Showing posts from August, 2014

Home Automation: Will Apple HomeKit Bring Order to Chaos?

Smart home technology is taking off, but consumers are confused by all the apps needed Read more:

In Santa Barbara County, oil firms and environmentalists square off

Seen from U.S. 101, northern Santa Barbara County looks to be mostly vineyards and cattle ranches, with majestic oak trees scattered across the dry rolling hills. Read more:

29 Things You Need To Know About Santa Barbara

Here's our scoop on this classic California beach town, including ice cream that's basically heaven in a cup Read more:

Home movie theaters becoming more popular

Forget sitting in a crowded theater with sticky, dirty floors and talkative moviegoers. Watching movies in the comfort of your own home on a screen just as large as a movie theater equipped with surround sound is becoming increasingly more popular. If money is no object, your home theater can look like anything that strikes your fancy, from the "Pirates of the Caribbean's" Black Pearl to your own personal Bat Cave or just a luxurious home away from home. "The Batman, Pirates and Star Wars-themed home theaters are definitely 'money is no object' theaters," says Lou Cerbone, owner of New York Audio Video Design, based out of LaGrange and Mahopac. "You don't see them that much, but if someone wanted something that crazy, it would be in a really large room. The beauty of home theater is that there are so many different room sizes, and you can design a themed room, or a theater made out of rustic barn wood or an ultra-traditional home theater with

What's the optimum number of speakers for your home theater

Dolby's latest advance in surround sound technology, Atmos, debuted in movie theaters in 2012, but now that it's coming to the consumer market the maximum number of home theater speakers has jumped way up, to 34! Of course, that's at the extreme high-end, most Atmos home theaters will do fine with "just" nine speakers, which is a traditional 5.1 channel home theater array, augmented with four Atmos "height" or "overhead" speakers that will produce a more immersive sound experience with Atmos encoded films, played on an Atmos enabled receiver. Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha and other brands will release Atmos receivers in the coming months. Read more:

Builder Differentiates New Homes with Automation/ Security Offering

In 2012, Pennsylvania-based Mignatti Cos. was looking for a way to differentiate its new homes and position them as “high-tech,” smart homes with great value. Adding energy management capabilities was also a key to the marketing message the company wanted to create for the homes. After researching possible options, the company added Honeywell’s Tuxedo Touch wireless controller. Read more:

Home security is going high-tech to counter housing bust

While almost every other piece of the consumer electronics business has gotten wired and then wireless over the last 10 years, home security systems have remained stubbornly low-tech. Burglar breaks glass, cops get pinged, end of story. When you get home, all you can do is hope your house is still in one piece. That's about to change, and home security systems are becoming as high-tech as the smartphone in your pocket. While the natural progression of technology is partly driving that trend, it's also getting a boost from the housing bust. Read more:

Big bucks can make your home a high-tech fortress

If you have money to burn, why not invest in the security of your home? You could thwart most any burglar with iris-recognition scanners; bullet-resistant walls, ceilings and glass; panic rooms with 18-inch steel walls; remotely monitored surveillance systems; customized keyless locks and your own private security force. Advancements in electronics and the heightened sense of insecurity in the world are driving the creation of new products for home protection. If you have a pricey home filled with expensive possessions, then networked surveillance, keyless locks, remote monitoring and sensors are the way to go. If you have the goods to protect and an unlimited budget, a lot of options are available. Read more:

Smart software a threat to power generators

Much has been made about the massive disruption that rooftop solar systems and distributed energy will bring to traditional energy business models. But there may be an even greater threat, the emergence of smart technology and software. The growth of ‘negawatts’, where energy is not consumed, rather than megawatts is emerging as a major focus of industry analysts. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that while the rollout of solar modules may be massively disruptive, the major battles may be fought over software and other gadgets that will further reduce demand on centralised fossil fuel generation. Read more:

Gesture-controlled home automation hub runs Linux

Pre-orders are open for “Ninja Sphere,” a $329 gesture-controlled home automation hub featuring Arduino hooks, ZigBee controls, and location tracking. Sydney, Australia-based Ninja Blocks was one of the earlier entries in the Linux home automation game. The startup’s open source Ninja Block hub launched on Kickstarter in 2012, and began shipping in a more advanced version last October. The $199 Ninja Block Kit integrated a BeagleBone Black SBC and an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, and offered remote access via smartphone apps and a cloud service. Using a 433MHz RF radio, it controlled vendor-supplied sensor inputs including motion detectors, contact closures, temperature and humidity sensors, and pushbuttons. Read more:

Battle of the Home Automation Hubs

Home automation chatter has picked up over the past few months, especially now that Apple and Google are throwing their respective kits into the mix. There’s a plethora of approaches to introduce automation into our homes. Whether it’s Z-Wave to disengage your door lock or Zigbee to turn on your lights, the primary method to link up all the various protocols and centralize control is via a hub that rides your home network. And that’s what we’re looking at, three sub-$100 hubs - full of promise to tie together these protocols so that all our current and future home gadgetry play nicely together. Read more:

Home automation opens up IoT market for telcos: Ovum

Home security is set to become single largest growth sector for internet service providers and telcos in the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) 'connected home' market, according to a new report by analyst and consultancy firm, Ovum. "Home security provides the biggest medium term opportunity for service providers, but this opportunity requires a cohesive strategy in order to expand beyond the 5-10 percent of the market that buys traditional security and home automation services," said the report, Home Automation: Overseas Successes & Australian Opportunities, which was produced in conjunction with NBN Co. Read more:

Home theaters growing in popularity

Joe “J.C.” Ganote celebrated Father’s Day with his son and grandchildren at his home in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. But if the younger Ganotes hadn’t made the cross-country trip from San Diego, you can bet that grandpa would have logged on to Skype to watch them on the 106-inch screen in his basement. “We can see them walking around. They ham it up, boy! They know they are on camera,” J.C. Ganote said about the 11-month-old twins, Michela and Caleb. Across town, Terry Maskil of Shawnee, Kansas, often settles into one of the plush reclining chairs next to his sons Adam, 13, and Nicholas, 6, to watch a movie in their basement home theater, which features a 120-inch screen. These days, home theaters are the family rooms, and money can buy you all the amenities, including surround sound, subwoofers and popcorn makers. Read more here:

Best AV receivers of 2014

For the full home theater experience, you need an AV receiver. A sound bar or home theater in a box (HTIB) might get you close, but a true home theater enthusiast won't settle for less than a 5.1 speaker system and component-style AV receiver. We've focused on the best bang-for-your-buck receivers from each manufacturer, which is typically around $500. You'll generally get five-to-eight HDMI inputs, built-in networking functionality, and automatic speaker calibration. Read more:

Bringing the tech to bathtime: How to make your bathroom smart

You might think that the bathroom is the simplest room of the house. It's a place to clean, relax, and take care of life's essentials. But that doesn't mean it has to be the dumbest room in the house. Of course you probably already have app control of your hot water through Evohome or Hive, so you can make sure the water's hot when you need it, but there's plenty more you can do to make your bathroom smart. Read more:

Are ‘Smart’ Bulbs Still Stupid?

Smart bulbs have always seemed like a dumb idea to me: Pay $60 to $100 for a screw-in LED and then control it with your phone. That’s a lot of money for a single light vs. a switch that can control a whole bank of bulbs. And then there’s the issue of having to keep the switch on at all times, not to mention the hassle of digging out a smart device to brighten the room. I was having this very conversation at the recent Parks Associates Connections conference, and someone asked: Is the concept really that stupid or is it just the price? If the price were $10 or $15 per bulb, then would it become interesting? That shut us up because, indeed, if the price carried just a small premium over a standard LED, then it starts to make sense. And you can imagine that the light-switch issue will resolve itself eventually. Read more:

Linux-based home automation hub gains Android app

Revolv released an Android app for controlling devices via its Linux-based Revolv Hub home automation controller, and added Nest Thermostat support. Revolv was one of the earlier players in the new wave of mobile app enabled home automation hubs, starting out in 2012 under the name Mobiplug. Like the new Wink system, the Revolv Hub supports a wide variety of third-party products and automation ecosystems. Read more:

Home automation services look to cash in on rising demand

Home automations are no longer luxury add-ons for builders — they are now a cost-saving necessity. Unishire, a threeyear-old builder in Bangalore, said homes fitted with smart features is a default for customers across the 2 million square feet that the company's developing. "Previously it was perceived just as a lifestyle quotient, but I realised it translates into huge savings in the long run," said Vinay Mehta, who is a customer to Bangalore-based SmartrHomes Technologies that has developed a water metering and billing system for apartment complexes. The water bill in apartment complexes is usually calculated by a simple formula — the total water used is divided by total number of houses. Read more:

Five apps that will help automate your home

As Internet of Things technologies catch on, home automation solutions are gaining popularity. Here are several apps that let you automate everything from thermostats to security systems. Read more:

Home theater rooms doing double duty

Home theaters have a long-standing reputation for being unattractive and single-purposed: dark spaces filled with stadium-seating Barcaloungers.That's changing. “People want rooms now that can double dip for function,” says Elissa Morgante, principal with Evanston-based interior design and architecture firm Morgante Wilson Architects. “Most people want them to look like a rec room with a regular TV as well as a screen that drops out of the ceiling when you want it.” Read more:

The 'Netflix For Pirated Movies' Will Soon Work With Your Apple TV

Popcorn Time is a free streaming service that brings the familiar, easy-to-use Netflix interface into the realm of pirated media. It works by allowing users to stream movies and TV shows without having to worry about deleting any incriminating evidence afterward; Popcorn Time does all the dirty work for you. You can already use Popcorn Time with your Chromecast, but starting today, Windows users will be able to stream Popcorn Time to their Apple TV, using AirPlay. Windows users who already have Popcorn Time on their computers will see their version automatically updated when the new release goes live. Read more:

LogMeIn IoT Platform drives Lutron’s Caseta Wireless solution

LogMeIn Xively Internet of Things (IoT) Platform is powering Lutron Electronics’ new Caseta Wireless solution that remotely connects users with their homes via a smartphone or tablet. Full Story:

Wink wants to make great software for the smart home, but first it has to build hardware

Wink, the newly launched smart home spin out of product design shop Quirky, showed off an impressive list of partners and a new hub at an event on Tuesday in New York. But its new hub shows that even if you want to design software for the home you need to start with hardware. Full Story:

Control4: Amazon Fire Phone Holds Potential for Home Automation

Amazon's Fire Phone has interesting potential for home automation when you consider Firefly, Dynamic Perspective and other APIs. Control4 (CTRL) promises to build around these SDKs. Full Story:

Webee Promises True ‘Learning’ Home Automation System at CEDIA 2014

Indiegogo-funded Webee says it learns better than Nest, always tracking the home to adjust lights, thermostats, A/V gear, other smart home devices without programming. Debuts at CEDIA Expo 2014. Full Story: