Control4's Starter Kit Makes Advanced Home Automation More Accessible
July 2, 2012

If home automation sounds like a neat idea, but you continue to live in the Dark Ages because the whole process sounds a little daunting (or monumentally expensive), Control4 has a solution: the home automation Starter Kit. The Starter Kit includes Control 4′s new HC-250 Controller, along with the SR-250 remote. Together, these two devices allow for easy single-room automation with the option for future expansion. And the best part of the Starter Kit? The price: around $800. (The system does require professional programming and that's a little extra, but even

Silicon Labs to Buy Ember for $72M for Internet of Things
May 21, 2012

The over-a-decade-old company that makes the building blocks - chips, gear and software - for ZigBee-based wireless networks is finally being acquired. Austin-based chip company Silicon Labs announced on Monday that it has acquired Boston-based Ember for $72 million.

Ember was founded back in 2001 and backed by Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, with the idea to help build a low power wireless standard and chip technology to create sensor networks and the Internet of Things. More recently ZigBee has gained traction as the dominant wireless tech for smart meters

Updated Automation
February 1, 2012

Last year's conversations at CES centered on the miserable economy. This year, however, the talk focused on new sales opportunities and revenue streams, especially around home automation.

Nest Teardown Shows Apple-Like Detail
December 23, 2011

The Nest thermostat, which was created by iPod pioneer Tony Fadell, has already been dissected by at least one early buyer. DIY electronics retailer Sparkfun purchased one of the unique thermostats to tear apart, revealing internal components that show an attention to detail that is commonly found inside Apple's mobile products such as iPods and iPhones.

The device integrates a wide range of sensors, including a proximity sensor, movement sensor and hygrometer to determine humidity. Interestingly enough, the components include a small lithium-polymer battery.

Smart Apartments for San Diego, and Green Buttons for Californians
October 28, 2011

We've got some interesting ideas coming out of California's utilities, including one aimed at converting San Diego apartment buildings into big smart-grid surrogates.

At this week's Smart Energy International conference in San Francisco, San Diego Gas & Electric's smart grid chief Lee Krevat dropped the news that his utility had placed a big order for smart appliances to put in new apartment buildings, with plans to start plugging them in next year. I caught up with him afterwards and got some more details.

General Electric is the key partner

Introducing a Thermostat Steve Jobs Would Love: Nest
October 25, 2011

Can gorgeous design, learning algorithms and millions in venture capital funding make a simple home thermostat as coveted as the iPhone? If anyone can achieve such a lofty goal it’s Tony Fadell, the former chief architect at Apple, who led the development of the iPod and the first three versions of the iPhone, and who left Apple two years ago to start connected thermostat company Nest. While Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nest has been operating for about a year and a half, has 100 employees, and funding from Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures and Al Gore’s investment fund, it just came

Verizon Launches Home Automation, via Z-Wave
October 12, 2011

Verizon has become the first major U.S. telecom provider to launch a commercial-scale home automation line of business — and it’s picked the proprietary Z-Wave wireless mesh technology to enable it. That’s big news in the home energy management space on a number of levels. For starts, Verizon’s move to start selling home security and energy management services — first to its nearly 5 million FiOS broadband Internet customers in the U.S., but later to Verizon Wireless customers nationwide — represents a potentially major expansion of the market for smart thermostats, lighting controls and smart plugs

Blog - Smart Gadgets are Like Sleeper Cells in Your Kitchen
October 3, 2011

Most people don't know their gadgets can already talk to one another, and even be controlled remotely by their utility company.

Manufacturers are "future-proofing" their appliances with capabilities that are latent -- for now. If you bought a major appliance in the last three years, odds are it was "smart," even if you didn't know it. Meaning: it probably contains a wireless radio that can broadcast and transmit over a small personal area network, sending out information about a device's status and energy use, as well as receiving commands that alter its behavior.

The Smart and Not-So-Smart Appliances at CEDIA
September 27, 2011

Samsung's hum-drum WiFi-enabled refrigerator/freezer eliminates magnets, while Sub-Zero shows full integration with Control4 home automation plus a new kosher mode. Despite its “Intelligent Dispenser,” Samsung WiFi-enabled RF4289 refrigerator/freezer isn’t so smart.

Smart appliances may hold a lot of promise for the home of the future, but you wouldn’t know it by CEDIA Expo 2011. Two companies showed white goods at the Expo: Samsung and Wolf/Sub-Zero (in the Control4 booth). One was really smart, one not-so-smart. Let’s start with the latter. Samsung’s RF4289 “smart