Category: Home / building automation and security

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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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2013–Part 2

IFA LogoIn my first part of the series on this year’s International Funkaustellung 2013 trade show, I had covered the personal IT trends that were being underscored here. These were the rise and dominance of the highly-capable Android smartphone, the arrival of the large-screen “phablet” smartphones, Sony offering high-grade digital-photo abilities to smartphones and improving on these in their smartphones, the convertible and detachable-keyboard notebook-tablet computers becoming a mature device class as well as the arrival of the smartwatch as a real product class.

Now I am focusing on what is to happen within the home for this second part.

Television-set and home AV technology

The television set is still considered an integral part of the connected home, especially as a group-viewing display device for content delivered via the Internet or the home network.

4K Ultra-high-definition TVs

Most of the activity surrounding the 4K ultra-high-definition TV technology has been with manufacturers releasing second-generation 4K models with the focus on the 55” and 65” screen sizes. It is also the time when the HDMI 2.0 connection specification, which yields the higher throughput for the 4K ultra-high-definition video plus support for 32 audio streams and more, has been called and most of these manufacturers are accommodating this in their second-generation designs whether baked in or as a firmware update as in the case of Sony’s newly-released 55” and 65” 4K designs.

Panasonic had initially held off with releasing a 4K set but released the Smart VIERA WT600 which is a 55” OLED 4K which had the “second-generation” credentials like the aforementioned high-speed HDMI 2.0 connection. LG had launched a pair of 4K models with one having a 50-watt soundbar and “micro-dimming” which adjusts the screen brightness in an optimum manner for the video material. Even Haier, the Chinese consumer-goods manufacturer had jumped in on the 4K bandwagon.

There are still the very-large-screen 4K UHDTV sets with screens of 84” to 94”. Now Samsung have launched 4K models with astonishing screen sizes of 98” and 110”.

At the moment, there is some work taking place concerning the delivery of content with the 4K screen resolution. Sony have set up a download-based content delivery service with the FMP-X1 hard-disk-based media player and based around a rental-based or download-to-own business model. Samsung is partnering with Eutelsat to deliver 4K UHDTV broadcasts to the home using satellite-TV technology as well as others working with the Astra satellite team to achieve a similar goal.

OLED TV screens

Another key trend that is affecting the “main-lounge-room” TV set is the OLED display reaching 55” and above in screen size. Those of you who own or have used a Samsung, HTC or Sony smartphone will have seen this technology in action on the phone’s display.

Samsung and LG have increased their factory output of these large-size screens which has allowed the material price of these screens to become cheaper. Here, it has allowed for more manufacturers to run an OLED model in their lineup, whether with a flat display or a convex curved display. Most of these models are 4K displays and have a 55” screen. Haier even went to the lengths of designing a 55” flat OLED TV that is in a housing that can’t easily be tipped over while LG had fielded a model with a flat OLED screen and a model with a curved OLED screen.

For that matter, LG improved on the aesthetics of the flatscreen TV by implementing a “picture-frame” design which make the TV look like a beautiful large piece of art on the wall. This was augmented with a screenshow collection of artworks that are part of the TV’s firmware.

Other TV and home-AV trends

Brought on by the Philips Ambilight background-lighting initiative, some of the manufacturers are integrating LED-based background lights in to their TVs to provide the complimentary lighting. Philips even took this further with the ability to synchronise LED-based multicolour room lighting with their set’s Ambilight background lighting.

What I also suspect is happening with TVs destined for the European market is that they will be equipped with DVB-T2 digital TV tuners. This is to complement the arrival of DVB-T2 TV-station multiplexes in various countries that are primarily offering HDTV broadcasts.

Sony is also taking a stab at high-grade home audio by building up a file-based music distribution system that implements hard-disk-based media players with one downloading the music as files and syncing it to these hard-disk media players. Like SACD, this technology is meant to sound as good as the studio master tapes. Comments have been raised about the provision of two different files for each album or song – one that is mastered to best-quality standards where there is the full dynamic range another file, packaged as an MP3 perhaps, that has compression and limiting for casual or “noisy-environment” listening.

The home network

TV via the home network

Broadcast-LAN devices

There has been a fair bit of activity on the “broadcast-LAN” front courtesy of the SAT-IP initiative for satellite TV which I previously touched on. This has manifested in a few satellite-based broadcast-LAN boxes that are equipped with multiple tuners showing up at this year’s show including one 2-tuner model from Devolo and one four-tuner DLNA-equipped model from Grundig.

Similarly, SiliconDust have brought in the SimpleTV service model to Europe which provides a network-hosted PVR and broadcast-LAN setup for regular TV. I would see this has having great traction with Europeans because all of the European countries have free-to-air offerings anchored by the well-funded public TV services like BBC, ARD/ZDF, France Télévisions, and DR which yield content of high production and artistic quality. AVM have also used this show to launch a SAT-IP-compliant broadcast-LAN setup for the DVB-C cable-TV networks that exist primarily in Europe but links to an existing Wi-Fi network segment which wouldn’t let the device do its job in an optimum manner.

Other TV-over-Internet technology

Philips has also joined in the “over-the-top” cloud-driven TV party that Intel and Google were in by putting up their concept of a “virtual-cable” service delivered via the Internet.

LAN technologies

Wi-Fi wireless networks

Even though the 802.11ac high-speed Wi-Fi wireless network standard isn’t ratified by the IEEE, nearly every major manufacturer of home-network equipment has at least one, if not two, wireless routers that support this technology. Some even supply USB network-adaptor dongles that allow you to benefit from this technology using your existing computer equipment.

HomePlug powerline networks

There have been a few HomePlug AV2 adaptors appearing with the Continental-style “Schuko” AC plug on them, such as the Devolo dLAN 650+ and the TP-Link TLP-6010 but the manufacturers wouldn’t really state whether these fully work to the HomePlug AV2 standard. They are typically rated at 600Mbps for their link speed and are at the moment the Single-stream type.

As for Devolo, they have launched the dLAN 500 WiFi which is a HomePlug AV 500 “extension access point” for wireless networks. Here, Devolo have made an attempt in the right direction for “quick setup” of multiple-access-point Wi-Fi segments by implementing a “settings-clone” function. But this works using the HomePlug AV backbone and only where you use multiple dLAN 500 WiFi access points on the same backbone.

Home Automation

Some of the appliance manufacturers have gone down the “connected path” by equipping some of the top-end appliance models with Wi-Fi connectivity and implementing a manufacturer-developed dashboard app for the iOS and/or Android mobile platform. Here, these apps either work as a secondary control surface for the appliance or provide extended setup and configuration options that aren’t available on the appliance’s control surface.

Samsung went about this with their high-end washing machine where they use this connectivity as a remote “dashboard” so you can know if the machine is underway and on the correct cycle or be able to be notified when the washing is done. Philips uses a similar setup for their multifunction countertop cooker but it allows you to determine a recipe on your phone and dump that down to the cooker. But this, like a similarly-equipped coffee machine was really a proof-of-concept machine.

Thomson had offered a convincing home-automation kit which uses its own connectivity technology but can connect to Z-Wave or Zigbee networks using a bridge module. My question about this kit is whether you can start out with what is supplied but grow beyond by adding in the extra modules from Thomsom or other third parties as required.

Other Trends

This year has become a key year for vehicle builders to push forward connected app-driven infotainment and telematics in their vehicles that will hit European roads. It implements a mobile broadband connection to the car via the driver’s smartphone or another device along with apps for popular online services optimised for safe use in the car or to work with the car.

It has been exemplified by Ford implementing a “SYNC AppLink” setup that allows users to control favourite smartphone apps from their vehicle’s dashboard, including the ability to support voice control.

Conclusion

It certainly shows that at this year’s IFA, the personal IT products like tablets, convertible notebook computers and large-screen smartphones are becoming a very diverse and mature product class while the 4K ultra high definition TV technology is gaining some traction as a real display class.

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An increasing number of home systems and personal health devices link to our mobile devices

Article

Home, health devices controlled by apps on the rise | The Age (Australia)

My Comments

A trend that is becoming very real in this day and age is for more appliances, home systems and personal healthcare devices to be linked to the home network and the Internet.

This is typically manifested in the form of the devices having control apps being made available for smartphones and tablets that run on common mobile-computing platforms, especially iOS and Android. Typically the device would like to the smartphone or tablet either via a direct Bluetooth link or the home network with the mobile computing device linking to that network via Wi-Fi wireless. Some of these devices that promote “cloud-driven” or “remote-access” functionality make use of the Internet connection offered by the home network or the mobile computing device.

Of course, you have to remember that the use of the “cloud” word is primarily about the vendor or service provider providing either simplified remote access to the device or having user data being stored on the vendor’s servers.

A lot of the apps offer various device control or monitoring functions, with some of the apps linking to a remote Web server for storing user data. This is more so with personal healthcare devices where the goal is to keep a record of measurements that the device obtains on behalf of the user.

Of course, the mobile-computing-platform app may not he the only way to benefit from the connected device’s online abilities. Here, the device could work with a Web-based dashboard page that users can view with a Web browser on their regular-platform or mobile-platform computing device. This situation would come in handy if the concept is to provide more information at a glance or provide greater control of the device.

There is a reality that by 2022 a household with 2 teenage / young-adult children will maintain 50 Internet-connected devices compared to 10 such devices in 2013 according to OECD data and this situation is being described as the “Internet Of Things”.

But there are some issues here with the current ecosystem for these devices and apps. For example, if a user has more appliances and other devices from different manufacturers or service providers, the smartphone or tablet will end up being crowded out with many different apps. The same situation may occur as a device comes to the end of its useful life and is replaced with a newer device which may be from a different vendor. It can lead to users finding it difficult to locate the monitoring or control apps that they need to use for a particular device.

Here, the situation could be rectified through the use of application standards like UPnP so that one can develop apps that can manage many devices from different vendors.

This could also encourage innovation such as the design of “car-friendly” apps or voice-agent (Siri / S-Voice) plugins so that one could benefit from a monitoring or control app when they leave or arrive in the car. Similarly, the software would need to exploit the abilities that iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 / 8 / RT offer within their platforms for “at-a-glance” viewing or user notifications.

It is a change that could take place over the years as the home network exists to be the easy-to-manage small network for an increasing number of devices.

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