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Smartphone Required; Amazon Echo’s Unique Setup Process

In a previous post, I wrote about my new Echo from Amazon. The Amazon Echo is a Wifi connected speaker which you place in your home. You can then talk to it (it’s named Alexa), and it will follow commands like playing music, providing weather reports, and–paired with a SmartThings or similar hub–control your lights and appliances. Amazon is clearly pushing the Echo as a fancy consumer product. It comes with nice Apple-esque packaging, a...
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Introducing Amazon Echo

Earlier this month, I got my new Echo from Amazon. What exactly is an Amazon Echo? Basically, it’s a little Wi-Fi connected speaker that you place in your home. It has eight directional microphones in a ring around the top, and it’s constantly listening–just like the NSA! When it hears you say a wake word (“Alexa”), it starts listening for commands. With only your voice, you can tell it to do all kinds of things,...
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Track Your Driving With Metromile

Ever wondered how far you drive in a given month? Want to track everywhere your car goes, NSA style? About six months ago, I was invited to beta test a new product from a company called Metromile. Californians may be familiar with Metromile’s ads, which seem to be everywhere, including on the very pricey billboards flanking the Bay Bridge. The company’s main goal is to sell you per-mile car insurance. The idea is that if...
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Testing the Phillips Hue Lux

For a while now, I’ve been using the fancy Hue system from Phillips. These are pricey LED lightbulbs which you can control remotely from your smartphone. Not only can you do standard things like turning lights on and off, but you can also change the color temperature on the fly (going from a nice, warm incandescent light to something suggestive of a 1980s office park), change all the lights in your house to your favorite...
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Wink Home Automation: Not There Yet

Happy New Year! 2014 was a big year for home automation products. It seems like pretty much everything is suddenly “smart”. You’ve got smart watches. Smart thermostats. Even the pinnacle of silliness: a smart egg tray, which pings your smartphone when you are nearly out of eggs (manufactured by GE, nonetheless). What was the real winner in 2014, though? Apps! Several companies have come out with smartphone apps–often with accompanying physical hubs–which are designed to...
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Tracking Realtime Electrical Usage With Bidgely

I live in California, which is served by Pacific Gas and Electric. It’s one of the enlightened utilities which has installed smart electric meters in many of its customers’ homes, including mine. The meters monitor electrical usage continuously, and report back to PGE. Using the data, they can change how much they generate to keep up with demand, see when people are using the most energy, and (of course) bill you more easily! What’s enlightened...
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Raspberry Pi’s 5mp Camera Module

Back in the day, if one wanted to do a computer vision or diy home surveillance project which involved taking pictures from a custom software program (or from the command line), there were relatively few options. One the low end, you could use a consumer webcam. On the high end, you could use a DSLR camera coupled to a Linux program like gphoto2. The low end was maddening, as consumer webcams routinely lie about their...
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Alarm.com Wants to Save Your Grandma

To kick off 2014, security and automation company Alarm.com announced a new package, which they’re dubbing “Wellness”, that will allow Alarm.com users to remotely monitor their aging parents from the convenience of their Android device or web browser. While details about the tech are scarce, a press release yesterday says that Wellness will include a “new bed presence monitor, panic buttons and sensors that monitor activity.” It will also integrate with Alarm.com’s existing home automation...
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5 Great Home Automation Gifts You Can Get By Christmas

Trying to find the best last minute gifts for the DIY home automation enthusiast in your family? Here are five great ones which you order on Amazon.com and still get by Christmas. 1. Nest Thermostat Sure, PC Magazine recently complained about how the Nest can put you at risk of freezing to death (well, not really) if you live in Montana and they send an ill-timed software update. But c’mon…Nest is undeniably the favorite child...
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Revolv To Launch New Unified Hub Which Supports Nearly All HA Standards

On November 28th, home automation company Revolv will launch a new hub which works with several of the dominant home automation standards on the market. It’ll support Insteon, Wifi and Z Wave at first, with Zigbee and several others coming soon. In a graphic on their website, Revolv shows what your new integrated smart home could look like if you used their product, bought all your furniture at Ikea, and had a strange penchant for...
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