ConnectSense to Showcase HomeKit Sensors, Bluetooth Extender and Smart Outlet at CES 2017

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — (December 20, 2016) — ConnectSense, a leading manufacturer of home automation products, will showcase a new Bluetooth Extender in addition to the ConnectSense Smart Outlet and the company’s line of Bluetooth wireless sensors at CES 2017 Tech West at the Sands Expo Convention Center, Booth 40357, as part of the Smart Home Marketplace.

The new ConnectSense Bluetooth Extender enables users to access Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors and devices from outside the home. Without the Extender, a wireless phone or other device is needed to connect to the Internet.

The Bluetooth Extender can be configured to work with Apple HomeKit or the ConnectSense Cloud. Utilizing HomeKit, users can securely control all their HomeKit accessories from an iOS device and the new Home app from Apple. Using the Bluetooth Extender as a hub, users can control smart devices from just about anywhere. By connecting to the ConnectSense Cloud, sensor data is saved to the Cloud and notifications are relayed to a smart phone or email.

The ConnectSense Bluetooth Extender can be used with the new ConnectSense BLE enabled sensors for temperature/humidity and water detection. The ConnectSense Bluetooth Temperature & Humidity Sensor provides accurate and reliable data for sensitive areas of the home, including wine cellars, collection rooms, greenhouses and more. It works in harmony with HomeKit-enabled thermostats to regulate temperature in areas where a thermostat isn’t present. The ConnectSense Bluetooth Water Sensor detects the presence of water before it causes costly damage. It is perfect for detecting leaks in basements and laundry rooms, as well as monitoring plumbing and refrigeration lines.

Both sensors operate using Bluetooth Low Energy and require only two AAA batteries for long periods of operation. In addition, all ConnectSense products integrate with the new Home app included in iOS 10, which makes it easy to set up and control all smart devices in one app. Apple HomeKit allows users to monitor these devices easily and securely using Siri on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch or Apple Watch. By integrating with the HomeKit ecosystem, users can easily create integrated scenes and rules to automate devices, regardless of manufacturer, with just a few simple steps. For example, users can set rules to automatically turn on lights or other devices when water is found, and users can ask Siri to gather information about the sensors, such as asking about the temperature.

ConnectSense also will display its Smart Outlet ($59.95), which enable users to easily control and monitor their everyday plug-in devices, such as lights, fans and televisions. The intuitive design of the Smart Outlet fits over any existing standard North American electrical outlet and features Apple HomeKit technology. After installing the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, users can configure it using the ConnectSense app available in the App Store and easily create integrated scenes and rules for all HomeKit devices.

With detailed power monitoring in the app, users have insight into the power consumption of devices plugged into the Smart Outlet, as well as how long devices have been turned on. Unique to the ConnectSense app is the ability to create rules based on power usage. For example, a homeowner can set a rule that says if the television has been on for three hours, turn it off. For safety, rules can be set to turn off hot or potentially dangerous devices, such as flat irons, if they have been left on for an extended period of time.

ConnectSense products are available at connectsense.com and on amazon.com.

About ConnectSense
ConnectSense develops and manufactures home automation products, including the ConnectSense Smart Outlet and a line of wireless sensors that monitor changes in your environment then notifies you by email or text when something goes awry. ConnectSense can be found at www.connectsense.com and on Twitter at @ConnectSense.

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Note to media: Additional information, photos and links to videos about ConnectSense products are available at https://gridconnect.box.com/v/CES2017

Smart HomeKit Sensors for Temperature & Humidity and Water Detection from ConnectSense; On Display at CES 2016

Announces distribution with Best Buy online for ConnectSense lineup of products 

NAPERVILLE, Ill. – (December 28, 2015) – Grid Connect is expanding its best-selling line of ConnectSense home automation products by launching two new Bluetooth Low Energy enabled sensors for temperature/humidity and water detection. Both sensors feature support for Apple HomeKit, enabling users to monitor and control these devices easily and securely using Siri on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch or Apple Watch. 

With strong demand for its Smart Outlet on Amazon.com, ConnectSense also announced that Best Buy will carry its full line of smart home products online in 2016. The company is working with WYNIT Distribution, LLC, a leading international distributor, to establish distribution with additional retailers.

The ConnectSense Temperature & Humidity Sensor provides accurate and reliable data for sensitive areas of the home, including wine cellars, collection rooms, greenhouses, cold storage and more. It works in harmony with HomeKit-enabled thermostats to regulate temperature in areas where a thermostat isn’t present.

The ConnectSense Smart Water Sensor will detect the presence of water before it causes costly damage. It is perfect for detecting leaks in basements and laundry rooms, as well as monitoring plumbing and refrigeration lines.

“There is a tremendous amount of interest around HomeKit-enabled products because HomeKit provides a solid foundation for the smart home,” said Adam Justice, Vice President of Grid Connect. “We are excited to expand on our successful Smart Outlet with additional HomeKit-enabled products that make home automation easy, secure and affordable.”

Both sensors operate using Bluetooth Low Energy and require only two AAA batteries for long periods of operation. By integrating with the HomeKit ecosystem, users can easily create integrated scenes and rules to automate devices, regardless of manufacturer, with just a few simple steps. For example, users can set rules to automatically turn on lights or other devices when water is found, or regulate a HomeKit-enabled thermostat anywhere in the home. Users also can ask Siri to gather information about the sensors, such as asking about the temperature.

The ConnectSense Smart Temperature & Humidity and Smart Water sensors will be available for shipping in the first half of 2016. 

The company will also release a Smart Door/Window sensor as well as additional smart home products in 2016.

The sensors will be on display at CES Tech West at the Sands Expo Convention Center, Booth 70760, as part of the smart home area.

About Grid Connect/ConnectSense
Grid Connect (www.gridconnect.com), an ISO 9001:2008 company, is a leading manufacturer of products that enable the Internet of Things, including the ConnectSense line of home automation products. Grid Connect can be found on Twitter at @GridConnect and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/grid-connect. ConnectSense can be found at www.connectsense.com and on Twitter at @ConnectSense.

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IoT Design Considerations: Network

Manufacturers have many hardware and software options when it comes to network technology for their IoT-enabled products. Some devices can be directly connected to the Internet using networking such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi, which are based on the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP), a set of communications protocols providing end-to-end connectivity. Other products may use wireless technologies; some of which include TCP/IP, but will require a “gateway,” or a “hub” to convert the chosen network to either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, such as ZigBee or Z-Wave. Some of the many technologies available include:

  • Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi
  • IPv6 over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN)
  • ZigBee
  • Z-Wave
  • Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth Smart e.g. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth (BT) 4.0, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Cellular

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here.

IoT Design Considerations: Cost

Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer, while discovering new product uses and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. However, these added benefits come with a cost. Connected devices come with a higher manufacturing overhead, but may also be sold with a bigger price tag.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections can be added to products for less than $10 in bill of materials costs. Other technologies, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth, can be added for a lower price, but may require a separate bridge to connect to the Internet and access Cloud services.

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here.

Internet of Things Standards Wars

There are a wide variety of communication standards today. It’s a mess. Anyone looking to create an Internet of Things-enabled device has a lot of decisions to make and one of the largest ones is how they are going to communicate.

So the questions here are…

  1. Can the many wireless technologies available today really live in harmony as we are all looking to move the IoT market forward and achieve things like the smart home?
  2. Is the differentiation in wireless communication protocols holding us back from mass adoption of the Internet of Things?
  3. Should we all standardize on one wireless communication technology? Can we? Is it even possible?

I’m going to cover the four main wireless communication technologies specifically used in the smart home and in general, across the IoT industry right now. Those four technologies are ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

ZigBee – What’s the BUZZ all about?

ZigBee’s physical range is about 10 to 20 meters and is widely known for its mesh capabilities. It’s small and is pretty low power. ZigBee is controlled primarily by the ZigBee Alliance.

Advantages:

  • Low-powered in advanced sleep capabilities
  • Due to the channel it operates on (900 megahertz), it has high penetration abilities to go through walls
  • ZigBee’s chips are manufactured by multiple Silicon Valley power venders which allows for more competition and lower prices
  • Self-healing network because of its mesh architecture
  • Allows for a large number of nodes

Disadvantages

  • Low data rates of only about 250 kilobits per second
  • Some interoperability issues where a ZigBee device from one manufacturer may or may not work with one from another manufacturer
  • A gateway is required for internet access which requires extra hardware
  • Licensing involved where you have to be a ZigBee Alliance member or take extra steps to be approved by the Alliance
  •  Larger antennae requirements which makes for larger products

Z-Wave – The WAVE of the future?

Z-Wave’s physical range is around 300 meters and like ZigBee, it is also a mesh network. It, however, only has a limit of 232 nodes.

Advantages:

  • Low-power
  • Single signal penetration
  • Self-healing mesh network
  • Very simple protocol that is easy to understand and design
  • In the 900 megahertz spectrum with ZigBee so it’s not as crowded as some other channels

Disadvantages:

  • Only one Silicon manufacturer who controls the market of Z-Wave chips
  • You must go through Z-Wave for licensing
  • A gateway to access the internet is required
  • Discovery and pairing extras are required
  • Only 232 nodes which seems like a lot right now but as we continue to add more IoT devices, people may find that that limit is too few

Bluetooth – Not JUST for wireless headsets anymore

Here I am specifically looking at Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also branded as “Bluetooth Smart.” BLE typically has a range of about 10 meters and the speed is around 1 megabit per second.

Advantages:

  • High install base which creates easy connectivity with mobile devices
  • Working on adding more meshing capabilities in version 4.1
  • Relatively simple connection and pairing process
  • Low power requirements

Disadvantages:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 requires much newer hardware and is not as backwards compatible
  • Operates in the busy 2.4 gigahertz spectrum

Wi-Fi – We’re trying to solve 99 problems but a switch ain’t one

WiFi

Wi-Fi is the most common of their protocols used for wireless communication. It’s something you likely have in your home and office.

Advantages:

  • Largest install base of any wireless communication and most people are familiar with it because of that
  • High data rates which are dependent on which version of Wi-Fi you use
  • Simple connection process

Disadvantages:

  • Wi-Fi is known as a very power-heavy protocol
  • Cost of components
  • Operates in the busy 2.4 gigahertz spectrum which is only going to get busier with more IoT devices

While making ConnectSense wireless sensors and outputs, we looked at the market and available technologies and decided that we wanted something that was very accessible to the wider market especially because we wanted to reach consumers. In the end, we chose to work with Wi-Fi. We started by looking at the weaknesses of Wi-Fi and worked on ways that we could get past those problem areas, specifically around the high power requirements.

How we overcame this challenge was by intelligently sleeping and waking the wireless when using battery power. So by using the secondary processor in low-power mode, we can operate on batteries for a very long time and only wake that radio on event or using a heartbeat. This allows us to have a lot more flexibility and counter some of those weaknesses that are typically seen with Wi-Fi.

In summary, none of these technologies are perfect. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and applications where they will shine. The technology and wireless communication needs to get out of the way of the use case and be as seamless as possible to the end consumer. Whichever technology can do this best will ultimately win out. The conversation to standardize and work together has just started. It must be continued to ensure the success and wider market adoption of IoT.