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What’s New In Home Automation? Plenty

Suppliers in the DIY home-automation market are an optimistic bunch, if the number of new players and line expansions is any indication.

Companies offering their first hardware products in the U.S. market include CastleOS and ROC-Connect. Companies expanding their lines include Fibaro, Ring and D-Link.

The companies’ executives must have read the results of a consumer survey commissioned by home-automation platform provider Icontrol Networks. The spring survey found that 50 percent of North American consumers ages 25 and older plan to buy at least one smart-home device in the next year. Based on the population size of the 25-plus age group in North America, Icontrol said more than 114 million people plan to buy smart-home products in the next year.

With that potential in mind, CastleOS plans August availability of its first home-automation hub, and platformprovider ROC-Connect entered the North American market for the first time.

Companies expanding their lines include Fibaro, which is launching its first home-automation hub; startup Ring, which is complementing its video doorbell with a Wi-Fi chime; and D-Link, which launched its first Wi-Fi water-leak sensor.

Here’s what the companies are doing:
CastleOS: The company launched home-automation software for Windows computers more than two years ago and now plans August availability of its first home-automation hub at

The $499 CastleHub is a computer-grade hub that runs Windows 10 and the latest version of the company’s software. It can be controlled from iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, and Linux-based smartphones from within the house or remotely. It runs Microsoft Cortana to enable natural-language voice control from a smartphone, Microsoft’s Kinect game accessory or Android Wear smart watch.

The hub also serves as a home entertainment server via optional internal 2.5-inch hard drive or USB 3.0-connected hard drive. The hub also streams video via Microsoft apps, including Hulu and Netflix apps.

The hub controls home-automation devices that incorporate Z-Wave, Insteon, X10, WeMo, Philips Hue, Ecobee, Lightwave, TCP and Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) technologies. The company plans to add control of ZigBee, Lutron, GE Link, Wink and Chamberlain devices, plus others.

The hub doesn’t use a Cloud-based server to execute commands.

D-Link: The company expanded its selection of Wi-Fi-based home-automation products with the shipment of what it called the industry’s first Wi-Fi water-leak sensor.

Unlike battery-operated water-leak sensors that use other wireless technologies, D-Link’s $59 Mydlink onepiece Wi-Fi Water Sensor (DCH-S160) plugs into a power outlet near washers, sinks, and water heaters for power. A 1.6-foot sensing cable connected to the sensor detects water along its entire length. When water is detected, an embedded 70dB siren sounds, and an LED flashes. The sensor also pushes notification alerts to smartphones and tablets. A 3.3-foot RJ-11 extension cable can be used to extend the water-sensing cable farther from the outlet.

Fibaro: The Poland-based company is targeting the custom-integrator channel with the shipment of its first home-automation hub for the U.S. market. The Z-Wave-equipped Home Center 2 hub retails for a suggested $749.

The company entered the U.S. market last November and has been selling around a dozen Z-Wave sensors, some of which integrate with home-automation systems from HomeSeer and Nexia.

Besides integrating with Fibaro-brand Z-Wave sensors, Home Center 2 is compatible with products from other brands. Those products include thermostats from Nest, Trane, Honeywell, RCS, and 2GIG; IP cameras from DLink, Gen IV, Hikvision, Geo, Speco, and Axis; Linear garage door openers; Philips Hue lighting; DSC alarms; and other devices.

Ring: The start-up has begun shipping its Wi-Fi doorbell chime through its web store at $29.95, up from a previously announced $19.95.

The Ring Chime, which plugs into an electrical outlet, connects wirelessly to the company’s $199 Wi-Fi Video Doorbell to alert people that someone is ringing the doorbell even if the doorbell isn’t connected to a home’s existing doorbell wiring. The doorbell also notifies a user’s Android or iOS smartphone that someone is ringing the bell, and the phone displays live images of the person at the door.