Breath-taking Smart Sensors and Speechless Smart Displays: Amazon and Aqara Steal the Show with Major Updates!

gm, gm! hope all is good in your part of the world. No major news here in Ireland, all is pretty chill. Was in town earlier and grabbed some pastries from one of the market stalls and looking forward to sitting down and gobbling one or two with some nice coffee. 😊

This week’s newsletter brings a mix of exciting news for smart home enthusiasts. In an unexpected move, Google gives the silent treatment to third-party Smart Displays, leaving Lenovo, JBL, and LG speechless. However, Apple’s Home app welcomes budget-friendly WiZ smart home accessories, thanks to Matter migration. Meanwhile, Aqara’s new smart sensor is so advanced that it can even detect your breathing. Lastly, Amazon’s Alexa gets major updates for a seamless smart home experience with over 100M Matter-enabled devices. Overall, it’s clear that the smart home industry is evolving rapidly, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Google gives the silent treatment to third-party Smart Displays: Lenovo, JBL, and LG left speechless

In a very quiet reveal, Google says it has stopped updating third-party Lenovo, JBL, and LG Smart Displays. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time for this form factor, but it’s still surprising.

Google first announced Assistant Smart Displays in January 2018 at CES. The LG ThinQ WK9, Lenovo Smart Display 8/10, and JBL Link View went on sale later that year. The last third-party Smart Display was a 7-inch model from Lenovo in late 2019.

Google announced it was stopping major development on the underlying operating system in February 2019. At that time, Android Things became just for OEMs developing Smart Displays and speakers. Before that, it was positioned as a vast Internet-of-things platform.

Smart Displays saw a lot of new functionality early on as Google competed with Amazon, but have seen very few new features as of late. In February of 2022, Google disabled the web browser on non-Nest Hub Smart Displays citing the lack of SafeSearch support. All recent development is for the first-party Nest Hub. These devices are running a different operating system (Cast and now Fuchsia) that Google directly controls.

If you are 3rd-party smart display your device should still work, but the experience might be degraded (as in the case of video calling) over time.

Light up your life on a budget: WiZ smart home accessories are now in Apple’s Home app thanks to Matter migration

As promised, the budget-friendly WiZ smart home accessory line has now adopted Matter, bringing the smart lights into Apple’s Home app for the first time.

Signify, maker of the Philips Hue line, has rolled out new firmware to its wallet-conscious portfolio of WiZ lights, lamps, and smart plugs to support Matter. At least those manufactured in early 2021 or later.

With support for Matter, WiZ devices now support the Apple Home app and can be controlled alongside other HomeKit-enabled accessories.

The update became available with version 2.0 of the WiZ app where users can opt into complete the migration to Matter before adding to any Matter ecosystem.

WiZ previously had support for Siri Shortcuts, but never native Home support.

Alongside support for Apple Home, the Matter update will bring improved responsiveness to Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. Matter removes the reliance on cloud services so it will work with these platforms locally, even if the internet goes down.

Signify’s premium line of Philips Hue accessories is also supposed to receive Matter support. The smart accessory maker announced a delay earlier this year.

The current WiZ portfolio is available on Amazon with smart bulbs starting at $22 for a three-pack.

Aqara’s new smart sensor is so advanced, it knows when you’re breathing

Aqara, a leading provider of smart home products, expands its wide-ranged smart sensor portfolio with the introduction of the Presence Sensor FP2, a revolutionary sensor for precise human presence detection. Equipped with the millimeter wave (mmWave) radar technology, the FP2 solves many pain points of the traditional passive infrared (PIR) presence sensors and enables a more tailored and rich smart home experience. The new sensor is now available on the Company’s Amazon brand stores in both North America (US, Canada) and Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK) as well as selective Aqara retailers worldwide1.

Accurate human presence detection provides essential information for tailored smart home automation such as home security monitoring and energy management systems (e.g., automated lights, HVAC, and home appliances control). The mmWave-based FP2 Presence Sensor takes a leap forward from the PIR motion sensors as the former detects a person’s presence with even the slightest movement such as the act of breathing. Gone are the frustrating experiences of having your smart lights turn off unintentionally because you were sitting still reading a book or working at the desk.

Moreover, the FP2 sensor raises the precision of human detection to the next level with its capability to monitor multiple zones and multiple targets simultaneously. The FP2 allows the user to define up to 30 zones within a room (up to 40 sq m/430 sq ft). For example, the living room and dining area can be configured as separate zones with individualized automation. This sensor tracks up to 5 persons at the same time2, making it possible to control different zones based on the real-time location of each family member. For instance, dim the dining area lights and switch the TV on when the kids leave the dining table and move to the sofa, meanwhile keeping the kitchen light on when someone is washing the dishes.

The powerful capabilities of the FP2 sensor can also be used within third-party smart home platforms including Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Home Assistant3, and more. Once the zones are set up in the Aqara Home app, the zone configuration can be synced to these platforms as multiple motion/occupancy sensors, allowing users to trigger zone-based automation with a wide variety of third-party smart home devices. Support of the new smart home standard, Matter, is also planned for the FP2 and will be added to the device via a subsequent OTA update4.

Aside from its precise presence detection and multi-zone automation, FP2 also has fall detection built-in5, which is particularly essential for senior citizens who are more vulnerable to fall injuries. Families and caregivers can be alerted by both local siren and remote alerts if the FP2 sensor detects a fall, which allows them to seek immediate assistance if necessary. The FP2 sensor can detect a fall at home in a convenient way without the need to wear additional devices on the body. At the same time, unlike a typical security camera, the Sensor provides meaningful alerts and data without intruding on a person’s personal privacy.

Thanks to its powerful hardware, the FP2 sensor will be able to support much more cutting-edge features in the future such as posture detection, which not only recognizes falls but also other postures including standing, sitting, and lying. Sleep monitoring and respiratory rate detection capabilities could also be achieved via the FP2 in the future. These advanced features will be added to the FP2 sensor via future OTA updates4.

For more details on the Presence Sensor FP2, please visit the company’s website.

Amazon’s Alexa gets major updates for a seamless smart home experience with over 100M Matter-enabled devices

Alexa is getting some major updates in Amazon’s goal of achieving an interoperable ambient smart home environment. Amazon has reached over 100 million Matter-enabled Echo devices distributed in customer homes by enabling the 2nd-generation Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot devices to become Matter controllers. This makes for 20 models of Echo devices that now support Matter.

The company also announced the update for the 4th-generation Echo that will effectively turn it into a Thread border router, supporting not only Zigbee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, but also Matter-enabled Thread devices, is effective today.

A Thread border router connects devices in a Thread network to Wi-Fi or ethernet. Thread is a mesh network for low-power smart devices typically used in smart homes, like some smart plugs and entry sensors. Some examples of Thread border routers include the Apple TV 4K, Nanoleaf’s Line, Elements, and Shapes, and now, the fourth-generation Echo.

Expanding the amount of Matter controllers and updating the Echo to become a Thread border router means that we’re much closer to a world where consumers can connect most of the available smart home devices on the market, without giving a second thought to interoperability with their smart home systems.

The new Amazon updates also mean customers can now set up Matter devices with iOS, and the company says this includes Matter-enabled Thread devices.

Furthermore, Some Eve devices are prepared to work with Alexa as of today, with the smart home system’s support for Matter over Thread devices. Though previously a brand mostly reserved for HomeKit users, this new update gives compatible devices like Eve Door & Window, Eve Motion, and Eve Energy the ability to tout the Works With Alexa badge, which can make them more discoverable on Amazon’s website, as well as let customers quickly identify them.

This also means Eve will also have Frustration-Free Setup (FFS) for all its Matter-enabled devices, starting later this month. FFS makes it easy to set up new devices out of the box, where consumers can power the new device and it will connect to the network almost immediately and with little intervention, almost like a plug-and-play feature for smart home devices.

This is it for today, See you soon πŸ˜‰. If you have colleagues, friends, or neighbors that would benefit from knowing about smart home devices, please consider sharing them. They can sign up for the newsletter by going here.

– Gerard

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