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9
Oct

After Math: Ooooohhh, numbers!


It’s been a big week for counting. IBM laid out $200 million in Watson research, Amazon dropped the price of its fresh produce deliveries, Oculus unveiled a slew of new accessories for its VR headset and Sony announced 80 — count ’em, 8-0 — titles for its upcoming PSVR platform. Numbers, because what else is your right hemisphere good for?

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9
Oct

Ben Heck’s guide to making your own Halloween costume


The Ben Heck Show - Episode 257 - Ben Heck's Halloween SuperHero Wearables Part 1: Development

It’s almost time for Halloween! Ben and Karen put their heads together to design an electronics superhero costume, filled with sound effects and highlighted with electroluminescent wire. Ben starts to prototype the circuitry using an i2c connected LSM303DLH accelerometer sensor, which is connected to a Parallax Propeller development stick. Unfortunately, this isn’t actually that easy, and Ben is forced to debug the connections to the i2c circuit with an oscilloscope.

Once Ben has the code ready for testing, it’s time for Karen to calibrate the sensors with kicks, punches and a little dancing. Finally, what’s a superhero without the correct attire? Karen walks through the group’s ideas so far and considers laser-cutting skirts and trousers with a superhero logo to give them some extra style. Meanwhile, you can submit your own design ideas over at the element14 Community.

9
Oct

Tesla is holding a ‘product unveiling’ on October 17th


This October is a busy month for Tesla. On top of a SolarCity-linked event on the 28th, the company’s Elon Musk has revealed that there’s a Tesla-specific “product unveiling” event slated for the 17th. It’s not certain what will appear at the event (Musk says it’s “unexpected by most”), but there are already ideas floating around. Suffice it to say that this probably won’t involve pure energy products — those are more likely to wait for the 28th.
One possibility: this is Tesla’s chance to showcase the finished Model 3 design, and possibly to explain more about its options and features. Just what is the “obvious thing” for Autopilot on the upcoming EV? We also wouldn’t rule out further Autopilot improvements for existing cars, or hardware upgrades such as longer-ranged batteries. Tesla is fond of iterative tweaks to its vehicles, so there’s no guarantee that this will be an earth-shaking announcement.

Tesla product unveiling on the 17th (unexpected by most), followed by Tesla/SolarCity on the 28th

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 9, 2016

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)

9
Oct

Update your Raspberry Pi to Raspbian Pixel for fancy new features – CNET


raspbian-pixel.jpgEnlarge Image

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Recently, Raspbian announced Pixel, a fairly significant update for users of the most popular Raspberry Pi operating system.

Raspbian Pixel includes a new web browser, Chromium, RealVNC is now included, controls to turn of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and most notably, the overall look of Raspbian received a much needed facelift.

There are a few extra commands you’ll need to run in addition to the standard update commands in Terminal.

Alternatively, you can download the complete Raspbian Pixel image here, if you’d prefer to start fresh.

Open the Terminal app on your Raspeberry Pi, then run each command below:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install -y rpi-chromium-mods
  • sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu python3-sense-emu
  • sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu-doc realvnc-vnc-viewer

And lastly, for those upgrading your current Raspbian system, who don’t use xrdp for remote access, but want to enable RealVNC, enter the following command:

  • sudo apt-get install -y realvnc-vnc-server

If you do use xrdp, you can either keep using it or disable it and before enabling RealVNC.

The process will take longer than a normal update, as there’s a lot of extra stuff bundled in. For more details about the update and what’s included, read the Raspbian Pixel announcement here.

9
Oct

From the Editor’s Desk: Saying sorry


cottage-3.jpg?itok=IOjadBgY

Some Sunday thoughts from cottage country.

It’s hard to say sorry. Big companies especially need to get better at it. Hell, I’m Canadian and say it all the time and still need to get better at it.

What struck me about this whole Note 7 mess is that Samsung just hasn’t made people feel good enough about its response. It did all the right things — got the phones back en masse, issued new ones quickly, with sufficient (albeit strange) differentiation — but they missed the emotional impact that this recall had on people. And now, after several replacement Note 7s have reportedly exploded, the company has stayed largely silent, except to say the investigation continues. The trend is disturbing.

It’s akin to a relationship gone south, and all you see can see after the breakup is a totally different person staring back at you.

People are scared. They’re scared to buy Note 7s, they’re nervous to be around other people with Note 7s, and they’re especially hesitant to use one themselves. And that’s OK: It’s normal to be worried when you’ve been told a thing in your house — in your pocket— could explode without warning. The difference is that the Note 7, or any phone, is meant to stay near you most of the time, to be a companion. Even a friend. It’s akin to a relationship gone south, and all you see can see after the breakup is a totally different person staring back at you.

Despite the recent rash of fires from the new batch of Note 7s, the chance of an individual unit spontaneously alighting is still very low. And yet, when I peer at the replacement Note 7 on my desk, I can’t help looking at it a bit sideways. My response is as emotional as it is based in fact, but that’s the point: Samsung hasn’t adequately addressed the underlying human side of this very technical problem.

It’s also a side of tech that I don’t think we, as the media, successfully approach. No piece of tech has engendered more sustained discord, more animosity, more feigned us vs. them, than the smartphone, both inter- and intra-ecosystem. And yet we don’t really acknowledge the cause of this vitriol, since we generally only address it after it’s been expressed. I don’t want to play the role of armchair psychologist, so I’m just going to end with this: Phones are not phones, but extensions of ourselves, and our lives, over which we have considerably more control than most other areas. And when that control is upended in some way — by an errant software update, or the fear of an exploding battery — it becomes more distant from us.

Samsung hasn’t adequately addressed the underlying human side of this very technical problem.

It’s for those reasons that the Pixel’s announcement, that it was at once not a Nexus and too much like a Nexus, was so divisive. I was lucky enough to use the phones briefly at an event in Toronto, and came away impressed and confused. On one hand, the phones are objectively great — nicely-built, and conscientious of the way people use their phones today — but, in the hands of Google, they have limited carrier support in the U.S. and are being positioned as both Galaxy and Nexus. I want the Pixels to do well, but I also know how difficult that will be.

  • Andrew and Russell did a great job on the Pixel hands-on, and both of them really understand where it fits in the Android
    ecosystem.
  • Alex did better than most other sites reviewing the iPhone 7 Plus, giving it a fair shake from an Android user. It’s a great phone, with an amazing camera, but it’s no longer automatically the best phone, as evidenced by…
  • …the results of the Blind Camera Test. I’m of two minds about the results: Samsung ramps up the color saturation of its photos, which is naturally pleasing to the eye, but there are also examples where the phone is objectively better. The iPhone 7 also holds its own, but Apple goes for a more natural look — #nofilter to Samsung’s Juno or Ludwig —which can turn some people off. Different strokes.
  • The LG V20 goes on sale on October twenty days too late for most people. (October 28.) Seriously, LG, you had one job, and it was to get this phone into people’s hands two weeks after the September 6 announcement.
  • Verizon ruins everything.
  • But seriously, Verizon isn’t just a wireless network provider; it’s a services company, a content producer, and an enormous ad funnel. You think Google’s deal to sell the Pixel on Verizon was all about the company pre-installing a couple of apps and controlling software updates? No, it was all about Google promising to advertise the crap out of its new phones on every Verizon-owned publishing channel, including AOL.
  • We’re approaching a time when the Note 7 will have to be recalled again, but this second round of problems has, I believe, damaged the Note brand’s reputation beyond repair.
  • And if this text message can be verified as having come from a Samsung representative… wow. Just wow.
  • Hurricane Matthew looked devastating. Hope all of you are safe and unharmed from the inundation.

If you’re in Canada, have a very happy Thanksgiving, and if you’re in the U.S., happy Columbus Day!

      -Daniel

9
Oct

Two more Galaxy Note 7 replacements caught fire this week


Unfortunately, that replacement Galaxy Note 7 which caught fire wasn’t just a one-off. There are now two more incidents of the ostensibly safer smartphone igniting and threatening the health of its users. To start, a teen in Farmington, Minnesota reports that her replacement Note 7 started burning up while it was in her hand on October 7th. She ‘only’ suffered a minor burn to her thumb, but tells KSTP that it could have been worse if it was in her pocket. Both Samsung and the Consumer Product Safety Commission say they’re investigating the issue.

The other incident is more concerning, however. Michael Klering in Nicholasville, Kentucky describes his replacement Note 7 catching fire in the early morning on October 4th, while it was sitting unplugged in his bedroom. While it didn’t set the bedroom on fire, it filled the room with smoke — a hospital diagnosed Klering with acute bronchitis following the blaze. He declined to give the phone to Samsung, but agreed to have it X-rayed for the firm’s investigation. It’s not clear if the CPSC is investigating this fire as well, although that seems probable given that it’s looking into the Farmington situation.

To make matters worse, a Samsung representative’s behavior raised eyebrows. One of the agents helping him accidentally texted him a message intended for another person at the company, indicating that the rep considered stalling Klering. “Just now got this,” it reads. “I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.” Klering now says that he’s looking into legal help.

We’ve asked Samsung for comment on both fires, particularly the one in Kentucky. However, it’s already safe to say that this doesn’t look good for the Korean tech giant. This represents three known fires in just the past week, and the Kentucky case happened the day before the Southwest Airlines fire that raised alarm bells. While the jury’s still out on whether these incidents are connected, there’s a mounting concern that the phone’s new battery isn’t any safer than before — or worse, that the Note 7 design is inherently flawed.

Via: The Verge (1), (2), Hatge (Twitter)

Source: KSTP, WKYT

9
Oct

Mobile, sun-seeking gardens, and more in the week that was


The Fisker Karma was one of the world’s hottest plug-in hybrid supercars when it debuted in 2011 – and now its creator Henrik Fisker has announced plans to launch an electric sports car with a 400-mile range next year. Meanwhile, Mercedes is taking aim at the Tesla Model X with its new Generation EQ SUV, which touts 400 horsepower and an all-electric driving range of 300 miles. The International Space Station is getting ready to test a brand new ion thruster that can be powered by space junk, and teenage inventor Boyan Slat has modified a C-130 Hercules aircraft with high-tech sensors to spot plastic debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Solar power is getting cheaper by the day – and two groundbreaking projects in China and Abu Dhabi have pushed the price down 25% in just five months. In other energy news, Poland just unveiled a glowing, bright blue bike lane that’s charged by the sun. The Water Seer is a new wind-powered gadget that pulls clean drinking water from thin air, and the Land Art Generator Initiative showcased a fog-harvesting, energy-generating boat that could collect 30 million gallons of water ever year. And an innovative algae-growing building took top prize in the Biodesign Competition.

In design and technology news, this week the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who invented the world’s tiniest machines. Gensler unveiled plans for a high-tech floating structure to house the UK Parliament on the River Thames, and we spotted a a futuristic Dutch community made from 50 spherical homes. You’ve probably heard of self-driving cars, but what about a self-driving garden? That’s the idea behind this crazy geodesic garden sphere that drives itself around in search of sunlight. And Sealtech has developed an innovative fabric that’s able to repair itself with just a touch.

9
Oct

Get ready to prove the skills on your resume in virtual reality


If you’re going to add skills you don’t actually have on your resume, make sure the employer won’t do everything in its power to make you prove it. Lloyds Banking Group, for instance, is putting potential employees to the test with the help of VR headsets. According to Wired, the British financial institution will ask applicants to perform tasks and solve issues they’re bound to encounter as the company’s employees, but in virtual worlds. By doing so, interviewers will have the chance to observe how they’ll handle problems they can’t recreate in an office instead of asking hypothetical situations.
Wired says the applicants will be placed in 360-degree virtual environments. Motion control sensors will track their actions, so they can move objects within those worlds. Lloyds plans to launch its high-tech job interview process at its recruitment drive this autumn, and we really wouldn’t be surprised if other companies follow suit. It’s only natural for people to find new uses for virtual reality the more common VR devices become, after all.

Source: Wired

9
Oct

Three Law Firms Join Class Action Lawsuit Against Apple Over iPhone 6 ‘Touch Disease’


Three additional law firms have joined a class action lawsuit against Apple over an alleged defect that causes iPhone 6 Plus touchscreens to become unresponsive and fail.

Back in August, reports began appearing from iPhone 6 owners describing an apparently latent manufacturing issue that causes a flickering bar to appear at the top of the screen and the display to become unresponsive or less responsive to touch.

A week later, three iPhone 6 owners filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court of Northern California after their devices presented symptoms of the problem – dubbed “touch disease” by repair website iFixit – which Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge.

Yesterday, Motherboard reported that lawyers who filed the class action complaint earlier this fall have now signed on three additional law firms to support their case, while an additional class action lawsuit related to the issue has been filed against Apple in Utah.

Richard McCune, an attorney in the California case, said he has been contacted by 10,000 people asking to join the suit, which accuses Apple of violating the state’s consumer fraud statutes, negligent misrepresentation, breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and other consumer act violations.

The “touch disease” flaw is thought to be caused by the touchscreen controller chips soldered to the iPhone’s logic board losing contact after a period of normal usage, because of Apple’s failure to incorporate a metal shield. So far, Apple has refused to repair the out-of-warranty iPhones without charge when the defect manifests. Worse, replacement refurbished handsets costing owners $329 have reportedly shown symptoms of the same problem within days or weeks of being issued.

iPhone-5s-metal-shield
Motherboard claims five separate current and former Apple Geniuses have confirmed that Apple is aware of the problem but will not tell customers about it.

However, Apple’s filed response to the most recent Utah complaint appears at least to signal a legal acknowledgement of the issue and the company’s lawyers have requested an “extension of time to respond to the Complaint” and asked that the Utah and California cases be combined into one.

Given the similarity between the [Utah] and [California] actions, it would unnecessarily tax judicial resources if these actions were to proceed in separate class action lawsuits—especially where the [Utah] and [California] Plaintiffs purport to represent the same putative class of all consumers who purchased an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

On Friday, McCune filed an updated lawsuit against Apple that includes several new plaintiffs and formally adds the three separate law firms to the legal battle. “Each of the firms (who had their own clients) brings strength to the case, including Stephen Larson of Larson O’Brien, who is a former Federal Judge,” McCune told Motherboard. “With these firms working with us, we believe it gives us the best chance of obtaining a positive result in the case for the owners of the phones.”

Related Roundup: iPhone 6s
Tag: lawsuit
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)
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9
Oct

Hive review: The British Gas smart system that’s the hub of all things


When British Gas called us in to the launch of Hive Active Heating, it was clear that this was the starting point for something bigger. Focusing initially where you would expect a heating company to focus, Active Heating was an easy first step. 

Thanks to a household name in British Gas, Hive has always had the advantage of being familiar and safe in a rapidly expanding universe of connected smarthome devices.

We originally reviewed Hive Active Heating at launch and updated it following the release of a much more attractive second-gen design. But Hive has continued to expand, fleshing out its offering, making any home smarter.

Here’s how the whole system plays together.

Hive review: A modular system

As the name suggests, Hive was originally conceived as a modular system. The app changes in recent times moved to open up more slots in the Hive dashboard where an expanding range of products will fit in.

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The entire Hive system relies on several things. The first is the Hive Hub. This is the part that connects to your internet router, giving it an online connection for access through your smartphone or laptop, wherever you happen to be in the world.

The second thing that Hive needs is an app or browser to control it. With Android and iOS apps your smartphone is covered, but Hive is also fully accessible through a browser dashboard, where you can do everything from adding new components to changing your heating schedule.

Hive review: Hive Active Heating

For many of us, Hive Active Heating is going to be the big piece of the puzzle. This is the starting point, the place where the internet of things has really found some traction and the area where you probably have to spend the most money.

  • Hive Active Heating 2.0 review: Style meets connected practicality

Ditching the old thermostat and moving to a modern controller with smartphone controls makes a lot of sense. We won’t repeat all aspects of our review here, but jump across the highlights.

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Hive’s latest controller offers a modern design so it looks great on your wall, offering a range of coloured frames so you can dress it up. You can opt for British Gas installation, at £259, or get the kit only at £179. There is multi-zone support (at additional cost), as well as control over your heating and hot water.

It’s been designed for British homes, so works with the types of boilers and systems in most homes – and you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.

Active Heating offers convenience features like geolocation (you’ve left the house, your heating doesn’t need to be on), holiday mode (you’re in Spain, you don’t need your heating on), as well as things like boost modes, so you can give the heating a blast if you’re feeling a bit chilly.

We’ve found Hive Active Heating to be getting progressively more stable, following the initial offering which was prone to disconnecting. A new hub and a new thermostat have made for a great system. That said, when Active Heating does disconnect, there’s little information: you probably won’t know until either the heating doesn’t turn on, or it doesn’t turn off. 

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An update we’d really like to see is some sort of self-diagnosis and alert through the app, because we’ve been lying in bed at night with the heating on full blast, wondering why it hasn’t turned off. Often, it’s because the thermostat has lost connection, but you’re unlikely to know that. Those sorts of incidents aren’t the norm, however, and generally speaking it works exactly as we’d expect it to.

It’s perhaps less sexy than Nest’s Learning Thermostat, but the reassurance of the British Gas name should bring some confidence.

Hive review: Hive Active Lights

The second area where smarthomes have made an impact is in lighting. Thanks to brands like Philips Hue, we’re all aware that lighting can now be a lot more high-tech than it once was. 

For Hive, the journey into lighting has only just begun, with an offering that only covers a few products. You get the option of screw or bayonet fitting (important for the UK market), but it’s all conventional bulb design at the moment: there’s no GU10 spotlight bulb, for example, which is a limitation.

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Hive Active Lights work on a simple plug and connect system, so long as you have a Hive Hub of course. You install the bulb, add it via your Hive app and then you have control. There are three options: dimmable, cool to warm light, and colour. 

The slight downside at the moment is that there are no switches to support the system. That means that once you’ve installed a bulb, you either have to turn it on and off with your regular switch (pointless), or you have to leave it on all the time and control it with your app (a faff).

That’s limiting for a number of reasons. Generally speaking, you don’t walk into a room in the dark and get your phone out to turn the lights on. So that makes Hive Active Lights currently better for routine lighting, rather than your main bedroom light, for example.

  • Smart lighting solutions: Here are seven options to choose from

You can have the standing lamp or side lamps in a room on all the time and controlled via a timing schedule, which is an attractive option. But for your main ceiling lights it’s currently not as attractive as the range of solutions that Hue offers with the tap and dimmer switches. 

What you can do, however, is setup your lights to turn themselves on and off while you’re away on holiday so the house looks occupied, as well as tying in with Hive’s other devices, like the motion sensor or door/window sensors. 

At £19 the standard white 9W LED Hive bulb at is pretty cheap. The cool to white bulb is £29 and the colour bulb is £44. Compare that to Hue, priced at £14, £24 and £49 for comparable products, and it’s all closely price –  just the Hue currently has a lot more on offer in its ecosystem. 

Hive Review: Hive sensors

Hive currently offers two sensors: a door or window frame sensor; and a motion sensor. These are fairly standard offerings for smarthome systems and you’ll get similar from Panasonic or Samsung SmartThings within those systems too.

The sensors can be used as a soft security system, alerting you when your front door is opened, for example. If you’re still in Spain and someone opens your front door, you might be concerned about that.

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Equally, when you’re quaffing sangria on the beach and motion is detected in your garage, that could be a cause for concern. Alerts can be delivered through the app, but you also get the option to create recipes in the IFTTT sense so that actions can result from a detection. 

Hive sets up a number of options for you around your system so that, for example, you can open your front door and have the lights turn on, which is pretty smart. Or you can have the motion detector turn on a light or a Hive Active Plug, to switch on a conventional light, for example. 

Setup of the sensors is incredibly easy. You just have to slip in the batteries and sync them to the app. The battery power means you can easily place them wherever you like, with sticky pads making for easy mounting. The only thing you need to ensure is that they are within range of the Hub.

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We’ve found both the frame sensors and motion sensor to work well, but they do highlight a current omission from Hive’s portfolio: a home camera. However, with IFTTT support there’s the potential to expand the remit of Hive outside of the current system that is offered, although we can’t profess to have tried it all out. 

Hive review: Hive Active Plug

One of the simplest devices in the Hive system is the Active Plug. This is essentially a plug that offers remote on and off controls. That’s useful for a number of reasons. Within the Hive system, as we’ve mentioned, you can set up trigger actions – motion detection turns on a light, for example. 

The Active Plug can also be controlled with on and off switching from your smartphone, as well as offering a large push-button on/off switch on the top, so you don’t have to use your phone to turn it on.

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That makes it ideal for anyone who worries about leaving the house with the hair straighteners left on. Now you can call up the app and cut the power to your GHDs, rather than worrying that you’ll burn the house down, or more importantly, burn out your straighteners.

Hive Active Plug connects into the system the same way that everything else does, meaning you can do things like connect something like a coffee machine to come on with a timer – or perhaps when you get out of bed in the morning.

It’s perhaps a little chunky, but like devices from Belkin’s WeMo, it does exactly what it says on the tin, with the advantage of offering seamless integration with Hive’s other devices.

Hive review: The Hive app

There have been a number of changes to the Hive app over the past few years as the system has evolved. The landing view gives you direct access to the different devices around your house, with the option to rename things, which is handy if it’s a bigger system.

The recent addition of recipes allows for custom use of the devices you have, but currently isn’t freeform. It adapts based on the devices you have, covering notifications, turning on plugs or lights based on detection from the motion or door sensor. You can’t, for example, turn on the heating from a door sensor, but then why would you?

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The app also lets you manage things like geolocation, letting you ring fence your house, with alerts telling you that you’ve left the house with the heating set at 25 degrees. Conversely, you get the same option on return.

The app also offers a holiday control mode. This will allow you set dates that you’re away so the heating goes into frost protection mode and you’re not wasting energy. What holiday mode currently doesn’t offer is integration into things like lighting. Having a sensible random lighting routine triggered by holiday mode would be a really handy addition.

Overall the app is stable enough and fairly easy to use. As we said that the start of this review, we’ve found connectivity to be getting more and more stable as Hive matures and with the expansion into a bigger system, we’ve had no problems connecting to or controlling more devices.

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That said, the app could be a little more intuitive, or a little more user friendly. Sometimes you have to head off into the settings to find something, while changing things like the heating schedule is a bit tedious – although the browser app makes things simpler.

As we said previously, we’d also like to see a little more information. If something isn’t going to work, we’d rather know in advance, so that we could do something about it. We’d even go as far as suggesting that there’s a soft reboot option added. If your thermostat has lost communication, a restart often fixes it and we’d really like to be able to do that remotely.

Verdict

Hive is making power moves to position itself as an all-inclusive smarthome system that’s primed for the UK market. With the familiarity of the British Gas badge on the box and an expanding collection of devices, it’s getting more compelling as an expanding ecosystem. 

The question is whether you want to put all your eggs in one basket. Hue currently offers a much wider range of lighting products, Nest offers cameras and smoke detectors in its system which are also very good.

This is the challenge that Hive will face: while we love the expanding options, there will also be independent market leaders, pulled together by services like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomeKit that will allow you do a lot of the same. Amazon Alexa will already allow you control some Hive elements, but also works with Hue, so mixing and matching systems is already becoming easier. 

Hive keeps things in the family. It gives you a reliable name and there’s something decidedly British about the whole thing. What Hive really needs to do is to continue the aggressive expansion with more variety, to bring the sizzle of systems like Hue and Nest, so it stays ahead of the head of the smarthome curve.

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