selling its new CURVED OLED 55-inch TVs. LG launched the set at the Magnolia Design Center in Best Buy's flagship Richfield, Minn., store on Monday. While consumers can see and order the $14,999 OLED TV at the Richfield location, the sets won't begin shipping for a few weeks. Best Buy will roll out the TVs at Magnolia stores in nine cities - including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio - during the summer. James Fishler , senior vice president marketing LG Electronics USA, said the OLED TVs will be available to specialty dealers "in a couple of months." He would not provide a specific timeframe or say which dealers would have access to the sets. The Magnolia stores, he said, are one of the best venues for LG to introduce its new TV technologies. "It's hard for manufacturers to get credit for enhancements in picture quality," Fishler told Dealerscope before the unveiling of the CURVED OLED TV at the Richfield Best Buy. "That's why we decided to partner with Magnolia, because they have the staff that can help explain it and simply showcase it."
A variety of network-controlled home automation devices lack basic security controls, making it possible for attackers to access their sensitive functions, often from the Internet, according to researchers from security firm Trustwave. Some of these devices are used to control door locks, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, lights and other sensitive systems. The Trustwave researchers plan to discuss vulnerabilities they discovered in several such products during a presentation Thursday at the Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas. One product analyzed by the Trustwave researchers is called the Insteon Hub and is a network-enabled device that can control light bulbs, wall switches, outlets, thermostats, wireless Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and more. "When you first set up the Insteon Hub, you're asked to set up port forwarding from the Internet to the device, so basically you're opening up access to it to anybody from the Internet," said David Bryan, a Trustwave researcher who reviewed the device after buying one to use in his house. The Insteon Hub can be controlled from a smartphone application that sends commands to it over the local network or the Internet, he said. When inspecting the traffic coming from his phone over the Internet and into the Insteon Hub, Bryan discovered that no authentication and no encryption was being used. Furthermore, there was no option to enable authentication for the Web service running on the Insteon Hub that receives commands, he said. "This meant that anybody could have turned off my lights, turned on and off my thermostat, changed settings or [done] all sorts of things that I would expect to require some sort of authorization," Bryan said. Attackers could use Google or the SHODAN search engine, or could perform port scans, to locate Insteon Hub devices connected to the Internet, Bryan said. Insteon, the company in Irvine, California, that manufactures the device, was notified of the issue in December, according to the researcher. A new version of the product that uses basic authentication for the Web service was released in March, he said.
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