Google and Amazon going head to head AGAIN

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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I guess, in the arena of war, you can’t afford to help the other side. That’s exactly what Amazon decided when they announced that they were to stop listing the new Nest products on their site. The Google-owned smart home system retaliated with a move to pull all of it’s products from the amazon site, leaving ‘commander’ (Amazon CEO), Jeff Bezos, to bet big on Amazon’s own smart devices. It’s not entirely unsurprising that in the battle to lead the smart home market, Amazon would want to use their vast scope, and all their website’s immense popularity, to sell and promote their own product and by Nest’s own admission, its been on the cards for a while.

The Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have been going head to head for a long time, already, so it’s only natural that Amazon would want to up the stakes and have a ‘sink or swim’ moment with their own website and product. Of course, this kind of competitive spirit has been demonstrated by Apple for years, both with Google (over their maps, remember the dire beginnings of ‘Apple maps’?!) and of course with Amazon itself, who stopped selling Apple TV on their site for a time.As a wise person (nearly) said: all’s fair in the technology war, and with google retaliating by blocking their YouTube app on some Fire TVs, it will remain to be seen who has the upper hand in this battle.

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AMAZON AUSTRALIA SOFTWARE DROPPED EARLY!

IN BREAKING NEWS – a fluke discovery for any Australian users of Amazon Alexa.
If you have shipped an Amazon Echo device from the UK or USA, and have had to do some tricky set up to get it to work, chances are on the 24th of Jan, it stopped working.
Things like not recognising your account, even dropped off basic set up features like switching accounts and answering set up questions. It appeared to have been in factory restored mode, forgetting all of your settings and account.
Well, there’s a reason for that!
As of tonight, Amazon has pushed the Australian Software for Amazon Alexa. (whether or not it was testing or intending this change, remains to be confirmed)
Upon further inspection (and a lot of back and forth trying to figure out why our lights weren’t talking to echo), we discovered that the Amazon app (not available in Australian app stores YET), gave us a preview of what is to come.
Below is a list of all new Australian and New Zealand skills ready to go come on launch day, set to be the 1st of Feb (in 6 days’ time).

Lastly, a massive feat for Austereo. Not only having Hit105 and sister stations all with skills but also Triple M Radio Stations, in particular, have been very busy working on TWO skills per major station. One for news, and one dedicated to sports news. This is a great skill to have for your morning briefing.

  • Triple M news for Sydney
  • Triple M news for Brisbane
  • Triple M news for Melbourne
  • Triple M news for Adelaide
  • Triple M sport for Sydney
  • Triple M sport for Brisbane
  • Triple M sport for Melbourne
  • Triple M sport for Adelaide

We are sure that there are many still to come, these are all the confirmed skills. There are many NON-BRANDED skills like games, facts and jokes ready to go as well.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 Automation ROUND UP

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The Consumer Electronics Show 2018, was in Las Vegas this year with thousands of companies exhibiting every year, and hundreds of thousands in total attendance its no wonder CES is known as – the global stage of innovation. This year there was over a whopping 900 startup companies in Eureka Park (the home for startup exhibitors). 2018 CES was Jan 9th to 12th this year, a while the number of gadgets featured that will go to market did not overshadow the previous years,  we are on the next leap forward in smart technology.

Couldn’t get to Las Vegas this week? That’s ok; we have you covered. Here are all the headlining products and concepts featured at CES this year. With leading electronic companies such and Samsung, Amazon, Google, Apple, LG, Sony and thousands more previewing and launching multiple products or at least attempting to preview those products – gadgets can get a little bit temperamental at the worst times, as LG learnt while showing-off there home assistant CLOi. Cloi might even show up in shopping carts if she ever learns to listen.

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With so many TV’s, speakers, Smartphones, Cars, Computers and Gaming rigs, there was also a feature of the extensive integration of smart home gadgets and devices. Here is a summary of exciting and promising items featured at this years CES for your smart home.

Straight off the bat, let’s talk smart assistant integrations. One of the well-known smart home companies Netamo has turned to Facebook to interact with your smart home. The free chatbot available through Facebook Messenger service made to respond to your queries with your home or out and about. The Netamo smart home devices already integrate with Siri, Alexa and Google assistants but have now expanded to Facebook messaging service to allow for greater mobility and privacy. Such as using it in places where you can’t or wouldn’t want to use a voice command instead you can type out questions to the smart home bot.

Favorite lock company Schlage, a manufacturer of Smart Lock, adds extra connectivity to the sense deadbolt. Previously compatible with Amazon Alexa and Apple Homekit, the ‘Sense Deadbolt’ is now able to connect with Google assistant on Android devices and IOS with an added adaptor which cost about $90.

The company making the most significant headlines from this years event was of course Samsung. Samsung had a few big ticket items to reveal the most interesting being at a micro LED TV. With 4K TV resolution still big slide for many Aussie households, Samsung has gone up the game.

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Of course, it’s far from groundbreaking, with the first TV’s in 8K Revolution being worked on around 2015 Samsung is one of the three major manufacturers to bring 8k tv out to the Western consumer demographic, which is a big turning point, as most Hollywood films still film in 6K. The fact the notable films haven’t caught up yet leaves little content available in 8K as of yet, Only in Korea or Japan which has had a few broadcast in 8K so far, and have also hinted that the Winter Olympics and potentially the Japan 2020 Olympics will be broadcasting in 8K. Call the wall for obvious reasons the 8K TV is an enormous 168-inch bezel-less television- it is basically a jumbotron for your home.

Samsung also provided a first look for other 8K TVs at CES 2018 featuring Q LED display and AI technology. Samsung says the AI technology upscale standard definition content to 8K resolution using an algorithm that adjusts the screen resolution based on picture quality characteristics of each scene. Which reminds me of something Google’s Rick Osterloh explained in October. To simplify, we are at a technological impasse, and AI will be the will be the only way of improving further advancements.

Taking a step up from AI technology, Samsung also announced that their 2018 series of televisions would feature their own smart assistant Bixby.which will integrate with the connected home and Samsung SmartThings even more. This isn’t exactly big news for Australians as Samsung has yet to bring out smart things to Australia – still, no word when or if this will happen.

While we are on the subject of TV’s Samsung has focused on size, and LG focused on user flexibility… sorry TV flexibility.

Yep that’s right LG have featured a flexible display TV that can roll up and be tucked away in the base when not in use sort of like a projector screen. LG’s concept TV has been demo’s at previous CES, and in 2017 released a wallpaper tv (which is thinner than a BIC pen), but this is an impressive feat none the less as it’s still a 65 inch 4K OLED display that is flexible.

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Okay, so let’s get to the reason your here.  VOICE ASSISTANTS!! How would you like one in your car?

Byton electric announced at CES 2018 their latest concept SUV at CES and it should be available in Asia in 2019 followed by the USA and Europe. Still, the best news yet is that they’re coming down under with plans to release in Australia in 2021. Byton is aiming to rival the Tesla Model X and contend with established brands such as Audi and BMW. The SUV has smart features like facial recognition instead of keys, and the SUV also features a first in automotive technology. a massive 49-inch stretch display in the dash of the cabin. 

(check out the video to the left to get to low down on some of the more interesting features) Byton said they have been working with voice control technology alongside Amazon, and together they have integrated the well known smart assistant into the car. They plan the SUV will be significantly cheaper than the Tesla model x.

Amazon Alexa on the road seems to be a popular choice lately with Anker releasing their latest device called Roav(pictured left). Similar to the Garmin speak, Roav is a voice commanded automotive Amazon Alexa. Having Alexa in the car will be so helpful. Especially taking into consideration the strict (but necessary) road rules on device usage. hypothetically you could control many aspects of your drive through voice command in a device that is 1/4 the size of the Alexa Echo.  Anker does intend on releasing the Roav globally but are releasing in the states first.

Both Toyota and Lexus confirm that the Amazon Alexa voice assistant will be in the USA cars later this year.

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Smart homes are going to be more than just security and media rooms with CES 2018 exhibitors promising Alexa in the bathroom and Bixby and Google in the kitchen.

The star in the Smart Kitchen is the Ovie Smarterware that will let you know when your leftovers I have gone bad with an Amazon Echo or Google assistant you can tell your assistant what is in a container and it will tell you when it’s off. Quite handy if you are a household that seems to never have room in the fridge. Estimated to be about 75 Australian dollars for a pack of 3 and its functionality is similar to that seen in the Samsung family hub fridge but can attach to your pre-existing Tupperware.

Speaking of the Samsung family hub fridge Samsung have brought out the next model with some important updates and the addition of their voice assistant Bixby. The family hub fridge made it’s first appearance at CES 2016 but will now offer a wider range of features including syncing up food storage keeping it family members better connected and organised with a Bigger screen and AKG speakers with Bixby and AI built-in not only can you get your morning briefing you can also have recommended recipes as to what is in your fridge. The family hub will truly become a family hub allowing you to control your smart home from the kitchen.

Samsung made a promise to have its range of Internet of things products ready by 2020. Even demonstrated CES was Samsung’s new quick drive washing machine that is also smart things capable. But instead of displaying each product on stage Kim Hyunsuk spent most of the hour on stage explaining the vision for the future and trying to rename IOT to the ‘intelligence of things’. Claiming it’s one thing to have a connected home but for the future, we need to have an intelligent home.

Moving into the bathroom of the future, companies Moen, Elmer and Kohler have found a way to integrate Amazon Alexa into your bathroom. With Elmer creating a shower that you can control with Alexa commands such as the temperature, playing your morning briefing. And Kohler has been designing an entire bathroom range that can be controlled by Amazon Alexa commands such as running a bath or setting the water to a certain temperature even flushing the toilet for you. Moen’s Products feature a more family-based element with different settings in memory, and even an Amazon Alexa hub built into the mirrors (you can learn more on these products below in the video from Digital Trends)

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No mention yet on whether any of the ‘connected bathrooms’ will be available in Australia as is with many of the new CES products, both being a preview/concept show, and the fact that we are still waiting to see how Amazon Alexa takes off in Australia which will dictate how many products I brought down under.

SO, that’s not everything from CES 2018 but that’s as much as we’re going to cover if you would like to read more on these products or any others that we didn’t cover we suggest you check out CNET for a broader look at products and gadgets or you can watch the live streams and videos straight from CES TV. If there is something amazing you have heard about or seen from CES, let us know in the comments below.

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live.ces.tech/category/videos/all-livestreaming-content | www.cnet.com/ces/ | www.digitaltrends.com/home/kohler-verdera-mirror-ces-2018/

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Wemo and Apple Homekit Users can Rejoice

Apple Homekit users can finally set up there WeMo devices after the WeMo Homekit Bridge has gone to market after it was first announced 8 months ago.

Belkin WeMo covers home automation devices such as cameras, switches and light bulbs. However in factory setup mode WeMo devices will not support Homekit connectivity without some further tinkering from IFTTT. No announcement for an Australian release or cost as of yet you can currently buy the WeMo bridge from Belkin’s US site for $40 USD. The bridge only requires to be plugged into your network, and power to “bridge the connection” between your devices. This will hopefully ease some annoyances for Apple Homekit users.

Subscribe to About Automation to stay up to date on this subject, and many others.

Samsung’s ongoing fight to make bixby relevant

Fridges, Phones and Televisions. Samsung are sprinkling a bit of BIXBY into the recipe for all there new big tech items.

At the CES 2018 convention in Las Vegas, Samsung has announced that the 2018 range of televisions will include their smart assistant BIXBY, to allow home connectivity and smart home interaction. This is to go hand in hand with Samsung SmartThings technology platform.

In regards to televisions and SmartThings, Samsung have been working on an app for easy setup and lets the TV serve as the hub to control SmartThings smart home devices, as well as the BIXBY voice assistant into the already “smart” televisions, which is going against the grain with most mainstream TV manufacturers teaming up with google or amazon for their smart assistant. Samsung is of course sticking to their own. which has yet to show anything promising.

Alongside TV’s and phones. Samsung has injected BIXBY into their smart fridges which while this isn’t new, the smart fridge now has added functionality int he SmartThings app allowing bixby voice control in the fridge and the ability to control the houses smart things devices, as well as keep an eye on whats in your fridge. it has been mentioned that Samsung are looking to increase the functionality of screen mirroring already available in the smart fridge, to include phone mirroring too.

Speaking of smart things devices. washing machines, yep Samsung has that too. the newest of which they claim is now smart things compatible. (but no bixby … yet)

it is questionable what on the list of available technology and features will be working in Australia, as down under is yet to be graced with SmartThings line of tech.

To read more about the gadgets and electronics to be featured at CES 2018 CLICK HERE

Amazon Australia Launch Update

Against MANY in the eCommerce and Amazon industry predictions, its been almost a week after the predicted launch date. While Amazon.com.au Google rating must have gone through the roof with a large portion of the Australian Amazon fans admitting in outrage on twitter and Facebook that the spent a good percentage of time hitting the refresh button on the Australian sites homepage waiting for a “surprise” launch.

Further rumours are pointing to a GST glitch in the soft launch and testing stage for the delay of the predicted launch date (can we blame the ATO website for that?)

News broke today from Jason Mahoney, Managing Director of market research firm Kantar Retail, revealed at a WPP client event last night that the reason for Amazon's 'failed' launch last week was potentially due to glitches in their back end. Specifically, he mentioned that Vendor Central – which first-party suppliers use to sell their products with Amazon – was incorrectly calculating GST on purchases.

For now there is a few issues with the Amazon Australian Site, that may delay the launch until 2018, But that hasn't stopped them from the positive approach, reportedly bought 2.11 hectares of vacant land in Smeaton Grange. Which is about 7 million AUD worth of land, this is suspected to become yet another fulfilment centre, which is promising for US Australians and Home Automation enthusiasts. as this COULD point towards amazon bringing out more of there own products such as the Amazon Alexa (smart home assistant) hardware range.

Apple HomePod delayed until 2018

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the “silly season” specials is usually prime time to release any new products or technology to hit the market strong, at least that is what Apple thought when they announced the release of the Apple HomePod Smart Speaker.  As a typical Apple product there is a lot of fanfare and hype around potential products, and originally announcing first release to UK, USA, and Australia definitely brought the buzz they wanted, what they didn’t want was the stories that followed. The HomePod journey has been an interesting one, with originally manufacturer reports claiming there were not enough to supply for a demanding market. Announced back in June, Apple claimed they would “re-invent music in the home” with sound quality being the obvious focus on the assistant powered speaker.

The issue with announcing in June, and not releasing until December is this gave other companies time to react, with both SONOS and Madebygoogle releasing a quality sounding smart assistant speaker for the home in the last few months, and apple still no where on the market.  Apple have run into a few issues with the build of the HomePod, and now they have lost the upper hand for the market. Could pulling out the the holiday rush be the nail in the head for HomePod?

Obviously delaying the launch of any new product is not good, but delaying over the biggest shopping events of the season is not something any company would choose to do lightly. So far the only date that has been given is early 2018 at best, and the chances are high that with some of the speakers manufacturers saying product roll out had already started, that apple will fall further behind for whatever software or hardware changes that may have caused this delay.

Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Everything we know about Apple Homepod

It been 5 months since news of apples plans to release the “homepod” smart speaker, powered by siri; Apple marketed the homepod as the first music and sound centered speaker to support a built in smart voice assistant. With the homepod still yet to be released, many are questioning what apple is planning to do with the homepod to over throw the current smart speaker market. In the 5 months since apple announced the plans for the homepod, both the Sonos ONE and google home max have been hyped up and released filling the void in the market for a powerful sounding smart speaker. a speaker that can play good music AND still control your home automation

The Apple HomePod speaker will be priced at US$349 with localised Australian pricing to be confirmed later in the year.

  • Apple-designed upward-facing woofer
  • Custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters
  • Apple Music Integration
  • Siri Integration
  • Automatic room-sensing technology
  • White and Space Grey
Should be released in decemeber 2017 which is now 2 weeks away, with claims to be in time for christmas. which is in 39 days

Amazon Australian Website Stocking Up

If you have been following our on going news updates about Amazon’s inevitable Australian launch, you’d know that everyone at About Automation are extremely excited about the upcoming shopping giants entry to the Australian market.

If you’re getting excited for Amazon’s arrival in Australia too, there’s a few more signs that launch is imminent. Amazon’s Australian website is now being populated with some items – among the few items being found are power boards, and Game of Gnome garden figurines, the few products being spotted are showing up when searching for specific search terms, among the apps and books results. the website layout and categories have not changed yet so we like to think of them as little Easter-eggs or teasers.

Following the Amazon Sydney summit this morning, Amazon confirmed that the marketplace based web store will launch “really really soon”, and in copy format of the US Marketplace, Amazon will initially stock out of their own warehouse, and will be opening the marketplace to third parties as in the states, a bit further down the line.

We sincerely hope that means they will bring the entire Amazon technology range to our shores, and finally release an Australian version of Amazon Alexa.

Amazon Key Smart Lock Kit

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The latest Amazon hardware & service is being marketed as an advanced alternative to the key under the mat — you can choose who has access to your home, and you’ll get a notification whenever someone comes or goes. It’s also a way for Amazon to entice you to prioritise its services.
You must be an Amazon Prime member to get your Amazon packages securely delivered just inside your front door, plus, grant access to the people you trust, like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner – no more leaving a key under the mat. To activate Amazon Key, you must own an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock (only from lock manufacturers, Kwikset and Yale), & an Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera (which features 1080p Full HD, night vision, and two-way audio) or purchase the Amazon Key kit with both these recommended devices.
Use the Amazon Key App to watch deliveries, (which so far appears that it is not compatible with Alexa); check in anytime via live view, and lock and unlock your front door from anywhere. It is not recommended for houses that pets have access to the front door & Amazon Key is not integrated with home security systems. On the day of delivery, you will need to disarm your home security alarm.
The hardware behind this service is about the only thing useful for Australians, as the Amazon Key service is not available outside of the USA, and even then, some areas of the USA won’t have access to it.
Amazon has also announced they plan to be releasing their own in-home services in the USA, including a maid service and dog walking service. On top of the installation and tech services they already run.
These new American Home services come with still no news on the release of Amazon services in Australia, or if they plan on releasing an Australian compatible Alexa, even after 2 years & 2 generations of hardware being on the market.

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