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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Money keeps raining down on Canary Connect Inc., maker of a very nice IoT security camera, and raiser of $54 million.

By Julie Jacobson

I really have nothing bad to say about Canary Connect Inc., the company that makes the Canary IoT security camera. The product is nice looking and feels substantial. It has a built-in siren, motion detector and some air-quality sensors. It has an app. You can get it to sound the siren when motion is detected and you are away from home. It learns activity patterns in the home. It is easy to install and configure. It has a lot of buzz.

So, as you see, I’m not a Canary hater. I would certainly use one in my own house, but probably wouldn’t pay $249 for it.

I just don’t believe “Canary’s vision for security is wholly unique and inspiring.”

That’s how Michael Marks of Walden Riverwood Ventures (WRV) describes Canary. WRV led the latest $30 million Series B funding round for Canary, which included “significant investment” from Cota Capital, Khosla Ventures, Flextronics, Two Sigma Ventures and Western Technology Investment.

Last year Canary nabbed $10 million from Khosla.

That’s on top of nearly $2 million raised on Indiegogo in 2013.

In all, that’s $54 million so far (more we hope, if the owners put in some of their own money) ... for a “smart home” device that doesn’t include Z-Wave or ZigBee for home automation. From what I can tell, there’s no integration with third-party devices nor an API for same.

The company hasn’t latched on to any of the newly-trendy services such as “works with Nest,” Apple HomeKit or IFTTT.

I get the allure of single-purpose devices that don’t confuse consumers, especially for Canary’s target…

Friday, June 19, 2015

Home automation protocols as they relate to the custom installation channel: Do they matter?

By Dean Roddey

Home automation protocols are sort of the plumbing of the automation world: Everyone who uses a smart home system is making use of one or more control protocols, but as with plumbing we rarely think about them until something starts to really stink.

Control protocols are how automation systems talk to the devices they control, at a minimum defining the format of messages sent back and forth between the automation system and the device. The quality of those protocols plays a substantial role in the quality of automation solutions and end user experiences, no matter how much work is done to keep them hidden away under the floorboards.

Recently this uber-geeky realm has become a battle ground where some large players are attempting to put forward their own versions of the “one protocol to rule them all,” and hence to gain leverage within (or even dominate) the automation world. Apple’s HomeKit and Nest’s (aka Google’s) Thread initiatives are the most visible examples of this conflict. There are many fan boys of either who seem to think that the entire professional automation world is about to be made irrelevant by these efforts.

Leaving aside whose story is best and the politics thereof, in this article I wanted to just provide more information about control protocols in general, what types of problems they cause, how these problems limit the automation world, and so forth.

Understanding Syntax

The biggest area of confusion that I see among the laity concerning device control is the issue of syntax vs. semantics. And this division is very important to the rest of the discussion, so I’d like…

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

By Paul Self

Here is how Best Buy can squash you.  This is a proposal I made to Best Buy when I was employee. Luckily for this industry, they didn’t bite. (True story.)

In order for any industry to cross the chasm into mainstream, there needs to be a killer app. If you haven’t read “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore, then do so. The “industry” in this case is integrated consumer electronic systems.

Best Buy, the No. 1 company on the CE Pro 100, has the killer app… its purchasing power.

If Best Buy says to a flat panel manufacturer: “We will buy XXX containers of TVs if you put a blue LED button on the back. When someone presses and holds the button, it goes into pairing mode (think Bluetooth pairing). The ZigBee channel opens and will pair with a remote that is also in pairing mode. The TV sends its User Interface and its communication commands to the remote control via the wireless protocol and now the Best Buy remote has bi-directional control.”

This proposal would leverage existing CEMA standards and all Best Buy needs is have someone like Logitech to OEM a remote control that is proprietary to Best Buy. This remote has a blue button that puts the remote into pairing mode as needed. An app is also an obvious need.

If Best Buy makes the same deal with many other devices and BOOM… you have an integrated system that is truly plug and play. The system can throw in a little network device that goes online and looks for updates that are…

Posted by Paul Self on 06/10 at 08:00 AM
Blogs, Big-Box Retailers, Permalink

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Toshiba SCiB Lithium Titanate battery is the energy source behind the RoseWater Energy Group’s Residential Energy Management Hub. To reduce energy loss from DC to AC conversion, future home wiring could be low-voltage based.

By Jason Knott

CE pros might be sitting in the proverbial catbird seat when it comes to the future of wiring homes.

With the solar revolution seemingly in full swing all across the nation, consumers are enamored with “going off the grid.” And many homeowners are counting on home batteries to be the next phase of their off-the-grid plans. Companies likes Tesla and RoseWater Energy Group are leading the way in the development of these new power storage devices for homes.

But if the battery power trend takes off, it must lead to a new paradigm in which homes will be powered more with low voltage wiring than line voltage electrical, according to a blog by CE veteran Paul Self on

Indeed, will the pure science limitations of AC/DC conversion eventually force a gigantic sea change from builders, electricians and the National Electric Code itself in the way homes are constructed and wired? The answer is “Yes” that might have to happen, says Self.

Here is Self’s logic:

“An underlying issue with solar power and the Tesla battery is the fact that they run on DC while the power infrastructure in buildings is AC. Stepping power up and down from AC to DC and vice-versa wastes energy, about 20 percent is lost in the conversion. Some converters do a better job than others, but resolving this 20 percent loss is very important when working on a battery stored energy supply.

Many devices in a home could run on DC. Almost all non-incandescent light bulbs can run on DC and require a…


Which one is your burglar alarm?

By Jason Knott

Everyone has heard the argument that electronic alarm signals are a “waste” of law enforcement’s time and resources. The common stat is that 99 percent of alarm signals are false.

Indeed, I don’t know many security integrators that no longer attempt to verify their alarm signals prior to dispatch by calling the client or checking the location’s video surveillance images.

But if a customer should ever question the value of monitoring and verification procedures, this short two-minute video might help.

Radius Security in Vancouver, Canada, created the video to show verified alarms are “1,000 times better” than systems monitored by companies that do not have verification procedures in place.

Posted by Jason Knott on 05/27 at 07:19 AM
Blogs, Videos, Home Automation and Control, Security, Surveillance, Permalink

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why buy professional home security monitoring? Because you love Fido. Image: The Meta Picture

By Julie Jacobson

Consumers today have so many options for home security without professional monitoring. For instance, they can buy DIY products that blare upon an alarm event and allow for self-monitoring. Or they can train their dogs to ward off would-be intruders. Or they could just not care because, “By the time the police respond, the thief is already outta there.” Or this: “It’s just stuff. I don’t have anything valuable.”

Let’s put aside the fact that emergency responders increasingly are not responding to unverified break-ins.

What do you say to the prospect who tells you they have a dog and no stuff to steal in any case?

Putting aside the notion that the bad guys could silence Fido for good if they chose to, here’s the No. 1 reason why these reluctant customers need monitored security: Who is going to rescue Fido in the case of a fire?

“Don’t forget about fire,” says Steve Shapiro, VP industry relations for ADT.

Shapiro and I chatted during the recent Connections 2015 conference about the state of professional monitoring. Like many consumers, I too have failed to recognize the value of emergency response for fire and, for that matter, CO detection. How would you like to come home to a house filled with gas, and then set off the flames when static electricity generates a spark?

Shapiro is not terribly concerned about the demise of professional security monitoring. He says new business models are emerging that make the service appealing even to die-hard DIYs with “nothing to steal.”

For example, ADT recently announced aRead entry

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 05/22 at 06:43 AM
News, Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Security, Permalink

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Vivint selling security and home automation door to door.

By Julie Jacobson

Every summer, companies like Vivint drop thousands of kids off in targeted locations around the country to sell security and home automation systems door-to-door, mostly smart-home products from UTC’s Interlogix and Nortek’s 2Gig Technologies with SHaaS (smart home as a service) from

These door-knockers – mostly Mormon students who are fresh off their missions and used to getting doors slammed in their faces – sell some 250,000 systems during the summer season alone.

The “summer sales model,” as it’s known, may have a shady reputation, but generally the larger companies like Vivint (ADT and Protection One dealers also do some door-knocking) are legitimate businesses acting legally in the neighborhoods they visit.

Many of them sell on sheer scare tactics alone, but the best of the lot sell the lifestyle benefits of home automation and remote home monitoring.

RELATED: A Failure to Communicate: How to Lose a Client

So, even if you as an integration company are not offering security (why?!) then you should still fear these firms for the smart-home systems they sell. They are targeting your existing customers and your prospects – especially those in affluent neighborhoods—and make no mistake, they will win them.

How so?

As for prospective customers who have never had home automation – the vast majority of the U.S. population, rich and poor – no one has ever talked to them about it before. Now someone is at the door talking about the technology and all the wondrous things it can…

Friday, May 08, 2015

Failed DIYers could be your best prospects.

By Julie Jacobson

There was a time when a person who bought a TV at Best Buy or a home automation hub at Radio Shack or loudspeakers through wasn’t your customer.

“Anyone who hires Geek Squad to mount a TV isn’t my customer,” you’d say. “I don’t do business with people who buy ‘security systems’ at Costco. … I have no time for hacks who shop office supply stores for home automation.”

While such sentiments rang true three or five or 10 years ago, they don’t necessarily apply today.

Remember when you used to insist, “Anyone who wants a Sonos system will never be my customer”?

First, a wide range of devices – TVs, speakers, mounts, door locks, security systems, home automation hubs, multiroom audio, smart bulbs, remote controls and so much more – are easier than ever to buy, install and configure.

Second, we’re dealing with a new generation of folks that grew up with technology and either want to get their hands dirty or don’t mind tinkering around. What they definitely do want is some degree of ownership of their technology – the ability to make changes to their systems without being beholden to a professional installer who may or may not be in business next year.

They want to understand how stuff works.

I guarantee a big chunk of DIYs stock up on gear, but never even open the boxes, much less install the products.

Third, home technology is made to look so simple today that “even your grandmother can do it,” when she simply cannot. Neither can many tech-savvy youngens. Most would-be do-it-yourselfers won’t get their devices installed in the promised three minutes,…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 05/08 at 10:40 AM
News, Blogs, Business Resources, Permalink


By Jason Knott

New Land Solutions in Portsmouth, England, might just have done the best motorization we have ever seen.

Watch this 90-second video to see the transformation of this living room into a dedicated home theater. Motorized acoustical panels cover the walls, a motorized screen drops down, the coffee table drops down through the floor, the giant Fortress Seating U-shaped couch moves forward toward the screen, a massive projector rotates 90 degrees out of the back wall, and then lastly a full row of five seats rises out of the floor.

All the while, automated lighting control scenes are also activating. Impressive!

New Land Solutions also has a sped-up version of the video that launches automatically on its company website that includes other angles of the motorization.

Posted by Jason Knott on 05/08 at 09:07 AM
Blogs, Slideshow, Videos, Displays, Furniture, Home Theater, Mounts and Lifts, Permalink

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rather than going in so many different directions, what if there were more standard procedures for how CI companies manage their businesses?

By Steve Firszt

A reader recently took issue with my assertion that the CI industry is made up of 10,000 different companies doing the same thing 10,000 different ways. The response was, “I believe the analogy of 10,000 custom integrators doing the same work is false.… I have only done 2 installs that were exactly alike in over 20 years…”

Sorry. I must have been unclear.

This is not about one-offs vs. repeatable installations – or brands, or control systems, or price points. I’m talking about the business of CI and how there is not a single standard for how CI companies manage their businesses. They do not recognize revenues the same way, they do not calculate gross profits the same way, they do not define labor costs the same way. Mainly because, there isn’t a standard “way.”

The three issues just mentioned are part a management fundamental I call “counting the money.” This is the starting point for companies being able to report results in a way that is truly comparable. If we could do that, we could then look at how the companies with the best results, do what they do. Then, we could adopt their practices and measure our improvement, always being able to reference where we succeed, and where we still fall short.

The entire industry would be stronger as a result.

Related: The Evolution of Custom – 30 Years Later, Still No Scale

Consider labor cost. Is it the wages you pay a tech while s/he is working on a project, with non-billable hours being charged to overhead? Or is…

Posted by Steve Firszt on 04/23 at 09:33 AM
Blogs, Business Resources, Permalink

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