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.

‘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

The PUCK Remote App – a simple but powerful framework!

22/12/2017

The PUCK Remote App – a simple but powerful framework!

The PUCK Remote App – a simple but powerful framework – free for iOS and Android!

  • The simple remote interface has been designed to access the most used features on a variety of devices.
  • Easily switch between active remotes by swiping left or right
  • Access the number pad by pressing the # symbol in the bottom left of the simple remote interface
  • Easily search for commands not on the simple remote interface. Most used commands auto populate to the top!
  • Our customer service center in Austin, Texas is always ready to help with any setup issues!

 

PUCK – The Power of Discrete Automation!

20/12/2017

PUCK – The Power of Discrete Automation!

PUCK – The Power of Discrete Automation!

A smart home does not have to be retrofitted with imposing technology. We engineered PUCK to discretely merge with your existing appliances without disrupting your style.

Give the gift of the smart home with the most affordable, discrete, and easy-to-use technology on the market! www.getpuck.com

 

The Affordable Digital Home is Now a Reality!

19/12/2017

The Affordable Digital Home is Now a Reality!

The Affordable Digital Home is Now a Reality!

The digital home of the future is now a reality – and, at SmashToast, we engineered PUCK to make the advanced technology available to as many incomes, ages, and abilities as possible.

Why? Because we believe the future is one where the benefits of digital technology – the time, energy, and efficiency savings – are spread to everyone!  www.getpuck.com

 

 

PUCK is easy! ~ “As long as you know how to work an app, you’re golden”

18/12/2017

PUCK is easy! ~ “As long as you know how to work an app, you’re golden”

What’s Puck?

SmashToast’s Puck “removes traditional remotes from the equation, which is a pain point for many folks who assume that three or more remotes are a permanent object on their coffee table,” SmashToast Founder, Barnabas Helmy, explains. “You can see this problem amplified when you ask a bartender to change a channel.” 

Puck solves this with a splash of tech. At 1.6 inches, the battery-operated Puck isn’t much of a physical presence. But what it does is pretty impressive: “It works by attaching to the target accessory near it’s IR receiver—the part of the TV that accepts the remote signal,” says Helmy.

Meanwhile, “the business end of Puck is essentially a universal remote,” he explains. “It communicates with the phone using Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE. BLE has a great range and can penetrate walls, meaning devices can be hidden from view—and no more wires.”

To the uninitiated (or to non-techy people who just read the above explanation), these devices can seem complicated—you might as well just deal with the three remotes you’ve (finally) figured out how to use. But Helmy waves that aside. “It really is a simple device,” he says. Basically, as long as you know how to work an app, you’re golden: “I designed it in a way that would put all the heavy lifting on the app side,” Helmy explains.

Excerpt from original article in EQ STL

Hardware to Retail: Interview with SmashToast!

15/12/2017

Hardware to Retail: Interview with SmashToast!

Hardware to Retail: Interview with SmashToast! 

Via Linkedin:

In our efforts to educate up-and-coming consumer product teams to the ever-changing retail environment, we looked inward and conducted an interview with a Retailbound client – Smashtoast – getting direct insights from their Founder, Barnabas Helmy.

As a hardware startup founded in early 2014 based in Chicago, Smashtoast created a compact universal remote for your entire collection of smart home devices.  You can find their product – Puck – at Walmart, Amazon, and Wellbots to name a few.

Benjamin:  How would you describe a one-minute history of SmashToast and your journey as a hardware founder?

Barnabas: In one word it’s been enlightening at the very least because I had done a software startup and an internet-based startup before, but I’ve never done hardware before except for my own purposes just tinkering around. It’s a lot more difficult to do hardware than it is software so, you know, that’s it in a nutshell.

One of the best stories I got early on was from a mentor telling me that he had gotten this amazing job, and there was so much to do that he just got stuck and it ended up being a catastrophic end to a great job.

His advice was basically – as long as you make an accomplishment every single day, it’ll build upon itself.  And that’s really been how we’ve gotten to the point where we are today.  In those early stages when you never see the light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to believe in the end vision and if you’re making an accomplishment every single day, they do build upon each other.

We’ve started in the Midwest and we’ve kept it in the Midwest.  I’ve traveled to the West Coast and spent a lot of time out there to learn and understand, but being from the Midwest has been an incredible experience and I’m so glad that we’ve stuck around here to work with our partners.

For example, there were a lot of hardware accelerators I talked to in San Francisco when I spent my month out there and, I can’t even remember the names of them now, but they were always asking, “would you move here?”  And I would say, if I moved here with the amount of money you guys give, there’s no way that I could make this work.  Like, it doesn’t make sense.  And they’d go, “well that’s the wrong answer.”

Well, it is the right answer because every bit of capital that they were willing to invest would be going towards living expenses and nothing would be going towards the product whereas in St. Louis, we won a $50,000 grant from Arch Grants and cost of living here is so much less when you’re spending $600 a month on rent for a home.  That money goes a long way and that’s kind of really helped us get to market.  Just being diligent and wise with our funding.

Benjamin: Having gotten to the point of selling your product in retail, how did you go about finding the right strategy, resources, and team?

Barnabas: Having qualified mentors and advisers has been really helpful.  Making sure that I have those folks and team members that cover all the bases, not just retail or finance or legal.  Someone in manufacturing.  Having someone you can call on and ask questions and not be afraid to ask has been absolutely crucial.

A lot of the advice they give has been premature to me at the time, I don’t know what the hell they’re saying, but it stays with me. When whatever they’re talking about does become relevant, I’m prepared for it because I finally understand what that advice meant.  It finally clicks in a lot of ways.

Also, tools like LinkedIn have been great, obviously, that’s how I found Retailboundand there’s a couple other tools I think have been really useful. When I was in San Francisco there was one called Conspire.  You can just put in someone’s name that you want to meet with and it’ll scrub your email and look for a link so that’s kind of a cool tool.  Another one is Reddit, the startup sub-Reddit helped me early on.  I don’t know if it’s still alive and well, but that was a crucial tool.

Benjamin: At what point did you decide that it was the right time to bring on Retailbound as a retail partner, and how did you decide among so many options?

Barnabas: To be quite honest, when you came up to me at CES last year or last season I had been reading your articles for quite a while and I’m assuming that you befriended me at some point or we had connected at some point.  I had read your articles so I honestly thought we knew each other when you called and said hello and introduced yourself so that was a really great introduction and it kind of helped.

Trust is everything with me.  Everything.  I’m methodical about making decisions with new partners.  So, that helped me quite a bit to just understand your voice and I felt like I knew who you were already so it added to that trust that you knew what you were talking about.

We do get slammed by thousands and thousands of emails and calls all the time.  And you know, the time was right for us after CES we had been getting hit by Walmart and other retailers and I needed somebody to help us navigate that because it’s not my forte.

There’s so many times you have to take a leap of faith and it’s so easy to get frozen by the fear. Even founding a startup is a gamble.  So if you’re risk averse it’s not the game for you.  It’s a constant game of just putting all the chips on the table and you have to be 100% behind the decisions you make, so I definitely feel like it was the right one.

Benjamin: Are there any specific traps or challenges to point out for a hardware startup that’s approaching the retail stage?

Barnabas: For a hardware startup approaching retail, I would say it’s very important to have someone on the team like Retailbound that understands the retail space because it’s not easy, it’s very expensive, and you’re not guaranteed sales whenever you enter into a retail space.  So, you know, having someone on your team that can make sure that the retailer that you choose to work with has the customers that actually want to buy your product is a huge, huge, huge thing and can save you a lot of headaches.  Because if you put 10,000 units in a store with the wrong target audience, you’re screwed.

I didn’t realize how clueless about retail I was until we jumped into it head first.  There is so much to learn among distributor sales reps and the actual retail distributor establishments that it helps so much to have someone take that off your plate that understands what they’re doing.

Benjamin: What excites you the most regarding the future of SmashToast?

Barnabas: After three years.  When I first started this company, I was told that “smart home” and “IoT” were the buzzwords, believe it or not.  And I was told you wanna try and “ride the wave”.  And I was like, I am.  This is happening.  This is going to be a big thing.

Now, especially after the last Consumer Electronics Show, we got a lot of recognition.  We had zero budget.  This year we’re gonna go back and we’re being highlighted in the smart home section.  We have some incredible opportunities at CES to pitch some big investors and it’s like everything we’ve been working for is finally coming to fruition.

 

We also got accepted or invited to Upfront. They don’t publicize it or anything, but they pick eight startups out of Eureka Park to pitch to 80-90 investors and distributors and stuff. And I was like, “holy cow.” So we’ve been chosen to kind of represent the smart home section for that. So we’ve been doing something right the last year.

We’re selling product.  We’re working on the next generation.  We’ve got some really exciting improvements to our product coming out, so all of the hard work is really just showing itself.  It’s a great feeling.  It’s still risky.  It’s still scary.  It always will be, I think, but I think I’ve just become a little calloused to the stress which is nice.

So, any other founder that might read this should know that you do become calloused to the stress.  Right now, it’s definitely exciting that we’ve finally managed to get it to retail and see product moving.

Benjamin: Thanks Barnabas for your time, and best of luck at CES!

Barnabas: Of course, anytime! Feel free to stop by and say “hello”.

  • You can find SmashToast at CES 2018 in Las Vegas in Hall G (Eureka Park) Booth #52125
  • You can schedule a time to meet Retailbound at CES by emailing – bertl@retailbound.com

PUCK – Simple & Affordable

13/12/2017

PUCK – Simple & Affordable

A perfect holiday gift – PUCK

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