Showing posts from December, 2014

Creating the Next Smart Home

Solar panels and tiles glint in the Southern California sun, as visitors meander down a block of modular houses in the middle of a large open space in Irvine. This is the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, an event that pits 19 college teams against each other in the quest to build the most energy efficient -- but still affordable -- home. This year is the first time the solar decathlon has taken place outside of Washington D.C. "You can really tell a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into building these houses," said Olivier Glaser, after he finished touring some of the homes. "It's really awe-inspiring and it makes me look forward to the future of architecture and home building. It gives you a little glimpse of what we can expect in the coming years." Read more:

Connecting all your home devices just got easier

Depending on what you’d like to automate you might not even need the hub. Every product compatible with the Wink app will display one of two logos on its packaging—one indicating products that need the hub to connect using Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Lutron’s ClearConnect, and another for products that connect to your home network’s existing wireless router. A product that’s compatible with one retailer’s hub isn’t necessarily limited to that company’s suite. Schlage and Kwikset, whose connected locks we recently tested, will work with either company’s hub. So will lighting devices from Philips and other products from companies such as GE, Honeywell, and Lutron. Read more:

The Battle For The Connected Home Is Heating Up

Almost 15 years ago, a friend of mine at McKinsey spent a few nights writing a document called “The Battle for the Home”. The thesis at the time was that with broadband, the home PC was gradually going to challenge the TV as the core home digital system. Over the following few years, that battle gradually grew more complex, as the home saw the adoption of a new generation of HDTV sets, game consoles, set-top boxes and DVR options. But fundamentally, the discussion was about who was going to control the home entertainment system. Now, the battle has expanded to the rest of the home. With the emergence of connected devices, the entire home is being reinvented as a data product, opening great opportunities to entrepreneurs. A whole new generation of startups is rushing in. Nest, with its beautifully-designed home products, has become the poster child for this phenomenon, but many others are producing exciting new connected devices and platforms, at an outstanding pace. Read more: htt

L.A.'s most extreme home hits the market at $85 million

This is a price range at which maker names matter, and high-end brand names are everywhere: Miele and Gaggenau appliances, Julien sinks, KWC faucets, Ralph Lauren lighting, Crestron control systems, Lutron electronics. The lids on the Toto Neorest toilets raise when someone enters a bathroom. There’s Via International audio and video. Read more:

Can home automation systems increase the appeal of my home?

Q. Can home automation systems increase the appeal of my home? If so, which features are most desirable? A. Home automation systems that allow an owner to control lighting and shading, heating and cooling, music and video, security cameras and other functions can definitely increase the appeal of a home, said Zachary Vichinsky, a real estate sales agent with the Corcoran Group in the Hamptons. “The last home I sold, the purchaser came out and told me that his decision to purchase the property was based largely on the technology that was incorporated into the home,” Mr. Vichinsky said, noting that the house had a fully integrated Crestron home automation system. “As a second home, it was very appealing to the purchasers to be able to be coming down the highway and turn the air-conditioning and lights on in their home, or raise the temperature of the pool.” Read more:

Save energy with home automation

Reducing energy consumption by a meaningful amount, however, can be a little more complex than Eskom would have us believe – especially if you want to stay comfortable in your home, no matter the season. One of the most effective energy management tools is an intelligently-designed home automation system. While home automation isn’t the only way to save energy in your home or office, it is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to minimise energy wastage without having to do a complete building redesign. Reads more:

How to Utilize Your Old iPhone as a Home Security System for Free (Video)

Plenty of studies have shown that iPhone users upgrade their handsets more often than other smartphone users. But what should you do with that old iPhone once you have upgraded to a new one? There are plenty of good options out there, and some of the most common ones include selling your old phone using a site like eBay or Craigslist, trading it in for credit toward the purchase of a new phone, or giving it away to a friend or loved one. But there’s another option you might not be aware of that is incredibly useful and completely free. “Smart Home” is a term you’ll see more and more in the coming years as Internet-connected devices become more affordable, but you’ll still need to make a somewhat significant investment to turn your home into a Smart Home. Read more:

Smart House to help seniors around home

The population of older Americans is growing faster than ever, and many people are living longer than ever before. Many of those senior want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and Dr. Frank McGeorge took a look at how engineers are trying to make that easier. With more than 78 million baby boomers just reaching their 60s, the number of seniors hoping to live independently into their golden years is quickly climbing. Unsurprisingly, a nation that is increasingly dependent on smart phones is hoping a "smart house" may hold the key. "As we get older, we need all the help we can get," said Walter Kalaf, who knows what it feels like to be uncomfortable in his own home, especially after a knee surgery. Read more:

3 'smart' home appliances to try

Brooding over a pile of gift cards in your stocking? Looking for something you might not normally splurge on? Well it seems every household appliance is getting some smarts these days, meaning it connects to a phone app and the broader Internet, to somehow make your life easier. If you're looking to treat yourself, these might be a good place to start. Here's a closer look at a few "smart" products for the home. There are plenty more if you look around. The connectivity, of course though comes at a price so you'll need to decide whether the benefits are worth your gift card splurge. Read more:

So you got a smart home what?

If you're new to the whole smart home thing and unsure of where to begin, don't despair -- there are a lot of ways to work connected devices into your life. You can use one product or kit on its own as a simple solution to a singular need. Establishing custom rules with one or more gadgets via IFTTT can up the ante a bit. But, the highest level of smart home self-actualization lies with the hub and other open-API multi-product integrations. Read on to find out more about the three main smart home "tiers." Some smart home products are self-contained by design. Select DIY security kits, like Viper Home, and professional firms like ADT, only work within a limited framework -- their own. Other gadgets, like the Belkin WeMo line or Philips Hue LEDs work with competing brands, but that doesn't mean that they have to. Read more:

Home automation access: WeMo app permissions explained

Do you recall the drama and panic about Facebook Messenger permissions requiring excessive access to devices? And after the FTC hammered on “Brightest Flashlight Free” for sharing app users’ location and device ID with third-parties and advertisers, without users’ knowledge, it started a flashlight app panic. Sometimes the required access wasn’t evil, but some did pose privacy risks. Overall, app permissions are wildly misunderstood. If app permissions seem overreaching by asking for too much access, then I pass on that app. But people with IoT home automation devices such as WeMo can't pass on the app. For that reason, we’re drilling down into WeMo app permissions, based solely on WeMo and not what more can be done by connecting a WeMo device with IFTTT. I reached out via email to Belkin engineers to find out what WeMo’s permissions really mean. Belkin home automation WeMo products include a light switch, WeMo Insight Switch, WeMo switch, WeMo switch and motion, NetCams and sm

Home Automation at CES: What to Expect

This year's Consumer Electronics Show is set to start in just a few short weeks, allowing companies to show off their newest and best products. A big focus at CES in 2015 will be home automation, with connected devices becoming and more and more popular. There are a number of categories set to be shown off at CES. First of all, there will be an abundance of multipurpose sensors, meaning sensors that can do more than just sense motion. These sensors will be able to detect things like noise, for example. Read more:

Solar Energy Becoming a Key Component in the Connected Home

You can think of SunPower's capabilities with Tendril as a piece of the home of the future. SunPower will provide local energy production with solar panels, and with energy storage and connected devices SunPower can intelligently plan energy production and consumption based on consumers' desires. If a consumer wants to consume as little energy as possible the system can be set for that, just as it could be set to consume as much of your own energy production, or optimize for cost if there are rewards for sending energy to the grid at peak times. All of this will work in the background, similar to a car's eco mode, but it'll work to make energy more dynamic and controllable for consumers. This will also be important for sales in a diverse number of locations. Different states and countries compensate solar energy producers in different ways, and in the future, demand response, dynamic pricing, and even net metering may look different than they do today. With intelligen

Apple's 2015: Building on an already huge 2014

This year, Apple introduced larger screen iPhones, showed off its first wearable and launched a mobile-payments service. That was on top of updates to its Mac and tablet lines and improvements in its mobile and computer software. Apple also made its biggest acquisition ever by spending $3 billion on headphone maker and streaming music provider Beats. In many ways, Apple next year will be building on what it announced in 2014. It will finally release the Apple Watch in retail stores and will expand Apple Pay and other services. It also will release new variants of its popular iPhones and iPads. But it could make some important tweaks to those devices, such as including a Retina Display in its MacBook Air or making a bigger screen iPad, which could attract a new group of customers. Read more:

How tech companies are propelling the environmental movement, and why it's time to do more

Working on their own processes is key for morale and branding, but as for impacting climate change, it doesn't make much of a difference. Rather, Stepp said, tech companies are mostly influencing consumer behavior through their products, like Google buying Nest, AT&T and its work on connected cars, Verizon and its smart home technologies. This extends to startups in the industry, as well. As the cleantech space becomes more crowded, it's important to make sure companies are moving the narrative in the right direction: awareness, then action -- which could be the key to influence other industries such as energy, retail, travel, and manufacturing. Read more:

Voice control in the smart home

As smart-home technology becomes more popular, more companies are working on voice control functions to try and make your smart home even more personal and responsive. There aren't any big winners yet, but here's a look at some current options that show how the market's developing. Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control Read more:

Ultra HD, Smart Home and Android TV Star in Strategy Analytics' 15 Digital Home Predictions for 2015

As another event-filled year draws to a close, Strategy Analytics Digital Home analysts look forward to 2015 and the issues that they expect to be the big talking points during the year. A new report from the research company's Digital Consumer Practice provides a summary of fifteen predictions and trends that are set to impact the Digital Home in 2015 with topics ranging from Pay TV, OTT and Ultra HD to Tablets, Smart Home and Gaming. Read more:

The technological advancement in home improvement

Gone are the days when an architect had to spend endless hours with a pencil to draft out their ideas and then pick up the hot glue gun to produce a scale model of a structure. No, thanks to technology this can all be done on a computer. You can design everything from the interior of the home to the actual structure of the building itself. As a result, you have a far better idea of what the finished product will look like. Let’s face it, a model that looks like it has been made out of materials from the local textiles shop will do but it doesn’t compare to a computer design that allows you to virtually walk-through the building before one brick has even been laid. Read more:

Smart home automation kit has been launched

The do-it-yourself electronics maker littleBits has released a "smart home" automation kit. It contains snap-together hardware components which you can use for a huge range of applications - from making sensors that text you when the laundry is done, to opening your curtains when the sun comes up. Read more:

Smart Home Project records movement, behavior

Yet to researchers at Washington State University, the 30 or so gadgets on the ceilings and walls are perhaps the future to helping the aging live safely and independently in their homes as long as possible. The technology that can keep tabs on mental and physical well being could also ease the job of caregivers (often adult children who are still working and raising families), perhaps boosting their mental health and decreasing burnout. This is critically important as the population ages and more people want to remain at home, avoiding nursing homes and other care facilities. By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be age 65 or older and have an average life expectancy of 81 years. The in-home sensors used by WSU researchers detect movement made by residents doing the complex daily tasks of living – bathing, cooking, eating, sleeping, dressing – and relay information to computers that tracks patterns. Some sensors detect if a door opens, others are temperature sensors and some detect vibra

LG Introduces Music Flow Wi-Fi Speakers

LG is expanding its home audio lineup with its new Music Flow Wi-Fi series of devices. Music Flow Wi-Fi joins other wireless audio systems like Sonos, Play-Fi, and Samsung Shape as a Wi-Fi-based line of speakers capable of offering multi-room music without cords. Each LG Music Flow speaker uses dual-band Wi-Fi to wirelessly play audio streamed from a mobile or home entertainment device, or networked storage. Music Flow devices create a mesh network, expanding the network's range with each connected speaker. The series includes soundbars and portable speakers, which can be combined to offer surround sound with the portable speakers serving as rear audio channels. Read more:,2817,2474040,00.asp

LG Follows Sonos with Music Flow Wi-Fi Home Speakers

In my journeys though the New York subway, I'm bombarded by ads for wireless music system Sonos. LG apparently wants in on the action, announcing today (Dec. 22) four new wireless home speakers and three wireless sound bars — all at prices yet to be revealed. LG will first showing off the gear at the CES in Las Vegas, which starts on Jan. 6. A big selling feature is clever integration with LG's Android and iOS music apps, such as the ability to automatically transfer music from your mobile headset to the home speakers as you walk into your house. The system also supports the Spotify, Rhapsody and TuneIn streaming-audio apps, and plays local music files. Read more:,news-20055.html

Home Theater Systems Reviews 2014: Choosing Between Bose, Blu-Ray and More From Walmart, Best Buy and Other Electronics Stores

Home theater systems are not cheap, but there are ways to make it more affordable when buying a new system. Of course, there are many things to look for in a home theater system. Probably the most important thing is sound. If your TV looks great and your speakers sound awful, the experience is ruined as the whole point of a home theater system is to replicate the experience you receive in a movie theater. Start by looking for a good surround sound system. Read more:

How Home Automation Will Benefit Your Family

You may have heard of new homes being set up to be automated or of other people upgrading their homes to become automated. What does this mean exactly? Home automation is a new trend in home design that is essentially turning your home into a “smart home” like your “smart phone.” With a home automation system, you are basically connecting all of the devices in your life to the internet. This means your clocks, garage doors, appliances, speakers, thermostat and more are all running, communicating and taking commands from you via the internet. Not only can you control the things in your house from a smart phone or tablet, but you are going to save energy by having things in your home, like the thermostat, shut off when you’re not using it and turned back on as soon as you’re home. Here is how home automation works, how it benefits you and how to get your home automated. Read more:

On the House: Deciphering trends and what we really desire

Instead, the technological revolution, WiFi, Kindles, smartphones, and cloud storage have decluttered these spaces into stripped-down functionality, the experts say. Demand for home automation is driving many of these changes. Architects say that wireless telecommunications and data systems, long-range electrical controls/smart-home systems, and automated lighting controls are in demand. With consumers generally more comfortable with emerging technologies, and the prices of many of these falling as production volumes increase, home automation should increase. Read more:

Projection spotlights illuminate neighbourhoods ahead of the holidays

They’re the newest holiday lighting innovation flying off shelves and sweeping residential streets as locals look for ways to impress their neighbours with the most dazzling lights in the city. Swirling projection kaleidoscope and laser spotlights disperse coloured lights while turning house facades into a glowing mirage of festive patterns. Read more:

High-end home sales are surging in Southern California

Luxury home sales in Southern California are hitting levels not seen in decades. The number of homes bought for $2 million or more in recent months is the highest on record. Sales worth $10 million or more are on pace this year to double their number from the heights of the housing bubble. "It's pretty mind-blowing, to be honest," said Cindy Ambuehl, an agent with the Partners Trust in Brentwood. "The luxury market has been completely on fire." Low interest rates, a strong stock market and waves of cash sloshing in from overseas are boosting demand for high-dollar homes. A record 1,436 homes worth $2 million or more were sold in the six-county Southland in the second quarter, according to CoreLogic DataQuick. Read more:

Substance Over Style for Audio Consumers – It’s the Sound That Counts

Global listeners have become more sophisticated with their audio preferences and have higher expectations regarding sound quality, however, just one in four believe that their current systems are delivering the premium sound they desire. According to research commissioned by CSR, 82 percent of those surveyed rate excellent sound quality as one of the most important features in home audio systems with 79 percent agreeing that the quality of sound is becoming more important than the appearance of devices. Along with the desire for CD-quality sound everywhere, the research highlights a growing shift to streaming music from the internet, and a preference for easy to install systems that can be networked in the home and accessed through multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. Read more:

Deck the halls with high-end technological gadgets

Scollard said home electronic integration technology is getting more affordable, so more and more people are able to do it. “Now, it’s really getting down to where you’re simplifying the whole thing,” he said. “You’re running your whole house off of one application that runs all the other applications — it just makes it all in one place, and you can go to that and do everything.” David Raife is a founder and principle at VIA International. The company is the largest home technology integration firm in the United States, and its locations in mountain areas such as Aspen, Vail, Telluride and beyond have introduced the idea of bringing a “digital concierge” into homes. Electronic integration projects are divided into three tiers at VIA, each representing a price range and system dynamic. The first tier is an app-based approach, which focuses on simplicity. Apps on your smart phone or tablet are connected to home technology controls, including music selections, temperature control, l

Beep, the multi-room Sonos competitor, is now shipping with Spotify connectivity

Earlier this year, we covered Beep’s WiFi volume control that makes it easy to stream music to any speaker system, but the product was still six months out from being available. Today, Beep has announced that it’s shipping the first batch of Beep dials and that it’s opening up orders for a ‘small number’ of dials which will ship during December. Read more:

Add technology to make your existing home smarter

Setting up a security camera is simpler than you think. You no longer have to worry about technicalities, loads of equipment and messy wiring. All you need is a WiFi network and a smartphone. Get a wireless IP camera with pan/tilt support and two way audio communications - you can also have more than one. The camera needs a power outlet and can be placed on a table or mounted on a wall. You need to connect the camera to your WiFi network using the provided setup instructions - takes around 5-10 minutes. Once done, you can remotely access the camera feed, control camera movements and even have two-way communication using the smartphone app or a browser Read more:

Zenovia Electronics Launches its AIRHOME Integrated Home Audio System

AIRHOME is the antithesis of all “boombox in every room” solutions the market has been forced to accept as integrated multi-room home audio until now, says inventor Logan Jacobs, CEO & Founder of Zenovia Electronics and former co-founder and bass player of recording and touring alternative rock band Social Code. Jacobs says when you play music to speakers wired into ceilings and walls throughout your home, the physics of that action and the surface area those speakers cover puts your audio experience literally on another level. “There is no way to get that sound if you are using counter-top speakers that are essentially just boomboxes — even if you have the best boombox ever, it’s still just two tiny speakers in a little box,” he says. “It’s like a glorified clock radio and they sound mediocre and always will.” And then there’s the clutter. Other wireless audio products sit on your counter and take up space. Who wants a “house full of boomboxes” says Jacobs. So, until now, the

New technology makes life easier at home

“Smart homes can consist of a lot of things,” said Jim White, owner of Sound Pro in Rapid City. “In today’s world, we can control audio/video systems, lighting systems, shades, thermostats, everything interior and exterior.” Adams also has a distributed sound system, allowing him to access music from five different devices like his iPod, radio tuner or CD player using a keypad mounted to walls in most rooms of his house. A wireless system called Sonos can be used with his existing system to allow him to control the music through a smart device. Read more:

Want to automate your home? Here is everything you need to know

Home automation is a term that finds excessive use these days. Simply put, smart homes are associated with a system that provisions centralised control of lighting, heating, ventilation & air-conditioning (HVAC) appliances, shades, AV systems, security locks of gates. With the number of smart devices – smartphones, tablets and now the smartwatch on the rise, interconnection and communication has become a useful and desirable feature. Read more:

Use-Case is the Primary Driver Behind AV Distribution Design

It wasn’t that long ago that enterprise AV distribution was truly point-to-point: signals traveled between one conference room to another. The widespread application of BYOD, combined with the variety of dial-in options (e.g., Skype) has altered the meeting landscape, however, often depriving tech managers of full control over the systems for which they’re responsible. “Even as recently as three years ago, when people would meet [in a videoconferencing environment], there would be a team of people in New York, a team of people in L.A., and a team of people in Paris. What happens today is that there will be a team of people in New York, one or two people in L.A., and one or two people in Paris, and they may not sit in for the full duration of the meeting—they may be required as subject matter experts for 15 or 20 minutes,” illustrated Brad Sousa, senior vice president of enterprise technologies at AVI Systems Inc., an AV systems integration firm headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minn. He

Comfee puts Venetian Blind automation into your smart home

The product is a small white box that can be easily clipped on your window blinds and just as easily removed. Its key distinct feature is the ability of the device to make automated intelligent decisions when adjusting your blinds. Comfee does more than acting as an app-substitute for the old-fashioned remote control. For instance, it will tilt your slats automatically depending on the light intensity, weather conditions, temprature and a number of other aspects that you can select. It can also learn from your preferences so you do not have to repeatedly give in the same settings. Read more:

Home Automation Made Easy

The Wink Hub is a hardware (hub) and app solution designed to bring all of the different “smart” brands, most of which operate within their own eco-system and protocols, together under a single platform to allow them to work together. Currently, Wink is compatible with over 70 products from a dozen or so brands, including Philips, GE, DropCam, Honeywell, Schlage and more. Read more:

Smart home is about to blow up thanks to Apple

Apple began its push into the smart home market by allowing developers to use the HomeKit framework in iOS to control smart accessories in the home. HomeKit lets iOS device users to discover, configure and control accessories, as well as use Siri to trigger actions. Smart thermostats are the most popular smart home purchases right now, accounting for 27% of device sales in the first three quarters of 2014. About 32% of smart devices were bought as gifts in 2013, but Parks and Associates analysts expect the shopping season to push 2014’s final numbers past last year’s mark. After surveying 10,000 households, the firm found that smart lights will be the most popular purchase in 2014, with programmable thermostats dropping to fourth place now that competing products like smart appliances are becoming popular. Read more:

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500

Equal parts home theater and home entertainment projector, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 delivers both suitable image quality for a home theater and several features—including a bright image that can stand up to ambient light—that make it equally suitable for home entertainment use in, say, a family room. The combination of image quality (for both 2D and 3D), brightness, modest price, and setup conveniences like the 1.6x zoom makes the 3500 an easy pick as Editors' Choice. Read more:,2817,2473165,00.asp

Best Budget Home Theater System Under $500: Yamaha A/V Receiver, Energy/Polk Speakers

If you're putting together a home theater system on a budget, you probably haven't even considered a receiver from Yamaha. Known for their high quality sound, smooth operation and sleek looks, Yamaha receivers are normally reserved for those with fat wads of cash. But it's that holiday shopping season again: the time when magic deals happen. Read more:

Expecting home theater gifts? Now’s a good time to streamline TV-room clutter.

Let’s say you think Santa Claus is bringing you some home theater stuff this year. Maybe Santa thinks you’re some sort of saint and is bringing you a gigantic 4K HDTV (lucky!). Or maybe you mixed in some naughty activity in 2014 and you’re expecting something more modest like a little Apple TV box for streaming TV shows, music and movies. You’ll have some new stuff to add to your A/V setup. Home theater upgrading and expanding is fun! You get to play with exotic new system menus and assign audio/video inputs and wrangle dozens of cables while trying to keep them out of sight behind the TV. Read more:

DTS takes on Sonos: We go ears-on with three Play-Fi multi-room audio devices

There were multi-room audio systems long before Sonos came along, but the market was tiny and very exclusive. If you couldn’t afford to hire a custom installer to come in and wire your house, you couldn’t have one. Sonos smashed that barrier more than 10 years ago and has worked to lower it further ever since. But Sonos doesn’t license its technology to other manufacturers, so DTS—a company best known for its multi-channel audio technology—decided to exploit that go-it-alone strategy. In 2012, DTS acquired a company called Phorus, which had developed its own wireless multi-room audio system. DTS slapped the catchier Play-Fi brand on that technology and began licensing it to speaker manufacturers, including Harman Kardon, Polk Audio, Martin Logan. DTS also sells its own Play-Fi products under the Phorus brand. Read more:

Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home review: Control everything in your house

The Harmony Ultimate Home bundle includes the namesake remote, the Home Hub, a pair of IR blasters (for use with gear tucked behind doors), a charging cradle for the remote, and all the required cables. The remote itself is thoughtfully designed, prominently featuring a bright 2.4-inch touchscreen. The physical buttons are laid out well, offering immediate access to most of the functions you need. Logitech has gotten rid of the tethered setup in favor of app-based setup from an iOS (or Android) app. So yeah, in addition to your $350 remote, you’ll also need an iPhone. Still, there are some advantages. For one, your Harmony app-equipped phone can double as a second remote, which is perfect for those moments when your actual remote goes missing. The banner feature here is integration with a wide variety of other devices from companies like Nest, Peq, Lutron, SmartThings, and more. Read more:

How intelligent lighting is set to change your home

Our homes have been utterly transformed over the last 100 years. We now have flat screen TVs, fully fitted kitchens with shiny appliances, state of the art bathrooms with his ‘n’ her sinks and gadgets to fill every room. But it’s fair to say that when it comes to lighting not that much has changed since Thomas Edison first invented the lightbulb back in the 1880s. Sure we may have more eco-friendly, longer lasting halogen and LED light bulbs in our rooms than back in the days of the incandescent light bulb. But for many people that’s about as far as it goes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could control your home’s lighting remotely without having to use plug in timer switches or change the colour of your room’s lighting to suit your mood without having to resort to buying coloured light bulbs. Well now you can and it needn’t cost a fortune either! Read more:

Crestron: AV Trends for 2015

With 2015 right around the corner, here are five trends that Crestron has on the radar for the New Year. 1. Architectural trends like open floor plans and office hoteling drive projects to have more rooms, but smaller rooms than our industry is used to serving. To be successful, integrators need to offer simple-to-use, rapidly-deployable, highly-repeatable solutions that offer a consistent user interface across an entire enterprise (even if different integrators installed equipment in different states or countries). This means spending less time on custom programming and more on simple configuration of rooms based on capabilities. Read more at:

Crestron fully automates homes and offices

Technology is increasingly and continually taking control of our lives - ranging from smartphones found in nearly everyone's pocket, to tablet computers, PCs, home cinema systems, and even electrical appliances found in most of our homes and business establishments. To 'make sense' of all these different technological devices, we need help from none other than - technology itself. There are products on the market today that facilitate controlling a number of electronic and electrical devices from a single platform. The average consumer is familiar with it from 'smart home' systems, through which all devices found in the home are controlled using a smartphone or tablet. But it's actually companies and organizations that make much greater use of that technology - expressed in their ability to monitor corporate conference rooms, communications centers at government offices, classrooms, visitor centers, control rooms, etc. Read more:

Energy Management Can Empower Everyone Regardless of Income Level

The future of smart home, energy-saving technologies is often more focused on affluent, early-adopters who benefit from innovative ways to save energy because they can afford the newest gadgets. Thankfully, these people are using their buying power to lead the way, as more demand will bring prices down for everyone. While it is important for all of us to conserve and better manage energy use, low-income individuals have the most to gain. Yet the technologies that can enable savings are often out of financial reach. Read more:

A Smarter Smart Home

Much progress has been made in the field of “smart” household appliances. The latest connected devices can anticipate and assist, even understand. They blink in pleasant, informative ways. Many can dance. They talk to one another and, after you go to work, will continue talking behind your back. The objects get to know you better than you know yourself. In fact, they will stop at nothing in pursuit of your total well-being. Here are a few of the more interesting recent breakthroughs: Read more:

Protection, automation, and hands-free garage access in one smart home system

The problem with many new smart home devices is that you have to replace your existing gear for a shiny, new machine. Not everyone thinks you should have to chuck out your old coffee maker or hire an electrician to get your home online. Some companies such as littleBits and Clime sell kits or sensors so you can turn dumb devices smart, while a new Kickstarter for Habitat introduces a hub that transforms garage door openers, smoke alarms, and dryers into connected devices. In addition to the hub, there are three pieces to the Habitat platform: Park, Protect, and Learn. The Park is a docking station for your garage door opener; simply stick the remote in the tray, and you’ll be able to open and close your garage door with your smartphone. Friends and neighbors can have access, even if you only want to grant it for a limited amount of time. The attachment senses if someone’s trying to force the door open or can alert you when your kids arrive home. Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.

What's next for the smart home? A reason to buy one would be nice

Are you using a Nest to control the heating in your home? Does you car have an Internet connection? Are you wearing a smartwatch or even Google Glass? If so, you’re embracing the Internet of Things and can consider yourself a pioneer. However, all these examples are only the beginning, and the next stage in connecting every electronic piece of hardware you own to the Internet, a phenomenon that is just starting to get underway. At the IoT World Forum in London this month, companies gathered to chat about how to speed up the process. Unfortunately, if you’ve got a vision of a simple, cross-platform connected home, you’re in for a bit of a wait; the industry is waiting too. What’s the problem? No one has stepped up to belt out to the world, “This is why you need a connected home, and it’s amazing!” Because no one’s quite sure what that thing is yet. The search for that solid, compelling reason to pay for all this cool, new, connected tech seems to be the holdup. Read more: http://w

A new home for the smart home at CES 2015

Smart-home products were on broad display at various venues across Las Vegas at CES 2014. At this coming show, the smart home gets its own dedicated exhibit space as part of a new convention area in the Sands Hotel dubbed Tech West. We'll still be running all over town to meet with various other smart-home vendors, but having an official, Consumer Electronics Association-sanctioned home at the show is at least one indicator of this smart-home category's proliferation this past year. Read more:

In smart home war, Google and Samsung have opposite strengths

When it comes to connecting home appliances to the Web, fierce competitors Google and Samsung each have something their rival lacks. Google has struggled with hardware but, thanks to its Android smartphone operating system, the company has amassed a loyal community of developers who could be tapped to create software for the household. Samsung doesn’t boast such clout among programmers, but it has a long history of manufacturing home appliances, including dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines and televisions. No industry leader has emerged in the nascent connected appliance market, called smart homes or the Internet of things. And there is not yet an online hub where people can turn to connect their homes, in the style of Apple’s App Store. This leaves great opportunity in a market that is predicted to grow from roughly 60 million units this year to more than 190 million units in 2018, according to research firm IHS. Read more:

Tech companies race for advantage in 'smart' home market

Samsung, according to TechCrunch, is in talks to buy home automation company SmartThings for $200 million. As of my deadline, the deal hadn't been confirmed, but if it goes through, it would put the giant Korean electronics company in direct competition with Apple and Google. But even if this deal doesn't pan out, you can be sure that Samsung -- along with just about every other consumer electronics company -- will be entering this market. Although technically the term "home automation" could apply to any labor-saving device, including dishwashers and washing machines, in today's world it means remote control and monitoring of home appliances, lights, doors, security and entertainment systems. Read more:

Lighting up the smart home

Smartphones. Smart TVs. Smart appliances. Smart ... light bulbs? As my colleague Andrea Chang reported in Tuesday's Times, microprocessors and connectivity have been migrating into a growing number of product categories. That trend has been developing for years, but it really took off as residential broadband connections proliferated, as did home Wi-Fi networks. For some products, the benefits of connectivity are obvious. Smart refrigerators, for example, can suggest recipes based on the food they're chilling and create shopping lists for items that are depleted. As networking technology spreads to more mundane items, though, the appeal isn't necessarily as apparent. Read more:

The home theater puzzle

So you've decided to dispose of some income and build a home theater. Congratulations, but it's a jungle out there. Doing it right means researching, buying and assembling some complicated and often expensive parts--screen, speakers, lighting, seating and storage. Here's a primer to help you decide which components are right for you, your home and your budget, along with tips and price information to help make the experience less daunting. Read more:

IMAX for the home: Is your house big enough?

For a mere $2 million, you can have your very own giant screen system in the comfort of your home. IMAX Corp. is in the process of unveiling IMAX Private Theatre, a 2-D and 3-D system complete with a floor-to-ceiling screen and a state-of-the art sound system. All you need is a room big enough to hold it. The first two installations for the product, which is essentially the same one found in your local multiplex, are expected to be completed by July with two others currently in the design phase. Read more:

Review: Open Hour Chameleon Home Theater PC

If you’ve spent any time browsing the web for modern home theatre PCs or media streamers, you’ll know that the days of the uber-large systems are long gone. They’ve been rendered obsolete by small, powerful Android devices built around ARM processors, packing custom builds of the popular XBMC/Kodi media center software. These so-called “Android TV” boxes (not to be confused with Google’s own media platform) have been shipping in their thousands from small manufacturers and importers. Check Amazon, eBay and similar retailers and you’ll find them easily – cheap, cheerful and, depending on the custom software installed, able to do a fantastic job of streaming any file you care to throw at them from a variety of sources. That includes online sources that may not be 100% legitimate, but we won’t dwell on that particular topic in this review. Read more:

Home Theater Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again! Here are some of our holiday gift recommendation for the person in your life who enjoys the luxury of a great home theater system: Televisions Sony XBR-55X850B 55-inch 4K Ultra HD TV: While this TV might not be the cheapest option, it will certainly deliver the quality and performance you want in a home theater. The 55-inch LED-Edge Lit LCD screen uses Sony’s Triluminous color-enhancement technology and X-reality Pro video upscaling and processing engine. Additionally, with the use of the Passive System, this TV will give you a much enhanced 3D experience, (glasses included) or an alternate viewing experience with SimulView (glasses required). The TV comes with Ethernet and Wifi connections as well as MHL connectivity, HDMI 2.0 connections, and HEVC decoders, so all of your streaming needs are taken care of. Lastly, although there is a subwoofer output, we suggest utilizing an external home audio system. Read more:

Home security systems flying off the shelves

Home surveillance systems are popping up all over neighborhoods. And while some residents try to keep them discreet, others make it very clear, posting signs to notify others that they are under constant watch. But those warnings are not always a deterrent. Joann Wood recalls a recent conversation she had with a neighbor who has surveillance cameras. "She told us the other day that a bike was missing. They left their garage door open and they saw the person on the surveillance camera," Wood said. The security devices are fairly inexpensive, and police say they have proven to be effective crime-fighting tools. "It's kind of convenient for us homeowners to have these surveillance systems in a click of a button on a computer. It's also easier for the cops to recognize and catch these people and make sure that's the one," said Nelson. Read more:

Surveillance Systems Are Getting Smarter

Although many see the loss of privacy as a tragedy, the age of constant surveillance is here. And researchers at many institutions are making cameras smarter and better at picking you out of a crowd and recording where you've been, what you are doing now, and where you are going after you are through. "Cameras and recording won't go away," said Jenq-Neng Hwang, electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington and lead author of a new study. "We might as well take advantage of that fact and extract more useful information for the benefit of the community." Hwang's team has developed technology that will allow multiple cameras to follow an individual as he or she moves through a crowd, switching seamlessly from one camera to the next as the target moves from one field of view to another. It can do that, even if the target disappears for a while and then reappears in a different area. Read more:

Buying the Perfect Home Audio System

Interested in purchasing a home audio system? Don’t know the right budget or which products to choose from? Well, we have the best in the audio business to tell you the ideal budget and the ideal system for your needs. Read more:

How to download audio from any streaming video

Streaming video is great, but sometimes it’s more than you need—or more than you can run, if you're away from an Internet connection. If you like to listen to podcasts, lectures, or other audio while you drive, work, or exercise, you should be able to take advantage of the huge amount of content published online every day. In this article, we’ll show you how easy it is to download just the audio file from any streaming video and save it to your hard drive for offline listening. Read more:

New optical technique extracts audio from video

Researchers have demonstrated a simple optical technique by which audio information can be extracted from high-speed video recordings. The method uses an image-matching process based on vibration from sound waves, and is reported in an article appearing in the November issue of the journal Optical Engineering, published by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. Read more at:

Why OLED lighting will soon shine on you

Undecided about whether to buy LED-based lights instead of compact fluorescent bulbs? Get ready to have some more uncertainty in your life, because another new lighting technology has just arrived: OLED. Where LED (light-emitting diode) lighting uses small, intensely bright sources of light, which are typically made to look like traditional light bulbs, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting uses flat, dimmer sources of light, essentially resulting in a glowing square or rectangle. Steady advances in manufacturing technology have made OLEDs bright and long-lived enough to use, and now they're going mainstream: Acuity Brands, whose $2 billion in annual sales make it the largest lighting company in North America, is now selling OLED light fixtures in Home Depot. Read more:

New Smart Home Uses 50 Percent Less Wire but Points the Way to More Electrical Work

New showcase house, “Green Life Smart Life,” was recently completed in Narragansett, R.I. It should be of great interest to electrical contractors, despite the fact that it used 50 percent less wire than a conventional home of the same size. Smart homes are becoming more attractive to owners. The pace of construction or renovation will accelerate as utility companies roll out smart meters. This is already occurring in California and at smaller, progressive utilities around the country. Most other utilities are in various phases of implementing smart meters. Pacific Gas & Electric, for example, has installed approximately 1.5 million smart meters and hopes to complete 10.3 million more by 2011. Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, is starting to get buyer inquires from California about smart appliances. GE has appliances available for shipping and is ready for mass production as demand develops, even supplying swappable demand-response modules for various wir

Why I Regret Making My House a Smart-House

I have been building my dream house for the last 4 years (Old Chinese Saying: House Done, Life Done) and had sales folks stopping by to convince me I needed more than I had planned for this, my hopefully last house. I hadn't considered making the house a smart house. I was going to have state of the art lighting, nice surround sound, flat screen TV's, a sound system, an alarm system, radiant heat and air conditioning. When the salesman told me this can all be controlled together, in conjunction with many convenient features like setting lighting scenes throughout the house with the push of a button, or have my lights shut, music go off, and garage doors close with the push of another, I began to get sucked in. Read more:

Turn Your Window Shades Into Smart Shades

What if your home’s window shades go go up and down with a simple push of a button on your smartphone? Read more:

10 gifts to make your home a 'smart home'

The smart home revolution is only beginning. It's largely believed that one day all products in the house will be connected to the Internet and work together — your fridge will send a message to your TV telling you you're out of milk; the lights will flicker if you've left the front door open. Read more:

‘Smart home’ gadgets become more affordable and more common

Homeowners are increasingly looking to technology for home security solutions, to save on heating and cooling costs and even to help them cook the perfect steak. In fact, 46% of consumers recently surveyed by ERA Real Estate and HGTV said it was important for their current or next home to have smart home technology. And 51% of the 2,437 consumers polled said they’d consider installing smart home technology in their home to make it more appealing to future buyers. Smart home technology often refers to a home that is connected using the Internet. “Whether we are inside the house or 1,000 miles away from the house, we can control and monitor it,” said Dave Pedigo, senior director of learning and emerging technologies for the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association. Read more:

'Smart home' built to meet needs of wounded soldier

A retired Special Forces soldier who lost an arm and both legs in Afghanistan four years ago has received a new home outfitted to accommodate his special needs. Master Sgt. John Masson and his wife, Dustina, along with their three children, moved into their smart home in Southern Pines earlier this month. The home was built by people from a variety of organizations. "My family and I are eternally grateful to everyone who played a part in the building of our new smart home," Masson said in a news release. Masson lost an arm and both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in 2010. The home was built with his needs in mind, officials said. It has retractable cabinets and shelving, automated lighting and security systems, and transfer benches. Read more:

These electronic gift ideas are sound choices

Are you looking for an electronics-related gift for the holidays? Here are picks from the best products of the year. Prices start as low as $15, and most things are under $100. ZVOX Audio SoundBase 555, $199 to $299: This has become my favored solution for anyone looking for better TV sound without the expense, hassle and space requirements of a soundbar or full-home theater surround-sound system. It’s simple to set up and use, unobtrusive and, most important, sounds really, really good. It’s suitable for televisions from 37 inches to 55 inches and is on sale for $199 from $299, with free shipping. Other models are available for bigger or smaller TVs, but the 555 is a standout deal right now. Read more: