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!)

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Intro

At $450, I had no intention of buying the original Withings Activité watch. That’s a bit steep for my watch buget, even if it does incorporate activity tracking and is Swiss-made. Seeing an opportunity to use a similar design, Withings announced at CES 2015 a new version of the Activité called Pop ($150).The Pop looks almost identical to the Activité, except that it is made with cheaper materials which brings the price point down to a more reasonable $150. The features remain the same across both trackers. The Activité can record steps, track if you are running, and can automatically log sleep at night. These features are very similar to the new Fitbit Charge, but it’s safe to say that one of these looks more stylish than the other. :-)

Read on for additional impressions of the Activité Pop! Continue Reading…

SC1 Home

At the end of December, Staples Connect released the much anticipated update for their new D-Link hub which included new features such as Modes, a Migration Assistant, and support for additional devices. Let’s take a brief look at each of these new features:

Modes

With the new Modes feature, you have the ability to change the way your house is setup with the touch of a button. The Mode section comes predefined with 4 modes: Home, Away, Sleep, Vacation. You are able to go into each mode to adjust what actions you want to take with the connected devices in your home. Modes can be triggered manually, or you have the ability to have another device automatically active a mode.

For instance, when you push the Home mode button, you can have a living room light turn on. But you are also able to have another device trigger the mode. In that case, opening a front door with a sensor can put the Staples Connect into Home mode without having to go into the app. Continue Reading…

slingtv

Update: As an update to the original story below, I just had a call (or two or three) with Echostar’s Sling Media and their reps. They want to assure us that Slingbox ain’t going anywhere — in fact, they mentioned DISH CEO Joe Clayton stated as much during the press conference that introduced the new Sling TV. What’s happened is that DISH has licensed “Sling” and “Sling TV” from Echostar, who has vacated sling.com, and the Slingbox 500 that became the Sling TV reverts once again to the Slingboox 500. (Although, irrespective of name, I remain concerned with 500/STV sales and continue to recommend their equally capable M1 placeshifter at half the cost for those with a need.)

Possibly the most disruptive product announcement out of CES this week is DISH’s long foreshadowed Internet television service. And, amongst several surprises, is “Sling TV” branding. I guess it’s nice that DISH chose to repurpose the sling.com Echostar asset… as you’d be horrified to learn what we had paid for that URL. Having said that, it certainly clocked in far less than the questionable “Blockbuster” acquisition — a name which would have made a lot of sense in this space. At the very least, we’re glad to see they backed away from DishWorld and an awful “nuTV“.

But, where it gets real weird is that the Slingbox 500 was renamed… Sling TV… less than six months ago. While I was not impressed with that product at its inflated price point, saying goodbye is hard and I suspect this clearly last minute change-up foreshadows the death of at least one Slingbox. If not all of them. Continue Reading…

dvr-plus-streaming-channels

Channel Master’s fee-free, over-the-air DVR+ is set to receive a massive infusion of online content. Company reps emphasize that what we’re looking at are not “apps” that require configuration and interaction, but rather the direct integration of linear streaming content into the guide for channel surfing alongside those HD antenna broadcasts. Available channels can be added and removed from the guide, as your viewing tastes dictate, and are transparently powered via a custom-built local player that relies on a sort of dynamic DNS service hosted by Channel Master — which points to the online feed, in addition to providing the relevant logos and metadata. Beyond streaming, Channel Master also hopes to introduce pause and record features to this online content, but they’re not certain that will be ready at launch in a month or so. Not to mention, I wonder how many content providers would be willing to play ball.

All in all, this will be nice bonus for Internet-connected DVR+ units and compares favorably to the $15/mo TiVo Roamio OTA … but I’m more looking forward to Channel Master’s whole home functionality, expected in Q3 or sooner.

Continue Reading…

Hands On TiVo OnePass

Dave Zatz —  January 6, 2015

Just a few weeks back I had lamented TiVo seemingly being lapped by “the lowly cable company” and Dish’s “binge bar” in sensibly stringing together episodic television à la Netlix. Not to be outdone, and as alluded to in patent filings, TiVo takes it to a whole ‘nother level with OnePass:

OnePass is a powerful feature that lets you organize and watch all episodes of a specific show, whether they come from TV, video on demand, or streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Instant Video. Available on Roamio and Premiere Series DVRs, OnePass gathers episodes of your shows from all available sources, then organizes the episodes by season and displays them seamlessly in one place.

Continue Reading…