Category: Home / building automation and security

UPnP+ links non-IP devices to wide-area networks

Article

UPnP+ links non-IP devices to wide-area networks | EETasia

My Comments

The recent extension of the UPnP Device Architecture specifications, known as UPnP+ is being worked on at the moment by the UPnP Forum. This is to extend the reach of the UPnP Device Architecture specification sets to satisfy certain new realities.

One key reality is to make UPnP work properly with the “Internet Of Everything” concept. This is where devices are able to interlink with each other and share their information in a manner not dissimilar to the concept associated with the Internet.

It will be achieved with native support for IPv6 across IP networks. This takes advantage of the huge number of addresses this standard offers compared to the legacy IPv4 which most of the Internet works on at the moment.

As well, a SensorBridge Device Class will be defined. This caters for the “bridge” device that links sensors and similar devices that work on non-IP networks with IP-based networks. The article talked of the non-IP wireless-sensor networks as being Zigbee, Z-Wave and ANT which take advantage of low-power low-overhead operation suited for those fields. These devices could be represented by “black-box” devices that stand between an Ethernet or Wi-Fi-based home network and the sensors or controllers such as the Honeywell Evohome Mobile Access Kit, but could also be represented as software integrated in either a router that also has a Zigbee or Z-Wave interface or a smartphone, tablet or laptop with Bluetooth 4.0 Smart interface.

There will also be inherent support for cloud-based “hosted” services to be part of the UPnP ecosystem. Of course, I find that the term “cloud” alludes a lot to services hosted by other parties away from the main home network, typically to provide remote access from smartphones, tablets and other computers connected via the Internet. In the context of “Internet Of Everything”, it could extend to service providers like utilities or monitored-alarm companies using this data to participate in the “Smart home” concept.

I would see this come in to its own with home and other networks that are operating along the line of “Internet Of Everything” and this could be supported with newer devices that have newer UPnP+ firmware in place.

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One of the first smart thermostats now arrives in the UK

Articles

Nest thermostat arrives in the UK ahead of an ‘aggressive’ European expansion | The Verge

Nest’s Learning Thermostat lands in the UK for £179 | Engadget

Nest débarque au Royaume-Uni | 01Net.com (France – French language / Langue française)

From the horse’s mouth

Nest Labs

Product Page

My Comments

Nest Learning Thermostat courtesy of Nest Labs

The Nest Learning Thermostat now can work with that central-heating boiler

Nest Labs have been associated with a room thermostat that is described as the “iPhone of thermostats”. This unit, which was available in the USA for the last few years, connects to your home network and your central-heating system  This also allows for a continual “learning-mode” for its operation and your computer or mobile devices work as extra control surfaces whether through a Web front or a client-side app.

But the UK has a different central-heating-control need especially as most houses use a boiler which heats up water which is pumped to radiator panels located in each room of the house. These systems also heat up the household’s domestic-hot-water supply either through the boiler itself or a heat-exchange tank located upstairs in the house.

A lot of these systems are managed by a time switch located near the boiler as the main control surface and may not have a room thermostat, with the householder overriding or “playing around” with the time switch for the heat to satisfy their comfort requirement. This kind of system has become a challenge for anyone designing a smart thermostat that is intended to work with any residential heating system and I have previously wrote an article about a network-enabled thermostat system targeted specifically at these systems.

Nest have modified this network-capable thermostat to cater for the UK central-heating system by implementing a control module that is connected to the boiler. The thermostat uses a wireless link to control the boiler to provide heat as necessary. At the moment, it doesn’t have the ability to manage the domestic-hot-water function that these heating systems also provide.

It is released now with an installed price of GBP£249 or a “do-it-yourself” price of GBP£179. This has also been the chance for Nest to release their Nest Connect connected smoke/carbon-monoxide alarm which also implements a “dashboard” on your smartphone. As well, Nest releasing their online smart thermostat in to the UK market is the start of them “getting their claws” in to the rest of Europe where most countries their implement this kind of heating system.

Personally it is the sign of a trend where this year could be the availability of smart heating controls for the UK and European markets.

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Honeywell Evohome–a network-based controller for UK-style central heating

Article

Honeywell’s evohome puts a smart heating system in every room, is now available in the UK | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Honeywell Evohome

Product Page

My Comments

Honeywell are pitching to the UK market a zoned central-heating control system that works with the kind of central-heating setups that exist there. Here, these typically have a gas boiler which heats up water which is passed on to radiators installed in each of the rooms, with this heat source also being for the household’s domestic hot water needs.

This system, known as the Evohome, implements wireless control using a proprietary 800MHz radio system. The main control surface is a temperature controller that is equipped with a colour LCD touchscreen but a householder can also purchase a “remote network gateway” that links to the home network to allow control from their smartphone or tablet. It doesn’t matter whether that are at home or away with this control.

There are various “wireless relay boxes” and “wireless controllers” that pass the control signals from the controller on to each other to manage the heating system for comfort and efficiency. Honeywell also even supply special thermostatic radiator valves that are part of this system to provide for room-based zoning so that this system can cater for local comfort needs in an efficient manner. The zoning ability also allows for management of the domestic-hot-water temperature to suit safe efficient provision of this service.

It is also able to work in a “learning” manner that adapts the central heating system’ behaviour to follow the household’s daily routine and lifestyle rather than the household revolving around the system’s requirements. As well, there is support for OpenTherm functionality for compatible boilers so as to support simplified installation and monitoring of that appliance from the controller.

But there are questions that can be easily raised about this system such as whether this system implements Zigbee or Z-Wave for inter-device communication especially if other devices do the job better than the Evohome devices. Similarly, the use of other common standards for network-based HVAC control could open paths for hardware, software and service providers to allow for a heterogenous approach for building-automation applications.

What I see of this is an attempt to provide “per-room / per-radiator” heating control for a UK-style hydronic central-heating system at an affordable cost with the ability to know what’s going on in each room and providing the ability to manage it from your home network.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2014–Part 3 (Wearables, Home Automation and the Open Road)

This final instalment of my coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show will be focusing on some areas that have had high media coverage. This are the connected wearable devices that work with our smartphones, the connected home along with car-based technologies. The latter two are underscoring the idea that the online life is more than the home office or living room but more pervasive.

Connected Wearable Devices

The arrival of hardware and operating-system support for Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy for smartphones, tablets and laptops has opened up a flood of connected devices that we can wear.

This is primarily in the form of the smartwatch which is today’s connected iteration of the “nerdy” digital watch of the late 70s and early 80s. Some companies like Archos have started to join the smartwatch party by offering one that implements the e-paper display technology for US$85. This is while Samsung and Pebble came forth with newer smartwatch models.

Rather than have a smartwatch like the Galaxy Gear, Casio has gone down the path of premiering a Bluetooth-connected sports watch. Here, this one-time king of digital watches implemented a regular sports-watch design which uses a Bluetooth link to work with a fitness app and support a notification display on the watch. Another company also fielded a Bluetooth-linked notification watch that is equipped with an analogue dial, something that could come about for targeting the “dress watch” segment.

A similar device that is covering an increased amount of floor space is the “fitness band” which is a connected bracelet or wristband that measures physical activity and reports it to your smartphone or other computing device. They have been brought on by the success of the Nike FuelBand which provides this functionality when in use with the Apple iPhone.

LG even has developed the Lifeband Touch which is a hybrid device that serves as a  fitness band or a discreet smartwatch that works as an external display for your phone, courtesy of its touch-enabled OLED display. Herem the Lifeband uses sensors in the form of a 3-axis accelerometer and an altimeter. Razer also premiered the Nabu which is another of these fitness bands that double as a smartwatch.

Archos and Samsung have joined the fitness band party with the latter calling theirs the Galaxy Band to fit in with their Galaxy online lifestyle devices. Garmin even came forth with the Vivofit fitness band that is more about reminding us to be active rather than tracking actual activity. Pulsense even worked on a fitness band that also can “see through” skin to measure heartrate without the need for other awkward sensor requirements.

Sony Smart Band - Sony press image

Sony Smart Band – an example of the many connected wearables surfacing this year.

Sony has taken another path through the use of a “Core” wearable device that works with different accessories and works on what they call “Emotion” rather than activity.

Other sports and fitness applications that are being drawn out include a Bluetooth-connected basketball with its own motion sensors to measure basketball technique, LG’s in-ear headset that tracks heartrate, a connected headband with integrated speaker, a heart-rate monitor for swimming goggles along with a brain-sensing EEG headband for games with exercise and an impact monitor for sports injuries.

Eyewear is also becoming an important “connected-wearable” device class thanks to Google Glass with its “augmented reality” function. Epson have answered Google by offering an Android-based augmented-reality glasses system in the form of the Moverio BT-200.

Even the concept of making jewellery connected has not escaped a British chip-maker’s mind. Here, CSR who are known for the Bluetooth aptX audio codec for Bluetooth applications have released proof-of-concept designs where a Bluetooth Smart chipset can be integrated in to jewellery to give it software-driven notification abilities.

But from what I see, I would find that the smartwatches and the fitness bands, especially those that have smartwatch functionality would be the more credible class of connected wearable devices. Similarly, devices for personal healthcare monitoring may earn some credibility with fitness enthusiasts, sports people and those of us who are managing chronic illnesses.

Internet Of Things and the connected home

This year’s CES is showing that this trade fair could follow the same path as the Internationaler Funkaustellung where small and large household appliances acquire show floor space alongside consumer electronics and personal computing. This is being underscored by the “Internet Of Things” and the desire to see the “connected home” come to fruition in the name of energy efficiency, security and convenience.

Samsung and LG have been using their stands to premiere their advanced whitegoods which interlink with their communications and AV equipment in their product portfolios, using these devices as an extra control or monitoring point.

Of course, this is being underscored by the various home devices being connected to your home network via Wi-Fi and working on the “app-cessory” model where you install controller apps on your smartphone. This has been underscored heavily with a lot of LED-based “app-cessory” lightbulbs that are being marketed in the US due to that market moving away from the classic incandescent bulb towards more efficient lighting and the LED lighting can allow for highly-controllable lights that can change colour at the flick of a switch.

Belkin WeMo Crock-Pot slow-cooker - Belkin press image

Belkin WeMo Crock-Pot slow-cooker – an example of the app-cessory appliances surfacing this year

Belkin had shown more of their “Wemo” smartphone-based home-automation subsystem and added LED lightbulbs to this equation. They also partnered with Sunbeam Appliances to premiere a Wemo-enabled Crock-Pot slow cooker that can be managed from your smartphone. As well, they have the Wemo Maker which is a sensor or controller that links garage doors, sprinkler systems and the like in to the Wemo ecosystem.

The Lowe’s hardware-store chain have launched extras for their IRIS home-automation system with leak-detecting smart-shutoff valves, a sprinkler-control system, a garage-door controller, a voice-command interface along with smart-grid compatibility. This latest feature can allow for integration with off-peak tariffs or load-shedding practices that the grid may use.

Things were relatively quiet when it came to the “smart-lock” devices with two such devices being premiered as credible products. One of these was the Okidokeys smart-lock retrofit kit that adds NFC smartphone, touch-card and key-fob functionality to an existing tubular deadbolt. This kit has been based on Openways smartphone-enabled hotel room locks and has been pitched as a “wide-reaching” device while maintaining the user’s existing key as an entry path. Another deadbolt offered by Goji implements an integrated outside display, an integrated camera and implements Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology.

ADT who are well-known for service-based monitored security have joined in to the connected-home scene while keeping their service-driven business model alive. They have fielded the Pulse home security package which adds voice commands via a smartphone app along with the Canopy smartphone app which offers protection on the go. They also offered extra hardware in the form of remote controls for garage door openers and ceiling fans, along with a touchscreen controller for their alarm systems.

They are still underscoring the serviced-security model even by extending this to your computer and home network by partnering with McAfee Security (now Intel Security) for a home data-security solution. As well, they are working with Ford to provide dashboard integration for your monitored-security solution using the Sync technology that Ford offers.

Technology on the open road

This year, the Consumer Electronics Show has also been been a chance for vehicle builders to show the latest online technology for their vehicles.

Google and Apple have made steps to integrate their mobile operating systems in to motor vehicles and are partnering with vehicle builders to further this integration. For example, Google partnered with Audi to build an Android-driven infotainment system for the car and underscored this with a 10.1” Android tablet that docks in to the centre console of various new-issue Audis to become a display and control surface in that vehicle.This is while Apple had support from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, General Motors and Honda for iOS integration.

GM are underscoring this with some Chevrolet vehicles being equipped with 4G LTE mobile broadband as well as the creation of the OnStar AppShop where you can add extra functionality through apps. They even offered a telemetry recorder app for use with the Corvette Stingray.

Even the chipmakers are cashing in on the connected car with Qualcomm pitching the 602a connected-car CPU while NVIDIA offered a variant of their Tegra K1 for automotive use.

Advanced vehicle techologies were being pitches at this show such as Toyota presenting a concept vehicle that is powered by a fuel cell. As well, Ford integrated a solar panel in to the roof of their C-Max Energi Concept electric car which allows the vehicle to charge itself from that panel to add extra driving range. BMW even put up the idea of a parallel-parking “auto-pilot” for their i3 electric car where you can press a button to start your vehicle parking itself in that shopping-centre car park.

The aftermarket car infotainment scene is still kicking along with Alpine offering the X009 9” navigation receiver that fits in the dashboard of trucks and 4WDs and interlinks with smartphones including having MHL support for the Android phone. JVC also is supplying a double-DIN car stereo with MHL connectivity, touchscreen while app-link functionality and Siri Eyes Free is also appearing on cheaper JVC head units. Pioneer are even offering car AV equipment that “doesn’t miss your smartphone” by offering various methods of connectivity such as AVICSync, MirrorLink and AppRadio.

Sony has also gone about this in a different way. Here, they have a double-DIN CD receiver which works as a smartphone dock. Here, your Android smartphone can be set up with NFC paring and, with a companion app, becomes the control surface for the car stereo.

Conclusion

What I see of the Consumer Electronics Show this year is a strong foothold for connected wearable devices, increased presence by vehicle builders at the show, a blending of computer classes that aren’t really delineated by operating system or display size along with a make or break for 4K ultra-high-definition TV.

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Alliance to provide a level playing field for Internet Of Things

Articles

A New Alliance Will Let "Internet Of Things" Devices Talk To Each Other  | Fast Company

Home Appliance Makers Connect Open Source Internet Of Things | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

AllSeen Alliance

Web site

My Comments

As the hype builds up about the “Internet Of Things” where devices can use a heterogenous network for exchanging data or receiving commands, there is oomething that can easily go wrong here. This is where particular vendors see the “Internet Of Things” as being the “Internet Of Things Around Our Products”, something that can stifle competition and, especially, innovation.

But steps have been taken towards creating a truly heterogenous Internet Of Things which is similar to what has happened with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless technologies. Here, it involved the creation of industry-based multiple-vendor alliances who put forward what is required for all devices working to a technology to communicate with each other.

The Linux Foundation have set up the AllSeen Alliance in conjunction with Qualcomm with their AllJoyn protocol which was just lately made “open-source”. The goal is about implementing heterogenous transport layers that work without need for Internet connectivity and work in a vendor-independent manner.

At the moment, they are working on modular services that look at the following functions: discovery, pairing / set-up, message routing, and data security. THis will include proper user interface requirements including a rich user experience with the Internet of Things; along with an application-specific requirement  for streaming audio over many connected speakers.

There will still need to be an effort to assure secure interoperability on a function-based level so that a system based on units from different vendors can work as a system rather than having he need for software or hardware function bridges to allow devices of one manufacturer to work with those of another.

Once this happens, this can allow the Internet Of things to be affordable for most users and be a breeding ground of innovation.

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AVM releases HomePlug AV500 access point that is ready for home automation

Article – in German language

Internet per Stromleitung: Anschluss der Powerline an Steckerleisten kann die Leistung beeinflussen | NetzwerkTotal.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

Product Page (German language)

My Comments

AVM, known for their premium Fritz!Box routers have launched their latest HomePlug AV500 wireless access point which is a device that I consider important for stone-built European country houses that are “Wi-Fi difficult”. This unit, known as the AVM FritzPowerLine 546E provides a Wi-Fi segment to the dual-stream 802.11n specification for the 2.4GHz band and supports WPS push-button client-device setup as has been talked about in this article concerning WPS in a multi-access-point network.

But it is also ready for the IPv6 home networks which are a reality for anyone using a recent high-end consumer or small-business router and will become common as more countries roll out next-generation broadband.

But the FritzPowerline 546E is one of the few HomePlug access points equipped with a filtered mains outlet which you can plug equipment in to. AVM takes this further by making this socket a switched socket which works with their home-automation software. For that matter, this function is manageable through the device’s Web user interface and provides not just instant remote “on-off” but a time-switch function.

What I see of this device is that it isn’t just like other HomePlug wireless access points but is offering more functionality in a different way. This is especially as the HomePlug powerline network is being considered very clearly in the UK and Europe as a viable no-new-wires network segment.

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Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Articles

Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 (hands-on)

Dropcam Pro: A Burlier Webcam To Help You Keep Watch Over Your Home | Gizmodo

My Comments

Dropcam have revised their Dropcam Pro IP-based surveillance camera and offered for US$199. But they have offered a unit that could be considered above average for a consumer-grade cloud-supported IP camera and this is brought about by a dual-band Wi-Fi network interface, the implementation of Bluetooth 4.0 technology and the use of above-average optics and audio recording techn0logy.

Most Wi-Fi-based IP cameras that connect to the home network only work to the 802.11g/n technologies that use the 2.4GHz band. But the newly-refreshed Dropcam Pro implements the dual-band Wi-Fi technology which means it can use the uncluttered 5GHz waveband.

Impressively the new Dropcam Pro implements the Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready technology to add a few capabilities to it. One is to be able to use the companion mobile-platform app to enrol the camera in to your small network’s Wi-Fi segment even if your router doesn’t support WPS one-touch setup. This is an alternative to the “own-access-point” setup routine where the device becomes its own access point during the setup phase.

Another bonus is that the Dropcam Pro can work with sensor devices that exploit the Bluetooth Smart profile. For that matter, Dropcam are working on expsing an application-programming interface to allow third parties to develop hardware and software that works with this camera to add a range of smarts to it.

One highly-obvious sensor application that will take advantage of Dropcam Pro’s Bluetooth Smart Ready feature would be a door sensor which uses a magnet and reed switch to alert if a door is open. Here, the Dropcam Pro could be set up to record for a few seconds to a minute in real-time when that door is open.

The optics and microphone are above avarage for this class of IP camera with an all-glass lens and a highly-sensitive condenser microphone. This will also be a bonus for the software-based ecosystem that will give the camera some extra intelligence. Even the software offers tricks familiar to those of us who watch crime dramas and spy movies where the camera can send coarse images in its stream but can allow zooming in on an area of the captured footage.

I would see this as a race to provide highly-capable IP-based video surveillance technology to the small business and home user as these technologies trickle down from equipment targeted at the larger installations.

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An electric kettle that uses the Wi-Fi home network to let you know it’s ready

Article

A Wi-Fi Kettle That Messages Instead of Whistling When It Boils

My Comments

We are seeing more of the so-called “app-cessories” become available for most of the household appliances that are part of our lives. These have the household appliance and other devices gain Bluetooth to a mobile device or use the home network to link to the same mobile devices or regular computers and implement an app to add the extra functionality to these appliances. It will become the way where your iOS or Android device will become crowded out with the apps that are part of the “app-cessory” trend.

Now the electric kettle or jug has bitten this trend with a base that connects to the home network via Wi-Fi. Here, the “iKettle” electric jug works with a smartphone app that and your home network to add certain functions that drop in to your lifestyle.

For example, if you like to make that cup of tea late at night while you catch up on a favourite TV show lingering on that TiVo device or “prowl around” Facebook on that iPad on the kitchen island bench, you don’t have to worry about the loud whistle that it makes when the water’s boiled waking the rest of the household up. Instead, it effectively “pages you” through your mobile device.

Similarly, you could set it to start boiling at a known time so that the water’s ready so you can make that pot of plunger coffee when you have surfaced for the day. This is achieved using the same app exposing a timer function. This function also includes the ability to set up particular temperatures such as the 95 degrees Celsius ideal for making coffee and tea; or 55 degrees Celsius  setting for water you quickly boil up for washing dishes because the water heater packed it in.

A problem that I see with the “app-cessory” concept as it is that most manufacturers can create their own islands and not allow the devices to be exposed to control and monitoring applications and setups other than their own setup. This can avoid the idea of creating environments where a device can respond to another device in a manner to create the “lifestyle mood” or assist its users. For example, having a kettle like this could interlink with a screen to guide a person with dementia through the process of making a cup of tea or similarly, if you have your kettle full before you leave home, you could have it start boiling when you enter your alarm code to disarm your house alarm as you arrive.

At least there is the flourishing concept of making a smartphone work with appliances as a lifestyle device.

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The first door lock to exploit Bluetooth Smart technology

Article

Kwikset Kevo cylindrical deadbolt in use - Kwikset press imageLock Your Doors with Bluetooth Smart Technology | Bluetooth Blog

From the horse’s mouth

Kwikset

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Kwikset have released the first door lock to exploit the nascent Bluetooth Smart technology that is part of the iPhone 4 onwards as well as an increasing number of Android and Blackberry smartphones.

Like most of these “cutting-edge” electromechanical door locks, this unit is a “bore-through” cylindrical deadbolt, most likely because this form-factor is considered very popular on the American house’s front door. From the outside, the Kevo deadbolt looks like any other lock of this type but has a distinct blue ring that lights up under certain circumstances. This, and the fact that it still works with the regular key, keeps a perceived aesthetic and useability comfort zone that householders have valued with these locks.

But the Kevo deadbolt implements a proximity-based operation technique where you have a supplied key fob or a smartphone running the Kwikset Kevo app acting as the virtual key fob releasing this lock when you are near it from the outside. This will light up the blue ring on the outside and you touch the lock’s bezel to cause the bolt to retract/

Like most, if not all. of these “smart-locks”, the Kwikset deadbolt is its own access-control system with the ability to log when a person has opened the door. It also supports time-limited and “one-shot” keys so you can limit when a person has access to the premises, which is a boon with most of us who engage tradespeople, carers or even want to have friends and family around and factor in early arrivals. This even supports the ability to allow a user to send a key via email to another user which can play its part in many different ways such as a family member or friend who is lodging at your house while they are in town.

But the Kwikset Kevo deadbolt is more or less standalone in nature and not able to work with a home network. Personally, I would like to see this and other locks of this kind support the integration with home networks and home-automation systems either at purchase or through an aftermarket kit that exposes these functions to the network technology that you are using at a later date. The reason I support the use of an aftermarket kit is the fact that these products can be in service for many many years and upgrading towards newer network functionality should avoid the need to junk a perfectly good lockset.

This is one of many trends that are affecting the residential door lock and bringing this device towards the online and mobile era.

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Nest intends to turn the smoke alarm on its head

Article

Nest’s Next Big Product Will Reportedly Be a Smoke Detector

My Comments

Nest, which was a company founded by the people who designed the Apple iPod and iPhone devices, had reworked the design of the programmable central-heating thermostat by implementing a round shape and having it also work via a home network to enable Web-driven and app-driven programming and control. This unit even used a “learning” concept for its automatic comfort-control functionality as well as tracking the energy efficiency of your heating or cooling system.

Now, they intend to release a smoke/carbon-monoxide detector that does more than sound a local alarm when there is smoke or excessive carbon monoxide in the house. This will use the home network as a basic fire-alarm reporting system but also implement a gesture-driven alarm-mute function which would come in handy if your cooking had tripped the alarm.

Of course, like Nest’s thermostats, this would implement an extraordinary design that makes it less like your father’s old station wagon.

But this is one of many devices that are defining newer directions for home automation and security and making this concept more ubiquitous and user friendly for most households.

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