smart home

Apple enables HomeKit support for home security cameras and router

Store footage in iCloud for 10 days at no charge

Apple’s smart home system, HomeKit, is adding support for several new types of devices this year, including home security cameras and routers. Apple has steadily expanded the types of devices that HomeKit can handle since its introduction in 2014, adding a few year by year as product makers have requested support for them. This year’s additions fill an important gap in the home security space.

The support for home security cameras, which include models from Logitech, Arlo, and more, has been long requested by homeowners with HomeKit systems. The new HomeKit Secure Video API will let these cameras send their video to an Apple HomePod to locally analyze it before sending it up to the cloud. Once analyzed, the video is encrypted and stored in iCloud, where you can have up to 10 days of footage stored at no charge.

The new router support in HomeKit will let you firewall off accessories, so they can’t access your full home network. Linksys, Eero, and Spectrum will initially support the HomeKit features.

HomeKit remains one of the easiest to use smart home systems thanks to its deep integration with Apple devices. If everyone in your home owns iPhones, HomeKit allows smart home devices to be controlled from everyone’s phone, through Siri or a variety of different apps, including a Home hub made by Apple.

12 smart thermostats to make your home the right temperature

by Megan Wollerton May 15 2019

When Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers unveiled their first-gen Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011, they ignited interest in a previously overlooked part of the home. All of a sudden, folks were paying attention to more than thermostat functionality — they were looking at design and the possibility of integrating their heating and cooling systems into their app-centric connected worlds.

But, Nest (now Google Nest) did more than just showcase smart design and offer an outlet for tech-savvy consumers early on; it also inspired other companies to create their own versions of the DIY smart thermostat.

The innovative heat and AC devices that have emerged are all slight variations on the same energy-efficient, customization-focused theme. Each one does something a bit different in terms of features and final execution. Take a look at the smart thermostats we’ve reviewed so far to see if you might be ready for an upgrade.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Ecobee Ecobee3 Lite

The Ecobee3 Lite is Ecobee’s entry-level smart thermostat. Use the related app to monitor and make changes to your settings remotely. You can also connect it to a wide variety of smart home partners (see below). While this particular Ecobee thermostat doesn’t come with a temperature and proximity sensor accessory, you can buy a two-pack separately for $79. Adding sensors gives you the chance to keep an eye on the temperature in other areas of your home, as well as improve its ability to determine when you’re home or away.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, SamsungSmartThings, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON

Ecobee Ecobee4

The Ecobee4 is a Wi-Fi-and-app-enabled thermostat that relies on sensors to detect whether you’re home or away. Yes, you can still schedule it the old-fashioned way, but this thermostat’s adaptive sensors know your routine can be unpredictable. The Ecobee4 automatically cancels Away mode if the motion and proximity sensors notice you’ve come home unexpectedly — all so that you can be as comfortable as possible. Isn’t that nice?

This model also has a built-in Alexa speaker and won a CNET Editors’ Choice award for its impressive performance and innovative design. That means you can use it as a voice control hub in your home, as well as to control the thermostat.

Price: $249

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Emerson Sensi

The Emerson Sensi retains a traditional thermostat design, but adds in a related app and integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Wink. It works well overall, but is missing advanced features and accessories like temperature sensors and algorithmic learning. The Sensi is still a solid bet if you want basic smart functionality for less than other many other connected thermostats available today.

Price: $130

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Emerson Sensi Touch

The Emerson Sensi Touch is priced to compete with models like the Ecobee3 Lite. With support for Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Wink, the Sensi Touch has a solid roster of smart home partners — and an updated touchscreen display. It also offers geofencing and monitors the indoor humidity.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Emerson Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Google Nest Learning Thermostat

The $249 Nest Learning Thermostat wasn’t the first smart or app-enabled model to hit retail, but its unique design definitely changed the game. Its radial dial takes cues from retro thermostats, but some clever tweaks gave it modern appeal. And, its learning algorithm adapts to your comings and goings so you don’t have to worry about setting fixed Home and Away schedules. Your Nest will also send you energy reports based on your usage patterns to gently guide you toward a more efficient, economical heating and cooling routine.

Price: $249

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Read CNET’s full review of the Google Nest Learning Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Google Nest E

The Nest E is the Google company’s entry-level smart thermostat. You get roughly all of the same features offered with Nest’s high-end learning thermostat, but the E used plastic hardware components (rather than metal) to keep prices down. And while this model retains Nest’s rounded thermostat design, its frosted gray-white finish sets it slightly apart.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Read CNET’s full review of the Google Nest Thermostat E.

SEE IT AT BEST BUY

Honeywell Lyric

The Lyric thermostat was designed to compete directly with the Nest. But instead of a Nest-style learning algorithm or Ecobee3-esque adaptive sensors, the Lyric relies heavily on geofencing. You can set either a 500-foot or 7-mile range and when it senses that you’re out of range, it will set itself to Away mode. When it detects that you’re back within range, it will kick Home mode back on so your home is nice and cozy by the time you reach your front door.

Price: $199

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings

Read CNET’s full review of the Honeywell Lyric Round Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Honeywell Lyric T5

Honeywell’s Lyric T5 smart thermostat works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. It also has geofencing capabilities, similar to the pricier Honeywell Lyric thermostat. The T5 successfully automated Home and Away modes whenever my phone moved in and out of the customizable geofencing range during testing. It’s a truly smart thermostat at a reasonable price, especially since it supports Alexa and Siri voice control.

Price: $150

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit

Read CNET’s full review of the Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

iDevices Thermostat

The affordable iDevices thermostat works with Alexa and Siri voice assistants. It also has a related app for accessing features from your phone — or tablet. Other than its voice integrations and related app, iDevices’ thermostat doesn’t do much. It doesn’t have geofencing, offer learning algorithms or come with standalone temperature sensors. Still, this simple thermostat is a decent entry-point into smart heating and cooling.

Price: $130

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit

Read CNET’s full review of the iDevices Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat

The Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat is expensive at $319. But it has a neat-looking see-through OLED touchscreen, an integrated Cortana speaker and built-in air quality sensors. Use the related GLAS app to check in on your heating and cooling remotely — and to make any on-the-go adjustments. If you have a separate Amazon or Google smart speaker, you can also control the GLAS via Alexa and Google Assistant commands.

Price: $319

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

Read CNET’s full review of the Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Lux Geo

Like every other smart thermostat on this list, the Lux Geo comes with a related app for remote access to your heating and cooling settings. It also offers geofencing for automatic arming and disarming. Its most distinctive feature, though, is its design. The Geo can be mounted on your wall either vertically or horizontally, which helps if you have old paint, wallpaper or holes you want to cover with minimal effort.

Price: $140

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

Read CNET’s full review of the Lux Geo.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Lux Kono

The Lux Kono smart thermostat looks pretty neat, but the knob was fiddly and difficult to use. It has a detachable faceplate that comes in 11 colors. It works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. I tested it with an Amazon Echo Show, a Google Home Max and a HomePod and all three let me make basic thermostat adjustments using voice commands.

Price: $153

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

Smart home motorized window blinds: Best options for 2019

Options range from add-on motors, to bespoke blinds fitted in-between two panes of glass

Motorized window blinds which raise and lower with a push of a button – or automatically at a certain time – may sound like the stuff of luxury hotels and multi-million dollar mansions. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Just a couple of years ago, motorized blinds were expensive to install, and with few options available to even the most well-heeled property owners looking for their next smart device. But there are a now a range of more affordable alternatives.

Some fit to the wall next to your window, then use a motor to pull on the blind cord, raising or lowering as you see fit. Then there is Ikea, which will enter the smart bling industry in August this year, after a short delay.

Below are some of the most popular options available to property owners today.

Lutron Serena

Serena by Lutron offers a wide range of smart home connectivity

Serena smart shade by Lutron offer a complete online service for ordering bespoke motorized blinds for your home. You can pick the shade style, fabric and size, types of remote control – everything. You can also order a range of swatches for free to see how the materials look and feel before going ahead with your purchase.

These blinds can be controlled via the Lutron smartphone app, or Apple HomeKit (including speaking to Siri and using the Apple Watch app). They can also be raised or lowered by speaking to the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, or via the Samsung SmartThings and Wink 2 hubs.

The blinds also tap into the Nest ecosystem, automatically raising when smoke or CO2 is detected by the Nest Protect alarm, and there is support for IFTTT (If This, That That) for further smart home automation.

Pella Insynctive

Pell Insynctive blinds are fitted between the glass of your windows

 

Pella is a high-end solution which fits a motorized blind between the two panes of glass in each of your windows. These can be controlled via a companion smartphone app, but out of the box there is no further smart home integration – so you can’t use Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or IFTTT to control the blinds.

Instead, you can buy the Pella Bridge, which includes Z-Wave and means the blinds can be controlled by the Wink 2 smart home hub and other Z-Wave systems.

There are also Pella Insynctive products including a garage door, bolt lock, door and window sensors that round out its smart home system. Pella also appeals to the smart energy home owner: Its Designer Series wireless aluminum blinds, along with its cellular shades, are battery-powered, and can be recharged by a thin horizontal solar panel.

Ikea

Ikea smart blinds will be on sale in August 2019

 

Ikea had planned to launch its first smart motorized blinds, called Kadrilj and Fyrtur, in April this year. But, as of April 2019, they have been delayed until August so that Ike can spend more time working on the software used to control the blinds.

These battery-powered blinds will connect to Ikea’s Tradfri hub, which is used to control the company’s Zigbee smart light bulbs. This means the blinds should offer Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit (and Siri) control.

As ever with Ikea, the selling points of these blinds will likely be their simplicity, a design which fits in almost everywhere, and their price. On that final note, they are expected to start at around $110 per window.

Somfy

Somfy produces a wide range of motorized blinds, awnings and shutters for inside and out

Somfy

Somfy is a big name when it comes to the motors which power blinds, as well as outdoor awnings and shutters, plus an increasing range of smart home devices – like flood lights, cameras and alarm systems.

Inside the home, Somfy produces smart, motorized systems for window shades, curtains and projector screens. These can all be controlled via the Somfy smartphone app.

When connected to the myLink bridge, Somfy’s motors can be controlled via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, making it easy to add them to your existing smart home automation systems.

Soma

This $149 motor operates most ball chain window blind mechanisms

A simpler (and potentially cheaper) option for making your blinds smart is to install a motor.

This example by Soma is the result of a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The company claims the $149 device can operate all ball chain shades, and the companion iOS and Android smartphone app can be used to set schedules for up to 10 windows.

Soma also sells a kit of two motors and two solar panels for $238.

Control via Alexa and Apple HomeKit is also possible, but this requires the $99 Soma Connect hub, which is powered by USB and connects to your router.

Axis Gear

At $249 per window, the Axis Gear is not a cheap option for bringing automation to your existing blinds

Axis Gear costs $249 per blind motor and works in a similar way to the Soma. Once installed, the Gear rotates to pull on the cord or chain, raising and lowering your window blind.

The company says the device is “guaranteed” to lift any blind weighing up to 10 lbs, or your money back. Just like the Soma, it can run on solar power, but there is also the option to install 12 AA batteries as a backup for when solar power isn’t enough to refill the battery.

There’s a control button on the device itself, plus an iOS and Android smartphone app for scheduling your blinds, organizing them into groups, and controlling several at once.

Gear uses the ZigBee standard to connect to a Samsung SmartThings hub, and from there it can be configured to work with voice commands issued to Alexa and Google Assistant.

Move by Teptron

Move is a battery-powered motor which controls most types of manual window blind

 

Finally, another retro-fit motor option is the Move by Teptron. Currently priced at $49 (half price), the Move represents very good value for money compared to some other options, and can be controlled via a smartphone app for iOS and Android.

The motor is powered by rechargeable batteries or a micro USB cable connected to a wall outlet. Unfortunately, beyond the company’s own app there is no other way to control the Move – so Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit and IFTTT are all off limits for now. Bur at this price, budget-conscious readers may still be interested in fitting the Move to their blinds.

How to Protect Your Smart Home From Hackers

By Rachel Cericola (Ms. Cericola is a Staff Writer at Wirecutter, the product review site owned by The New York Times Company.) March 27, 2019

By connecting smart devices like lights, cameras, door locks and thermostats to the Internet, you may be making them — and you — visible to digital thieves or hackers.

“Every device connected to the Internet is a target,” said Theresa Payton, a former White House chief information officer and the founder and chief executive of Fortalice Solutions. A few recent news stories also illustrate the power these devices have.

One family’s living room Wi-Fi camera was infiltrated, allowing someone to not only control the camera and spy on them, but to broadcast sound — including a false report of a nuclear missile attack. We’ve also seen domestic abusers tap into smart home technology to intimidate and stalk former partners.

According to statistics website Statista, there will be about 42 million smart homes by the end of 2019, but little more than anecdotal evidence of security compromises. So while stories about hacks and privacy breaches are indeed scary, so far they’re also rare. The vast majority of smart home users aren’t getting hacked.

Still, as with any internet-connected device, taking precautions is essential. At Wirecutter, the New York Times company that reviews products, we’ve consulted with a range of experts who offered some tips that will go a long way toward protecting you and your home — and don’t require a lot of time, money or technical know-how. We’ve also done extensive testing of smart home devices and we consider a product’s security measures as part of our evaluation process.

One of the things that makes smart home devices “smart” is their ability to connect to the internet over your home’s Wi-Fi network. That’s why it’s essential that you properly secure it. If you don’t protect your Wi-Fi network with a password, or you only use the default password that came with your modem or router, all of your devices are exposed — the digital equivalent of leaving your front door wide open with a neon welcome sign overhead.

“People need to realize there’s actually catalogs of all those default passwords on the internet,” Ms. Payton said. Lock your network down with a password, one that is unique and not shared with any other accounts you have. Ms. Payton also suggests completely hiding your home network from view, an option in your router’s settings menu. “So when somebody drives by, they think you don’t have internet. They can’t see it,” she said.

You can add another layer of protection by isolating your smart home devices from your computers and smartphones using a guest network, a common option in many popular routers.

“That way, the devices will be sort of quarantined by themselves,” said David Templeton, an information security analyst at The New York Times. Doing this also makes it easier to take devices offline without having to upset your entire network.

Many people make the mistake of using the same username and password combination on multiple devices or accounts. If any one of those combinations is discovered — as happens a lot, such as when giant companies like Facebook and Yahoo get hacked — an enterprising thief could try them out on popular banking websites, social networks, email providers and websites that allow control of smart devices.

You need to use unique passwords for everything — including shopping sites you visit, services you use, your home network and of course, each of your smart home devices. Remembering such an encyclopedia of passwords is functionally impossible, which is why Mr. Templeton suggests using a password manager, which not only creates unique passwords automatically but also keeps track of them across all your devices. Wirecutter has suggestions for the best ones to use here.

All of our security experts agree that it’s best to pick smart devices from established brands. Those companies have a reputation to protect, along with the infrastructure to back it up.

That also means they likely have the ability to employ better security measures when designing their products, and unlike no-name brands or many start-ups, you can reasonably expect them to release software patches and fixes if vulnerabilities are discovered. And naturally, we recommend reading good, high-quality reviews (and admittedly, we’re biased toward our own) before making a purchase.

There are a few additional ways to further secure your smart devices. A number of companies now offer a verification system to control access to devices, called two-factor authentication. When you attempt to log into an app, a one-time-use code is sent to another of your devices, which then needs to be entered in the original app. It’s not perfect, but makes it virtually impossible for someone unwanted to access your accounts.

Also, many manufacturers allow you to opt into automatic hardware and software updates, something that will ensure the latest fixes get installed to repair new security vulnerabilities. Make sure you check the settings section of your devices’ apps and your smartphone’s app marketplace for updates to devices that don’t automatically do this.

Ms. Payton said she also reboots smart home devices once a week as an added security measure. “That reboot will actually make it grab any new security and privacy settings and downloads when it reconnects to the internet,” she explained. However, this is impractical for some devices, especially ones that are hard-wired into your home like in-wall dimmers and smart thermostats.

Just because you’re ready to ditch a device doesn’t mean it’s ready to forget you. After all, your Wi-Fi password and other personal info is often stored on that camera, smart plug or smart bulb. Before selling or recycling any device, be sure to do a factory reset first. Some devices require a button-press on the actual device, while others allow you to do it from the app. Either way, make sure that your info is no longer available through the app.

If a device is broken and you’re unable to wipe it clean, make sure it’s really broken and smash its components to pieces. According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, “Physical destruction of a device is the ultimate way to prevent others from retrieving your information.”

I like to think about all those times a device stopped working or disconnected from the network, and the idea of whacking it with a hammer. Just make sure you don’t hurt yourself in the process.

There is mounting pressure on manufacturers to adopt better security practices. “The industry should be using strong encryption wherever possible, verifying firmware updates and inviting security audits,” said Bennett Cyphers, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The E.F.F. and organizations like The Digital Standard and the Mozilla Foundation are pressuring companies and government bodies to put stronger security practices in place. But everyone we spoke to agrees that, for now, consumers need to be proactive about security.

“Honestly, given where we are and how businesses think about security and privacy, the onus is on you. Nobody can look out for your security and privacy like you can for you and your family,” Ms. Payton said.

What exactly is a ‘smart’ device anyway?

, USA TODAY Published March 2, 2019

Not too long ago, maybe you remember, most at-home tasks were done by hand.

From vacuuming the carpet and cooking dinner to turning on the lights and adjusting the temperature in the room, all the day-to-day domestic drudgery required some degree of manual labor.

Those days are fleeting as the rapidly evolving tech industry continues to unveil new convenience contraptions that are triggered by sensors, computers, timers and the sound of our voices.

“Smart” this and “connected” that. Society has grown accustomed to using simplified tech lingo to describe the latest nifty devices, but have you ever stopped to think about what it all means?

It’s easy to use the terms smart and connected interchangeably, but the truth is they’re not exactly the same thing.

Here are the differences between these similar technology terms:

Connected vs. Smart

Stay informed: How a smart home works for you all day

In November 2014, Michael E. Porter, professor of business administration at Harvard, and James E. Heppelmann, CEO of computer software company PTC Inc., broke down the differences between connected and smart technologies in the Harvard Business Review.

Connected devices, as described by the duo, have ports, antennae and protocols that facilitate communication between a product and its operating environment.

Simply put, “a connected device can share data directly with other devices or over a network,” said Rick Kowalski, senior manager of Industry and Business Intelligence at the Consumer Technology Association. “The data transmission can be one way or two way.”

A simple door or window sensor that tracks the state of your home’s entryways is an example of a connected device, Kowalski said. These devices solely let you know if a window or door is ajar.

Smart tech, on the other hand, is often more complex. These gadgets contain sensors, microprocessors, data storage, controls, software, and, typically, an embedded operating system.

“Smart devices enable more than just connectivity,” said Kowalski. “A smart device typically has an operating system that will let you connect with other information services, entertainment services or apps.”

Take a smartphone, for example. Not only does the device allow you to browse the internet and make calls, but it also lets you connect to apps that unlock endless possibilities.

New rules: ‘Don’t call me before you text’ and other rules of the digital era

Some wireless home speakers are solely connected, allowing you to play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth connection, while others that can be controlled by, say, Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant (Alexa) are considered smart.

“Speakers didn’t become ‘smart’ until they added digital assistants that gave us answers to our questions, access to our music services, and the ability to control our smart home devices,” Kowalski said.

USA TODAY Tech contributor Jennifer Jolly gave us a tour of a prototype of the smart homes of the future, called KB Home ProjeKt, which features moving walls, 400-plus smart appliances and much more. USA TODAY

Smart home vs connected home

Crossing wires: A smart home sounds like a great idea. So why is it still so complicated?

The terms smart home and connected home have evolved to be used interchangeably, Kowalski, a consumer tech expert, said.

A truly smart home is equipped with lighting, heating, or electronic devices that can be controlled remotely — as in when you’re away from your home — by a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Using the technology within the home, you can control and see what is going on in your house, even when you’re not there by using websites or apps on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

For instance, if you’re expecting a delivery while you’re away, you can install a home camera that allows you to check in on your front porch. That way you can see when your package arrives or interact with people who come to your door even when you’re away.

Smart thermostats are intelligent because they can make calculated decisions based on other system components, such as the owner’s previous room temperature adjustments, built-in algorithms, and sensors.

A breeze: Staying cool with my new learning thermostat

Smart TV vs Regular TV

Smart TV tracking features: How to turn them off if you want some privacy

There are two major differences between smart and non-smart televisions. Smart televisions can access the internet and they can be boosted with apps—just like a smartphone or tablet. “Dumb” or regular TVs aren’t manufactured with those capabilities.

Similar to regular TVs, however, smart ones come in many shapes and sizes and you can get an LCD or Plasma.

You used to have to connect a computer or laptop to a conventional TV if you wanted to access Internet-based content. Nowadays, thanks to third-party hardware devices like Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku, regular TVs can become smart-er.

Still, truly smart TVs have access to streaming services like Netflix and YouTube built in.

Internet of Things

Also known as IoT, it’s the umbrella term that refers to the connection of devices to the internet. These devices broadly encompass connected appliances, connected cars, wearable tech, smart health and fitness, security cameras, smart TVs, smart clothing, smart homes, smart cities and all of the services that are layered on top of those.

As the Internet of Things grows over the coming years, more devices will join that list.

Smart switch? Psh. Leviton wants to smarten up your whole breaker box

The newly cloud-connected Leviton Load Center features intelligent circuit breakers that you can control or monitor from your phone.
by  2019

Promising to bring your breaker box into the 21st century, Leviton introduced a new Wi-Fi-enabled load center this week at this year’s NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. Hook it up, and you’ll be able to monitor and control each individual circuit in your home direct from your phone.

Simply called the Leviton Load Center, the new breaker box uses a built-in hub to connect your circuit breakers with your router, and with the My Leviton app on your Android or iOS device. Connect everything accordingly, and you’ll be able to turn breakers off right from your phone, track their energy usage, or even predict your next power bill.

leviton-load-center-circuit-breaker2
The Leviton Load Center uses Smart Branch Circuit Breakers to communicate to the My Leviton app.Leviton

No word from Leviton yet on what this will cost, but CNET Appliances labs manager and lead technical editor Steve Conaway estimates that it’ll be expensive, likely costing at least a few thousand dollars. A dedicated DIY junkie (and the first guy I go to for advice when I need to fix something in my own house), Steve also tells me that he’d consider splurging on the Leviton Load Center in his own home — his next big project is to go solar, and a connected breaker box would let him monitor his whole-home power consumption with granular, circuit-specific detail.

Short of enthusiastic home hobbyists like Steve, the new Load Center really seems to be aimed at people who build and renovate houses. As demand for smart home tech continues to tick upwards, whole-home upgrades like Leviton’s smart breaker box might be the sort of things that catch the eye of potential home buyers.

“It is easy to install for contractors, provides home builders with a smart, safe and aesthetically pleasing product for their customers, and simplifies the daily lives of homeowners,” says Leviton president and chief operating officer Daryoush Larizadeh.

Beyond the smart features, the Leviton Load Center promises a focus on electrical safety, including patented GFCI lockout technology that Leviton claims exceeds UL standards. That, in addition to the ability to turn circuits off in the Leviton app, might help the Load Center feel like a worthy upgrade over retrofit devices like Neurio and Curb that clamp onto your existing breaker box to track its energy use.

Leviton won’t have a price for the Load Center locked down until this summer, when it’s made available through Leviton’s network of electrical distributors.

Amazon is taking more control over smart home tech

By Jacob Kastrenakes | January 24, 2019

It joins the board of the Zigbee Alliance

Amazon now has a say in the development of a commonly used smart home standard, giving the company more power as it continues to push smart speakers, cameras, doorbells, and all other kinds of gadgets into its customers’ homes.

As of today, Amazon has a seat on the board of the Zigbee Alliance, which oversees implementation of the Zigbee wireless protocol. Zigbee isn’t nearly as popular as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but you can think of it a lot like them — it’s a wireless protocol for letting gadgets communicate; but unlike Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Zigbee is particularly good for low-power devices and has the ability to travel longer distances, making it ideal for simple smart gadgets like a light switch.

Amazon introduced a version of the Echo with Zigbee support more than a year ago. That support allowed the speaker to directly connect to a new world of smart home gadgets, like lightbulbs, power outlets, and tiny sensors that it otherwise couldn’t have reached. The home alarm system for Ring, which Amazon owns, also connects to Zigbee.

It’s a slow start, but Amazon’s ascension to Zigbee’s board suggests the company will want to make more use of the protocol in the future. Other companies on Zigbee’s board include Samsung-owned SmartThings, which makes a smart home hub; Signify, the company behind the popular Philips Hue smart lights; and Comcast, which uses Zigbee on its Xfinity Home security solution.

Getting onto Zigbee’s board isn’t exactly some kind of feat for Amazon, but it is a very clear and deliberate decision. Getting on the board means becoming one of the Alliance’s highest-paying members — $75,000 per year — and it gives those companies an important advantage: they’re able to “drive specification development, requirements, and test plans.” Or basically, define where Zigbee goes next.

If Amazon is paying that money, it means the company wants a say in what future versions of Zigbee can do and how different Zigbee devices work together. It also shows Amazon taking an opinion on which smart home standard it’d like to see win out. Zigbee’s most direct competitor is an alternative called Z-Wave, which hardware makers have criticized for relying on proprietary chips from a single company. Amazon is likely among the many companies in the smart home industry that would rather avoid dealing with the pricey parts that could come along with that if Z-Wave were to grow in popularity.

Consumer ‘Smart Home’ Technology Predictions For 2019

WRITTEN BY Mark N. Vena

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the premier consumer electronics event, where companies big and small get a chance to showcase their new technologies. It always provides a strong glimpse of where the industry is going, and as such, is a must-attend for analysts like myself. On the eve of the show, here are my top 5 Nostradamus-inspired predictions for 2019.

#5: We will start to see practical robot solutions for the consumer that are “sociable” in design, capable of natural interaction with humans. The solutions we’ll see in 2019 will still be a far cry from the lovable robots in The Jetsons, Star Wars, or Lost in Space, but they will be an important step forward from the single usage model products (e.g. Roomba) that we have today.

Advances in digital assistant technology such as Amazon.com'sAMZN -0.16% Alexa, Google GOOGL -0.19% Assistant, and (to a lesser extent) Apple AAPL +0.31% Siri, have laid the groundwork for the human interface capabilities needed to make these solutions useful and intuitive to use. Companies like Boston Dynamics have done amazing work with robots that utilize high resolutions cameras to sense the environment and move with animal-like dexterity. Given the developments we’re already seeing in the AI and machine learning area that will allow robots to “mature” and become more useful over time, I suspect we’ll see products similar to Sony ’s next generation Aibo (which was announced at last year’s CES). Genuine robotic pets may indeed have mainstream appeal, for uses such as giving comfort to the elderly or providing “roaming” home security surveillance in a way that a fixed camera cannot.

Mobile robot solutions like Temi, which performs a number of interesting entertainment, news dissemination, and video conferencing functions, point in the direction of where the market is headed. Roomba, look out.

#4: 802.11ax, otherwise known as Wi-Fi 6, is going to be the next “big thing” in wireless connectivity—particularly in the connected home. Both Qualcomm QCOM +0.35% and Intel INTC +1.1%introduced new chipsets supporting this new specification, and new routers with 802.11ax-based radios will start to hit the market this year from all the major routers companies (including Netgear and Linksys).

Why is 802.11ax going to be such a game changer? The essential problem with today’s Wi-Fi is not purely speed—802.11ac provides sufficient amounts of bandwidth for most home users, with theoretical speeds over the Gigabit threshold. The much larger problem is Wi-Fi congestion in the typical home, with many devices (sometimes up to 15 or 20) competing for bandwidth. The 802.11ax standard takes its cue from how LTE cellular technology solves network overcrowding, with wider and multiple channels that significantly increase throughput.  Yes, 802.11ax will be anywhere from 5X to 10X faster than existing Wi-Fi technology, but more importantly, it will handle these competing client requests for bandwidth in a more organized, intelligent and robust manner. In addition, 802.11ax promises to improve battery life on devices, since the range will be (generally) further and the transmission of data will be faster.  In that manner, the clients will not need to work as hard.

As always, the downside to new wireless standard transitions is the proverbial “chicken and egg” phenomenon—the client device and the router must both have 802.11ax support to realize these benefits. Still, there is enough industry momentum behind 802.11ax to make me believe that the transition will begin in earnest this year. Consumers will benefit from the upgrade cycle.

On a tangential note, I’m also excited about what Plume and others have done in the “beyond wireless” area with OpenSync. OpenSync is an open source initiative focused on assisting service providers by opening up hardware ecosystems to enable an improved foundation of new smart home services and apps. This type of “outside the box” initiative has already garnered support by several major service providers and device manufacturers and I expect to see a lot of traction around this later this year.

#3: If you think Amazon Alexa is already pervasive in your home, you haven’t seen anything yet. 2019 will be the year that Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant become an inescapable presence in homes and public venues. According to Amazon, by the end of 2018, tens of millions of smart devices were already connected to Alexa. Additionally, more than 28,000 smart home devices, among 4,500 unique brands, are compatible with Alexa—a 600% increase over 2017.

While I’m not prepared to declare that the voice assistant wars are over—Google Assistant has also made impressive market share gains in this area—Amazon is clearly the leader in this space. The proliferation of digital assistant devices—not just speakers, but lamps, cars, microwave ovens, TVs, clocks, and more—will be an ongoing big story for 2019. It won’t just be in the home: Amazon announced last year it was partnering with Marriott Hotels to put Echo devices in their hotel rooms to improve guest access to amenities.

Putting aside all the thorny privacy issues that will undoubtedly get more attention in 2019 as “ambient computing” in our daily lives becomes more pervasive, the bottom line is that we are rapidly becoming a world where something is always listening. While some will view this (understandably) as an Orwellian nightmare, there are undisputed productivity and lifestyle benefits to gain as well.

#2: “Genuine” wireless charging of devices will start to emerge in 2019.  Consumers have been fooled a bit by companies like Apple and Samsung who have tried to convince them that “inductive charging,” a technology that has been around for over 20 years that requires two surfaces to be touching each other for a charging connection to be enabled, is the same as genuine wireless charging. Nothing could be further from the truth. While inductive charging for cell phones and other devices eliminates the need for a cable, several innovative companies are working on genuine wireless charging that frees devices from power outlets and battery changes.

One company that shows significant potential in this area is Wi-Charge. Using safe, invisible light, Wi-Charge’s technology provides enough power to charge a phone across a room. The implications of their technology are enormous. Not only could it help solve the battery charging dilemma that nearly every consumer face on a daily basis, it could also enable the use of more IoT devices (e.g. smart locks, door and window sensors, etc.) in the home, where battery replacement is irritating, and power outlets are not available.

Wi-Charge’s technology is already FDA-approved and complies with worldwide government standards. It is currently collaborating with several well-known partners to create wire-free appliances and charging devices. This truly could be one of the big technology stories in 2019.

#1: Facebook Portal may be the first truly great home video conferencing solution that gets doomed because of privacy concerns. It pains me say this, but I can’t remember a similar product like Facebook Portal that has gotten such tremendously positive reviews from a technology, ease of use, and design standpoint, but an almost universal slap in the face from the media because of Facebook FB +0%’s bad track record in the privacy area. The major press reviews have been almost universally consistent: great hardware but you simply can’t trust Facebook.

Having been one of the early users of Portal, I can attest to Portal’s superb video quality, excellent user experience, beautiful product design, and innovation (the camera smoothly follows you as you’re speaking to someone). But to my chagrin, I haven’t been able to convince a single member of my extended family to buy one (even devoted Facebook users like my mom and aunts) because they think Facebook might spy on them when Portal is not being used.  Interestingly, they don’t have any issue using Apple’s FaceTime to video conference with families.

I recognize these fears are largely emotional since Facebook has taken many precautions, both in its backend infrastructure and with the product itself (the ability to cover up the camera to prevent the company from spying on you). Still, many consumers, particularly older ones who remain committed to the traditional Facebook platform, have been put off by the company’s rash of bad press around privacy over the past year. In that sense, Facebook has a much bigger problem than just Portal. Sales of Portal over the holiday season have been modest (even light by some reports). I won’t be surprised if Portal makes an early exit from the scene later this year. It’s a shame, but it’s self-inflicted in my view.

Beyond CES

There are numerous indications that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show will be substantially bigger this year in terms of the number of product exhibitors and attendees. After I return from CES, I will publish a recap of some the more interesting products on display next week.  At CES, I’ll be fortunate enough to attend media-only events like CES Unveiled, Pepcom’s Digital Experience, and ShowStoppers, in which hundreds of startups show off their wares in a convenient, egalitarian format. These annual events truly provide great insight into where the general consumer market is headed and I won’t be surprised if many of the products that are shown speak to many of the themes I’ve described above. Stay tuned.

14 Predictions For The Future Of Smart Home Technology

Successful CIOs, CTOs & executives from Forbes Technology Council offer firsthand insights on smart home technology & business.

A decade ago, the idea of controlling your home’s thermostat, lights and security systems remotely via smartphone would have seemed like futuristic science fiction. But 2017 proved to be the year of the smart home. Technology in this market continues to grow leaps and bounds, and Zion Market Research predicts it will reach $53.45 billion by 2022.

Shutterstock

2018 holds even more promise for the smart home industry, as devices like Google Home, Alexa and Amazon Echo become more commonplace and artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated. We asked 14 members of Forbes Technology Council what they think consumers can expect in the coming year.

1. The Next Security And Privacy Crisis

We have shared our digital footprint for convenience. With smart home technology, we are sharing our physical footprint. It is not a matter of if but when these systems will be compromised, and the consequences could be much more severe than lost social security numbers. Addressing security and privacy will become a fundamental concern that will shape this industry. – Dimitri StiliadisAporeto

2. Integration Of Smart Home Devices

Integration will make or break smart home technology. Navigating goofy AI misunderstandings for 12 appliances and the front door is not the way of the future. But can smart homes make sure you remembered to turn off all the lights? Lock up? De-activate alarms upon recognizing your face? I believe we will see more integration that supports homeowners in 2018. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

3. A Greater Role For Artificial Intelligence

I’m wrapping up repairs and renovations on an investment property, and we opted to install a bunch of Nest and Ring products to better secure our investment. The video surveillance is great, but I can see AI being used to automate threat detection and maybe more proactively alert us if something goes awry. This would revolutionize the human aspect of remote video monitoring. – Tim MaliyilAlertBoot

4. A Focus On Surveillance And Appliances

Homeowners will like the idea of more cool ways to control their homes. Surveillance has become more necessary to combat crime, as more people work from home and want to protect their physical and intellectual property. Appliances also could be a focus since people would like their appliances to take on more of the workload. – Chalmers BrownDue

5. New Smart Home Use Cases

In 2017, the majority of applications revolved around security and thermostats, and the devices did not interoperate. In 2018, smart home device makers will take a platform approach, and the devices will interoperate and new use cases will emerge such as appliance diagnostics, energy conservation and the prevention of major damages during natural disasters. – Naresh SoniTsunami ARVR

6. Homeowner Data Sharing

Sharing the data of homeowners with businesses will probably be the next big thing in smart home technology. Having your fridge order the food you need or setting the lights and preferred temperature for your arrival is what is coming soon. The data that you share with the smart devices will be of great interest to the companies that build such products. – Ivailo NikolovSiteGround

7. Increased Efficiency, Control And Customization

AI is set to disrupt the home. Technology will become much more efficient, and we will be able to control everything from appliances to radio volume to security from one central place. As a matter of fact, as AI develops, we eventually won’t need to manually control anything, as these devices will automatically adjust to our preferences. – Arthur PerelessPereless Systems

8. Customer Service As A Differentiator

With more and more smart home devices entering the market, there is an opportunity for forward-thinking companies to use customer service as a differentiator. An IoT environment can present a number of challenges for consumers ranging from basic troubleshooting to privacy concerns. Companies that are innovative and knowledgeable about delivering customer service excellence will stand out. – Michael RingmanTELUS International

9. More Security Concerns

We’ll see a proliferation of integrated platform solutions from big players in tech. Amazon will offer in-home food delivery straight to your fridge, leveraging its smart home platform. However, security will be a concern; a customer’s home could be robbed by a contractor. I also see a future where passwords are leaked or homes get hacked, and that’s something the big players need to plan for. – Neha SampatBuilt.io

10. Higher Cross-Compatibility Standards

I’m hoping for some real progress on standards. The smart home market has huge potential, but it’s still too fragmented. Consumers shouldn’t have to think about whether they want to invest in Nest, Amazon’s Echo line or products that support Apple’s Homekit. In 2018, I expect to see greater cross-compatibility and less focus on platform lock-in. – Vik PatelNexcess

11. Smart Kitchen Gadgets

I think we’re going to see more and more smart kitchen gadgets come on the market, such as rice cookers that are connected to Alexa, smart crockpots and integrated apps. We’ll be able to ask Alexa how much time is left on the device or control them from our smartphones at work. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

12. Smart Spaces Outside Of The Home 

Naturally, smart home tech will continue to become more accessible and inexpensive to the mainstream. As consumers become accustomed to the conveniences that come with smart tech, they will begin to seek out these efficiencies outside of the home. Next year, we’re likely to see an uptick in commercial smart building tech, particularly in offices seeking to adapt to more mobile workplace trends. – Arie BarendrechtWiredScore

13. The Replacement Of ‘Test Phase’ Products With Better Alternatives

As more technology and innovations are brought to the market, automation will make the home experience simpler and more pleasant. Next year will see an increase in the gadgets released in the IoT sphere. However, as this technology is relatively new, the testing phase will see the cleaning out of multiple products that are replaced by better alternatives. – Alexandro PandoXyrupt

14. Increased Voice Control Integration

Home technologies will integrate into so much more of our daily lives. Voice control of technologies that are included in your phone, TV, home audio and even car dashboard will be commonplace by the end of 2018. Voice is going to be the breakthrough advancement that really allows these technologies to become ubiquitous. – Tyler ShieldsSignal Sciences

Intellecy Featured on Forbes: “Plumbing Sensor That Listens For Leaks Can Pre-empt Emergencies, Conserve Water”

By Heather L. Whitley, Senior Writer and Digital Producer, Forbes

People waste it and fight over it, while globally more than 840 million still struggle to even get access to it.

BluView detects when these signals fluctuate and alerts homeowners of potential leaks via their smartphones.

BluView detects when these signals fluctuate and alerts homeowners of potential leaks via their smartphones. ISTOCK

In the United States, 40 of the country’s 50 states are expected to suffer water shortages by 2023. Meanwhile, household leaks are wasting 900 billion gallons of water annually nationwide.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that entrepreneurs like Emilio Vargas II, president and CEO of San Diego-based Intellecy, Inc., are developing new smart home technologies to monitor, manage and reduce water use.

“Our thought was to come out with a product that was environmentally friendly and environmentally conscious,” Vargas explained. “It would help people change their behaviors by providing them with real-time data on how much water they are using, wasting or consuming.”

Getting A Clear View

By the end of 2016, Intellecy had developed its first prototype of BluView, a sensor that fits onto a water pipe. The system’s water manager continuously measures and monitors water flow based on the sounds and energy signals that are created when water moves through pipes and faucets.

BluView detects when these signals fluctuate and alerts homeowners of potential leaks via their smartphones. The sensor is like having a video camera all around the home to guard against intruders.

The BlueView app that’s being developed by Intellecy would allow users to compare water use to conservation goals.

The BluView app that’s being developed by Intellecy would allow users to compare water use to conservation goals. BLUVIEW

“We’re watching every single corner of your plumbing for a leak,” Vargas said.

Confident in the product’s abilities, Intellecy launched a campaign for BluView on Kickstarter. Although the company fell short of meeting its financial goals, Vargas said the online platform provided some useful insight.

“We learned so much from all the people who were asking us questions about our product,” Vargas recalled. “The overwhelming interest was, ‘You guys can find a leak, and now you’re going to tell me I have a leak. Why can’t you just add something to turn off the water?’”

Based on that feedback, the Intellecy team went back to the drawing board and added a motorized water valve to the BluView system, which allows customers to remotely turn off their water from their smartphones if a leak is detected. Early testing has proved successful, and Vargas said the updated product is expected to go to market early next year.

In addition to protecting against leaks, BluView addresses the larger issue of water management and conservation, Vargas noted. The real-time data provided to homeowners quantifies water-use patterns, so they can adjust their habits and reduce consumption.

“I think that’s a much bigger benefit for our country and globally,” he said.

Tech As Part Of The Team

Staying on task and managing the development of a new product would not be possible without technology, according to Vargas. From basic communication and collaboration tools to cloud-based, computer-aided design platforms, these programs allow Intellecy to run efficiently and effectively, he said.

“We have one person working about 80 miles away out of his home office,” Vargas said. “And when he designs stuff, we can see it almost instantaneously on our end as if we were looking over his shoulder.”

To track the development cycle of BluView, Intellecy uses product roadmap software that Vargas said is the perfect way to capture and prioritize customer requests and comments.

“It really does save time. It improves communication. It creates a record and really keeps us organized,” he said. “And I think it really has allowed us to do a lot of stuff with fewer people. So, it actually becomes part of our team.”

Intellecy has been accepted to three incubators that focus on water conservation, blue technology and smart home solutions. Vargas said the exposure has garnered interest in Intellecy’s technology from city governments and water utilities as well as businesses in which water plays an integral role, such as breweries and bottling companies.

But no matter where the company’s path may lead, Vargas said he will continue to embrace new software and technologies that will boost the efficiency of his small business.

Originally published August 17, 2018 on Forbes. View original article>>

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