Archives For Smart Home

By way of the FCC, we see August is primed to shortly expand their lineup with a Smart Keypad. Whatever that is. While we loved the aesthetics of their original Yves Behar-designed smart lock, we ultimately preferred Kevo to August — choosing functionality over form. Yet, August appears well-funded with a stellar team… so we do expect good things from them. As to what exactly this is, it seems likely it could be another door opening solution — and it seems several in the home automation space are reaching beyond individual consumers to hotel chains and the like. It’s also possible that this could be some sort of home control panel, as I imagine August has aspirations beyond the front door.

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In other Amazon Echo news, the companion iPhone app has been rechristened. Where “Amazon Echo” once lived, I now find “Amazon Alexa” — curious, no? CNET’s John Falcone reasonably wonders if this signals additional Alexa-capable hardware in the pipeline. Indeed, Amazon has opened the voice-powered platform up to third parties and this might be a nice, centralized place to interact with those devices. Further, with indications of new Fire TV models and Fire OS 5 headed to existing devices, I could see the streamer’s generic voice search rebranded and unified under Alexa with an additional interface via this app. Not to mention, Amazon clearly has all sorts of crazy gadgets under development.

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Drop that zero and get with a hero. Amazon Echo is about to link up with Samsung SmartThings – a more reliable home automation platform with presumably better long term prospects compared to Wink, a prior Echo integration.

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We’re excited to announce that SmartThings is now compatible with Amazon Echo! By starting sentences with “Alexa,” you can play music, hear the news, get the forecast, and now… control your SmartThings-compatible lights, switches, and anything plugged in to the SmartThings Power Outlet. To get a sense of what’s now possible, here’s a quick demonstration showing SmartThings and Echo controlling a Cree bulb, an Osram Lightify bulb, a SmartPower Outlet, and a Sonos player…

(Thanks Joseph!)

By way of the FCC, we learn something that looks like a third generation Nest Theromostat is en route… with 5GHz joining the party. Now I can’t say for certain the unnamed Nest device is another learning thermostat. But the round profile, with label on back, identified as model ZQAT30 (versus the 2nd gen’s ZQAT20) sure seems suggestive.

As the test firm received their sample back in April, but there was no mention of a thermostat refresh at Nest’s June press event, I’ll go ahead and assume some production or engineering kinks have delayed an announcement. As to additional features, beyond new wireless capabilities, no remote sensors have popped (unless that’s what this is)… which has become something of a shortcoming compared to the highly regarded (and now HomeKit-compatible) ecobee t-stat.

Wink Seeks White Knight

Dave Zatz —  July 25, 2015 — 14 Comments

Perhaps due to frustrating and unreliable home automation products that seemingly haven’t caught on combined with some bad bets by Quirky, Wink appears to be in dire straights – despite cash infusions from GE and a decent retail footprint. Amidst that backdrop, Michal Wolf wonders who might step in to pick up the pieces and walks us through a variety of large companies … that probably have zero interest.

Continue Reading…

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So the big news is that Amazon Echo is now available for all to purchase, with a July 14th ETA. And, instead of going mass market at $200 as originally presented, it arrives at an even more palatable $180 (having dropped the physical remote). Considering a decent Bluetooth speaker could run that much or more, the voice-controlled, multi-function Echo is really a fantabulous deal when you consider all it offers.

When originally introduced as an Amazon Prime exclusive in limited numbers for $99, I picked up two. Back then, it didn’t do a whole lot — it was largely a silo-ed experience that I mainly used as a voice-controlled alarm clock and iHeartRadio terminal. But the product team has been iterating at a furious pace, bringing native Pandora, Hue control (!), and Audible integration… with promises of more to come and a developer SDK.

Continue Reading…

Nest Updates Some Stuff

Dave Zatz —  June 18, 2015 — 7 Comments

Nest gathered the press yesterday to introduce a refreshed Nest Protect, Dropcam Nestcam, and mobile app. While it’s clear the Google subsidiary is starting to pull an ecosystem together as they refine their offerings, the pace isn’t exactly breathtaking and I’m not motivated to further open my wallet. In fact, given ecobee’s incoming support for Apple HomeKit and remote sensors, I might finally make good on promises to unload my Nest thermostat. You?

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More thoughts on the announcements, in reverse chronological order… because Twitter: Continue Reading…

What if the smart devices around your home could all interact with each other, even if they were from different manufacturers or different systems? Say your front door sensor could trigger a light to turn on in the living room when you get home. Currently, to get this kind of interoperability, you either need to acquire all the components of the same system (like Insteon), or have one agnostic hub that tries to “talk” all the different languages of the smart home landscape (like Staples Connect, SmartThings, and the dreadful Wink).

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What if there was another way? What if each of your home devices could speak the same langauge independent of manufacturer? An Elgato door sensor that opens when you get home could tell an Ecobee thermostat to turn house temp to 72 degrees. Or turning off a specific Lutron light switch in the bedroom could tell the August front door to lock?  That’s the promise of Apple’s HomeKit.

Much has been written already about HomeKit. But now that Apple is officially allowing vendors to start selling devices, we are finally starting to get a better understanding of what can and can’t be done with HomeKit. At first, my thought was that the iPhone now becomes the “hub” to control the devices of your home, but that was the wrong way to think about HomeKit.   HomeKit is much more far reaching. Continue Reading…