Archives For Smart Home

nest-cam-outdoorAfter months of corporate drama, Nest attempts to reboot the conversation with their latest innovation — a $200 weatherproof, outdoor camera that the company expects to ship this fall.

While it’s not entirely fair to pass judgement on a product that hasn’t yet been released, there’s no way I’ll be purchasing one. And, no, it’s not the $10 monthly fee for continuous recording and supposedly smart alerts. It’s the 25′ of power cable you need to screw into your siding. I do recognize Nest’s approach is designed to accommodate a large percent of households unwilling or unable to hardwire and their technical implementation isn’t exactly battery-friendly. Regardless, it just doesn’t work for me.

With that in mind, here are some similarly priced alternatives that solve this problem with a more sophisticated approach:

Kuna
Kuna replaces an entrance light (in three different styles) and cleverly integrates a positional camera into the casing.

Ring
Ring replaces or augments a doorbell and can be either hardwired or rely on a rechargable USB-powered battery.

Arlo
My personal favorite is Netgear’s battery-powered, magnetically mounted camera. Unlike Ring, there is an added expense in replacing the cells every few months. However, the generous free tier of service largely makes up for it.

logitech-alexa

Despite some hopeful announcements, Apple HomeKit continues to limp along. And many have turned to Amazon as the voice-controlled switchboard of their smart homes. Indeed, after originally unloading two Echoes as a novelty, I’m back on board with one Echo and an Amazon Dot — happily barking commands at Alexa. Amazon’s platform is far more inclusive, interoperating with just about anything, sometimes with help from IFTTT, without Apple’s onerous hardware encryption requirement — although endpoints aren’t vetted for security and Amazon is perhaps more ripe for (verbal) abuse, the possibilities seem endless and it’s oh-so-convenient. Next up to the mound is Logitech, who’s working on native Harmony support to start and stop Activities without picking up that remote control or smarthphone.

Logitech is beta testing Harmony remote control integration with Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap. With this integration, Harmony remote control users will be able to start and stop Harmony Activities using Alexa voice commands. If you own an Echo, we’re looking for people like you try out this new integration and provide feedback on their experience prior to full public release.

philips-hue-white-br30

It was inevitable. After years of pining, as soon as I purchased additional, colorful Philips Hue BR30 bulbs, a white variant was sure to be released. And, sure enough, here we are. While FCC docs indicate we’ll shortly see a tunable white BR30, the lumens still clock in pretty low at a reported 680 (compared to the bright WiFi Lifx Wi-Fi bulbs that periodically call my name). As to timing, I’d guess these Hue White Ambience will hit retail in the next month or three and I imagine they’ll go for $30-40/pop. In which case, I may still come out OK given the 50% off outlet sale I recently availed myself of.

Staples entered the home automation space with an inspired, bold plan (and hardware hub). But sustaining the smart home movement required more resolve (in the form of time and money) than they’re obviously willing to commit. From the Friday (of course) email blast:

Staples will discontinue selling Staples Connect in our stores and online, but the Staples Connect service and related products will be supported in collaboration with Z-Wave Products, a leading provider of Z-Wave enabled wireless technology including security, lighting, and energy monitoring products, and smart home software company Zonoff. Z-Wave Products will work with Zonoff to continue to make updates to the Staples Connect App ensuring that it continues to operate with your existing home automation products.

Unlike Nest’s ham-handed approach with Revolv, there’s no public shaming required here to encourage the companies to do the right thing. So, while Staples is ceasing sales of their hub, Z-Wave Products and Zonoff will continue to offer some level of support for existing customers. Further, those who bought in will be compensated with a $50 Staples gift card… which is the break-even point for many. Next!

(Thanks Drew!)

arlo-ifttt

Those who follow me on Twitter know how much I dig my Arlo webcams. In fact, the 4-pack was one of my top 2015 gadget purchases. Beyond the original, compelling selling points of being entirely wireless (from both network and power) and providing a generous free tier of network capabilities (vs Nestcam), the service has seen quite a few updates that further improve and refine the experience. However, none are bigger than the two features introduced last month. Continue Reading…

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  May 26, 2016

A periodic roundup of relevant news…

mibox

sonicare-bluetooth

By way of the FCC, we learn Philips plans to soon expand their Sonicare line with yet another Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush. The technology had originally been released in a kids brush, as little ones presumably need more coaching as to when and where the cleaning gets done. As it turns out, Philips joins competitor Oral B in determining we adults can also benefit from a smartphone-linked brush:

Follow the Sonicare app’s brushing guidance combined with the BrushPacer and begin brushing. The Philips Sonicare app helps to address any missed spots by guiding you to spend 20 seconds in the areas you missed during brushing.

Does the incoming Sonicare Flexcare Connected solve a problem or merely represent more Internet of Stupid – is my brushing bad enough to justify continual monitoring and remediation (and do I really want my phone next to the sink?) Can I link up with friends, like Fitbit, to see who brushes better (and issue taunts)? Never mind oral hygiene, what happens to one’s stress level should we forgot to compulsively track each session?

Apr 7