Proprietary home automation platforms spring security leaks

1 September 2013 by Steve Blum
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Open source makes it harder to open doors.

The open source versus proprietary platform debate is moving into the home automation sector. Z-Wave is a proprietary protocol for wirelessly managing home devices, including locks, sensors and security cameras. It’s been hacked by two network security professionals who wanted to see if it’s really as secure as advertised.

It is and it isn’t.

Behrang Fouladi and Sahand Ghanoun took over a Z-Wave motion sensor using an idiot-simple trick – intercept a wireless command, record and replay it – and defeated a lock with only a little more effort.… More

Simplicity key to manufacturers' home automation solutions

Cloud-based server checks to see how it's running. You can look inside yourself to see if you need milk.

Three competing, and perhaps ultimately complementary, home automation business models are emerging:

  • Manufacturer supported.
  • Consumer-centric.
  • Carrier managed platform.

Lowes and AT&T moved aggressively at CES last week to position themselves as leaders in the consumer and service provider categories, respectively. Several companies were pitching to manufacturers, but the leader in that space looks to be Arrayent at this point.… More

Leaving CES, entering the future

Developers jump on a new mobile platform.

If mobile, desktop and other devices like TVs converge on a single operating system, it'll be a Linux variant. When processing, display and input technology get to the point that the size and form factor of a device is irrelevant, an open source ecosystem will provide a cross-sector point of convergence for developers and manufacturers. Service providers will follow. It's an entrepreneurs' world.

Windows 8 will survive as a mobile operating system.… More

Home automation winners at Showstoppers

A joule of an idea.

The essence of genius is turning complex and confusing concepts into elegant simplicity. The Energy Joule manages the trick of taking your home's energy usage, benchmarking it against often byzantine electric utility rate pricing and distilling the result down to a simple glowing light.

Ambient Devices sells it to electric utilities, who in turn provide it to their customers. The idea is to give instant, easy to understand information about what it's costing to keep the lights and everything else on, so consumers can keep their bills down and utilities can spread out their load.… More

Lowes executes a home automation play

8 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Presumptive retailing.

“It's our fault – technology and business models – we just haven't gotten it right,” said Kevin Meagher, vice president and general manager for the smart home segment at Lowes. The problem isn't consumers, who readily accept automation. “It's in our cars and none of us would buy one without it. The hurdle is getting it into the home,” he said.

Meagher was speaking at the Parks Associates Connections Summit at CES this afternoon.… More

Home automation and wearable computing hits at Pepcom

7 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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The FitBit is the bit that fits inside the wristband.

Along with Alabama, Pepcom was a winner tonight. The second of the three major press group gropes at CES, it featured a tailgate party theme and the Notre Dame/Alabama game on big screens. Nearly 200 companies set up small displays at the MGM Grand, showing new products and new brand positioning.

Nexia was in the latter category. It's a re-branding of the Schlage Link home automation system.… More

Three things you won't see at CES 2013

Rocking with Jonney.

No computer companies. Ten years ago, they were the stars of the show. The final keynote by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer last year marked the end of their run. (Apple was so far ahead of the curve they stopped showing up before they stopped being a computer company).

I’ll miss ASUS’s Jonney Shih and even Intel’s Paul Otellini. They had interesting ideas to share, and said it well. On the other hand, some won’t be missed.… More

Oh, you mean a Maxwell Smart home

“Chaos is an opportunity for people like me,” said Tom Kadlec, one of the founders of The Homeworks Group. They do the hard work of integrating and managing home automation systems for about a thousand subscribers. Both he and his partner have electrical engineering degrees, which is great for them but not so good for the home handyman who majored in, say, political science.

Come quick, 99. I’m surrounded by ARMed phones.

Protocol agnostic and easy to use: home automation needs heavy helpings of both if it’s to ever find its secret sauce.… More

No mass market home automation players yet

Incremental advancement but no break through into the mass market for the home automation sector at CES this year. It remains a niche for hobbyists and specialty contractors.

Core technology companies, such as Qualcomm, NXP and Marvell, continue to support it. And there’s no shortage of companies offering, or at least developing, home automation products and services.

Part of the problem is the multitude of standards. Some device makers support more than one, but interoperability is the exception rather than the rule.… More

Unnatural opportunity in M2M

10 January 2012 by Steve Blum
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Consumer electronics products have a natural limit to growth. With only 7 billion or so people on the planet, even if some people buy more than one of any gizmo you can’t get past, say, 10 billion deployed units within the life cycle of any given product category.

Of course, that’s a theoretical limit, as a practical matter even one billion is wildly out of reach for the vast majority of products. The mobile phone has hit the 6 billion range, because it’s a personal item rather than a family purchase, such as, for example, a television.… More