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Home automation, the integrated house, control at your fingertips. In any modern house, you will find a plethora of �things� that can be turned on and off, adjusted, set to a timer or other setting, or even to simulate a pattern. The first and second generation families of these concepts � from early 80�s kit to modern 00�s stuff � worked standalone, detached from any sort of computer network, with it�s own unique way of working, instruction set and operational syntax.
Modern Family had a great take on this, with the family Dunphy struggling with Phil�s desire for swish kit, culminating in the TV being almost inaccessible without it�s own Modern Family Remote Control.
Amazon, Google, Apple, and a range of smaller players have all been working on the Home Automation concept for some years, trying to build a framework and ecosystem for manufacturers to hook into and use, in an effort to sell more stuff. If you�re in the USA, the range and integration is becoming wide, but in the rest of the world development is still�. fragmented. In recent years, the concept of the universal control panel that users can tap away at on a screen is evolving into a voice-driven interface, with the big 3 all offering or developing voice gateways. Amazon Alexa leads in the voice control space, while Apple is only starting to approach using SIRI to offer something even remotely competitive by promising to open up their voice service with the launch of iOS12 in September this year.
It�s fair to say Apple has lagged way behind in the area of Home Automation, taking a very long time to even enter the market. It was first made available in iOS8 � 2014 � but struggled with adoption by vendors for several years, and only really started to hit it�s stride with iOS11 in 2017. The framework � a specification of how to connect, communicate, offer controls to users, move between profiles devices in a family and so on � has slowly grown in capability, and promised (as Apple always does) to simplify the use of gadgets with a common control set, in the background security, and their famous �it just works� style of design.
For some part anyway. Indeed as of writing (8 hours ago), Apple appears to have dropped support for the current range of electronic doorbell/cams, notably the Ring range, which is a shame:
Last year, I was given the change to use and play with the D-Link OMNA 180, a homekit compatible security camera that promised to make things easy for the end user�. mainly because of my affinity for Apple kit (D-Link added Android support in September).
Homekit can operate standalone from your mobile, and connects to your kit when it�s on your local network. The OMNA connects to your home wifi network, and setup is via the OMNA app which also deposits it into your HOME app profile.
Within Apple�s Home app, you can get a live feed of what camera can see � it has a fish-eye lens that works really well with adequate light (ie Dawn to dusk is pretty good), and can save short 30-second clips to a micro-SD card (720p @ 15fps). Motion detection triggers recording, and it�s it possible to set a retrigger delay of up to 5 mins. A 4x4 grid allows you to fine-tune the trigger points in the camera�s view. You can also turn the LED off so the camera is not that visible at night, and night vision sends infrafred illumination to better record in dark, although I found this mode to be very hit and miss (supposedly up to 5m impact range). The device gets hot in continuous operation, with the top of the unit (the case is metal) acting as passive heat transfer.
The unit survived being in the window in the Wellington 2017/18 heatwave, so I�m quite impressed.
Ok, so the reason for being � integration with Apple�s framework. Manually checking settings while you�re in the house is one thing, the real flexibility is when you are out of the house and want to stay in touch with �the house�.
For this, you need a hub of some sort that can act both as gateway and gatekeeper � and in Apples case, the device called in to service is a 4th and 5th generation Apple TV (or, an iPad capable of running iOS11). Using Apple TV is clever � it�s another device sale for Apple, but it�s also a unit that can do other things than just acting as a gateway consuming internet and power. Key for enabling this chain to �just work� together is using the same iCloud account to register� two-factor authentication must also be enabled, which is good security practise but can also be a bit of work to activate and get going.
Once this is setup, you are able to use the Apple Home app to log in to the device� which allows for live view, live listen and if you�re that way wired, live voice (imagine being able to yell down the phone and have it broadcast via the Camera�s internal speaker). The microphone is very sensitive, and the speaker has punch for such a small device.
I can confirm I�ve been able to access the device while out of the house from a range of locations, so this aspect definetly works.
Of course, one person accessing a device is one thing, but what about the more common scenario of a family? This is where the wider framework slots in with Apple�s �Family Sharing� structure� up to 6 iCloud identities can be part of a Family structure (one family group, not multiple). If the members are part of your family, then it�s possible to invite them to access the Home group. It works very well, but is definetly a very Apple way of doing things.In the clouds
In September, as part of adding Android support, D-Link added the ability to use an email address to connect to the device and via it �from the cloud� if youre out and about� which kinda renders the above Homekit approach a little moot but also smells big time of the old �lash and dash� approach to service. Registering an email address as the sole connection point and tunnelling back up the connection to provide Homekit-like function sounds like a classic poor security example of what many such devices used in the last few years. In that time we�ve seen large scale mass hacks, credentials stolen, peoples machines pwned� the list goes on.
Of course there is no discussion on the d-link website about android security, or the overall security of the above approach. It definetly works, but I have no confidence at all that my home network is safe at all, and above all that is the most critical piece all the big boys are chasing � CONFIDENCE. �TRUST US� say the facebooks and amazons of this world, and the simple point is I certainly don�t.Summary
So� Homekit and the camera. The OMNA180 is an interesting first start, but I would not have paid $395 for it when it first came out (it�s now down to $249, and I still wouldn�t buy it). Homekit looks promising, especially once Siri is better integrated and opened to the developer community, but from here it�s Apple�s ability to court manufacturers in the way Amazon has with Alexa to build skill or instruction sets for their kit to use. I like the concept of smart technology that uses the WIFI network to hook everything together back to one point that also can do other useful things� less boxes, less powerplugs and less cabling all round.
But above all, what I look for is the confidence that whoever is selling me their vision appears to be genuinely looking out for the security of my home, my network and me. That means TRUST & CONFIDENCE� which only Apple is at least pointing in the right direction.
London, 8 January 2018 – UK-based smart home technology company nCube is today pleased to announce the launch of its modular smart home hub platform as well as a new range of branded smart home devices at CES 2018. The new modular design comprises of the new and improved nCube Base, the nCube Security module, the nCube Storage module and the nCube Voice module, all available for purchase in February 2018.
Following months of research, planning and lengthy discussions with customers, telecommunication companies, energy providers, insurers and retailers, nCube have identified the demand for a smart home hub with numerous capabilities including mobile network connection (back-up in the event of home network failure), battery back-up, at- home camera footage recording, voice control such as Alexa and the continued ability to support many wireless protocols.
With customer opinions split on having voice controls in the home, privacy being the main concern, the new nCube modular home hub is a great solution. Staying with the original award-winning blue square box design, the three new optional modules can be stacked magnetically in any order by simply placing one on top of the other. Power supply and connectivity is all provided through the stacking design.
The nCube Base is a full redesign on the existing nCube hub which is no longer Raspberry Pi based, but has a fully customised board embedding Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The base can support both Wi-Fi connection to the home network and simultaneously allow Wi-Fi smart home devices to connect to the nCube base. No longer will smart home users require a myriad of different smart home apps to use for each product as the nCube base helps to integrate the different devices together for a one App home automation system that works effortlessly. The ability to connect to the home network via Wi-Fi is a very popular feature and the ability to allow Wi-Fi smart home devices to connect to nCube means the new base also acts as a firewall for all connected smart home devices. The base even includes 4 LAN ports so LAN connected smart home devices can be directly connected too.
The nCube Security module provides mobile network back-up and battery back-up for approximately 12 hours. This means the whole nCube platform continues to function in the event of either or both a power failure and internet connection failure and is therefore more advanced than many other DIY smart home solutions from a security perspective.
The storage layer provides 1Tb SSD storage for home security camera footage recording for consumers that are wary of cloud storage. Optionally, the user may opt-in on an ad hoc basis to cloud storage accessing recordings when a security incident has occurred.
The voice layer provides voice control such as the existing Alexa integration. With all modules being optional, the consumer can choose exactly what they want from their smart home hub instead of being forced into accepting voice for example.
The development of local storage, battery and internet back-up and the continued ability for the nCube hub to run entirely local (no logic runs on the nCube cloud) demonstrates nCube’s continued commitment and leadership in privacy and security in the smart home industry.
Combining usability with an eye-catching design, nCube has a strong focus on getting devices to work together with the below benefits:Advanced security: learning user lifestyle habits for peace of mind so the home looks lived in whilst occupants are away Harmonised wake-up: a comforting start to the day throughout the entire home Warm return home: a rewarding welcome in the evening Reduced bills: a better way to manage energy consumption and costs
nCube new smart home devices
In addition, nCube is launching a range of branded smart home devices in recognition that consumers expect smart home providers to provide packages of pre-connected devices as well as supporting as many other brand products as possible. The new range of nCube products include a Colour-changing LED bulb, SmartPlug, Door/Window Sensor, Motion Sensor, Water sensor, Light Switch range and nCube multi-socket PowerBar. All products will be available for UK, EU and North American markets.
Pricing and Availability
nCube is available from https://ncubehome.co.uk. NZ availability is confirmed however there is no time frame just yet.
nCube Home is a tech start-up and the creator of a smart home hub that aims to integrate all your smart home devices with each other. With its unique privacy settings, offline feature and the way it adds comfort and convenience to handling all your devices at once, we call it "the brain at your home's heart" - for making your home truly smart. In 2017 nCube was included in the 12 UK internet of things start-ups to watch on Techworld.
The full product brochure is available Here (Google Drive).
Europe's leading GPS pet tracking company, Tractive, has announced a pair of exciting new devices today at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the biggest show of its kind. The Tractive GPS Cat and Tractive GPS Dog have a bold, new design and the feature-packed trackers have not only been optimized to fit the needs of both nimble cats and active dogs in two unique form factors, but they have also been designed to greatly enhance the pet owners' experience as well.
New features such as activity tracking and Quick-Switch batteries, provide both users and pets with a unique experience, one in which no cat or dog ever has to be without an active Tractive tracker. Detailed activity level monitoring and precision GPS location tracking can now be provided nearly anywhere in the world with essentially zero downtime.
"The decision to make two distinct devices with unique strengths was made based on our great user feedback and active community." said CEO Michael Hurnaus, "and by doing this, we've allowed our engineers to explore and implement great features that specifically fit the individual needs of cat or dog owners, all while maintaining its durability and waterproofness."
Additional features will be disclosed closer to the products release and will revolve around Tractive's IoT and smart home integration with services such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.
Tractive GPS Cat's Integrated Collar Design
The integrated smart collar in the Tractive GPS Cat allows the tracker technology to be distributed across a wider area, reducing the load and impedance of a bulky tracking device, something important for small and nimble cats. An emergency break-away system has also been built into the collar and will release from the neck of the cat if, for example, it were to get stuck on a fence. Once enough force is applied the cat will be able to break free and the user can easily retrieve the active collar using the companion app. The Tractive GPS Cat is designed and optimized for cats, but would naturally fit small dogs or similar animals.
Tractive GPS Dog's Quick-Clip Design
The new clipping mechanism allows for easier and faster mounting of a Tractive tracker while increasing its reliability. The Quick-Clip attachment allows the device to fit nearly any collar and to detach at the press of a button. The tracker mount will remain on the collar comfortably while the tracker is charged or set aside providing a simple and secure user experience. It's slender design makes it ideal for a wide variety of dog sizes, and while the Tractive GPS Dog is designed and optimized for dogs, it would naturally fit large cats or other similar animals with a collar.
Availability & Release
Tractive GPS Cat will be released to consumers in next few months, beginning with a European rollout, and Tractive GPS Dog will be released later this year. Pricing has yet to be determined, but will be similar to that of their current line-up.
Tractive was founded in 2012 in Pasching, Austria by a group of paw-ssionate entrepreneurs looking to create a safer environment for the millions of pets in the world. Tractive’s mission is to strengthen the bond between pets and their owners by leveraging technology to ensure a healthier, longer and safer life together.
Tractive specializes in the development of pet tech, wearables and apps. In addition to Tractive GPS, Tractive’s flagship trackers and app, the company produces a range of other applications including the very popular Dog Walk app and the pet social network, Tractive Photos, used by millions of pet owners.
In the TV space Sony have announced new OLED and LCD models featuring their new X1 Extreme processing chip. In 2017 Sony entered the OLED market (along with Panasonic) using OLED panels manufactured by LG but with their own processing chip and user interface. Many believe (and I�m one of them) that the quality of the picture on the Sony TVs exceeded that of the LG TVs. LG have played catch up this year, but Sony have also made significant improvements.
Their new A8F series OLED TVs will hit the NZ market with 55� and 65� TVs on offer. These will be joined by the new X9000F series LCD panels which also feature the same X1 Extreme processing chip. Both ranges support Dolby Vision HDR but do lack the new HDR10+ standard. Like the 2017 models they are running Android TV with Google Assistant integration. Audio quality of the new OLED models is stunning with the upgraded acoustic surface design.
In the headphone space Sony announced a number of new products including the world�s first Bluetooth noise cancelling sport headphones. The WF-SP700N is a true wireless product, and WI-SP600N is cabled. I had the opportunity to listen to the WF-SP7000N and was very impressed by these. Google Assistant is fully supported.
Also on display was a protype Xperia Ear headphone that was also pretty awesome. There is no word yet on a launch date for these but they are something I�d love to own. As an open ear style headphone they didn�t actually sit in the ear canal so allowed ambient outside noise and easily allowed a conversation while playing music. They had gesture support allowing you to change tracks by moving your head, and touch controls on the headphone itself. Like pretty much every audio product on display here Google Assistant support was also included.
Sony also announced new Xperia phones at CES � which is a big deal as Sony have really struggled in the US market in recent years. The new Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ulta have been launched and both will be sold in the NZ market. Both are mid range handsets with the XA2 featuring a 5.2� screen and the XA2 Ultra featuring a larger 6� screen. Both feature a new slimmer bezel design than existing Xperia handsets and a new fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. Sony have traditionally had their fingerprint reader on the power button (and as a Xperia user it�s something I really love) but due to patent issues have had to disable the fingerprint reader in phones sold in the US market. Moving the fingerprint reader allows solves the issue. The phone also features a wide angle front camera for selfies.
Also on display was Aibo - Sony�s robotic dog. After a hiatus it�s made it�s way back to life and was very impressive to see. At this stage it�ll only be available in the Japanese market.
LG have today announced their new 2018 range of OLED and LCD TVs.
Rather than any major advancements with their OLED panels (it�s hard to improve on something that�s already amazing!) LG have this year focussed on improvements to picture quality with their new Alpha9 processor to improve post processing, and by delivering better sound, AI, and voice control. Despite OLED being the best TV technology available right now, in 2017 both Sony and Panasonic both released OLED TVs using LG OLED panels that many people that delivered better picture quality than the LG TVs.
LG have announced new W8, E8, C8 and B8 panels that are similar form factors to 2017�s W7, E7, C7 and B7 panels. In the LCD space their new models feature greatly improved picture quality and better viewing angles. New LCD models feature the new Alpha7 processor and Full Array Local Dimming which delivers significant on previous edge lit panels.
All new models are 4K Cinema HDR compatible and include Dolby Vision, Advanced HDR by Technicolor, HLG and HDR10 as well as HDR10+
LG have also announced their entry into the AI space with their ThinQ protocol which enables all new LG devices to communicate with each other. The new model TVs are all voice compatible and include Google Assistant meaning you can control devices from the TV and also control the TV from other Google Assistant devices.
CES, Las Vegas, 8 January 2018 � Jabra is starting the year by introducing the Elite franchise, a family of headphones and earbuds engineered for superior sound to provide the best combined voice and music experience.
Jabra�s research shows that the daily usage of headphones by frequent users focuses on calls (58% of users each day), music (53%) and voice control (35%). The Elite franchise is engineered to meet the needs of these users looking not only for outstanding music quality, but also for strong voice capability, whether they�re making calls or increasingly using voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Google Now. With the Elite family of products, headphone users no longer have to make a choice between great music headphones or a headset designed for voice and calls, now they can have both with whichever Elite product they choose.
At CES, Jabra is showcasing three new products; Elite 45e, Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t. The Jabra Elite Sport, the best-selling, most technically advanced true wireless sports earbuds*, set the standard for the Elite product suite by incorporating leading audio technology, and the new family members follow this direction. Drawing on the GN Group�s long-standing audio, headset and hearing aid expertise, each new Elite product contains unique microphone configurations to ensure users will always be heard, whether you�re speaking to Alexa or your family and whether you�re indoors or out on the street. In addition, the companion Jabra Sound+ app allows you to personalise your music to the sound that suits you.
In addition to the best-in-class voice and music experience, the new Elite products also come with the security of a two-year warranty against dust and water ingress (two years for the Elite Active 65t also including sweat ingress). While users will experience the great voice and music experience that Elite products offer, they will also be able to choose the wearing style that suits them best. The Elite family includes true wireless and soft neckband variants with the suffix letter signifying the styles clearly using �e� for earbud and �t� for true wireless.
For those who prefer using voice commands, the new products allow voice support for all major voice services, now including Amazon Alexa on-the-go. Jabra will be among the first movers to enable this mobile feature, providing customers with access to Alexa directly from the earbuds. With Alexa, you can ask to play music, hear the news, check weather, control smart home devices, and much more. Elite 65t delivers a 4-microphone array and superior sound.
While delivering a market-leading voice and music experience and durability, each of the Elite products Jabra is presenting at this year�s CES also has its own specific features:
Elite 45e: Engineered for the best voice and music experience. The Elite 45e is for users who want the best combined voice and music experience in a headset with a discreet design and a great fit. This soft neckband (with memory wire) headset has a lightweight form factor and a unique box microphone solution that delivers the clearest voice communication on any stereo wireless headphone.
Elite 65t: Engineered for the best true wireless voice and music experience. The Elite 65t is a third generation true wireless earbud aimed at those who want the best voice and music experience without wires. It is engineered to ensure a stable wireless connection and best call and voice quality. The 65t includes one-touch access to Siri�, and Google Now�, new integration for Amazon Alexa on-the-go and has up to 15 hours of battery life (with cradle).
Elite Active 65t: Engineered for active users who want a true wireless voice and music experience while working out. The Jabra Elite Active 65t is for those who want the features of the Elite 65t, while being able to use the earbuds in a sports or training setting. The earbuds have enhanced grip, through special coating, integrated accelerometer for tracking features and IP56 sweat, water and dust certification. The Elite Active 65t has five hours of listening time on one charge with two additional charges in the cradle.
�By introducing the Elite franchise, we have demonstrated to headphone users that we understand their needs and that we are fully committed to providing the best voice and music headphone solutions. Our new Elite franchise accommodates three levels of technology in sound, microphone and voice interaction capabilities, different endurance levels, and both true wireless earbud and neckband solutions,� said Ren� Svendsen-Tune, CEO at Jabra. �With the Elite family, we now offer headsets for every choice of wearing style, use case and price point.�
Key features of the Elite franchise:
- The best voice experience: unique, market-leading microphone technology ensures the best calls and voice interactions on the market. Plus support for all major voice virtual assistants including new integration with Amazon Alexa-on-the-go
- Personalised music experience: users can adapt their sound to suit their personal preferences with the Jabra Sound+ app
- Biggest choice of wearing styles: true wireless, neckband, soft neckband, headband � always the best voice, music and calls
- Unbeatable durability: two-year life proof warranty against water and dust ingress**, two-year warranty for Active & Sport variants against sweat and dust
Wi-Fi Alliance have this morning announced the official release of the new WPA3 WiFi security standard here at CES. WPA3 is the next generation WiFi security protocol replacing WPA2 which is now over 10 years old.
The most significant improvements are all about security � brute force attacks (trying to repeatedly guess passwords) will now trigger security measures and block a device.
Security on open public WiFi networks also receives a significant boost with a new encryption layer meaning every user on an open public network will have their traffic encrypted, unlike current open networks where no security exists and all traffic can be intercepted.
The first WiFi equipment with WPA3 support will be announced at CES 2018, and vendors will begin to ship hardware supporting this standard in 2018. Some existing WiFi capable hardware will be able to be upgraded to support the new standard, but in most cases new hardware will be required.
Las Vegas, NV � January 8, 2018 � Wi-Fi Alliance� introduces enhancements and new features for Wi-Fi Protected Access�, the essential family of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED� security technologies for more than a decade. Wi-Fi Alliance is launching configuration, authentication, and encryption enhancements across its portfolio to ensure Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices continue to implement state of the art security protections.
WPA2� provides reliable security used in billions of Wi-Fi� devices every day, and will continue to be deployed in Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices for the foreseeable future. Wi-Fi Alliance will continue enhancing WPA2 to ensure it delivers strong security protections to Wi-Fi users as the security landscape evolves. Advanced Wi-Fi applications will rely on WPA2 with Protected Management Frames, broadly adopted in the current generation of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices, to maintain the resiliency of mission-critical networks. New testing enhancements will also reduce the potential for vulnerabilities due to network misconfiguration, and further safeguard managed networks with centralized authentication services.
Building on the widespread adoption and success of WPA2, Wi-Fi Alliance will also deliver a suite of features to simplify Wi-Fi security configuration for users and service providers, while enhancing Wi-Fi network security protections. Four new capabilities for personal and enterprise Wi-Fi networks will emerge in 2018 as part of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3�. Two of the features will deliver robust protections even when users choose passwords that fall short of typical complexity recommendations, and will simplify the process of configuring security for devices that have limited or no display interface. Another feature will strengthen user privacy in open networks through individualized data encryption. Finally, a 192-bit security suite, aligned with the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) Suite from the Committee on National Security Systems, will further protect Wi-Fi networks with higher security requirements such as government, defense, and industrial.
�Security is a foundation of Wi-Fi Alliance certification programs, and we are excited to introduce new features to the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED family of security solutions,� said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. �The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED designation means Wi-Fi devices meet the highest standards for interoperability and security protections.�
�Wi-Fi security technologies may live for decades, so it�s important they are continually updated to ensure they meet the needs of the Wi-Fi industry,� said Joe Hoffman, SAR Insight & Consulting. �Wi-Fi is evolving to maintain its high-level of security as industry demands increase.�
About Wi-Fi Alliance�
Wi-Fi Alliance� is the worldwide network of companies that brings you Wi-Fi�. Members of our collaboration forum come together from across the Wi-Fi ecosystem with the shared vision to connect everyone and everything, everywhere, while providing the best possible user experience. Since 2000, Wi-Fi Alliance has certified more than 35,000 Wi-Fi products. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED� seal of approval designates products with proven interoperability, backward compatibility, and the highest industry-standard security protections in place. Today, Wi-Fi carries more than half of the internet�s traffic in an ever-expanding variety of applications. Wi-Fi Alliance continues to drive the adoption and evolution of Wi-Fi, which billions of people rely on every day.
We're currently both on our way to Las Vegas for CES 2018. While we're there we will attempt to minimise the partying and bring you daily updates of the latest in technology from the show floor and press conferences. Along with the latest in technology from all the big companies we're also keen to catch up with any New Zealand companies that may be at CES.
If anybody has seen anything cool they'd like us to check out feel free to get in touch and we'll see what we can do!