Archives For Smart Home

Whoa, Amazon Echo just got way more interesting.Thus far, it’s made for a relatively decent voice-controlled alarm clock and connected speaker. But we’ve found it more novelty than necessity. That may change today. As Amazon just sent a note indicating they’ve enabled linkages to my Philips Hue bulbs and Belkin’s WeMo products for the smart home. Looking forward to checking this out real soon (and, sadly, it seems I may have prematurely unloaded our second unit). Continue Reading…

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One thing was immediately clear as soon as I was able get Netgear Arlo up and running: 1) it was very easy to add cameras, and 2) all I wanted was to buy more cameras! But let’s back up a second and explain exactly what Arlo is, and is not. Arlo, the spiritual successor to Vue, is the newest camera security system from Netgear — it consists of a central wireless hub hooks into your home router along with a number of wireless cameras. Arlo also incorporates heat-based camera sensors to record video as motion is detected and stores those clips in the cloud. But Arlo is NOT designed for continuous 24/7 video recording like a Dropcam. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s walk through how to setup the system, and explain the usage at our home. Continue Reading…

A few months back, I got into the home automation game thanks to encouragement from Dave and Adam. I’ve experimented with a few different platforms thus far, and particularly like Philips Hue alongside Staples Connect.They work well together.

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Back in July, we reviewed the Kevo smart lock ($220) in light of the newer features that had just been released (scheduling, guest keys, performance improvements). Later in 2014, August, another Bluetooth based lock ($250), started to ship both pre-orders and to retail stores. Being the curiously obsessed gadget guy that I am, I had to at least try the August to see how it compared with the Kevo.

Fundamentally the Kevo and August work the same. Using your phone’s Bluetooth as a key, you can lock and unlock the device. Whereas you need to replace your entire door lock for the Kevo, with the August, you just need to replace just the inside portion of the lock. Installing the August was very simple and a much quicker than the Kevo as you are just removing the back of the lock. Continue Reading…

Zonoff with Nest thermostat close-up

Last year at CES, Zonoff’s demo suite was full of the Staples Connect hardware they power along with a variety of familiar brands like Lutron and Jawbone. This year, several other friends joined the party including the Google Nest smart thermostat and a souped-up, Sonos-fighting Bose sound system.

The desire for Nest integration is obvious, although this is the first we’ve seen the smart thermostat connected to the Zonoff platform. So while Zonoff may not yet “Work With Nest” … they clearly work with Nest. Bose system support is perhaps slightly less obvious, but it makes sense when you contemplate pairing music or talk radio with other sensors tied to lighting and motion detection. Put a speaker in your bathroom, and you can set the music to turn on when you open the door in the morning. Put one in the kitchen, and you can program it to play NPR when you head in to make dinner in the evening. Continue Reading…

As expected, the “Internet of Things” was a hot topic at CES. And everyone seems to want a piece of this market. For example, we’ve got an iPhone case maker pitching networked power outlets and a fitness tracker company that wants to sell you some Bluetooth light bulbs. Sadly, chaos reigns … given the number of competing standards, proprietary solutions, poorly articulated visions, and even Hubs requiring bridges. Take Kevo and August, makers of “smart locks” — most likely due to power requirements, beyond hardware costs and engineering considerations, both solutions communicate solely via Bluetooth LE. Meaning, at present, it’s mostly smartphones than can interact with their hardware and only from short distances. Enter the Kevo Gateway (Ethernet, above left) and August Connect (WiFi, above right) bridges … that will in turn relay communication from lock to say your SmartThings or Staples Connect hub or to a remotely located phone (but requiring an additional purchase or for a fee). It’s messy. And the highly disjointed nature of this smart home land grab will slow adoption. At least until the the leaders identify themselves.

The Wink Hub iPhone app was just updated and, amongst various bug fixes, is reference to “support for Cree light bulbs.” Cree is generally known for high quality, low-cost LEDs (and I’m quite fond of the BR30s), but really hasn’t been mentioned in the DIY home automation space… until now. So I backtracked thru the FCC to pull up the Cree Connected Zigbee bulbs you see above. While it’s yet to be seen how pricing and lighting compare to Wink’s own GE bulbs, we should expect these puppies to ship real soon soon.

(Thanks Eric H and HomeAutomation7!)