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Friday, July 24, 2015

SmartRG shows how a home router integrated with a Vera home automation hub from MiOS can offer Internet providers a window into all connected devices in their customers’ homes for remote diagnostics and management.

By Julie Jacobson

We started EH Publishing in 1994, and for the first dozen years the buzz was all about residential gateways for home automation—or Internet of Things (IoT) if that term had existed back then. There were entire conferences on residential gateways. Residential gateway alliances were formed with committees and subcommittees. Had there been Twitter in those olden days, #ResidentialGateways would be trending.

I never much participated in the residential gateway thing. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it meant.

And even though I’m still not sure what a residential gateway is, I know we need it. We’ve gone so far outside the house with the Internet of Things – where things communicate with other things inside the house via cloud servers way outside of the house – that we’ve lost the ability manage, monitor and control those things locally.

And when I say “we” have lost the control, I mean you, me and the service provider of your choice. That might be your Internet provider, some third-party tech-support operator like PlumChoice, or simply the resident geek, perhaps your 12-year-old kid.

Here’s the problem, which I tend to bring up to unwitting keynote presenters like the Connected Home chief at Comcast/Xfinity: When my light switch stops working, who do I call at Comcast? The broadband people or the smart-home people? There’s a disconnect there.

“What? There’s no disconnect here,” he might have responded to an incredulous audience. “It’s all the same number: 1-800-COMCAST.”

True as that may be, you still have to press 2 for Internet support or 5 for smart home services. So you press 5 because it’s a…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/24 at 09:55 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (12) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It will now cost you $100 to get into CES.

By Jason Knott

Some integrators were a bit shocked and surprised last week when they tried to register for the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has instituted a $100 registration fee for 2016. Registration opened on July 8 for next year’s event, which takes place January 6-9.

You can’t say you weren’t warned, CE Pro reported the new fee back in May, but it was “buried” in a story about the total audited attendance figures. 

As part of its new “enhanced credentialing” program, any new registrants or previous registrants who did not attend the 2014 or 2015 CES will be subject to new enhanced credentialing and tighter qualification criteria. This means that although individuals may have qualified for registration in previous years, they must resubmit credentials to qualify for the 2016 CES.

To qualify, all registrants must provide a brief description of their industry affiliation along with links to their company website with an employee roster, a description of their business engagement at CES or a link to a current publication or article the registrant authored or in which they were quoted or cited as an industry professional. Alternately, registrants may also provide a business card, health insurance card or other proof of employment verification. In addition, in order to expedite affiliated registrants through the verification process, CES will ask registrants to include a business email address.

But it’s still not too late to get a free registration if you have attended the show in the past two years. Those who attended one of the past…

Posted by Jason Knott on 07/23 at 01:31 PM
Blogs, Events, CES, (0) Comments, Permalink


Live Webinar, July 29: Nest Labs and the Custom Integrator: Products, Applications and Opportunities. REGISTER HERE

By Julie Jacobson

Integrators are in a unique position to learn more about Nest’s relevance to the custom electronics channel. The maker of the Nest Thermostat, Nest Cam and Nest Protect smoke/CO detectors will be hosting a Webinar next week exclusively through CE Pro.

While there is a set presentation to go over the new Nest product line, the company will also address some of the questions that integrators want answered.

We can’t guarantee that Nest will get to all of them, but there’s no harm in asking, right?

Here’s what I would ask:

~ Why does Nest care about the integrator channel? Isn’t it all about DIY and the mass market?

~ Can third-party home automation ecosystems exploit Nest’s learning capabilities?

~ What are the benefits of using Nest products within a third-party automation ecosystem, rather than using the automation provider’s own products (thermostats, cameras, smokes and whatever comes next)? Are there added benefits of Nest in terms of feature sets that are not provided by integration-specific solutions?

~ Here’s one from “Jason,” commenting on CE Pro: “Why can’t they figure out how to connect the Nest Protect to an actual alarm system? Especially disappointing since it was a promised feature from the very beginning.”

~ Is there a way for integrators to benefit from the recurring revenue on Nest cameras and other fee-based services that Nest might offer in the future?

~ The early success of Amazon Echo tells us voice-control is a very compelling feature. How about some native speech recognition (and voice response) technology in the Nest ecosystem?

~ Is there anything in particular integrators should know…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 07/23 at 10:51 AM
News, Blogs, Product News, Home Automation and Control, Energy Management, (5) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Could this chip be one of the keys to bridging today’s home robots with integration and the Internet of Things? DecaWave says its DW1000 chip provides a new approach to real-time location and indoor positioning systems, location-based services, wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things by providing accurate location awareness and communication.

By CE Pro Editors

Author Mickael Viot is marketing manager at DecaWave.

The decades-old dream of robots helping us around the house seems closer than ever. Today’s home robots may not have the human-like structure of robots from the Jetsons, but they are increasingly able to help us with unpleasant around-the-house chores. The best-known home robots vacuum or mop floors, but others are on the market that clean our pools, clear gutters, mow the lawn, flip burgers on a grill, take a look around the house when we’re out, and more.

The opportunities for custom integrators are not quite there yet, but they certainly may be on the horizon as technologies and products continue to mature. Will robots be another “thing” within an Internet of Things ecosystem? Let’s take a look at the impact of one such improving technology — location and navigation awareness.

Today’s home robots use a variety of algorithms to navigate around a room, cleaning the whole room in a back-and-forth or roundabout manner while keeping track of where they were after circumventing furniture. They also have to detect when they get close to somewhere they shouldn’t go, like to stairs, or to the end of the area that they should working in. For example, a vacuum robot turns around when reaching the end of the carpet, while a mopping robot stops before going onto the carpet.

Robots detect when they’re getting somewhere important using a variety of sensors, including touch sensors, distance sensors (similar to radar), and infrared light (for finding base stations). This enables them to detect walls as they (almost) bump into them, stairs right before they fall down them,…

Posted by CE Pro Editors on 07/22 at 09:53 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Integrators need to look for cables that have been fully tested using independent labs like DPL Labs.

By Joe Perfito

4K is like standing at the seashore and watching waves coming in one after the other. Waves… that’s the reality of 4K. We are currently experiencing the first wave of 4K – “Basic 4K.” My designation for the next 4K wave is “4K v2.0.”

The first wave is video under the HDMI v1.4 spec with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (4K), 24 or 30 frames per second (also known as refresh rate), 8-bit color and 4:2:0 color sub-sampling. The data rate for a 3840x2160/30f/8-bit/4:2:0 is about 4Gbps. That’s pretty easy for a well-made HDMI cable at most any length.

The second wave of 4K started when HDMI v2.0 was introduced last year. My first reaction was how will this new spec affect the performance of our then current selection of Tributaries HDMI cables? With HDMI v2.0 expanding the bandwidth/data rate maximum to 18Gbps, I knew our cables, except for a number of shorter lengths, would not be able to successfully transport the dramatic required increase of data. That would also be true for other manufacturer’s longer length HDMI cables.

Then, HDMI LLC announced that any cable that was rated “High-Speed” would successfully pass 4K. Without any further explanation of what that statement meant, I began a journey of discovery to understand how a “High-Speed” cable rated at 10.2Gbps (some, just barely) could now pass 18Gbps.


First, there was the question of the meaning of “High-Speed.” When an Authorized Testing Center (ATC),…

Posted by Joe Perfito on 07/16 at 09:30 AM
News, Blogs, Wire and Cable, HDMI, (1) Comments, Permalink

Friday, July 10, 2015

Check these strategies off your list to help grow your brand.

By Jeannette Howe

Attracting new clients often seems to be the sole purpose of marketing campaigns. Marketing to retain your existing clients and help them become brand ambassadors can be equally, if not more, important to your company’s future and health.

Integrators all rely on word of mouth to build their businesses. But besides possible service orders, what are you doing to keep your business “top of mind” with existing clients?

Custom integrators sell to the early-adopter community and they are never finished early-adopting. The client that bought 4K two years ago is now ready to be dazzled by OLED. Atmos is a huge opportunity for a wildly compelling invitation to hear this new solution.

There is an old adage that still rings true today: “It is easier to sell to an existing customer than to engage a new one.” By using these three email tools you can connect with your most valuable asset and encourage customer loyalty by sending updates, invitations and news.

  • E-newsletters – Provide interesting and useful content on a regular basis to your clients while introducing them to your latest innovations and services. Feel free to muse about the latest technology, but also about music, movies and home entertainment in a conversational way.
  • E-flyers – Keep your clients abreast of new products and services. Are your past clients aware of your latest innovations when it is time to upgrade or look at new solutions?
  • Email campaigns – Connect with your clients directly with important information and invitations aimed at generating demand while keeping your solutions and services “top of mind.”

Customer loyalty is more important than ever these days, with so many options for their discretionary…

Posted by Jeannette Howe on 07/10 at 10:00 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Money keeps raining down on Canary Connect Inc., maker of a very nice IoT security camera, and raiser of $54 million.

By Julie Jacobson

I really have nothing bad to say about Canary Connect Inc., the company that makes the Canary IoT security camera. The product is nice looking and feels substantial. It has a built-in siren, motion detector and some air-quality sensors. It has an app. You can get it to sound the siren when motion is detected and you are away from home. It learns activity patterns in the home. It is easy to install and configure. It has a lot of buzz.

So, as you see, I’m not a Canary hater. I would certainly use one in my own house, but probably wouldn’t pay $249 for it.

I just don’t believe “Canary’s vision for security is wholly unique and inspiring.”

That’s how Michael Marks of Walden Riverwood Ventures (WRV) describes Canary. WRV led the latest $30 million Series B funding round for Canary, which included “significant investment” from Cota Capital, Khosla Ventures, Flextronics, Two Sigma Ventures and Western Technology Investment.

Last year Canary nabbed $10 million from Khosla.

That’s on top of nearly $2 million raised on Indiegogo in 2013.

In all, that’s $54 million so far (more we hope, if the owners put in some of their own money) ... for a “smart home” device that doesn’t include Z-Wave or ZigBee for home automation. From what I can tell, there’s no integration with third-party devices nor an API for same.

The company hasn’t latched on to any of the newly-trendy services such as “works with Nest,” Apple HomeKit or IFTTT.

I get the allure of single-purpose devices that don’t confuse consumers, especially for Canary’s target…

Friday, June 19, 2015

Home automation protocols as they relate to the custom installation channel: Do they matter?

By Dean Roddey

Home automation protocols are sort of the plumbing of the automation world: Everyone who uses a smart home system is making use of one or more control protocols, but as with plumbing we rarely think about them until something starts to really stink.

Control protocols are how automation systems talk to the devices they control, at a minimum defining the format of messages sent back and forth between the automation system and the device. The quality of those protocols plays a substantial role in the quality of automation solutions and end user experiences, no matter how much work is done to keep them hidden away under the floorboards.

Recently this uber-geeky realm has become a battle ground where some large players are attempting to put forward their own versions of the “one protocol to rule them all,” and hence to gain leverage within (or even dominate) the automation world. Apple’s HomeKit and Nest’s (aka Google’s) Thread initiatives are the most visible examples of this conflict. There are many fan boys of either who seem to think that the entire professional automation world is about to be made irrelevant by these efforts.

Leaving aside whose story is best and the politics thereof, in this article I wanted to just provide more information about control protocols in general, what types of problems they cause, how these problems limit the automation world, and so forth.

Understanding Syntax

The biggest area of confusion that I see among the laity concerning device control is the issue of syntax vs. semantics. And this division is very important to the rest of the discussion, so I’d like…

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

By Paul Self

Here is how Best Buy can squash you.  This is a proposal I made to Best Buy when I was employee. Luckily for this industry, they didn’t bite. (True story.)

In order for any industry to cross the chasm into mainstream, there needs to be a killer app. If you haven’t read “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore, then do so. The “industry” in this case is integrated consumer electronic systems.

Best Buy, the No. 1 company on the CE Pro 100, has the killer app… its purchasing power.

If Best Buy says to a flat panel manufacturer: “We will buy XXX containers of TVs if you put a blue LED button on the back. When someone presses and holds the button, it goes into pairing mode (think Bluetooth pairing). The ZigBee channel opens and will pair with a remote that is also in pairing mode. The TV sends its User Interface and its communication commands to the remote control via the wireless protocol and now the Best Buy remote has bi-directional control.”

This proposal would leverage existing CEMA standards and all Best Buy needs is have someone like Logitech to OEM a remote control that is proprietary to Best Buy. This remote has a blue button that puts the remote into pairing mode as needed. An app is also an obvious need.

If Best Buy makes the same deal with many other devices and BOOM… you have an integrated system that is truly plug and play. The system can throw in a little network device that goes online and looks for updates that are…

Posted by Paul Self on 06/10 at 08:00 AM
Blogs, Big-Box Retailers, Permalink

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Toshiba SCiB Lithium Titanate battery is the energy source behind the RoseWater Energy Group’s Residential Energy Management Hub. To reduce energy loss from DC to AC conversion, future home wiring could be low-voltage based.

By Jason Knott

CE pros might be sitting in the proverbial catbird seat when it comes to the future of wiring homes.

With the solar revolution seemingly in full swing all across the nation, consumers are enamored with “going off the grid.” And many homeowners are counting on home batteries to be the next phase of their off-the-grid plans. Companies likes Tesla and RoseWater Energy Group are leading the way in the development of these new power storage devices for homes.

But if the battery power trend takes off, it must lead to a new paradigm in which homes will be powered more with low voltage wiring than line voltage electrical, according to a blog by CE veteran Paul Self on

Indeed, will the pure science limitations of AC/DC conversion eventually force a gigantic sea change from builders, electricians and the National Electric Code itself in the way homes are constructed and wired? The answer is “Yes” that might have to happen, says Self.

Here is Self’s logic:

“An underlying issue with solar power and the Tesla battery is the fact that they run on DC while the power infrastructure in buildings is AC. Stepping power up and down from AC to DC and vice-versa wastes energy, about 20 percent is lost in the conversion. Some converters do a better job than others, but resolving this 20 percent loss is very important when working on a battery stored energy supply.

Many devices in a home could run on DC. Almost all non-incandescent light bulbs can run on DC and require a…

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