Home Professionals Gear Up for Smart Tech Surge

HomeAdvisor-CEDIA survey of home service pros reveals broadening opportunities for pros in the smart home field

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)

Thington, A New Super-Angel-Backed IoT Startup

Mike Butcher for TechCrunch:  Now, a San Francisco-based company, founded by Dopplr founder Matt Biddulph and ex-Yahoo Brickhouse Head of Product Tom Coates is building out a new consumer-facing product that combines Smart Home technology with their expertise in location, social networks and the web of data. They previously formed Product Club as a way to find a product to build, while doing some consulting along the way. Now they are launching their new startup: Thington. To do it they have raised Angel funding from some pretty well known tech people and investors,  including Ray Ozzie, Stewart Butterfield, Eric Wahlforss, Joi Ito, Marko Ahtisaari, Saul Klein, Loic Le Meur, Matt Rolandson and Samantha Tripodi. Terms were undisclosed. “We’re making a better user interface and service layer that is respectful to manufacturers and open and we’re trying to be a couple of generations beyond what other people are doing,” says Coates.   Cont'd...

These Lego-Like Batteries Plug In To Store Solar Power At Home

Adele Peters for Co-Exist:   Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician. The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together. "Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved. With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together. For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated.   Cont'd...

Amazon just made another really smart home product

Tim Stenovec for Business Insider:  There are plenty of dumb uses of "smart" technology.Toothbrushes, slow-cookers, anddog collars are just a few, to say nothing of far more expensive products like fridges. But on Monday, Amazon actually released a "smart" product that is incredibly useful: a $45 water pitcher from the king of water filtration products. If you've ever owned a Brita pitcher filtration system, which filters tap water, then you may know where this is going.  The water filter monitors how much water has been filtered, and will automatically order a new filter when it gets close to the time you should replace it. By the time the filters is used up, a new filter will already be shipped to you. But the genius here is that apart from the initial setup, you don't actually have to do anything. Ever!  Cont'd...

CoeLux: Artificial Sunlight

What is CoeLux? CoeLux is an optical system based on nano technology to artificially reproduce the natural light and visual appearance of the sun and sky. CoeLux offers a breakthrough opportunity for indoor architecture by creating the sensation of infinite space... ( product website )

U.S. Intelligence Head Suggests Agents Might Use Smart Home Tech for Spying

Patrick Sisson for Curbed:  The Internet of Things and smart home technology promise a more wired, intelligent, and—as product designers suggest—responsive environment. But, according to a Guardian story, those internet-connected appliances may also provide information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In testimony to the Senate yesterday on threats facing the nation, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers that agents might take advantage of this new generation of home technology. "In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials," he was quoted as saying. Many security experts have warned about the potential security implications of the Internet of Things and smart home devices, but Clapper's statement was one of the most direct by the leader of an intelligence agency.   Cont'd...

From NetworkWorld - Interview with the creators of EZ-Wave, a Z-Wave hacking tool

The synopsis for Breaking Bulbs Briskly by Bogus Broadcastsmentions the promise of smart energy and building automation, as well as the many unintended vulnerabilities that are introduced in the rush to bring IoT devices to market. The researchers believe “the ability to physically damage hardware by abusing network access is particularly interesting.” I agree. Frustrated by the “lack of functionality in current Z-Wave hacking tools,” ShmooCon presenters Joseph Hall and Ben Ramsey created and released a new, open source EZ-Wave tool. Not only did the duo discuss how to use the tool for pen-testing Z-Wave wireless automation networks, they also discussed “a rapid process for destroying florescent lights.” They added, “Once access is gained to an automated lighting system, regardless of the protocol used, we  demonstrate how to destroy florescent lamps rated for 30K hours within a single night of abuse.” Full Article:

Google's new Wi-Fi router sleek, but has a few hiccups

Most people don’t think about their home Wi-Fi router unless they are (A) installing it, or (B) undergoing severe digital withdrawal because the Internet is down and they need to hit reset. But Google wants you to think about its new OnHub home Wi-Fi router all the time. The Mountain View tech giant designed OnHub to be proudly displayed out in the open next to your kid’s photos, not hidden in a dark, dusty spot under a desk. Is that a reason to spend $199 on an OnHub, which goes on sale online Monday, if you don’t need a new router? Probably not. But if you are looking to upgrade a worn-out device, Google’s first entry into the router race is a compelling choice. Not to be overlooked, the OnHub is also Google’s answer to Apple’s equally designer-friendly AirPort Extreme Base Station. With both companies battling for an early lead in the emerging market for smart-home devices, having a router that’s the center of it all could become a key beachhead.

Apple Said to Delay Live TV Service to 2016 as Negotiations Stall

By  Peter Burrows, Lucas Shaw and Gerry Smith for Bloomberg:  Apple Inc. customers waiting for the company to revolutionize live television as it did for music and phone service will have to keep waiting, at least until next year. The company wanted to introduce this year a live TV service delivered via the Internet, but is now aiming for 2016, said people familiar with Apple’s plans. Talks to license programming from TV networks such as those owned by CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox Inc. are progressing slowly, some of the people said. Apple also doesn’t have the computer network capacity in place to ensure a good viewing experience, said some of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Without enough content deals in place, Apple has scrapped plans to announce the service at a Sept. 9 event in San Francisco, which would have coincided with the beginning of the new network TV season, the people said. The Cupertino, California-based company still plans to introduce a more powerful version of its Apple TV set-top box at the event, said the people, but customers -- for now, at least -- will need a cable or satellite TV subscription or an antenna to watch live network television.  Cont'd...

Will future homes feature built-in recycled water systems?

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter:  A small group gathered on a recent afternoon outside a $1 million model home on Cloudbreak Lane here. The five-bedroom house offered a Mediterranean tile roof, teal-green shutters and arched entryway. Designer touches inside included a walk-in pantry, motion-sensing faucets and optional oversized wine cabinet. But it was a plain, gray metal box on the side of the house that grabbed the most attention. Avery Kintner, a green building consultant, brought a group of students from University of California, San Diego, to see the box's secrets. The 5-foot-wide container held pipes, filters, a tub and other mechanics. It's a system designed to help the future residents of this house survive the ongoing drought and any future ones. The structure takes leftover water from the house's showers, sinks and laundry and filters it, then returns it to irrigate the front landscaping. The complex under construction, a development from KB Home called "Sea Cliff" is the first in the state built with so-called graywater piping in all houses.  Cont'd...

Bluetooth speakers drive growth in home audio, says firm

The home audio market (wireless speakers, soundbars, Hi-Fi systems, A/V receivers and speaker docks) grew by 22% to ship 71 million units. Trade value also grew by 22%, generating just under US$10 billion worth of revenues in 2014, according to Futuresource Consulting. Wireless speakers and soundbar shipments exceeded market expectations and accounted for the lion's share, far outweighing the decline in demand for traditional audio devices i.e. A/V receivers and Hi-Fi systems. The wireless speaker market was fuelled by strong growth in Bluetooth speakers in the lower end of the price spectrum and multi-room audio at the premium end. Home audio devices increasingly offer wireless functionality and shipments with this feature grew by 93% from 27 million units in 2013 to 53 million units in 2014. Futuresource said it predicts that virtually all home audio devices will be wireless by 2019.

SmartThings delays its next-gen smart home products

From PCWorld: SmartThings, the home automation company Samsung Electronics acquired last August, has delayed the launch of its new home hub and sensors to the third quarter, as it works to improve performance and stability.   Even though the products have been built and are currently being tested, SmartThings felt it necessary to postpone the launch from the second quarter to what will most likely be the third quarter, the company said in a blog post on Tuesday.   One of the goals with the new hub is to improve stability compared to its current offering, and this seems to be taking longer than originally thought. The company has been performing lots of additional testing to address many recent disruptions users have experienced, it said.   When they work, the SmartThings hub and connected sensors can be used to control lights, thermostats, doors and warn about things such as water leaks. However, users of the current hub have been suffering from device control and connectivity issues and apps that don’t execute properly, leaving them unable to fully control their homes. The company’s status website lists six incidents between just March 23 and 31.

Myfox To Bring DIY Security From France

Joseph Palenchar for Twice:   A wireless do-it-yourself home-security system that Myfox will bring to the U.S. late in the second quarter or early third quarter will detect and deter intruders before they enter the house, the French company said. Unlike other DIY security systems that use indoor motion sensors to detect intruders, the Myfox system uses wireless sensors, or IntelliTags, attached to doors and windows to analyze door and window vibrations that indicate a break-in, the company said. The sensors, which run on a single AA battery, differentiate normal events such as door knocking from doors and windows being pried open. When a break-in is attempted, the sensor sends a wireless 915MHz RF signal to a hub, which triggers a battery-operated siren via RF and uses Wi-Fi to send alerts via broadband modem to cellphones. Multiple family members or friends can receive notifications and get monitoring rights. The company, founded in 2005, also offers an optional Wi-Fi security camera, which can be used as a standalone surveillance device. The $299 Myfox Home Alarm system, which can be monitored and controlled via Android and iOS smartphones, will be Apple HomeKit-enabled and will be certified as Works With Nest. 

Logitech's Harmony smart home hub adds voice controls through Ubi and Ivee

From Jared Newman for TechHive:  Logitech is continuing its quest to control your entire smart home by linking up with a couple of voice-activated computers.   If you own one of Logitech’s Home Hubs, you can now control all your connected home devices by voice with either a wall-mounted Ubi computer or an Ivee smart alarm clock. Both devices connect to Logitech’s Hub through Wi-Fi, delivering commands that would otherwise require Logitech’s Harmony remote control or mobile app.   Ubi and Ivee can already control a fair number of smart home products on their own, but Logitech’s big pitch its ability to string multiple commands into “Harmony Activities.” For example, you could tell Ubi to “watch a movie” and have the TV and sound system turn on, while dimming your Philips Hue connected lightbulbs. Or, you could tell Ivee to make sure your smart lock is engaged and all the lights are off as you get into bed.

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