Archives For Smart Home

As the regulars know, I’ve been a huge proponent of Arlo wire-free cameras. And, since hopping on early, Netgear’s continued to expand the ecosystem by incorporating indoor cameras, cellular cameras, a variety of accessories, and home automation integrations… including Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. So it wasn’t a huge surprise last fall when the company signaled full-on smart home hardware intentions by announcing the Arlo Security Light.

At the time, there wasn’t a lot of the detail. Now, from the recently published Amazon pre-order page, we learn an Arlo light two-pack will set you back $250 and a variety of product performance elements were reiterated: Continue Reading…

As TiVo puts the finishing touches on their CES experience, we can clearly see from the “booth” signage (above) that they’re expanding beyond newly introduced native voice control to embrace third parties. While TiVo “Vox” offers far deeper integration and control, including stacked commands, than Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can provide, those offerings are always-listening (for better or worse) and already installed in many TiVo customer’s homes… and options are good. No word yet on availability, but I assume this will come to all Hydra-endowed retail units and whichever MSOs choose to integrate (who may be limited by regional availability). Continue Reading…

Although announced last spring and having missed Belkin’s promised fall release, we knew the HomeKit-endowed WeMo Bridge was poised for release… and here it is. The Bridge does exactly what it says in linking up (a subset of) WeMo hardware to Apple’s smart home control — not only do you get direct Siri control of WeMo accessories, they’ll easily interoperate with all other devices in the ecosystem. For example, a WeMo motion sensor could be configured to trigger competing Hue lighting. Or the Philips Hue Motion Sensor, which I highly recommend, could trigger a WeMo Smart Outlet.

While WeMo Bridge pricing is reasonable at $40, it’s an easy decision for me to abstain. No, it’s not my well-documented frustrations with WeMo (since lessened) and HomeKit tepidness. It’s that Belkin has clearly abandoned the portion of the WeMo product line that I continue to rely on.

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…