Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Slingbox Founder Makes Homes Smarter with Android: Mobile Technology News «

Blake Kirkorian has a knack for turning hobbies into business. After founding Slingbox, which was sold to EchoStar  in 2007, Kirkorian’s home automation project is now available for Android smartphones and tablets. Dubbed R2, the $99 software enables any web-connected Android handset or tablet to control lights, thermostats, home theater or other automated devices on a Crestron system from anywhere in the world. It takes the place of more expensive, single purpose, Crestron remote control units, much like the Sonos app takes the place of a more expensive remote for the wireless home audio system.

Crestron has already had a similar application for iOS devices since September of last year, so Kirkorian turned to Android for his hobby. But he didn’t just develop an Android application. In this video from last fall, Kirkorian explains that R2 can run Crestron projects developed for iOS tablets and phones without the need to recompile. R2 is both an application and a platform in that sense.

I have my own home automation system that I control with a much cheaper Android application, but there’s a huge difference in my solution. I’m building my system piecemeal as a do-it-yourself project. Crestron is, in Kirkorian’s words, “the 800-lb gorilla in the home/building control space,” with more than 2,000 products that interface with different products and systems. These various home automation products are sold through Crestron dealers which offer professional installation of the entire system. The private firm was founded in 1969 and currently employs more than 2,500 people to help develop, sell and install its high-end home automation systems.

In an email, Kirkorian suggests we’re on the brink of something big when it comes to smart homes and automation. I agree, and not just because Google is getting into this space with Android. The company last week introduced Android@Home, a wireless software solution combined with connected light-bulbs, media centers and appliances. The idea behind these types of systems is often lost on people who mistakenly think the solutions are meant to flip switches without getting off the couch. True smart homes can assist with energy efficiency by reducing power when it isn’t needed or by running appliances during off-peak electricity cycles.

The price and scope of smart sensors available for smartphones (think cameras, gyroscopes and more) are finding their way into various new products that can help our homes become more intelligent. My outdoor lights turn on 15 minutes prior to sundown daily, for example, thanks to a small computer and a connected switch that can receive wireless commands. The system parts are there; connectivity is available; and software is the last part needed to make such systems work together.

Much like the final mile of broadband, Kirkorian again shows he has a knack for understanding for that last little bit needed to make a home solution go from concept to reality.

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