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Unread 2015-06-16, 10:23 AM   #1
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Default The battleground that is your home




AFP 'Consumers are asking: If you buy a Nest, are you stuck with Google for the rest of your life?' Washington - Visions of the smart home - a house that can set its own thermostat, schedule its own lights and preheat its own ovens - are fast-becoming a reality. The technology is becoming smaller, faster and cheaper, opening new opportunities for transforming everyday objects.
In a report, International Data Corporation projected that the “Internet of Things,” the industry term for this web of connected products, will generate $1.7-trillion in spending by 2020 - an astonishing number considering it was almost non-existent five years ago.
Jumping on that wave is a no-brainer for companies, which are trying to convince consumers that everything could be better with a chip. There's a buffet of options out there. Right now, for around $200 (about R2 400) you could pick up a smart thermostat that lets you control your home's temperature from anywhere. You can pick up packs of sensors to make any outlet “smart” for about $60. Or you could pay a company such as AT&T, Comcast or ADT to do a lot of the work for you, for as little as $20 or $30 per month.
That's where, for consumers, it gets a little more complicated. Because while you may think you're buying one gadget - a thermostat, a security system, a smart lock - but what you're really buying is the cornerstone of a whole system of smart devices that need to work together. By extension, the first smart home device you buy may determine the brand of your next refrigerator, security system or even your car.
“Consumers are asking: If you buy a Nest, are you stuck with Google for the rest of your life?” said Jefferson Wang, of IBB Consulting. “If you buy an Apple TV, are you stuck with Apple?”
The stakes to produce the first “I need it” home gadget are high. And tech giants, who are watching sales of smartphones hit a plateau in high-spending markets, are racing to find it. Google and Apple have both laid out ambitious plans for the smart home. The area was a main focal point for Google at its developers conference last week and is expected to be a showcase at Apple's big developer confab next week. Apple has already released guidelines for developers that state that the Apple TV, the company's set-top box, will be the hub for compatible smart devices.
Analysts say they expect this battle to play out as an extension of the war between Apple, Google and a few other specialty players for early dominance. The first to really crack the idea can capitalise on the gadget “halo effect” - the consumer tendency to buy gadgets that are compatible with ones they already have, which locks them into one of those companies' worlds.
Apple and Google certainly appear to hope so and are applying the same strategies they used in the smartphone era to the connected home.
Apple's reputation for quality and the loyalty of its fans give it a certain edge, said Jefferson Wang of IBB Consulting. “Apple's iOS is strong, and tends to have faster adoption,” he said. But, he added, “in Google's favour, Android has a huge developer community, a huge number of customers and existing products like the Nest,” a successful smart thermostat made by the company of the same name. Google bought Nest in 2014, for $3.2-billion.
Nest's appliances, as well with its Dropcam security systems - the result of another acquisition -have already given Google early home gadget success. And last week, the firm announced it would expand its ambitions even further with a smarthome platform, Brillo, to developers looking to make smart devices for the home that work with other Google-based doodads such as the successful Nest thermostat.
That comes a year after Apple first announced its plans for “HomeKit,” a platform centred around its own software. The first official HomeKit devices hit the market, all of which can be controlled through an iPhone app. The launch partners included electronics firm iHome, major smart light bulb maker Lutron, and Elgato, which makes sensors that monitor air quality, humidity, water consumption and energy use. The products work with Apple's Siri as well, meaning that the voice assistant can now turn on your lights, check your monitors and act as a general remote control for your home.
It's far too early to predict who will win, said Mark Hung, an analyst for Gartner.
“Unlike in the PC or smartphone markets, neither have come out with a whiz-bang story of why [the average person] needs this. It's still in the exploration stage,” he said.
And Apple and Google aren't the only dogs in the fight either. There are scads of competitors out there with their own technologies, services and products that are trying to capitalise on what they think consumers want from a smart home. Game console makers Microsoft and Sony are building out their content offerings to try and control the living room through their forays into entertainment and gaming. AT&T and Comcast, meanwhile, are adding on to their positions as Internet providers to include smart security systems. More traditional home appliance makers such as Honeywell and GE are also joining forces to make their own standards.
And then there's Amazon, which hasn't competed much with Apple or Google on the hardware front in the past, but has taken some small steps into the home, analysts said. Last year, the company introduced the Echo, a standalone cylinder that has a voice assistant of its own. Through the Echo, users can add items to their shopping lists, ask the device for answers to basic questions and listen to music. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Over time, Amazon has added support for Belkin's WeMo line or smart switches and even for Google Calendar, so users can use the Echo to turn off the lights or get a summary of their daily schedule.
Amazon's offering is the first representation of how we may interact with our smart homes in the future -- by speaking to them in the style of the Star Trek computer. But the product is pretty limited at the moment, Wang said. “Amazon's always going to be looking for areas to push the core business - which is ultimately shopping,” Wang said. “Echo is a fun product, and an interesting one. But I don't think they're on the same level at all as a Google or an Apple.”
Still, keeping some variety in the market could help consumers avoid getting locked in to an either all-Google or all-Apple environment. The smart home market could follow in the footsteps of the smartphone world, but Wang also said that the market could be large enough to support all players.
He pointed to the way we've seen car makers such as General Motors, for example, refuse to take a side in the connected car battle, opting instead to support both Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto.
“The question is how does that affect their strategy - when companies choose both - and then how [Apple and Google] use that to create the next layer of interaction, between the watch, the phone, the tablet and the home.”
For consumers, the best way to navigate this complex, high-stakes world may be to just sit out for now, Hung said.
“The products aren't there yet. If you can wait to change your thermostat - and it's unlikely that you can't - wait,” he said. “None of these camps or factions have come out with a killer app or a killer product.”
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Unread 2015-06-23, 09:09 AM   #2
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Amazon Echo is now open for pre-orders to anyone in the U.S. for $180, ships July 14

Above: Amazon Echo









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Amazon has announced that its voice-activated “Echo” device, used to control other devices in your home such as lights and switches, is open for pre-orders to anyone in the U.S.
Following an invite-only period that kicked off last November, the Amazon Echo is now looking to ingratiate itself in homes around the country with a $180 price tag.
The device taps the burgeoning [COLOR=#4479BD !important][COLOR=#4479BD !important]Internet[/COLOR][/COLOR] of Things concept of “ubiquitous computing” and smart homes, which means its usefulness ultimately relies on its compatibility with third-party products. Indeed, to gain maximum value from the Echo, you will probably also need to invest in additional products, such as the Belkin WeMo Switch which costs $43, or the WeMo Insight Switch, and Light Switch. Elsewhere, the Hue A19, Lux, BR30, Bloom, and LightStrip are also supported by the Echo to help you control the lights in your home using your voice.
That said, the Echo performs a number of functions that don’t require deep integration with your house — it works as a hands-free, “always on” personal assistant that answers your questions on things like traffic, weather, and other information that’s on the Web. You can also train it to recognize your voice, so if someone else is speaking at the same time, it will focus on your dulcet tones only. In theory, at least.
The Echo also supports third-party audio services such as Pandora, Audible, and Amazon Prime Music, letting you request music without lifting a finger, while it also integrates with Google Calendar so you can “hear” what’s on your upcoming agenda.
Regular Amazon shoppers can also re-order products that are eligible for Amazon Prime shipping, meaning stationary or kitchen supplies are a mere voice-command away.
Though you can pre-order an Amazon Echo from today, it won’t ship until July 14.


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Unread 2015-06-23, 09:24 AM   #3
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I was on the pre-order for echo several months back but ultimately passed feeling like it wasn't going to add any benefit to my automated life.

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Unread 2015-06-23, 11:27 AM   #4
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I was on the pre-order for echo several months back but ultimately passed feeling like it wasn't going to add any benefit to my automated life.

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Poor form. That thing is badass.
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Unread 2015-06-23, 12:32 PM   #5
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Poor form. That thing is badass.
Meh, it's gadgety at best. I don't see it playing well with other devices enough to pull the trigger.
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Unread 2015-06-25, 02:40 PM   #6
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Amazon Echo’s Alexa becomes an open platform to add a digital assistant to any smart item









It looks like Amazon had bigger plans for Alexa than we thought. The digital voice assistant — which is the star of the show for the Amazon Echo that recently went up for pre-sale — is becoming an open platform which developers can use to add voice assistant features to their products.
They’ll do so through the use of the Alexa Skill Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, a collection of APIs and services that’ll allow you to implement Alexa in your products with ease. The Skill Kit is what will allow developers to support Alexa as if their app is one of Amazon’s own, while the Voice Service is what device makers use to implement Alexa in internet-connected hardware.
To kick things off and spur development, Amazon is also putting up a cool $100 million — called the Alexa Fund — to promote development of Alexa apps, devices and give startups the tools they need to be successful with it.
Amazon’s hope is that the end-result will be a wide range of Alexa-capable products that can make your smart home smarter than it already is, and without the need to buy their homegrown unit to do it.
Exciting times ahead indeed, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it. You can take a look at our Amazon Echo review to learn more about Alexa and how it can help you stay on task and up to date on everything in life.
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Unread 2015-08-18, 01:11 PM   #7
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Google’s new OnHub is a $200 Wi-Fi router and smart home hub

Google's take on a Wi-Fi router makes it the communication hub for your home.





This is OnHub. It's a cylinder.




Google today revealed a new smart home hub in the form of the OnHub, a $200 cylindrical router that promises a "new way to Wi-Fi." Users can control it via an app, and Google has promised frequent software updates for the device. The device supports not only 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, but also Bluetooth 4.0 and a few smart home protocols. One such protocol is Weave, the Android team's Internet of Things (IoT) communications layer that it announced at Google I/O alongside Brillo, its Android-derived OS for IoT. It also supports Thread, an IoT wireless protocol created by Google's Nest Labs and Samsung. OnHub also offers IEEE 802.15.4, the basis for Zigbee, another IoT protocol that is popular in many devices.
Smart home communications are kind of a mess right now, so Google appears to be future-proofing the OnHub with its kitchen sink of protocol support.
The device supports 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi with some pretty beefy specs, including a dual-core, 1.4GHz Qualcomm Atheros IPQ8064 with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. With specs like this, we wouldn't be surprised to hear that this runs the Android-based Brillo OS. Surprisingly, there's also a speaker. The big downside is the port selection. There's a single USB 3.0 port, one Ethernet port for your modem, one Ethernet port for a computer, and that's it. All other devices need to connect wirelessly.

A light ring on the top of the black (or blue) device serves as a status indicator for your connection. A green light means your Internet is up and running, while orange means there's a problem. The speaker is used for ultrasonic communication during setup, just like a Chromecast. Inaudible tones are picked up by the app, which identifies your specific OnHub router and ties it to the app.
Google's Nest division bought the smart home hub company Revolv a few years ago, which took a similar "support every IoT protocol out there" approach as OnHub. This product doesn't seem to be from Nest, though. According to a report from The Financial Times, this was built by the Chrome and Google Access (the unit responsible for Google Fiber) teams.
The Financial Times also has the details on what data Google will be collecting. The report says that "12 antennas can regularly scan the local environment to adjust for interference from other wireless networks, based in part on analysis of data samples done in Google’s cloud," so some data is making its way to Google HQ. Google told FT that none of the data will be used to tailor online advertising to the household: "Only information relating to device and network performance will be collected."
The device is controlled from an app called "Google On," which is available for Android and iOS. For now ,the app lets you prioritize traffic to a specific device, monitor Internet usage, and helps with setup and troubleshooting. That doesn't sound like a lot of functionality, but this whole system has the look of a trojan horse Google will expand upon in the future.
It doesn't look like the OnHub name will be exclusive to Google. The hardware announced today is built by TP-Link, but a report from Wired says another OnHub device from Asus is in the works.






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OnHub is up for preorder today for $200, and, according to Amazon, will start shipping August 31.
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Unread 2015-08-18, 01:28 PM   #8
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Google’s new OnHub is a $200 Wi-Fi router and smart home hub

Google's take on a Wi-Fi router makes it the communication hub for your home.





This is OnHub. It's a cylinder.




Google today revealed a new smart home hub in the form of the OnHub, a $200 cylindrical router that promises a "new way to Wi-Fi." Users can control it via an app, and Google has promised frequent software updates for the device. The device supports not only 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, but also Bluetooth 4.0 and a few smart home protocols. One such protocol is Weave, the Android team's Internet of Things (IoT) communications layer that it announced at Google I/O alongside Brillo, its Android-derived OS for IoT. It also supports Thread, an IoT wireless protocol created by Google's Nest Labs and Samsung. OnHub also offers IEEE 802.15.4, the basis for Zigbee, another IoT protocol that is popular in many devices.
Smart home communications are kind of a mess right now, so Google appears to be future-proofing the OnHub with its kitchen sink of protocol support.
The device supports 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi with some pretty beefy specs, including a dual-core, 1.4GHz Qualcomm Atheros IPQ8064 with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. With specs like this, we wouldn't be surprised to hear that this runs the Android-based Brillo OS. Surprisingly, there's also a speaker. The big downside is the port selection. There's a single USB 3.0 port, one Ethernet port for your modem, one Ethernet port for a computer, and that's it. All other devices need to connect wirelessly.

A light ring on the top of the black (or blue) device serves as a status indicator for your connection. A green light means your Internet is up and running, while orange means there's a problem. The speaker is used for ultrasonic communication during setup, just like a Chromecast. Inaudible tones are picked up by the app, which identifies your specific OnHub router and ties it to the app.
Google's Nest division bought the smart home hub company Revolv a few years ago, which took a similar "support every IoT protocol out there" approach as OnHub. This product doesn't seem to be from Nest, though. According to a report from The Financial Times, this was built by the Chrome and Google Access (the unit responsible for Google Fiber) teams.
The Financial Times also has the details on what data Google will be collecting. The report says that "12 antennas can regularly scan the local environment to adjust for interference from other wireless networks, based in part on analysis of data samples done in Google’s cloud," so some data is making its way to Google HQ. Google told FT that none of the data will be used to tailor online advertising to the household: "Only information relating to device and network performance will be collected."
The device is controlled from an app called "Google On," which is available for Android and iOS. For now ,the app lets you prioritize traffic to a specific device, monitor Internet usage, and helps with setup and troubleshooting. That doesn't sound like a lot of functionality, but this whole system has the look of a trojan horse Google will expand upon in the future.
It doesn't look like the OnHub name will be exclusive to Google. The hardware announced today is built by TP-Link, but a report from Wired says another OnHub device from Asus is in the works.






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OnHub is up for preorder today for $200, and, according to Amazon, will start shipping August 31.
What an incredibly, uninformative video
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Unread 2015-08-18, 01:51 PM   #9
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What an incredibly, uninformative video
>google

par for the course.
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Unread 2015-08-18, 02:12 PM   #10
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Official page: https://on.google.com/hub/
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Unread 2015-08-31, 08:49 AM   #11
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Google OnHub review: Routers don't have to be so complicated

If you're like me, a cold feeling of dread grips your heart every time your internet goes out. "Is Comcast down," I ask myself, "or is my horrible router misbehaving yet again?" This usually follows 10 minutes of unplugging and then plugging things back in, waiting and hoping for your internet connection to be restored, because there's no easy way to troubleshoot otherwise. And that's not to mention that setting up a router or completing a simple task like renaming your network or changing its password is usually far more of a chore than it should be. There has to be a better way.
Google believes that its new OnHub wireless router is a step forward. Made in partnership with TP-Link, it's a powerful, intelligent and, yes, beautiful home networking device with a high price to match. Google is betting that the combination of ease of use and attractive design is the path wireless routers need to follow -- but those features come at the expense of others you'd typically expect from a $200 router. The question: Has Google made the right trade-offs to justify the OnHub's price?
Gallery | 10 Photos
Google OnHub review


81
Google OnHub


Pros
  • Intelligently designed hardware
  • Strong wireless signal with excellent range
  • Dead-simple setup and troubleshooting
  • Excellent mobile app

Cons
  • Lacks some features found in similarly priced hardware
  • Expensive
  • Only one Ethernet port


Summary Google’s OnHub is missing some of the advanced features found in similarly priced routers, but it makes up for that with excellent, powerful hardware that looks good in your home and a great app that makes setup, maintenance and troubleshooting easy. The trade-off should be worth it for most consumers -- if you’re tired of dealing with the horrible software and ugly hardware that most routers feature, the OnHub is an excellent option.



Hardware


The premium experience Google is shooting for here starts before you even get the OnHub out of the box. The packaging is thoughtfully designed; it reminded me of unboxing an iPod in the days of yore. Certainly, it's the most elegant non-Apple router unboxing I've ever encountered.
And then there's the OnHub itself: a cylindrical tube that's ever so slightly wider at the top than at the base. A removable plastic shell (available in blue or black) snaps into place surrounding the guts of the hardware, all of which are encased in the gray tube, which that shell hides away. A little bit of the tube peeks out over the cover, with an LED ring surrounding it that immediately brings to mind the ill-fated Nexus Q music and video-streamer. There are no sci-fi antennas or hard angles to be seen here. Google even included special flat Ethernet cables that can easily wrap around its base to be more unobtrusive. It is, without a doubt, the nicest-looking router I've ever used.
But who cares? This is something you'll set up and hide away and hopefully forget about, until it misbehaves, right? On the contrary, Google designed this router so you'd be inclined to place it out in the open, hopefully on a high shelf somewhere. That's because Google believes the most important thing it can do to improve people's WiFi experience is making a product they won't want to hide away in a closet. Mission accomplished: I've typically obscured my ASUS router behind my TV, but I have no problem displaying the OnHub on my media stand.
The thoughtful design isn't restricted to just looks, either -- Google picked a cylindrical router to help aid with signal distribution. Around the inside of the cylinder are the 2.4 and 5GHz wireless antennas; three pairs of antennas for each band are evenly distributed around the cylinder, and there's another large 2.4GHz antenna built right into the casing itself.

The rest of the OnHub's guts are about what you'd expect for a router in this price range: It's an AC1900 device that covers all 802.11 bands in use at this point (a/b/g/n/ac, if you're counting). Its WiFi radio can detect congestion and move devices between the 2.4 and 5GHz bands for optimal performance; there's no need to set up an additional 5GHz SSID as many routers do these days. Google even included support for Bluetooth, Weave (Google's Internet of Things protocol) and the ZigBee local wireless networking standard, even though they don't do anything yet -- Google says it can enable them in future software updates. That's part of the whole OnHub concept: a router that can get smarter and better as years pass.
Google did leave out a few things that are generally table stakes for a router in this class. Notably, there are only two Ethernet ports: one to plug the OnHub into your modem, and one to use for wired internet. Most routers in this price range include four ports for hooking up wired devices. Google's clearly looking at that as a legacy feature that doesn't have a place in our modern, wireless world -- something that fits with Google's larger ethos. It didn't bother me, but it's definitely something to be aware of. Additionally, the single USB 3.0 port is essentially useless. You can't hook up a networked printer or hard drive here; its only purpose is for USB recovery if the internal software gets horribly corrupted. If you're a power user who relies on more Ethernet ports or USB connectivity, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Software

Setup

If distinctive, elegant hardware is one of Google's major tentpoles for OnHub, equally elegant and intuitive software is the other. Nearly every router out there has simply atrocious software; even doing basic things like setting a password or changing the name of your network can be a real hassle for the average user. Google's gone in the opposite direction and crafted an interface that's simpler than any I've ever seen -- but again, it's at the expense of features that power users might crave.
The first thing to note is that everything on the OnHub is done through the Google On app on your mobile device, available for Android 4.0 and iOS 7 or higher. Google told me that it will eventually offer a simple web interface for setting up the OnHub, but at launch, a smartphone or tablet is required.
The setup process is incredibly simple, particularly if you're using Android. Once you download the application and log in with your Google account, just tap the "add new OnHub" prompt to start setup. The app will detect if there's an OnHub nearby that's in setup mode; once it finds the new OnHub, your phone will prompt you to move right next to the router. That's because the OnHub will then play an audio tone that's used to pair the router with your phone and your Google account. Once your phone recognizes the code, you're prompted to enter a network name and password, and that's it. You wait a minute or two, and the OnHub should be good to go. (You'll know it's up and running when the LED ring stays blue.)

Sadly, the process for setting up the OnHub with an iOS device is less elegant, although not necessarily more difficult. Instead of the audio tone, you connect to the router using the standard iOS wireless settings with a default network and password found underneath the device. Then, when you jump back into the OnHub app, you'll set up your permanent username and password and the router will finish setup automatically. Either way, it's faster and simpler than just about any router installation I've experienced. It feels very Apple-esque in its focus on just the basics -- in fact, it's even easier to set up than Apple's routers.
In use

Once you're up and running, the OnHub app gives you an overview of your entire network, providing useful tools that are generally buried deep in the settings on other routers. At a glance you can see if both your internet connection (from your ISP) and your router are functioning properly; you can also see how many devices are hooked up to your network. Tapping on the number of devices brings you to a detailed view that shows the bandwidth being used by each individual device as well as its name on your network. So if your PS4 is hogging all the bandwidth in the house, you'll be able to see it here.
Beyond the real-time view of each device's upload and download speeds, you can also switch things to a one-hour, seven-day or 30-day view to see exactly how much data has been uploaded and downloaded to each device. You can also see total data usage stats for your entire network. It's another thing I've always wondered about, but never bothered to do the research to discover -- the Google On app puts it front and center for you.
Another feature built into the app is a speed test, one that provides more detail than what you see on, say, Speedtest.net. Google tests your network connection in two ways. First, it checks your speed between the router and your internet provider. Then, it tests the strength of the connection between the OnHub and your device and presents this as an "efficiency" percentage. So if your internet speed is rated at 50 Mbps and your device is seeing WiFi efficiency of 90 percent, that means your phone is getting speeds of 45 Mbps (you can see this calculation if you tap on the efficiency score).
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Unread 2015-08-31, 08:49 AM   #12
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While this is a little more complicated than other speed tests, it's actually very helpful in diagnosing internet problems; you can clearly see if there's a problem with your ISP or if you just have a bad connection to your router. And Google explains the results in plain language, noting that your connection is strong enough to play Ultra HD video, for example. But if you're too far from the router, it'll tell you that as well, with a warning that you might see decreased performance because of a weak WiFi connection. For people who don't know what upload and download numbers really represent, the additional context is definitely useful.
There are a few other features included in the app that are worth noting. You can quickly share your network name and password with friends via text, email and other typical sharing options -- handy for when you have guests over. There's also an option for adding other users to your OnHub, so multiple members of your family can control it, even when they're not home (something that should be great for remote troubleshooting).You can even reboot it remotely from the app, rather than having to unplug the OnHub when things are going wrong. There are a few settings for the router itself, including adjusting the brightness of the OnHub's LED ring and giving the router a new name.
As for more advanced options, you can adjust the DNS, forward ports, set up static IP addresses and tweak a few other settings. There's also an option to prioritize bandwidth to a single device on the network for one, two or four hours. Other devices will stay connected, but the priority device will get the best performance. But for the most part, the OnHub's feature set is more basic than you might find in other routers in this price range. Just as with the hardware, Google's trading complexity for ease of use. Hopefully support if you have bigger problems will be just as easy: Google says it's offering phone support seven days a week, and the Google On app will also give you suggestions to fix whatever problems you're having.
Performance

None of this matters if the OnHub doesn't perform like a $200 router should, but fortunately, that's not a problem. Every device I tried (Macs, Windows PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, set-top boxes, consoles and more) connected quickly and without incident. I didn't get a speed boost, but then again, the ASUS router I've been using is no slouch, so I wasn't really expecting much of an upgrade in that regard.
It does seem that the OnHub's clever antenna design actually offers better range than I was getting with the ASUS. Unscientifically, I pulled out my phone while walking my dogs up and down the block outside my house and was shocked to see that I still had a usable WiFi connection. Usually, my iPhone will stay connected to the ASUS router, but I can't actually get any data to come through. But the OnHub was able to pump out a usable, albeit slow, signal much farther away from my living room than I expected.
Of course, the OnHub isn't magic, and thus it couldn't extend a strong signal to the parts of my small house that the ASUS was also unable to reach very well. That's just a simple matter of physics; there are just too many walls in the way to get a full-strength signal to one room. But in general, the signal stayed strong. Even as I got farther away from the router and the "efficiency" rating started to drop, I generally had enough bandwidth coming in to keep my devices running nice and fast. That's not unique to the OnHub, though -- any $200 router should be able to do that.
The competition

There are dozens and dozens of routers out there, but the most obvious point of comparison is Apple's Airport Extreme. Both routers are priced the same, have similar specifications and have a focus on simplicity rather than every feature they could possibly include. In this case, though, Google's option is even easier to use and includes fewer hardware features -- even the Airport Extreme has three Ethernet ports and a functional USB port.
But while the feature sets are a bit different, it feels like Google and Apple are both going after similar customers here: the type of person who wants an easy setup and a powerful signal without having to fuss around too much. If that's not you, there are numerous other options out there for you to check out.
Wrap-up


For a small segment of the market, Google's OnHub will be a tough sell. Some consumers who typically spend $200 on a router are going to be looking for customization options and features that just aren't offered here. (That's not to mention the lack of Ethernet ports!) But for the majority of customers who don't need advanced networking options, the OnHub presents a compelling vision for how simple managing your home's wireless network could be. It's an attractive piece of hardware that works well, is easy to set up and is easy to manage once it's up and running.
If you've ever spent the afternoon banging your head against the wall trying to get your WiFi network up and running, the OnHub might well be the right router for you, despite its high price. Again, there are some power users who will need more than the OnHub offers, and this simply isn't for them. If you place a bigger premium on design and simplicity, and don't mind the cost, the OnHub is easy to recommend.
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Unread 2015-08-31, 10:44 AM   #13
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LG sensor adds smarts to your 'dumb' home appliances





Sure, it's easy to find connected home appliances, but what if you want to add a dash of intelligence to many of your existing appliances (not just one or two)? LG might come to your rescue before long. It's launching a SmartThinQ Sensor which uses feedback like temperature and vibration to tell you what your devices are doing. It can tell when your washer has finished by waiting for the shaking to stop, for instance, or tell you if someone left the fridge door open while you were out. In some cases, you can even remotely control those older machines. There's no word on when the sensor arrives, but it'll be joined by the smartphone-controlled Smart Lightwave Oven and Smart Air Conditioner at the upcoming IFA trade show.
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Unread 2015-08-31, 11:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuddyLee View Post
I was on the pre-order for echo several months back but ultimately passed feeling like it wasn't going to add any benefit to my automated life.
Same here, I tried to like it enough to buy it. The only thing Amazon that I'd have is Amazon Fire TV's. That's it.
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Unread 2015-10-01, 09:19 AM   #15
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Nest's Big Solution for Smart Homes Is Here and It Looks Awesome



1
We saw this one coming. Everyone’s favorite smart thermostat, Nest, is now ready to take over your entire home with a new protocol that lets all kinds of devices talk to each other quickly and seamlessly. It’s called Nest Weave.
Nest Weave’s primary objective is to make smart homes less dumb. In fact, the Nest team is pushing a novel phrase to describe what its software creates: “the thoughtful home.” The verbiage makes sense, since most people probably don’t want their homes to become artificially intelligent or weirdly automated. So now, products marked with the “Works With Nest” logo will talk to each other more gracefully and efficiently. Nest Weave is designed to make your home more intuitive, more helpful—more thoughtful.
What does that actually mean? It means that Nest Cam will sense motion when your house is empty and turn on the lights as if someone were there; the ability to leave your house and knowing the door will lock itself; and that that these things will happen almost instantaneously thanks to the unique mesh networking approaching.


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Once again, this isn’t a big surprise. Google teased the new Weave standard earlier this year and even noted that it was built by Nest’s engineers. (Google bought Nest last year for $3.2 billion.) Weave is an ambitious push to put that technology in millions of homes.
Using the Thread protocol as well as wifi, Nest Weave creates a de facto mesh network between your devices that ensures devices throughout the house work well with little latency, regardless of how far they are from a router. Meanwhile, a Nest product—either the Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect, Nest Cam, or any combination of the three—will operate as hubs of sorts to keep everything connected.
There’s the rub: You need to own a Nest product to take advantage of Weave. But with the Nest Protect starting at $100, you can get the functionality that other home hubs offer without the need to buy a hub, a device that otherwise does nothing besides link your smart home devices and take up space. If you happen to go for the Nest Cam, you’ll get to take advantage of new features in your devices thanks to a new camera API that developers should love.

On that note, the new family of devices that will support Nest Weave sounds pretty robust. The new Linus lock by Yale (pictured above) is the first company to officially support Nest Weave. It comes with a laundry list of useful features from the ability to check when your door is open and closed to the luxury of setting up friends with custom pass codes that offer different levels of access. Other companies on board with Nest Weave include—but are not limited to—Philips hue, August smart locks, SkyBell, Lutron, GE, and iHome. Quite conveniently, Nest is also launching the Nest Store, so that you can shop for all Works With Nest products.
[Nest]
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Unread 2015-10-27, 02:38 PM   #16
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Google Now Has a Second, Even More Expensive OnHub Router






Over the summer we got a first look at Google’s plans to fix you crappy home networking situation. The first OnHub router, manufactured by TP-Link, was pretty cool–and very expensive. Now Google’s got yet another OnHub router, this time made by Asus. It’s even more expensive.
Google OnHub is a great idea on paper. For the most part, home networking is a headache. When your wifi’s not working, you never quite know why it’s not working. All you get is blinking lights that don’t tell you anything. Basically your only recourse is to unplug the router and hope that firing it back up solves the problem.



OnHub solves this with an app, which allows you to do things like monitor who’s connected to the network, diagnose potential problems, and prioritize connectivity to one device or another. The TP-Link router worked well, even if it wasn’t exactly worth $200.
Well, get ready, because the new Asus OnHub router costs...$220! Even more money! Like the TP-Link OnHub, it has an attractive vaguely conical design, and sports a ring of LED light that tells you what emotions your network is feeling at the moment.
The router’s main new feature is the ability to prioritize traffic to a device by waving your hand over the OnHub. I’m having a hard time imagining how the mechanics of this feature actually work, but here’s how they describe it:
Control OnHub by waving your hand over its top. For example, just wave to prioritize a device to make sure it has enough bandwidth, like your Chromecast while streaming a movie.
OK!
As before, the Asus OnHub isn’s shipping with all its powers full enabled. You’re investing in the future. Over time it should get more features. As starting point, $220 feels a little pricey. But the core concept–a smarter, friendlier router–is something I can’t help but support.
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Unread 2015-12-02, 12:18 PM   #17
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SwannOne Now Works With Nest, Phillips Hue & More





Smart, connected homes and the Internet of Things are considered by some to be the wave of the future. Whether or not that’s the case, there’s no denying that having a smart home could be extremely useful, from helping you to make things more convenient to helping you save on energy costs. Smart home devices can actually provide plenty of useful functions, and it’s no surprise that many of the products are compatible with each other and work together to make the experiences more seamless for their users. There are even all-in-one solutions which aim to make it as simple as possible for homeowners to keep things to a single set of products as opposed to a bunch of mix and matched items.
One such option is a connected home system called the SwannOne, and it’s just gotten more versatile as Swan has announced a range of new partners that have made their products compatible with Swann’s singular solution for all-inclusive smart home monitoring and management. The new products that are compatible include things like the Nest learning thermostat, Samsung’s Smart Things power outlets, smart door locks from Kwikset, Yale, and Lockwood, Phillips Hue lights, Centralite 3-series appliance modules and more. Like any app or product that aggregates functionality, the SwannOne app that pairs with the smart home system acts as a one-stop solution for managing the features of all the smart home products a consumer might have. This makes it so that everything can be controlled from one place, thus not only making things simpler and more convenient but also faster.
In addition to combining the control and monitoring of many smart home products into one place, SwannOne also has its own set of features and uses for which it provides through the various devices that are included in the kit. Swann also offers multiple kits depending on the needs of the consumer, some including a more basic starter setup while others contain everything you need for a complete package. Swann’s smart home products can also be purchased individually, allowing consumers to customize their experience by choosing a combination of a specific kit and the individual products they want, and the products are available from both Amazon as well as the Swann website. They can also be found at other retailers like Fred Meyer and Fry’s Electronics.
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Unread 2015-12-02, 09:03 PM   #18
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I'd love to get that Asus OnHub router, but the lack of ethernet ports limit me. I guess I could always get a switch but it's more things to clutter it up.
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Unread 2016-01-13, 06:08 PM   #19
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Sony's New 'Light' Wants To Be the Brain Behind Your Smart Home






Calling Sony’s new smart light a “light” is doing this weird gizmo a disservice—it’s much more than that.
Unappealingly named a “Multifunctional Light,” this ceiling gadget has temperature, humidity, and luminance sensors and can even detect when you’re home, turn on the TV, control the AC, and play music. Oh, it’s also a light.


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All this tech wizardry is controlled and customized with a smartphone, and the fixture itself comes in solid white or transparent. If Sony’s super light works as advertised, it would definitely be the most fully featured smart bulb we’ve ever seen. It’s kind of like a Nest and Amazon Echo rolled into… a light.


Bad news is so far the light is destined for Japan in the first half of 2016. We also have no idea how much something like this would cost. But if you ever wondered how crazy smart bulbs were willing to go, I think you have your answer—for now, at least.
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Unread 2016-10-25, 04:55 PM   #20
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Logitech’s Pop Home Switch Makes Smart Home Control Easier





Smart Home controllers and products may seem like a complex network of connected devices that takes a lot of work to get things to run smoothly, but in many cases it couldn’t be further from the truth, and that’s what Logitech is aiming to bring to the market with their newly launched Pop Home Switch. It’s essentially a light switch that you can use to power on and manage all your other smart home products, and it’s fairly simple as it’s completely wireless and it’s battery operated, meaning that you can place it pretty much anywhere around the home and it will work so long as it can stay connected to the Wi-Fi network.
Now, there are a couple of caveats. For the Pop Home Switch to work, you’ll also need to have the Pop Bridge, a separate piece of equipment, and have the Pop App installed on your device. Once those two pieces are in order, you can set up as many Pop Home Switches as you need and configure them to manage whichever products you like. If you’re scoffing at the idea of extra equipment, Logitech has packed everything into a nice and neat little starter pack for just £119.99, which comes with the Pop Bridge, a Pop Home Switch, and an add-on Pop Home Switch for you to use somewhere else around the home.

If you need more you can add on even more additional Pop Home Switches at a cost of £34.99. If you live in the U.S., Logitech has these available for $99.99 and $39.99 respectively, and you can even pick them up at Amazon. Logitech also offers these in a range of colors, which include white, coral, teal, and alloy, although you can only buy the additional colors in the add-on switch and not the starter pack. Setup is rather easy. You simply take the Pop Bridge and plug it into a wall outlet, pop the batteries in your switches, place them where you want, then proceed to open up the app and set things up. Right from the start the Pop Home Switch is compatible with various other smart home products, like the Philips Hue, Lutron, and LIFX smart lights, Sonos speakers, Belkin Wemo Switches, August Smart Locks, and of course Logitech’s latest Harmony remotes including the Harmony Pro, Harmony Elite, and more. As the Pop Home Switch is wall mountable, it can work just like a regular light, and still provide all the smart functions you may want, and with the simple design they look rather unassuming, letting them blend in so as not to draw too much attention.

Buy The Logitech Pop Home Switch
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Unread 2016-12-13, 03:54 PM   #21
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Google's taking Brillo into smart homes with Android Things

The stripped-down OS is out as a developer preview, along with updates to Weave





Credit: Pixabay







Android is headed to the internet of things in the form of Android Things, an operating system that grew out of Project Brillo and will be able to get updates directly from Google.
With the home IoT industry still emerging from the hobbyist realm to mass market, Android’s traction in the smartphone realm could make it a popular platform for devices like lights, locks, thermostats, and household appliances that consumers want to manage through their phones.
On Tuesday, Google announced a developer preview of Android Things, which will be able to run on the Raspberry Pi 3, Intel Edison, and NXP Pico hardware platforms. It will be easy for developers to scale their prototypes up to large production runs using custom versions of those boards, Google says.
Google announced Project Brillo at the Google I/O conference in May 2015 along with Weave, a platform for IoT device and cloud communication. The idea behind Brillo was to create a stripped-down version of Android for devices that are smaller and less powerful than smartphones.
Android Things incorporates the feedback that Brillo generated, the company says. It’s designed to let developers quickly build devices that can use Android APIs and Google services. Android Things will include tools such as the Android SDK (software development kit), the Google Cloud Platform, Google Play Services, and Android Studio.
Google will be able to update Android Things devices directly, a key feature both for security and for adding features over time. The updating capability will be available for the developer preview in the coming months, Google says. That feature will also allow developers to send out their own updates to their devices.
Also on Tuesday, Google said it’s updating its Weave IoT communications platform with a version that will make it easier for IoT gear to connect to the cloud and use Google services. The Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings product lines already use Weave, and other vendors – including Honeywell, LiFX, and Belkin WeMo – are implementing it, Google says.
Weave includes an SDK with schemas for light bulbs, smart switches, smart plugs, and thermostats. Google says more schemas are on the way.

The company is also working to merge Weave with Nest Weave, a protocol for communication among products from Google parent Alphabet’s Nest division and between those devices and ones from other vendors.
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Unread 2017-03-28, 11:30 AM   #22
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IKEA Introduces TRÅDFRI Smart Lighting System, Bulbs as Low as $11.99





If you have yet to jump into the world of smart lights, I certainly can understand. After all, these things (Philips products in particular) are pretty damn expensive. But what if IKEA offered up a solution that wasn’t cheap, but also wasn’t ridiculously expensive? Hopefully, that sounds appealing, because their new TRÅDFRI smart lighting system is on the way!
The TRÅDFRI line will be available outside of the US in select countries on March 31, from what we can tell, but the US stores are gearing up for release too it seems. If you hit up that link below, you’ll find all of the TRÅDFRI products already listed on the US IKEA site, with pricing, descriptions, manuals, etc. You can’t buy them just yet, but I doubt the launch is far off.
So far, TRÅDFRI products include a gateway kit for $79.99 that includes two smart lights, a dimmer switch, and the hub that all of your lights attach to. Single lights (E26) cost just $11.99, plus there are additional light options, remote control switches, motion sensor kits, etc. on the way.
This new line works with ZigBee Light Link (ZLL), which is the same technology behind Philips Hue.
Android and iOS apps will allow you to control the system.
IKEA TRÅDFRI Link


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Unread 2017-05-03, 01:53 PM   #23
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ecobee4 Smart Thermostat With Alexa Announced, Priced at Just $249





ecobee, makers of smart thermostats, announced the latest iteration of its lineup this morning, the ecobee4 with Amazon Alexa integration.
Already similar to previous versions of ecobee, the big change for ecobee4 is this Amazon Alexa integration. ecobee products already support being controlled via an Amazon Echo, but with Alexa Voice Services built right into the thermostat, the “smartness” of the thermostat is getting a big boost. According to ecobee, you’ll be managing your home’s temperature, energy usage, as well as busy life via ecobee4.
Just like an Amazon Echo, the ecobee4 features far-field voice recognition. With it, you can adjust your temperature from anywhere in the room, set a kitchen timer, plan your commute, or get a briefing on the news. However, if you want to do things the old fashioned way, the ecobee4 continues to feature a digital touchscreen for manual input, as well as an app for Android and iOS devices for controlling it that way. And yes, ecobee4 supports ecobee’s room sensors for that housewide comfort.

To make this announcement even more special, ecobee also detailed upcoming Alexa-powered smart light switches. Set to be available later this year for an unknown price, these light switches take the place of ecobee’s room sensors, measuring occupancy of a room, plus the overall temperature. Each smart light switch is voice enabled with far-field recognition, allowing you to control your home’s comfort levels from wherever you are. It’s like having little Alexa portals throughout your home, but they also control your lights.
The price for ecobee4 is set at a reasonable $249. That might seem high, but considering a Nest runs you the same price, and doesn’t have Alexa built into it, the ecobee4 is extremely tantalizing.
Pre-orders are available today, with general availability beginning May 15.
Pre-Order
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Unread 2017-05-04, 01:00 PM   #24
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GE's Alexa lamp is called Sol and it costs $200

Expected to ship in September, GE's funky-looking lamp with voice-activated Alexa smarts will cost more than the Amazon Echo.




It's been almost six months to the day since GE announced plans to pack Amazon's voice assistant Alexa into a unique-looking table lamp. Now, we finally know a little more about it.
Up first, an updated name. Originally pitched as the C by GE lamp (the same branding as GE's low-cost Bluetooth smart bulbs), the fixture is now the C by GE Sol -- a solar nod to the lamp's eye-catching circular design.
We've also finally heard how much the Sol will cost at retail: $200. That's higher than expected, given that GE initially told us that the plan was to sell the lamp for less than the price of an Amazon Echo smart speaker, which costs $180. That said, anyone who pre-orders the Sol will get it at a 20 percent discount, bringing the price down to $160.
With a small speaker and microphone setup in its base, the Sol is basically an Amazon Echo Dot with two rings of light growing out of its head. You can ask the lamp to stream some music, give you a weather update, set a timer, tell you a joke, or access any of the more than 10,000 skills in Alexa's database. You can also ask it to dim the light up and down, or to switch it between yellowy soft white and bluish-white daylight tones. GE also tells us that you can pair visual light cues with everyday tasks -- light that mimics the hands of a clock when you ask the time, for instance.
Another tidbit: the C by GE smart bulbs will soon be adding compatibility with both Alexa and Apple HomeKit this summer. The addition of HomeKit support means that you'll be able to control them alongside other HomeKit-compatible gadgets in Apple's Home app for iOS, or control them using Siri voice commands.


I asked GE if HomeKit support was in the works for the Sol, as well. A spokesperson would only tell me that GE was "proud to launch Sol with Amazon Alexa," though they added that, "in the future, it could be expanded to other voice services." Time will tell.
GE now expects the Sol to ship this September from Amazon.com and from CbyGE.com. Preorders are live now -- we'll have more once ours arrives at the CNET Smart Home.
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Unread 2017-05-30, 11:01 AM   #25
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Meet Essential Home: an alternative to Amazon Echo and Google Home







Andy Rubin’s Essential Products has revealed a new device that goes head to head with Amazon’s Alexa-powered speakers and the Google Home. Called the Essential Home, it’s basically a digital assistant for your house that is equipped with a round screen and can be activated with a question, a tap, and even a glance.








So, what exactly does it do? Well, it allows you to control your music, set timers, and control your lights, among other things. Of course, you can also ask it a bunch of different questions and it should provide you with an answer right away.

It basically does more or less the same thing as its competitors. However, the company does claim that the device is a lot more focused on privacy. Unlike the Google Home and Amazon Echo, for example, which work by sending your data to a remote server, the Essential Home is designed to talk to devices over your in-home network in order to limit sending data to the cloud.


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Unfortunately, a lot of the details regarding the device remain a mystery for now. The company hasn’t announced how much it will retail for and when it will be available. It hasn’t even shared any real-life images of the Essential Home, but it did post a few renders online that show the device in action.







The demand for devices like the Essential Home is increasing, so it’s no wonder that more companies are entering the market. According to a recent report by eMarketer, Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are way ahead of the competition when it comes to sales. They are expected to claim a 70.6 percent share of the US market in 2017, followed by the Google Home with a market share of 23.8 percent.
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