Home Automation

Amazon gives smart bulb devs the keys to Alexa’s voice

Amazon gives smart bulb devs the keys to Alexa’s voice

Amazon is further opening up its Alexa voice-control system, the engine at the heart of the Echo speaker, to smart lighting companies. The Alexa Skills Kit was launched back in June, breaking the cloud-based digital assistant out of Echo and allowing it to be embedded in new devices and taught third-party skills. Now, with a new Alexa Lighting API, those skills are expanding to deal with more complex sets of wireless bulbs.

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“Alexa, turn on SmartThings integration” says Amazon

“Alexa, turn on SmartThings integration” says Amazon

Amazon's cylindrical Echo home assistant is gaining another automation ability, hooking up with Samsung-owned SmartThings for the speech-controlled smart home. While it's not the first such integration we've seen Echo add in the months since Amazon launched the chipper speaker, it could well be one of the most far-reaching, thanks to SmartThings' broad compatibility with a huge - and growing - number of third-party automation devices.

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Smart homes: how close are we from the house of the future?

Smart homes: how close are we from the house of the future?

Yesterday, Google unveiled its newest product: OnHub. While technically a network router, it was also subtly a building block of Google own ambition to be the center of your home. And the search giant is hardly the only one. Somewhat a subset of the so-called Internet of Things that aims to connect anything and everything to the net, smart homes and smart appliances have become the byword of many tech companies as well as appliance makers. But are we really on the cusp of making that hi-tech future a reality? Or are we still taking baby steps?

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Samsung’s SmartThings Hub v2 starts pre-order

Samsung’s SmartThings Hub v2 starts pre-order

Samsung seems to be on a roll. After unveiling the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ and announcing the actual launch of Samsung Pay, the company's year-old subsidiary is also making a big splash. Delayed by almost half a year, SmartThings is giving the green light for pre-orders of its brand new Hub device. Although owners are not required to upgrade to this new version, some might consider it worth the purchase considering a crucial update to the capabilities of the smart home central brain.

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Forget fitness, Misfit Flash Link could be a smart home essential

Forget fitness, Misfit Flash Link could be a smart home essential

Misfit hasn't only made one of the cheapest fitness wearables around, the Misfit Flash Link could well end up a must-have for the smart home. The $19.99 health tracker announced today is designed to clip to a wristband, belt, or other item of clothing, and funnel movement stats into your phone. All the same, for anybody with more than a toe dipped into home automation its potential as an affordable way to address one of the lingering frustrations after you've upgraded to wireless lights, appliances, and more, is clear.

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Internet of Things group Thread releases protocol specifications, now features Qualcomm

Internet of Things group Thread releases protocol specifications, now features Qualcomm

The Thread Group, the consortium founded by Nest, Samsung, ARM, Silicon Labs and more, has announced that Thread, its wireless networking protocol for smart homes, has released specifications that allow developers to build Internet of Things (IoT) devices compliant with their systems. In addition, Qualcomm, makers of widely used mobile chips, has joined Thread Group as a member of the board. Qualcomm, and others who are members of Thread Group, will be among those able to take advantage of the Thread protocols.

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Amazon Echo can now control your lights thanks to Wink

Amazon Echo can now control your lights thanks to Wink

Amazon Echo, which others lovingly refer to as Alexa, is a rather odd duck. Unlike other cloud-based voice-activated assistants, you can't take it around with you, as the cylindrical contraption is rooted in your home. Until recently, it was also quite limited in the things you can do. Ironically, shopping by voice was added only later on. Now it's getting a bit more talented however, not through its own power but by hooking up with Wink. Now you can confidently say "Alexa, dim the bedroom lights" with a wink.

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Apple Stores begin selling first HomeKit compatible thermostat

Apple Stores begin selling first HomeKit compatible thermostat

Apple's physical retail stores will begin selling the first thermostat to be compatible with the iOS HomeKit system this week. As a smart home device, the Ecobee3 is an internet-connected thermostat that, when connected to Apple's HomeKit platform, will allow users to control it with their iPhones via apps and even voice commands to Siri. The Ecobee3 is priced at $250, and should be appearing in Apple Stores in North America on Tuesday.

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Netatmo Welcome Review – Nest Cam’s face-recognizing rival

Netatmo Welcome Review – Nest Cam’s face-recognizing rival

If a smart home is truly smart, it should know who’s inside it. That’s the argument Netatmo makes with its new Welcome camera, promising Dropcam-style streaming video but combined with facial-recognition. At $199 it matches Nest Cam’s sticker, but without the need to cough up for the cloud if you want to look back through captured footage, and Netatmo says its person-spotting skills should cut the number of false-alarms down, too. I put on my most welcoming expression to see if the learning camera would find me memorable.

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Amazon Echo now available to pre-order for anyone in the US

Amazon Echo now available to pre-order for anyone in the US

Echo, Amazon's connected speaker/digital assistant, is no longer limited to special customers with trial invites. Amazon has announced the device is now available for pre-order in the US, priced at $180, with plans to start shipping on July 14th. First introduced late last year, the Echo basically acts like a voice-activated digital assistant, except in a speaker instead of your smartphone. Users can give it instructions like play music, as well as connected home tasks turning off the lights.

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Freescale’s Sage smart oven blends Uber and Nespresso

Freescale’s Sage smart oven blends Uber and Nespresso

Freescale has cooked up a connected appliance proof-of-concept that it says could be the Nespresso of convenience meals. Dubbed Sage, the solid-state RF oven promises the ease of use of a microwave but producing food that's actually worth eating rather than a rubbery mess, thanks to its ability to precisely control where, when, and how much heating energy gets directed at the ingredients. The result is a single oven that can simultaneously cook multiple different meals, all in different ways.

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Nest isn’t trying to own the Smart Home, and that’s okay

Nest isn’t trying to own the Smart Home, and that’s okay

Nest now has three products, a freshly-firmware-flashed thermostat, a 2nd-gen Nest Protect, and a new Nest Cam, but it’s a fairly humble play for the smart home, at least on the face of it. At a time when Apple is not only launching HomeKit but working on its next big update, that might seem naive, but Nest CEO Tony Fadell isn’t worried. Instead of trying to make Nest the dominant brand, Fadell is apparently content for automation to be a group effort.

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