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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Smart Home Guide: What to Know Before You Buy

You wake up refreshed after a good night's sleep. That's because your mattress not only adjusts itself to your ideal sleeping temperature, but also has an alarm that wakes you at just the right moment of your sleep cycle. Your living room blinds automatically open, and the coffee maker has a fresh cup brewed and waiting. Leave for the office and your lights turn off; the alarm and security surveillance systems are enabled; the thermometer has already started lowering the home temperature, not raising it until 10 minutes before you return home in the evening.

These are just a few of the scenarios that can play out in a smart home. Smart home technology can provide automation of just about any household chore, from remotely firing up a slow cooker to alerting you to water leaks.

The smart home has arrived, but many of us remain confused about what one is. That's because the devices and services that make a home "smart" will be different for every individual. In fact, whether you know it or not, chances are that you already have some type of smart home device.

To help you make smarter decisions about this rapidly evolving category, we'll answer some key questions: What are the elements that make up a smart home, and how do they connect? What are the security concerns and implications? And what does the roadmap of this much-hyped technology look like?

Read more: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/smart-home-guide,review-2692.html

BenQ Home Theater Projector Review

So you’ve decided to take your home theater setup to the next level with a projector and projection screen, and you’re looking to keep the price under $1,000? Welcome to the club … it’s a big one, and growing every day.

There’s just something about that $1,000 price point, isn’t there? Perhaps that’s because a decent projector and screen combo can deliver some serious cinematic wow without necessarily breaking the bank. Fortunately, manufacturers have caught on and are now producing sub-$1k projectors that fold in features once reserved for premium models, like lens shifting, 3D capability, and optional wireless HD signal delivery.

The BenQ HT1075 is just such a projector. In fact, as a successor to BenQ’s wildly well-received W1070, it is arguably one of the best projectors you can get for less than $1,000 — $785.95 at Amazon right now, to be exact.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/projector-reviews/benq-ht1075-review

LG Reveals New Minibeam Portable LED Projectors

Two new minibeam projector models have been announced.

LG has detailed two additions to its portable projector lineup. The PF1500 Minibeam Pro and the PW800 Minibeam TV will both be available in the US starting this month.

"As the world's top manufacturer of LED projectors, we will continue to deliver innovative ideas for those who enjoy home entertainment but aren't looking to convert their entire living room into a screening room." said In-kyu Lee, senior vice president and head of the TV and Monitor Division at LG Electronics' Home Entertainment Company.

Read more: http://www.highdefdigest.com/news/show/LG/Projectors/price/release-date/minibeam/1080p/HD/LED/lg-reveals-new-minibeam-portable-led-projectors/21917

Zenno Voice Controlled Home Automation System Unveiled (video)

Zenno has created and launched a new home automation and control system that has been designed to offer a simple voice controls to manage your home entertainment systems and electronic devices around your home.

Using your smartphone or other wearable devices such as smartwatches the Zenno home automation system is capable of providing easy and natural interaction between you and your home, say its creators.

The Zenno home automation system has been designed to be first device that offers easy to use, customisable voice control over home electronics from your smartphone or other wearables, watch the video below to learn more.

Read more: https://www.geeky-gadgets.com/zenno-voice-controlled-home-automation-system-unveiled-20-03-2015/

Savant on Being the Only High-End Home Automation Co. at CES 2015

At CES 2015, Savant was the sole custom-focused home automation (with multiroom audio/video) company on the main floor.

There were others like Control4 and URC that held intimate meetings in suites, and several that had a small presence in partner booths – Clare Controls and URC with Powerhouse Alliance; Leviton (HAI) and Bitwise with the Z-Wave Alliance; and Elan with Nortek.

But Savant took a chance on the new Smart Home marketplace in the Sands this year with a sizable but simple space. Before CES, Savant’s Tim McInerney said the company would exhibit at because it wanted to expose its new Single App Home to a broad market. (Incidentally, the app won CEA’s TechHome Mark of Excellence honors for Home Technology App of the Year and Disruptor Award.)

The new software, along with relatively affordable Smart controllers, puts Savant into reach of a much wider customer base.

Read more: http://www.cepro.com/article/savant_on_being_the_only_high-end_home_automation_co._on_the_ces_2015_show/

Take energy-efficient measures to cool home

The outside temperatures are above freezing, so it’s hard to think about the sticky summer months when you will want your home as cool as possible. But before you know it, your air conditioners and fans will be running full blast and you’ll be looking for even more ways to keep your home cool.

Cooling systems are fueled by either gas, oil, propane or electricity. As a result, they use a substantial amount of energy and increase greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. However, there are some environmental and financial side effects to cooling your home that should be considered, and there are also several environmentally friendly measures you can take to make your home cooler while making your wallet greener.

Read more: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2015/03/14/cooling-energy-efficient/70181794/

The best multiroom music systems

With prices becoming ever more wallet-friendly, you no longer need to mortgage your house in order to kit it out with a wireless speaker in every room. And two in the kitchen.

But which brand should you go for? An established name such as Sonos? A big brand like Samsung? A smaller, but well-regarded choice such as Pure? An upstart such as Bluesound?

Well ponder no more. We've tested all of the best options and we'll tell you what we think about them if you'd care to read on…

You might not have heard of Bluesound, but this new company has some serious tech heritage. Set up by many of the same brains behind respected British brand NAD, this is a system that is all about putting sound quality first, with support for hi-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz. That’s even better than CD quality, and means you get to hear the music just as the artist intended it.

Read more: http://www.stuff.tv/features/best-multiroom-music-systems

Critical kit: the Sonos wireless music system

In the past, it wasn’t easy to listen to your music collection wirelessly anywhere around the house. You would need to either move your hi-fi kit from room to room, or suffer a tangled web of wires and cables across floors, stairs and up the walls (or spend a huge sum on a dedicated wired-in home setup).

With the rise in digital and cloud-based music and services such as iTunes, Spotify, and Rdio, it’s possible to make your entire audio collection portable.

However, until the last few years, it still wasn’t easy to create a system that didn’t involve cables trailed all over the place. That’s where the benefits of wireless audio become apparent, while also taking advantage of the popularity of tablets and smartphones to make controlling the whole shebang that much simpler.

Nowadays it is possible to stream high quality audio from a multitude of devices to speakers all over your home, wirelessly, and without compromising the sound quality (or at least, not noticeably). There are a couple of different ways to achieve this, but one of the most notable companies offering suitable product is Sonos.

Read more: http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2015/03/critical-kit-sonos.html

Upgrading my living room with the Sonos Playbar and Sub

For a long time now, I've been reading (and writing) about Sonos' audio devices, filled with jealousy toward anyone who could afford to spend more than just a few minutes with them. Sure, I've briefly tried them at trade shows, but to really judge the merits of audio gear like the Playbar and Sub, you need the proper amount of soak-time. Well, I finally got my chance. Over the last two months, I've been using the basically $1,400 pair ($699 each) in my living room to handle audio from my TV and also play a little music. With an easy setup and stellar sound quality, it's easy to become smitten with Sonos. Indeed, it didn't take long before I was hooked.

I knew this already, but once the Playbar and Sub arrived, reality set in: These guys take up a considerable amount of room. When dealing with home theatre tech, that probably goes without saying, but I'm mentioning it, if for no other reason than to remind you to plan ahead. The good news is that if you have a wall-mounted flat-screen, you can also mount Sonos' soundbar directly underneath. I don't, so the Playbar sat flat in front of my 42-inch Panasonic TV with the Sub on the floor just to the side. Is there a difference in performance with the two different positions? Treble projects better when mounted flat on a wall, but honestly, it sounds great either way.

Read more: http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/14/sonos-playbar-sub/

Startup Canary pushes high-tech home security

Digital home security system maker Canary is in the catbird seat for a startup, announcing its debut product will be sold starting Wednesday by some of America's biggest retail outlets.

Amazon.com, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Verizon Wireless will all sell the system and State Farm is giving Canary a seal of approval by offering owners of the security device up to seven percent discounts on their homeowners or renters insurance.

Canary Co-founder and CEO Adam Sager credits the company’s quick acceptance by retailers to the fact that it solves a problem for an underserved market — inexpensive home security for apartments and single-family homes.

“It’s what people have been asking for, retailers tell us that,” Sager explained, adding, “We’re building in the direction the market’s going.

“The retailers sought out products that were simple, that anyone can install and doesn’t overcomplicate the home. The problem with the word smart, often products that call themselves ‘smart’ may complicate your experience; they may not have intelligence.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2015/03/25/digital-lockdown-startup-canary-pushes-high-tech-home-security/

Sounding the Alarm on Home Security Systems

Protecting your home from unwanted intruders is serious business. A modern alarm system with high-quality wireless equipment can be installed for about $700, but the real key is who is on the other end of the alarm.

"When considering a home alarm system, the monitoring is the most important. You can install an alarm that is just going to make sound in your house if somebody trips it, but the real value of an alarm system is it being tied to the police and the fire in case of an emergency," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks.

When you meet with a home security company, find out what company they use for their alarm monitoring. Make sure it is U.L. certified or has a 5-star Diamond rating from the Central Station Alarm Association. You'll pay a separate monthly fee for this, which could range from $15 - $60, depending on how sophisticated your system is.

Read more: http://www.wtxl.com/lifestyle/sounding-the-alarm-on-home-security-systems/article_649992c2-d1f9-11e4-96fa-73c00c2fa5c8.html

Next-generation gadgets reshape home life

The spring edition of CNET magazine examines "Smart Homes," a look at the next-generation gadgets that will reshape home life. The devices differ in their areas of expertise but they all have one thing in common, giving users remote control of their homes.

One device, a Nest thermostat, lets you control the temperature in your home from your mobile device.

Another is the August Smart Lock that goes right on to your existing door deadbolt that you can also control from your phone. With this device, you can also use it to handout temporary access to the home via virtual keys on other people's phones. For a babysitter or visitor you can give them the key for a certain amount of time, but set it to expire when you wish.

The next gadget that editor-in-chief of CNET Magazine Lindsey Turrentine calls a "game changer" is a new and improved ceiling fan. The company is called "Big Ass Fans." The bamboo fan will set you back about $1,000, but the high-tech device will coordinate with your phone or Nest thermostat to keep the room at exactly the temperature you want.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/next-generation-gadgets-reshape-home-life/

CNET Magazine celebrates spring and the home -- the smart home

The idea of homes outfitted with locks, lights, thermostats and coffee makers all controlled over the Internet goes by many names. Some call it home automation. Others say it's the Internet of Things. We call it "smart home," and devices, apps and robots that make your home smarter and safer are here today. They're easy to find, install and manage, whether you rent an apartment in Manhattan or own a ranch in Missouri. Even better, you may not need to spend much to raise your home's IQ.

It's boom time for companies competing to dominate the smart home. The Spring issue of CNET Magazine takes you on a tour of the companies and tech reimagining the home. Ry Crist and Rich Brown search out the next Nest thermostat, profiling the startups working on everything from smart door locks to ceiling fans and sprinkler systems. Andrew Gebhart explores what it takes to make your yard smarter, and Bridget Carey offers tips on installing smart-home features when you're a renter.

Plus, actress and entrepreneur Sofia Vergara tells us why she decided the time was right to design and build a smart home for her family that gives her control from the palm of her hand. So charge up the robot vacuum, fire up the smart slow cooker and settle in for a good read.

Read more: http://www.cnet.com/news/cnet-magazine-celebrates-spring-and-the-home-smart-home/

China home security systems growing smarter, more connected

China home security products are growing increasingly intelligent, features- and smartphone-integrated, and remotely controlled, staying on top of the latest global industry trends.

Product development efforts in coming months will continue along the same vein as suppliers follow through on 2014 initiatives led major homegrown consumer electronics brand such as Changhong, Haier, Hisense, TCL, Konka and Skyworth. 2014 saw these major players launch smart home solutions, spurred in part by Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of smart home equipment manufacturer Nest Labs.

Not to be outdone by their consumer electronics counterparts, China security products specialists are incorporating home automation capability in their varied selections, which include access control systems, door phones and intercoms.

The combination of features enables home owners to control lighting, curtains, appliances, and heating via the security system. Certain modules have a door or IR sensor that not only disarms the surveillance module, but also switches on the hallway lights and even play a prerecorded welcome greeting.

Read more: http://www.globalsources.com/gsol/I/Access-control/a/9000000133324.htm?source=SECUSAFEHP_Latest_Stories

California's Housing Costs Hurt Economy

California has some of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S.--a result of the slow pace of development in high-demand coastal cities. The average home price in California, $440,000, is about 2 1/2 times the national average, while California's average monthly rent, $1,240, is about 50% higher than the average U.S. rent, according to a report released Tuesday by the state legislature's independent analyst.

"The state's high housing costs make California a less attractive place to call home, making it more difficult for companies to hire and retain qualified employees, likely preventing the state's economy from meeting its full potential," the report's authors wrote.

That high cost is largely driven by a slow pace of construction in the state's major coastal markets, where demand for homes is highest and prices are bid up, the report said. Between 1980 and 2010, for instance, new home construction in the state's coastal metro areas increased by 32%, compared with 54% nationally, the report said. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the supply of new housing grew even more slowly, by about 20%.

Read more: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/californias-housing-costs-hurt-economy-increase-poverty-report-finds-20150317-01055

Automation Basics – A guide to the connected home

Few new technologies are as anticipated as the connected home. The idea that we can manage, control, and monitor our homes on mobile devices is truly compelling.The main issue facing the connected home and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms right now is that products do exist, but there’s no current standard or governing body to evaluate what’s good and what isn’t.

It falls on the consumer to determine which solutions work best for them, and whether they don’t mind running dozens of sensors, locks, cameras, light bulbs, smoke detectors, thermostats, baby monitors and security cameras through dozens of disparate and onerous apps on their smartphones or tablets.

Some users don’t need the whole ‘connected home’ ecosystem and maybe are satisfied with just one or two products.

Maybe a smart thermostat and basic camera security is all they require, that’s fine.

Others may want to invest in smart light bulbs that can be controlled remotely or timed to turn off and on, or upgrade their smoke detectors with something they can actually monitor remotely. They can do that today.

Read more: http://whatsyourtech.ca/2015/03/23/automation-basics-a-guide-to-the-connected-home/

Home Automation: Top marks for Nortek GoControl Garage Door Controller

The GoControl controller is a small box that you connect to the existing garage door operator’s pushbutton terminals (like a regular garage door opener wall switch) via a pair of wires. It comes with a power adapter and a battery-powered tilt sensor that you attach to the garage door (this allows the system to detect the door’s position). The controller has a light and siren that are activated as a safety warning five seconds before an open or close command is issued.

Installation is trivial and introducing it to the Z-Wave controller is equally simple (it also acts as a full Z-Wave node meaning that it also relays Z-Wave messages for other devices ensuring that your Z-Wave system has the greatest possible physical reach).

Read more: http://www.networkworld.com/article/2893665/infrastructure-management/home-automation-top-marks-for-nortek-gocontrol-garage-door-controller.html

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How your car will help control your home

AT&T says that it is planning to link its connected car and smart home products via a voice recognition-enabled dashboard control. Home security will be the principal driver of the new tech in that case. But others are also in a race to bring functioning products to market and obtain consumer acceptance.

Two existing AT&T products – AT&T Digital Life, a home management system, and AT&T Drive, its connected car platform – will be merged together to create its platform.

Mercedes has a deal with Nest, the Google-owned thermostat and home smoke alarm gadget maker.

Apple and Google are also working on automotive solutions for in-dash applications.

AT&T Digital Life is currently a smartphone app-run home security system with a home automation element.

The 24/7 monitored home security setup includes controls for lights, locks, and thermostat. A-la-carte add-ons include a garage door opener, cameras, remote door control (to open the door for pet-sitters or repair-people remotely), an energy package for managing lights and small appliances, and water leak detection.

Read more: http://www.networkworld.com/article/2898359/internet-of-things/how-your-car-will-help-control-your-home.html

The ultimate high-tech home

Security in their wealthy area of London is paramount, so an IP security system of three cameras patrols the front and back of the house, plus the basement – the cameras can be viewed anywhere in the world as long as there’s a wireless network. A separate IP video entry system means that Viki can hear the doorbell on her phone if she’s in the garden or the park. The couple also put in a combined heating/cooling system, digital taps in the bath, shower and basins and a commercial grade IT network for super-fast broadband and IP telephony, which lowers the cost of phone calls. They didn’t bother with controllable mood lighting, but did fit the light switch back boxes to accommodate a wireless solution at a later point if necessary. “At a guess we probably invested about £35,000 on all of the gadgets,” says Viki. “It’s a lot of money. But this is the perfect home for us and our family – and we’ve designed it as such.”

So if you want to do it yourself, what’s worth installing and what isn’t?

Forget the fancy gadgets, says Stas Lawicki, who six months ago set up Onyx Technologies, an independent technology consultancy that advises on smart tech for the home. Instead, focus on the fundamentals: lighting (a system such as Lutron, for example), heating and cooling, television and music. To that you can also add superfast broadband (many of these things are controlled via Wi-Fi anyway), and security in some form, particularly if your home is full of expensive gadgetry. “Running your bath from the back of the car when you’re half an hour away is great, but what if you’re late or stuck in traffic?” says Lawicki. “It comes down to what you’re actually going to use.”

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/11462305/The-ultimate-high-tech-home.html

7 gutsy, feature-packed receivers to get your home theater pumping

There will come a day when we won’t need A/V receivers anymore. A new wireless speaker technology, already adopted by Bang & Olufsen and Klipsch, puts all the amplification hardware right inside the speakers, leaving only source switching and signal processing left to deal with — and you don’t need big black box for that. But that day is a ways off, so for now, the receiver remains the hub of a quality home theater system.

If you’re looking to upgrade, then research has probably led you to discover , somewhat frustratingly, that picking the right A/V receiver is kind of difficult. Even today’s entry-level models are packed with the sort of features that you had to pay a handsome premium for just five years ago. So, how do you tell which is the best anymore?

Since a receiver’s list of features isn’t the quality barometer it once was, the advice of professionals and friends has never been more valuable. Truth be told, most of the major manufacturers are turning out quality equipment at all price levels. What makes a receiver the right choice for you is a balanced blend of sound quality (and character), flexibility, and general user experience.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/best-av-receivers

In Portland, Iotas' pre-wired smart apartments let you rent the high-tech life

Planning for a smart apartment is very different from doing so for a whole house. Obviously, apartments are smaller, so it’s easier for the Iotas team to outfit every switch and plug. One reason the system isn’t integrated with Nest is that the building’s Cadet heaters – kind of like in-wall space heaters – aren’t compatible with the smart thermostat. Instead, Pike says buildings overall have to become smarter about how they funnel air to each room; at 3:00 a.m., it doesn’t make sense to heat the kitchen when everyone’s sleeping in the bedroom.

Iotas is centered around this kind of adaptive system, and it plans on using the data gathered from residents to make everything smarter. “Once we have some level of learnings from how you are living your life, we will start anticipating your needs and start offering up behaviors and offering up rules to you,” says Pike. If you fire up the radio in your bathroom every morning, eventually the system will suggest a rule that pairs turning on the radio along with the light in the a.m. If you decide that’s a great idea, you can accept and Iotas may suggest another rule in a couple days. If you’re creeped out and decline the suggestion, it may be two weeks before you get another rule recommendation.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/iotas-is-making-smart-apartments-more-automated/

The smart appliances dilemma: when the concept is much better than the actual thing

Like many of the coolest new technologies, sometimes the idea of a new product or concept is better than the actual thing. I’m finding out first hand that such is the case with many smart home and smart appliance products.

Thanks to the recent demise of our oven, a non-functioning ice maker in the fridge, and a burnt-out lamp on our cooktop, my wife and I recently decided it was to time to take the plunge and invest in a new set of kitchen appliances. Like many American couples, we started our search at the local big box store, investigated a specialty retailer or two, did a bunch of research online, and finally settled on a nice matching set of new GE appliances.

While the end result isn’t very interesting, going through the process of making the decision and realizing what some of the real world issues and questions that arise during that process are, was interesting. Oh, and not particularly positive for the near term future of smart homes.

First, of course, there was the question of color and style. Kitchen appliances, in particular, are something you see and interact with every day and, frankly, one of the key factors in our decision was actually the color and finish (slate grey) of the appliances. Once that was determined, we started looking at the choices within that range. Now admittedly, not everyone uses color as a primary factor, but it really hit me during this process that color is more important than it would ever be for standalone tech products.

Read more: http://www.techspot.com/news/60076-smart-appliances-dilemma.html

Electrolux Has New Stab at Smart Home After Dot-Com Bust

Electrolux AB is revisiting dot-com era attempts to build an intelligent home around its appliances as the likes of Apple Inc. and Google Inc. ramp up their offerings in the field.

This year, the Swedish company will start selling an oven that downloads instructions on how your roast should be cooked from a recipe app. It films the job too, so home chefs can keep one eye on the process on a screen while entertaining guests.

Jan Brockmann, chief operations officer at Electrolux, said 2015 may be the year when appliances finally get smart after decades of false starts. He’s predicting they’ll make up 10 percent of the market in five years’ time, from less than 1 percent today.

“This is a year of massive launches,” he said about the market in an interview at the company’s Stockholm headquarters. “That will really create volume and value.”

The connection of appliances through data networks could realize a vision of automated homes that’s been around since the 1950s without really taking the step from prototypes and science fiction visions to readily available consumer products.

Households never really understood the benefits of a smart home or a connected appliance, said Michael Wolf, a Seattle-based industry analyst at NextMarket Insights and author of newsletter Smart Home Weekly. While some products will just add networking and connectivity for “technology’s sake,” prices are falling and software is improving to the point where tangible value can be delivered, he said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-11/electrolux-has-new-stab-at-smart-home-after-dot-com-bust

Symantec Study Finds Home Smart Devices Wide Open to Cyber-Attack

Companies creating smart devices for the home promise a more energy- and time-efficient future, but are failing to secure their products, potentially making the homes of early adopters less secure, according to a study of some 50 consumer smart devices by security firm Symantec.

In a report published on March 12, Symantec examined a variety of devices, including smart thermostats, locks, light bulbs, smoke detectors, energy management devices, and smart hubs, which link together the various smart products and allow the user to manage them.

All of the devices failed to check whether they were communicating with an authorized server, leaving them open to man-in-the-middle attacks. One out of five devices did not encrypt communications and many did not lock out attackers after a certain number of password attempts, further weakening their security, Symantec stated in the report.

"All of the potential weaknesses that could afflict Internet of things systems, such as authentication and traffic encryption, are already well known to the security industry, but despite this, known mitigation techniques are often neglected on these devices,” Symantec researchers stated in the report.

The lack of security comes as consumers are increasingly adopting a variety of connected devices and using them in their homes. An estimated 2.9 billion devices will be used by consumers in 2015, according to market research group Gartner.

Read more: http://www.eweek.com/security/symantec-study-finds-home-smart-devices-wide-open-to-cyber-attack.html

Selling your smart home? Don’t expect to command a premium

Home buyers are becoming increasingly interested in properties with smart-home features, and more of these types of homes are coming onto the market. But most real-estate agents don’t think sellers should add such features before listing their homes, and few think they make homes sell faster.

That’s according to a survey of 513 Coldwell Banker real-estate agents in the U.S., who were quizzed on the topic between January and February of 2015.

For whatever reason, however, a Coldwell Banker press release spins this survey in the exact opposite direction. "Smart homes sell faster," it reads. "One in three (33 percent) noted that homes with smart home features and technology sell faster than homes without them." That's true, but the survey results indicate that 41 percent of Coldwell Banker's agents do not think smart homes sell faster, and 27 percent weren't sure.

On the other hand, fully 64 percent of the agents surveyed said buyers were more interested in homes with smart-home features today than they were two to five years ago, and 62 percent said buyers were more interested in controlling their home’s lighting, HVAC, and entertainment systems using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, or with a stand-alone control panel than they were two to five years back.

Read more: http://www.techhive.com/article/2894758/selling-your-smart-home-dont-expect-to-command-a-premium.html

The smart home promise vs. reality

Let’s begin with what we, the industry, accept as a truism: Sometime in the near future, the gadgets we see today that control and automate our homes will form the basis of an enormous market. Most people will be able to say that their home is connected and that it is smart.

To achieve that goal, we need to meet a few preconditions from the perspective of the consumer and the value chain: deliver well-communicated, valuable experiences that people are willing to pay for as well as a trusted service provider of these valuable services.

Thus far, with all the advances made on the technology side of things, a disturbing chasm has developed between the promise of the smart home and the reality.

Research firms, such as Strategy Analytics, predict that the smart home products and services market will reach $100 billion by 2019, which represents 224 million households worldwide. Indeed, the many point devices and whole-home solutions already available seem to support these assertions when considering the range of smart products that can do fantastic things in our homes.

The reality, however, does not support the numbers. Among homes with broadband connection, only 14% worldwide have any type of “smart” device. The percentage of total houses worldwide with any type of smart device is only 5% (Strategy Analytics), and growth has not increased significantly since 2007. This stagnation is puzzling in light of the explosion in the use of smartphones, the very technology that should, in theory, have driven smart home adoption to a similar rate of growth.

Read more: http://www.rcrwireless.com/20150316/opinion/reader-forum-the-smart-home-promise-vs-reality-tag10

Smart-home technology playing bigger role in real estate

The real estate world tends to think of technology in terms of websites and apps. But it's a big housing world out there, and tech finds its way into our real estate lives in myriad ways. Some recent sightings:

Always fumbling to find your house keys? Sure, there are apps out there that will unlock the door via your cellphone. But maybe you're always fumbling to find your phone, too. So a fledgling company is trying to raise cash on Kickstarter to fund the development of an attachment to your door that will open a deadbolt lock when it recognizes your secret knock. The product is called Sesame, and its developer is a firm called Candy House, which aims, eventually, to sell Sesame for $99. (It also promises to work as a simple phone app, but that's a lot less fun than a secret knock, don't you think?)

Pinmaniacs, take note: The Trulia real estate listings site has added a feature called Boards to its site and to its apps. Think of Boards as a real estate-oriented Pinterest: If you see a listing on Trulia that piques your interest, you can tap on a heart icon within the listing, and the designated house will be stored for reference on your Board. And when you add to your Board, the people you've designated — your real-estate agent, friend, grandma, whomever — will receive an email notification and can check it out. Your collaborators also will be able to add homes to your Board that they think you'll like. Or not like: If you're trying to send your agent a message about which kinds of houses you're definitely not keen on, you could create a Board for that too.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sc-cons-0319-umberger-20150316-column.html

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Home Networking

Right now, as you kick back on your couch and daydream about your next smart home upgrade, you may not realize it, but you’re awash in data. From Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats to Bluetooth-accessible door locks to Z-Wave-connected alarm sensors to Zigbee-networked lightbulbs, there could be an array or wireless signals criss-crossing your house.

Why do we need so many different technologies that essentially do the same thing?

On the face of it, that’s a reasonable question, but it’s also analogous to asking the difference between a ball-peen and a sledge hammer — both are used to bang on things, but you wouldn’t drive a fencepost with a mallet. Likewise, the various wireless networks that make up a smart home each have their own use.

And just as those networks are invisible in the real world, solutions like Logitech’s Harmony Home Hub, which can talk to a database of more than 270,000 connected devices, are trying to make them invisible to smart home owners by controlling all these separately-networked smart home products — everything from connected coffee makers to smart window shades — through one interface. But until you get a home hub solution like the Harmony, it’s worth knowing why smart home product designers choose the networks that they do:

Read more: http://time.com/3745059/smart-home-wireless-networks/

InFocus IN3138HDa Professional Network Projector Audio / Video Review

InFocus, one of the few remaining and respectable American projector manufacturers also knows how lucrative the market is and didn’t waste an opportunity with the IN3138HDa. An amalgamation of business meets cinema that comes together, despite some unusual quirks sprinkled here and there.

At first glance, the IN3138HDa does appear to have a bit of an identity crisis on its hands; the black gloss body, purposeful control panel, zoom lens, and blue accented ring look consumer-friendly but the dimensions (10.3 x 11.2 x 4.8 inches, 6.9lbs) can’t hide its origins of TPS reports, spreadsheets, and Powerpoint presentations. Even the credit card-style remote is functional but anonymous like an accountant talking about financial trends and his golf swing during a luncheon.

Look around back though and you’re treated to a more accommodating array of two HDMI (MHL is on one), composite and S-Video, 3.5mm stereo input and output, RS232, and finally a 12V trigger. For the office, two VGA inputs along with output are present and a RJ45/LAN terminal that not only offers advanced remote management over a network, but even for multiple projectors which can be done over a PC but also controllers from AMX and Crestron — ideal for very customized system installations.

Read more: http://www.popzara.com/tech/audio-video-reviews/infocus-in3138hda-projector/

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to use your mobile device to control your home theater

You’ve got the latest OLED TV, 3000 satellite TV channels, and a surround-sound system that would make George Lucas jealous. Why are you still using that 1980s-style hunk of handheld plastic to control it all? The clumsiness of navigating menus with a thumb-pad is matched only by the tedium of hunting and pecking letters on numeric buttons. Multiply that misery times the number of remotes you’re using for all your home theater components and it’s enough to make you wish for the simpler days of rabbit ears and horizontal hold.

A far more elegant solution is to use your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet as a universal remote. With the right selections of apps—and, in some cases, an additional piece of hardware—you can manage all your home theater components from the one device that’s nearly always in your hands. Here’s how.

Read more: http://www.techhive.com/article/2894572/how-to-use-your-mobile-device-to-control-your-home-theater.html

Samsung's high-tech doghouse has an automated feeder, tablet TV, and hot tub

With so many companies building smart homes for humans, it's about time someone thought of the pets.

As part of the Crufts dog show happening this week, Samsung has put together a “dream doghouse.” While it's not quite as advanced as some of the connected-home tech you can buy for yourself, it does include an automated feeder and a wall-mounted Galaxy Tab S, which serves as a doggy television.

In addition, the high-tech doghouse has an astroturf treadmill and a “hydrotherapy pool.” The walls are lined with paw print patterns and family photos, and the TV lounge has a handful of pooch-sized pillows for added comfort.

Read more: http://www.techhive.com/article/2893807/samsungs-high-tech-doghouse-has-an-automated-feeder-tablet-tv-and-hot-tub.html

AT&T to hook up its automated home and connected car services

AT&T will link its connected car and smart home technologies to bolster its foothold in the fast-growing market for Internet-connected devices, a new battleground for the company and rivals ranging from Verizon to Google Inc.

The wireless company's home security and automation service "Digital Life" and connected car service "Drive" will be integrated so users can control their homes from a dashboard in their vehicles, Glenn Lurie, chief executive of AT&T Mobility told Reuters last week ahead of the company's announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"Once you’ve told your home when the car is (for instance)within 20 feet of the house to please open the garage door, put the lights on, turn the alarm off, move the thermostat up, you can have those inanimate objects, the home and your car, really taking care of you," Lurie said.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/02/us-at-t-connectedcar-idUSKBN0LY0MX20150302

Google patent wants to make even doorknobs smart

Google acquired Nest and then Dropcam, so it isn't much of a surprise that it might want more. If there was any doubt there, this latest patent, filed just months after the two acquisitions, would dispel all that. It might be deceptively called "Security Scoring in a Smart-sensored Home", but the message it sends is clear. Google wants to make homes smarter, and probably gather more information than you're willing to hand over through browsers and phones. And like any other house, it all starts at the door.

Google's patent application might seem like a boring scoring system at first glance, with recommendations based on how well a homeowner secures his or her home, but the interesting bits are the ones hidden inside the patent. In other words, it's what Google is putting together that maybe more interesting than this particular scoring system. The components include almost anything from doorbells, to doorknobs, to switches, to wall sockets.

Read more: http://www.slashgear.com/google-patent-wants-to-make-even-doorknobs-smart-09372709/

Design & build: An automatic home

When we started designing our house, home automation sounded fantastic. It was definitely a nice-to-have but other items were given higher priority because we thought automation would cost a fortune. But when Kylie and I went to the Home Ideas Centre in Parnell we found out otherwise.

As we wandered the labyrinth of corridors, packed to the brim with everything you could ever need in a home, we come across the econnecx booth. After reading through all of the information, it seemed that for around $3000, we could have a full econnecx system installed.

This would then allow us to control heating, lighting and security with the touch of a button from our phones or computers, anywhere in the world. Plus, we could set up schedules so our house would function automatically.

It seemed a little too good to be true, though, as other options we'd looked at cost considerably more. As we investigated the system, we found econnecx doesn't use external hardware controls, like expensive light switches or touch screens. Instead, you use your computer or phone and the wiring already in your home. Pretty clever, if you ask me and we eventually decided it was a must-have.

Read more: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11412310

Smart homes market expected to grow 17% annually to 2020

According to a new market research report about “smart home” products, the market is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 17% between 2015 and 2020, and reach US$59 billion by 2020.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the publisher of this “Smart Homes Market” report, the smart homes market is highly fragmented and expected to consolidate. The smart homes service providers are beginning to gain traction in the marketplace, and we could see more smart homes technology players entering the market before an inevitable consolidation occurs, the company states.

Read more: http://www.hardwaremerchandising.com/news/smart-homes-market-expected-to-grow-17-annually-to-2020/1003486662/?&er=NA

New home items aim to create a more healthful environment

Controlling your environment goes a long way toward controlling, and improving, your health. And the market is exploding with new offerings designed to help you do just that.

"Consumers are demanding more," said Jon Hall, senior brand manager for Whirlpool. "They want more flexibility. They want to be able to see more. They want personalization."

Take the refrigerator, he said. It's basically a box. But newly redesigned interiors allow consumers to glance inside produce bins without opening a drawer, and some drawers are also adjustable, so customers can fit in all their fresh farmers market produce without bruising the broccoli.

Cedric Hutchings, chief executive of Withings, an industry leader in the field of smart health devices, said consumer offerings are quickly expanding beyond wearables such as fitness trackers. "We think home is a place where more and more consumers will be empowered to measure and optimize a healthy environment."

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-future-gadgets-20150124-story.html#page=1

Technology paves way for smarter homes

You can now use your smartphone to unlock the front door, dim the lights and run the bath. Whether your motivation is security, convenience, environmental concerns, or all three, home automation is where we've arrived.

Better bath time Blu Bathworks, which has more than 100 showrooms across North America, recently released its electronica digital tapware collection, which allows people to control their sinks, showers or tub faucets using wireless technology.

"There's an app that can be downloaded that basically allows the user to turn their shower or bathtub on or off from their iPhone or iPad. So, for instance, if you're in the bedroom you can turn on the shower from your bed and you can fill your bath the same way," says Paula Coen, director of marketing for Blu Bathworks.

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/homes/Technology+paves+smarter+homes/10870187/story.html

Cheap Tech Helping Homeowners Respond Faster To Crime

In the last two weeks, two homeowners have used the power of technology to catch burglars in action inside their homes.
Homeowners in south Minneapolis and Roseville used a combination of gadgets and small cameras to capture high-quality video of the thieves.
South Minneapolis homeowner Joe Craddock said his Dropcam by Nest video monitoring system helped him catch a burglar in the act. An alert sent to Craddock’s work computer tipped him off to the break-in.
“It is really nice to have your phone, get an alert when there’s motion, be able to see a still of it, and click to see exactly what’s going on in your house,” Craddock said.
A couple of weeks ago Roseville police say a woman’s $4 smartphone app, called “Cloud Baby Monitor,” helped officers catch the burglar right outside her home.
Maple Grove Crime Prevention officer Todd Strege said even the least expensive of these simple apps and gadgets are giving homeowners the upper hand.
“How readily available the equipment is now — plus as user friendly as it is — it’s not very hard to buy a complete system yourself and put it in,” he said.

Read more: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/03/09/cheap-tech-helping-homeowners-respond-faster-to-crime-2/

Friday, March 6, 2015

Connected home growth hindered by inaccessibility, conflicting standards, execs say

When it comes to the connected home, the wireless industry is getting mired in discussions about standards and infrastructure instead of spending time making the concept easy for consumers to deploy and understand. That was the key message from panelists at the FierceWireless executive luncheon on the "Connected Home: A proving ground for the Internet of Things," held here at Mobile World Congress.

SmartThings CEO and founder Alex Hawkinson said that his company struggles with "creating experiences that are simple … How do you retain openness and drill down and make it accessible to consumers?"

That sentiment was echoed by Kevin Peterson, president of AT&T's (NYSE: T) Digital Life, the company's home automation and security solution that was launched two years ago. "We have to provide a solution in a meaningful, economically viable way," Peterson said, adding that any connected home product must be easy to deploy, otherwise the customer will spend more time "fixing it than using it."

Read more: http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/connected-home-growth-hindered-inaccessibility-conflicting-standards/2015-03-04

Samsung and the smart home: “We are setting the stage”

Here’s an interesting conversation with Samsung’s Sriram Thodla, ahead of Smart Home World this June…

IP&TV News: Hi Sriram. Tell us about your role at Samsung?

Sriram Thodla: My role is to make use of the acquisition of SmartThings, to figure out the Samsung smart home strategy, and figure out how we use the open platform we’ve acquired. What do we bring to market? How do we move it from being a very niche, early-adopter product, to being mass market?

I think the basic idea of home automation doesn’t motivate a lot of people that are not early adopters to go out and buy these products. Even the basic categories of home automation – energy efficiency, convenience, peace of mind – these aren’t really powerful motivators.

Read more: http://www.iptv-news.com/2015/03/samsung-and-the-smart-home-we-are-setting-the-stage/

Building a Smart Home

Hope you were as excited about the lights as I was. If you have set up some smart lighting in your home, you will slowly start to see the benefits after you have retrained yourself not to flick the switch off lol. But to fully maximize the potential of those new smart lights, you need some automation. This by far will be my favorite part of the series, and will no doubt have follow up posts based on this part of the series. But what can automation do for us? Right now when we want to turn on a light, while we don’t have to flick a switch we still have to manually push the button in a app to turn lights off/on. This is pretty convenient but not the MOST convenient way we could do this. Automation allows our house to respond and do things based upon actions that may happen around the house. This could be a simple as coming home and opening a door. Or walking into a room, or even based upon the time of the day. Automation takes our house from being convenient to truly being “smart”!

Read more: http://gstylemag.com/2015/03/06/building-a-smart-home-part-5-lets-get-automated-bash/

Smart home or dumb security risk?

Technology-filled smart homes have come a long way since Rosie the robot housekeeper catered to the Jetsons' needs. But one thing the Jetsons never seemed to worry about was Rosie turning on them or being used as a surveillance device.

While today's smart home mishaps may not be as far-fetched as the Ultrahouse 3000 that terrorized the Simpsons in "Treehouse of Horror XII," they can -- and do -- happen.

Just ask the German computer science professor who rigged up his house so that everything from lights, music, and TV to heating and cooling was connected to the Internet and could be turned on and off remotely. Sounds great, right? Until the house froze up and stopped responding to his commands.

Was a nefarious hacker or rebellious HAL wannabe to blame? No, the culprit was a light fixture that had burned out and was trying to gain the hub's attention by sending continuous requests that overloaded the network -- a classic denial-of-service attack.

Read more: http://www.infoworld.com/article/2893600/mobile-technology/smart-home-or-dumb-security-risk.html

This Smart House

The goal of home automation systems is basically to get your devices to “talk” to each other; a central controller, or hub, often facilitates the communication among devices. Control4 is a popular hub brand that acts as the brain of the house, keeping track of all the automated components, says Gordon Handley, owner of Portland Home Automation.

The three biggest players in home automation systems are Insteon, Z-Wave and Zig-Bee. Each works in similar ways but uses its own language.

Having a hub isn’t necessary if you only have a single automation device — individual setups can be as simple or as complex as you want, whether you want to turn off the basement light from your bed or trigger your favorite song to play as you walk in the door.

“Home automation systems can do so many things,” Handley says. “You can pretty much make it do anything.”

Modern home automation systems are fairly secure, though there is a risk any time you connect to the internet. For a thief, it’s much easier to break a window than to take the trouble to hack in and turn your stereo on.

While devices for the most simple automation systems — light switches, for example — start at $35 to $50, a fully automated home can easily reach $2,000 to $3,000.

Read more: http://www.eugeneweekly.com/20150305/lead-story/smart-house

Is Home Automation Driving A Security Renaissance?

For years, the industry’s penetration rate for security alarm systems has hovered from a conservative 18 percent of households to a more liberal 22 percent or so. According to research firm IHS, the residential intrusion alarm market is expected to grow by 9.4 percent in 2015.

Perhaps this increase is due in part to the rise of interactive services, or even by marketing efforts of national telecommunications companies, cable providers and others. The Electronic Security Association (ESA) says a recent survey indicates 54 percent of its members now offer interactive services.

Read more: http://us.sourcesecurity.com/news/articles/co-9561-ga-co-5999-ga-co-12713-ga-co-11565-ga.16732.html

Listnr is a Home Automation Device With Ears

Automating your home is already possible through a variety of different remotes and devices, but how about something that relies upon sound? That’s the thinking behind Listnr, the latest device that aims to make life seem a little more futuristic, as well as convenient.

At its simplest, it allows you to connect a smart light-bulb to it, thereby allowing you to turn the lights on or off by snapping your fingers. You can program Listnr to react to any kind of sound, such as a clap, snap, or a stomp of your feet—the latter being useful when your hands are full. Besides simply turning on or off, you can set up the gadget to change to specific colors if you so wish, setting the mood perfectly. It goes one step further, too.

Read more: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/03/listnr-is-a-home-automation-device-with-ears.html

AT&T taking high-tech home automation to Charlotte's hinterlands

Digital Life connects with a customer's existing Internet and wireless phone service to provide mobile home automation and security control, including the remote operation of alarm systems, door locks, HVAC systems, surveillance cameras and even home lighting and electronics. The service works on Apple, Android, Windows and Kindle devices.

"Digital Life is committed to offering our customers an easy and convenient way to monitor their homes, protect their families and simplify their lives from virtually anywhere," Todd Lanham, AT&T's regional director of External Affairs, says in a press release. "With the expansion in these markets, we're looking forward to making Digital Life available to more customers throughout the country."

Read more: http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/blog/techflash/2015/03/gone-country-at-t-taking-high-tech-home-automation.html

Latest Trend in Security & Home Automation: DIY Installed, Pro Monitored

Selling professionally monitored systems direct-to-consumers has been a fruitful business model for many companies such as LifeShield (now owned by DirecTV), FrontPoint and Protect America. Customers configure their systems online, and the dealer ships out a pre-programmed solution for self-installation. The dealer enjoys the recurring revenue with nary a truck roll.

At CES, we saw several pro-oriented companies come out with new products at the show that could fit this model well. Also new business models for security monitoring were revealed.

From Pro to DIY Security & Home Automation
Let’s start with Honeywell. The company rolled out its Lyric brand of DIY smart thermostats last year and just shored up the line at CES with a complete security and home automation system that has the look and feel of retail. While Honeywell didn’t come out and say it was positioned for the do-it-yourselfer, it would certainly make sense for that market.

Read more: http://www.cepro.com/article/diy_vs._pro_security_and_home_automation_the_lines_keep_blurring/K5