Archives For Smart Home

Well will you look at that… While Sonos’ April FCC filing turns out to be rather pedestrian, a brand spanking new, though heavily redacted (until February 28th) FCC filing confirms one new connected speaker with integrated voice control:

The EUT is 802.11 a/b/g/n (HT20) Client Device. Product model S13 is a high-performance all-in-one wireless smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system. S13 adds integrated voice control functionality with far field microphones. Moreover, the device will support multiple voice platforms and music services, allowing customers to effortlessly control their music on Sonos.

So, not only will Sonos be gaining voice control from Alexa-powered hardware and apps, the streaming pioneer will also bring native hardware integration. From the included imagery, there will obviously be a mic button (or, more likely, touchable surface like the Play:5) – on what I assume is the first refresh of their entire speaker line. But will the speaker(s) also provide always-listening capability like Amazon, Google, and Apple? And which voice services, beyond Alexa, might we expect?

I can’t tell you if this is an entirely new model or replaces an existing one, but with CEDIA around the corner, perhaps the wait won’t be long…

No surprise, other than the delays, that Sonos is poised to drop their highly anticipated voice control. And we’re talking weeks, not months. While the connected speaker pioneer had previously suggested integration with multiple services, as they do music, I believe I can confirm Alexa as their sole, initial partner and that the Skill, accessed via Amazon hardware, may launch as a public beta (perhaps given a frustrating early implementation, per one source). Although, like Variety, we also wonder if new mic-enabled hardware is en-route … although it’s seemingly more likely they intend to stick with software integrations. In any event, the competition is about to heat up with the Siri-powered Apple HomePod and a more acoustically-focused Amazon Echo with whole-home aspirations on our fall agenda.

We’ve been tracking new August Smart Home hardware for months … and the company’s plans are starting to coalesce, given some tipster-provided imagery. As with Nest, August intends to expand downmarket this fall with what appears to a lower-end smart lock that (primarily?) lacks the premium Yves Behar industrial design and light effects. However, like Nest, they’ll also be offering a more upscale and capable product for those so inclined in the August Smart Lock Pro. Beyond carrying forward the prior generation’s form factor, I’m hopeful they’ve managed to slim down the bulk (depth-wise) with this go around. And, on the technical end, both the company and requisite FCC filing indicate Z-Wave will be joining Bluetooth within the August Smart Lock Pro for expanded IoT interoperability.

The August doorbell camera will also see a slight refresh in the near future, although concrete details are a bit murkier. The perforations have clearly been relocated, but it otherwise retains its blocky form. Perhaps the video resolution or field of view will see bumps to better match the competition. Along with the new locks and doorbell cam, a feature called “doorsense” will likely launch – one we suspect is related to indoor package delivery.

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With 1200 employees, as reported last summer, you’d expect a far more expansive product line from Nest – the company that took the smart thermostat mainstream, prior the their Google acquisition in 2014. And they’re about the expand their appeal and market by heading downmarket this fall. As revealed by Evan Blass, what looks to be a more simplistic and less refined thermostat is on the docket. Based the imagery alone and some informed guesswork, I’m expecting more limited compatibility while the bulk of t-stat control will reside solely within mobile apps. Beyond the Nest Lite, a trusted industry source indicates the company is also working on a revised indoor camera and hopeful of hitting a $100 price point this fall, perhaps bolstered by an ADT partnership and monitoring upsell.

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2016 was the year of the mesh network, with WiFi routers finally breaking free of the commoditized hardware doldrums, and eero ruled the roost (although they didn’t actually serve up a true ‘mesh’ from the get-go) despite some fierce competition from Netgear Orbi. Beyond mesh, eero also successfully emphasized ease-of-use — although what some found simple, others found simplistic. While I’ve had to run my trio in bridge mode for the better part of a year, initial configuration was ridiculously simple and it’s largely been set-and-forget, with stellar throughput available from all corners of our home(s)… other than a transitory perfect storm of events that briefly took me down last December. And now, after 30 software updates since launch, the company is back with new hardware and claims of an even better experience…

Founder and CEO Nick Weaver tells me the second generation eero effectively doubles the performance of the original, in terms of bandwidth and range, largely due to re-engineering the antenna array and moving to triband radios. Whereas the original eero featured identical, interchangeable pods, the new eero system consists of the traditional (iconic?) eero base station and new Beacon satellite units, that take a page from Ubiquiti (and countless painful network extenders), going with a compact, wire-free outlet mount. However, if you appreciate Ethernet connectivity throughout the home, to accessorize (as I do) or for a more robust wired backhaul, all eero models of both generations are mix and match.

Other fun facts: The eero Beacon contains an ambient light sensor and dimmable nightlight (that many of us will simply disable) and the traditionally-shaped eero is powered via a USB-C cable. In our chat, Weaver repeatedly mentioned the home as an operating system, emphasized in practice via forward-looking Thread integration for IoT and an upcoming eero Plus service (with application provider framework) that kicks off with a beefed up proxy to protect against malware and provide enhanced parental controls.  Continue Reading…

As foreshadowed by FCC documents, seemingly displaying a rear-firing speaker, ecobee4 product marketing materials that have come my way and a premature Lowe’s listing confirm the presence of Alexa… to not only adjust one’s temperature via far-field voice recognition, but leverage many if not all of Amazon’s voice assistant capabilities. Hey, look there’s even the signature blinking blue Alexa light pipe up top. The move isn’t entirely surprising given Amazon’s sizable investment in ecobee and their new program that makes microphone technology available to third-party partners.

Beyond Amazon integration, the ecobee4 smart thermostat appears somewhat sleeker than my existing ecobee3 – an upgrade as they continue to fight off the more well known, though less capable, Nest (that, to this day, still lacks remote sensors). Interestingly, Apple HomeKit capabilities remain and we expect the new model to launch within the next couple months given the abundance of leaks and steep ecobee3 discounts.

Update: Confirmation of Alexa support and a photo of the ecobee4 can be found here, ahead of a May 3rd announcement.

The ecobee4 smart thermostat, originally leaked last month by Apple, has just passed through the FCC. As to what it offers over the ecobee3 and its remote sensors, well, that remains mostly a mystery. We assume it will retain Apple HomeKit integration and there is some thought its profile will match the new and slightly revised ecobee3 lite.

But most curious, based on the FCC glamour shot above, is some sort of round opening along the top of the ecobee4’s enclosure. What I’d originally thought might be additional or relocated environmental sensors, versus an exhaust port, may actually be a small speaker given new intel I have received indicating tighter ecobee+Alexa voice integration. Incorporating Amazon’s voice assistant makes a whole lot of sense given the practicality (why clutter things up with yet another Echo Dot) and recent $35 million dollar investment.

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Sonos Playbase Nears Release

Dave Zatz —  February 18, 2017

First spotted at the USPTO way back in 2014, several signs indicate the mysterious Sonos Playbase nears release. What appears to be a speaker array that one’s television sits upon, similar to the Bose Solo 15, the new Sonos product just popped up on retailer BH Photo’s site for pre-order. With a pencilled-in $699 price point, the Playbase comes in both white and black and is tentatively expected to ship in March. Beyond newly unearthed pics, adding fuel to the fire is a deleted Sonos forum post and an FCC listing referencing the incoming ZPS11/RM011/S11.

Of course, we expect the home theater-centric Playbase to provide similar functionality to its siblings… including the ability to pair with “traditional” Sonos speakers for rear channel audio and upcoming support for Alexa. Whether or not the Playbase incorporates native voice support, with far field microphones, or Alexa integration is handled via an Amazon Echo remains to be seen. Given the rumored pricing, equivalent to the Sonos Playbar and exceeding its Bose equivalents, I’d bet on integrated mics and touch controls, as seen with the recently refreshed Play:5 speaker.

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