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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

18 OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE CONNECTED-HOME PRODUCTS AT THE CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW 2016


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18 of the most innovative connected-home products at CES 2016
By Michael Brown,
PC World, 11 January 2016.

Uncertainty as to which Internet of Things protocols and radios will ultimately prevail (AllJoyn, HomeKit, Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and others are battling for supremacy) hasn’t prevented manufacturers from introducing great new products for the connected home. The show floor was thick with new hardware and services.

Here’s a quick look at the 18 we found the most intriguing.

1. ADT Canopy

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When it comes to home security, it’s hard to beat a professional monitoring service that can summon first responders in response to intrusion, fire, or medical emergencies - whether you’re home or away. These services have traditionally been expensive and required long-term contracts of two years or more. ADT’s Canopy service changes that dynamic. If the connected-home hardware you buy supports it, you can get ADT’s professional monitoring for as little as US$20 per month with no long-term contract.

A broad range of manufacturer have announced support for Canopy, including LG, Samsung Smart Things, Ring, and Wink.

2. Blink Home Monitoring System

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Blink promises to be one of the simplest and least-expensive home-security cameras you can buy. Consisting of a wireless camera and a sync module, both of which run on batteries, the Blink camera is equipped with a motion and temperature sensor. The modules connect to your Wi-Fi network, but stay in sleep mode unless motion is detected or the room temperature exceeds the upper or lower temperature limits you’ve set. When that happens, the camera will power up and record a 720p clip and send you an alert.

You can view the clip, as well as live view, on your Android or iOS device. Up to 4000 five-second clips can be stored in the cloud, with the oldest clips deleted first when you reach your limit. Blink says the battery should last a full year, but it can be powered by a USB adapter if you prefer.

3. Delta Leak Detector

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Delta Faucet has partnered with iDevices to get into the connected-home market. The Delta Leak Detector connects to your Wi-Fi network and sends an alert to your smartphone when it comes into contact with water. Most similar devices depend on AC power, which can be problematic when you’re installing them inside a bathroom vanity or underneath your water heater - where do you plug them in? Delta’s sensor runs on batteries.

And where most leak detectors generate an alert only when water has pooled beneath them, Delta’s device has a pair of concentric rings on the bottom, so that even if just a drop of water hits the top and dribbles down the side, the detector will wake up from low-power mode and send you an alert.

4. DigitalStrom connected-home system

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DigitalStrom has one of the most ambitious connected-home systems I’ve seen. It’s a wired ecosystem, but it doesn’t require the installation of any new wires - it turns your home’s existing power lines into a network. Tiny modules - the color-coded blocks look like Legos - are installed inside the electrical boxes behind your existing light switches and receptacles (in-line modules are also available for devices such as lamps), while a DigitalStrom Meter and Server are installed inside your circuit-breaker panel.

DigitalStrom’s CES booth had a complete bathroom and kitchen set up with cameras that could recognize faces and gestures automatically, and then adjust the height of the cooking surface, lighting, and other settings to that person’s preferences. A camera connected to an espresso maker could brew cup of coffee when you smiled into the camera. It’s an impressive system to be sure, but it’s not yet available in the U.S., and the company recommends professional installation when it arrives.

5. Edyn Water Valve

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Edyn’s Garden Sensor can monitor your garden and send you an alert when it needs water or fertilizer. Soon, the probe will be able to trigger Edyn’s new Water Valve to automatically deliver just the right amount of water your plants need to thrive. Both devices are solar powered, so you don’t have to replace batteries or need an outdoor electrical outlet. More information at Edyn.

6. EZViz Ultra4 IP Wired Kit

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Although new to the market, EZViz is having an outsized impact with its line of inexpensive home-security cameras. The company made a raft of new-product announcements at CES this year, but we were most intrigued with its Ultra4 IP Wired Kit. Why would we be so impressed with a system that must be hard-wired? Because it records and displays in 4K video resolution using the H.265 codec.

EZViz’s cameras are also equipped with a new type of infrared LED technology. Each camera needs just two of EZViz’s InfraNova LEDs to deliver night vision up to 100 feet, a distance that would require up to 24 traditional LEDs and consume much more energy.

7. Fibaro Swipe

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It looks like a picture frame, but Fibaro’s Swipe harbours sensors that can turn gestures into home-control actions. Simply wave your hand over the panel to turn lights on and off, raise and lower motorized window shades, turn a faucet on and off, or perform any other function that can be managed by a Z-Wave controller. Since you don’t need to make physical contact with the Swipe, there’s no chance of leaving or picking up bacteria; and if you’re cooking, you don’t need to wash your hands before you use it.

The Swipe, which can run on batteries or USB power, generates an electric field that can pass through various materials, including drywall or granite, so it can be embedded in a wall or mounted beneath a countertop as well as be used in its provided stand. Recognized gestures include side-to-side waves, up-and-down waves, and circles.

8. Halo and Halo+ Smoke Detectors

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Halo Smart Labs claims to have the world’s smartest smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors with its Halo and Halo+. The detectors are outfitted with ionization chambers and a bank of six sensors - including temperature and humidity detectors - that can discriminate between smoke from a fire and smoke from burned food on the stove, greatly reducing the frequency of false alarms. Voice alerts plus a ring of LEDs warn of emergencies, the LEDs glow red to warn of a fire and amber for carbon monoxide.

The Halo+ adds a weather radio that can warn of weather and disaster alerts, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. It can also be programmed to receive local law-enforcement messages. Both models come with a smartphone app that informs you what’s happening, where it’s happening (which room and which home, if you own more than one), and how severe the threat is.

9. Iris by Lowe's

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Lowe’s has one of the most comprehensive DIY connected-home ecosystems on the market, and the company recently introduced a second-generation controller (you can read our hands-on review here). Lowe’s big news at CES was the announcement of an optional professional monitoring service. This provides the peace of mind that in addition to a local alarm sounding, emergency responders can also be dispatched in the event of a break-in or fire.

You’ll need to purchase Lowe’s US$50 USB GSM module to add the service, but monitoring will be priced at just US$20 per month - and that includes Lowe’s Iris Premium Service and cellular service for the GSM module; plus, you don’t need to sign a long-term contract. You’ll find more details in this story and at Iris By Lowes.

10. LG Smart Security

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LG’s new all-in-one home-control/security hub includes an 1080p security camera outfitted with a 5-megapixel lens that delivers an extremely wide 152-degree field of view; motion, temperature, and humidity sensors; a built-in 100dB siren; and Bluetooth Low Energy, ZigBee, and Z-Wave radios for controlling smart-home devices.

The Smart Security connects to your Wi-Fi network and can operate on a stand-alone basis, sending alerts to a smartphone app, or it can be connected to ADT’s new Canopy professional monitoring subscription service that will dispatch first responders in the event of a break-in. You’ll find additional details in our earlier story.

11. Netatmo Presence

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Netatmo melds a security camera with a powerful LED floodlight to create its Presence outdoor camera, which can tell the difference between a person, an animal, or a car moving in its 100-degree field of view. It’s equipped with infrared night vision and will power on its floodlight when motion is detected, enabling it to capture full-colour video even in complete darkness.

The Presence will also send alerts to your smartphone, which you can use to view recorded events or get a live view from the camera. Video clips can be stored to an on-board microSD card or archived on your own FTP server. Unlike all too many home security cameras, there are no subscription fees associated with the Presence. You’ll find more details about this product in our earlier story.

12. Ring Stick Up Cam

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Ring’s video doorbell cam lets you see who’s at the door without having to open it. Now the company has adapted that same technology to build a wireless security camera without the doorbell feature. A motion detector inside the camera sends an alert to your smartphone and then establishes a live connection to the camera so you can see what triggered the alert, no matter where you happen to be at the time. Video clips can also be recorded to the cloud.

The Stick Up cam is completely battery operated, so you can install it virtually anywhere - just make sure it’s within range of your Wi-Fi network. The camera has night vision and two-way audio, so that you can communicate with the person on the other side of the camera. If it’s a criminal trying to break in, a verbal warning that their face has been recorded should be enough to scare them off. More details in this story.

13. Roost Smart Battery

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Our opinion of the Roost Smart Battery continues to improve. We were sceptical of the product at first, but the manufacturer made a key design improvement that significantly changed our opinion of the product. The battery is outfitted with a tiny microphone and a Wi-Fi module. When your smoke or carbon-monoxide detector sounds off, the battery wakes up its Wi-Fi module and sends an alert to your smartphone and the smartphones of the circle of friends or neighbours you establish for those times when you’re away from home.

The pre-launch design change was to separate the Wi-Fi module from the battery, so you can replace the latter when it dies instead of replacing the whole thing. At CES, Roost announced that owners of the battery would also be able to sign up for ADT’s Canopy professional monitoring service to gain even better protection in the event of a fire. You’ll find more details about the Roost Smart Battery in our review.

14. Samsung Smart Things integration

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Samsung has a very good connected-home system in Smart Things Home Monitoring kit (you can read our hands-on review here), and now the hub of that system will be integrated into Samsung’s 2016 smart-TV line-up. The hub can control more than 200 Smart Things modules and sensors - plus Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, such as smart door locks - which you can control using the TV’s remote.

The TVs display the Smart Things user interface, as well as the feeds from your security cameras, so that you don’t need to get up off the couch to find your smartphone or tablet if the doorbell rings. You’ll find more information in this story and on the SmartThings blog.

15. Sensorwake smell-based alarm clock

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If you hate being startled awake by a buzzer, and music just makes you dream of being at a concert, you might want to give the Sensorwake alarm clock a shot. At the appointed hour, this clock emits concentrated smells that are designed to gently lift you out of dreamland. Choose from chocolate, peppermint, espresso, and even croissant scent capsules, each of which is good for 30 uses. The clock will be available at retail in November. More information in this story.

16. Smarter Mats, Detect, and Fridge Cam

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Smarter introduced a pair of connected home appliances last year - a coffee pot and a tea kettle. At this year’s CES, the company demonstrated a trio of new products: the Smarter Mat, which weighs a container of kitchen ingredients and pings you when you need to replenish it; the Smarter Detect, which monitors the noises in your kitchen and warns you when you’ve left the refrigerator door open or if your dishwasher has finished its cycle; and the Fridge cam, an IP camera that you install inside your refrigerator, so you can take a look inside while you’re at the store to find out if you need milk or other supplies. More information in this story.

17. Stringify

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If you think IFTTT is cool, wait ‘til you get a load of Stringify. Both tools are rules-based automation systems for the Internet of Things, but Stringify allows for much more complex interactions. IFTTT is limited to “if this then that” rules with one-to-one relationships: “If it’s dark, turn on my Philips Hue bulb,” for instance. With Stringify, you can create conditional rules with “and” and “or” statements. “If it’s dark, and my phone GPS indicates I’m home, turn on my Philips Hue bulb and turn on my Sonos speaker.”

Stringify is available for free, but it’s currently supported only on iOS; an Android version is in the works.

18. Vivint Ping home-security camera

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When Vivint learned during a customer survey that many of its subscribers’ latchkey children were ringing the company’s doorbell camera to get the attention of their working parents, employees came up with the idea for a security camera with two-way audio using the GSM module in its Sky control panel.

Touching a button on top of Vivint’s Ping camera initiates a call to the account holder, who can then engage in a two-way video conversation on their smartphone. An account holder can also initiate a call to the camera to speak with someone at home. This is a great way for parents to keep tabs on their home-alone kids without needing to give them their own cell phones.

Top image: Samsung Smart Things Home Monitoring System. Credit: Samsung.

[Source: PC World. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

2 comments:

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