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Alexa now supports Multi-room audio

Alexa now supports Multi-room audio

Amazon announced and released today multi-room audio functionality for the Amazon Alexa family devices. This functionality allows you to synchronize music across devices and across rooms by grouping them. Such functionality has been available from other vendors for some time e.g. Sonos.

Amazon also announced the release of their SDK developer tools later this year for speaker companies like Sonos, Bose, Sound United and Samsung. Especially the last vendor will be interesting to watch as they just announced their own smart speaker to come out under the Samsung brand and they announced that it will be unique to differentiate the Samsung smart speaker against Amazon Alexa/Echo and Google Home or even the upcoming Apple Home Pod speaker later to be released this year.

 

You can now create groups to play music synchronized across multiple echo devices. When you create groups it will shortly stop playing music to synchronize those devices. Any connected Bluetooth speakers should synchronize as well so in theory you could have many speakers playing in total harmony. I will certainly test this functionality.

I am also waiting for the Sonos support for Alexa which now has a date. October 4th 2017 is when the support will be released assuming you accept the new Terms and Conditions from Sonos. That is a story by itself as outraged users express their frustration about privacy violations and Sonos expressing their view of providing clear rules and guidance of what data will get shared and no sensitive data will get shared with any 3rd party partner or vendor.

Anyhow… the good news is that multi-room audio is coming on multiple devices, support for Alexa/Echo is being added to more and more speakers giving the end users the benefit of better audio experiences in their homes.

Alexa enabled Retro-gaming

Alexa enabled Retro-gaming

Many adults remember the times playing Arcade, Nintendo, Gameboy, Atari or Sega games at either at a Arcade game place, on their own console or at their friends house. Some of those games have been ported to Platforms like Xbox or Playstation but only a few games can be found and most certainly not Nintendo games. If you think that the adults are the only ones playing retro-games you should think twice as today’s kids will not miss an opportunity to play any console games – retro or not.

You could go to places like Dave & Busters or Chucke E Cheese for Arcade games but those places have mostly embraced racing simulators and shooting arcades and you won’t find Super Mario Brothers or Legend of Zelda in those places. So unless you visit Japan where Arcade halls are still trendy, you won’t find real retro games.

 

You can create your own console to play all those game brands listed above. What you need is a Raspberry PI, SD card, HDMI cable, Power adapter, a case and how many controller pads you want. There are 2 popular solutions out there. One is called RetroPie and the other one is called RecalBox. In this blog I am going to post how to create your own console using RecalBox but the same concept applies to RetroPie.

 

 

Hardware to purchase

  1. Raspberry PI 3 $30
  2. Raspberry PI Heat sink set $5
  3. SD Card (at least 16GB, recommended 32GB or more) $20
  4. Power Adapter for Raspberry PI 3 $10
  5. Raspberry PI 3 case or custom case (more about this later) $7
  6. HDMI cable $7
  7. Bluetooth/Wired game controller pad(s) $13 for wired $40 for wired and bluetooth combined
  8. Bluetooth keyboard and touchpad (optional) $25

Total cost: $79 + cost of game controllers

You can buy the Raspberry Canakit for $69 on Amazon which includes USB card adapter micro SD card.

I bought the kit and I bought two game controllers with bluetooth and wired, so in case the batteries run out, I can plug them in and continue playing. My total cost was: $160 running 758 NES Games and numerous other games from other consoles

You can buy  the NES Classis bundle for $350 on Amazon which includes 2 controllers or go to Ebay and bid for home made look a likes. In November NES will release again a $59 or $69 version of the NES Classis, which will be sold out immediately and then offered on Amazon and Ebay for hundreds of dollars like last year before Christmas.

So instead of copying the step by step instructions on how to install Recalbox, I will simply put the link here on where to obtain the software and how to install the operating system.

Visit https://www.recalbox.com/diyrecalbox and follow the instructions to get your Raspberry PI running the Recalbox OS. Download the SD Card formatter software and the Recal OS. Extract the ZIP file and then copy the complete contents of that folder onto the SD card. Once that process completes you can power on your retro-gaming console.

Configure your WiFi settings and run the auto updater. Please be patient during the WiFi setup as it will look like the system is hanging. I do recommend to reserve an IP address in our router settings for your Recalbox.

I used my Bluetooth keyboard and the game controller to setup the WiFi settings as typing in password with a game controller is non-trivial. Once you apply the updates the system will tell that it will reboot. You might have to restart the Recalbox yourself if the screen doesn’t come back online and then the system update will start.

Adding Games to your console

The good news is that once your Recalbox joined your WiFi network it will be visible under your Windows Explorer network. It will show up as Recalbox or any other hostname you have given your Recalbox in your settings.

Once you double click that network device it will ask for a login. The username is “root’ and the password is “recalboxroot”. Now you have access to all the folders. You will find a folder called ROMS and within that folder each emulator will have its own folder. Go to the NES folder.

Now it is time to download some games. There are various places to download the ROMs and I will provide one for now. http://www.mediafire.com/file/5pe60avkiglc94r/758NS.rar This package will contain 758 NES games. Extract the folder and copy the content from the NES folder on your PC into the network share from your Recalbox. Once uploaded go into your Recalbox settings under Game settings and refresh the game list or simply reboot your Recalbox. Congrats! Now you have 758 Games to play!

 

Integration of Recalbox into Alexa

In this scenario I am going to demonstrate how to power on/off the Recalbox via your smart home hub, integrate this into your Logitech Harmony hub and then control the whole setup via Alexa with one simple command.

The first task is to attach the Recalbox power supply to a Z-wave enabled outlet or any outlet which can be controlled by Alexa. The reason why you want this is because you don’t want your Recalbox to run non-stop even if the TV is powered off.

Next task is to go into your Harmony hub (if you don’t have one yet you should buy one for $99 on Amazon) software (Desktop or Cell phone) and create a new scene. Give the scene a name you will recognize easily e.g. “Retrogame scene”. In this scene you define which device should be powered on in which order and to what channels those devices should be configured to.

Example:

  1. Turn on Yahama Surround Sound Receiver
  2. Set Yahama Surround Sound Receiver to HDMI3 (Recalbox is attached to HDMI3)
  3. Turn on Samsung TV
  4. Set Samsung TV to HDMI1 (Yamaha is connected to HDMI1)

Next task is to go into the Amazon Alexa app and discover devices. 2 new things should show up. A) is the new scene from the Harmony Hub and B) is the switch to power on/off the Recalbox. Now create a new group in the Alexa app and call this group “Nintendo”. Add both items to that group (the scene and the device). Et Voila! Congrats. You have now a voice controlled Retro-gaming console with 758 Games!!!

Retro-case for retro-gaming console

To make this experience really “retro” I decided to print a case and replace the Raspberry PI standard case with a Nintendo style casing. I found this https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1887826 casing online, which is a modified version of the original casing https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:307832. The difference between the original and the one I chose is that you can choose how to install your Raspberry into the case.

I tried the sideways one and I have to say that this was a complete failure as the USB ports are within the case with no access to it. I recommend to use the upside down version of the 3D STL file, which will expose the HDMI, Power, 3.5mm sound jack, all USB and the Ethernet port. You can print it in the original Nintendo colors or chose a different color scheme like I did. To finalize the design I printed the Nintendo logo and glued it on.

Alexa Drop-in

Alexa Drop-in

Amazon released a new software update allowing you to use your Alexa and Dot devices as intercom devices within your household using the green ring from the Alexa calling feature as an indicator. Just in time with the release of the Echo Show, Amazon released an update which allows you to enable a feature called “Drop-in”.

This feature can be configured per Alexa or Dot device to enable or disable drop-ins. The end user can use his or her cell phone via the Alexa app and call any device within the home.

The end user can also use any Alexa or Dot to call any device within the home by simply saying “Alexa, drop-in {device name}” for example “Alexa, call echo living room”.

This feature even works without being at home and connected to your home WiFi. You can use the Alexa app to connect and drop-in to any Alexa or Dot device, while being on the road and speak to your family.

Adding now Echo Show to the mix allows you to have a video chat conversation from your cell phone via the Alexa app and the Echo Show in real time.

For the initial setting the end user has to enable the “drop-in” feature and all devices will get enabled for drop-in. With that said, every device can be configured individually to support the drop-in feature or not.

You can select “On”, “Only my household” or “Off”. The “On” feature will allow any contact within the Alexa app, after having imported your phone contacts and checked which of your contacts has Alexa or Dot devices, to connect to your devices via drop-in.

The good news is that the default setting for every contact is “Off” for drop-ins. This means even if you enable the drop-in feature by simply saying “On” instead of “Only my household” nobody from your Alexa app contact list is able to drop-in unless you specifically allow the drop-in feature for that specific user.

All household members are by default enabled to drop-in without permission but even this can be disabled. You are also able now to block contacts within the Alexa app, which was a big issue at the beginning when the Alexa calling feature was released.

Seems like a lot of thought went into the default settings here with security in mind, while offering flexibility to expand the circle of users as needed. Families can now connect between houses e.g. Grandma/Grandpa can drop-in to the family household and vice versa.

The setup didn’t work immediately on all Alexa or Echo devices. Troubleshooting the issues did require some time and I wanted to share those experiences here as well.

One Alexa devices did not react at all to any drop-in request and the Alexa app on the cell phone or any other Alexa or Dot device wasn’t able to reach that specific Alexa as this Alexa was on the 5G version of my Home Wifi. Once I switched that WiFi setup to the regular WiFi the cell phone and all other devices were able to drop-in into that Alexa.

Another Dot device was not reachable either and this was due to the settings of that Dot device. This was a brand new Dot device, which was just configured for WiFi and no other settings were configured like Zip code and Time Zone. After those settings were entered, this device became reachable via drop-in as well.

Another important thing to mention is the naming of each Alexa or Dot device. If you change the name of any device to make it easier to drop-in or call that device, the Alexa app and the device do not immediately recognize that changed name. I found out, that if you on your conversation screen with the new blue bar stating drop-in, if you pull down like refreshing a browser page, then the new name will be refreshed almost instantaneously.

Last but not least I tried to connect my Magic Mirror Prototype and use the drop-in feature with that device. Unfortunately there is no option to enable the drop-in on that device using the Alexa Voice service API.

The video API and Echo Show integration was just released so I can only assume that it is a matter of time until this functionality will become available on other devices running Alexa Voice Skills and APIs.

Conceptually speaking having a smart mirror with a webcam and a speaker built-in would be a great addition for any bathroom. I would like to see a gesture to reject a drop-in or a voice command to deny or accept a drop-in given the location of the typical smart mirror, which would be the bathroom.

Overall the drop-in feature is a great addition to the Alexa and Echo Dot family and with the release of the Echo Show and its video integration there will be a lot of communication be happening within the household and between households.

 

Connected Home vs Smart Home

Connected Home vs Smart Home

People believe “smart homes” and “connected homes” are the same. You might even see terms like “true smart home”, where companies try to bring their point across of having a home, which is more than an assembly of connected devices. Let’s look into those terms and define, what a “smart home” really is.

Let’s start with the official definition outlined by Wikipedia. Smart House on Wikipedia refers to Home Automation. Within Home Automation you will find the following definition.

“Home automation or smart home (also known as domotics or domotica) is the residential extension of building automation. It involves the control and automation of lighting, heating (such as smart thermostats), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and security, as well as home appliances such as washer/dryers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers. They use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring and are a part of the Internet of things. Modern systems generally consist of switches and sensors connected to a central hub sometimes called a “gateway” from which the system is controlled with a user interface that is interacted either with a wall-mounted terminal, mobile phone software, tablet computer or a web interface, often but not always via internet cloud services.

The key word here is “automation”. Putting so called “smart devices” into a home doesn’t make the home smart. The industry is using the term “smart” for devices, which can be controlled by a smart phone, tablet or nowadays voice control devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Another example would be the trend of smart doorbells. Just because a doorbell will notify you on your cell phone, emails or texts you or allows you to speak to your visitor from your cell phone with two-way audio, doesn’t mean you have a smart home.

I created the following picture to demonstrate one example home with smart devices and then I will go into the details with real life use cases/examples of what would make this home a “smart home”.

Smart Home

You can see a lot of devices within this “smart home” ranging from thermostats, speakers, media and entertainment, etc. Most or all of those devices can be controlled from a smart phone, tablet or Alex Echo / Google Home with individual apps or skills (as Amazon calls them). They don’t have to be necessarily have to controlled by a single home automation hub/controller/gateway.

With that said, let’s provide some examples, where the true benefit of having a home automation hub/controller/gateway will showcase, what a “smart home” should look like, otherwise this home would simply be a “connected home”.

Geo Fencing

The most common use case is GEO fencing. GEO fencing is the term for location aware reaction of your home automation system.

geo fence In this example you create either one or two virtual fences around your home. The first fence is very close proximity e.g. 100 to 200 feet to capture if you leave your home. The second fence could be a couple of miles.

Most people go with one fence only but others go with a second one to e.g. set the temperature of the home to a more comfortable setting so by the time they get home, the house is nice and cool or warm and cozy and if it is night, turn on the lights in certain areas of your home and open the garage door, when you approach the inner perimeter.

Yes, you could use your cell phone and open your Nest or Ecobee app, while you are driving, and set the temperature to the desired level. You could press the button in your car to open the garage door, when you are in front of it. The Geo fencing feature does all that for you based on logic you defined and if any delay occurs like traffic jam on the highway, you wouldn’t have to worry about opening your app and changing states of your smart devices.

Disaster Prevention

Less known, but very efficient and effective example is the combination of water shut-off valves and water leak sensors. In the old days you could buy a system, which connected to a telephone line and if the water leak sensor detected a leak, it called out and notified specific people. Those systems were expensive in up front cost and in some cases they charged monthly fees for that service.

In addition to that, the sensors were limited in terms of how many of those sensors could be installed and how long those wires could have been. Those costs and limitations prohibited a wide deployment of such notification systems.

With today’s technology, the picture has changed drastically and situations like on the picture should be a thing of the past. As many wireless water leak sensors you need communicating with your central hub/controller/gateway and in case of a flood the “smart home” will take action, which can be a simply notification via email or text, announcement within the house over all speakers, alarm sirens, etc the options of actions is very long.

This example doesn’t prevent any flooding, but it will take action at the slightest amount of water reaching the water leak sensors, which can prevent coming home to a completely flooded basement. Those costs will run in the thousands of dollars and the best of this whole example is: “Insurance companies will give you a discount, if you install water leak detection systems in your home”. Simply ask your insurance and they will tell you what discount you will receive, if you chose to implement this example.

This applies to home owners and landlords. The investment of having such a system implemented can be recovered after several months or years. Example would be a 10% discount for a home owner insurance of $1,500 per year. Those savings of $150/year would give you a break even point from your investment of 2 or 3 years, not to mention the cost savings of not having to repair a flooded basement or laundry room, which typically range in the area of $3,000 to $5,000 or more.

Energy Control

Another example would be energy control of your home. You could have remote controlled blinds, fans and thermostats in your home. You could use your cell phone, smart tablet or voice to turn those “connected devices” on as needed. A true “smart home” would do the following and this is just one example, which can be adjusted to any need or location…

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees –> THEN lower blinds

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees AND blinds lowered –> THEN turn on ceiling fan

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees AND blinds lowered AND ceiling fan is ON –> THEN power on air condition

In simplified text, this logic does the following. In the morning, when the sun rises, the temperature in your house rises as well. Most households have their thermostat set to a certain temperature, before the air condition kicks in. Even if they have smart thermostats, they will get trigger by a certain temperature.

The example logic above delays the air conditioning kicking in by using the alternative methods of blocking out sun or using ceiling fans first before the more power hungry and costly air conditioning system kicks in. The “smart home” will try to block the sun first by lowering the blinds. If the temperature still rises, then the “smart home” will turn on the ceiling fan. Only if all that isn’t enough, then it will turn on the air condition.

Security and Fire Alarm

The top rated reason for people adopting “smart home technology” is security. The security industry has been around for many years and alarm systems have evolved in many directions over the years. Security systems today include not only window/door sensors, glass break and motion sensors, but also fire alarm detectors and cameras with motion alarm.

Having those notifications going to a service provider, who will call the authorities is a good thing. However, nobody has thought about the actual home owner in those situations. To be more specific, image a fire alarm going off in your home. The sirens will go off, you might get a call from your service provider and the whole family will be up in no time. What is not considered is, how to make this situation easier and less stressful.

Imagine the same scenario, but in this case once the alarm goes off, the lights in the whole house will go on or change color to e.g. red, the blinds will open allowing a clear view from the outside into the house for the firemen, the alarm system will disarm after the authorities have been notified (last thing you need is your alarm system sirens going off just because you or your family opened the door and you forgot to enter the code to disarm the alarm system), the door locks will unlock allowing easy exit of the house, the speakers throughout the whole will announce that there is fire and with the right equipment it can also announce, where in the house fire has been detected. If nobody is home, the home owner will get notified via email, text or phone call from the service provider and from the smart home and having the doors unlocked will allow easy entry into the home for the firemen.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with having a “connected home”. As a matter of fact a connected home is the first step towards a smart home. Yes, it requires some adjustment and logic to be put in place, before a connected home becomes a smart home. The time is worthwhile investing, as the return of the investment will be worth it.

The additional cost of making a connected home to become a smart is much lower compared to making a regular home to become a connected home or smart home. The only challenge with this transformation from connected home to smart home will be the interoperability between the smart devices and the hub/controller/gateway, as not all vendors will support all smart devices.

In some cases workarounds are available and yes, you could use something like IFTTT (If this then that) to create logic for your connected home. IFTTT has a wide variety of supported devices (channels), but you should consider always the worst case, which is when your home might not have any internet connection. Some home automation hub/controller/gateway vendors require an internet connection to be available to conduct any actions in your home, which might not be a good thing in some of the use cases and examples outlined above including IFTTT.

The smart home adoption is at an all-time high and I encourage everybody to invest the time to find the most suitable technology for their homes and families and aim for a true “smart home”.

 

 

Cedia 2016 Part2

Cedia 2016 Part2

Control 4

Overview of High End Control 4 system

Lutron

Lutron Lighting solutions working in conjunction with all other Lutron solution options

Control 4

High end lighting solutions from Control 4

Savant Pro

Savant Pro Home Automation solutions

Control 4

High End Home Theater and Audio/Video solutions from Control 4

(On the left) Control 4 had by far the largest exhibitor area at Cedia 2016 but also by far the biggest ego. Making statements like “Our system never fails didn’t go well with integrators”.

(On the right) Lutron was with Savant right behind in terms of size of booth and demo area. Lutron showcased their many home automation solutions.

Another eye catcher were companies like Hidden Vision and FrameMyTV. Below is the video for a hidden weapon framed picture. Their motors are very quiet and the speed is also acceptable. They also have smaller applications for their picture frames for handheld weapons, safe storage, etc.

Watch the video below!

FrameMyTV had a smaller booth and their main attraction for integrators was their upcoming shop integration. This will allow integrators to resell the solutions under the integrator’s brand. They are even coming up with co-labelled and un-labelled material for integrators to give to potential customers.

The star of the Cedia 2016 show was something completely different and unexpected. Dome HA showcased the first ever Z-wave enabled Mouse trap. Yes, you read correctly. A mouse trap, which notifies you after the critter has been caught in that trap. Very bizarre use case and not everybody will jump on this offering.

However,this shows that there are endless possibilities for Home Automation and there will be more to come. Cedia was great and looking forward to see you guys at Cedia 2017 in San Diego.

Smart Homes at IoT World (Part 2 of 2)

Smart Homes at IoT World (Part 2 of 2)

IoT World

Internet of Things World 2016 was the 3rd annual event hosted at the Convention Center in Santa Clara CA. With over 10.000 attendees and over 200 exhibitors you were able to attend a total of 15 dedicated tracks around IoT ranging from manufacturing to smart cities, connected cars, the smart home, healthcare, energy & agriculture, supply chain & logistics plus much more. This is the second and final post of a two part report focusing on “The Smart Home” track from this event.

This report will cover new upcoming technologies, expert opinions shared at panels from various industry experts and interesting startups to look out for in the coming near future. This second part will focus on new innovations and enhancements of smart home devices.

sevenhugs-smart-remote-05219One of the most innovative products at this IoT event relevant to smart homes is the Sevenhugs “Smart Remote Control”. This touch remote adjusts to the device you are pointing at. In other words, you point at your Nest thermostat it will offer you a slider to adjust temperature up and down but when you point at your Philips Hue bulb it will change the menu to turn on/off and dim the light bulbs.

Talking to the Sevenhugs crew gave me some very good ideas as this remote is able to run HTTP/HTTPs commands. This could make the integration into Vera a breeze but I don’t want to judge until I can get one of those devices into my hands.

This device is not available today and they are aiming towards the end of this year to release that product to consumers. More information about this device can be found under http://remote.sevenhugs.com/

Chui

Another very interesting product called “Chui” got my attention. There are a variety of smart door bells out there already and more coming out. You can buy today Skybell, Ring, etc and soon you can buy a product called Remobell. They are almost the same in terms of features and functions while their designs might differ.

However, Chui is different. Chui is face recognition combined with your door bell. It will be able to perform certain tasks mapped to each user profile. As I outlined in my part 1 of my report Role Based Access Control (RBAC) is something which is desperately needed in conjunction with voice control and voice authentication but in this case RBAC is part of the product by mapping scene or tasks to a specific user e.g. Dad comes home and the door unlocks, the temperature goes to 74 degrees, the lights go on and dim to 50%.

Another benefit of Chui applies to the use case of dog walkers, cleaning lady or babysitters who need temporary access to your home at certain times. With smart locks using a key, you have to give them a key which defeats the purpose of having a smart lock. With smart locks using a code, you give them a code which can be used by anybody if they get their hands or eyes on that code. With face recognition user pictures will be stored and authenticated and then mapped to their user profile.

Very interesting concept and sounds very promising. Talking to their CEO he confirmed that they have taken a different approach and that they are taking security very serious. More details and pre-orders can be placed under https://www.getchui.com/

EnHuv_switch

Changing from security to the lighting world. This product showcased in the startup arena of the IoT event got my attention. The sleek look and simple functionality while offering a wide variety of functions and compatibility made me take a deeper look at their product. The EnHuv light switch replaces single, two or 4 gang switches.

They are targeting $99 for the single and $179 for the 2-4 gang switch as their end consumer price. This is double the price of e.g. a Z-wave switch. However, a Z-wave switch is able to power on/off your lights or dim those lights. If you are using smart bulbs you have to use your cell phone app to start a specific scene or change the color of the lights.

This switch is a sleek looking and powerful device allowing you to control your lights from Philips, Wemo, etc and power on/off, dim, change colors in a simple interface which everybody understands. Talking to the team it became obvious that they have experience in that space from previous jobs and they are using that knowledge for this product development. I did ask what protocols they are or will support with that light switch and their answer was Z-wave, ZigBee, WiFi and Bluetooth.

ThisEnHuv_Setup product is not available today and no exact date was given to me but when I pushed they said that they should launch this year. That product can be compared with the Aeotec Touch Panel light switch which requires a Z-wave module behind it. This EnHuv light switch product has A) more functionality in terms of functions to apply B) more protocols Wifi, ZigBee, Z-wave, etc and C)  a much higher price.

Time will tell if people are willing to invest double the price of a Z-wave switch/dimmer to obtain better and more functionality with a sleek design or if they will stick to their cell phone apps or pre-saved scenes of their home automation controller.

I also verified if their product requires an e.g. Philips Hue Bridge to work and their answer was that they don’t but if you do use the Philips Hue bridge, you would have much more functionality to choose from so they recommend using that bridge.

Having the ability to utilize existing scenes stored on the Philips Hue bridge would allow everybody to have consistent scenes on their cell phone app, their home automation controller and the EnHuv light switch. Their website is still in development but more detail can be found under https://enhuv.com/

GreenWave

Being on the subject of scenes I visited the booth of Greenwave systems. That company received one CES award in 2015 and I was curious about their product offerings and their portfolio. I have to say that I was amazed about their concept and their implementation.

Greenwave systems has taken scenes to a whole different level. Their product allows interaction with Amazon Echo aka Alexa and use natural language like speaking to a person instead of predefined commands. But this is not the only thing they can do. They allow the end user to create “tags” and map smart devices to those tags.

Example would be to create a tag called “Living room” and add devices like Sonos, Lights, Motion sensors, etc to that tag. The end user can then trigger that tag. On top of that the end user can create scenes on the fly e.g. he tells Alexa to create a scene called “Movie” and then record in order certain tasks e.g. 1) dim lights to 50% by using the earlier created tag, turn on TV, set thermostat to 76 degrees and then save this scene called “Movie”. The user can then run that scene by triggering it via Alexa. Modification of any scene is a breeze as the end user can simply add kitchen lights to the tag “Living Room” by adding e.g. a table lamp to the tag “Living Room”.

In a nutshell the Greenwave system solution enables scene management via voice control. I would classify this as dynamic scenes of Greenwave Systems vs static scenes from your home automation controller. Unfortunately Greenwave systems only works business to business and not business to consumer. More company details can be found under http://www.greenwavesystems.com/

kuna_outdoor_security_light_t

A different approach has been taken by the company Kuna. Kuna released last year an outdoor light with a camera and two way audio communication. People have been asking for an open API to integrate that product into their home automation controller systems. Talking to a Kuna representative he explained that they are consider their product a security system which is why they embedded a siren into their product and cloud features to enable recording and historical view for the end user and other features to support their endeavor.

Sounds like a video doorbell system but it isn’t. They are considering their product a secure ecosystem and opening that up could weaken that security concept. They didn’t say no to an open API but given the latest news on e.g. Smarthings hub security vulnerabilities from 2 weeks ago and the gmail exploit on the Samsung fridge from Aug 2015 feeds the argument not to open up their product to other ecosystems.

More information on Kuna can be found here https://www.getkuna.com/

Connected Food

I also want to raise awareness of a new initiative between Pirch and Innit. They are launching on May 19th a showroom just like the Target smart home demo location in San Francisco ( http://openhouse.target.com/ ) but the main difference here will be that they will be showcasing smart appliances combined with the Pirch concept of having famous cooks working and demoing those appliances and their value add.

I am looking forward to some more details on this as Kitchen Home Automation use cases are limited today and more education is needed.

shopping

Last but not least I would like to share some data points shared by industry experts during panel discussions. One interesting study was performed last year where a test was conducted on 10.000 people where some articles were labelled with “Connected” to see if this would change their buying behavior.

The results were very interesting. Only 5% of the 10.000 people actually looked at the higher priced product. Of those 5% only 5% actually looked and read the “Connected” spending more time with the product.

My personal opinion is that most people didn’t even understand what “Connected” means. If I would see e.g. a crockpot saying “Connected” I would not assume that this product has WiFi or other connectivity. On the other hand the word “Smart” has already been used so many times over so many years that putting the word “Smart” into the list of features wouldn’t help either to identify a “smart product” which integrates into a smart home. Calling any product “IoT enabled” would make things worse as no average consumer would even understand what IoT means.

Overall a very interesting and educational event and I am looking forward to the Smart Home Summit in Nov 2016 in Palo Alto CA.

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