Category Archives: Home Automation

Smarten up the Garage Door with SkyLink at CES 2018



Converting a house into a smart home shouldn’t mean replacing every electrical device for a new smart model. A cheaper and greener way is to add smart features in with wireless accessories. A good example here is SkyLink Nova which adds smart capabilities to automatic garage doors at relatively low cost. Don and Frank take a closer look at SkyLink Nova and its accompanying ecosystem.

The SkyLink Nova is wired into an existing garage door opener using the standard connections used for the interior open/close button. Once connected up, the Nova can be remotely controlled with the SkyLink smartphone app (iOS and Android). Nova is also compatible with If This Then That (IFTTT) platform and Alexa so the garage door can be opened (or closed) by talking to an Echo.

The Nova itself looks like an LED light fixture and works as a smart home hub too, communicating with up to 100 smart devices. In addition, it can detect sirens from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. When one of those is heard, Nova will automatically open your garage door to aid in ventilation in the case of an emergency.

SkyLink‘s Nova will be on sale in the spring for under US$100.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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Fibaro Doubles Up With HomeKit at CES 2018



Fibaro are one of the bigger names in smart homes with a wide range of products from simple light switches to complex controllers. Originally based around Z-wave, their accessories now work with Apple HomeKit, and integrate with other systems like Philips Hue. Allante and Rich take a quick spin through some of Fibaro’s new products.

First up is a smart power plug with a USB charging port and a coloured LED which changes colour according to the amount of power being drawn through the socket. Although the colour-changing is fun, the measured power can be used within a smart home to initiate other actions or send a warning. Should the iron have been on for a hour?

Next is the big The Button which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a big red button, though it does come in seven different colour. Press it and stuff happens. What happens is configurable by the user – turn on the lights, sound an alarm, play music.

All the products are on sale now, priced between US$49 and $59.

Allante Sparks is a video producer at PLuGHiTz Live Special Events.

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SkyLink Brings the Garage into the Smart Home at CES 2018



Remote controlled garage doors haven’t been particularly secure in the past and many people have disabled the feature because of the risk of break-ins to their homes through the garage. Todd and Frank discuss the problem and look at SkyLink Nova, a retrofit WiFi door opener.

The SkyLink Nova is wired into an existing garage door opener using the standard connections used for the interior open/close button. Once connected up, the Nova can be remotely controlled with the SkyLink smartphone app (iOS and Android). Nova is also compatible with If This Then That (IFTTT) platform and Alexa so the garage door can be opened (or closed) by talking to an Echo.

The Nova itself looks like an LED light fixture and works as a smart home hub too, communicating with up to 100 smart devices. In addition, it can detect sirens from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. When one of those is heard, Nova will automatically open your garage door to aid in ventilation in the case of an emergency. (I can see how this might help with CO poisoning but surely opening the door during a fire could make things worse?)

SkyLink‘s Nova will be on sale in the spring for under US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Flic Gets Smarter with Flic Hub at CES 2018



Flic‘s smart Bluetooth buttons will be familiar to GNC readers as I reviewed them back in 2017. To be honest, the buttons aren’t that smart but it’s the clever smartphone software that does all the cool stuff. Consequently, if the Flic button is out of range of the owner’s smartphone, it’s somewhat useless. Fortunately Flic recognised this and announced an Indiegogo campaign for a Flic Hub that would take away the reliance on a nearby smartphone. Todd clicks with Elin to find out what’s new at Flic.

The new Flic Hub removes the need for a nearby smartphone in a home or office environment and lets Flic smart buttons integrate more closely with other automation and process management systems. Flic is looking to grow in the enterprise with customers focusing in the safety and hospitality industries.

The Hub can communicate with more Flic buttons so in theory, there could be hundreds of buttons in a location, and the integrity of the overall system is improved without dependence on the smartphone vendors. This creates a more reliable and dependable platform that enterprise customers are looking for, taking Flic beyond smart buttons.

The Flic Hub is expected to go on-sale shortly.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Need a Housesitter? Ask Kevin at CES 2018



It’s a sad statistic that around half of us in the Europe and US will experience a break-in or burglary during our lifetime and unfortunately, I’m one of those. Most burglaries are over in less than five minutes and by the time the police turn up, the criminals are long gone. Smart homes and security alarms only go so far and what you really want is to deter the burglars from breaking in at all. You need a housesitter and Mitipi have one called Kevin. Todd thought Kevin was a minion

Kevin is the first IoT device to simulate the presence of people in a room by emitting light, shadow effects, and sound, meaning burglars will think someone’s home, and won’t want to break in for fear of being confronted or even caught.

Kevin is extremely easy to use. Place the device in a main room with a window, say, the living room. Once set up, Kevin can be controlled via the buttons on the box, or through the companion app. To pretend someone is home, Kevin uses a smart logic that considers multiple factors such as location, language, weather and home type to produce a realistic simulation with light, sound and shadows.

Kevin is currently on Kickstarter and the best pledge is SFr249, which is around GB£190 or US$270. Delivery is expected in December 2018.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Immersive Entertainment with Philips Hue at CES 2018



At CES 2018, Philips Lighting have announced the latest evolution of the Hue ecosystem which brings immersive interaction between entertainment – gaming, movies and music – and Hue lighting. Simplistically, Hue can colour the room around you to complement the action in the game. Sweet!

Following a free, over-the-air software update, Philips Hue customers with colour-capable lights and a Philips Hue v2 bridge can enjoy truly immersive home entertainment experiences. The new software, created as a result of pilots (Sharknardo!), insights and feedback gained from leading companies in the entertainment industry, synchronizes Philips Hue lights perfectly with gaming, movie and music content. Razer, the world’s leading lifestyle brand for gamers, is the first partner to go live.

Accompanying the new Hue Entertainment functionality, Philips Lighting will introduce Hue Sync, an application that will run on any Windows 10 or macOS High Sierra-based computer, in Q2 2018. Philips Hue Sync creates immediate, immersive light scripts for any game, movie or music played on the computer, so consumers can enjoy the content they are playing, watching or listening to even more. I have to say that sounds pretty cool but I hope they bring out a version that can work with DVRs like Sky Q or Tivo and media streamers such as the Roku or Fire TV.

Finally, In summer 2018, Philips Lighting will take the Hue experience outside the home with the debut of an outdoor line. This new line of products will let consumers get more out of their exterior lighting by allowing them to personalise their ambience for any moment outside, whether simply relaxing with family or entertaining friends. It will also increase their peace of mind when arriving home or while away.

Keep an eye on meethue.com for further Hue updates.


nCube Modular Smart Home Hub at CES 2018



There’s not a great deal of variation in smart home systems and most are based on a central control unit which communicates with sensors and devices. There’s usually some third party integrations thrown in too and something in the cloud. Frankly, it’s a bit dull and all a bit samey. Consequently, it’s great to see some innovation from nCube which has announced a new modular smart home hub platform.

The nCube system consists of four modules that can be stacked and connected together to meet the needs of the particular smart home. There are four modules, starting with a base module, which can then be enhanced with security, storage and voice layers.

The nCube Base is a full redesign on the existing nCube hub which is no longer Raspberry Pi based, but has a fully customised board embedding Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  The base can support both Wi-Fi connection to the home network and simultaneously allow Wi-Fi smart home devices to connect to the nCube base. This means that the base can be located in the optimal position for control of Z-wave and Zigbee devices, rather than the closest network point. For those who prefer wired connections, there are four LAN ports too.

The Security module provides mobile network back-up and battery back-up for approximately 12 hours.  This means the whole nCube platform continues to function in the event of either or both a power failure and internet connection failure. nCube have always valued local processing of events so it’s good to see this continuing.

The storage layer provides 1TB SSD storage for home security camera footage recording for consumers that are wary of cloud storage.  Optionally, the user may opt-in on an ad hoc basis to cloud storage accessing recordings when a security incident has occurred.

The voice layer provides voice control such as the existing Alexa integration. I’m not sure what this exactly means at this point….is it full Alexa or is it only “Alex for nCube control”. We’ll have to see.

With all modules being optional, the consumer can choose exactly what they want from their smart home hub instead of being forced into buying modules they don’t need, though pricing wasn’t mentioned.

The development of local storage, battery and internet back-up and the continued ability for the nCube hub to run entirely local (no logic runs on the nCube cloud) demonstrates nCube’s continued commitment and leadership in privacy and security in the smart home industry.

In addition, nCube is launching a range of branded smart home devices in recognition that consumers expect smart home providers to provide packages of pre-connected devices as well as supporting as many other brand products as possible.  The new range of nCube products include a colour-changing LED bulb, smart plug, door/window sensor, motion sensor, water sensor, light switch range and nCube multi-socket PowerBar. Oddly, while one of the modules is a storage module for home security cameras, there’s no mention of the cameras.

All products will be available for UK, EU and North American markets sometime in February. No pricing yet.

If you are at CES, nCube is at the Sands Hall A-D, booth 40118. Call in.