Showing posts from January, 2015

Studying up on ‘smart homes’

Science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury speculated about the wonders and dangers of smart houses back in the 1950s. By the late ’70s, companies had begun developing primitive systems that could transmit simple commands through a home’s electrical wires. Today’s home-automation systems use a combination of wired and wireless technology to enable fingertip control of every electrical or electronic device in the house. Software developer Rick Dwyer of Hingham worked with Advanced Communication Technologies of Rockland to install such a system in his roughly 6,000-square-foot, $1.8 million home. At first, “I didn’t really know the full scope of what was possible,” Dwyer said. “I said, ‘all right, so tell me what’s possible, and figure out where we want to lie.’ ” Today, he strolls through his home, iPad in hand, master of the house. Using software developed by Savant Systems LLC , Dwyer can remotely control home heating or cooling, tune in a basketball game on the living room TV, and

From self-cleaning toilets to intelligent lighting: "smart" homes are here

Bathroom mirrors that turn into flat-screen televisions and air conditioners that turn on before you get home, while wooden work desks light up with a sweep of a hand. “Smart” homes, once the purview of the wealthy or tech-obsessed, are an increasingly accessible aspect of modern living, with technologies once considered futuristic and unattainable now within easy grasp of everyday homeowners. “Pretty much every project I'm working on, the client requests some sort of hi-tech application,” says Wendy Raizin, founder of Raizin Design in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. “Throughout all different levels, worldwide, people are taking advantage of technology in their homes.” The applications range from practical (security systems that enable you to see what's going on in your house from thousands of kilometres away) to indulgent (sensor-controlled bidets that wash and dry). But there is no disputing that the category is a burgeoning one. Read more:

Are smart homes becoming easy prey for hackers?

While the increasing use of home automation technology to create your version of a ‘smart house’ may be all the trend and seem practical, Richard Keymer Head of Pre-sales at SecureData Africa warns of the flipside in that once an automation system is established and can be operated remotely online, then chances are it can be hacked. “A growing trend in electronics is to have them integrate with your home network in order to provide potentially useful features such as automatic updates or to extend the usefulness of existing technologies such as remotely controlling irrigation systems, pool pumps, garage doors, cameras and other devices. This allows their owners to turn these things on and off with a Smartphone app or via the Web. “However, what living in this world of network-connected in fact means is that we run even greater risk of being compromised. Even more terrifying is that while in the past a compromise only meant your data was out of control, today it can enable control o

Hacking automated homes could help burglars

Unsecured automated homes provide an easy access to data about home owners and could be used by burglars seeking access to properties, German researchers have found. In a series of experiments, IT security experts from the University of Saarland proved that eavesdropping on wireless home automation systems doesn’t require extensive knowledge of the system and could be easily carried out by a determined attacker equipped with a simple PC. ‘Non-encrypted systems provide large quantities of data to anyone determined enough to access the data, and the attacker requires no prior knowledge about the system, nor about the user being spied on,’ said Professor Christop Sorge, who led the Saarland University team. ‘The data acquired by the attacker can be analysed to extract system commands and status messages, items which reveal a lot about the inhabitants’ behaviour and habits.” Using the data extracted from a home automation system installed in a house of two volunteers, the researche

Crestron: the age of the fully automated house

Lighting, security systems, heating and air-conditioning and other now-obvious extensions to this control system presented themselves with breath-taking frequency, aided by the spread of the affordable, compact, user-friendly computers. The concept of phoning home from one’s car to adjust the ambient temperature on the way back from work, turning on the oven to re-heat some leftovers, or checking the fridge to see if there’s enough milk have all been made real. Crestron can automate and integrate to levels of simplicity no more terrifying than using a microwave oven. A fully “Crestron’d” home leaves little for the inhabitants to do but employ and enjoy their various appliances’ functions, minus the tears. The leap from movies and music, and now multi-media gaming, to life-enhancing convenience and piece of mind, involved the sourcing or manufacturing of powered blinds and curtains, accessing in-home computer networks, and “talking” to the latest smart appliances. But there was a ca

Smart Home Security Guard Piper Now Has Night Vision

In case you’re not familiar, Piper is an all-in-one home security device that lets you keep an eye on your home from anywhere in the world through a mobile app. Its motion sensor makes it simple to be notified when someone enters your house, and you can even turn Piper into an intercom from your phone. The second-generation Piper nv looks almost exactly like the original, except for a new ring of infrared sensors around the 180-degree camera. The “nv” bit stands for night vision, and those sensors let you see what’s happening in your home even in near pitch black conditions. The camera’s resolution is also improved, and now offers sharp video with a 3.4-megapixel sensor. Read more:

Haiku ceiling fan for the smart home owner

I'm in love with the smart home. I bought a Nest thermostat when it was released, Philips Hue light bulbs, and the Nest Protect smoke detector (which, sadly, was great when it worked, but terrible when it didn't). I can open my garage door from my iPhone, and it's all wonderful (except for the smoke detectors). I'm even more in love with devices that talk to each other to make the whole system better, and that's why I adore the Haiku fan from Big Ass Fans, located in Lexington, Kentucky. The Haiku is the residential offering from Big Ass Fans, who got their name from the truly enormous fans the company designed for commercial applications like restaurants, gyms, and warehouses. Made in America, the fans are luxury products with a price tag to match. The "smart" version of the 52" and 60" Haiku fan starts at $1,045 (a non-internet connected version is $150 cheaper) in a black or white composite material, with caramel or cocoa bamboo finishes

Got Nest? Some insurance companies reward smart-home device owners

Many early adopters of smart-home gadgets were in it to save money on heating and electricity bills, but now there’s a new bonus to smartening up your home: insurance breaks. In 2013, State Farm paired up with ADT and Lowe’s. First, State Farm customers could get discounts on connected home-monitoring equipment from those brands, including smoke detectors and thermostats, which in turn could lead to 10 to 15 percent reduction on their home or renter’s insurance. Right now, State Farm is one of the few insurance companies offering such a discount, but as the smart device market grows — mainstream adoption is expected by 2019 — the practice could become more widespread. Smart thermostats and security systems are expected to be among the most common connected home devices in the next five years; people are generally concerned with saving on their heating and cooling bills and keeping their homes safe. But something like Nest — coupled with Dropcam, August smart locks, and other Works

What can I do with home automation?

Once reserved primarily for the wealthy due to its complexity and whole-home-or-nothing model, today home automation is more accessible, no matter what your budget. Instead of buying into a $50,000 whole-home system, you can build a smart home yourself piece-by-piece. In this article, we will run through the major areas of home automation and explore what different devices and systems can do, helping you decide what works best for your needs. The opportunity to keep your home safe and secure with accessible gadgets and no high monthly fees has been a driving factor in the rapid growth of the smart home. Smart home security systems are simple and inexpensive, making this a great entry point into the smart home ecosystem. Here are some of the key elements: Read more:

What is home automation and how do I get started?

From flicking a light switch to opening your garage door with a remote control, our homes have been automated for decades. The concept goes as far back as the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago where the “home of the future” was unveiled. In the last 80 years, however, the automated home has morphed into the smart home, courtesy of the Internet, sensors and connectivity. The modern automated home can do more than turn on our heating and our lights—it can actually think for us. In this guide, we’ll explain what smart home automation is, how it can help you, and explore the latest and greatest technologies, products and services in the Home Automation field. The terms “Home Automation,” “Connected Devices” and “Internet of Things” are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct parts of the Smart Home concept: Read more:

Apple's home automation tech reportedly won't land until spring

We hope you weren't in a big rush to outfit your household with devices that use Apple's HomeKit automation technology -- you may be waiting a little while. Recode tipsters claim that Apple started certifying HomeKit gear later than it wanted, pushing the release of many supporting gadgets (and their underlying chips) back to spring or later. While Apple hasn't said whether or not there's a delay, the company notes that multiple companies (such as Elgato and iDevices) formally unveiled their first HomeKit hardware at CES. In many cases, the finished goods won't ship until spring or summer. Read more:

Consumers favor home security over efficiency in smart home technology

Smart home gadgets include gadgets connected to the home network, such as thermostats and smart meters. By connecting with the electric grid, smart meters act upon real-time pricing to change home energy usage patterns, such as adjusting the air conditioner during times of high prices. By knowing and managing when electricity is being consumed, grid operators can maintain stability and lower energy usage during peak periods. There is some data to back up the notion that smart-grid technology makes buildings more energy-efficient when used effectively. A US Department of Energy study showed smart-grid consumers were able to save up to 10% on energy bills. Read more:

Global home automation market valued at US$4.4 billion in 2014

A new report out of the United States from Transparent Market Research valued the global home automation market at US$4.4 billion in 2014 and predicted it would increase at a compound annual growth rate of 26.3 per cent until 2020. Driving the market are automated solutions for lighting, security, monitoring and managing energy usage, entertainment, heating and cooling. North America was the biggest region driving the market in 2014. Europe and Asia Pacific followed North America in the global home automation market to collectively account for more than 40 per cent of the global market revenue share, the report said. Read more:

HIRIS ‘wearable computer': home automation control on your wrist

You've probably used The Clapper at some point: it's a small device that turns lamps and other items on and off when someone claps nearby. It was a wonderful invention for the lazy among us, and now the same functionality is being promised through a "wearable computer" called HIRIS. This smartwatch of sorts allows wearers to control their connected home devices using various gestures like wrist turning and clapping, as well as bunch of other things like fitness and 3D tracking. Read more:

With HomeKit on horizon, home automation is about to get real

The year is 2018. After a long day at work, you pull into your driveway, whip out your iPhone 10 Plus and say, “Siri, I’m home.” Your garage door opens silently, beckoning you to enter the ultra-connected smart home of the future. As you walk in, your lights turn on. The wife used to get on you about leaving the lights on, but her nagging feels like a distant memory now. Your thermostat cools everything down to a comfortable 69 degrees. Knowing that you pulled into the driveway two minutes ago, your oven has started preheating itself. You usually fix dinner for yourself on Thursdays, so it’s time for frozen pizza. Your 55-inch Apple TV turns on in the adjacent living room and says, “Welcome home,” in that all-too-familiar voice. Your camera-equipped doorbell will send you a push notification when your son gets home from band practice, but for now, you’re alone. It’s time to watch the highlights from last night’s game, which you queued up from your iPhone at work earlier in the day.

Smart gadgets to make life easier

Imagine a world in which your garage door opens automatically as you pull into the driveway. The living room lights and heater turn on — perhaps the oven starts warming up, too. In the so-called “smart home,” cars, appliances and other devices all have sensors and Internet connectivity, so they can “think” and act for themselves, and make your life easier. We’re not there just yet, but we’re getting closer. The smart-home concept is known in tech circles as the “Internet of Things.” Current iterations primarily include our ability to control gadgets such as lights and security alarms or view data remotely through a smartphone app. At the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas last week, manufacturers promoted such devices and functionality,with some gadgets able to communicate directly with one another, not just to an app. Read more:

10 Gadgets from CES 2015 That Will Change Your Home

CES 2015 has come and gone but the impact of its devices and gadgets will be felt over the coming months as they all hit the market. With a particular focus on the smart home, one of the biggest takeaways from this year’s trade shows was that the Internet of Things has now gone mainstream. This includes everything from cutting down on your bills with smart air conditioning to pure entertainment with stunning 4K TVs. Check out the 10 most interesting announcements, gadgets, and pieces of technology from this year’s CES that will change how you interact with your home. Read more:

How architects are converting homes into sustainable spaces

Bengaluru's weather facilitates fresh air and cross-ventilation, eliminating the need for heavy air conditioning, says Gayathri Shetty, director at Gayathri and Namith Architects (GNA), and chairperson of Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), Bangalore chapter. "Large windows, skylights and open courtyards keep your home bright and airy; so you do not need to use air conditioning or artificial lighting during the day. Solar heating instead of geysers and standalone solar lighting for the garden is recommended." She suggests that home automation technologies are also a way to moderate energy consumption. Uma Reddy , 53, founder of HiTech Magnetics, has taken into consideration light and wind direction while building her home. She is also experimenting with arch-panelled roofing in her farmhouse, reducing use of steel and concrete, and keeping heat radiation in check. Dispelling the myth of how sustainable homes are costlier than normal homes, she says, "If

Smart Home Situation Likely To Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Smart homes also were a key part of the larger IOT (Internet of Things) theme that was prominent throughout CES and at events like Samsung's rather over-the-top keynote on the eve of the show. At the keynote, Samsung attempted to paint a rather glorious picture of how everything, and everyone, was going to be connected thanks to IOT, but they were painfully light on details of how exactly they were going to do it. Unfortunately, this is exactly the problem with IOT overall and the smart home in particular. Because so many people view it as one of the next big opportunities, lots of big players are making lots of big bets to establish a foothold in the smart home platform wars. Not surprisingly, though, many are looking to do so in a proprietary way. Even companies like Samsung, which made a big deal about pressing for open standards, is really only open to a point. For example, they provide access to a very limited set of features on their smart appliances to outsiders, and only

Lutron comes to India with an affordable home automation system

Technology has inevitably become an integral part of our personal lives, and most of us accept it with a lot of ease and excitement. However, as fascinating as it is, it may not always be very affordable. Similar is the case with home automation systems; as fascinating as the idea of switching lights on/off by just tapping your smartphone sounds, for most of us it feels like a far fetched dream. Why? Well it must not cost any less than a bomb. Lutron, however, attempts to provide a solution for this, which is not only affordable but also environment friendly. Lutron lighting solutions allows one to have total home control when out of town or out for an evening in a hassle-free and intelligent way, by allowing access to the lightings via the Lutron mobile/tablet app. Lighting can account for up to 10 per cent of a household’s yearly electricity usage, and up to 40 per cent a year in commercial buildings. It is noted that, in lighting of all kinds of commercial and residential establ

An expensive light bulb, or a cheap home security system?

A high-tech twist is transforming one of the oldest home security systems into the newest. The light bulb -- an age-old deterrent to burglars -- has been geeked out by a Cambridge startup called BeON Home to learn your lighting habits and replicate them when you’re away, creating the illusion of an occupied home. If your routine is to light the kitchen at dinner, the living room in prime time, and the bedside for evening reading, BeON bulbs can mimic that sequence automatically. “It’s like a DVR for your lighting, and it plays back when you’re gone,” said BeON chief executive Alexei Erchak, whose company hopes to raise $100,000 for manufacturing by taking preorders on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website. Bulbs are expected to ship in the spring. Read more:

Internet of Things' showcases the connected life

The Internet of Things has become so important to the tech industry that Samsung co-CEO Boo-Keun Yoon made it the focus of his Monday evening keynote at the Venetian, telling hundreds of attendees, "It's not science fiction anymore; it's science fact." The South Korean electronics giant is tackling small wearables such as fitness trackers as well as large-scale home appliances. These days, it's especially interested in improving the smart home experience. Last August, Samsung bought SmartThings, an open home automation platform. Samsung has been pushing for an open ecosystem so devices work together and companies can collaborate across industries. To that end, Yoon announced that Samsung's Internet of Things devices and components will be open. Read more:

Home automation will take center stage at CES in Las Vegas

Home-automation devices struggled for decades as complex equipment and setups limited their foothold in the market to the techie crowd. The recent widespread adoption of wireless Internet in homes; the growing use of powerful smartphones; and the falling cost of wireless technology have given the industry another shot at winning over less tech-savvy households. “Smart homes are rapidly becoming mainstream,” says Joe Dada, CEO of industry pioneer Insteon, an Irvine-based company. “Our customers love having the ability to adjust indoor temperatures, set their lighting for a variety of conditions, monitor their homes when they travel, and even open and close their garage door for a guest or service call, from anywhere in the world, using their mobile device or computer.” The number of remotely controlled “smart home” devices installed in North American houses grew by 75 percent to 10.2 million in 2014, according to the Berg Insight consultancy. Read more:

How to Connect your iPhone To A Projector?

iPhones have set the standards when it comes to smartphones ever since the devices were launched in the latter years of the last decade. These power packed feature rich phones are closer to being miniature computers and can do most of our daily tasks with relative ease. In addition to that, iPhones can also work with projectors to project videos and presentations using the dock connector port. Traditional projectors can also be used with Video Graphics Adapter or a HD Multimedia Adapter port. When you want to set up your iPhones to be used along with traditional projectors, you will need certain components like a video cable, an Apple Video Adapter, a 3.5mm male to male audio cable. Read more:

The home automation challenge

Microcontrollers and smartphones have driven major costs out of the home automation (HA) arena, but the lack of a single connecting protocol dooms today's HA products to niche status. No single company is going to produce a system to everyone's tastes, so a common, open protocol is essential to spur product development and customer interest. But there is no open HA protocol, so you buy a product and you take your chances. Well-heeled early adopters may be fine with that, but to cross the chasm HA needs the simplicity of home Wi-fi. That said, the iDevices and Oort product sets are moving in the right direction by offering an easier way for other vendors to develop smart products. The LumiFi and foobot products are help make good light and clean air - major objectives of 19th century public health reformers - practical for 21st century homebodies. While they might benefit by a common HA protocol, they don't need it. Read more:

Should Sonos be worried? Big electronics makers are gunning for the networked speaker market

Sonos pioneered the networked, multi-room home audio market 10 years ago. After nearly $400M in venture funding in the past few years, they’ve made big steps to enter the mainstream with a national retail and advertising presence. From what we saw at CES this year, a number of big electronics and tech companies want a piece of this market and Sonos may be in for some serious price competition. LG introduced their Music Flow system at this year’s CES with a variety of Music Flow speakers including soundbars, a subwoofer and a battery-powered mobile speaker, The speakers are controlled via an Android or iOS app, allowing you to stream content from your own library or via Google Cast services like Pandora, iHeart Radio, Deezer, Songza, NPR One, Rhapsody, Napster and TuneIn. Read more:

Protect Your Home With Honeywell's New Lyric Gadgets

Lyric's new products will include a wall-mounted LCD touch-screen control panel that responds to voice commands (tell it to turn off the heat and lock the house as you head to bed), plus cameras, motion detectors, smoke detectors, and intrusion detectors. Yes, Honeywell finally has a way to add voice control to the Lyric Thermostat (something that's not in the Nest, either). What's perhaps most important: Honeywell says the Lyric products will integrate with other home automation hubs and systems, so it'll work with other devices not in the Lyric line. You won't be locked in to just buying Honeywell products, or eschewing them in favor of others. Read more:,2817,2474684,00.asp

LG's answer to Sonos is a lot like Sonos

Although the CES show floor isn't the ideal place for a scientific listening session, LG does have a small room filled with its various speakers that at least gave us a decent idea of how they sound. The H4 Portable offers a comparable experience to a tiny Bluetooth speaker like a Jawbone Mini Jambox, but with the benefits of a Sonos-esque WiFi setup. It's also able to play back quite a bit louder than the Mini Jambox without distortion. As for the rest of the lineup, it's functional, but uninspiring. The H3 is similar to the Play:1 it's up against; the H5 is comparable to the Play:3; and the H7 -- Play:5 -- is also comparable. Across the range, mids and highs seem to have been compromised for the sake of bass, and because of this, everything sounded a little muddier than the equivalent Sonos, although both the H3 and H5, like the H4 Portable, were able to pipe music out at higher volumes than the Play:1 and Play:3 without distortion. There's also a soundbar calle

Echostar to unveil new security, home automation service

As the home's security and automation hub, Sage's in-home console provides consumers with an integrated smart home experience that is incorporated into the TV-viewing experience. The television-centric Sage system allowed consumers to check in another room via a video feed, see who rang the doorbell or lower the room temperature, all from their sofa in front of the living room TV. In addition, this system provides end-to-end encryption communications inside and outside the home. Read more:

Tech special: Four amazing audio systems

We all love our movies, and the experience of watching one on a large screen with excellent surround sound is unparalleled. The only downside to it these days is the exorbitant amount of money you have to shell out for it — tickets, tubs of popcorn, food et al. But what if you could bring that larger-than-life experience home? We look at some sleek, affordable audio systems small enough to fit into our nano homes, require minimal wiring, and those that fit well beneath most television sets available these days. Read more:

Sonos CPO Talks Home Audio; From Streaming to Search Tools

Sonos CPO, Marc Whitten talks to WSJ's Geoffrey Fowler about the future of home audio; From streaming audio to search tools. View video:

Future of alarm industry intertwined with the smart home

If you still believe the proliferation of connected home devices is only going to have a minor impact on the adoption of residential alarm systems, it is probably time to reevaluate your stance. As evidenced by this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the concept of the “smart home” is going to be a part of every household appliance, both large and small, developed in the future — and security figures to play a prominent role in that. Nearly every major supplier of home security equipment was on hand at this year’s show with new products or lines of products designed to support the connected home. Obviously, security manufacturers are onboard with where the market is headed, but the bigger question is will alarm dealers across the spectrum be able to keep pace with the changing technology landscape while also trying to outduel some of the larger recent market entrants for new customers at the same time? According to a report published last fall by IHS, the tr

4 Ways Your Home Is About to Get a Lot Smarter

The last decade has been full of incredible technological advancements, from the smartphone to electric vehicles. But companies are far from finished innovating, and one of the areas of focus for the next decade will be your home. Intelligence within the home is improving, with devices and apps learning from our interactions with them. For example, "smart" devices can understand when you're home, what your preferred temperature is, and when it's cheapest to use energy. Products like Wink, Control 4 and Apple's HomeKit are just a few of the platforms giving consumers the ability to control their homes in ways we've never been able to before, and as these grow, the number of smart devices in the home will increase as well. Here are a few advancements these platforms can look forward to in the next decade. Read more:

'Smart' gadgets will change the way we live

Imagine a world in which your garage door opens automatically as you pull into the driveway. The living room lights and heater turn on – perhaps the oven starts warming up, too. In this so-called “smart home,” cars, appliances and other devices have sensors and Internet connections that allow them to think and act for themselves to make your life easier. We’re not there just yet, but we’re getting closer. The smart-home concept is known in tech circles as the Internet of Things. Current examples primarily include our ability to control gadgets such as lights and security alarms or view data remotely through a smartphone app. Some gadgets will be able to talk directly with one another, not just to an app. Read more:

What home trends will stick around for 2015?

Decor, like fashion, is cyclical. That lamp that was hot 40 years ago, then stale during the '80s, looks fresh again with a new lampshade. Same goes for grandma's chest-of-drawers, only now with a coat of bright chalk paint. Let's face it, though, most of us can't afford to redecorate our homes every time a new (or retro) material or color makes a splash. And even if you could afford to incorporate a number of new trends, would you want to? Your home could quickly turn into the equivalent of a middle-age woman who dresses like her teenage daughter: An unsightly mess. But even a house full of classic furniture and accessories begins to look dated if something new isn't integrated once in a while. So it's a balancing act. Read more:

Raise your home's IQ: smart gadgets take center stage at CES

For now, the smart home is more about possibilities than practice. Many companies exhibiting at CES are laying the foundation for what a smart-home system will eventually do, hoping to entice consumers to start thinking about upgrading to smart gadgets. It's not always an easy sell. Consider wearable devices that track fitness and other activities. In many cases, the novelty wears off quickly, and devices end up in drawers. But what if a wearable device that tracks sleep could tell the coffeemaker to start brewing as soon as you awoke? When the coffee's done, what if the sprinklers on the front lawn automatically turned off so you didn't get wet walking out the front door to work? For example, Lucis Technologies will soon ship a smart-lighting device called NuBryte that can learn your behavior, such as what time you tend to come home. Sensors can turn on the night light if you wake up to use the bathroom but switch on brighter lights during the day. A coffeemaker from S

5 smart home gadgets we’re excited about from CES

Aside from wearables, no other sector of gadgets seemed more present at the 2015 International CES than connected home electronics. While some pushed back against this trend with high-end consumer appliances that lacked connectivity, VentureBeat saw companies ranging from startups to venerable electronics brands move into this space. And it makes sense. CEA reports that while only 10 percent of consumers own a wireless multiroom audio product, 44 percent want to own one. Also according to the CEA, structured wiring, security, and home theater technologies dominate the top electronics categories for the home. We surveyed dozens of connected home technologies throughout the week at CES 2015, talking to their leadership and spokespeople, and getting hands-on time whenever we could. Here are our top 5 favorites. Read more:

Finally, A Remote to Control Your Whole House in New Ways

Logitech already controls living rooms across the country, but the company that makes the best universal remote control is taking aim at the entire smart home experience with the new Harmony API that delivers access to over 270,000 home entertainment and automation devices right to wearables, voice control systems and more. You don’t need your remote control to change these settings, because the new technology allows devices to connect into the system to trigger changes and respond to voice commands depending on the other items you have in the house. Read more:

Evolution Of The Smart Home: It's Security, Stupid

Purveyors of smart-home technologies agree on little, illustrated by the seemingly sudden cacophonous chaos of competing DIY smart-home platforms, protocols, wireless standards, APIs and vendors on view in the Sands Convention space at International CES last week. But there was a startling amount of agreement among the panelists on the Evolution of the Smart Home Supersession conference: Michael Pessina, president of Lutron; Kris Bowring, director of new business development for Lowe's Iris smart-home platform; Christopher Schlaeffer, CEO and founder of the Berlin-based Yetu smart-home platform, and Dr.–Ing. Rainer Kallenbach, CEO of Bosch Software Innovations. The conference was moderated by Grant Clauser, technology and online editor of Electronic House magazine. The first concept all panelists agreed upon was the primary human need that initially attracts consumers to DIY smart home, regardless of the confusion they will face at retail: security. "What would make people

Apple HomeKit: A smart way to control home automation

HomeKit's strength is its ability to group products into "rooms," "zones" and "scenes." With one tap, you can turn off every HomeKit product in a room, such as lights and stereos. You can also do that with a group of rooms, or zone. You can even use the Siri voice assistant to control your home. Saying "I feel hot" might prompt Siri to turn on the air conditioner and lower the shade for you. Tap a "party" scene and the stereo and disco lights could turn on while your regular lamps dim. Setting up a "bedtime" scene might involve leaving just the nightlight on, while locking the front door and lowering the heat downstairs. Sure, you can already control a set of lights and appliances by attaching them to a power strip with an on-off switch, but your options are limited to all on or all off. With HomeKit, you have the option of creating multiple combinations to match whatever ambiance you prefer. Read more: http://www.insi

Pella Motorized Shades Draw Power from the Sun

Keep the power of sunlight and darkness at your fingertips with Pella Windows and Doors’ new Designer Series windows with snap-in between-the-glass blinds and shades with Insynctive technology. Each shade or blind has its own solar panel that charges a built-in battery so it doesn't require wiring. And if your blinds and shades don’t get enough light to charge and power themselves, you can recharge the battery from the inside via a small port built into the window. Read more:

Pella unveils iOS-compatible home automation adapters for connected windows & doors

We don't make windows and doors for homes, we make windows and doors for people. People who are asking for solutions to better control their homes and work spaces," said Larry Ehlinger, general manager—Insynctive business unit, Pella Windows and Doors. "We believe Insynctive smart home technology delivers a solution that allows homeowners to control the level of security, comfort and convenience they want in their home from their windows and doors." Pella's strategy allows homeowners to choose the products they need to get the level of home management they want. That means that users can either have a single sensor on the front door, or outfit their entire home with Insynctive sensors, blinds and shades if they so choose. Insynctive products can be controlled through the Wink smart home control app available for free on the iOS App Store. Wink is compatible with other leading brands such as GE, Honeywell, Dropcam, Kwikset, Schlage, and Quirky. Read more: ht

Branto Smart Home Automation And Security System (video)

If you are looking to add a little more functionality to your home automation and its security systems you might be interested in a new Kickstarter project launched this month by Branto who has created a new piece of hardware under the same name. Branto is a smart home piece of hardware that has been developed to provide full remote presence allowing you to be at home when you are away. Offering 360 degree vision together with the ability to control other devices around your home. Read more:

Belkin WeMo Home Automation Expands with New Sensors

Belkin showed off a water sensor, a door & window sensor, a keychain sensor, an alarm sensor, and a motion sensor, as well as a WiFi-to-ZigBee bridge that can take the load off of your smartphone or tablet if you have a lot of WeMo devices to control. Going down the list, the motion sensor is similar to the company’s current wired motion sensor that was one of its first WeMo products. However, this new one is a bit more versatile and plugs directly into an outlet and is a lot smaller. It has a thirty foot range and a 90-degree field of view, and it can also capture false alarms that are triggered by pets, thanks to an infrared sensor that reads heat signatures. Read more:

Sage home-automation and security system uses your TV as a control panel

EchoStar, the satellite service provider affiliated with Dish Network, is ambitiously jumping into the smart-home space with Sage, a home-automation hub aimed at consumers looking for a comprehensive, but easy-to-install do-it-yourself solution. The feature that makes this system so interesting is that it connects in between your cable, satellite, or streaming-video set-top box and your TV, overlaying its dashboard on the screen and showing the live TV using picture-in-picture mode. There will also, of course, be smartphone and tablet apps for the system. Product manager David Lett was a somewhat light on details—including a price tag and availability—when he gave me an embargoed briefing last month, but I liked what I heard. I was especially enthused with the part about this being a self-installable, self-monitored system that’s free from monthly subscription fees (more on that later). Similar to the Wink Relay and the Wink Hub, the Sage houses radios for all of the most popular

NEEO home automation system is beautiful, robust

Home automation. More than a few options exist at this point, allowing consumers to be more picky about what they want, and among it all is a desire for products that are both attractive and able to offer extensive support for one's existing hardware. Cue the NEEO, a two-part home automation system that aims to satisfy both of those demands, doing so with with a "brain" and remote and support for thousands of gadgets. All the while, the device brings with it a sleek design. NEEO is bid as a smart system that supports "all major AV products" made in the last decade -- that's in excess of 30,000 devices, according to the maker. With these, the NEEO can connect to and control the devices using a puck-shaped "brain" and the remote, which includes a high-res touch display and an iPod-like control dial. Read more:

Upgrade from home theater to media room

The term “home theater” usually conjures up images of big projection screens and rows of Barcaloungers, low, unflattering lighting and maybe even a popcorn machine. Sound dated? Even the term itself sounds dated. Welcome to the 21st century! As home builders and home buyers look for the latest technology to incorporate into their living quarters, home theaters have evolved into family-oriented entertainment and technology centers. These rooms aren’t just for movies anymore. And Barcaloungers are giving way to well-designed multiple seating areas that offer comfort, style and actually allow for human interaction. On a larger scale, whole-home connectivity is becoming the standard for apartments, condos and homes alike. Internet controlled electronics are the future of home integration systems, from security, thermostats and webcams to your sound system, television and computers. Read more:

New Options for Networked Speakers

Since streaming music has become more popular, it should come as no surprise that home stereo systems are starting to get a connected makeover. This could be the year that Sonos, the longtime leader in this field, gets some competition. LG, the Korean electronics giant, showed a new line of networked speakers at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, as well as an app that controls playback and lets users stream music or audio from their own digital music collections or streaming sources like Pandora or Spotify. The Music Flow system includes a Wi-Fi-connected sound bar (a single speaker that provides better audio than TV speakers without as many components as a full surround-sound system), three Wi-Fi-equipped speakers and a battery-powered Wi-Fi speaker that can be moved around a house or yard. Read more:

Sony also presented its remarkable native 4K home theater projector at CES 2015

Sony showed off a lot of cool new 4K gadgets and technology at last week’s CES 2015, including a whole new lineup of ultra-flat ultra HD TVs, new 4K action cameras and other non-UHD devices but among the items on display were also some 2014 beauties that still don’t get the attention they deserve. We’re talking about the company’s highly unique line of 4K home theater projectors and they’re worth noting because really, they’re pretty much the only devices of their kind on the market today. Of particular interest was the Sony VPL VW350ES Ultra HD projector, which is retailing for a price tag of around $9,999. So far, this is really the only home theater projector you can buy except for other projectors that are also from Sony! Sony is one of the major manufacturers of projectors (both 4K and HD) for commercial cinemas and as such, the company owns the proprietary SXRD chipset that drives their projector solutions. The company also produces home theater projectors that work in exac

Changing Faces of Luxury

Nowhere is “luxury for the masses” evolving in homebuilding as quickly as in home automation. What was once considered a convenience only for the rich is now available, in parts, through wirelessly connected devices like thermostats and lights to control apps on smartphones and tablets. Last week Lennar Homes announced that it will offer what has been considered a luxury home control system, Savant Systems, at its Landmark development featuring contemporary townhomes in Doral, Fla., northwest of Miami. Pardon the pun, but this could be a landmark event in homebuilding. “This is modern architecture, we felt as such we would provide a higher level of automation to our homeowners in this market,” says Frank Fernandez, director of Sales and Marketing for Lennar Homes' South East Division. Read more:

Is your awesome new media room poisoning your family?

Five years ago, my newly-pregnant wife and I sat down with our realtor to discuss our needs for a new home. Naturally, my wife came to the meeting armed with a long list of well-reasoned stipulations involving such practical requirements as adequate closet space, and a room in which the baby could sleep. I, on the other hand, had a singular, somewhat selfish wish: a large, unfinished basement. As an A/V reviewer and unapologetic lover of huge speaker systems that go “boom,” I had long struggled to reconcile my profession and passion with apartment-style living and the noise-control issues that come with it. As you can imagine, testing a subwoofer’s low-frequency extension in a tiny living room with neighbors just 10 feet away on the other side of paper-thin walls is neither practical, nor conducive to friendly neighbor relations. The way I saw it, if I was going to have to spend every waking moment working to afford a mortgage, I deserved to finally have a place I could renovate into

Best new security gadgets

There's a new generation of smart video cameras that make it easy to keep an eye on what's happening on the home front, no matter where you are. These modern cameras come with Wi-Fi connectivity for easy installation and the ability to watch from anywhere on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Though it's not an entirely hidden fee, be aware that once you've paid for the camera, you can typically watch live video over the Internet for free, but if you want to save, store and review older video or use other advanced features, you'll have to pay an additional monthly fee. Our favorites are SwannSmart Video ($129), Dropcam ($149) and HomeMonitor ($199). The viewing service that comes with each camera is a bit different, but all let you watch live video for free and pay for extra features: SwannSmart costs $5.99 a month, Dropcam costs $9.95 to $29.95 depending on how many days of old video you want to access, and HomeMonitor offers up to 7 days of video for free and

'Smart homes' are vulnerable, say hackers

Manufacturers are rushing to connect everyday objects around the house to the Internet so people can do things like control them with smartphones. It's already possible to remotely turn lights off and on or put them on a timer. Motion detectors can be connected to alarms, windows can text you when they're opened, thermometers will know when you're home or away and adjust the temperature accordingly. You can see a live stream of security cameras in your house from halfway around the world using mobile apps. There's even an oven that can be controlled with an Android app. These devices are commercially available now and they're making the smart home of the future a reality, but researchers warn that security for these devices isn't being taken seriously enough by manufacturers or the people buying them. Read more:

90 million homes around the world to be automated by 2017: study

This growth will be driven largely by the increasing levels of connectivity in our daily lives and the emergence - and expansion - of smartphone technology which allows users to monitor and control their home systems while on the move. Market changes are also doing away with expensive, up-front instillation costs, in favor of monthly subscription plans, making home automation systems more affordable for the mainstream consumer. Read more:

Tips to Create a Networked Home

With today’s “smart homes,” long gone are the days when all you had to worry about was putting in a telephone and cable TV jack in every room. The modern home might have high definition TVs and distributed music throughout; automated lighting, draperies and HVAC systems; and, of course, wired or wireless Internet in every room. While working as a custom electronics technician in high-end luxury homes, I saw touch panels that not only controlled lighting, HVAC, security, the home theater and multi-room audio, but also pool heaters, hot tubs, underground coils that melted driveway snow and a retractable roof over an outdoor patio. One home had a basement recreation area with a motorized panel in the center of the ceiling. With the homeowner’s press of a single button on a touchscreen wall pad, a siren wailed for 10 seconds, then the panel slid away to reveal flashing and spinning disco lights while dance music started up. Read more:

Boomers living in the wired home

For years, tech enthusiasts have raved about the potential of cutting-edge “smart home” technologies that would allow homeowners to remotely monitor and run their everyday appliances and electronic systems with the simple push of a button. Now that smart-home era has arrived. Propelled by the emergence of digital mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads, remote-control systems are increasingly being installed in homes for a variety of household items: television and sound systems, heating and air-conditioning units, lights, garage doors, security cameras, and other gadgets. “The trend is pretty much exploding right now,” said Joseph Prentiss, president of Yankee Electrical Co. in Shrewsbury. “An iPhone, iPad, or other mobile devices are now effectively remote controls in your hand. Instead of having to get up to flick a light switch on the wall, you can just touch your iPad while you’re still on the couch.” Read more:

LG’s New Wi-Fi Speakers Automatically Play Music When Your Phone Is Near

The new products have many of the usual features, including Bluetooth connectivity and a Sonos-like option to connect to devices using your home Wi-Fi network. LG is also introducing its first battery-powered speaker, and the new range includes an interesting feature that can automatically play music from your smartphone when it is near. That requires the device to be running LG’s Music Flow app, which integrates Spotify and a range of other music services. Read more:

How Sonos Built the Perfect Wireless Speaker

The sleek, minimalist products all talk to one another, and most users control the system with a smartphone app. With the app, users can play music from virtually any source—Spotify, Internet radio stations, a local computer—and make it come out of all the speakers at the same time, or play different songs on different speakers. Those who cling to the ancient ways of the audiophile can make a stereo pair out of two units by changing a setting, but most customers get their music out of just one Sonos speaker per room. And the biggest devotees have them all over the house. Until recently, home audio systems capable of such varied setups were bespoke indulgences for early adopters and the carefree rich. But Sonos’s products are becoming almost commonplace. The company turned profitable in 2012 and says it will surpass $1 billion in annual sales in early 2015. Before the invention of the iPod and iPhone—even before most people had Wi-Fi at home—Sonos predicted the era of ubiquitous, stre

Home automation becoming affordable

Devices that turn down your thermostat, speakers and lights with your smart phone View video:

Sonos Sells Off $130M In Secondary Equity To Stave Off IPO For Its Smart Speakers

Sonos has already begun buying expensive commercials on primetime music TV shows like The X Factor. It’s also running huge outdoor ad campaigns on the sides of buildings in Europe. Beyond marketing, Sonos could look to deepen its R&D, building out new home speaker systems and boomboxes. Now that everyone has music players in their pockets, Sonos could win big as people look for ways to turn streams into sound that follows them around the house. This critical moment is better spent doubling down on its product and marketing than dealing with the circus of going public. Read more:

Rethinking the dream home

Younger buyers want technology in a home, said Helen Velas, president of Eleni Interiors in Naperville. "They want automated lighting and sound and even motorized shades — all controlled from their phones. State-of-the-art electronics are more important than curb appeal. They want space they can actually use — social spaces, but not a formal living room. They want a home office or a place to work and plug in," she said. "In decorating styles, millennials like retro-modern with brighter colors than older groups," Velas said. "They don't want separate living and dining rooms. Because they are on a budget, they do a lot of do-it-yourself projects. They want to live in the city where the action is and don't want long commutes to work." Read more:

Window treatments, paint colors, more

I find the big-city views from our condo captivating, and natural light always cheers up and refreshes a living space. But sometimes all that glass is too much of a good thing. Since your bedroom and living area are separate, there is no need to use the same window treatment in each. You can find a good selection of inexpensive curtain panels for the bedroom at a home store or on the Internet. Hang them from a stylish rod, and you're set. So why not splurge on a great set of shades for the living area, such as the Alustra line from Hunter Douglas? They disperse sunlight deep into the room, reducing the need for electric lights. The new Myst fabric has a metallic accent and Champagne-colored sheers. These motorized shades fit within the framework of your windows, presenting a sleek, clean line without cords. Read more:

What's in my house: Connected devices I've liked enough to buy

My first conclusion is that clearly the internet of things isn’t even close to becoming mainstream, but after a year of testing connected devices out I thought I’d share the few items I have in my house that I don’t think I could live without. Lutron Caseta lighting: I installed a Caseta in-wall dimmer that cost about $45 mostly because I wanted the dimmer function for a chandelier over my dining room table. Even if it’s not “connected”, it’s relatively inexpensive to add a dimmer to a light and if I choose to I can buy a remote for $17 more or connect it to one of the Lutron-supporting hubs on the market to tie that chandelier into other automated lighting controls. If you want to really indulge, plug your bedside table lamp into a Lutron lamp module and attach the remote to the side of your bed. Now you don’t have to stretch to turn out your lights. I have not actually spent the $65 or so to do this, but did enjoy that during a review. Read more:

Serena Shades by Lutron Electronics Review

In the realm of home automation, it seems like you can get pretty much anything anymore. I personally have reviewed automated cameras, door locks, lights, and thermostats – but there is so much more out there. We are really starting to approach the level of tech inside of our houses that you can see on older shows (yes, even cartoons) like the Jetsons. Houses where everything can be handled and managed by the push of a button are coming, and because of the serious influx of new products, they won’t only be for those with unlimited bank accounts. The next product on my list of automated things in my house – window shades from Lutron. When thinking about something high tech in your house, shades are probably one of the last things you would have in your mind, but these could certainly be going in the right direction to change that. The thing with these though, is that the “automation” feature of them is only one selling point, and they are pretty phenomenal without that. So befor

In Florida, a look at the new American home

The motorized shades by Doors in Motion are automated for time of day and weather. An Internet-enabled security system by Elk Products operates by smartphone. The lighting controls (Lutron) are Smart Grid designed, so they can manage energy use based on real-time utility rate data. And the entire home automation suite (Clare Controls) is web-ready with an app for smartphone operation. (Plus it's the first you can run on a Mac.) The home has built-in speakers, in-wall touch screens and structured wiring (by Eaton Corp. and integrated by the trade group CEDIA) for phone, TV, Internet and A/V. Each room sports an empty conduit routed to the equipment room. Additionally, an exterior service provider approved enclosure with space for future fiber-optics including power and a conduit to the equipment room is installed should any future services or cabling need to be added. Read more:

Smart home gets healthy, aided by tech that talks

I just toured a home so smart it tells you when you're being stupid. And here I thought that's what teenagers were for. The prototype smart home offers a peek at what's to come. Hint: houses that talk back. Their mission is to help you eat right, exercise more and take better care of yourself. Being that I am both a health reporter and a home-design columnist, the idea of a home that helps you stay healthy hit the bull's eye on my interest target. Read more:

Home automation gets cheaper, smarter, easier

The promise of widely available home automation has been around since "The Jetsons" aired 50 years ago. But until recently, smart- home systems have been pricey and complex, typically requiring professional installation. And few consumers have been aware of the availability of such services or haven't been convinced that they needed them. But in recent years, major consumer service providers — including ADT, Comcast and Vivint — have entered the market, helping promote the concept of home automation and make it more accessible to average consumers. Companies such as Comcast and Vivint now offer basic home-automation systems for less than $500 installed. And Lowe's Iris, which is available for about $300 for a full system, is designed for self-installation. "We definitely see that (home automation) is moving increasingly into the mainstream," said Jonathan Collins, an analyst with ABI Research. Read more:

Security opens door to truly connected home

The latest advances in home security don't just make your home safer, they increase its IQ. Modern next-generation security systems let you monitor your home — break-ins, smoke, comings and goings — using your smartphone, tablet or computer. Your home can talk to you, filling you in on what's happening with specific alerts, photos and video. Since most newer systems use cellular connections, they're more reliable than older ones that relied on traditional phone line connections. If you lose electricity and phone service, cellular systems retain power for at least 24 hours, plenty of time to alert you and a security company that there's a problem. Read more:

How to kid-proof your home theater

I clearly remember the day my babysitter called because my 2-year-old had gotten his hand stuck in the subwoofer's bass port in search of a toy car. A light application of mineral oil did the trick, but he was lucky. Home theater accidents can be a lot more serious. Every year, more than 22,000 children eight and younger are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to the instability or tipover of televisions, furniture, and appliances, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That's because kids like to climb. They also like to stick food into Blu-ray player drawers and haphazardly press buttons. Experts say that if your baby learns from day one that all those flashing lights and knobs are inaccessible, he or she won't be as tempted to play with them later. So take these basic measures before your child starts crawling to safeguard him or her and your gear. Read more:

Project Basement: Updating a Home Theater

I am remodeling my basement into a modern home theater. It’s a daunting project , but I’d like to share the experience with you from time to time. This is an admission I hate to make publicly, but I am a Retro Grouch. It’s the term for someone who wonders why companies feel the need to improve reliable technology the grouches are already happy with. Read more:

Smart TVs’ Are Next Bet for Makers as Sales Languish

“Consumers are telling us they’re more interested in connected” televisions, said Benjamin Arnold, an analyst at the NPD Group, the research firm. For example, at the show, Roku, the manufacturer known for making set-top boxes that include Netflix streaming, will announce designs for integrating its streaming media service directly into television sets. Two Chinese manufacturers, Hisense and TCL, will make the first products based on the designs. Roku, which is based in Saratoga, Calif., will show six television set models at the show with its service built in, said Anthony Wood, the company’s chief executive. Mr. Wood says Roku is in a position to make a smarter television than others in the industry. He said most TV set makers do not have the resources to make smart televisions with a broad selection of content, partly because many media companies do not want to create versions of their apps for all the different smart TVs on the market. By contrast, there are already more than 1

Quirky to Create a Smart-Home Products Company

Most of Quirky’s top-selling products have been inventive, stand-alone devices — like a power strip that pivots so a plug never blocks an adjacent socket, and a plastic stem that inserts into a lemon or lime and becomes a push-button citrus spritzer. Yet increasingly, the ideas coming into Quirky — about one in four — are for home products that can communicate with a smartphone or a household Wi-Fi network. These are ideas pursuing the much-promoted vision of the smart home, or the consumer Internet of things. Read more:

Sonos, the Wireless Speaker Champ, Has New Competition

For almost 10 years, John MacFarlane had the market for wireless home audio equipment to himself. With two friends he started Sonos, an audio company that designs speakers that connect with streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora (P). An accompanying app lets users browse their music libraries on phones or tablets and send playlists to any Sonos modular speaker unit. Music snobs, unhappy with the tinny sound quality of PC speakers, were quickly won over by the high-fidelity system and its ease of use. The company is facing its first big challenge as rivals target its piece of the $10 billion home audio market. “With Wi-Fi speakers, until recently you really were talking mainly about Sonos,” says Jack Wetherill, an analyst with Futuresource Consulting in Dunstable, U.K. Wireless speakers are the fastest-growing category in the consumer audio-equipment market, accounting for 17 percent of global speaker revenue in 2013, according to Futuresource. Bose is introducing the So

5 Things To Consider Before Wiring Up Your Smart Home

The terms “connected home” and “smart home” are basically new labels for an old concept. Home automation, control and security systems have been around for decades. What separates them from today’s products is, among other things, price. In the past, only the wealthy could really afford to trick out their domiciles. While there are still plenty of expensive systems available from architects and contractors—for prices ranging from a few thousand dollars to millions—they're no longer the only options. Advances in wireless technology and mobile devices, as well as falling component prices, have lead to more convenient and affordable connected products. Practically all of them offer smartphone control and, even better for renters, many don’t require permanent fixtures or rewiring. Read more:

How the Blue LED Changed the World

Without blue LEDs, televisions, computers, and phones wouldn’t have backlit liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens, which are built with LEDs, according to the assembly. LEDs also provide the flash for camera phones. Providing Light to Those Without Electricity LEDs are far more efficient than traditional light sources. In other words, they require less energy to provide light. In the developing world, where more than a billion people live without access to electricity grids, the efficiency of the LED means they can use cheap local solar power instead, according to the assembly. Read more:

New DIY Wireless Security Camera System for Home Owners

This surveillance system includes 4 wireless security camera to digitally record what is going on at home or business – The security cameras have a wireless range of up to 300 feet and includes 24 Infrared LED’s for recording in low light or even in complete darkness up to 60 feet. The Wireless Security Camera System is easy set-up and there are no video cables to run. Just install the cameras inside or outside (4 screws) near an outlet and sync them to a wireless network – These wireless security cameras are custom made right here in the USA and are built to last. They are both weatherproof and vandal resistant. Ideal for outdoor installation. Read more:

Homeboy is what happens when tiny security cameras hook up with magnets

Homeboy’s premise is to let you watch over your house with what Richards calls a "posse" of people, with everyone using their phones to get and manage alerts. Your posse can be family members or friends who can both arm and disarm the system. The company’s phone apps don’t show live video all the time, but will begin recording when the motion detector is triggered, and give the group a feed of that activity. Any video it records (while armed) is live within a few seconds so that you can check whether your TV is getting stolen or if it was actually just your cat that set off the motion detector. The $149 camera has a built-in motion sensor, night vision, and the aforementioned screeching siren. The entire system, which goes on sale today, runs off a rechargeable battery for up to three months. To install it, you affix the small, circular base wherever you want, and the Homeboy attaches to it magnetically. You can then angle it, but there’s no panning or tilting like you’d ge

How Quirky plans to sell the smart home to skeptics

The vast middle market of American consumers isn't going connect their home appliances to the Internet in one giant, costly overhaul. It'll happen product by product, person by person, with some careful marketing. With that in mind, partners Quirky Inc. and General Electric on Tuesday released seven new home appliance products that will work with their device platform Wink, the smart phone app for controlling all those "connected devices." Read more:

Sonos Playbar review: wireless audio invades your living room

The simple home stereo is struggling in the digital world. Little black boxes and audio sources are proliferating under the TV, remotes litter the coffee table, and docks clutter the bedroom and kitchen. Countless inputs and apps, disparate interfaces, and way too many wires have mashed up into a home theater headache that’s barely keeping up with music after the CD. It’s not a pretty situation. Sonos is finally making a serious move to the living room with its new Playbar soundbar, a category generally known more for compromise than for great sound. If you go the serious A/V receiver route, you’re still stuck spending a lot of time switching cables, adjusting inputs, and dealing with multiple software and hardware interfaces that were never designed to be seamlessly integrated. And even if you’ve gone that far, you haven’t even started to deal with the reality of music on your local network or streaming services like Rdio, Spotify, Pandora, or even internet radio. Do you stream over

Best business projector: 10 top data projectors for every budget

There was a time when projectors designed for corporate environments were all huge – and virtually immovable. And while permanent installation projectors continue to be built (we've included a few in this list), there's a definite trend towards the tiny. Projector makers are creating ever-smaller, brighter and more versatile beamers. It's recognition that more presentations are given not in boardrooms, but by road warriors and mobile workers in unpredictable environments. Projectors are getting smarter, too. They now include everything from Wi-Fi connectivity and iPad mirroring to digital file playback, built-in storage and media playback software that plays nicely with presentation-friendly file types. Support for Microsoft Office formats, like PowerPoint, plus PDFs and JPEG photos is now near-universal. Who even needs a laptop? Read more:

New Homes Grow Larger As Builders Target High-End Buyers

A primary question now facing the home-building industry is when builders will start pivoting away from high-priced homes to instead build a greater volume of homes at lower price points. Do they start that transition in the hope that buyers already are there waiting for cheaper homes? Or must they wait for credit standards to loosen before that demand surfaces? “Most people still view their home as their castle,” said Brent Anderson, spokesman for Meritage Homes, which sold 1,525 homes in the first quarter at an average price of $364,000. “The trend since 2009 has been toward larger homes with more bedrooms, larger kitchens and master suites, and the growing popularity of media rooms.” Read more:

Saying 'Meh' to Media Rooms

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a story for this publication about how consumers were showing off then-new big-screen televisions in their then-new basement media rooms. Many spent thousands—some hundreds of thousands—to outfit these new status symbols with the best sound systems, leather recliners and vintage movie posters. But now, media rooms elicit a big "meh." A survey of 4,000 consumers released earlier this year by Better Homes and Gardens concluded that "consumers aren't interested in media rooms." Another survey of 700 Coldwell Banker real-estate agents found that only 1% of the home buyers considered a media room the most important feature of a house. Yet the surveys shed no light as to why media rooms have fallen so far out of favor. Read more:

What's hot for home theaters, media rooms

Freedman watched the movie settled into one of 16 reclining, Ultrasuede red chairs in her recently built home theater, with a top-of-the-line projector, a giant screen, gold-plated sconces and neat piles of candy boxes hidden behind a wall panel. “It adds to the excitement,” she says of being able to play a new film from a premium service that makes it available to home subscribers at the same time it debuts in commercial multiplexes. “We invite friends over for movie nights.” The Super Bowl and shows such as the Academy Awards tend to spur home-theater upgrades; this year, there was also the Winter Olympics. And it helps that the real-estate market, along with the demand for pricey new toys, is on the rise again. Read more:

Motorized Shades for the Home Theater

As great as those towering windows in your family room are at capturing the view, there will be times when you’ll want to cover them up. When you’re watching a movie, for example, you’ll want to close the drapes to prevent sunlight from washing out the bright, beautiful picture on your new big-screen TV. You can stick with old-style drapes that must be opened and closed manually, or you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by going with window treatments that can be controlled electronically. Here’s how they work: The fabric—be it a heavy-duty shade or a flimsy decorative sheer—is attached to a standard-looking rod, roller or track that has a small motor built in. When this motor is triggered, it moves the fabric over the window. A handheld remote is commonly used to activate the motor, which means you can simply press a button to position the window treatments instead of having to tug them into place manually. “Having that kind of control is a huge convenience, particularly in

iCamPRO FHD Intelligent Home Security Robot (video)

Ahead of next week’s CES 2015 technology show in Las Vegas a new Kickstarter project has been awarded Winner of the 2015 CES Best of Innovation in the form of the iCamPRO FHD intelligent security camera. Due to its ability to track and search for any movement even in complete darkness and for being the first robotic home security camera that can actually see, hear, sense, and track moving objects, all while communicating with you, say its developers. Read more:

Survey Says Smart Home Gaining Traction

In a new survey commissioned by members of the Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC) and conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), nearly two thirds of respondents said they are "moderately or extremely interested" in adopting new smart home solutions. Of those consumers, 71% said that word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations made by retail store employees are most likely to influence their smart home purchasing. The findings from the smart home research, which was sponsored by IoTC members Greenwave Systems, August GK digital Media, and NXP Semiconductors, offer mixed results for service providers. While growing interest from consumers is a positive, the survey of roughly 1,000 adult American consumers suggests that retailers -- not service providers -- play a significant role in purchasing decisions. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that word-of-mouth is their top source of information for smart home purchases, while 43% reported that in-store retail em

Ubi review: This voice-controlled computer is too obtuse for the modern smart home

Its manufacturer ambitiously calls the Ubi—a voice-operated computer—the "Voice of The Internet." It's a small box (measuring 4.75 by 4.75 inches and 1.5 inches thick) designed to plug directly into an electrical outlet. With its integrated microphone and speaker, it looks much like an intercom. Once connected to your home Wi-Fi network, you can use the Ubi to control smart devices with voice commands, access online information and entertainment, get voice alerts for calendar events and incoming mail, and perform other potentially useful tasks. UCIC says Ubi works with smart-home devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and a variety of gadgets in the SmartThings portfolio. I tested it with a Belkin WeMo Insight smart switch, basically a three-prong outlet you plug into an existing outlet and turn on and off via Wi-Fi. The Ubi also works with If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes, and the list of recipes available on the IFTTT site, some created by the company itself, g

Turn your house into a smart home – on a budget

Adding a network-attached storage system like the QNAP TS-x51 Series NAS to your home network can boost your home’s intelligence in ways you probably never considered. It consolidates, centralizes, and syncs all your music, movies, photos, documents, and other data, then makes it all available on-demand to just about any connected device: phones, tablets, TVs, and PCs. QNAP is also the first NAS manufacturer to be fully compatible with leading home automation systems like Control4 and Crestron, allowing you to integrate tons of exciting smart home operations into one convenient portal. To aid in security, NAS can even integrate with supported IP cameras, allowing you to toggle between surveillance footage from your home and movies or videos on the same screen right in your living room. And because everything resides in a “personal cloud,” everything you store, from documents to media files, is accessible outside the home as well. Read more:

2015 could be year of first smart-home hacks

What's true of consumers' PCs and credit-card accounts will be true of their refrigerators and thermostats: Once those devices can be accessed online, they will be targeted by hackers. And with Internet controls now being built into millions of appliances, it's likely we'll see successful smart home-hack attacks sooner rather than later. "Computer systems are inherently insecure," says Andrew White, founder of One Million Gateways, a start-up that's developing digital payment services based on crypto-currency technology. Read more:

What improvements do you hope to see in high-end audio in 2015?

Let me just dispel any notions that in the space of one year we're going to get a better sounding music format, the end to the Loudness Wars, or a decent sounding Bluetooth speaker. I'm thinking about things that might actually happen, not fantasy stuff. First on my wish list: Apple turns the key and offers bona fide high-resolution iTunes, and a next-generation iPod Classic that plays high-resolution music. The possibility isn't far-fetched: Apple has been ingesting high-resolution albums for a few years, with a minimum of 48KHz/24-bit digital audio. So it already has a huge backlog of albums and songs ready to go. Read more:

What to buy: Sound bar or home-theater-in-a-box system?

So what's better: home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems or sound bars? The latter are markedly better than they were just a few years ago, but the inherent design compromises of single-speaker systems have, so far, proved insurmountable. Sound bars can't fill a room as well as five speakers can. It wasn't that long ago I was reviewing a bunch of HTiBs every year, but sound bars (and sound bases) now dominate the home-theater marketplace. I'm constantly amazed by how far 'bars and 'bases have come, wireless subwoofers are now de rigueur, and some of those little guys can really generate bass. The Yamaha YAS-203 is the best affordable 'bar I've heard this year. Read more: