A September to remember for home automation (so far)

Sonos introduced an API (technically at the end of August), Apple rolled out iOS 10 with better HomeKit integration and the Home app, certain vendors made Alexa headlines at CEDIA 2016 including Crestron, and speaking of Alexa…Amazon launched the next-generation of the Echo Dot.

After years of waiting by industry types and consumers alike, Sonos opened up an API for its connected speaker platform. Sonos’ speakers have been quite popular for many years as easy-to-customize, allowing users to play multiple audio programs / sources to different speakers — all without wires. Some users had been hacking their Sonos systems to make them work with music services and systems that weren’t supported, and now with the new API, these hacked solutions should slowly become a thing of the past.

While it won’t be launched until 2017, some users will get to test the new official integration between Sonos and the Amazon Echo. This means that once users ask their Echo to do something on their Sonos system, the music or audio will playback via their Sonos speakers and not the responding Echo device. We here at SHL assume that this is probably just a stop-gap measure until Sonos and Amazon can work out some sort of licensing deal where the Alexa technology and perhaps Sonos’ own dedicated microphone array could appear on their own speakers in the future. See the full story with background at BloombergTechnology.

And speaking of the Echo, several vendors made headlines at last week’s CEDIA 2016 show in Dallas, TX by announcing integrations with Amazon’s popular personal assistant. The Alexa technology will soon be integrated with home automation systems from Lutron, Control4 and Crestron. Voice control has long been a desired component of home automation systems. And while many individual companies have worked on it in the industry, it’s now easier for “smart home” system vendors to integrate with technologies like Alexa vs creating their own voice-response systems.

One more Amazon note…is there an Echo in here? (OK, ok, we’ll stop.) The online retail giant introduced the much-hoped-for follow-up to its wildly-popular Echo Dot, the little brother of the full-sized original Amazon Echo. With a massive price cut, a new color, better processor and a shiny exterior, we’re pretty sure it’s going to be a huge holiday hit (H3). Read our article on the new Echo Dot.

And finally, at least for the moment, was the official release of iOS 10, tvOS 10 and watchOS 3 from Apple. The iPhone maker pushed its home automation platform, HomeKit, deeper into three of its operating systems, making it easier than ever for consumers to jump into the world of connected devices (or is it the Internet of Things?). We here at Smarter Home Life published three videos on the subject, which have been quite popular. Check out our trio of how-to videos on the latest HomeKit features and Apple’s new dedicated Home app.

At IFA 2016, Philips introduced its brand-new Hue Motion Sensor and a new version of its Hue A19 color-changing bulb with richer colors, specifically greens and blues. This 3rd generation of the omnipresent smart bulb should be welcomed by Philips Hue users who have waited for a true color spectrum from their Hue bulbs. The new motion sensor will allow an additional layer of automation within the Philips Hue ecosystem for those who are "all-in" on the connected lights.

Arduino, the company behind the incredibly-popular open-source microcontroller boards, introduced its ESLOV IoT Invention Kit that will add Internet of Things capabilities to an Arduino board. While Arduino isn't exactly mainstream home automation for regular consumers, hobbyists and hackers love it to build their own customized solutions. With an official way to add IoT capabilities with a multitude of sensors and a Wi-Fi hub, it's a good addition. Right now, they're relying on a Kickstarter campaign, so this new "thing" may not necessarily become a "thing".

Updated September 30, 2016