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Samsung Bets on SmartThings Home Automation

Posted by Sam Churchill on

SmartThings has been acquired by Samsung for a reported $200 million, and will operate as an independent company within Samsung’s Open Innovation Center group.

Their home automation kits allow you to connect devices like lights and doorlocks from your phone. The SmartThings app lets your smartphone control all of the smart devices in your home. It began as a Kickstarter project a couple years ago.

ComputerWorld reviewed home automation contenders including Samsung’s own Smart Home devices, Google’s Nest (with partner Samsung), Apple’s home automation called HomeKit (in iOS 8), LG’s HomeChat, Staples Connect $99 Hub, and the $299 Revolv Hub, with seven wireless radios speaking 10 different wireless languages including Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Insteon, and ZigBee.

The following protocols are supported in the SmartThings Hub:

  • Zigbee – A Personal Area Mesh Networking standard for connecting and controlling devices. Zigbee is an open standard supported by the Zigbee Alliance. For more information on Zigbee see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee.
  • Z-Wave – A proprietary wireless protocol for Home Automation and Lighting Control. For more information on Z-Wave see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-Wave.
  • IP-Connected Devices – Though this is not yet available, we are working to support IP-connected (typically WiFi) devices. This will also include support for various industry standards within the IP umbrella such as UPnP and REST.
  • Cloud-Connected Devices – Some device manufacturers have their own Cloud solutions that support their devices and want us to connect to them.

The home automation market is segmented into wired, power line, computing networks, wireless, and others (X-10, Wavenis, and Insteon).

By building an open IP-based platform, AT&T for example, has a simple and intuitive user interface, monitoring/care centers and an integrated security/automation gateway controller. Besides AT&T, companies including Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, Verizon, Best Buy and Staples, have all rolled out automation offerings.

According to a recent report published by Transparency Market Research, the global home automation market was valued at USD 3.6 billion in the year 2012. It is expected to grow at a rate of 24.5% CAGR during the period of 2013 – 2019.

Google Acquires Jetpac Travel Guide

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Google has acquired social travel app Jetpac, which uses Instagram photos to find what you’re looking for in cities. Jetpac works by analysing public Instagram pics for details that indicate the best places to go to meet women, see the greatest views or hang out with fellow hipsters, as its website says.

Jetpac City Guides are a visual guide to local recommendations for over 6,000 cities all around the world. It “can spot lipstick, blue sky views, hipster moustaches and more, through advanced image processing on billions of photos,” the app’s site claims.

Just what Google will do with the app remains to be seen since Mountain View has not yet made any announcement of its own about the acquisition.

Cost of Unlimited Plans Drop

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Verizon Wireless has launched a new plan for individual subscribers that offers unlimited voice, texting and 2 GB of data for $60 per month.

The new plan is $30 per month cheaper than a comparable offering on Verizon’s More Everything shared data plans.

The new pricing went into effect over the weekend. The $60 plan drops down to $50 per month when customers choose Verizon’s Edge handset upgrade program, in which customers pay off their phones in monthly installments. Data overage charges are $15 per GB.

Verizon’s new offer competes with AT&T Mobility’s $60 per month plan with unlimited voice, texting and 2.5 GB of data. However, AT&T requires customers to finance their device through AT&T’s Next handset upgrade plan, bring their own phone or buy their phone at full cost.

T-Mobile offers a Simple Choice plan with unlimited voice, texting and 1 GB of LTE data (before throttling) for $50 per month. The carrier’s $60 per month plan offers unlimited voice, texting and 3 GB of LTE data before throttling. Those prices do not include the cost of a phone. T-Mobile US changed its family plans over the weekend, adding support for up to 10 lines. Its family plan was originally announced in July with four lines of service for $100 per month.

Sprint customers can have as many as 10 mobile-phone lines share 20 gigabytes of data for $100 a month, the Overland Park, Kansas-based company announced today. Sprint’s new plans are dubbed the “Sprint Family Share Pack” — a split from the company’s previous branding of “Framily” plans. It lets you split a minimum of 20GB of data (and unlimited voice/text) for a relatively modest $100 per month, plus $15 per line. During the limited time promotion, Sprint is waiving the data access charge for handsets, tablets and mobile broadband devices on 20GB or higher data for up to 10 lines.

To qualify for the offer customers must switch their number from another carrier to Sprint. Sprint is also offering to reimburse up to $350 of the costs of ending a contract with another carrier, a move first tried by rival T-Mobile.

64 Bit-Ready Android Phone?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Since Android L was announced with 64-bit support back in June, GigaOm asks what new device was going to be the first handset with a compatible chipset?

According to a new leak from @upleaks, the first Android phone with a 64-bit chipset looks like it’ll be an HTC Desire-like handset running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410.

The Snapdragon 410 chipset will be the first of many Qualcomm 64-bit processors.

The HTC One max and Samsung Note 4 are believed to have Qualcomm 805 processors, still in the 32-bit camp.

Qualcomm’s high end 64-bit family includes the Snapdragon 808 and 810, while mid-range 64-bit processors include the Snapdragon 410, 610 and 615.

Unlike the rest of the 64-bit Snapdragon family, the 808 and 810 likely won’t show up in devices until the first half of 2015, while 410 devices are arriving now, and 610/615 will hit in Q4.

NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 processor comes in two flavors. The first version features a 32-bit, ARM Cortex-A15 quad-core processor paired with 192-core NVIDIA Kepler graphics. It’s already available in a handful of devices.

The second version features a 64-bit CPU paired with the same graphics technology. It features NVIDIA’s “Project Denver” processor which is based on ARMv8 architecture. The Tegra K1 “Denver” chip has yet to hit the streets.

Android L is expected to be released in late 2014, perhaps around the time that Apple’s IOS-8 becomes available.

Intel Announces Fanless Core M Processor

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Intel on Monday officially took the wraps off its new processor — the Core M, also known as Broadwell — that will let PC makers build much thinner and lighter devices.

Moving to 14 nanometers from Intel’s prior 22-nanometer chip, dubbed Haswell, allows PC makers to build devices that are thinner, lighter, more power efficient, and don’t need a fan.

The chips are targeting tablets and laptops that can convert into tablets. Chips based on ARM’s processors already allow for fanless designs.

The first systems using Core M will hit store shelf for the holiday season, but the bulk of new devices will be available in the first half of 2015.

The Core M helps PC makers create tablets and devices that can convert between tablets and laptops. The Core M has a 60 percent lower idle power level, and is about 50 percent smaller and 30 percent thinner than Haswell, which makes it better suited for smaller PCs (and perhaps a new OSX-compatible Apple iPad).

WarKitten Scans Neighborhood WiFi Networks

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Security engineer Gene Bransfield has developed WarKitten, a WiFi collar that scans WiFi networks in the neighborhood. The innocuous-looking accessory hides Spark Arduinoopen source hardware. It maps wireless networks and their vulnerabilities wherever the pet wanders.

WarKitten was developed for fun and was discussed in a panel at the Defcon hacking conference.

During the Cold War, the Acoustic Kitty went under the surgeon’s knife to accommodate transmitting and control devices so it could listen to secret conversations in Moscow. The first cat mission was eavesdropping on two men in a park outside the Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C.. The cat was released nearby, but was hit and killed by a taxi almost immediately.

A bravery medal was awarded to a pigeon which flew vital intelligence out of occupied France in World War II.

For the BBC Horizon programme “The Secret Life of the Cat”, the Wildlife Tracking Collars developed by the Royal Veterinarian College were downsized to fit on domestic cats.

About 50 tracking collars were fitted to house cats in the UK, incorporating the GPS receiver, accelerometers, gyroscopes, CPU, and much of the associated software. The college had already developed software functionality for larger animals and was retained, in particular the ability to change the collar’s operation and power consumption based on the cat’s behaviour, to conserve battery life.

The BBC published maps showing the tracks of ten of the cats over 24 hours. Each of the maps is accompanied by a small film clip of the particular tracked cat in action and a summary about how far each cat roams from its home and the size of its roaming area.

Some of the domestic cat collars also carried a miniature high-definition video camera, which provided excellent video quality but only very limited recording time due to their limited battery life. The collars were programmed to only turn the camera on when the accelerometers indicated that the cat was active and the GPS receiver indicated that the cat was outdoors.

The National Geographic & University of Georgia teamed up on a Kitty Cam Project which reviewed 2,000 hours of video collected from 55 Cat Cams.

See Dailywireless: Spy Squirrels Captured and Pet Tracking