Home Automation Goes Mobile and Mainstream

Home automation companies have been around for several years. They market often expensive and complex methods for automating and remote controlling home cooling and heating systems, appliances, security systems, lighting and more. These are usually installed and programmed by distinctive contractors or technical amateurs who do it for fun.

Home automation firms — such as AMX, Control4, Vantage Control and HomeLogic — aren’t exactly well-known brands outside the home automation hobbyist community. But I feel that in the long run, the leaders in home automation will probably likely be Microsoft, Google, Apple and other big-name tech companies.

That is because home automation is now going mainstream. As it becomes cheaper and simpler, everyone’s going to do it. And taking over these types of emerging businesses is exactly what Silicon Valley does best.

R2 Control Crestron – $99

The Big Three stage firms — companies which make the operating systems which connect hardware with program software — are investing billions of dollars in research and development of the automated home of the future. Microsoft, Google and Apple have individual major advantages:

Microsoft currently sells its superpopular Xbox system. A Xbox update is anticipated later this season. The company has also made a research project known as the HomeOS. It has even built a Disney-style home of the future to test concepts from Microsoft Research labs.

Google offers Google TV, that’s incorporated into major-brand TVs and can be a versatile, powerful platform that’s also extensible — developers could write apps for it like they could for smart phones. Google is very good at supplying comparatively open systems which enable any company to build any products without paying royalties to Google or perhaps signing a contract. Google’s open approach to platforms has made its Android mobile operating system the largest in the world.

And everyone expects Apple to send a wise TV and also continue to develop its own Apple TV product, which turns any TV into a wise TV and connects to Apple apparatus and the Internet. Apple’s advantage is the fact that it brings wealthier, big-spending customers — the kind of people who might be likely to invest in high-end home automation appliances and apparatus.

Off-the-Shelf and Connected

Each of these large tech companies have overwhelming advantages over the companies which have been focusing on home automation for decades, as home automation is evolving to be an off-the-shelf, mobile phone–connected sector. They’re adept at mass advertising and user friendliness. Additionally, their loyal customer bases can attract more customers, and economies of scale may drive down their costs.

The technology giants are both constructing and buying home automation alternatives. Most recently, Apple, Google and Microsoft all attempted to purchase home automation startup R2 Studios, and Microsoft won the bidding war.

R2 Studios was founded by Blake Krikorian, who previously launched Silicon Valley firm Sling Media. (Sling is a “place shifting” hardware-software mix which allows you watch TV via your cable subscription in another city in your notebook.)

Krikorian and R2 Studios are selling an Android app called R2 Control for Crestron, which gives control over Crestron home automation systems in an Android cellphone or tablet. But that’s not why Microsoft wanted to buy the company. Krikorian was also innovating in the region of displaying media by a mobile device on a TV.

The acquisition must give Microsoft several key R2 Studios patents for controlling numerous digital devices. These will no doubt be applied to Microsoft’s Xbox platform, which started as a game console but is turning to a fundamental computing platform for all in the home.

The very fact that all three companies — Microsoft, Google and Apple — were interested in obtaining R2 Studios speaks volumes about the firms’ intentions in home automation.


Lighter, Simpler Solutions

A revolution is taking place in the home automation scene right now. The expensive and complex home automation alternatives are being replaced with cheaper and simpler options.

Oddly, Apple is at the middle of this revolution. It’s strange because Apple itself is doing very little to market any stage for home automation. (Expect this to come in the years ahead.) Rather, miniature home automation start-ups are creating things that work with and may be controlled by Apple products, such as the iPhone.

Items such as the Nest smart thermostat, shown here, and Belkin’s WeMo line of controls are big sellers, and in fact are offered in Apple Stores.

WeMo Home Electronics Controllers – $49.99

Belkin’s WeMo products include all the electronic equipment which all appliances of the future is going to have. They contain tiny computers and motion sensors, and have wireless connectivity. You plug them into outlets, then plug lamps, audio players etc. to the WeMo units. WeMo goods turn things on and off through motion, a timer or controls on a wise phone.

The most recent addition to the WeMo line is that the new WeMo Light Change, declared this month. The switch, expected to come out later this season, replaces existing lighting turns and switches on and off anything lamp or other electrical appliance is connected to the switch-controlled socket. However, the WeMo Light Switch can also be connected to the Internet within a home’s Wi-Fi connection, allowing users to control the switch from anywhere in the world with an iOS app.

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