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The Haus is closing its doors

The Haus is closing its doors

Some sad news from the Home Automation market… After not even one year of opening its doors, the home automation university “The Haus” based in Denver is closing its doors for good. The company assets are being auctioned online.

The company Xssentials offering their Ebode home automation solution started “The Haus” at the end of 2015. When I visited them in March 2016, they had just opened their doors to integrators and dealers of home automation systems. Top of the line classrooms, wide open spaces, top notch kitchen and food areas, etc did provide the right atmosphere.

The Haus specialized in training companies on home automation equipment using Savant’s home automation system in conjunction with Sonos speakers, Nest Thermostats and Audio/Video solution for Home Theaters. They did not offer any other smart home controller or hubs as part of their training and their focus was more on training the companies on the market, selling techniques, forecast and lead generation.

Savant is not a market leader in home automation and with their limited set of functionality compared to all the other vendors, the adoption from customers of Savant was most likely very limited. Having talked to a couple of people, who had been approached by integrators, the main focus of those integrators was to sell the ease of use of the Savant system. The most common question I received asking me for my personal opinion and advice, was about comparing Savant with the Logitech Harmony system.

Logitech’s Harmony system with different remote controls and their new POP home switch offering is very similar to Savant’s system. The Logitech system supports A/V components, Sonos speakers and Philips Hue bulbs. The Savant system also offers Lamp modules for $99 in addition to the items listed before. Those modules are proprietary light switches from Savant and given that those are simple WiFi controlled on/off switches, people are questioning the value compared to other remote controlled light switches talking Z-wave or Zigbee.

In either case both of those solutions are considered smart home solutions, but their range of functionality is very limited and their interoperability with other protocols and/or vendors and/or devices is non-existent or extremely limited.

The POP system is very comparable to the new Fibaro “Button” product enabling one smart skill e.g. turn lights on, start playing Sonos music, etc. Neither the Savant system or the Logitech Harmony system are offering whole house home automation. They do offer a great consolidation of multiple remotes especially with surround systems and having the option to turn lights on/off and play Sonos music are nice, but is this a true smart home? At least the Comcast XR11 remote has a sophisticated voice recognition implementation.

Rather than speculating, facts are that “The Haus” is closing its doors. Not enough demand or interest, a portfolio which wasn’t deep enough, their company added value wasn’t high enough compared to the investment required in terms of time and/or money and many other ideas come to mind. Regardless of all those ideas, one home automation company is closing its doors and that is sad.

I wish all “The Haus” members the best going forward and hopefully other opportunities will come up, allowing those members to continue having a career in the Home Automation market, which is still a massively booming market.

Ecobee3 Lite

Ecobee3 Lite

Ecobee released a new product – the Ecobee 3 lite. Unlike other competitors, where they release a gen 2 or gen 3 product, Ecobee has downsized the features for households which don’t need all the fancy features allowing them to bring the price down significantly.

In order to allow a lower price point features like the remote sensors, GEO fencing, etc had to go. All the main features of a smart thermostat are still there with the same look and feel and even the interface is the same.

If you don’t need the follow me feature using the remote sensors or if your HVAC system doesn’t provide the option to heat certain parts of your house separately, then you don’t need the Ecobee 3 and you have the option now to go with the Ecobee 3 lite. Remote sensors cannot be added later to the Ecobee 3 lite, but having the option now to downsize the price for features you really need is convenient and helps with your budget.

The Ecobee 3 comes at $249 while the new Ecobee 3 lite has a price point now of $169. This price difference is not insignificant. Time will tell, how many households require the higher feature rich model especially as all the other features are still there e.g. IFTT, support for Amazon Alexa Echo, Echo dot, IFTTT, Samsung, Wink, Vera, etc integration for home automation.

GoogleHome

GoogleHome

Google finally revealed more details around their Google Home assistant product on Oct 4th 2016. They also allow now pre-orders to be placed for their official release date of Nov 4th 2016.

Google is now entering the Voice control market, after they announced earlier this year working on an “Alexa like product but much better”. At the Oct 4th 2016 Google event, where Google announced a variety of new products and product refreshes, they provided a detailed insight into the new Google Home product line.

Let’s go over their major features and functions announced for Google Home. The appearance is the first item Google addressed by offering a variety of textures and colors to chose from. Amazon Echo is also available in white now and so will be the Echo Dots, when they are released October/E 2016.

Here is a video from Google demonstrating some use cases for Google Home.  Check it out.

A very important part of any voice assistant product line is their interoperability with “smart devices”. Alexa from Amazon has a huge head start, but Google is now starting and investing heavily in this area as well. Here is a comparison chart between Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

Google Home

$130
  • Always listening
  • Command acknowledgement
  • Shopping List
  • Music Streaming
  • Smart Home integrations (Nest, Hue, IFTTT, Smartthings)
  •  Direct Music stream to different rooms via App: Yes
  • Direct Music stream to different rooms via Voice: Yes
  • Group Music stream on multiple Google Home devices: Yes, using Google Cast
  • Attach external speakers via Bluetooth: No
  • Attach external speakers via Direct-In cable: No
  • Connect mobile phone via Bluetooth (A2DP): Yes
  • Conversational commands: Yes
  • Spatial Perception (nearest device responds): Yes, starting Nov 2016

Amazon Echo

$180
  • Always listening
  • Command acknowledgement
  • Shopping List
  • Music Streaming (Prime Music, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Amazon Music)
  • Smart Home integrations (Nest, Hue, IFTTT, Smartthings, Wemo, Insteon, TP Link, Ecobee and many more through skills)
  •  Direct Music stream to different rooms via App: Yes
  • Direct Music stream to different rooms via Voice: No
  • Group Music stream on multiple Alexa devices: No
  • Attach external speakers via Bluetooth: No
  • Attach external speakers via Direct-In cable: No, but Echo Dot supports this
  • Connect mobile phone via Bluetooth (A2DP): Yes
  • Conversational commands: No
  • Spatial Perception (nearest device responds): Yes, starting Oct/E 2016

Far-Field Speaker comparison

Comparing the two systems

The Google Home Speaker seems impressive around all corners and in all directions. Once the product is released more detailed sound comparisons can be conducted.

The Alexa Speaker has proven to be quite impressive in terms of sound quality and base waves. Given the size of that product, the sound it produces is quite excellent.

In summary:

Google is releasing a major competitor to Amazon’s Echo Alexa family. It lacks in some areas, while it has an advantage in other areas. In the end the ease of use, the integration and interoperability options will drive customer adoption. In either way, competition in the market place is always good because it benefits the end consumer… us!

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This blog and tweets represent my own view points and not of my employer, Amazon Web Services.

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