Disrupt NY 2013′s Startup Battlefield competition is underway, and now New York native Keen Home is taking the stage to present its first-round pitch. Keen Home is a home automation startup, which aims to follow in Nest’s footsteps by building remote vents for your central air conditioning and heating systems that can be controlled from your smartphone to optimally direct air where you actually need it — and away from places you don’t. Keen just launched its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo . Keen Home is the brainchild of Ryan Fant and Nayeem Hussain, both of whom have experience founding companies in the home real estate and property-management space. The two believe their startup can appeal to consumers who want both more convenience in managing their home’s HVAC systems, and who want to save money and conserve energy. Keen Home’s debut product, the Keen Vent, accomplishes both. The idea came from Fant noticing that when vents were closed in other rooms, heating and cooling the one he was currently in became much easier. The problem is that those vents generally operate separately, and manually, in most homes. Even with some systems that provide a remote, like Activent, they aren’t centrally controlled in a way that makes them individually manageable from an existing device like a smartphone. “We found that just by closing four vents in an average-sized home, we’ve reduced the run time of the furnace by about 30 percent,” Fant explained in an interview. “So not only were we redirecting air to rooms that were actually in use by intelligently closing vents, we were increasing efficiency, as well.” Keen believes that the focus is always on the thermostat when it comes to home heating and cooling efficiency solutions, which is good but it ignores other parts of the problem. The Keen Vent solves that, by providing both a user-guided and automated way of opening and closing vents to change how air flows through a home. A homeowner can set a schedule for individual vents, too, and it can plug into weather data to respond intelligently to changing conditions. Fant says the Keen Vent can provide up to 32 percent reduction in run time for HVAC systems, which means lower monthly bills and less toll on the environment. Most heating and cooling vents in households are around 60 years old, Keen Home said on stage during their Disrupt Battlefield presentation on Monday. Individual vent covers will cost around $40 per vent, Keen predicts, with a $150 charge for the system in total. There’s also a recurring fee of around $4 per month for access to the cloud-based management platform, which also provides monthly reports. But Fant and Hussain plan to partner with utility companies and homebuilders to try to offer the tech initially at a discount price, perhaps with, say, six months of service rolled into a new construction. It’s the same model that satellite radio provider Sirius/XM uses to sell subscriptions with new cars. Keen Home is launching its Keen Vent product on Indiegogo today, and believes that seeking crowdfunding, as well as traditional investment, will help it get the word out and prove product viability. Its biggest challenges will be proving to users that a recurring subscription around centralized vent control is worth the cost, and in making sure that legacy players like Honeywell don’t swoop in and simply build their own similar systems. The team says that being aggressive with partnerships with big utility companies, the way others like Nest and thinkeco have done in the past, will be the key to making sure it can overcome both. Keen said on stage that the majority of its audience would be people who don’t know what a smart home is, so they tried to make sure it was as easy to install as possible. That’s why they’ve made the install process as simple as possible, and setting up the online dashboard involves only entering a code and then doing a roughly 15 question survey. In addition, they’re planning to partner with HVAC contractors to take care of more complicated installs. Battery life is expected to be around a year for the vents, so it’d be roughly equivalent to changing the power source on devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
An anonymous reader writes “Microsoft is putting in real Wi-Fi hardware hotspots inside some copies of the latest issue of Forbes magazine. The unique Office 365 promotion was revealed in a post on the Slickdeals.net message board. The WiFi router, when activated, offers 15 days of free WiFi service via T-Mobile’s network on up to five devices at once.” Which is more impressive: Wi-Fi hotspot in 2013, or E-ink display in 2008? Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Another day, another Johnny Cash-accompanied test of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Grasshopper rocket—which is not to say this isn’t exciting, because consistency is the name of the game for a commercial reusable rocket. Especially the Grasshopper, which can take off and land vertically. In this most recent test, the Grasshopper takes off, hovers at about 820 feet, and lands neatly back on its launch pad. For those who haven’t been keeping track, that’s about triple the height of the last test , and six times higher than the test before that ! [ Elon Musk ] More »
Everyone who is not a good photographer is a bad photographer—a condition that’s only made worse because we insist on documenting our lives with abysmal smartphone cameras. And of all of the terrible things that ruin photos, blur from shooting at slow shutter speeds is amongst the most common ailments. Photoshop to the rescue! More »
It’s hardly a secret that the computer-buying public hasn’t fallen head over heels for the Windows 8 start screen. In fact, a whole cottage industry has sprung up around returning Windows to its version-7 glory. The latest rumors indicate that Microsoft may be moving to squash these apps, by enabling 8.1 to boot directly to the desktop and reinstating the start button. Code recently dug up in a DLL, buried within the bowels of a leaked version of Windows Blue strongly suggests that this relatively minor revision of the desktop and tablet OS could offer users a way to skip the live tiles and go right to the familiar UI of Windows past. An entry for “CanSuppressStartScreen” was found by quite a few different forum users in the TwinUI.dll file. Unfortunately, we were unable to confirm this ourselves. While there’s no hard evidence for a return of the start button just yet, the reliable Mary Jo Foley has heard from at least one source that Redmond is considering bringing the little logo orb back. Of course, nothing is certain yet. There’s no guarantee that either feature will actually make it into the final version of Windows 8.1 , but we’re sure at least a few of you have your fingers crossed. Filed under: Desktops , Tablets , Software , Microsoft Comments Source: ZDNet , WinBeta
Due to Microsoft’s confirmation that support for its Silverlight plugin will end and the rise of plugin-free browsers, Netflix will eventually need to stream to PCs using something other than the tech it’s had in place since 2008 .The company has already implemented one example of the technology for Samsung’s ARM Chromebooks , and plans to bring it to Chrome on PCs and Macs eventually. Right now, it’s waiting for several W3C initiatives it’s been working on called the HTML5 Premium Video extensions that handle things like video quality and DRM support to be fully implemented. Once the last one (Web Cryptography API) is available, it can ditch the custom API plugin it’s currently using and begin testing on PCs and Macs. Not mentioned, is any support for other platforms like Linux , although Netflix says it can’t wait until the features are ” implemented in all browsers!” Filed under: Home Entertainment , Internet , HD , Microsoft Comments Source: Netflix Tech Blog
Microsoft has pulled a Windows 7 security update released as part of this month’s Patch Tuesday after discovering it caused some machines to become unbootable. Update 2823324 , which was included in the MS13-036 bulletin , fixed a “moderate-level vulnerability” that requires an attacker to have physical computer access to be able to exploit a targeted computer, Dustin Childs, a group manager in the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing group, wrote in a blog post published Thursday evening. The company has now pulled it from the bulletin and is advising at least some Windows users who have installed it to uninstall the update following the guidance here . MS130-26 was one of nine bulletins released on Monday to fix 13 separate vulnerabilities. “We’ve determined that the update, when paired with certain third-party software, can cause system errors,” Childs wrote. “As a precaution, we stopped pushing 2823324 as an update when we began investigating the error reports, and have since removed it from the download center.” Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments