Choosing Sides and Technologies in the Home Automation Sector

    In real life, people who don’t trust banks generally don’t hide their money under their mattresses, of course. But for service providers, there really is plenty of money in homes, and they don’t have to turn over mattresses to get it. They simply offer the most attractive ways of providing home automation.

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    There is a lot at stake, and moves are coming on a regular basis. This week, Microsoft released the oddly named Lab of Things. The MIT Technology Review describes it as a platform that knits together the disparate threads of home automation.

    The site said that the new software…

    …provides a centralized virtual dashboard for monitoring and controlling different ‘smart home’ devices. It also provides standards for building ‘apps’ for homes with the Lab of Things software installed.

    The story describes a demo in which this whole-house operating system recognized a sensor that monitored whether a door was opened or closed and sent an email when the status changed. This capability is important in home security and monitoring of seniors or younger kids. For instance, if a bathroom door doesn’t open by a certain time, it could be a sign that a senior is having a problem. If the front door isn’t opened at the designated time, a child has not returned from school on time.

    Microsoft’s goal is to create a seamless home automation platform. Another technology that can work in tandem with Microsoft and other techniques is ZigBee. Pocket Lint reported last week that Samsung and perhaps HTC are planning to include the protocol in their devices. The story is a bit sketchy, but the conclusion jives with what many insiders think:

    So it looks like the next battleground in the smartphone wars will be home automation, looking to make it even easier to control your smart home wirelessly from one device.

    I didn’t expect to revisit my blog about personal information security and Google Glass so quickly, but this video from Revolv–posted at Droid Life and elsewhere–deserves mention. The video demonstrates how its app can be used by Google Glass for home automation, but the guy looks goofy. On a more serious level, a hacker tapping into the data stream he is generating would have free rein to do a number of nasty things, such as control the house’s utilities and disarm the security system.

    Alas, where there is money and vendors, there are generally lawyers. This week, iControl Networks–which provides home automation products to Time Warner, Comcast and others–sued, a competitor. It also named FrontPoint Security, an customer. Previously, sued Telular Corp. The story has the details of iControl’s civil suit, which was filed in U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division.

    One event that isn’t as recent may or may not come to fruition and, even if it does, won’t have any immediate impact is a patent application filed by AT&T. CEPro reports that AT&T Intellectual Property I, LP in February filed a patent application entitled “System and Method of Interacting with Home Automation Systems via a Set-Top Box Device.” The site speculates that the patent, which builds on a previous submission, may be aimed at providing home automation capabilities to the U-Verse set top box.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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