ring

Digging deeper into smart speakers reveals two clear paths

Posted by | Alexa, Amazon, amazon alexa, Amazon Echo, Apple, artificial intelligence, Assistant, Ben Einstein, computing, echo, Gadgets, Google, Google Assistant, ring, smart speaker, smart speakers, Sonos, sonos one, Speaker, Spotify, steel, TC, technology | No Comments

In a truly fascinating exploration into two smart speakers – the Sonos One and the Amazon Echo – BoltVC’s Ben Einstein has found some interesting differences in the way a traditional speaker company and an infrastructure juggernaut look at their flagship devices.

The post is well worth a full read but the gist is this: Sonos, a very traditional speaker company, has produced a good speaker and modified its current hardware to support smart home features like Alexa and Google Assistant. The Sonos One, notes Einstein, is a speaker first and smart hardware second.

“Digging a bit deeper, we see traditional design and manufacturing processes for pretty much everything. As an example, the speaker grill is a flat sheet of steel that’s stamped, rolled into a rounded square, welded, seams ground smooth, and then powder coated black. While the part does look nice, there’s no innovation going on here,” he writes.

The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, looks like what would happen if an engineer was given an unlimited budget and told to build something that people could talk to. The design decisions are odd and intriguing and it is ultimately less a speaker than a home conversation machine. Plus it is very expensive to make.

Pulling off the sleek speaker grille, there’s a shocking secret here: this is an extruded plastic tube with a secondary rotational drilling operation. In my many years of tearing apart consumer electronics products, I’ve never seen a high-volume plastic part with this kind of process. After some quick math on the production timelines, my guess is there’s a multi-headed drill and a rotational axis to create all those holes. CNC drilling each hole individually would take an extremely long time. If anyone has more insight into how a part like this is made, I’d love to see it! Bottom line: this is another surprisingly expensive part.

Sonos, which has been making a form of smart speaker for 15 years, is a CE company with cachet. Amazon, on the other hand, sees its devices as a way into living rooms and a delivery system for sales and is fine with licensing its tech before making its own. Therefore to compare the two is a bit disingenuous. Einstein’s thesis that Sonos’ trajectory is troubled by the fact that it depends on linear and closed manufacturing techniques while Amazon spares no expense to make its products is true. But Sonos makes speakers that work together amazingly well. They’ve done this for a decade and a half. If you compare their products – and I have – with competing smart speakers an non-audiophile “dumb” speakers you will find their UI, UX, and sound quality surpass most comers.

Amazon makes things to communicate with Amazon. This is a big difference.

Where Einstein is correct, however, is in his belief that Sonos is at a definite disadvantage. Sonos chases smart technology while Amazon and Google (and Apple, if their HomePod is any indication) lead. That said, there is some value to having a fully-connected set of speakers with add-on smart features vs. having to build an entire ecosystem of speaker products that can take on every aspect of the home theatre.

On the flip side Amazon, Apple, and Google are chasing audio quality while Sonos leads. While we can say that in the future we’ll all be fine with tinny round speakers bleating out Spotify in various corners of our room, there is something to be said for a good set of woofers. Whether this nostalgic love of good sound survives this generation’s tendency to watch and listen to low resolution media is anyone’s bet, but that’s Amazon’s bet to lose.

Ultimately Sonos is strong and fascinating company. An upstart that survived the great CE destruction wrought by Kickstarter and Amazon, it produces some of the best mid-range speakers I’ve used. Amazon makes a nice – almost alien – product, but given that it can be easily copied and stuffed into a hockey puck that probably costs less than the entire bill of materials for the Amazon Echo it’s clear that Amazon’s goal isn’t to make speakers.

Whether the coming Sonos IPO will be successful depends partially on Amazon and Google playing ball with the speaker maker. The rest depends on the quality of product and the dedication of Sonos users. This good will isn’t as valuable as a signed contract with major infrastructure players but Sonos’ good will is far more than Amazon and Google have with their popular but potentially intrusive product lines. Sonos lives in the home while Google and Amazon want to invade it. That is where Sonos wins.

Powered by WPeMatico

Ring’s $199 security system will finally ship next month

Posted by | Amazon, Gadgets, home security, ring, TC | No Comments

Way back in October of last year, Ring announced “Ring Protect” — a modular, no contract, DIY home security system.

After a few delays, a bit of legal drama and Ring being acquired for a billion dollars by Amazon, the alarm is finally about to ship — albeit with a slightly different (better!) name.

Ring Protect has been redubbed as the more intuitive Ring Alarm — a better name if only because competitor Nest has both a security product and a totally different product (a smoke detector) called Nest Protect.

Ring’s base level alarm kit starts at $199, which includes a keypad (for arming/disarming the system), one door/window sensor, a motion detector and a range extender. You’ll probably want to add more components, and, fortunately, they’re relatively cheap: another door sensor, for example, is $20, while the motion detectors are $30.

Nest’s competing security system packs a few tricks that Ring’s doesn’t (Nest combined the door/motion sensors into one, for example, and it’s got a fancy RFID system for PIN-free disarming), but it also costs $200 more… and that’s after a $100 price drop that, presumably not by coincidence, just happened yesterday.

The system doesn’t require any sort of contract — but if you want professional monitoring, it’ll be $10 a month. That’s a pretty good deal, especially because if you’ve got any of Ring’s cameras (like its smart doorbell, or its floodlight cameras), that plan includes unlimited video storage for all of ’em.

Ring says it’s got more products on the way to expand the system, including smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and flood sensors.

Ring’s security system is up for pre-order now and, if all goes as planned, will start shipping on July 4th.

Powered by WPeMatico

Ring’s Jamie Siminoff and Clinc’s Jason Mars to join us at Disrupt SF

Posted by | artificial intelligence, clinc, disrupt sf, Gadgets, M&A, ring, Startups, TC | No Comments

Disrupt SF is set to be the biggest tech conference that TechCrunch has ever hosted. So it only makes sense that we plan an agenda fit for the occasion.

That’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that Ring’s Jamie Siminoff will join us on stage for a fireside chat and Jason Mars from Clinc will be demo-ing first-of-its-kind technology on the Disrupt SF stage.

Jamie Siminoff – Ring

Earlier this year, Ring became Amazon’s second largest acquisition ever, selling to the behemoth for a reported $1 billion.

But the story begins long ago, with Jamie Siminoff building a WiFi-connected video doorbell in his garage in 2011. Back then it was called DoorBot. Now, it’s called Ring, and it’s an essential piece of the overall evolution of e-commerce.

As giants like Amazon move to make purchasing and receiving goods as simple as ever, safe and reliable entry into the home becomes critical to the mission. Ring, which has made neighborhood safety and home security its main priority since inception, is a capable partner in that mission.

Of course, one doesn’t often build a successful company and sell for $1 billion on their first go. Prior to Ring, Siminoff founded PhoneTag, the world’s first voicemail-to-text company and Unsubscribe.com. Both of those companies were sold. Based on his founding portfolio alone, it’s clear that part of Siminoff’s success can be attributed to understanding what consumers need and executing on a solution.

Dr. Jason Mars – Clinc

AI has the potential to change everything, but there is a fundamental disconnect between what AI is capable of and how we interface with it. Clinc has tried to close that gap with its conversational AI, emulating human intelligence to interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech.

Clinc is currently targeting the financial market, letting users converse with their bank account using natural language without any pre-defined templates or hierarchical voice menus.

But there are far more applications for this kind of conversational tech. As voice interfaces like Alexa and Google Assistant pick up steam, there is clearly an opportunity to bring this kind of technology to all facets of our lives.

At Disrupt SF, Clinc’s founder and CEO Dr. Jason Mars plans to do just that, debuting other ways that Clinc’s conversational AI can be applied. Without ruining the surprise, let me just say that this is going to be a demo you won’t want to miss.

Tickets to Disrupt are available here.

Powered by WPeMatico

Nest’s video doorbell is now shipping

Posted by | Amazon, doorbell, Emerging-Technologies, Gadgets, Home Automation, Internet of Things, Nest Labs, ring, smart doorbell, Speaker, technology, thermostat, yale | No Comments

Back in September of last year, Nest announced its first smart doorbell. When it would actually ship, however, was left sort of up in the air; all the company said at the time was to expect it sometime in Q1 of 2018.

Turns out, that means today. The Nest doorbell — or the Nest Hello, as it’s known — is now shipping for $229.

Nest also mentioned a few other bits of news:

  • The front door lock/touchpad they built in partnership with Yale, also announced back in September of last year, is now shipping
  • They’re now making external, wireless, battery-powered temperature sensors for the Nest Thermostat (previously, the thermostat only really cared about the temperature of whichever room it was in). You can add up to six sensors. One sensor will cost $39, or a three pack goes for $99. The sensor (pictured at the bottom of this post) is a simple white puck, just a bit over an inch wide.

Not unlike the now Amazon-owned Ring, the Hello’s primary purpose is to let you know when someone rings the doorbell, and to let you see and communicate with them by way of the built-in camera/microphone/speaker rig. Out of the box, sans subscriptions, Nest will store the video of who rang your doorbell for 3 hours; if you want to access it beyond that, you’ll need a monthly Nest Aware subscription.

In most cases, hooking up the Hello should be a matter of popping out your old doorbell and wiring up the new one; it pulls its power from the same wiring setup that most doorbells use, and it should play friendly with any in-door chimes you probably already have in place.

Its got a 3-megapixel camera (with infrared night vision) for 1600×1200 video at 30 frames per second, a 160º field of view, and 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi. Unlike some competitors, it doesn’t have a battery — so you’ll need that aforementioned power line.

With that said, it’s got a few tricks I haven’t seen with others in the space, like a “Quiet time” mode for when you (or, say, your baby) are sleeping. It’ll still buzz your phone, but in-door chimes won’t go ringin’ away. Pre-recorded messages, meanwhile, let you communicate with delivery people and anyone else who might be hanging around your porch during those times when shouting “PLEASE LEAVE THE PACKAGE ON THE PORCH I’LL GRAB IT SHORTLY” might feel a bit weird.

We should have one to check out before too long, so expect a review as soon as we’ve put it through the paces.

Powered by WPeMatico

The Ring Floodlight Cam is an outdoor security slam dunk

Posted by | cam, camera+, equipment, Gadgets, Home Automation, optics, ring, TC, technology | No Comments

 A good home security camera is easy to install while offering surprising peace of mind. The Ring Floodlight Cam, $249 and available now, offers both. The camera mounts where your old floodlight would have been – if you have a standard outdoor electrical box it will connect right into your current setup and it even worked with my older “pancake” style electric box – and… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Amazon acquires connected camera and doorbell startup Blink

Posted by | Amazon, Blink, computing, Crowdfunding, economy, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, hardware, Home Automation, ring, TC, technology, wi-fi, wireless | No Comments

 Amazon has acquired Blink (via Slashgear), a startup founded in 2014 that builds connected Wi-Fi home security cameras, as well as a new video doorbell introduced earlier this week. The company got its start via a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $1 million for its totally wireless home monitoring system. Amazon has already made forays into connected home video cameras and even home… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the most flexible connected video doorbell

Posted by | Gadgets, hardware, Reviews, ring, TC | No Comments

 Ring is steadily releasing new products, but the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the first re-think of its original, core product. The new version of the smart Wi-Fi doorbell that started it all still offers both wired and battery power options, but the batteries are now removable, and it’s got a few other upgrades including true 1080p HD video.
I’m a longtime user of the original, and… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Ring adds three connected Spotlight Cams to its Floodlight Cam lineup

Posted by | Gadgets, hardware, ring, TC | No Comments

 Connected home security device maker Ring has a growing product line – and it’s now three products bigger. Joining the Floodlight Cam the company debuted at CES this year, Ring is now also offering three Spotlight Cam variants, each of which offers a different power source option to work with a variety of potential installation scenarios and locations. The Spotlight Cam –… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico

Ring’s Smart Doorbell Gets A Smart Speaker

Posted by | Gadgets, ring, Startups, TC | No Comments

Ring-Chime Ring, the connected doorbell with built-in video and two-way talking features, now has a partner in crime: Ring Chime, a Wi-Fi speaker that activates when a visitor presses your Ring, and which can use custom tones you can upload yourself through the Ring mobile app. The Ring Chime is available at a discounted price of $19.95 when it launches for pre-order at the start of June, and will cost… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico