Turn Your Phone Into a Universal Remote and Control Multiple Smart Home Devices: $19.95

We have a deal on Hombli, a smart IR remote control that turns your iPhone or Android device into a universal remote for multiple smarthome devices. The Hombli acts as a hub, and you control it with a companion app. With it, you can access over 80,000 devices from popular brands including Samsung, Sony, and Philips, and you can use hands-free voice commands using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. This device is $19.95 through our deal.

Apple Needs to Put Hardware at The Heart of its Smart Home Strategy

Apple needs to dive headfirst into the smart home industry, with hardware at the center of the strategy. That’s according to Jason Snell, who laid out his argument for MacWorld.  He argues for the creation of a new product, a kind of hub, that will sit at the heart of it all.

Apple can contribute to the smart-home industry and its own bottom line by doing what it does best, namely creating a new product that’s a fusion of hardware, software, and cloud services. It’s time for Apple to build a product that makes your home smarter and more secure. It’s time for Apple Home. Apple got out of the home router game a while ago, with the discontinuation of the AirPort line. I’m recommending that Apple bring it back, because today’s smart homes require rock-solid wireless connectivity, and while Apple’s two biggest competitors have home-network offerings, Apple’s got nothing. An Apple-built mesh networking system a la Amazon’s Eero seems like a natural.

How an iPad And a Laser Uncovered a Way to Hack Smart Home Devices

In spring 2018, cybersecurity researcher Takeshi Sugawara found that point a laser at an iPad’s Microphone converted the light into sound. Then, according to Wired, he discovered the same technique could hack smart home devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Sugawara pointed a high-powered laser at the microphone of his iPad—all inside of a black metal box, to avoid burning or blinding anyone—and had Fu put on a pair of earbuds to listen to the sound the iPad’s mic picked up. As Sugawara varied the laser’s intensity over time in the shape of a sine wave, fluctuating at about 1,000 times a second, Fu picked up a distinct high-pitched tone. The iPad’s microphone had inexplicably converted the laser’s light into an electrical signal, just as it would with sound. Six months later Sugawara—visiting from the Tokyo-based University of Electro-Communications—along with Fu and a group of University of Michigan researchers have honed that curious photoacoustic quirk into something far more disturbing.

What if Plants Could Be Smart Home Devices?

What if plants could be smart home devices? That’s the idea of Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes in their cyborg botany research.

These experiments led the researchers to possible future applications that include sending notifications—the plant might jiggle to alert you when your package is delivered, for instance—or as a motion sensor, which could help you keep track of your pet or be applied to security systems.

Cool idea. When most people talk about “invisible interfaces” they usually mean things like smart clothing or using your voice like with a HomePod. Now if only trees transmitted Wi-Fi…

New Ring and August Smart Home Products Could be Set for CES 2019 Launch

It is nearly CES time, so that means lots of product leaks and rumors! 9to5Mac brought together reporting by Dave Zatz on some interesting leaks from August and Ring in the smart home security space. It looks like August is preparing to launch a new smart doorbell, with an updated design. Meanwhile, Amazon-owned Ring looks set to launch a set of smart security lights.

In a nice change from the blocky square design that August currently uses with its current Doorbell Cam Pro, the View takes a more minimal, rectangular form factor. It also brings a space gray color compared to the silver finish on the existing Doorbell Cam Pro. The new rectangular design of August’s View also matches the hardware of its main competitor Ring (now owned by Amazon). No pricing or release details are known yet, but we could hear more about View next week at CES.

Have We Reached Peak Smart Home?

Have we reached peaked smart home? Craig Lloyd writes that we have, and there are a couple of things holding the industry back, like competing standards, expensive devices, and problems with voice control.

There’s a problem with the smarthome industry—multiple problems, actually. And after experiencing a huge boom over the last few years, smarthome as a whole has reached a plateau of sorts.

Don’t get us wrong; smarthome technology is a really exciting market, and it’s become so popular that big players like Amazon and Google have dived head first into offering comprehensive smarthome product lines. The thing is, smarthome in general still has a long way to go.

Smart Home Tech is the New Weapon in Domestic Abuse

Smart home technology may add convenience to our lives, but there’s a darker side, too. The New York Times explores how domestic abusers are using smarthome devices to control and gaslight their victims. Reports of smart home devices in domestic abuse cases has been on the rise over the past year, too. From the report:

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

It’s a stark reminder that abusers will find a way to turn anything into a weapon against their victims.