Showing posts from June, 2015

Smart homes: a question of sensors and sensibilities

"Home automation has been the next big thing for the last 30 years," says Brad Arthur, product manager of home automation retailer Smarthome. "But we have a perfect storm at the moment." Simplicity and ubiquity drive this revolution because most of us already carry the automation controller in our Android, iPhones or iWatch. Just as third-party developers drove the popularity and potential of smartphones, "manufacturers are clamouring to get on board with this technology for the smart home", says Arthur. Everything from lighting to temperature thermostats, security cameras to theatre systems will be able to talk to each other wirelessly using the programming language of HomeKit or Brillo. Read more:

You Can Now Buy Amazon’s Siri-For-Your-Home

Amazon’s Amazon Echo voice-activated, connected home command center is now available for anybody to purchase. The Siri-like device will start shipping July 14. The cylindrical Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows a user to learn the weather, set alarms, and listen to music, had a limited launch in fall 2014. Since then, Amazon has added many new features to the Echo, including compatibility with the music streaming service Pandora, the audiobook service Audible, and more. Read more:

Ingeny Offers New Retrofit Home Automation System Solution

Ingeny has introduced a retrofit home automation system that optimises levels of comfort, safety and energy efficiency, but can be fitted without causing damage to a property’s interior. It uses advanced wireless technology to create an integrated solution that can be up and running quickly and efficiently, removing the need to run new cables and keeping costly installation requirements to a minimum. Taking advantage of Z-Wave wireless technology, which operates a “mesh network” that uses repeating signals, Ingeny can deliver an automation solution throughout a building at a fraction of the cost of a traditional fully-wired solution. Read more:

Is The Future Of Home Automation A Simple Black Cube?

Even the best designed smarthome apps can feel a little lifeless compared to flickable light switches and spinnable thermostats. Which is why German studio The Family of the Arts is working on a tactile alternative to the smarthome apps of today. Simply called Cube, the device is a small black cube that you can carry around your house, place on any surface, and use it to control nearby lamps, shades, thermostats, and speakers contextually. At night, Cube fits into the wall—right where a lightswitch would normally go—to dock and recharge. Read more:

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 3LCD Projector Review

The PowerLite Home Cinema 3500 is a 2D/3D video projector from Epson that utilizes 3LCD technology as a foundation to provide 1080p native resolution, further supported by strong B/W and Color light output, and up to a long 5,000 hour lamp life in standard operating mode. On the connectivity side, there are two HDMI inputs (one of which is MHL-Enabled), separate VGA and Component inputs, a traditional Composite video input, and a USB input. Of course, there is a lot more. Continue reading the rest of this review to find out if the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3500, is worth consideration for your home theater setup. Read more:

Why digital projectors are the unsung heroes of home theatre

We live in a world with stunning new HDTVs and even more immersive 4K sets which are clearer, brighter and more detailed than ever before. The new TVs are also getting thinner and lighter. You can hang them on any surface and they’re barely an inch thick. A good projector, however, demands attention. Even midrange projectors can generate an impressive and cinematic image that can turn any living room or basement with enough wall space into a decent home theatre approximating a movie theatre. Today’s new projectors can match and even surpass HDTVs in terms of quality and resolution. They even have some 4K projectors that an impressive job of creating a 100-inch projection. When used with the right projector screen. Read more:

Theater experience at home

A movie going experience at the theater can be a great thing, unless you missed the good part during a restroom break or a fellow moviegoer decided to share their phone conversation with the entire audience. These annoyances may have prompted you to think about buying the equipment needed to create a home theater in your living room. Setting up such a system can be a bit of work, but it’s manageable and the benefits are immense. Read more:

Closures take toll on Santa Barbara County businesses

The oil spill near Refugio State Beach dealt a financial blow to a handful of businesses with more revenue being lost every day. Although the total impact on Santa Barbara’s $1 billion tourism industry is likely to be offset by increased hotel stays by cleanup crews, there was no sign of relief for those directly affected. Read more:

Tech Tuesday: Home devices

In this Tech Tuesday, two products making our homes smarter and an addition that will let consumers make purchases through a popular app. First, the Vivint Doorbell Camera is a Wi-Fi device that lets you have a 2-way conversation with someone on your doorstep, no matter where you are. In addition to the live picture on your mobile device or the home unit, the camera records video and audio. It works with the Vivint Smart Home System and can even unlock the door remotely. Read more:

5 things you need to know about home automation

My home automation experience goes back to the Radio Shack Model III. I deployed an X-10 controller via a serial port. Lights turned on and off on a schedule. Friends and family thought it apropos that science fiction loving Dan was automating his home. As the years went by, however, not much changed. Until just a few days ago I was still running my last two X-10 controllers to manage nightstand lights—companion controllers long relegated to a box in the garage when my home wiring proved too daunting for the X-10 signals. Read more:

New home construction

For first-time buyers, Maasch encourages visiting the neighborhoods. Drive in, park, get out and walk around. Stop and talk to neighbors and ask about their experiences. “This is precious time spent in understanding how the area feels to you, your significant other and your family,” says Maasch. After you’ve selected a home site and it’s time to build, spend as much time as necessary customizing your new home to your specific tastes and needs. Every Veridian home comes standard with custom-built cabinetry, including details such as locally crafted dovetailed joints. “Smart Home” features are big requests today, whether as simple as integrating light switches controlled by smartphones or a complete home automation system. Veridian Homes remains committed to green building, with the average Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score of 54.5—forty-five percent more efficient than a standard new home. Read more:

Echo:, Inc. Entry Into The Smart Home

Besides being a personal assistant, the device also functions as a portable MP3 player. Users can connect their phone or tablet using Bluetooth to play any audio through Echo. It can play music from Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, iHeart Radio, TuneIn, and more. Other web services include synchronization with Google calendar, and IFTTT integration. Users can create a chain of simple conditional commands, which are triggered from events on platforms such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist. Also, one can ask and Echo anything and it will provide them with a vast array of information. Echo can sound voice-activated alarms or timers, narrate lists, play audiobooks, inform the user about traffic conditions and their commute time, sports scores, and schedules of various leagues. Read more:

When a tree falls: IoT, smart homes and sound sensors

The Smart Home market is exploding, and devices like smart thermostats, cameras, lights and wireless audio are leading the way. A recent Parks Associates survey stated that 37% of U.S. households with broadband plan to buy a connected smart home device in 2015. Another report by Accenture forecast that two thirds of consumers will have connected smart devices in the home by 2019, with almost 70% of consumers having a smart thermostat and 60% having a smart security system. Security is a core focus for many Smart Home devices, with products such as SwannOne, Dropcam and Arlo from Netgear providing security-centric new offerings to the smart home. Read more:

Hands-On With Control4 And Interview With Smart Home Company's CEO Martin Plaehn

Control4, a smart home automation company founded back in 2003, has a straightforward mission statement which is to deliver an elegant and more affordable way to control and automate lighting, music, video, security and energy in a single room or throughout the entire home. They've been helping homeowners and businesses quickly improve moments for over a decade right from a tap on their iPhone, Android, iPad, or other tablet. I spoke to CEO Martin Plaehn about what his company offers, what makes it unique, how it all works and a little bit more about what's coming in the IoT space in the future. Read more:

Control4: Intensified Competition Leads To Terminal Challenges

Over the last three weeks, there have been a series of major developments in the home automation space, marking a major acceleration in competition. The competitive pressures facing Control4 will likely lead to negative revenue growth and further margin erosion over the next three quarters of 2015. The net result: The prospects for Control4 went from challenged to terminal, thus presenting a more attractive opportunity to short CTRL than ever before. Read more:

Smarter home: It's an app world after all

Savant Systems' Danny Thompson demonstrated a new app that allows homeowners to control their TVs, lighting, air conditioning, security and landscape irrigation on a visual touch screen. Previous smart-phone apps resembled old-fashioned TV remote controls. "We got pushback from that," he said the old interface. The cost can range from $1,000 for a couple of rooms in a modest home to many times that in mansions on big lots, Thompson said. Savant is based in Massachusetts. Read more:

Channel Vision DVRs Now Integrate with Savant Applications

Channel Vision has announced that profiles for its 4- and 8-Channel DVRs are now available for Savant systems. Users of Channel Vision’s DVR are now easily able to monitor their IP cameras through Savant’s home automation and control applications, which can be downloaded on any iPhone, iPad or Android through the app store. Read more:

Single Dad Paralyzed In Iraq 8 Years Ago Gets ‘Smart Home’ In Palmdale

A disabled Southern California veteran has received a brand-new house in Palmdale built by a nonprofit organization. “I just want to say I’m really grateful and appreciated,” said retired Spc. Jerral Hancock, who just celebrated his 29th birthday. The single dad and Army veteran was left paralyzed, lost one arm and suffered burns throughout most of his body in a bombing attack in Iraq eight years ago to the day. Read more:

Sonos snags 100K square feet in Santa Barbara’s downtown

Santa Barbara-based music-gear maker Sonos is booming. And as business has grown, the company has also cranked up its leasing. Sonos is now the only company in downtown Santa Barbara that occupies more than 100,000 square feet of space. The company signed leases collectively valued at more than $21 million in 2013, according to Hayes Commercial Group, and is now downtown Santa Barbara’s largest private-sector tenant. Read more:

Sonos Pays Big Bucks to Bike to Work

Sonos is putting serious money on the table to get its employees to commute to and from work via bicycle. Since April, Sonos ​— ​which manufactures wireless hi-fi systems and is one of the biggest, hip new companies to descend on downtown Santa Barbara in recent years ​— ​has offered to pay $600 to each of its 400 employees to buy new bikes and bike gear. So far, 87 Sonos workers have taken advantage of what’s dubbed the Earn-a-Bike Program, the first of its kind in the county. Read more:

With PLAY:1 and 2 Room Starter Set, Sonos Just Got A Lot Better

Sonos has long been popular for delivering high-quality sound in a downsized, aesthetically pleasing speaker system. For music lovers on the hunt for wireless speakers that stream music digitally, the Santa Barbara, Calif., company is considered the gold standard, bringing much-needed credibility to the category and in many cases rivaling the audio quality of a traditional sound systems. In an increasingly crowded field of competitors, Sonos has managed to earn that reputation by producing a sterling sound that is controlled by apps on PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones without the messy wiring that usually adorns top flight music systems. The Sonos speakers can be used alone or several can be networked together to form a whole-house system. Read more:

Astro Launches Its First Smart Home Product For Apartment Dwellers

Astro, a newcomer to the connected home space, is launching its first product today for apartment dwellers and renters in big cities. Twist is a wirelessly-controlled LED light bulb, with a built-in speaker, that can screw into any existing lamp. The bulbs, which are controlled by a dimmer, are programmed to change from white light to yellow light depending on the time of day, location, season and weather. Each light bulb consumes 8 to 10 watts (compared to the generic 60-watt light bulb), and is designed to last for at least 12 years. The speakers, made by Sonos and Bose manufacturer Tymphany, connect to Airplay from your iPhone or laptop and sync across all rooms in the house. When you set it up, there’s no pairing — your iPhone discovers the device and allows it to connect automatically to Wi-Fi. Read more:

What is HomeKit? How Apple wants to put Siri in charge of your home

HomeKit is Apple’s answer to making your home smarter and more connected. It’s one of a number of standards, like Google’s Works with Nest and Project Brillo, aiming to take command of all your smart devices under a single, unified system. Specifically, HomeKit is the name of the development system and standards that product and app developers must follow to be compatible with Apple products. It’s similar in principle to HealthKit in that data measured by HomeKit devices will be shareable with other devices, and any product that supports it should work seamlessly with other Apple products. Read more:

How to turn your old house into a smart home

Smart home technologies mean your heating comes on at the right time, you can manage your lights from a smartphone, and your dishwasher sends you text messages. You don’t need to build a new house from the ground up to benefit from the internet of things (IoT) in your home, but older buildings can be more of a challenge than newer residences. That 500-year-old house with thick stone walls is certainly beautiful, but good luck getting Wi-Fi signal to every charming corner; that Nest smart home heating system sure is spiffy, but it doesn’t work with the storage heater in your 40-year-old flat. For help, we turned to Andy Stanford-Clark. He’s a fellow at IBM, heading up its IoT department, but it’s his hobby we’re speaking about. Stanford-Clark lives in a 16th century detached cottage that despite its age is possibly the UK’s smartest home. Read more:

Hi-tech wireless music system for the connected home

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, British start-up Musaic launched a new-age wireless music system which supports high-resolution multiroom audio. Musaic works with your home Wi-fi to play music from any smartphone, tablet, Mac or PC/laptop, plus internet-based streaming services such as Grooveshark, Aupeo, Rhapsody, Napster, iHeartRadio, SomaFM, Murfie and TuneIn. The new Qualcomm AllPlay smart-media platform links streaming apps directly to the speakers, putting thousands of online radio stations from around the world at your fingertips. It can be integrated with home automation such as smart lighting to create and control scenes and moods. Also at the show, American company NYNE launched its new suite of wireless hi-fi audio products based on the brand’s “WiHi” platform, enabling the creation of a multiroom, multisource audio experience that everyone can connect to using Wi-fi and Bluetooth, independent of a router or internet connection. Read more: htt

8 smarthome gadgets to look forward to

Home automation gadgets have really taken off in the last couple of years, with plenty of devices already available to turn your house into a smart one. It's a hot topic at the moment with lots of companies hopping on the smarthome bandwagon and products launching left, right and centre. From heating and lighting to security and washing, the options are already plentiful but there are also many waiting in the wings. We have rounded up eight smarthome gadgets we are looking forward to appearing. All of them should be available by the middle of 2016 if not before, so keep your eyes peeled if you want one of these in your home. Read more:

High Growth Numbers Reflect Democratization Of Home Automation

Not too long ago the idea of home automation was strictly the province of the rich and famous. With costs that soared as high as $100,000 or more, controlling HVAC, lighting, doors and security from a single source just wasn’t in the budget for Main Street America. That was then, but now is an entirely different story. The “connected home” in which smart phones and tablets serve as controllers for Internet-enabled devices has gone mainstream. Installers are still fashioning high end systems, but these days large companies such as Apple, Google, Comcast, and AT&T have joined security giants like Honeywell and ADT in selling solutions that just about anyone can afford. Read more:

How Google and Apple will smartify your home

The next big culture shift in consumer technology is clearly home automation. Over the next two or three years, a dizzying array of home appliances and devices will connect up with your phone and TV box to make everything "smart" (which, let's face it, is a euphemism for "more fun but also more expensive and complex"). In fact, "home automation" isn't a great name because manual control of household objects is a major benefit. So let's call it "smartification." As with all mainstream technologies -- including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and now wearables -- smartification is something that has existed for years as a technical hobby. Now, it's about to become something ubiquitous. Read more:

Home automation market loses steam

he home automation market, which was gaining attention and experiencing robust growth in 2014, is quickly losing steam. That's one of the biggest takeaways from a report published yesterday by Silicon Valley-based market research firm Argus Insights, which reveals as of May 2015, consumer demand for connected home devices such as thermostats, lightbulbs, locks, sensors and cameras experienced its first drop below the level of a year ago, a sign that consumer interest is stagnating. The study includes consumer review data from the US and the UK, plus global social media data, says John Feland, CEO and founder, Argus Insights. Read more:

The Future Is Now: Revolutionary Home Tech Trends

Not too long ago we may have thought that streaming music from a lightbulb or controlling household appliances from our phones was an outlandish notion, but the idea of a “smart home” is something that has been increasingly permeating our culture recently. Great strides are already being taken towards homes that are entirely automated, so what are some remarkable tech trends that are currently available? And what could the future hold? Controlling your home from your smartphone is already possible. When it comes to home tech, there are several buzzwords you hear more than others; “automation” is one of them, and this is a stimulating area for manufacturers and home owners alike. Read more:

This Nifty Home Security Camera Recognizes Faces

Netatmo may not be a household name, but the Paris-based company certainly wants to be the centerpiece of your future home. It’s already come out with a smart thermostat, a weather station/air monitor, and a wearable UV detector, and now the company is introducing a Wi-Fi security camera that uses facial recognition to identify your houseguests. The Netatmo Welcome was unveiled at CES this year, but it hasn’t been publicly available until today. Like most other home-monitoring products on the market today, the tall-boy-sized camera uses a super-wide-angle (130 degrees) lens and streaming video to let you look in on your home. Read more:

Reviewing Sound Bars: An Alternative to TV Home Theater Systems

While the ever-decreasing depths of flat-panel, high-definition TVs are great for aesthetics, those same sets’ internal speakers are becoming anemic. Audio from most modern midprice televisions sounds thin and tremulous, unable to keep pace with the visual excitement of a high-definition basketball game or an epic adventure film. The best way to create great sound is to use external speakers, placing them in front and behind the viewer, similar to a setup in a movie theater. A typical home theater system includes five speakers and a subwoofer, collectively known as 5.1 audio. But for those who do not want that headache, sound bars may be the answer. Designed as a single horizontal unit, sound bars can significantly improve a television’s audio, allowing listeners to hear music and effects that would be inaudible without them. Read more:

LG announces line-up of new projectors for 2015

LG Electronics has diversified their portfolio when it comes to releasing electronic products, from home appliances to smartphones and tablets. But when you think of projectors, you don't automatically think of LG. However, for the past few years, they have actually been releasing some pretty good models for both home and business use. They have recently unveiled their new projectors for 2015, and it contains a powerhouse LED projector with Smart TV, and three minibeam projectors that are also pretty neat and useful. The Portable LED Projector with Smart TV, which we will call the PF1500 for brevity's sake, gives you up to 1920x1080 resolution and 1400 lumen brightness, which makes it a perfect choice for a home theater. It gives you the equivalent of four 60-inch TVs with its 120-inch picture offering. Read more:

Do-it-yourself home theater

A new tech craze is sweeping Tokyo and you only need three things to try it — a tablet, a box, and the willingness to seem a tad silly. Through 'cardboard theater,' the Japanese have been getting the feel of a high-end home theater system without it costing them big bucks. The idea is simple: You get a cardboard box that's big and sturdy enough and cut two holes on it — one for your head and one for your tablet (or any gadget you deem fit for your viewing pleasure) — and your home theater system is complete. Read more:

IMAX and TCL team up for first home IMAX Private Theater "Palais" system

The IMAX Private Theater "Palais" comes with the whole kit and caboodle, including sound isolation acoustics, wall treatments, flooring, lighting, seating, and audio-visual content provided by IMAX. The joint venture partners claim the system is the first completely turn-key home theater system available from a single source. A demonstration system has been set up at a showroom at Le Royal Meridien Shanghai, but don't expect to stroll in off the street to get a taste of the audio visual onslaught. Demonstrations are only available to "qualified consumers" on a by-appointment basis. Read more:

Apple launches voice-controlled home security

On Tuesday, Siri's corporate parent, Apple Inc., unveiled the first wave of home automation products sporting a "Works with Apple HomeKit" logo. Among them are light dimmers from Lutron, Elgato air and security monitors, an Ecobee thermostat, iHome SmartPlugs, and an Insteon smart home hub.Apple HomeKit features product compatibility with a new Apple-tuned communications and control platform built on the iOS 8 operating system for tablets and phones, plus a special chip in each HomeKit-branded device. "But voice control is what really sets HomeKit apart," said Matt Swatsky, product development manager for Lutron, the global giant in lighting control based in Coopersburg, and a participant in the HomeKit product launch. "If you've activated the 'Hey, Siri' alert function on your Apple phone or tablet, you don't even have to press the home button on the device, let alone open an app. A phone sitting on your night table will wake up and rea

5 steps to keep your smart home from being hacked

Consumers who outfit their homes with home automation devices without considering security may be inviting hackers and thieves inside. Repeatedly, studies have revealed that devices designed to automate the home have serious vulnerabilities. Many devices have weak password policies and do not protect against man-in-the-middle attacks, according to an HP survey of 10 off-the-shelf home security systems. Others do not prevent access to the device’s debugging interface, which could allow easy hacking of the device, according to an April study by code-security firm Veracode. And, if an attacker is able to gain access to the device, almost all devices could be easily compromised and turned into a Trojan Horse, according to a study by security firm Synack. In fact, it only took between 5 and 20 minutes to find a way to compromise each device, once the researchers unpacked the hardware. Read more:

Low-cost, tunable smart windows developed with ‘electrokinetic pixels’

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati with industry partners, have created low-cost, smart window technology based on electro-kinetic pixels, which can dynamically adapt for brightness, color temperatures and opacity — something that neither blinds nor existing smart windows can do. This patent-pending research, supported by the National Science Foundation, will hopefully lead to low-cost window tinting that can provide a wide range of optical functionality such as adjusting for color and brightness. What is the problem? Currently, most home and commercial windows use inexpensive, mechanical shades to provide privacy and to block light, heat or cold. These (as you may have guessed) are quite effective, which has slowed the adoption of relatively expensive and seemingly unnecessary electronically controlled window tinting. Read more:

Are consumers abandoning the smart home?

Consumer demand for connected home products has taken a dive, falling by 15% over the last year with a steep drop in the last few months, according to data from Argus Insights. The company, which measures intangibles such as “buzz” and “positive sentiment”, has a track record for accurately predicting sales of devices and trends related to usage. The report from Argus puts the blame on the devices and inin manufacturers, noting that many connected devices are still a challenge to connect and use. The report also says that while early adopters may have bought into DIY home automation systems, the average consumer isn’t sold, meaning that companies that want to get into this space need to offer different features and improve their products to attract the next level of consumers. Read more:

Veteran welcomed to new smart home

With a touch of the screen the iPad can control lights, cameras, and appliances throughout the new "smart home" in Gnesen Township north of Duluth. It's a way to provide independence for Mark, who lost both legs and his left forearm in 2010 after stepping on an improvised explosive device while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. Starting last fall, a number of charities and area contractors chipped in and worked together to build Mark and his wife a fully accessible home. On prosthetic legs and with his wife by his side, Mark walked into his new home Tuesday. Read more:

Nest’s Security Cam Completes Your Smart Home Ecosystem

Dropcam’s back-end service for watching and storing your camera’s video is being replaced by Nest Aware (which WIRED was first to notice in the details of yet another early listing), a new paid service that lets you see what’s been going on in your house. You can save up to 30 days of video, and quickly save or share clips. (Just don’t share the creepy ones, please.) The app can also algorithmically figure out which clips you’ll want to see, and show those first—it’s basically what you would expect from the combination of Dropcam and Google. It’ll start at $10 a month for your first camera. The new device comes alongside significant updates to Nest’s other products. The Nest Thermostat is smarter than ever, and safer too: It can get alerts from the Protect smoke detector when there’s a fire, and shut off its fans to avoid fueling the flames. Read more:

Nest refreshes smart home device lineup, but will consumers buy?

Nest was founded five years ago with a smart home heating and air conditioning thermostat, but now is trying to create a universe of smart home products that work with each other and with devices from other manufacturers. Google bought the company last year for $3.2 billion. At a press conference in San Francisco, Nest introduced a second-generation Nest Protect smoke and carbon dioxide detector with a new dual sensor system that can alert users to both slow- and fast-burning fires. The new, smaller Protect is also supposed to cut down on the false alarms that customers said plagued the first-generation version. Nest recalled detectors last year because of a glitch that potentially delayed the alarm sounding. It also had to update the software because the device had trouble telling the difference between steam and smoke. Read more: