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System Integration for the Connected Home

Home Automation

Cortana Powers Smart Thermostat

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The thermostat is the next device category to receive voice control via Cortana as Johnson Controls reveals GLAS, a slick looking controller featuring the Microsoft smart assistant.

GLAS CortanaThe GLAS offers a translucent touchscreen as well as voice control, and packs sensors allowing it to detect whether people are in the room or not, and if not to turn the HVAC system on or off. It can also check air quality and energy usage. Of course, Cortana allows users to simply speak to the GLAS, and one can also control it by speaking to their phone.

Being a co-development with Microsoft, the GLAS also makes use of the Azure cloud computing solution to provide insights on air quality and more. Meanwhile, behind the actual hardware is is a Windows 10 IoT core.

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Google Home Heads to Germany

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The Google take on the smart speaker expands further into Europe, as Germany is the next country to get Google Home-- marking the third language the speaker can speak and understand.

Google HomeCurrently in Europe the Home is available in the UK and France. Like all other versions, the German-speaking Home can answer general questions, play music, remind about calendar appointments and control smart home devices, all through the power of the spoken word and the "OK Google" command.

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Smart Speakers, Crime Stopper?

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Smart speakers might be able to do more than mere voice-based home control-- ABC News reports an alleged assault could have turned ugly if a smart home device did not inadvertently call the police.

Smart speakerThe incident happened in a town outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where one Eduardo Barros was house-sitting a home with his girlfriend and daughter. According to the police, the couple got into an argument that got physical. At one point, Barros threatened to kill his girlfriend with a firearm, asking her "did you call the sheriffs?" An unspecified smart speaker connected to the house surround system picked up the message, recognised it as "call the sheriffs," and proceeded to do exactly that.

Thus, following the spot of Minority Report-style crime prevention, the police arrived at the scene. The girlfriend and daughter were saved, and crisis negotiation and SWAT teams managed to take Barros into custody after an "hours-long stand-off."

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Futuresource: Smart Home Can "Emerge by Stealth"

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The smart home market is set to emerge "by stealth," Futuresource reports-- once a consumer buys a first connected device, they will be keen to automate further, leading to slow but steady growth.

The conclusion comes from a survey of over 4000 consumers in France, Germany, the UK and the USA covering smart home devices (including smart/Voice Personal Assistant speakers), appliance ownership, perceptions and purchase intent. Respondents are segmented into 4 different levels (non-adopters, beginners, intermediate and advanced), as based on the number of smart home devices owned.

Futuresource smart home

Among the 4 countries, the USA is the one with the highest penetration, with 38% of respondents having at least 1 smart home device installed. Germans are the most resistant to smart home devices, as only 20% own at least 1 such device. Audio and video content make a common first step into automation, as 2 out of 3 respondents consider music and other AV content as "important" in the smart home context.

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The Samsung Connect Home Smart Wifi System

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Samsung combines networking and home automation with the Connect Home Smart Wifi System-- a router packing the Samsung SmartThings platform, eliminating the need for a separate control hub device.

Connect Home WifiThe Connect Home uses Eero-style mesh networking, meaning a single router provides up to 140 square metres of coverage while a combination of three routers covers 418 square metres. In addition, the SmartThings platform allows it to communicate with other devices via Bluetooth 4.1, ZigBee or Z-Wave as well as wifi, providing the control Samsung appliances, Philips Hue lighting and Netgear Arlo cameras, among others.

The system is expandable to up to 5 Connect Home routers, and Samsung promises security comes through both hardware and automatic firmware updates. Setup should be easy via companion Samsung Connect app complete with simplified device management through automatic connectivity and device integration, as well as connected device management, parental controls and guest access.

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Wemo Bridges HomeKit Support

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The Wemo home automation portfolio receives HomeKit support through the Wemo Bridge, a device adding control through either Siri or Home app on the iPhone, iPad or Watch.

Wemo Bridge"Wemo is offering this bridge to address the overwhelming request from customers to make currently installed Wemo products work with HomeKit and other HomeKit compatible products," Belkin says. "We're proud to work with Apple to bring together two of the most influential smart home platforms.  Wemo has been providing smart home devices for more than 5 years, and millions of people use Wemo devices every day.  The Wemo Bridge will allow current and future Wemo users to experience the benefits of HomeKit, including Siri integration and interoperability with other HomeKit devices while also leveraging all the Wemo features customers enjoy."

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Ecobee4 Thermostat Gets Alexa

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Ecobee launches the next iteration of its smart thermostat-- the Ecobee4, an Amazon Alexa-compatible offering able to act as a wall-mounted Echo device.

Ecobee4Obviously Alexa adds voice-based home climate control, but customers can also use the Ecobee4 for other skill provided by the Amazon assistant, such as asking it for reminders, news or recipes. Voice control comes through built-in far-field microphone, meaning it should pick up voices regardless of location within the room.

The Ecobee4 also offers integration with other home automation systems, including Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit and IFTTT. It is also compatible with the Ecobee wireless room sensor, allowing it to track room occupancy and adjust cooling or heating accordingly, further adding to energy cost savings.

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