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Unread 2017-05-31, 01:28 PM   #26
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[Update: New details from Recode interview] Essential Home is Andy Rubin's answer to Google Home and Amazon Echo


Android co-founder Andy Rubin finally unveiled Essential's much-anticipated new phone today, the almost bezel-less PH-1. In an industry besieged by leaks, it's rare for any device to be launched these days without knowing exactly what it'll look like. Not only did Essential manage to keep the PH-1 pretty much a secret, except for the teaser images they released themselves, they also manage to complete conceal the fact that they would be announcing another full-fledged product at the same time. Much to everyone's surprise, we've now been introduced to Essential Home, the company's smart assistant competitor.

The little puck-sized device kind of looks like the offspring of an unlikely relationship between a Google Home and an Amazon Echo Dot. It's got the angled top of the former with the size and styling of the latter but goes further than both of them with its own touchscreen. I guess in that respect Essential Home is like an Echo Show, except it actually looks like it was designed this century. In Essential's own words it's a device "that you’ll actually be proud to display in your home. No boxes, tubes or strange lights." It's a subtle dig at its competitors, but looking at the images of the new device it's arguably not without merit.
Aside from the device's looks, we know that Essential Home will run it's own proprietary operating system, dubbed Ambient OS. Apparently, the software will be capable of "introducing itself" to other smart devices in your home in order to provide a smooth set up experience, but you'll still get the final say on whether any devices will actually be controllable by the Essential system. The "auto-display" can be activated in 3 different ways, via voice, tapping, or simply glancing at the screen. It'll also awaken itself to alert you about contextual information, like to tell you to leave for an appointment, for example.
Past those details, we don't yet know much about Essential Home. The website will take your email and update you when information about a release date and price is announced. Developers wishing to use the Ambient OS API can also submit their details to be notified in due course. So we'll have to hang tight for the time being and await further news. In the meantime, let us know what you think about it in the comments.
Update: 2017/05/31 4:22am PDT Andy Rubin was interviewed by Walt Mossberg at Recode's 2017 conference yesterday and shared a few more thoughts about Essential Home and the PH-1 smartphone. Most interesting was Rubin's assertion that he wants Essential's smart home assistant to be compatible with Apple's Siri, Amazon's Echo, and the Google Assistant. He says Essential is in conversation with the companies about integrating their technologies with his device's Ambient OS. It hard to say how successful (if at all) any of those conversations will be, but it's a very bold statement by Rubin.
Despite wanting Ambient OS to play nice with other smart home platforms, he also affirms that it will work fine out of the box as a standalone assistant, and also that it will be open source, meaning that it will be available for developers to tinker with and improve.
Watch the interview to hear more of what Rubin has to say.
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Unread 2017-11-14, 04:10 PM   #27
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ecobee Smart Thermostats Now Support Google Assistant



ecobee smart thermostats now support Google Assistant, according to a press release that went up this morning.
To specify, this integration is supported on the ecobee3 lite, ecobee3 and ecobee4. With it, users can say, “Ok Google, make my home warmer,” among other commands to control their thermostats via a smartphone or Google Home.
As for how you set it up, head into the Home app (Google Home), then proceed into the Home Control settings menu. From here, add your ecobee device and link your accounts, then you’re good to go. It’s pretty painless and once you’re set up, you’ll be controlling ecobee with nothing but your voice.
Get on it.
// ecobee
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Unread 2018-01-02, 03:11 PM   #28
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GE is making a smart ceiling light and light switch with Alexa and Google Assistant


Image: GE GE is previewing two new entries to its C by GE line of smart lighting products today that are slated to arrive later this year: a ceiling light and a light switch. While they sound pretty basic on the surface, they both come with one less-than-standard feature — the ability to control Alexa and Google Assistant.
The ceiling light is a large disk with a speaker in the middle that’s meant to be the primary light in a room. The light supports voice controls and feedback, so you can talk to it to control smart home gadgets and get answers from your assistant of choice. GE also says it’ll have the ability to play music.
Image: GE You probably won’t want to listen to music on GE’s light switch, but it supports all the same features. It’s an in-wall switch, so it has the added benefit of controlling whichever standard (non-smart) light bulbs it’s connected to. It also includes built-in motion, temperature, and humidity sensors. It’s not totally clear what they’ll be used for right now (you’d have to link them to non-GE products to get the most out of them), but they seem to suggest C by GE products planned in other categories, like heating.
Both the switch and the ceiling light have built-in hubs that let them control other C by GE lights, too. GE also plans to add HomeKit support to all of its smart lights. That support is still expected to arrive within the next few months.
None of these products are actually coming out right away. The announcements are meant to preview what GE is bringing to its C line of lights over the course of this year. Teasing the expansion could encourage people to buy in if they like where it’s going.
That said, GE has a ways to go to prove this system out. The line is built around expensive Bluetooth-connected bulbs without a lot of options. While the line is very easy to get started with, it’s expensive and limited if you want to expand it into something more robust. With today’s announcement, GE seems to be saying that it has more serious plans for the line going forward, but it’ll still need a lot more lights before the line can be used all on its own.
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Unread 2018-01-08, 03:27 PM   #29
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Flo Is An Android-Compatible Smart Water Monitoring System – CES 2018




As CES 2018 kicked off, Flo has announced a new home water monitoring system that calculates water pressure and other variables in order to alert homeowners of possible problems. The product – also called Flo – is relatively inexpensive compared to the problems it aims to fix and prevent. Leaking or burst pipes can result in substantially expensive water damage and waste but Flo aims to actively address those problems for the cost of a single device set to sell at only $499 when it begins shipping in February. In the meantime, Flo is already available for purchase via the company’s website – which is accessible by referring to the source link below.


As to how Flo works, the water management and monitoring system first needs to be installed in a given home’s water system. From there, it utilizes machine learning and IoT connectivity to actively monitor that system. Once installed, the system immediately begins to personalize its readings since home water systems tend to vary from household to household. By incorporating water pressure sensors and an array of other sensors, the system can detect a wide variety of problems ranging from a toilet that runs unnecessarily to burst pipes. In fact, according to the company, Flo can detect a leak as small as only a drop or two per minute, but can also detect if a pipe is about to freeze or if pressure is too high. Both of those are leading causes of pipes bursting. If a problem is noticed, Flo will alert the homeowner via a connected (Android) smartphone and associated application. If it’s a major problem, such as a burst pipe or pipe that is on the verge of bursting, the system will automatically cut the flow of water through the household. Conversely, if a homeowner or plumber needs to make a repair to address a smaller issue, an in-app toggle can be used to the same effect. All of that, from the active monitoring of water flow to alerts and water shut-off, is available in real time.






On top of that, Flo has also announced a partnership with California-based American Leak Detection that will give owners a nationwide network of ALD plumbers to assist homeowners with less plumbing experience get answers, estimates, and services, in addition to getting Flo installed. Meanwhile, for those attending the Las Vegas event, demonstrations of Flo will take place over the course of this week.




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Unread 2018-01-08, 03:28 PM   #30
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New Smart Home Thermostat Unveiled By Alarms.com – CES 2018




Continuing with the ongoing IoT and home automation thread of CES 2018, Alarm.com has now revealed a second-generation of its thermostat designed to safeguard against some of the most commonly-occurring property damage. In addition to performing the standard thermostat functions, the new device will also automate some preventative actions, while also alerting homeowners to problems ranging from HVAC failures to flooding and mold prevention. Built by and in conjunction with Alarms.com subsidiary Building 36, perhaps the best feature of the new system is that it is nearly universally compatible with all 24 volt HVAC systems. Moreover, it will automatically detect HVAC wiring in order to more easily configure itself with a given home’s settings for integration with humidifiers, de-humidifiers, and externally located air baffles. Although the company still hasn’t revealed the cost of the new system, it is expected to be available beginning in May of this year.


Of course, the basis for Alarm.com’s new thermostat is that it utilizes machine learning algorithms to prevent major home damage and associated repair costs. There are several factors tying into that, which set this system apart from others. First, the new thermostat will automatically detect room temperatures, whether or not a door or window may be open, time of day, and occupancy changes – including whether or not the system’s users are home, based on geo-location. That information is used to allow the system to automatically adjust itself for optimal efficiency and comfort. However, it will also automatically balance the temperature with humidity of a given area in order to prevent mold from building up and alert homeowners if their pipes might freeze because of environmental conditions. That’s a great feature to have since damage is often caused by frozen pipes, leading to flooding and further compromises to structural integrity that can be very expensive to fix. Finally, the thermostat monitors the overall HVAC system, in order to provide early alerts to problems before they may have even been noticed by a homeowner and long before the entire system needs to be repaired.






Meanwhile, all of that fits neatly into a sleek modern design, with a completely reworked user-interface that Alarms.com hopes will make the system easier to understand and use. That, in combination with the functions and features on offer, should make the new thermostat well worth a look for home and property owners when it is finally pushed to market in a couple of months.
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Unread 2018-01-10, 10:23 AM   #31
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Huawei hops on the mesh network bandwagon with the WiFi Q2




At CES 2018, Huawei announced its new home network/router solution, the WiFi Q2. Although similar to other products on the market, like Google's or Netgear's offerings, the WiFi Q2 differs slightly in that it's "the world's first" hybrid system for blanketing your home in wireless signal.
Combining a "unique G.hn" 1Gbps powerline connection (PLC) with a mesh system (1,867Mbps backhaul and load balance support), Huawei is hoping to reduce the amount of dead areas in your coverage. It is supposed to be user friendly, with a simple plug-and-play operation: get your PPPoE/DHCP and SSID setup, then plug in the satellite routers (which can, according to Huawei, connect in about two minutes) and you're good to go. Using 802.11v, the WiFi Q2 will support seamless roaming and fast switching (100ms).

The Q2 defaults to 5GHz, AC1200, and auto-selects the best channel for the wireless signal. For IoT users, you'll get a dedicated channel on the Q2 just for your connected devices. The main router (called the base) has three Gigabit Ethernet ports, while each satellite has one. Huawei is offering three levels, depending on the size of your home or office. Larger areas can grab the three-pack of bases, medium-sized places should think about the base and two satellites bundle, and smaller houses/offices may want to look at the base plus one satellite option. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced.
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Unread 2018-03-15, 08:45 AM   #32
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DEAL: Buy Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit, Get 2 Free Google Home Minis






To get going on a smart home setup, there is no better place to start than with some smart lighting. Your house needs lighting. Voice controlling that lighting is awesome. When you can throw in some fun colors to that lighting, things get even more interesting.
If you want to jump into the world of Philips Hue smart lights, Best Buy is currently running a deal on a Philips Hue Starter Kit that includes four White and Color Ambiance A19 bulbs, plus the hub should you want to add more lights later. It costs $200. However, the deal here is over the included freebies, which amount to two free Google Home Mini units with purchase. Two of ’em!
Each Google Home Mini costs $50, so that’s a solid $100 in freebies that give you smart home control by voice when your phone isn’t nearby. They also place music, can tell you about the weather and your day, and recently picked up Google’s Routines feature.
To get the deal, you hit that link below and add the Philips Hue kit to cart. It’ll include the Home Minis with it.
Best Buy Deal Link


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Unread 2018-04-02, 01:58 PM   #33
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Give your outlets a dose of AI with these great deals on smart plugs

Control everything with Alexa and Google Assistant.




There may be new smart version of use about every device we use, but most of the lights and small appliances we already have in our homes are still too “dumb” to connect to our smart systems. To bring them up to speed, smart plugs can add convenience and control to any Wi-Fi connected home.
The Wemo mini smart plug is on sale for $24.99 on Amazon, the lowest price since Black Friday. In our four-star review, we especially liked this plug for its connectivity and simple, compact design. Once connected to Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to control your Wemo smart plug via voice or by using the Belkin app, and you'll be able to schedule at time for it to turn off or choose a “randomize” option to make it look like you’re home when you’re out of the house.
If you’re looking to save even more, check out this two-pack of Epicka smart plugs, on sale on Amazon for $19.99. That’s the lowest price for this set for a while and around 34 percent off its average price. Though we haven’t tested these plugs ourselves, their 4.5 out of 5 rating over more than 350 customer reviews on Amazon show them to be a strong performer. Like the Wemo plugs, these can be controlled via voice or scheduled using a connected smartphone app.
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Unread 2018-06-07, 11:13 AM   #34
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Sonos and IKEA Reveal Prototypes for 'Symfonisk' Speakers, Including One That Doubles as a Shelf


Following yesterday's announcement from Sonos that AirPlay 2 will be coming to its speakers this July, more details about the company's partnership with IKEA have now emerged, after first being revealed in December. In a press release shared by the Swedish furniture maker, the two companies detail a "long-term partnership" that's beginning with a new range of speakers called "Symfonisk" (via The Verge).

A few non-functional prototypes of Symfonisk were showcased at IKEA's Democratic Design Day event in Sweden, and the company says that the Wi-Fi speaker system will fully integrate with Sonos' existing products as well as IKEA's own Trådfris smart home line of lights and switches. Of course, Symfonisk will also be compatible with many of IKEA's furniture through a bracket system that can turn the speaker into a shelf or place it under a METOD kitchen cabinet, among other prototyped ideas.

A Symfonisk prototype attached to the wall above the Sonos Play:5 via The Verge
IKEA mentioned that it's still early on in the design process for Symfonisk, so the look and implementation of the speakers could change before they are released sometime "after summer in 2019." Suggested prices were also not yet given.
"Sonos' company culture is very similar to that of IKEA. Our shared values and beliefs made us connect from day one. When the actual work started, we felt that we were the perfect match in every way", says Björn Block, Business Leader for IKEA Home Smart.

"Many people dream of built-in sound systems, but few can afford it. Our goal is for our collective work to save space, get rid of cords, make clutter invisible, and bring sound and music into the home in a more beautiful way", says Björn.
IKEA has already gotten into the speaker market, launching a line of minimalist "Eneby" Bluetooth speakers earlier this year. These devices come in 8-inch and 12-inch sizes, can be both mounted on a wall or displayed on a stand, and are designed to fit in the Kallax and Eket storage systems.


In 2017, IKEA launched the Trådfri Smart Lighting System in the spring, and then debuted HomeKit support for the lighting range in the fall, allowing users to easily integrate their IKEA bulbs and switches into the Home app on iOS. The company got inspired by Apple when it launched a new ad campaign for its Qi charging furniture alongside the debut of Apple's foray into wireless charging with the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus in September 2017.


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