19/04/2018

SmashToast’s PUCK works with a variety of devices including a television, space heater and Apple TV.

PUCK is different from our competitors because it is a wireless solution to connect traditional infrared-remote controlled devices to the smartphone.

We focused on simplicity over confusing features, and our modest price point gives our customers a low-cost solution to enter into the smart home revolution! www.getpuck.com

Microsoft pledges $5B Internet of Things investment over 4 years

9/04/2018

Microsoft pledges $5B Internet of Things investment over 4 years

Microsoft said Wednesday it plans to invest $5 billion in the complicated-but-exciting world of Internet of Things over the next four years.

In a blog post, Corporate Vice President of Azure Julia White didn’t go into detail about how the $5 billion will be spent or the kinds of products that could come out of it. She wrote that Microsoft’s IoT platform today spans its cloud, OS and devices areas, and this investment will allow businesses of all sizes and levels of technical expertise to build connected devices and programs.

“Our goal is to give every customer the ability to transform their businesses, and the world at large, with connected solutions,” White writes.

The idea of the Internet of Things has been around for years, but advances in cloud computing have helped make the technology more of a reality. Microsoft has embedded its technology into several Internet of Things devices in recent years, most recently a smart thermostat from Johnson Controls powered by the digital assistant Cortana.

 

Study finds renters value smart home tech above traditional amenities

PUCK by SmashToast. Control your home with your smartphone.
5/04/2018

Study finds renters value smart home tech above traditional amenities

The company surveyed more than 1,000 residents and reached some surprising conclusions as to the adoption of smart home tech by renters. The survey revealed that the most important smart home services to renters are security cameras, including doorbell cameras and ceiling-mounted surveillance cameras, keyless entry with special codes for guests, smart thermostats, and a security system. The other strong desire that emerged from the study found that one of residents’ top amenities would be an electronic payment system, rendering the need to write the monthly rent check irrelevant.

Interestingly, the survey found that residents aren’t bound by smart home brand loyalty. Unlike more established devices like cellphones or laptops, smart home brands haven’t yet established themselves as the gold standard in the rental market. 33 percent of respondents registered “no preference” when it comes to smart home devices; 16 percent are happy with Google Home, 12 percent to Amazon Echo, and just 11 percent to Apple’s troubled new HomePod.

“It’s really about the different technologies and the platform all being able to talk to each other,” said Alan Missen of property management company FirstService Residential recently of the branding challenges. “One of the challenges in the industry is that there are not a lot of standards. New technology comes out and there’s seven ways of doing it.”

“While pools and other creative community features have often been seen as the draw for prospective residents, the survey shows that what residents really value upon move-in, and are willing to pay for, are technology add-ons and amenities.” said Chase Harrington, president and chief operating officer of Entrata. “Shifting the focus of development, marketing, and training efforts to these technologies is going to be key for apartments as residents begin to demand living in a smart, connected environment.”

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 35 percent of the U.S. population of 112 million individuals rent versus buying a home. Historically, these people tend to live in urban areas and the demographics trend younger in age, making them the sweet spot for marketing smart home tech.

The top smart home features residents said they would pay a premium for include a basic technology package including high-speed Internet, online rent payments, secure access, smart home features such as keyless entry, and an automated maintenance request system. More than half of residents (57 percent) indicated they are willing to increase their rent payment by at least $20 per month to get the high-tech apartment they desire, and about one in four were willing to chip more than $30 per month.

Competing services include Vivint’s Smart Properties, which lets property managers design their own smart home systems, and Castle Lanterra Properties’ System Galaxy, which lets property managers remotely limit access to buildings and amenities, 24/7. PointCentral, a subsidiary of Alarm.com, also provides residential property managers with a smart home platform help increase property awareness and reduce energy costs.

 

https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/entrata-smart-home-renter-survey/

A tale of pluck – Barnabas Helmy’s electronic Puck

27/03/2018

A tale of pluck – Barnabas Helmy’s electronic Puck

BY PATRICK YEAGLE

Like many inventions, Barnabas Helmy’s PUCK began with a problem.

Helmy’s daughter, two years old at the time, ruined the remote control for their home’s Apple TV by chewing on it.

“They’re expensive, and it’s not even that functional of a remote,” Helmy said, sharing a story he has told dozens of times over the past three years.

Helmy recalls that when the bedroom TV remote broke, too, he decided to come up with his own solution. The result is PUCK, a small device which allows smartphone control of any TV, speaker or other machine which accepts an infrared signal. PUCK connects to a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy technology, using an Android or iPhone app to translate commands into infrared messages other devices can understand.

So far, PUCK knows how to control more than 220,000 other devices, and it can learn new infrared codes for devices it hasn’t already met. One PUCK can control multiple devices, allowing users to, as Helmy is fond of saying, “toss those remotes.”

Rob Patino, a Springfield patent attorney and friend of Helmy, says that when Helmy showed him the concept for PUCK, he knew it could be “disruptive” to the existing marketplace.

“I think that really encouraged him and motivated him to pursue the concept,” Patino said, adding that he believed so strongly in the idea that he’s one of the investors.

Development of PUCK began in 2014, but Helmy’s path to today started much earlier. His interest in electronics began as a young man, when he would tinker with guitar peddles and eventually learn to build his own.

“It was a lot cheaper than buying them,” Helmy said with a laugh. “They’re easy to do once you figure it out.”

Helmy originally studied electrical engineering in college, but he ultimately graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in oil painting. Despite the vast difference between those two fields, Helmy says having an understanding of the relationship between form and function laid the foundation for his current endeavor.

“I’ve found that it has given me kind of an edge on other engineers because I have really strong design principles,” he said.

Helmy built the first PUCK prototype over the course of one month in early 2014. In the three years that followed, he met again and again with engineers and designers to refine the prototype.

Kevin Lust, director of the Small Business Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College, says his group met with Helmy several times to help develop a marketable business plan.
“Even at that point, there was still a lot to be done,” Lust said. “To Barnabas’ credit, he’s done it.”

Lust says the “prime directive” for groups like his is to avoid being a gatekeeper. In the case of PUCK, Lust knew Helmy would have to compete in a market filled with products which may not be the same, but which are similar enough to be confusing.

“We try not to pass judgement on ideas,” Lust said, “but we do try to be upfront and frank about the obstacles.”

With business plan in hand, Helmy visited Silicon Valley for a month, pitching PUCK three times a day to venture capitalists. All told, Helmy’s company, Smashtoast, Inc., raised about $500,000 in funding.

“It’s taken this long just to get to market because of the amount of capital it takes to make something on a mass scale,” he said.

In 2015, Smashtoast was awarded a $50,000 Arch Grant from the St. Louis-based Arch Grants Global Startup Competition, providing both capital and free legal and accounting services. Patino

says the Arch Grant was instrumental to Helmy’s success.

“It really gave him a second wind when he needed it the most,” Patino said.

Patino notes that the lag between concept and execution is one of the biggest challenges for a startup.

“Sometimes realities don’t play well with your expectations,” he said.

PUCK is manufactured at CCK Automations, an electronic circuit board maker in Jacksonville. Helmy says one benefit of keeping production local is better protection of his intellectual property.

While overseas manufacturers may offer cheaper production runs, some have been accused of stealing designs to build competing products using the very same factories.

In January, Helmy attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a major yearly industry convention at which electronics companies typically unveil upcoming products.

“We thought we were going to get lost in the fray, because there’s so much amazing stuff out there,” Helmy said. “But it was really validating for us, because everyone was coming to our booth and saying, ‘We can sell this. Everything else is a couple of years away, but this is something that works now.’ It was really exciting, and it really put us on the map.”

The CES trip led to calls from Walmart and several other retailers, and Helmy’s company reached an agreement with Walmart to sell the device in a few test markets.

“From March 27, they wanted it in stores in Miami, Dallas and Chicago – with a new display and new packaging – by Father’s Day,” he said. “From selling single packages online to this was pretty insane, but we did it.”

Helmy hopes to see PUCK sold in Springfield and across the country as early as Black Friday.

If he had to start over, Helmy says Springfield would still be his base of operations. The low cost of living has helped keep development costs low, he says, and the Internet has made it possible to work with developers and engineers anywhere. Helmy hopes that other Springfield-area entrepreneurs are emboldened by his success.

“You just have to take a risk and figure it out,” he said. “Once it’s figured out, hopefully other people will use that same channel.”

Lust says that while Springfield isn’t known as a tech hub – he only half-jokingly adds the qualifier “yet” – Helmy’s success so far serves as proof of what’s possible.

“He’s a terrific example of how you can draw on resources from all over the world, no matter where you are,” Lust said. “There’s absolutely the possibility that things can be done in Springfield.”

Lust says a major factor in Helmy’s progress has been his attitude and adaptability.

“Demeanor plays a big role in a business’ success,” Lust said. “Barnabas’demeanor throughout the whole process has been, ‘Okay, here’s a problem; How do we fix it?’ I know that translates well to investors.”

Patino adds that Springfield as a community could encourage other projects like Helmy’s by supporting “business incubators” like Innovate Springfield and by creating “investment angel” groups.

“I’m really hopeful that will do a lot to help promote and give resources to people who are like-minded,” Patino said. “Money is always a major issue for these startups.”

Looking back on his journey and armed with new knowledge and experiences, Helmy says he could develop another product in a fraction of the time.

In fact, he’s already working on his next big idea.

Home smart home

22/03/2018

Home smart home

John Gomes is already living in the future. An early adopter of the kind of advanced smart home technology that is a fantasy for most of us, Gomes had his new Tribeca apartment intelligently connected about six months ago. He still gets a thrill when he realizes how much he can accomplish by doing almost nothing at all.

When he wakes, he says to his Amazon digital assistant, “Alexa, master bedroom shades up,” and it is done. When he puts his head on his pillow at night, he says, “Alexa, home off,” and the shades come down, while lights all over the house turn off. When he wants music, he requests it from one of the six Echo Dots spread throughout his 2,700-square-foot home, and Alexa puts on “Chill,” the Apple Music radio station that he always wants to hear. And most importantly, the lights are precisely calibrated to the right warmth.


Like many smart home early adopters, Gomes has a thing he’s really into—a kind of technological cause—and his thing is lights. Finding the right light for one’s home is “super serious,” he says. “I truly believe in the future that more people will understand this.” So he worked with his interior designer to find a company that makes custom light bulbs, searched for just the right lamps and sconces, and then, with the help of his smart home integration service, tweaked and tweaked the lighting till it was the “perfect amber.” These days, Gomes is one of the leading brokers in Manhattan’s luxury real estate market, but the amber glow of his apartment reminds him of the days when he was a waiter at the French brasserie Balthazar, and the lighting was just right, and everyone looked that much more beautiful.

The lighting in Gomes’s home has different settings—daytime, evening, and entertaining—to suit different moods and light levels. In the winter, he goes into his Lutron lighting control and adjusts the settings to account for the weaker light coming through the windows. When Gomes, his husband, and their twin babies are away at their second home in Connecticut (where the light is set to a more orange cast, appropriate for a country setting) and guests are staying in their city apartment, Gomes wants to make sure they have the right experience. From afar, he sets the house to “evening” mode before they walk in from their dinner and a show.

“When they come back at 11, I want them to walk in and say, ‘Wow, it’s still perfect,’” he says. Sometimes, Gomes says, his domestic life seems positively Jetsonlike: “I feel like I’m getting more out of life because I’m living more efficiently.” (The perfection of Gomes’s well-lit home is only occasionally pierced when his husband walks into the kitchen and absentmindedly hits a wall switch, turning on the overhead bulbs, which are not calibrated to the warm glow of the under-the-counter lighting.)

Smart home cynics might claim “efficiency” is shorthand for “enabling laziness,” as if, in a not-too-far-off future, people will waste the time they previously devoted to manually adjusting the thermostat and raising the shades by eating ice cream while watching episodes of Real Housewives. But to leap to this conclusion is to miss a whole lot of context in the lives of people like John Gomes—people who already have more than enough to do; people who are never off; people for whom technology demands as much it gives. People who are now realizing, more than ever before, just how infinitely customizable their lives can be.

Gomes’s search for the ideal amber glow is part of a larger quest for a more optimal existence. He made sure no wires are visible (“They make me very nervous”), and a company called Sun Basket delivers meal kits twice a week, and Amazon delivers certain necessities automatically, like Cocofloss, this special dental floss he likes. He vividly recalls the bad old days when he used to have to deal with “all these annoying things like wires and grocery bags and having to touch all the lights.”

And not having to do all those things makes Gomes less anxious, which makes him happier, which in turn makes him more productive, which is important, because he works pretty much all the time, and he needs to maximize every moment. Because you do not sell multimillion-dollar houses in one of the most high-profile markets in the world by taking it easy or failing to sweat the details. Everything matters—everything—and technology makes the precise details easier to sweat with every passing day.

Anyone who thinks smart homes will allow us to become lazy isn’t paying attention.

Read more here: https://www.curbed.com/2018/3/14/17115886/amazon-alexa-smart-home-google-automation-diy

Simplify your life – use the power of the smartphone to control your home

12/03/2018

Simplify your life – use the power of the smartphone to control your home

A Smart Home? It’s so simple with PUCK!

  1. Attach PUCK on or near a device that uses an Infrared remote
  2. Download and pair device with the free PUCK Remote App for iOS and Android
  3. Toss your remotes!

This Is the Smart Home of the Future

4/03/2018

This Is the Smart Home of the Future

Don’t worry: Technology may come and go, but some things never change. In the not-so-distant future, cars will drive themselves and men may become obsolete (sorry, guys), but home will always be home. It’ll just be a heck of a lot smarter.

Juicero​​​​​.
Photographer: Evan Ortiz/Bloomberg

Granted, some tech is better than other tech. No one needs a Wi-Fi-connected juice press that doesn’t actually juice anything. Gadgets that offer real utility—like a smart oven or open source furniture—stand a better chance of becoming ubiquitous. If you’re skeptical, think of it this way: In-home refrigeration was the crazy, newfangled invention of 1913. Now, few among us can imagine living without it.

What will the home of the future look like? We took stock of the most exciting tech-forward home products on the market. It’s only a matter of time until at least some of these come standard in every American home.
 
The High-Tech Living Room
Apple’s HomePod.
Source: Apple

Thirty-nine million Americans now have a smart speaker in their homes—that’s 1 in 6 people—and all signs indicate this figure will only creep higher with time. In the living room of the future, smart speakers will be a central feature, with newer models connected to every element in your home, from the lightbulbs to the lock on your front door to the thermostat. They will become so essential you won’t think twice about plunking down $400 for one.

Watching TV and movies will be a wildly different experience. Why devote precious square footage in your living room to a giant screen when you could have one that effortlessly rolls up away and out of sight, like the one LG Display debuted at this year’s CES? Or you may choose not to have a TV at all and opt instead for a superhigh-resolution short-throw projector that turns any white wall into your own personal movie theater. Sony’s new $30,000 model would fit the bill, assuming the price tag comes down.

Open source furniture from Tom Dixon via Ikea.
Source: Modsy

In the coming years, it’ll be much easier to design your living space. Apps and online platforms such as Modsy and Hutch will use virtual and augmented reality to help you visualize how a couch or chair will look in your home. You’ll have lots of options: Modular, open source furniture will dominate interior design trends, taking the lead from Ikea’s Tom Dixon-designed Delaktig couch, which has more than 97 different configurations. Choose wisely, because you’ll be spending more time on the couch than ever: Facebook Inc.’s forthcoming living-room-geared video chat device will reportedly use smart camera technology to make people on both ends feel like they’re sitting in the same room.

Also, expect your living room to be even more of a central hub than it already is. Deliveries will arrive here instead of on your front porch, thanks to Amazon.com’s new Prime service, which will let verified delivery persons carry goods right into your home.

And don’t for a minute think ultramodern gadgetry is only for the younger set: Homes for the elderly will be outfitted with internet-connected gear that allows adult children to monitor their aging parents.

Smart Cooking in the Kitchen

The June intelligent oven.
Photographer: Evan Sung/Bloomberg

Ultimately, the goal of kitchen technology won’t be to do the cooking for you. It’ll just make you a better cook. Smart ovens such as those from Junewill be outfitted with cameras and digital thermometers, helping you monitor your food as it bakes. And instead of just hoping the “medium-hot” setting on your gas range is hot enough, smart skillets will take guessing out of the equation by sizzling food at a precise temperature, which you’ll set on a connected app.

Smart refrigerators will help reduce waste by letting you know when the carrots in your fridge are about to go bad, and offer up several recipes for them to boot. The smart fridge from LG will even send cooking instructions to your smart oven. Meanwhile, 3D food printers will help you create intricately shaped pasta, and smart-technology-equipped ice cream makerswill automatically sense the hardness of the mixture within and keep it ready until it’s sundae time.

Tech Enters the Bedroom

Eight Sleep’s smart mattress.
Source: Eight Sleep

The latest wave of home-focused technology is about making everyday life better and easier, and that begins with a good night’s sleep. Sleep trackers such as Eight’s smart mattress and smartphone apps Sleep Time and Sleep Cycle will use sensors to measure your sleep metrics, while smart alarm clocks like Amazon’s mini Echo will help you begin your day on the right foot with time, weather, and news.

Need a gentler wake-up? The smart aromatherapy alarm clocks from Nox Aroma will sense when you’ve reached your sleep cycle’s lightest point and release a wake-up scent of your choice.

Once you’re up and moving, it’s time to get dressed: Your closet will be filled with clothes you don’t just wear. They will actually interact with you, tracking health markers and habits. Among them: MadeWithGlove’s still-in-development smart gloves, which promise to detect skin temperature and provide heat accordingly. Your clothes might even change shape or color based on your feelings, as will the Sensoree mood sweater, now available for preorder.

And if you want a new wardrobe, you won’t have to even leave the house to find the best-fitting clothes: Amazon’s patented mirror will let you virtually try on outfits from the comfort of your own bedroom.

Yes, Even in the Bathroom

Moen’s smart shower system can be operated with Amazon’s Alexa.
Source: Moen

In the future, spa-like experiences at home will be the norm. No need to draw your own bath—your digital assistant can do that for you with smart shower systems like those from U by Moen. High-tech tubs such as those from Toto will induce relaxed brain waves, while nose-geared gadgets like Olfinity will let you program and control your own aromatherapy session from your iPhone while you soak.

Sound far-fetched? Remember a decade ago, few of us could have imagined being so attached to our smartphones, let alone ordering groceries off the internet or barking commands at a digital assistant. With time, even the strangest things can become normal.

Goodbye to wasted time spent searching for misplaced remotes — PUCK is here!

22/02/2018

Goodbye to wasted time spent searching for misplaced remotes — PUCK is here!

With PUCK you can have all of your remotes in one place…on your phone! PUCK is a patented, easy to use Bluetooth device that allows you to turn most iOS and Android devices into a universal remote control.

By using PUCK as your universal remote control, you are saying goodbye to wasted time spent searching for misplaced remotes.

www.getpuck.com

PUCK is All Over the Country!

12/02/2018

PUCK is All Over the Country!

Take a look and see just how geographically varied PUCK users are throughout the United States!  Get your PUCK today and join the thousands across the country seeking an affordable and easy smart home solution: www.getpuck.com 

How smart home tech can save SMEs money

8/02/2018

How smart home tech can save SMEs money

A study of small businesses carried out in September last year, showed that a third are expecting no growth in 2018, as an uncertain economic climate is compounded by a lack of clarity over Britain’s Brexit deal.

More than ever, small and micro businesses are under pressure to cut costs and make extra savings.

We believe technology has a role to play as buying the right kind of kits can contribute to cutting out waste and saving on office running costs.

Here are just a few examples:  A study of small businesses carried out in September last year, showed that a third are expecting no growth in 2018, as an uncertain economic climate is compounded by a lack of clarity over Britain’s Brexit deal.

More than ever, small and micro businesses are under pressure to cut costs and make extra savings.

We believe technology has a role to play as buying the right kind of kits can contribute to cutting out waste and saving on office running costs.

Here are just a few examples:

Use smart light-bulbs to cut energy costs

Smart light-bulbs and lighting are most often associated with the home, but there is no reason why your small or micro business can’t benefit from them, too.

Smart light-bulbs can last four times longer than “normal” ones. At the same time, you can cut energy use up to 80% without brightness or quality loss compared to a 60W incandescent bulb.

Then there is the advantage of turning them on and off remotely via a smartphone app. Is there a day when only one or two of you are in the office? Switch off the lights when you go out to a meeting or go to lunch, and turn them back on remotely just before you go back.

Have happier and more productive employees with smart lighting

The control of lighting levels in an office space can actually play a vital role in an organisation’s working environment.

In a large building full of SMEs the lighting often changes from room to room and where the natural light seeps in to some, but doesn’t to others. Thus, having control over the light for your office space is essential to optimise the lighting to fit each room.

Previous studies have actually shown that having local control of lighting contributes to more job satisfaction in employees, higher productivity, better moods and a lower level of work stress.

Be more energy efficient with smart plugs

As well as smart lighting, consider investing in smart plugs, meaning there is a safety benefit as well), and they allow you to analyse a device’s real-time and historical power consumption. That way you can see when and which devices are draining energy and causing your utility bills to spike. Ideal for saving money and compatible with smart building facility devices and smart homes’ services like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, for SMEs that work from home, smart plugs allow any plugged-in devices to be controlled remotely via apps either using 3G or by setting timers directly through the app, meaning there is a safety benefit to smart plugs as well. They also allow you to analyse a device’s real-time and historical power consumption. That way you can see when and which devices are draining energy and causing your utility bills to spike.

When paired with the KASA app, the HS110 Smart Plug facilitates a host of luxuries such as, arriving to a fresh pot of coffee when you come into the office. An added bonus is to set the HS110 Smart Plug to away mode so the lights come on and make the office appear occupied after the last employee has left the building. RRP £34.99.

Use cloud cameras as a cost-effective way to keep your office safe

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a remote monitored alarm system, think about installing cloud cameras in your workplace instead.

Ideally, the cloud camera you buy should have motion and sound detection, that alerts you you when there is suspicious activity. That way you’ll be able to log in to the camera to see in real time if someone has broken into the premises, and whether you need to call the police out.

Finally, make sure the cloud camera has night vision capabilities, as break-ins are more likely to occur when no one is in, and that is more likely to be at night.

Get the most out of your broadband connection.

Performance and functionality in routers can vary widely. As a bare minimum, your router should broadcast on the latest wireless standard, 802.11AC. The new standard enables faster data transfer speeds which means you can do more, faster. Other useful features to look out for include Quality of Service which enables you to prioritise different types of traffic over the network for example a Design Agency would give video preference over email.

Another useful feature to consider is MU-MIMO sometimes called 2.5 GbE wave 2 which means the router can communicate with up to 4 separate wireless devices simultaneously for better device performance. A guest network is essential for any business welcoming guests, not only does it add an extra layer of security to the sensitive business information, it also ring fences bandwidth for employees. You might also want to consider routers that come with an app that make it easier to change settings on the fly.

Before committing to an ISP upgrade, check if your router is artificially limiting performance.
Investing in a third party router can squeeze more bandwidth out of your broadband subscription.  For a relatively modest upfront cost a new router will potentially increase wireless speeds and provide additional features like anti-virus cover for all the devices on your network or Smart Connect that automatically assigns devices to the best Wifi connection. These features could potentially reduce additional overheads in the medium to long-term – while at the same time increasing customer satisfaction and improving workplace productivity.

Wireless Range Extenders blast through wireless black spots

 Do you have any Wifi dead zones in your office? Or perhaps you work from home and often move up and down between floors with your laptop?
Wireless range extenders, sometimes referred to as repeaters, boost the existing wireless signal so that it reaches further. Available as desktop devices which include additional ethernet ports for wired only devices or plug in versions, choose a range extender that includes Wifi clone functionality for a seamless roaming experience.
Another consideration is mesh technology, which relies on more than one unit working together to replace the router to create buffer-free Wifi in every room or on each floor. Together the units triangulate and work to cover a far larger area for SMEs, with an additional 1,500 square feet or so covered every time another device is added, so your range can be extended as your workforce and business space expands.
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