Inside Tim Cook's Apple HomeKit-equipped smart home

Neil Hughes for AppleInsider:  During his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday, Cook revealed to analysts and the media that he has integrated HomeKit products, and the iOS 10 Home app, into his home routine. "This level of home automation was unimaginable just a few years ago, and it's here today with iOS and HomeKit," he said. While Cook didn't single out any accessories or products in detailing his routine, Apple's secure authentication for HomeKit gives the company strict control over approved accessories, providing consumers with a relatively small set of options. As of the end of 2016, there were about 100 HomeKit-compatible products available. As such, we can likely narrow down the HomeKit accessories Cook is using in his own home. Here are our recommendations on how you can get a HomeKit experience on par with the head of Apple.  Cont'd...

Control4 is First to add Cloud-Based Management for Connected Homes to High-Performance Routers

Control4 Corporation, a leading global provider of connected home solutions, announces the release and immediate worldwide availability of BakPak on Pakedge RK-1 Routers. A first for the industry, the integration of the latest release of BakPak management software with the router enables Control4 dealers to offer more homeowners the benefits of a monitored, intelligent home network.  BakPak proactively manages both the IP network and smart home devices, delivering real-time visibility of network health, allowing diagnostics and troubleshooting before problems happen to mitigate downtime, service calls, and unhappy customers. Now integrated with the ubiquitous network device, the router, Control4 is arming its dealers with a more robust tool to help them manage their customers' systems remotely.   Full Press Release:  

Apple strategy in 'smart home' race threatened by Amazon

Stephen Nellis for Reuters:   In less than a year, Amazon's combination of the Echo speaker system and the Alexa voice-controlled digital assistant has come close to delivering on the elusive promise of easy-to-use technology that can control gadgets in the home with a few spoken words. Yet Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) surprise success sets up a long-term battle with Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) and Alphabet Inc's Google (GOOGL.O) for primacy in the connected household. And the contours of that competition are following a classic tech industry dynamic. Amazon is pursuing an open-systems approach that allows quick development of many features, while Apple is taking a slower route, asserting more control over the technology in order to assure security and ease-of-use. The strategic importance of the "connected home" niche looms large: Amazon wants a way to own its customer interactions -mainly shopping online - without an Apple phone or a Google Web browser as an intermediary.  Apple needs to keep the iPhone at the center of customers’ lives, and has built a whole home automation architecture, called Homekit, into its smartphone.   Cont'd...

51% Would Trade Smart Home Device Data For Cost Savings

Chase Martin for IoT Daily:  When it comes to smart home devices, consumers seem to be open to sharing control and data if it means saving money. U.S. homeowners are interested in measuring and monitoring activities in the home, especially energy usage, and would share their data to receive a discount, according to new research from Parks Associates. More than a third (36%) of households said the idea of a system that monitors or manages energy usage in their home is very appealing. Slightly more (37%) said a security monitoring system is very appealing and almost as many (35%) said the same about a safety monitoring system, according to Parks Associates.  Cont'd...

5 Top Home Automation Investments

Danny Vena for Fox Business:  If you're considering an investment in the home automation segment, there are a mind-boggling number of choices. You can invest in individual component manufacturers, professional systems installation companies, or managed services. We will look at some of the best in each category.  Home automation falls into three very broad categories. Let's look at a few potential investments in each: Professionally installed systems. Managed service systems. Do-it-yourself (DIY). Home automation is reaching into every aspect of our lives.    Cont'd...

Powerful home automation app Stringify comes to Android and adds IFTTT integration

Rita El Khoury for AndroidPolice:  Ever since I got my Wink Hub 2, one of the services I kept seeing in conversations when trying to bridge together different smart appliances and services was Stringify. The app was limited to iOS though, so I never got to use it because I wasn't going to carry my iPad around all the time to toggle a light bulb. But at CES, Stringify made a few announcements that we just came across (excuse the delay, we had tons of emails and releases to sift through) and that are sure to please Android users. Before going further, here's a quick rundown of what Stringify is for those of you who'd never heard of it. Think of it as a more powerful IFTTT. You're not limited to linking one trigger to one action, instead you can build flows that involve many services, conditional circumstances, and successive triggers and actions, like so: turn X on and Y off when I am home and only if it is night time. This kind of flow is impossible with IFTTT now. And for those of us who are Wink users, Stringify has a much better integration than IFTTT with Wink, letting you use your connected Wink things as triggers too, not just as actions, so you can have Stringify trigger a flow based on a door sensor being open in Wink, something that Wink's IFTTT collaboration doesn't do at all. However, the downfall of Stringify is that while it supports a lot of services and gadgets, it doesn't have as many partners as IFTTT.  Cont'd...

A smart home scoreboard for CES 2017

Rich Brown for CNet:  How about a good, old-fashioned technology arms race? You could just buy a smart light bulb set, but for a lot of consumers (reportedly more than 5 million of you, as of November 2016), it's Amazon's voice-activated Alexa that will be the entry point for controlling devices around your home. Along with Amazon, Apple continues to grow its Siri-powered HomeKit smart home system. Google has also entered the fray with its own blandly named smart home AI, Google Assistant, which featured prominently in Google's Echo-imitating Google Home speaker in November 2016. That's a lot of industry power competing to put a virtual assistant in charge of your home, and that's why our scoreboard for tracking new smart home devices announced at CES 2017 is focusing on voice control.   Full Article:

With smart home security the defining factor, Zmodo adds devices and features

Bruce Brown for DigitalTrends:  Zmodo has added more devices and tighter integration and control to its smart home monitoring product lineup. Called Total Smart Home Vision, the company stresses the priority of bank-level security while adding more devices and making it easier for customers to design and control their own smart home configurations. Zmodo started by adding more devices to its existing lineup of Wi-Fi-connected monitoring devices that include the Torch camera-equipped smart door light, Pivot temperature, and humidity sensing 360-degree panning camera, Greet smart doorbell and camera, Replay multiple camera recording system, and the Beam combination Wi-Fi range extender, night light, and smart home hub. The comprehensive list of new devices will include smart thermostats and vents, curtain controls, gas and carbon monoxide sensors, garage door openers, irrigation systems, and wireless cameras.   Reflecting its roots as a monitoring company, the Total Smart Home Vision is secured from home devices to cloud storage by AES 256-bit bank-level encryption accessible only by your personal account.   Cont'd...

This Small Device Detects Cyber Threats In Your Smart Home Devices

Jennifer Hicks for Forbes:   By 2025, IDC says that 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet. In the near future, Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be approximately 25 billion IoT-enabled devices. If you need more proof of rapid consumer adoption in practical terms, Amazon Echo has sold 5.1 million smart speakers in just the first two years of being on the market.  Now, let's look at the data from all this connectivity. Planet Technology gathered some Internet of Things (IoT) statistics and came up with an infographic that puts the upsurge in connectivity and the data it generates into perspective. If a byte of data was a gallon of water, today in 2016, it would only take 10 seconds to fill the average house with data. By 2020, it will only take two seconds. That's a lot of data being collected by your smart home devices from your intelligent fridge to your connected washing machine, baby monitor and thermostat.   Cont'd...

Comcast wants in on your smart home. Here's how it'll get there

Roger Cheng & David Priest for CNet:  When Fraser Stirling was 16, his father asked him what he wanted to study in school. His answer: industrial design. His father, who's been an assistant principal and a soccer coach, wasn't pleased. "[He] said that was not a proper job for a man in his house," Stirling recalled in a thick Scottish accent. "He wanted me to get a job where I could actually make some money." Twenty years later, Stirling is in charge of designing products for the unlikeliest of companies: Comcast. Yes, the nation's largest cable company, known for delivering "The Walking Dead" to your TV and making you wait hours for a repair technician, is (kinda) entering the hardware business. Comcast has unveiled its first family of products specifically designed by the company to serve its Xfinity Home business.   Cont'd...

UW Engineers Achieve Wi-Fi at 10,000 Times Lower Power

From Jennifer Langston at University of Washington's UWToday:   A team of University of Washington computer scientists and electrical engineers has demonstrated that it’s possible to generate Wi-Fi transmissions using 10,000 times less power than conventional methods. The new Passive Wi-Fi system also consumes 1,000 times less power than existing energy-efficient wireless communication platforms, such as Bluetooth Low Energy and Zigbee. A paper describing those results will be presented in March at the 13th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation. The technology has also been named one of the 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by MIT Technology Review... (full article)   (paper)   (hackernews technical discussion)

Safety and Home/Away Use Cases Dominate Smart Home Interoperability Matrix

Parks Associates:  New research from Parks Associates finds smart home solutions that coordinate safety and home/away event scenarios could help a device manufacturer create cross-platform brand loyalty similar to Apple's dominance in CE device ecosystems. The IoT research firm finds U.S. consumers are more likely to own multiple CE products from Apple than from any other CE brand, with loyalty based largely around its mobile platforms. The emerging smart home markets do not have a dominant cross-platform player yet and represent an opportunity to establish a new population of brand loyalists.  "Apple has built a strong base of brand loyalists—82% of Mac users who purchased a smartphone chose an iPhone. By comparison, only 38% of non-Mac users who bought a smartphone chose an iPhone," said Brett Sappington, Senior Research Director, Parks Associates. "But cross-platform loyalty is difficult to achieve. Beyond Apple, ecosystem-based thinking among U.S. consumers is not natural; manufacturers must bridge this gap through product development and marketing that emphasize brand-specific benefits in use cases that apply across computing, mobile, and entertainment platforms.   Cont'd...  

Home security systems 101: Things to consider

Janet Thomson for Curbed:  When we talk about home tech, we’re often focused on products from technology juggernauts or new startups, but home security systems, the predecessors to today’s smart home ecosystems, have been used for decades (the first system was invented in 1969 by Marie Van Brittan Brown, and it featured a closed-circuit television system, a remote controlled door, and two-way communication). Today there are literally thousands of options on the market, ranging from DIY kits to hardwired systems built into your home. How to choose? We went to the home security experts to understand the differences between systems and key features you should consider before installing.   Cont'd...

COMMODORE HOME - YOUR SMART HOME FOR 1983

Brian Benchoff for Hackaday:  The Internet of Things is a horrific waste of time, even though no one knows exactly what it is. What would make it better? Classic Commodore gear, of course. Now you can run your smart home with a Commodore 64 and Commodore Home, the newest smart home framework from [retro.moe]. Commodore Home comes with the standard smart home features you would expect. The home lighting solution is a dot matrix printer, a few gears, and string tied to the light switch. Activate the printer, and the lights turn on and off. Brilliant. Multiple light switches can be controlled by daisy chaining printers. Security is important in the smart home, and while the intruder alarm isn’t completely functional, future versions of Commodore Home will dial a modem, log into a BBS, and leave a message whenever an authorized person enters your home.   Cont'd...

Z-Wave smart-home gadgets announce new IoT security standards

Ry Crist for CNet:  Less than a month ago, hackers took control of an ocean of unsecured connected home devices, then essentially crashed the entire internet by using them to flood the web's largest internet management company with bogus traffic. Now, the makers of smart gadgets that communicate using Z-Wave are ratcheting up their security standards to help reassure consumers that their products don't come with glaring vulnerabilities. "No one can afford to sit on their hands and wait," says Mitchell Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance. "Consumers deserve IoT devices in their home to have the strongest levels of security possible. IoT smart home technologies that don't act will be left behind." The new standards are called the "Security 2" framework, or S2 for short. Aside from shoring up encryption standards for transmissions between sensors, cameras, and thermostats that broadcast using Z-Wave, S2 also mandates new pairing procedures for each device -- namely, unique PIN or QR codes on the devices themselves.   Cont'd...

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Security & Communication - Featured Product

ELK Products -C1M1 Dual-Path Alarm Communicators with Remote Services

ELK Products -C1M1 Dual-Path Alarm Communicators with Remote Services

C1M1 offers a truly significant reduction in transmission time in comparison to other communicators that rely on dial capture or data bus decoding. This can result in quicker response time to emergency situations which could save lives and assets. By providing both IP and cellular pathways, C1M1 provides the reliability installers are looking for in an alarm communicator. C1M1 eliminates port forwarding and extra fees for remote access. Installers can remotely upload/download programming changes to M1 controls over IP or cellular using ElkRP2. Consumers can control the M1 remotely via the free ElkLink mobile app and web portal, as well as eKeypad and M1 Touch Pro apps. Other IP-based software and interface partners can connect to the M1 control over the local network through C1M1. C1M1 also provides email/text notifications for arm, disarm, and alarm events. ELK-C1M14GSM supports GSM (AT&T/T-Mobile) networks and ELK-C1M1CDMA supports CDMA (Verizon) networks.