A Sneak Preview — PUCK 2 !

30/01/2018

A Sneak Preview — PUCK 2 !

The incredible PUCK 2 – a sneak preview! www.getpuck.com 

Be smart when picking a smart home automation platform

29/01/2018

Be smart when picking a smart home automation platform

CES took place this week, the annual consumer electronics trade show where tech companies show what they have planned for the year ahead. I’m writing this from CES where I’ve seen a lot of robots, self-driving cars, and big, beautiful TVs.

One of the major trends this year–and one that will likely effect you soon, if not already–is the connected home. In a connected home, appliances can speak to each other and you can control them all with your voice. Dim the lights, call up a movie, start the wash, and put the security system on alert — there’s no limit to what’s possible.

Several companies are putting a lot of energy into convincing you that they’re the connected home platform you should go with. You wouldn’t want a mix of systems, since they’re not currently compatible, and the beauty of a connected home is that everything works together. Those smart speakers that Google and Amazon sell, often for attractively low prices, are starter devices meant to get you familiar with their connected home system. If you have an Amazon Echo device, you’ll choose the connected light bulbs that work with it, then the security cameras, television, and so on.

Apple is also a player in this race with its HomeKit platform, although it isn’t moving nearly as quickly as the other two. Apple’s first connected speaker, the HomePod, won’t hit the market until early this year. In typical Apple fashion, the company won’t compete on price. Its speaker will sell for $349, giving the low-end market to Amazon and Google.

At CES, I saw strong interest from Samsung in being your home network. It has a line of sleek appliances that can work together. You can see what’s in your Samsung fridge from your Samsung TV, for example. This is definitely not a system for the price-conscious.

Roku, which is known for its low-priced TV streaming devices, is also getting into this market. It’s first networked product will be a soundbar made by TCL and coming out in the third quarter of this year.

If you haven’t picked out a connected home system, take your time. There’s no benefit to being first here. New players are still entering the marketing, and it’s hard to say which system will be the most useful. While they all promise ease and a range of uses, I see a lot of work to be done. They’ll get more beneficial and more affordable in the near future, but it’s still early days.

Toss your remote in three easy steps with PUCK!

22/01/2018

Toss your remote in three easy steps with PUCK!

Hate remotes? Get PUCK and toss out outdated technology forever in just three easy steps!

Step 1)
Attach PUCK on or near a device that uses an Infrared remote

Step 2)
Download and pair with the free PUCK Remote App for iOS and Android

Step 3)
Toss your remotes!
https://getpuck.com/

Alexa, Google Assistant want to be everywhere in 2018

16/01/2018

Alexa, Google Assistant want to be everywhere in 2018

At one section of Google’s giant outdoor booth at CES was an impromptu, carney-style one-man show, with a guy wearing dark sunglasses and a white Google Assistant jumpsuit loudly and enthusiastically giving away free electronics one by one to a snaking line of gawking tech-show goers.

“He got a Google Home Mini! Let’s get a picture, boss!” he yelled out as I walked by on Thursday.

“Google’s even giving out smart lights!” he told the crowd. “I didn’t even know lights could be smart! Congratulations, dude!”

This one booth bro embodied Google’s efforts at CES 2018, with the search giant making a rare and splashy appearance at the world’s largest tech show. The company was working to drum up attention for its Google Assistant voice helper as it tries to catch up to Amazon’s Alexa, the dominant force in voice-controlled smart speakers.

Not to be outdone, Amazon was part of dozens of partnership announcements at CES, with Alexa making its way into Toyota carsVuzix smart glasses and Kohler smart toilets.

That blow-for-blow fight between Amazon and Google highlights the tech industry’s expectation that voice assistants will play a much bigger role in your digital life this year. Executives from both companies at CES talked about bringing their voice assistants to many more places like cars, earbuds and office meeting rooms, so your voice assistant can seamlessly be available to you anytime and anywhere — apparently even on the toilet.

“If voice is going to be everywhere, you want to see voice transition from the home, when you get into your car. … You’d also want it at work,” said Steve Rabuchin, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa Voice Service and Alexa Skills. “We’re going off into auto and these other places because we believe voice is a natural interface and it should be ambient.”

So far, voice assistants have built up a fanbase as controllers of the smart home, helping people play music or operate their connected lights. The challenge will be whether these assistants can effectively transition into other places. That test is already playing out in phones, with Apple‘s Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant already available in oodles of handsets, but results have been mixed.

Samsung is also working to bring its assistant Bixby into its TVs and appliancesthis year. Siri, meanwhile, was wholly overshadowed at CES and is in danger of falling well behind the pack.

Plus, some customers, concerned about privacy, may not want their assistants to travel with them. Others might be annoyed if someone is loudly chatting with his assistant out in public, requiring new guidelines for voice assistant etiquette.

What I can say?

At a posh suite in the Wynn resort, Gummi Hafsteinsson, product management director for Google Assistant, last Tuesday sat by two new Google Assistant-powered smart displays, which are essentially smart speakers with built-in touchscreens. Google teamed up with Sony, Samsung-owned JBL, LG and Lenovo to create four of these displays, which had been unveiled at CES the day before.

With so many companies working to add voice assistants into their products, Hafsteinsson said Google wanted to come to CES — even though it’s avoided a public presence at the show in past years — to show its support for the growing Google Assistant ecosystem.

“We’re here with all the partners,” he said, “to make sure we’re talking about the broad story, talk about the ecosystem … doing it in a way that makes sense to the user so they get the choice they want.”

In 2018, he said, Google will work to make its assistant more conversational so it’s easier to use, more capable and, with the help of Google’s partners, more nearly ubiquitous.

“When you think about what’s happening this year, we’re trying to make the experience richer without making it more complicated,” Hafsteinsson said while gesturing to one of the smart displays.

steve-rabuchin-amazon
Amazon’s Steve Rabuchin, at the company’s meeting space at CES 2018, stands by a set of Alexa development kits. These kits help hardware makers create new Alexa-powered devices.Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

At the show Wednesday, at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, Amazon’s Rabuchin discussed a similar game plan for the coming year.

“We’d love Alexa to be moving with you,” he said in a corner of a large private meeting space Amazon set up at the show, which included a handful of glass displays filled with Alexa-powered gadgets.

The e-commerce heavyweight is inching closer to that goal. Rabuchin said that Alexa is integrated into over 4,000 smart-home devices from 1,200 brands and that more than 30,000 Alexa skills (Amazon’s term for voice apps) are now available. He added that the Alexa economy is showing signs of strength, with some Alexa developers making “over six figures” through checks Amazon pays for the most popular skills.

He conceded that there are hurdles to bringing Alexa into more areas of your life, but added that the company is thinking about how to make Alexa useful in each of those different places. The assistant won’t do the exact same things in your car as it will on your personal computer or in an office space.

One thing Rabuchin said isn’t changing soon is Amazon’s ads policy, which strictly limits advertising on Alexa. He batted down reports this month that Amazon was talking to brands about bringing more ads to the assistant.

“There’s no change in our advertising policy,” he said. “A couple stories broke in the last couple weeks that we were going to do more. There’s no truth to those.”

Everywhere for everybody

It might be hard to imagine why you would want a digital assistant on your face in a pair of smart glasses or inside a toilet so you can flush using your voice. Rabuchin said these integrations are all about giving customers choice. He said Amazon is also happy to have voice assistants work together — like Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana do — for the same reason

Live-action shot from SmashToast’s PUCK booth at CES 2018!

10/01/2018

Live-action shot from SmashToast’s PUCK booth at CES 2018!

The activity around the CES2018 SmashToast and PUCK booth is electric! Here’s a live-action shot of our dedicated team in action – fielding orders, inquiries, and excitement around one of most affordable smart home gadgets on the market. We will continue to bring live shots from CES2018 to our clients and supporters from around the world the rest of the week!

The SmashToast team has arrived: CES 2018 – Las Vegas, Nevada!

9/01/2018

The SmashToast team has arrived: CES 2018 – Las Vegas, Nevada!

The team at SmashToast enjoyed incredible start CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada! New vendors, investors, and curious crowds lined up at our booth to discover one of the most affordable, innovative, and effective smart home innovations on the market – PUCK .

Consumers and technology-aficionados are providing incredible feedback on PUCK’s usability and cost-effectiveness; and they are enthralled by the fact that we manufacture in the U.S.A.!

We will continue to keep you updated with photos and news from the excitement of CES 2018 in Las Vegas!

 

CES 2018 – What to expect

2/01/2018

CES 2018 – What to expect

It’s January, which means that Las Vegas, or the bit that pretends not to be Las Vegas for tax reasons, will play host to CES. The Consumer Electronics Show is the event that kicks off the technology world’s annual calendar, and 2018 will see thousands of companies descend upon Nevada to show off their wares. Many will claim to have the solution to whatever problem you may have, but we’ll be on the ground to peer through their flashy promises.

If last year’s CES had a theme, then it was an attempt to broaden its horizons beyond smartphones, tablets and TVs. Technology companies have mined every last drop of good ideas from the traditional gadget world, which is why many chose to try something new. Our Best of CES winners from last year included a smart bra-style breast pump, a self-balancing motorcycle and smart tech that will help farmers. CES will set the tone for the next year in technology, so while we make our way there, here’s a quick run-through of all the things we’re likely to find in the desert.

Personal Computing

There won’t be millions of laptops launched at CES, but you can expect plenty of talk about the devices that are coming. The theme is likely to be low-power, super-efficient devices that can truly be described as having an “all-day battery” without lots of caveats. In December, HP and ASUSlaunched Snapdragon-powered Windows 10S laptops that can even be upgraded to the full-fat version of Windows. These devices will also come packing always-connected LTE modems, as the worlds of smartphones and laptops start becoming one. Intel, which is feeling the pinch from ARM chip makers like Qualcomm, will probably have something of its own to show off, even if it is just a concept device.

Mobile

If you’re looking for the next blockbuster phone you want to buy, then CES probably isn’t the show for you, since we’ve got Mobile World Congress coming up shortly afterward. For a brief second, there was a rumor that Samsung would shock everyone by announcing the Galaxy S9 at the show, but that was rapidly quashed. But what you can expect to see are plenty of budget handsets that will offer up features from last year’s flagships at cheaper prices. Huawei’s sub-brand Honor will be doing something at the show, and it’s plausible that ZTE will do the same. Oh, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled on Sony’s corner because it’s always turned up to CES with something nice in its back pocket.

Wearables

After a disastrous 2017, it’s looking to be a quieter year for wearables since the industry has failed to convince mainstream users to buy smartphones for their wrists. It’s possible that we’ll see Android Wear devices from more fashion brands, especially since the Fossil Group produces timepieces for so many top-tier houses. If you’re looking for big innovations in the smartwatch world, then you should probably gear yourself up for some disappointment.

Instead, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see wearable companies branch out further into the broader health and fitness world. Withings / Nokia Health already has a whole ecosystem products, from a sleep sensor, weighing scale and wireless thermostat to a smart hairbrush. Don’t be surprised if other companies try and move in a similar direction in 2018, or even pivot toward the serious healthcare market.

Since the consumer-level watch world has slowed, many companies — including Apple and Fitbit — are looking to more serious projects. Both companies are running studies to examine if fitness trackers can detect heart conditions, and we’ve already seen others building blood glucose monitoring devices. We’re on the lookout this year for plenty more of these, which will likely wind up being bought via your HMO.

TV and Home Entertainment

US-IT-LIFESTYLE-CES

No matter how far CES broadens its horizons, it’ll always have a large space reserved in its heart for the TVs of the future. This is, after all, the show where the latest and greatest displays make their debuts in the hope of winning over a prime position in our living rooms. And 2018 looks to be the hottest contest for the public’s affections since Edward and Jacob went toe-to-toe in Twilight. (As an aside, shortly after Twilight was published, the big blows between HD-DVD and Blu-ray raged at CES 2006, a fight that many are embarrassed to have been invested in).

In the sparkly vampire corner is team OLED, backed by LG and Sony, which both offer 4K TVs that harness Dolby’s Dolby Vision HDR standard. Samsung is the hairless werewolf, packing QLED TVs that offer HDR10+, a rival standard designed to help Samsung avoid paying Dolby royalty cash for its research.

Of course, if your wallet won’t stretch to a ticket that reaches the rarefied air of a premium set, don’t be too disheartened. Lower-end manufacturers, like Vizio, TCL and Hisense, are now knocking out respectable, realistically-priced sets that you aren’t ashamed to have in your home. Not to mention that, in the last few months, we’ve seen TVs from Philips and RCA launch with built-in Roku streaming. So expect to see plenty more displays that offer decent quality and excellent streaming for very little cash.

But for those who just want to ogle the flashiest TVs out there, CES will probably have something to whet your appetite, too. At 2017’s show, LG debuted a TV that was just 2.6mm thick, making it so thin it had to be wall mounted, because it couldn’t stand up on its own. LG also showed off a display that had speakers built into the screen, reducing the need for an additional soundbar, a feature that Sony has also embraced.

Cars

Traditionally, cars aren’t considered consumer electronics, but as they get smarter and get electric motors, their justification for being at CES increases. Ford CEO Jim Hackett is the show’s keynote speaker this year, and you can expect that a lot of mobility companies will be showing off their wares. And there’s plenty to be excited about, with a whole raft of tech startups looking to supercharge the staid world of automotive engineering. We’re expecting to see companies building new driver-safety AI systems, cheaper LIDAR sensors and smart-charging devices. All of which will contribute to the infrastructure necessary to make electric, self-driving vehicles cheaper, faster and better.

Similarly, it won’t just be electric skateboards that fill in the void around personal electric transportation at the show. We’ll be looking out for electric scooters, self-balancing hoverboards and other gear to help you get around cities faster. We already know that OjO is teaming up with Ford to produce a range of electric scooters, and would be certain that we’ll find plenty more battery-powered transports at the show proper. Not to mention all of the concept vehicles that we can expect to see, complete with futuristic blue LEDs that make sure you know that it’s… you know, futuristic.

Gaming

CES has played host to a few big gaming launches over the years, like the Xbox and Oculus Rift, but it’s hardly a gaming show these days. That said, we can expect to see plenty of gaming companies appearing, even if they will keep the bulk of their powder dry for E3 later on in the year. Beloved brand Razer normally makes a big splash at the show, but that may not be the case this year — after all, it only recently released its first smartphone.It’s likely that all attention will be on its foray into the mobile space and encouraging users to treat it as a gaming device in its own right. That said, we may see some accessories for the Razer Phone, since the company is all about building ecosystems around its products. In addition, it’s plausible that we’ll see another of the Razer’s “project” devices, which aim to push the boundaries of what gaming can do. In recent years, we’ve seen triple-screened laptops and modular PC components make their bow in Las Vegas.

Of course, it’s likely that we’ll see plenty of flops and pixels being doled out from the back of NVIDIA’s truck, but that’s not where the gaming world is focused right now. Since so much of the hard work — and money — is sloshing around the eSports world, we’re expecting that to be a big focus of the show. In the last year, we’ve seen a host of big names launch eSports projects, from Nickelodeon and the NBA to… Fernando Alonso.

VR may not have set the world on fire just yet, but it’s likely that we’ll see something from the AR and VR space at the show. Microsoft, which is pushing its Mixed Reality Platform, already has partners in HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Acer, ASUS and Dell, and more could be on the way. We’ll also wait with baited breath for developments from both HTC or Oculus, both of which are leading the charge in the space.

Smart Home

We already have smart doorbells and smart thermostats, but what about making other parts of our homes as smart as that? It’s likely that CES will demonstrate plenty of cheaper and better-looking spins on existing ideas, but perhaps the biggest change will be on the inside. After all, Google and Amazon have spent the last few years trying to make Alexa and Assistant work with as many devices as possible. It’s probable that we’ll see a whole new raft of gizmos that integrate with your favorite voice interface. LG jumped ahead of the CES line by unveiling its ThinQ speaker with Google Assistant integration, and we’re expecting plenty more where that came from.

Amazon has already shown off its own home-access platform for deliveries, so why not widen that to third-party hardware? And since it’s a neck-and-neck race between these two companies, expect Google to follow suit, letting you open your front door simply by speaking. Not to mention all of the see-through fridges, connected crockpots and smart bathroom facilities that are likely to be on show. We’re also expecting, like at IFA last year, to see a big push in the smart appliance space, such as the third-generation LG Styler and even more comprehensive smart control systems.

Everything Else

CES is a grab bag of technology that is designed, by and large, to make our future better, so there’s always room for a surprise. Honda has already revealed that it will be bringing a quartet of robots to the show — including a smart wheelchair to help folks get around and an autonomous delivery robot. Last year saw a surge in companies offering next-generation WiFi gear, including ASUSNorton and Linksys. We’d expect to see plenty more to come, with a focus on keeping your Internet of Things devices secure, and ensuring your kids can’t Google anything too erotic when you’re not looking.

Away from the hardware front, we’re expecting to see plenty of debate about how much political and social power technology companies currently hold. Many are anxious about what Silicon Valley can do, and has done, over the last few years, with blind optimism giving way to mistrust. Consequently, CES is playing host to several hand-wringing seminars where technologists debate the best way to move forward.

Some of this is playing out in the startups that are exhibiting at the show, a handful of which are looking to tackle online bullying and digital extremism. There will also be some talk about how technology companies can do better, although much of this talk will be for naught if the heavy hitters — Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Twitter, amongst others — aren’t at the table.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

SmashToast: A Culture of Customer Service

29/12/2017

SmashToast: A Culture of Customer Service

We love to hear from our customers about the ease and efficiency of PUCK and our culture of high quality customer service at SmashToast.  Here’s an excellent review on Amazon we just received from a kind client:

“What a clever device! No need to look for remotes or point them at the TV. The Puck communicates regardless of where I am in the room. By purchasing from the creator, SmashToast, I’ve had excellent customer service. Would recommend to anyone with a smart phone.”

‘Lt. Dan’ gives smart homes to wounded vets

28/12/2017

‘Lt. Dan’ gives smart homes to wounded vets

‘Lt. Dan’ gives smart homes to wounded vets

Most moviegoers know the award-winning actor Gary Sinise for his memorable roles as Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 classic Forrest Gump and as NASA astronaut Ken Mattingly in Apollo 13. But most fans might not know that this actor is quietly building a legacy by gifting new homes embedded with smart home technology to war veterans.

The Gary Sinise Foundation was founded in 2011, and the nonprofit’s mission is to “serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.”

In 2012, the foundation launched its cornerstone program, R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), which builds specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans nationwide. Each one-of-a-kind home is customized to match the capabilities and challenges of each family, as well as to ease the everyday burdens of veterans and their family and caregivers. So far, the foundation has donated more than 60 homes to wounded heroes around the country, all mortgage-free.

While each home is unique, they generally include a security system, lights, and automatic blinds that can be controlled from an iPad, as well as more basic features like ramps and lower countertops, and more complex additions such as a therapy pool or an elevator. Other features include entertainment systems, as well as retractable cooktops, cabinets, and shelving.

In the Memphis, Tennessee. home of Marine Cpl. Christian Brown, for example, an audiovisual and automation system based around an Elan Entertainment and Control System was customized and installed by local home automation designer Electronic Environments. Through the system, Brown can operate the home’s Pulseworx lighting, thermostat, Qmotion window shades, security cameras and video recorder, automated door locks, and a Holovision door station integrated with an Elan intercom. A Panamaxpower management system not only protects the ELAN system from power surges but also allows Electronic Environments to monitor and troubleshoot all the connected equipment remotely. Brown’s home even features a customized woodworking shop so he can pursue his hobbies.

Each one-of-a-kind home is customized to match the capabilities and challenges of each family.

The foundation has deep pockets — its most recent IRS filings show total assets of nearly $30 million — but it’s also smart about seeking out partners. Corporate sponsors include heavy hitters like American Airlines, Sysco, and General Electric, while nonprofit partners include well-known institutions like the Home Depot Foundation, Wounded Warriors Family Support, and the United Service Organizations. The Gary Sinise Foundation saves about $150,000 to $200,000 per home thanks to donations from national sponsors, accordingto Executive Director Judith Otter. And that doesn’t even count the more than 35,000 private donors who have contributed to the cause.

R.I.S.E. isn’t the only program of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Others include Relief and Resiliency Outreach, established to provide complete support to those recovering from trauma, injury, or loss in times of urgent need; Independent Spirit Festivals to bring military communities together; and Arts and Entertainment Outreach, which takes veterans to free performances at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, which Sinise founded along with two friends in 1974. The foundation’s latest enterprise is Soaring Valor, which brings World War II veterans to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Sinise says that he learned what it means to serve from the veterans in his own family. He also directed a play written by Vietnam veterans and solidified his bond with wounded heroes through his Oscar-nominated performance in Forrest Gump, a role which introduced him to wounded heroes around the world. He still makes time to regularly attend the openings of new homes, as well as gatherings and festivals, often at the head of the “Lt. Dan Band,” a wide-ranging rock-and-roll band that has performed more than 400 concerts around the world.

It’s a mission that has earned the actor and philanthropist many accolades and honors. In addition to more traditional recognition like a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Sinise earned the Director’s Community Leadership Award in 2016 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on behalf of his foundation, and in 2008, he was given the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor, which is bestowed on citizens for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. He is only the third actor to receive the honor. In 2018, he’ll be the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

In 2014, Sinise gave a speech to the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Dedication that captures his commitment to his cause.

“We can never do enough for our nation’s freedom providers, our heroes, but we can always show them we appreciate what they have fought and sacrificed for, by doing a little bit more to give something back to them,” he said

SmashToast – Who we are

26/12/2017

SmashToast – Who we are

SmashToast was founded in March 2014 with a desire to make life more efficient through the flagship product, PUCK.

SmashToast is dedicated to developing consumer-facing hardware and software that provide efficiency to everyday processes.

We believe in a balanced approach to form and function. We strive to develop products that make lives better using simplicity, elegance, intuition and technology.

Copyright All Right Reserved 2018 SmashToast, Inc.