Select Page
Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Homepod from Apple

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Homepod from Apple

Apple announced their smart speaker and home assistant called “Homepod”. The name sounds ok, but doesn’t do the product justice, while it should not be surprising that iHome has been already trademarked by another company. With that said, Apple announced this new product line with availability by end of the year 2017.

This announcement is coming 2 weeks before the first official shipments of Echo Show from Amazon, which was announced the day after Microsoft released their new smart speaker. The big difference here will be the price and feature set compared to all other previous vendors trying to compete in that market.

Amazon Echo is priced around $150 to $180, Google Home is priced at $120 ti $150, Microsoft announcing their product line leaves Apple with their new product line coming end of this year.

Apple has a very loyal customer base but even for those the cost of $349.– will be very or too high compared to all the other competitors out there and this extrapolates with the potential need to deploy a smart speaker in every room. You can connect two of their speakers for a better sound experience, which would bring the cost per room to $700,–

Apple claims superior sound quality with downwards facing 7 x tweeters and an upwards facing sub-woofer. The A8 chip from Apple allows to spatially analyze the room and adjust the sound waves for superior sound. Sounds pretty interesting and you can only assume,that somebody will actually test this functionality. This will become even more important as soon as you add the second homepod into the same room.

Apple didn’t go into any details about their far-field sensors to capture the human voice but instead Apple went into more details about how important the customer’s privacy is and how secure the homepod is with the commands a customer initiates.So it will be interesting to see how well homepod recognizes voice commands and at what distances.

The other part to be tested should be the ability to have one homepod or one homepod room respond instead of two or three rooms while you are in the hallway or in between rooms. Amazon Alexa had this issue for a long time and finally fixed that last year, where the closest Alexa will respond but until that fix was deployed Amazon provided different wake words to make up for that.

A product lives and dies with its ecosystem. Google has its search engine backing Google Home and Amazon Alexa has thousands of skills and developers constantly improving the end customer experience. Apple’s loyal customer base is big while the question remains what do those customers expect from a smart speaker or smart home assistant.

Offering answers to questions like metrics, stocks and reading out news can be done by any phone today or even wall-attached tablet. Integrating with a variety of music services is also key while Apple has a significant play here with iTunes.

With all that said being able to send messages does sound pretty interesting and as soon as more details become available I will share those especially after Amazon released their communication package update of calling and messaging people via Alexa and Echo Dots. There are still some major privacy and security updates which need to happen to make this main stream, so it will be interesting to see what Apple has done in this area and if this is a one way communication channel via messages only and no phone calls? Time will tell.

Let’s discuss the biggest part of the homepod reasoning for its existance, which is the smart home integration. Apple claims that it can be a smart hub for Homekit integration. It will support Homekit devices and offer commands to control your home.

The same applies here as above because the ecosystem is the key here. Homekit integration has not been high on vendors’ ToDo list so unless Homekit gets a big boost the options for end customers will be limited.

Amazon is addressing this with skills allowing third party smart home companies to integrate with the Alexa ecosystem. Companies like Samsung with Smarthings, Wink, Homeseer, Nexia, etc are all working with Alexa.

The question will remain if Apple is trying to make every vendor to become Homekit certified or if Apple will recognize the smart home device companies work with other vendors and support third party smart hub/controller integration with Homepod. Given Apple’s history on such subjects, it would be a suprirse to see Apple supporting 3rd party smart home solutions but you never know.



Echo Show

Echo Show

Echo Show

The day after Microsoft announces their Alexa and Google Home competitor called “Invoke” based on Cortana’s voice engine, Amazon releases Echo Show as the latest member of the Alexa Echo Family.

Echo Show has a touch screen and also includes now a calling feature. You can not only control all your smart home devices with your voice as before, but now you are able to watch videos with your voice, place calls and send messages to other Echo member devices (Alexa, Dot) and everybody who has the free Alexa app on their Android or IOS phone.

Powered by Dolby, Echo Show is fine-tuned to deliver crisp vocals with dynamic bass response and expansive sound. Watch as the display comes alive to show song lyrics, custom stations, curated playlists, and album art with Amazon Music. Echo Show also connects to Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn—giving you voice control for all of your music. Echo Show is Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream other popular music services like Apple Music from your phone or tablet

Introducing a new way to be together more with the people who matter most. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App. When you’re busy making dinner, just ask Alexa to place a call from your Echo Show to anyone with a supported Echo device or the Alexa App. You can also enable a new feature called Drop In for the special cases when you want to connect with your closest friends and family. For example, you can drop in to let the family know it’s time for dinner, see the baby’s nursery, or check in with a close relative.

With the Alexa App, conversations and contacts go where you go. When you’re away from home, use the app to make a quick call or send a message to your family’s Echo. Alexa calling and messaging is free.

For news and information you can see and hear, just ask Alexa for your video flash briefing from CNN, Bloomberg, and more. Curious about the latest movie trailers or a need a how-to video from YouTube? Just ask.

Echo Show helps keep you organized at home. Start a timer in the kitchen and watch as it counts down, or easily see and manage your family’s calendar. Sign in to the Alexa App to take your to-do and shopping lists with you. Just add an item to the list from home, and whoever is out shopping will see it added instantly on their Alexa App.

Equipped with eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction–even while music is playing.

Echo Show Internals
Smart Home support
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”.



Hinge Pin vs Strips for Door sensors?

Hinge Pin vs Strips for Door sensors?

Two new Z-Wave Plus Door sensors have recently hit the market.

The GE Hinge Pin Smart Door Sensor is the latest. But, is it the greatest? It looks like a door hinge, and attaches like one too making it discreet. It has remote monitoring that will alert your smart phone or tablet if door is opened or closed. Scenes can also be set up to turn the lights on or off. For example, if the door is opened turn on the lights. It really is a nice feature to come home to.

Door Hinge

Strips by Sensative is the other new Z-Wave Plus door sensor on the market. It’s a white strip about a half and inch wide and about as long as a pencil that is placed on the door or window. It works with magnets to trigger if opened or closed.

Strips can do everything the Hinge Pin can do and more, but have a different look, so it really depends on personal preference. One advantage Strips have over the Hinge Pin is it can be used to monitor windows as well as doors. The Hinge Pin is a door only device.

Strips also claims to have a 10 year battery life compared to the Hinge Pin’s relatively short 2 year battery life. However, it is important to note the Hinge Pin’s battery can be changed after 2 years. There is no way to get into Strips to change the battery, so after 10 years when the battery stops working it has to be thrown away and replaced.

So, how does the GE Z-Wave Plus Hinge Pin Smart Door Sensor Compare with Z-Wave Plus Strips by Sensative?

Both the Hinge Pin and Strips are winners depending on individual preference and need. However, while the Hinge Pin may have a slight aesthetic advantage over Strips, Strips definitely wins the prize for utility and longevity. A 10 year battery life is pretty impressive. And, Strips are weatherproof!  The Hinge Pin has limits, but is a tad less expensive.

Below is a comparison chart comparing the two feature to feature.

There are many reasons someone might want to monitor door and window activity in their home. The top reason is, of course, security. It’s important to make sure the kids aren’t snooping in your bedroom, or simply to know when someone has entered your home, through a door or window if there are no cameras in place. Even with cameras, the added security, piece of mind and use possibilities these devices add to our lives make them welcomed and valued new members of the Z-Wave Plus family.




C by GE

C by GE

C by GE

GE announced on December 6th 2016 a new line up complementing their C by GE products. GE Lighting already released Bluetooth controller bulbs earlier this year, but now they claim, that they redefined smart living with their new product line.

This new product line is a light with embedded Amazon Alexa functionality. Amazon released their integration options for Alexa Voice services and GE integrated that functionality into their new lighting product.

C by GE Smart Living

“We’re really inspired by voice as an incredible new user interface. We’re giving people an alternative by having this combination for the first time,” Jeff Patton, GE Lighting’s GM for Connected Home Products.

The exact launch date has not been determined yet but according to Jeff Patton, GE is targeting Quarter 1 in 2017. He didn’t reveal the price point either, but he did hint that it will be below $180 dollars.

This new product is already published on the C by GE website and a video has been released as well, highlighting the combination of Alexa Voice services and GE lighting. In addition to that, you can download the C by GE app in the Play Store for Android phones and looking deeper into their app, you can find circadian rhythm and follow the sun concepts.

GE is claiming that “almost” all Alexa services will be available on this new product line. The assumption here would be, that GE did not sign up for the music services of the Alexa Voice service, as this product is a lighting product and not a speaker for playing music.

On the other hand having the Smart Home functionality in Alexa embedded in this lighting product would make sense. So rather making assumptions, let’s wait for the official release.


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

x  Powerful Protection for WordPress, from Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security
Verified by ExactMetrics