Archives For Smart Home

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Background

Three years ago, Nest announced their first smart thermostat clocking in at $250. While others balked at the price, I saw the value of something that could potentially reduce our family energy expenditure. And save money we did! Despite the upfront cost of the Nest, after having used the device that first twelve months, I estimated we dropped our gas and electric bill by $500 for the year. The second year, the savings continued. I offloaded my 1st generation Nest and upgraded to the 2nd generation Nest along with adding a few of the Nest Protect smoke alarms to the house.

But despite seemingly being all-in on the Nest platform, there recently have been a few changes to both their products and the thermostat market in general that have me rethinking our current setup – including potentially switching out to a new brand. First, Google acquired Nest. As much as I appreciate Google’s ability to find pretty much anything on the Internet, I have reservations in providing them too much data, especially when it comes to our home. Call me paranoid all you want, but that’s simply how I feel.

Second, the Protect product seemed so promising at first release. Our Nest is situated in the dining room which is rarely accessed when we are in the house, therefore the Nest can not accurately tell when we are home or not.  With the wired Protects, Nest would be able to monitor our house for motion and help adjust the auto features which would alleviate the Nest from not being able to “see” us when we were home.  I found that this really didn’t work so well when we had our four-legged furry friends running around the house during the day. I was hoping that the Protects would help build a better picture of our occupancy of our home, but it really didn’t seem to add much smarts to the Nest, just false alarms for movement.

Enter Ecobee3

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the Ecobee3 launch back in September. For the most part, I was happy with my Nest and really didn’t see much benefit to the Ecobee3. I was wrong. After noticing a few of the tech sites I follow start to post more about the Ecobee3, the more I became interested. This was especially the case when I payed attention to the remote sensors that can be added to the Ecobee3. Could this solve the problem that my current Nest platform has with not being able to determine not only occupancy of the house, but also the correct temperature for the different rooms? Continue Reading…

dlink-window-sensorBy way of the FCC (1, 2), we learn D-Link intends to expand its range of home monitoring products beyond WiFi and into the realm of Z-Wave with a pair of new CR123A-powered environmental sensors. From the product manuals:

The sensor DCH-Z110/Z120 have PIR or door/window integrated with, temperature and illumination, which are 3 sensors function in one, based on Z-Wave technology.

Beyond that arcane product labeling, these will also be known as the myllink Z-Wave Motion Sensor and the mydlink Z-Wave Door/Window Sensor. We can’t say we’re entirely surprised to see D-Link go further down the smart home path, given their collaboration with Zonoff to produce the new Staples Connect hub – which communicates via WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee… and, of course, Z-Wave.

As Radio Shack fights for its life, the once pioneering tech retailer has undertaken a number of positive maneuvers recently. From “interactive” store remodels rolling out nationwide to embracing the smart home, featuring Insteon, Radio Shack is reasserting their relevance in this space – as a destination for geeks and civilians alike. Heck, they’re even Apple Pay friendly.

The most interesting development in my mind is Radio Shack’s take on the Best Buy Geek Squad with “Fix It Here!” – the in-store servicing is capable of handling a variety of smartphone repairs, including screen and battery replacement. Given the high cost of unsubsidized smartphones and sometimes specialized tools or parts (if not skills), this is a valuable service (that I hope to never experience). But, to further put in in perspective, a co-worker cracked his screen a few months back and found someone local online… But, upon arriving at the repair person’s home, he was totally wigged out and bailed. Instead of replacing the phone at great expense, as he did, a convenient and legit operation like Radio Shack’s, would have been appreciated.

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Photo by Robert

By way of the official Sonos forums, we learn that the connected audio company is currently beta testing a variety of mobile software improvements… including the ability to control Sonos from an Android Wear smart watch like the Moto 360. Shown in the Notification Drawer, pause, forward, and back functions are available while volume controls are not. Further, we have indications that a long overdue iOS lock screen widget is similarly en route for iPad and iPhone owners. No word yet on Microsoft band support. ;)

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Staples Connect, our favorite home automation aggregator, is now shipping the new D-Link hub which was announced back in June. This hub replaces the model previously reviewed on ZNF. Along with a change from Linksys to D-Link as the manufacturer, the device itself also changed form factor. The Linksys model was white and “square’ish”, whereas the new D-Link hub is black and shaped like a tall cylinder similar to their other home routers.

The new features of the D-Link hub include the addition of Zigbee and Bluetooth protocols, although these devices are not available to add to the hub just yet. After receiving my hub today, I attempted to add a GE Link Zigbee light to the hub, but was met with a “Device not supported yet” message. Expanded Zigbee support is anticipated via an update in the next couple weeks. Staples is also working on a migration process from the old Linksys hub to the new D-Link one as well. This will take care of moving current customer’s connected devices and actions from one hub to the other.

For those looking to get a deal, Staples is actually offering the hub for free with 2 qualified Staple Connect device purchases.   You simply need to add the new D-Link hub to your cart, add an additional two Staples Connect devices, and use the code 29131 during checkout.

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For several hours this weekend, the Sonos website featured an unexpected “Light-1″ menu option. Combing through the FCC and USPTO, along with the requisite, tho cursory, Googling, has turned up squat. Is this nothing more than a textual error? Or is Sonos getting into the lightspeaker game? Another possibility, assuming this is something more than a coding mistake, could be programmatic light+music synchronization as seen from the likes of SyFy and Philips Hue. We love a good mystery almost as much as we love Sonos whole home audio.

Meanwhile, the Sonos Boost streaming enhancer must near release given a large number of live support documents and updated product imagery, while the Sonos Playbase remains shrouded in mystery.

(Thanks Mike!)

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After a several years of TV-centric home automation tech demos at CES, Echostar got serious and recently unveiled “Sage” – their “secure” take on the space and presumably targeted to siblings partners like DISH and overseas providers, versus selling direct to consumers à la Staples Connect or Smarthings.

From the Rethink Technology Research newsletter:

EchoStar is planning on expanding its set top range firmly into the smart home with the new Sage home controller and device ecosystem. […] The box itself contains ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy and WiFi radios. […] With a single push the UI would pop up onto the screen and shrink the TV picture into the top right quarter. […] The back end architecture is all based on the existing Sling infrastructure that EchoStar already has in place, and there are plans to add the Sage tag to other Dish products.

Beyond their HDMI-out hub and third party device support, Echostar just passed their own wireless doorbell, light switch module and home automation dongle through the FCC. Continue Reading…