Seattle and Cupertino, Mountain View and Davis, California — Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance today announced a new working group that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet. Zigbee Alliance board member companies such as IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian are also onboard to join the working group and contribute to the project.
The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.
The industry working group will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of a new, unified connectivity protocol. The project intends to use contributions from market-tested smart home technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance, and others. The decision to leverage these technologies is expected to accelerate the development of the protocol, and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster.
The project aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. The planned protocol will complement existing technologies, and working group members encourage device manufacturers to continue innovating using technologies available today.
Project Connected Home over IP welcomes device manufacturers, silicon providers, and other developers from across the smart home industry to participate in and contribute to the standard.
Apple will temporarily stop taking a 30 percent cut on Facebook event fees – The Verge
Earlier this year, Facebook launched a new feature that let small businesses create paid online events. The company framed it as a way of helping organizations struggling with lost revenue during the pandemic, and said that because of the exceptional circumstances, it would not collect any fees on purchases for these events until August 2021.
But the social network also stressed that any payments made on iOS would be subject to Apple’s standard 30 percent platform fees, noting this meant less money for small businesses. As Fidji Simo, head of Facebook’s main app, said at the time: “We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and [small businesses] will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.”
Facebook’s framing of this policy as Apple vs the little guy seems to have worked, and the social network now says Apple will let it process payments for online events using Facebook Pay. That means no 30 percent fee for Apple and more money for businesses, at least in the short term. Facebook says all businesses are eligible except Facebook Gaming creators and that the policy will also only last until the end of 2020.
Apple confirmed the news to The Verge and said that collecting a fee from apps offering services that take place outside the app itself is a long-held App Store policy. Since the pandemic hit and more businesses have started selling virtual events, the iPhone maker has had similar disagreements with other firms. Facebook is not the first company it’s waived fees for until the end of the year, and Apple says it’s also done the same with Airbnb and ClassPass. Apple said in the case of Facebook Gaming creators it would not waive fees because these individuals’ business model has been unaffected by the pandemic.
This is a sideshow compared to Apple’s larger war with Fortnite creator Epic, but it shares the same target (Apple’s platform fees) and shows how companies are increasingly able to win new ground in this old battle. In this case, Facebook’s success seems to be in part due to the fact it’s been able to frame its motivations as altruistic while painting Apple as an avaricious monolith. (Epic is trying to do the same with its #FreeFortnite campaign and satirical ads.) But, of course, Facebook also stands to benefit if Apple drops its platform fees on iOS and gives freer reign to third-party payment systems.
The tech companies know that public sentiment will play a role in deciding the outcome of these battles and seem keen to engage their users. CEOs are being increasingly vocal about Apple’s business model, with Mark Zuckerberg recently decrying the company’s “stranglehold” on users’ phones. Notably, Facebook even tried to tell users about Apple’s 30 percent on the payment screen on its app, but says Apple blocked the change, citing an App Store policy that bars developers from showing users “irrelevant” information.
At least for now Facebook’s tactics seem to have worked, but it seems the company won’t stop here. A statement from Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne made it clear that the firm thinks Apple’s concession are not enough. “Apple has agreed to provide a brief, three-month respite after which struggling businesses will have to, yet again, pay Apple the full 30% App Store tax,” said Osborne. In other words: expect to hear more about this in 2021.
Amazon Luna, new Echo speakers, Fire TV, a flying Ring drone-cam and more: Every new product announced this fall – CNET
Amazon surprised us at its Fall Devices and Services event with its new Amazon has been developing for years have become more relevant than ever., along with the expected updates to its line of Echo, Fire TV and Ring products. The event helps Amazon generate buzz as we roll into the holiday shopping season, and for the first time, . (The annual sale is usually held in July, but this year it is slated to start on Oct. 13.) That means putting Alexa everywhere — inside homes and out — and addressing concerns, which were a big storyline in 2019 for both Ring and Alexa. In a life-at-home existence, with millions of us hunkered down for the long haul, the connected house concepts that
The company’s Echo and Fire TV products will be its first to earn sustainability badges, and it’s working on reducing power consumption across devices with a new low-power mode and an energy dashboard integrated with Alexa. Amazon also pledged to build solar and wind farms to generate energy to match the consumption of all its devices.
The company launched a cloud-gaming service on top of Amazon Web Services that runs on PCs, Fire TVs and even iOS. There’s a Luna Plus game channel with a curated set of games, and Amazon is partnering with publisher Ubisoft for Day 1 availability of some of them.
It has a custom $50 controller that connects directly to the cloud rather than the local device.
Read more: Amazon gets into game streaming with Luna
This is the custom controller that connects directly to the cloud, which Amazon says reduces roundtrip latency by 17 milliseconds to 30 ms, compared to a controller connected via Bluetooth to a PC, Mac or Fire TV.
Amazon/Screenshot by CNET
Redesigned with a new spherical shape and able to adapt to the acoustics of the room, the fourth-gen Echo incorporates features formerly in the Echo Plus. It’s also a bridge to Amazon’s Sidewalk network and includes neural network technology to accelerate Alexa.
It gets the same redesign as the spherical Echo, but now sports a stylish fabric cover and a better speaker.
Also spherical, with some kid-friendly features, the Kids Edition includes voice profiles for the children and Sidekick, which lets Alexa read to them.
It now has Zigbee and Sidewalk hubs, and is quiet when it pivots in your direction. For privacy, there’s a built-in camera shutter, and all Echo devices will have a command to review privacy settings and “delete everything I’ve ever said.” It will also support Hulu, Netflix and Prime Video.
Read more: Amazon announces the Echo Show 10
The Pro 6 is basically the same as the Eero 6, but designed to handle higher bandwidth — up to gigabit, as opposed to 500Mbps — connections.
Ring Car products: $60-$200
Three new car-centric Ring products
Amazon/Screenshot by Juan Garzon/CNET
Ring’s $200 Ring Car Cam will help users document traffic stops, collisions and other road events.
Debuting with Tesla, the $200 Connect uses a vehicle’s built-in external cameras to capture video in the event that something happens to the car while driving or parked.
Lastly, Ring’s $60 Car Alarm plugs into your car’s onboard diagnostic port and uses sound and accelerometer sensors to monitor the vehicle for bumps, break-ins, tows or other events.
There are no product pages on Amazon yet but we’ll add them here when they arrive.
It’s similar to the all-new Fire TV Stick, but lacks the integrated TV controls on the remote.
Correction, Sep. 24: The Fire TV Stick’s maximum resolution is 1080p, not 4K as a previous version of this story said.
Always Home Cam: Amazon's robot drone flying inside our homes seems like a bad idea – ZDNet
I actually had to double-check my calendar to make sure today wasn’t April Fool’s. Because watching the intro video of an indoor surveillance drone operated by Amazon seemed like just the sort of geeky joke you’d expect on April 1.
But it isn’t April Fools, and besides, Google has always been the one with the twisted sense of humor. Amazon has always been the one with the twisted sense of world domination.
This was a serious press briefing. None of the Amazon execs presenting even went so far as to crack a pun. Other than Bezos’ maniacal laugh, you rarely ever see an Amazon exec even chuckle.
So the $249 autonomous Always Home Cam announcement wasn’t a joke. It’s an upcoming product expected in 2021. And, as much as it scares me and is likely to scare my wife (and it’s probably going to scare the dog), I think I have to have one.
So let’s take a moment to recap the absurdity of what we’re talking about.
Let’s welcome Skynet into our homes
We don’t have a lot of details, but the video below will give you a quick view of its basic capabilities.
This is similar in some ways to the highly autonomous Skydio, but designed for indoor flying. The device is roughly the size of a 9-inch square baking pan (but a little thinner, perhaps). It lives in its charging dock (which also blocks the camera’s view when docked). Once you launch the device from your Ring app (and, presumably, via Alexa), the little device goes airborne.
And it flies. Through your house.
Amazon says you can specify a flight path, map your house, locate points of interest, and generally instruct the eye of Skynet where to fly. Cyberdyne, uh, Amazon also says the device has built in obstacle avoidance.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Will the device be able to avoid hanging lamps or plants? What about objects high up on shelves? Will it be able to stand back when a sleep-addled adult gets up in the middle of the night to do middle of the night business? Why would it be out and about at that time anyway?
And what about the downdraft? How close can it fly to bookshelves and knickknacks without air-blasting them to the ground?
How much will it freak out your pets? My spouse? Your spouse? Just how creepy would it be for it to hover over the kids beds because you’re too lazy to get off the couch to see if they’re asleep?
Every rational fiber of my being tells me this is wrong on every level. But as you all know, I don’t have that many rational fibers left. I’m the guy with an Alexa in every room, now including the bathrooms.
What could you do with this thing?
If we weren’t living in a pandemic, I’d definitely use this to freak out my friends. Invite them over and then, suddenly, have a drone follow them. I know two or three buddies who that, alone, would push over the edge. But we can’t have friends over now, and besides, they read my column. So now they know and the surprise factor is gone. Bummer.
The Always Home Cam is primarily meant as a remote security cam. If you’re out and you get an alert from a Ring doorbell or other security device (I wonder if this will work with other trigger devices), you can virtually fly around your house and see what’s happening.
Back in the day, when I worked 12-16 hour days in an office, I would have loved to have this routinely check on my cat (I had a sweet longhair named Samantha back then). After about five or six hours at work, I always started to worry about whether she’d climbed up a drapery and gotten stuck there. This drone would have let me check.
I do see this as a laziness enabler. Let’s say you’re not sure if you locked the back door or turned off the stove. From the comfort of the couch, you could send the Always Home Cam (can we agree right now that this thing needs an anthropomorphized name?) to check for you.
I’m actually intrigued about using this to check on my 3D printers. I do have cams on many of the printers, but it would be great to be able to send it to each and see whether or not there are problems or jams.
Of course, I usually operate the printers behind closed doors to reduce the sound, so either I’d have to leave the doors open or teach Flying Alexa how to open the door.
I’d love to be able to use this as cam for filming YouTube videos, especially if it can run a specific path and station keep. It’s not clear how much flight time a battery charge holds, but if it’s anything like the drones I fly now, we’re looking at about 10-20 minutes, which would be enough to film any one process for a video.
My guess is that the capabilities (and especially the extended use options) will be very limited on launch. But as we’ve seen with Alexa, it’s quite likely that new features will be added over time.
David’s final thoughts
I don’t know. The more I think about this, the more I want one…bad. But the more I think about it, the more I think it has to be a bad idea. The potential hacking threat is disturbing. The idea that someone could decide to launch a drone inside my house and watch me remotely is unsettling.
Personally, I’m not too concerned because my home life is already almost fully documented online, the aspects of my life you don’t see are boring, and no one wants to watch a middle-aged man walk around the house.
But the implications of abuse by law enforcement and possible stalkers is troubling. If someone has one of these Always Home Cams, can a court order compel Amazon to allow law enforcement to conduct an airborne search of a suspect’s home? Can a hacker or a stalker gain access to the video feed (remember, all it takes is a user name, password, and possibly an authentication code) and watch a victim from the comfort of his or her evil lair?
Amazon does say the device emits an obvious and clearly identifiable sound while flying, so you can hear the machine coming. But what about those who are hard of hearing?
On the other hand, the possibilities for elder care are interesting. If an aging or infirm parent doesn’t answer a call, it might be possible to launch a drone to make sure the elder hasn’t fallen on the floor away from any way to call for help. On the other hand, how much would something like this freak out an elder, especially one that might be cognitively impaired?
Again, I have to say “I don’t know.” If this thing works, it’ll be a game changer and we’ll have to do a lot of thinking about implications and appropriate use.
One thing’s for sure. Amazon doesn’t just want to hear you at home. It wants to be a full-fledged housemate. Whether that’s good or bad, only time will tell.
What about you? Is this something you desperately want or something you’re desperate to avoid? Let us know in the comments below.
You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.
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