Imaging Smart Home

Spot is a low-cost, feature-rich camera for the connected home

Home security cameras have a bit of a reputation of lacking the kinds of features worthy of the excessive prices they’ve demanded. Seeing an opportunity, there have been a rash of companies looking to make better money by advertising a better product. iSmartAlarm is hoping their version of a lower cost yet versatile smart home camera will strike a chord with consumers looking for a better value.

Spot has all the expected features for a product in this category: HD-resolution video, night vision, sound and motion detection, push notifications, and both cloud and local storage supporting up to a 64GB micro SD card. The company tries to set its product apart in two ways.

Home Lighting

LightFreq uses Wi-Fi, lets your house get its freak on

The Premise. “Smart lighting” has become one of the latest trends to hit homes and offices. In the past, choices were limited to light bulb style and wattage – usually dictated by a lamp’s requirements. Luckily for us, light bulbs have fast-tracked it to evolutionary nirvana.

The Product. LightFreq is a multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and HD Audio controlled by a smartphone app. LightFreq gives consumers and business owners the ability to turn lights on, control dimmers, colors, and other unique abilities. For consumers there is a built-in “follow me” feature which will turn lights on and off as you enter and leave the rooms in your house (as long as your smartphone is with you). The same can be set for audio if you choose to listen to music. Different lighting motifs can be turned on so that LightFreq chooses the colors, which colors to change to, and how fast to change them to the beats of your tunes. Similarly you can set your LightFreq to flash in different colors when you receive a social media notification, text message or phone call. LightFreq also allows you to play God in a neat way with an intercom feature allowing you to speak into a specific LightFreq in another room OR into all LightFreqs in your house at once. LightFreq even works as a morning alarm turning on light, music, or both gradually until you are bopping around in a fresh new day.

The Pitch. LightFreq’s video showcases the many utilities of having the product in your home or business. Devon, Founder of LightFreq, presents his concept of putting sound and light together into one product. The video also features Colin and Rob, chief designers, who explain the importance of putting the best technology into the smallest space to create a powerful speaker. One screen even boasts better sound quality than Beats Pill, but there is no reference data source. Later down the page, Devon hosts a few demos of the product and there’s even a LightFreq soundtrack you can sample. The campaign is looking to raise $50,000 over 30 days on Kickstarter.

The Perks. For just $55 Early Birds can secure their own LightFreq, but a pledge of $70 will take care of late-comers. If you’re interested in the KickStarter special edition, there is a $30 premium for black matte and KickStarter green logo. For $10,000 the founders will come to your business and set up 60 LightFreqs at your office (travel costs not included).

The Potential. Smart lighting has become a very popular concept in the last few years and LightFreq should be able to capture a lot of interest. Backerjack featured a similar product, Whome, with a slightly different design but almost the same functionality as LightFreq. One major difference between the products is that Whome does not use Bluetooth, which could be one of the reasons that the project was ultimately not funded, besides an unnecessarily technical campaign page.

Connected Objects Smart Home

Chui bites into the connected doorbell race

Premise. Calling somewhere “home” usually has its perks, but it’s not without drawbacks. For instance, once word gets out that you’re living somewhere all types of people will show up at said place just to see you. This usually requires interrupting the glorious activities you choose to do in your spare time, just to answer the door.  Sports can’t just watch itself you know.

Product. When people just won’t stay away, Chui solves your problems by allowing you to see and speak to the person at your front door. Not having to get up from your couch to decline a new religion is always a win. You can also leave personal messages for specific individuals you know will be coming by. This is especially handy for telling a trusted friend or even your parents where you have hidden the spare key in your absence. Chui uses facial recognition software to first identify your visitor and then play your pre-recorded message.

Pitch. Chui’s product page does a good job of making a new product technology easy and intuitive to understand. In the pitch video, founders explain that Chui aims to augment the connected movement by making our homes smarter and socially intelligent. You will also see that Chui was unveiled at this year’s CES and is being tested for consumer and commercial uses including employee clocking, member check-in, and admittance to restricted areas.

Perks. While Chui is already in production, for $199 you still have the opportunity to reserve one of the first units to be produced before retail availability, shipping in Fall of 2014.

Potential. Chui has already proven its mass market appeal, and there is already competition on the horizon from other players like Goji and Doorbot. Doorbot is a very similar product with a slightly more interesting design, which is also offered for $199. While Chui incorporates facial recognition software and is focused a little more on providing access or information to a customized group of people, Doorbot is intended for more general use as a smart doorbell for anyone at the door. For $235 Goji takes the idea one step further by integrating a remote locking/unlocking mechanism, while Doorbot and Chui rely on integration with a dedicated smart lock called Lockitron. A neat benefit of Goji is that it can send electronic keys to anyone at anytime and for any duration – and can even work via a key fob for members of the family who may not own a smartphone.

Smart Home

AngelBlocks reduces cost and complexity of the smart home

editors-choiceThe Premise. Home automation, until this point, has focused primarily on controlling basic devices such as switches and outlets. There’s plenty of other devices that, if connected to the Internet of things, would improve day to day life. Connected smart homes makes life more efficient, so it’s time that to raise the IQ of more appliances in the home.

The Product. AngelBlocks is looking to make the smart home go beyond typical light and appliance control. There’s a range of 13 different sensors that notify, monitor and control different aspects of the house to make life more comfortable. These range from temperature and humidity sensors, to motion sensors, to moisture sensors for plants, and even automated locks. These are the building blocks that learn from your everyday lifestyle and adapt to make your life easier. They have an incredible range of 1,000 feet indoors and two miles outdoors, which a staggering battery life of five years. AngelBlocks are now compatible with the Zigbee and Z-Wave low-power wireless protocols, which should open the door to even more functionality. It’s also compatible with the Ninja Sphere by the makers of AngelBlocks’ crowdfunded predecessor, Ninja Blocks.

The Pitch. More intelligence is beginning to make their way into more homes as smart devices proliferate. Still, the limit of the intelligence of a house is limited by what the user is aware of. In AngelBlocks’ video, creator Steve Montgomery narrates different sketches and examples of AngelBlocks in real-life situations to really begin to expand horizons of human imagination in regard to Smart Homes. If you still have questions about the way a Smart Home can benefit your everyday life, the AngelBlocks does a very good job of explaining just that.

The Perks. The starter kit is really everything you need to get started, all for just $149. In that early bird package, which is expected to be delivered in August 2014, includes an AngelGate, AngelTag, one OutletBlock, and two RCOutlets. These devices have many different applications around the house, and there are some interesting ideas listed out on AngelBlocks’ Kickstarter page that are worth checking out. There are different sensors that can be added on, and those prices are listed as well, but if you want one of each, the price tag is $699.

The Potential. AngelBlocks takes a naming and some broader functionality cues from Kickstarter alum Ninja Blocks (which has also returned to the crowdfunding site again with the intriguing Arduino-based MicroView). However, AngelBlocks’ approach is far more refined. While not necessarily enough to help  home automation break through to the masses, it represents a well-executed approach that succeeds in its goal of raising the overall IQ of a household that support many inviting applications.

Music Smart Home

Musaic takes on Sonos with standards-based multi-room speaker system

The Premise. Multi-room audio has come a long way from the days when it required installation by a professional and cables running throughout the home. Not only have wireless technologies made it much simpler to install and music , but also smartphones and tablets have solved the complexities of how to control it from nearly anywhere in the home.

The Product. Musaic is a wireless audio system that can be set up in the home over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or classic analog input. Controlled by the Musaic app for iOS and Android, users can set their own preferences, search for genres or nationalities, enjoy streaming radio options like Rhapsody, Soma FM, and Napster (still distinct from parent Rhapsody), and queue up tracks for the perfect wireless listening experience. Musaic is also part of the emerging AllSeen Alliance for smart-home integration, with planned integration with WigWag and LIFX already.

The Pitch. London’s Musaic is keen on some basic design tenets that are easy to get behind. In the team’s video, two members of the Musaic team (including CEO Matthew Bramble) show how easily a home can be setup with the wireless speakers to deliver high-quality sound in a multitude of formats. What really stands out is the simplicity and variety of options available with the Musaic control app. The system looks easy to set up, control, and customize for individual users, or for events and parties. Musaic needs £60,000 to finish developing the software and complete the applications for certifications and regulatory approvals.

The Perks. A Musaic MP5 player with metal stand can be had for a contribution of £160, with free shipping to North America, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The larger, MP10 model is available at a £260 pledge, with a MP5/MP10 combo package starting at £370. Musaic should start filling homes with music in September 2014.

The Potential. Just by premise alone, Musaic is easy to write off as just another, albeit well-designed, option for wireless home audio that challenges the multi-room market leader and powerful newcomers. After seeing the app in action in the campaign video it’s hard to argue with the proposed platform. The song selection options, ability to queue up tracks, and plethora of streaming options make Musaic extremely attractive as are the presence of physical buttons to make switching up tunes simple when closer to a speaker than a table. That said, the company has a long way to go to catch up with the streaming options offered by Sonos.