Amazon Echo: The Coolest Gadget I Don’t Need

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So the big news is that Amazon Echo is now available for all to purchase, with a July 14th ETA. And, instead of going mass market at $200 as originally presented, it arrives at an even more palatable $180 (having dropped the physical remote). Considering a decent Bluetooth speaker could run that much or more, the voice-controlled, multi-function Echo is really a fantabulous deal when you consider all it offers.

When originally introduced as an Amazon Prime exclusive in limited numbers for $99, I picked up two. Back then, it didn’t do a whole lot — it was largely a silo-ed experience that I mainly used as a voice-controlled alarm clock and iHeartRadio terminal. But the product team has been iterating at a furious pace, bringing native Pandora, Hue control (!), and Audible integration… with promises of more to come and a developer SDK.

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Nest Updates Some Stuff

Nest gathered the press yesterday to introduce a refreshed Nest Protect, Dropcam Nestcam, and mobile app. While it’s clear the Google subsidiary is starting to pull an ecosystem together as they refine their offerings, the pace isn’t exactly breathtaking and I’m not motivated to further open my wallet. In fact, given ecobee’s incoming support for Apple HomeKit and remote sensors, I might finally make good on promises to unload my Nest thermostat. You?

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More thoughts on the announcements, in reverse chronological order… because Twitter:

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Meet Apple HomeKit, the hubless hub

What if the smart devices around your home could all interact with each other, even if they were from different manufacturers or different systems? Say your front door sensor could trigger a light to turn on in the living room when you get home. Currently, to get this kind of interoperability, you either need to acquire all the components of the same system (like Insteon), or have one agnostic hub that tries to “talk” all the different languages of the smart home landscape (like Staples Connect, SmartThings, and the dreadful Wink).

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What if there was another way? What if each of your home devices could speak the same langauge independent of manufacturer? An Elgato door sensor that opens when you get home could tell an Ecobee thermostat to turn house temp to 72 degrees. Or turning off a specific Lutron light switch in the bedroom could tell the August front door to lock?  That’s the promise of Apple’s HomeKit.

Much has been written already about HomeKit. But now that Apple is officially allowing vendors to start selling devices, we are finally starting to get a better understanding of what can and can’t be done with HomeKit. At first, my thought was that the iPhone now becomes the “hub” to control the devices of your home, but that was the wrong way to think about HomeKit.   HomeKit is much more far reaching.

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Philips Hue Tap is now a Dimmer (sort of)

Philips has been slowly updating their lineup of wireless Hue LED lighting the past few months. Last week, Philips announed HomeKit compatibility for the Hue system stating that all existing lights would be compatible. Now whether that means a new bridge is required (my strong guess would be yes!) or a software only update to the existing bridge, you will be able to voice control your Hue lights this fall.

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And, now today, Hue announced new “beta” features for their Tap product that makes the device much more useful. Previously, you have 4 buttons to use for your Tap. You would assign these four buttons to existing scenes of your Hue system, and usually you’d want to have one of the buttons be an “all off” option. With Hue Labs, you now have two more options you can select for a button: a toggle and a dimmer.

Let’s start with the toggle feature first.

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Digital Media Bytes

Insteon’s Apple HomeKit-compatible hub drops support for many Insteon products. So will the new Hub Pro eventually support the same devices currently supported by the product formerly known as the Hub II? We don’t know. Insteon’s not saying. We have to imagine that this is not what long-time Insteon users expected or hoped for. DISH … Read more

Logitech Harmony Exceeds Apple HomeKit (Today)

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Last year, Logitech announced a new Home Hub which began a transformation of Harmony into a home automation hub by integrating a number of third party devices including as Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, and more! Not only could you control your media devices with a single remote / app, but we now also had the ability to control your lights, locks, and temperature of your home. Mix and match devices within your activities to create powerful new automations.

Sadly, at the time, Logitech left their older Smart Hub customers out in the cold. The new Home Hubs seemed to just be software updates, rather than any kind of additional hardware updates. Whether it was a change of heart, the angry voice of Harmony enthusiasts, or a little of both, Logitech has now provided an update for the older Smart Hub bringing it up-to-date with the Home Hub feature set.

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