Scandal, Delay, Fresh Faces: 3 Smart Routers + Home Automation at CES 2015
Scandal-ridden Soap, tardy Securifi Almond+ and brand new Amped AC750 promise to deliver smarter routers for the smart home.
Julie Jacobson · January 3, 2015
For all the importance of the home router, it never seems to get that much attention from product developers or the press. But at CES 2015, we should see some progress in the lowly router, with Soap, Securifi and Amped Wireless, touting touchscreen-enhanced products and some home automation features.
Two years ago, Securifi made all sorts of headlines, including my own “Securifi Almond+ is Best $99 Home Automation System”, when it debuted at CES 2013.
The product built on Securifi’s existing Almond router that was easier to program than most because of its onboard touchscreen. Almond+, I wrote back then, “packs Gigabit Ethernet router (4 ports), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, macros, apps and cuteness.”
But it never shipped and never shipped and never shipped, except for earlier versions to Kickstarter backers. They pledged in all nearly $900,000 on a goal of $250,000.
And it won’t be shipping by CES, but they’re getting closer. In December, the company started accepting $189 preorders for the product that will ultimately retail for $249.
Explaining the 2.5x increase in price from the original $99 Kickstarter bargain, Securifi explains, “We know some of you might think this is high compared to what you paid for your Kickstarter units, but keep in mind that we’ve made some pretty big hardware changes compared to the original plan.”
Indeed, the hardware changes are fairly substantial as I’ve learned over the past few months from Securifi’s Lars-Goran Nilsson – better processor, more RAM, larger display, higher resolution and some other goodies.
“One thing I think is somewhat unique is that not only will we have a cloud based service that can be accessed via a web UI, or via mobile apps for iOS and Android,” Nilsson tells me, “but also a local web UI that runs on the Almond+ which allows you to access the home automation features without an Internet connection.
Securifi continues to work on device interoperability and event notifications, along with easy enrollment of ZigBee and Z-Wave products.
Here’s the company’s latest update, dated Dec. 1, 2014:
Inasmuch as we’d hoped to have some really good news to share with you by now, there are still many things that we’ve promised that hasn’t been delivered. The most crucial parts are of course home automation, notifications and improved Wi-Fi performance.
We’re expecting to release a new firmware to our beta/dev backers this week to have them test the new Wi-Fi drivers and if it works well, we expect to be releasing it to everyone as a beta firmware the following week. This firmware will improve the Wi-Fi performance and it’ll also fix the issue some are having with garbled data over the WAN port.
In addition to that, we anticipate to release mobile app notifications by the latter half of December.
Soap was once the darling of Indiegogo, raising $261,318 on a goal of $42,500. But never have there been so many cries of “scam” associated with a home automation product.
Funders are irate after waiting endlessly for products they prepaid for. They’re clamoring for refunds or at the very least communication from the company. One of them claimed yesterday that Soap was under review for potential terms of service violations.
I have stuck up for Soap in the past, claiming that incompetence doesn’t necessarily equate to scam, and I still stand by the fact that the founders, Brandon and Alexander, are putting forth the proper effort. I do not, however, have much faith that they’ll succeed. Their pedigrees just aren’t there.
In any case, Alexander tells me they are partnering with a prominent name in the router category. It is indeed a respectable company and, if true, could make this product real.
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The product is, according to the promo piece, “the all-in-one router with a HD touch screen display, Android OS, 802.11ac, and everything you need for home automation.”
The company claims to have a mesh technology that invigorates the network the more devices you add to it.
The Soap router initially was to include radios for ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth LE, Insteon, Wi-Fi, 433 Mhz “and more.” Here is the most recent update from the team, posted in early December 2014:
Soap Revised Technical Specs (Soap 8.4/Soap Quad)
- CPU - Intel 1.6 GHz
- Memory 1 x DDR3-800/1066 DIMM max. up to 2 GB (unbuffered)
- BIOS AMI 16Mbits PnP Flash with function of BIOS redirected to COM port
- HDD Interface - Will be size of order made
- Network Interface 4 x 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (Intel i210AT)
- SSD 1 x Compact Flash type-II
- 1x CFast (optional)
- I/O Interface 1 x console RJ-type connector, 2 x USB connector, 4 x RJ-45 connector, 1 x VGA connector
- Watchdog Timer 255 stepping for system reset
- 8 stepping for LAN bypass
- USB 2 x USB 2.0 port on front side
- Expansion Slot 1 x Mini PCIe slot
- LAN bypass function through latch relay
- Power Supply 12V/5A
- OS Compatibility Linux/Android
- 1.7 GB/s Marvell Wifi Chipset. 4x4 MIMO 802.11ac
- RF: ZIgbee/Zwave/Bluetooth/Insteon/X10
- LCD- LVDS 7/8.4 inch LCD depending on your unit chosen
- No 433mhz, No USB 3.0, No HDMI
For those of you that ordered a dual or single, we will be posting those specs later this week. They are slightly toned down from this one.
We also are going to make the files from our Soap board available for download. We are donating them to the community.
Changes to the case and overall look will be shown in a couple weeks. The software differences are that all features run out of the one Soap app. You will not need several apps. After we begin shipping units and get the app straight, we will get working on all extras(apps, and accessories)
Demo of software will be in 3 weeks, before CES.
Soap now is functional on many routers and with many home automation APIs.
The best news we can post is this…Soap will begin its first ships in Jan. We expect the first units to go out Jan 20th.
We shall see at CES.
The top-end Quad product is expected to retail for $400.
The new TAP-R2 (AC750) 802.11ac router from Amped Wireless isn’t as smart as the others from the automation point of view, but it’s pretty smart for a router, thanks to a built-in touchscreen that helps network-phobes (like myself) configure the network from the device itself.
From the TAP-R2, consumers can configure user accounts, set up guest networks, schedule user access (turn off the kids’ wireless at night, for example), block certain Websites or keywords, open up ports, and even adjust the signal coverage/output power so your neighbors can’t access your network, for example.
In standby mode, the router because a digital clock so it doesn’t look too on a book shelf.
A USB port enables file sharing, and two Ethernet ports deliver data to local gaming devices or TVs.
Could built-in automation be next?
The TAP-R2 is available for preorder ($160) and is expected to ship in February 2015.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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