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CES 2016: Boost for Bluetooth

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At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Cassia Networks unveiled the Cassia Hub, the world’s first Bluetooth router that can control up to 22 Bluetooth devices.

The Cassia Hub also extends the range of Bluetooth communications to 1,000 feet in open space ¾ more than 30 times the standard operating range. The hub also comes with the Cassia mobile app, which integrates and automates control of all connected Bluetooth devices both inside and outside the home. Priced at $99.99, the Cassia Hub is available for pre-orders today at www.cassianetworks.com and will begin shipping in Q1 2016.

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Originally developed for personal area network devices like wireless mice and headsets, Bluetooth technology has traditionally been passed up as a communications protocol for the connected home due to limitations such as range (30 feet) and one-to-one connectivity. Using Cassia’s new proprietary and patented technology developed by Cassia Networks founder and former Cisco engineer and Aruba executive, Felix Zhao, the Cassia Hub can not only connect up to 22 devices at once, but it can also communicate and relay messages for Bluetooth devices up to 1,000 feet away (open space) or through three interior walls. This means no longer being tethered to your Bluetooth speaker or losing a signal when you enter another room.

Until now, Bluetooth devices have been limited by range and the number of devices that can be connected together. With the invention of the Cassia Hub, Cassia Networks has removed these barriers and is making Bluetooth the ideal communication protocol and default standard for the Internet of Things (IoT).

“We developed the Cassia Hub because we noticed there wasn’t a universal standard of communication between the ever-growing pile of Internet connected devices,” said Felix Zhao, founder and CEO of Cassia Networks.  “Bluetooth, with its open platform and universal presence, was an obvious solution but inherently limited by its capabilities. We thought if we could engineer a way to break free of these limitations, Bluetooth could become a viable contender, and thus the Cassia Hub was born.”

The Cassia Hub is compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE and Classic) and does not require any modification or configuration of devices. This means previously purchased Bluetooth enabled devices such as smartphones, speakers, fitness trackers, headphones, lights, locks and countless other Bluetooth devices should readily and seamlessly connect to the Cassia Hub.  Moreover, with the Cassia Hub, users can stream music wirelessly from popular streaming services as well as local content on their phone throughout the house using Bluetooth speakers they already own, much like competing multi-room wireless speaker systems that sell for hundreds more.

The Cassia Hub also connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, which enables users to control their Bluetooth devices outside of the home. By using their internet-enabled smartphone or tablet to access the Cassia App, users will have access and control of their devices from virtually anywhere with internet access, something not possible with current Bluetooth technology.

In addition to the Cassia Hub, Cassia Networks is also unveiling several accessories available for purchase either with the hub or separately:

  • Cassia Bluetooth Speaker ($99.99): a powerful 2.1 stereo speaker that can work with your other Bluetooth speakers to play the same music in multiple rooms.
  • Bluetooth multi-color LED light ($29.99 for individual or $79.99 for 3-pack): a 16 million color light that pairs with the Cassia Hub for full light and color control with all your existing Bluetooth enabled lightbulbs.
  • Bluetooth Smart Plug ($29.99): a plug that makes it easy to automate and control consumer appliances from the Cassia Hub App directly.
  • Cassia Personal Safety Sensor ($99.99): this sensor has several features to help those in need of immediate assistance:
    • Users can simply push button to contact emergency services or pre-determined contacts when they need help
    • With built-in fall detection, an alert will be sent automatically if the user falls.
    • The sensor can also share where the user fell as long as it is paired with a smartphone or within range of the Cassia Hub

So, how does it work?  The Cassia Hub operates off two modes of communication:

  • Control Mode: The Cassia App controls all classic Bluetooth devices such as Bluetooth speakers, headsets and some Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that are recognized by the Hub.
  • Transparent Relay Mode: Users can extend the range of BLE devices that are not recognized by the Cassia Hub where users are able to use their native apps with their BLE devices. In this mode, the Cassia Hub acts as a router and range extender for communication between native product apps on your smartphone and corresponding BLE devices.

The Cassia Hub can also connect to various devices and networks through Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz), Ethernet (10/100) and USB 2.0.

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Face App grabs SA attention

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South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40 

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER

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The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

•    For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/

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