eyeSight Singlecue Gesture Control at CES

eyeSight logoWhen it comes to motion tracking and gesture control, gaming has shown the way especially with Microsoft Kinect and the Xbox. Outside of this arena, there’s been relatively little traction though eyeSight are hoping to change this state of affairs with Singlecue. The two Todds talk to Tal Kryzpow, VP of Product Management, to find out more.

The Singlecue is a tabletop device that’s roughly the same size as a Kinect, though unlike its sibling, the Singlecue has a small central display. Singlecue converts gestures, such as an upright finger to the lips, into an action, in this case “mute”, which it then passes onto the relevant devices in the room using infrared. As it uses IR, it’s compatible with almost every piece equipment in the home that uses a remote control. The Singlecue also uses WiFi to interact with technology such as Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lighting.

The Singlecue is currently on pre-order at $129 but will have MSRP of $199 when it goes on sale in Spring 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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CES 2015 has Apple Home Kit compatible devices from Incipio

wac-outlet_1

Home automation, sometimes known by the scary name of “internet of things”, is a big deal these days. The recent CES show in Las Vegas did nothing to banish that notion. To compliment Apple’s recent Home Kit release, Incipio brought along some products to show off.

“When Apple announced HomeKit, our team immediately went to work on developing cost effective solutions that are deeply integrated with iOS and that have more compatibility than current home automation devices on the market,” says Andy Fathollahi, Chief Executive. “Today, Incipio delivers three user-friendly home automation solutions and a complimentary app, at an incredible value, that will truly impact and simplify day-to-day routines with just a tap of your device or a Siri voice command”.

The Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Outlet was unveiled, bringing automation to your plugged in items. There is also the Light Bulb Adapter and Power Strip. All products are compatible with Siri, can be used to create zones and controlled by the company’s own app. Pricing details follow below.

  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Outlet – MSRP $24.99
  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter – MSRP $24.99
  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Power Strip – MSRP $59.99

Tekoia introduces new control for your home automation

Tekoia_logo_final_nobg-04-150x69Home automation may be the wave of the future, but it’s also becoming more standard for many people, thanks to popular items like the Philips Hue bulbs and more. As cool as it can seem, all of these new items need to be controlled by something. An Android app is the perfect fit for this, and thankfully there’s a new option for enthusiasts.

Tekoia’s SureMote is designed to let customers use a phone or tablet to control and monitor the home. It also covers media devices, accomplishing all of this through a combination of WiFi and an IR blaster.

“Currently, the app  covers all digital media appliance controlled by IR, as well as smart TV’s and security cameras controlled and monitored with WiFi”, the company states in its announcement. This includes smart TVs and media streamers including Samsung, LG, Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV.

The company plans support for Nest and various other home automation protocols. Availabilty details were not included in the announcement.

Face Recognition Comes To Simplicam

Simplicam Logo

Back in 2014 when ArcSoft launched the simplicam home monitoring system based around a high-definition webcam, it borrowed face detection technology from digital cameras. With this tool, the monitoring system was able to differentiate between persons and pets, ensuring that only important alerts were sent through to the owner who would otherwise be swamped with notifications when their cat or dog took a wander round the house.

SimplicamArcSoft has now announced at CES that the face detection feature in simplicam powered by Closeli can be upgraded to (beta) face recognition, meaning that not only does the system recognise people vs pets, it can now tell who has walked into the house. Those expected to be at home can be ignored with strangers immediately flagged.

The new Face Recognition Manager in the Closeli app allows users to register and store up to ten people. After a short setup, home owners can configure privacy settings for each individual and customise notifications, choosing to receive alerts when a specific registered person or an unrecognised person is in the house. The app can be set to automatically save or delete footage based on who is home.

ArcSoft is a pioneer in Face Detection and Face Recognition technology, and we are excited to bring this expertise to the connected home. When we released simplicam powered by Closeli earlier this year, we got invaluable feedback from customers and press. Now, new and current users can provide us with feedback directly from within the Closeli app that may be incorporated into the product,” said Caroline Tien-Spalding, Senior Director of Marketing, ArcSoft.

The standalone simplicam is $149 and a year’s worth of Closeli’s 1-Day Recording Services brings the price to $199. The Closeli service is needed for the face detection and recognition.

I think this is a great step forward as when I previously reviewed a home monitoring kit from another manufacturer, one of my concerns was that I felt I was spying on my family.  All activity in the house, whether my business or not, was being detected, recorded and forwarded to my smartphone. I think this goes a long way towards addressing those concerns.

Philips Hue and FC Bayern Munich

Hue Personal Wireless LightingThis is going to be a challenging post for a large chunk of GNC’s audience. Not only is it about football with a round ball, it’s about German football too. Anyway….Philips have partnered with one of the biggest club’s in Europe, Fußball-Club Bayern München to promote Philips Hue LED lighting systemFC Bayern Munich logo (German / English)

With names familiar to soccer fans worldwide, the promotional video shows off the footwork of Xabi Alonso and Rafinha, the skills of Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer. The video’s short lighting sequences illustrate the wide range of options and lamp colour changes, all controllable via an app available for both iOS and Android.

The eye-catching and visually impressive campaign with the FC Bayern stars underlines Philips Lighting’s leadership,” says Thomas Fine, Head of Brand, Communications and Philips Digital DACH. “It also shows how the future of lighting looks in your own home, and how light brings emotions into our everyday life.Light Magic is the 20 second, emotional spot that runs on all major private broadcasters in Germany from mid-December onwards. There’s a longer version of the advert here.

In the coming months, the Munich football stadium will also be equipped with comprehensive exterior LED lighting. Its 380,000 light spots will allow dynamic colour changes with a range of 16 million colours, just like Philips Hue bulbs. The partnership between Philips and FC Bayern Munich is long-term, designed to increase awareness of light as an emotional product and position Philips as the leading innovator in the field of LED lighting.

You can read GNC’s review of the Philips Hue lighting system from last year.

Archos Connected Home Comes to CES

Archos LogoIn advance of next week’s CES, French firm Archos have announced a bundle of good news relating to their Smart Home which I reviewed a few months ago.

First, Archos is opening up the Smart Home ecosystem to the market standards for devices operating on the 433 MHz frequency, including compatibility with other major brands in the home automation market like Somfy, DI.O Chacon, Blyss, Otio and Conrad to control everything from blinds to heating and security. With the new “Learn & Control” feature, users can connect and control all their connected home accessories from their tablet or smartphone whether inside or outside of the home.

Archos Smart Home

“We are in an era where we want to control everything, and the home is central in this trend: no matter if we’re at work or anywhere else, we like knowing what’s happening at home and we want to be able to manage it, even when we’re not there. With the open Smart Home system, Archos is aiming to be a leading player in the home of the future” says Loic Poirier, CEO of Archos.

FoscamIn addition, the Archos Smart Home is now compatible with Foscam cameras, one of the market leaders in IP cameras. Owners can stream video directly on their smartphone or tablet, taking full advantage of the their IP camera’s features (HD video, IR night-vision, movement detection, PTZ movement) within Smart Home programs, e.g. opening a door activates a video recording, which is then streamed to a smartphone.

The Smart Home worked previously with the Tasker app but for those wanting to get into the Internet of Things, the features of the Archos Smart Home can now be mixed into IFTTT recipes to automate common activities.

And finally, the price of the Smart Home halved from an RRP of GB£199 to £99 with similar price cuts in the US. The Archos Smart Home system wasn’t without a few flaws, but at this price it’s an enticing entry point.

For more information about Archos and its entire selection of connected devices, visit Archos during CES 2015 at Sands Expo Hall A-C, Booth 70437.

Archos Smart Home Review

Archos LogoThese days it’s either i-this or smart-that with new gadgets measuring and changing our personal environment. From Fitbit to Philips Hue, the internet of things is steadily growing and into this increasingly connected world, French firm Archos have stepped in. Their Smart Home tablet wirelessly connects sensors to a central hub that monitors and initiates actions based on conditions. Archos kindly lent me a Smart Home to raise the IQ of my house. Let’s take a look.

Archos Smart Home Box

In the box there’s the Smart Home tablet, plus six connected objects; two mini-cams, two movement tags and two weather tags. The tablet itself looks much like a digital photo frame but it’s actually a small 7″ device running Android 4.2.

Archos Smart Home Front View

Archos Smart Home Rear View

In the looks department, the Smart Home tablet fits the bill with styling that wouldn’t look out of place in a living room. It is all plastic, including the screen which seems to be acrylic rather than glass, but perhaps will better withstand being knocked. Some thought has been given to the design as the screen’s viewing angle appears to be have been adjusted slightly so that screen looks good when someone looks down at it, rather than straight on. There’s only about 2.5 GB of free memory on-board but there is a microSD card slot to boost the Smart Home’s capacity. Performance-wise, it’s no speed demon with a 1.2 GHz ARM processor, but as most of the time the Smart Home just sits there receiving data, it’s a not a big deal. A camera and a thermometer are built into the tablet too and these can be used to take pictures and measure the temperatureas well as the connected objects.

The connected objects are shown below with the mini-cam, weather tag and movement tag from left to right. All have sticky pads which allow adhesion to flat surfaces round the house. The mini-cam ball is held in the foot by magnets and it means the ball can oriented in almost any direction. The weather tag measures temperature and humidity, and the movement tag can measure both motion and door opening / closing.

Archos Smart Home Sensors

Getting setup is easy and straightforward. Running the Archos Smart Home software initially asks for the different rooms where devices are located.

Smart Home Rooms

Once the rooms are setup, the connected objects can be added into the relevant room. The objects use Bluetooth rather than Zigbee and pairing is simply a case of holding down a button on the connected object for 5 seconds. It worked flawlessly. The pairing screen shows all the objects available, not only the ones in the box.

Accessories

Once all setup, the Smart Home tablet presents a view with the room and all the objects in the room.

Hall

In the Hall, I had two mini-cams, a weather tag and a movement tag. Tapping on any device in the app then gives more data or information – here’s the weather tag showing data over the past week for both temperature and humidity.

Temperature and Humidity

Great but how do we get from monitoring the weather to doing something smart? Archos have the answer by building simple “if this, do that” programs. For example, if temperature falls below two degrees Celsius, email to me “It might be slippy.” Or more usefully, if the door opens, take a picture and send an email – like this.

Program

Sure enough, when the front door is opened, I get an email (my personal email is address is obscured by the black box).

Mail

 

The mini-cam also takes a picture (or a short video) but they won’t show a live feed, presumably because Bluetooth can’t transfer the data very quickly. You’ll notice one of the slight problems….the Smart Home doesn’t really take pictures fast enough as in many of the photos the person who opened the door has already moved out of shot. These are all real life photos, nothing was staged. A mini-cam positioned further down the hall generally did better at getting people entering the property.

Minicam Pictures

Out of the box, there’s a fairly limited range of actions such as send email, turn on plug and so on, but Smart Home can use the Tasker app to do more. Tasker supports a wide range of actions, including starting other apps, which makes it quite a powerful solution. However, even this simple email-me-on-the-front-door-opening is useful when wanting to know if someone has arrived home safely (or a thief has broken into your house!)

Other nifty features are that the Smart Home can be accessed from other tablets or smartphones. After a straightforward authorisation process, the system can be viewed from other devices both inside and outside the house. Here’s what it looks like on my smartphone.

Smartphone View

Overall, the Smart Home worked well, mostly sitting on the table doing its job. I did find that I mostly used my ordinary tablet (a Nexus 7)  to work with the Smart Home rather than picking up the unit itself. I set the Smart Home tablet up as a digital photo frame using the standard Android Daydream screensaver to fit into the room.

There were a couple of problems, the first being the range and penetration of Bluetooth. I live in a modest house with brick walls which meant that the weather tag at the rear of the property couldn’t be picked up if the Smart Home tablet was in the front room. Secondly, battery life – the mini-cams seemed get through a set of batteries in about a fortnight and each one took three CR2450 button cells. The movement and weather tags weren’t quite so bad – perhaps a month and only one battery. As an aside there’s no way of muting the low battery warnings that appear in orange on the screen. A connected object could be disconnected but that deleted the historical date at the same time.

Bizarrely, the other problem was how I felt about spying on my family, which is not anything to do with the Archos Smart Home, so I’ll save that for another post. I can see the Smart Home working for families with children that come home when the parents are still at work and the email notifications would give any parent a measure of comfort that their son or daughter is home safe.

The Smart Home costs GB£199 from Archos’ online store. Other additional connected objects are “coming soon”, including an HD weatherproof camera and a siren tag. In summary, the Smart Home is a well integrated system that has room for expansion with more types of connected objects but watch out for the limitations of Bluetooth range and battery life.

Thanks to Archos for the loan of the Smart Home.

 

Devolo Entering Smart Home Market

Devolo LogoPowerline networking experts devolo have announced their intention to enter the smarthome market with a comprehensive array of products including movement and smoke detectors, radiator thermostats and switchable power outlets, taking on the likes of Nest and Belkin. Branded as “Home Control”, the products will be debuted at this year’s IFA show in Berlin in September.

Focused on providing customers with greater convenience, security and energy efficiency through innovative smart home products, devolo Home Control is the first smart home system that you can build yourself. Whether it’s a coffee machine that automatically starts ten minutes before breakfast, a switch that sets the entire house to night mode, or a motion detector that can tell people from pets, the possibilities for creating a smart home are endless.”

Devolo Powerline Data Rates“Simplicity is the promise of devolo Home Control with an easy installation process removing the need for tools or cables, and a range of components that can be combined as desired. Taking example from their successful Powerline ranges, Home Control products will be available in helpful starter kits, with the ability to expand and tailor the smart home through individual products.

I run devolo Powerline at home and while their gear is more expensive than the equivalent from Belkin or TP-Link, it’s very reliable and I’ve never had to reset any of the adaptors. In addition, the complementary “Cockpit” software and app is much easier to use and runs on both my PC and my tablet. Amongst other features, the app shows the data transfer rates between the paired adaptors and makes adding in new adaptors very simple. Going back to the new Home Control, the press release mentions that the Home Control products will have a “My Devolo” and if they can keep it simple with a cool app, I think devolo will have a winner on their hands.

Interestingly, what isn’t mentioned is whether the Home Control devices will use Powerline, ZigBee (or Wi-Fi) for the controlling signals. I have problems with ZigBee and the solid walls of my house, so a Powerline-based system could be a huge advantage. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of devolo at IFA.

D-Link expands home automation line with motion sensor

DCH-S150 FrontHome automation, or the “internet of things” is one of the fastest growing fields in technology. It seems everyone is getting into the market, from electronics makers to retail stores — you can even buy certain product lines at Staples and Lowes now.

The latest to jump into the market is D-Link, most famous for its routers and switches. Not long ago, the company released the Wi-Fi Smart Plug, which allows for easy remote control of items such as lamps and more. Now, to compliment that, comes a new motion sensor called the DCH-S150.

“The compact motion sensor plugs into an open power outlet and alerts users of activity at home with a push or text notification as soon as it detects motion. Whether you want to know when the kids get in from school, make sure the puppy goes outside during the day, or receive an alert when the garage door opens, the Wi-Fi Motion sensor makes it simple to stay aware of what’s happening at home”, the company states in its announcement.

The motion sensor is on sale now from both the D-Link site, as well as other locations such as Amazon. It retails for $39.99.

D-Link releases Smart Plug for home automation

DSP W215 Front

Home automation and the internet of things have become the catch phrases lately, and there is an ever growing universe of items for the home that can be connected. The market has become flooded, but there is always room for more competition, as it is good for consumers. Now D-Link, famous for its routers, is getting into the market.

The company has unveiled a new Smart Plug that allows the device that is plugged into it to be controlled easily from a mobile device using Android or iOS. Simply plug the little device into an outlet, then plug the item of choice into the DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug. Features include:

  • WiFi — 802.11n; supports WPS (WiFi Protected Setup)
  • LEDs — power, status
  • Dimensions — 90 x 61 x 36mm (3.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches)
  • Voltage input — 100-125VAC
  • Maximum power to plugged in device — 1800W
  • Power consumption — approx. 0.8W idle; 5W max. (not including power supplied to plugged-in device)

In addition, there is a thermal sensor that is designed to prevent devices from over-heating. That’s a handy feature with today’s devices, and legends of meltdowns. The DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug is on sale now on the D-Link web site, retailing for $50.