Connect with us

Uncategorized

Gift Guide: 7 Smart Home gift ideas that go beyond the usual Google/Amazon smart speakers

Published

on

Welcome to Techcrunch’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

It’s never been easier to build a smart home. Beyond the same Google/Amazon/Apple/etc. voice-powered assistant speakers you’ve probably seen on every gift guide for years, there’s a world of wonderful smart home products that can delight, surprise, and maybe make your life a little easier. The following list is void of those usual suspects and features unique products that would be perfect for anyone trying to make their home just a little bit smarter. Or for you. Whatever works.

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

Brilliant

The promise of the Brilliant Controls panel is to provide a dedicated place to control your myriad smart home devices, all while adding a few remotely controllable light switches to your walls. It’s got a built-in camera (with a physical privacy shutter) that you can use for room-to-room video chats, or to check up on your home while you are away. Supported devices include Wemo smart plugs, Ring alarms, Sonos speakers, Philips Hue and Lifx lights, as well Schlage, Yale and August locks, among others. The number of integrations keeps growing and covers most of the major brands, but if you’ve bet on other systems, this isn’t the controller for you. It comes with built-in Alexa support and works with the Google Assistant, too.

Price: Starting at $299 on Amazon

Flair Smart Vent

Image Credits: Flair

Smart thermostats are fairly ubiquitous these days, but depending on which one you’re using, you could be getting a lot more from your home heating and cooling with relatively simple DIY upgrades. The Flair Smart Vent system is one such upgrade, and though it costs a bit upfront to get going (each register is $79 to start, depending on size — and you’ll need at least one control puck to act as a hub, which adds around $100 to the cost of entry,) you won’t have to call an HVAC contractor or break down any walls to take advantage of what it offers.

Price: Around $200 for a starter kit that includes one register and one puck, direct from Flair

Flume 2

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

Many smart home gadgets focus on convenience or automation of typically manual tasks, but Flume’s smart water sensor provides a potentially much more vital service: the ability to track how much water you’re consuming and alert you to potential leaks in your home’s plumbing. The company just released its second-generation Flume Smart Home Water Monitor ($199), and the device is easier to set up and smarter than ever.

Price: $199 on Amazon

Meural

Give the gift of art this holiday season with Netgear’s Meural. The connected screen is purpose-built to display artwork. The company offers a subscription service that provides access to the best art throughout history and even packages the art in a way that ensures nothing gets stale. Of course, the owner can also upload their own art to the display.

Price: Starting at $299 from Netgear

Sensibo

Sensibo

Image Credits: Sensibo

Think of the Sensibo as a smart thermostat for those who do not have a central heating cooling unit. If a person has a window air conditioner, portable room heater or modern heat pump — any device that has a remote control — the Senisbo will control the temperature. The latest version retails for $149 (it’s often on sale) and works great. If you have multiple heating and cooling devices, get a couple of these devices to have complete control.

The company launched in TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield competition in 2015 and has since evolved the product into a powerful platform that can automate a person’s heating and cooling needs.

Price: Starts at $115 on Amazon

DIY smart display

Image Credits: Adafruit

There are countless DIY smart home kits on the market and Adafruit has a great collection. The company’s PyPortal is a great jumping off point as it provides the builder with a touchscreen display and basic computing platform that allows for all sorts of uses. With just this kit, a person could build a smart alarm, smart display, or Amazon Echo clone.

Price: $55 from Adafruit

Nanoleaf

Nanoleaf products work like interactive, programmable art displays… and, for bonus points, they look like something out of a sci-fi movie. Once you’ve snapped the modular panels together, you can tie them into HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, or if you’re feeling fancy, use services like IFTTT to programmatically recolor the lights based on the weather outside, or flash whenever you’ve got an incoming message. The kits with everything you’d need to get started (the controller, power plug, and a handful of panels) start at around $150-200 while expansion packs with more panels go for around $60-70 — so it’s not a cheap hobby, but you can start with just a few panels and build up over time if you’re so inclined.

Price: Currently starting at $180 direct from Nanoleaf

Continue Reading
Comments

Uncategorized

Facebook predicts ‘significant’ obstacles to ad targeting and revenue in 2021

Published

on

While Facebook’s fourth quarter earnings report included solid user and revenue numbers, the company sounded a note of caution for 2021.

In the “CFO outlook” section of the earnings release, Facebook said it anticipates facing “more significant advertising headwinds” this year.

“This includes the impact of platform changes, notably iOS 14, as well as the evolving regulatory landscape,” the company wrote. “While the timing of the iOS 14 changes remains uncertain, we would expect to see an impact beginning late in the first quarter.”

Facebook has already been waging a bit of a campaign against Apple’s upcoming privacy changes, which will require app developers to ask users for permission in order to use their IDFA identifiers for ad targeting — although the PR focus has been the impact on small businesses, not Facebook.

Facebook also highlighted two broad economic trends that it says has benefited from during the pandemic: The “ongoing shift towards online commerce” and “the shift in consumer demand towards products and away from services.” But again, it took a cautious stance, writing that “a moderation or reversal in one or both of these trends could serve as a headwind to our advertising revenue growth.”

As for those fourth quarter earnings earnings, Facebook reported $28.1 billion in revenue, of which $27.2 billion came from ads, with earnings per share of $3.88. Wall Street analysts had predicted EPS of $3.22 and revenue of $26.4 billon.

Facebook also reported an average of 1.84 billion daily active users and 2.80 billion monthly active users for the quarter, up 11% and 12% year-over-year, respectively.

“We had a strong end to the year as people and businesses continued to use our services during these challenging times,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement. “I’m excited about our product roadmap for 2021 as we build new and meaningful ways to create economic opportunity, build community and help people just have fun.”

As of 4:45pm Eastern, Facebook shares were up 0.7% in after-hours trading.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

How trading apps are responding to the GameStop fustercluck

Published

on

The furor surrounding GameStop and its stock price has consumed social media, business television, and the hopes and dreams of many retail investors. It has even convinced some folks that causing short-term economic damage to a few hedge funds is similar to shaking up the global financial market.

It isn’t, but a lot of folks are doing some downright risky things with their personal capital all the same. And some of them are making those investments — bets, let’s be honest — on platforms that have lowered barriers to buying and selling stocks by cutting trading fees to zero. Apps and services like Robinhood, Public, M1 Finance and Freetrade.

After noting reports that some traditional brokers were limiting access to GameStop and other so-called meme stocks, TechCrunch was curious what the newer, app-based investing services were doing for their own users.

A spokesperson for M1 Finance, a Midwest-based consumer fintech player that offers a basket of banking and investing services — more on its growth here and here — told TechCrunch via email that it wasn’t taking “specific” steps regarding individual stocks.

But the company also provided a statement from its CEO, Brian Barnes. In his comment, Barnes drew a delineation between investing, and trading, which he likened to a casino, adding that his firm “question[s] whether short-term trading is predictable, sustainable or repeatable.”

It isn’t for nearly anyone, of course. Barnes went on to say that his company thinks that “ownership of great companies and assets at reasonable prices that compound for long periods of time is the most straightforward and repeatable way to build wealth,” and that they have focused their company more around that ethos, “forego[ing] the mania of the moment.”

Turning to the well-known Robinhood, an impressive 2020 growth story, TechCrunch asked the same question regarding warnings or other guardrails for users concerning certain equities.

In an email a Robinhood spokesperson directed TechCrunch to a comment that its CEO, Vlad Tenev, made on CNBC earlier today:

Like other brokerages do, we monitor volatility and we take steps as appropriate like raising the margin requirements. I do think it’s wrong to assume though that most of our activity is characterized by trading of volatile stocks. As I’ve said before, most of our customers are what’s called buy and hold. They deposit and buy over the long term.

Robinhood changed margin requirements for GameStop and AMC Entertainment to 100%, TechCrunch understands. And like M1, Robinhood doesn’t allow users to short equities. So, there’s that.

Something notable about the companies we are discussing is that not one of them wants to be labeled as the place where folks like to trade a lot. Which amuses me as cutting fees to zero, which they have largely done, is at once a great way to democratize investing, and, also, a great way to encourage folks to trade more frequently. And as the apps and services that offer free trading often make money when users trade (read this), their chatter about their users being focused on buying and holding always rings slightly thin.

Anyhoo, some apps are going as far as adding warnings. Public, a company that TechCrunch recently covered, said that the company has added “‘High Risk’ safety labels” to the meme stocks that are causing so much ruckus.

Public has long had a stated focus on building community over trading, which led to us having a question or two about when it is going to kickstart its monetization plans. The company did just hire a CFO, which makes this move appear in concert with its general ethos, so more to come there we presume.

And, finally, U.K.-based Freetrade. TechCrunch has covered the service before, making it a good company to rope into this group. Per the company, Freetrade restricts small-cap stocks to the subscription tier of its service, which should limit access amongst its user base to GameStop and other memetic equities.

The company also stressed that it does not offer options or “any other form of leveraged derivatives” and has made “huge investment in investor education and financial literacy.”

So there’s a general bent toward either building products that are not tuned for day trading in silly stocks or providing some protection against users’ worst instincts amongst the cohort of companies that have also made it inexpensive to trade. There’s tension there, akin to this.

But they can only do so much. People are dumb, and it’s not looking like that’s going to get much better anytime soon.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

SoftBank teams with home goods maker Iris Ohyama for new robotics venture

Published

on

You’d be forgiven for being underwhelmed by the output from SoftBank Robotics thus far. The firm’s best-known product to date is almost certainly Pepper, a humanoid robot designed for greeting and signage that grew out of it 2015 acquisition of French robotics company, Aldebaran.

There’s also the matter of the investment firm’s acquisition and eventual sale of Boston Dynamics. The deal certainly went a ways toward accelerating the company’s go-to-market approach, but Boston Dynamics changed hands fairly quickly, when it was sold to Hyundai late last year (SoftBank maintains 20%).

The latest wrinkle in SoftBank’s robotic ambitions is nothing if not interesting. The firm announced today that it is joining forces with Iris Ohyama. The Japanese brand, which will hold a 51% stake in the venture (with SoftBank controlling the remainder), is best known for its home goods. The company makes a broad range of products, that includes, as Reuters put it, “everything from rice to rice cookers.”

You’ll be able to add robotics to that list, soon enough. The newly formed Iris Robotics has set an extremely aggressive goal of $965 million in sales by 2025. In a joint press release, the company noted Covid-19-related concerns as a major catalyst in the launch of the division. Certainly that makes strategic sense. There’s little question that the past year has kickstarted serious interest in robotics and automation.

The first couple of products from the venture don’t appear especially ambitious out of the gate, however. To start, it seems they’ll be rolling out “Iris Editions” of a pair of existing devices: Bear Robotics’ restaurant robot Servi and cleaning robot, Whiz.

Here’s a quote from SoftBank Robotics CEO (forgive the Google translate),

With the urgent need to realize the new normal in the corona virus, various new expectations are being placed on robots. This strong partnership with Iris Ohyama is a huge step forward for the expansion and penetration of robot solutions. Taking full advantage of the strengths of both companies, we will respond quickly to the challenges facing society.

Certainly the technical ambitions seem more modest than what the folks at companies like Boston Dynamics are currently working on, but Iris Ohyama seems well positioned to make some headway in the home robotics category to start.

 

Continue Reading

Trending