Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Alertme gets fibre to the door

Back in the summer we had fibre-optic cable run to our offices in central Cambridge. Optical fibre can carry more data than any other kind of connection, so this is great for us as a web services company. In the UK our services are actually hosted at a decomissioned nuclear bunker in Kent, which has several fibre connections backing each other up, but having our own fibre connection lets us manage them better.

In Britain many ADSL broadband users will soon be getting their own fibre connections, as BT starts upgrading from copper wire. Fibre-to-the-door is already standard in parts of the US and South Korea, and can be expected to elevate the connected home to a whole new level.

Sorting through the year's photos I found some of Alertme's fibre being installed. In the top two it is being blown down the hill to us and in the bottom two it is being carefully run under the pavement to our front door.

20/20/20 by 2020

Earlier this month the 10,000-strong United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland didn't appear to achieve much, managing to remove a colon. However, it certainly advanced the intensely political process of agreeing what to do about climate change, and the EU affirmed previously set climate goals in the teeth of bad economic weather.

Those goals form the famous 20/20/20 by 2020 policy, first proposed by the European Commission in January 2007, approved by European Councils of first Environment, then Prime Ministers in February and March 2007, drawn up into a legislative package by the European Commission in January 2008, and now voted into effect by the European Parliament on December 17th, directly after the Poznań conference. Apart from providing an insight into the EU at work, what this means is that Europe has now legislated measures intended to let us meet three goals by the year 2020:
  • cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over 1990 levels; 30% if other countries act similarly
  • supply 20% of total energy (heat and transport as well as electricity) from renewables such as wind and sunshine
  • make efficiency savings of 20% over forecast consumption
Doing this in only eleven years will be no mean feat. The scale of investment needed in new, clean electricity generation is unprecedented. In 2005, the latest year for which Energy.eu has statistics, Europe supplied only 8.5% of its total energy needs from renewables, and of that a full 89% was supplied by biomass and hydropower. Biomass may be able to grow, but it tends to come with other environmental costs; hydropower has rather limited potential for further growth. Whichever renewable technology we use, building this much of it by 2020 means we have to start now, which means we can't wait and see what clever new technologies can do for us. It's a safe bet that we'll be seeing a lot more wind turbines and solar installations.

But energy production is only one arrow in the EU's quiver. The other is cheaper, easier, faster and more likely to hit it's '20% by 2020' target: efficiency. Efficiency gets a lot less press than glamorous energy production technologies, but it is something everyone can have a hand in, not just industry and government: 26% of the EU's total energy consumption is consumed at home. What's more, saving energy saves money as well as the environment - the cheapest kilowatt is the one you never use.

There are hundreds of ways to use less energy at home, by using it more efficiently, or by just not using it in the first place! According to the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, most households in the UK could cut their energy consumption by a third just by using it more efficiently. Alertme's energy management service will soon be able to help by showing you how you use energy - including whether you were at home at the time - and by suggesting how you could save it. By optimising your heating programme, which in the UK (and across the EU) accounts for about 70% of household energy consumption, we'll be able to save you even more energy without you having to lift a finger.

We'll talk about energy saving in more detail in future posts. For now, we should note that Poznań is an important half-way mark in a two-year negotiating process to reach a post-Kyoto climate change deal; the world's best hope for coordinating a response to climate change. The next UN Climate Change Conference is in Copenhagen in December 2009. It is expected to be make-or-break time for an effective successor to the Kyoto Treaty, and if incoming US President Barack Obama follows up on his promises, this time it it may well be led by the US.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Happiness is...

...having great customers who love us!

We've completed the first ever AlertMe customer survey. Twenty-nine percent of our customers made the effort to take part, giving us heaps of feedback on what we're doing right and how to make AlertMe even better.

We wanted to learn so rather than forcing tick-box answers, we asked mainly for free-form written responses, to hear from the heart as well as the head. We then trawled through the written answers, categorizing them into sensible categories. Here are the results, illuminated with a sprinkling of representative comments.

First we asked whether AlertMe is good value. A whopping 94% said "Yes!"
We then asked about overall satisfaction with AlertMe, and were delighted to hear that more than 30% of our customers think we are wonderful (OK, we did pre-pick the 5 categories for this one):

We asked "why?" - and here are some of the answers:
  • “Originally spouse was cynical of system and thought it was toys for the boys, but has been pleasantly surprised with the support and service provision”
  • “The ease of use, my girlfriend is a complete technophobe. All you have to press is one button or the other. I have yet to explain the online side of thing”
  • “A useful boy's toy according to my girlfriend….”
  • “Excellent, but sometimes has problems (e.g. sensors dropping off, keyfobs not always working). Reliability seems to increase with each firmware update”
  • “The booster lamp doesn't need to be a lamp...I'm not a student, I don't need a colour changing flashing lamp going 24hrs a day....”
  • “One battery fits all – brilliant”
  • “I think AlertMe type services are a very smart way of defending property, and are the way of the future”
Likes and Dislikes
We asked what you liked most, and least...

The six aspects of AlertMe that were liked most were (best first): Simplicity, Web interface, SMS/Email/Voice notification, Expandability, Customer Service and Style. It is really great to see that simplicity is valued so highly by our customers, because it takes a lot extra work "under the hood" to make a technical product simple - which is probably why so many technology companies just don't bother.

But before we get too big-headed, you were equally frank about the areas where you think we still have some way to go. The six aspects of AlertMe that were liked least were (worst first): Hub too quiet, keyfob too big, false alarms, bell box, hub light/volume control, no cameras. There were also several comments about gremlins and teething troubles. The good news is that we're already working to address all of these - except for bell-boxes which we hate almost as much as your neighbours do! If you'd like more window-stickers to use as a deterrent, please ask.

Would you recommend AlertMe?
We asked whether you'd recommend AlertMe to others. 63% of our customers have already recommended us, and to an average of 5 other people. In marketing-speak, this is "viral growth". Sounds horrible doesn't it, but it's a Good Thing!

Slide 14
Unexpected Features
It's fascinating to hear what surprises people had when they first installed and used AlertMe:
  • Temperature-measurement
  • Night mode
  • How big the keyfobs are …. and how small the hub is
  • Presence
  • Energy coming
  • Packaging ("wow" Apple-like experience)
  • The upgradability of it
  • That you can add so many accessories
  • GPRS and battery backup
  • Being able to control it via SMS
  • The phone-in feature
  • Didn't realise hub would play a message when alarm was triggered
  • Barking dog doorbell
  • Uploadable audio for doorbell sounds
(and my favourite...)
  • How fun it is!
We are driven by a passion to create a company which gives its customers a truly excellent experience. Our great team has put in a lot of hard work to try to achieve that, and it makes me very happy to see that, by and large, we are achieving it. Thank you so much for all your support, and sometimes your patience when things don't quite go according to plan.

Please keep the comments coming - we always love to hear from you - in the forums, by email, IM or phone.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Bubbles of Radio

I wanted to share this wonderful image which my colleague Amyas found - a beautiful visualisation of different radio technologies. Click on the picture to find out more...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Can we avoid a "lights out" scenario?

I went to a fascinating Cambridge Energy Forum meeting last week – around 100 people in the Cambridge Union debating chambers. Great mix of entrepreneurs, academics and energy businesspeople present, and the debate was chaired by Prof Ian Fells. The purpose of the evening was to kick-off of a 6-month project to thrash out an energy policy to present to the government. This will be tracked online with a wiki.

There were 3 short talks followed by debate:

1) Prof Fells has just co-authored a paper called “A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK”, with Candida Whitmill, who used to work for the DTI on energy. The thrust of the paper is that the lights will go out in the UK in 2014 (specifically, electricity supply will no-longer be able to meet demand), such is the huge hole we have got into due to the lack of new power station build over the past 10 years. It’s too late now even to build new power stations. Therefore forget climate change, energy security is a much more pressing problem.

2) The Financial Times' environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey then countered, saying that some of the assumptions were pessimistic, and that it is still possible to address energy security and climate change together.

3) Then Prof David Mackay, a well-known Cambridge mathematician (and founder of startups including MetaFAQ), presented his plan for getting the UK to carbon neutrality by 2050, avoiding an energy crisis along the way. This was really fun, gazillions of numbers, and he’s written a book which is free online called “Sustainable Energy, without the Hot Air. From memory:

a. Total energy requirements of the UK now 250GW

b. Convert all transport to electric

c. Knock down majority of old houses, since they are impossible to make energy efficient

d. Convert all home heating to airsource heatpumps (driven by electricity)

e. Build lots of nuclear, and lots of diverse electricity generation sources, from tidal and wind, and massive PV plants covering most of Libya and Algeria, delivering electricity into Europe (you lose 10% per 1000km in high voltage distribution).

f. Avoid all microgeneration. Wind turbines are ineffectual, CHP is much less carbon-efficient than heat-pumps, and even if we covered every rooftop in the UK, PV could only supply 5% (?) of our needs

g. To sustain a home’s energy need using wood burning, each home would need an area 20 times the size of the home’s footprint.

h. Prof MacKay lives in a Victorian home, and he has already reduced his energy consumption by more than 50%, by becoming very aware of where energy is going.

i. 4m people in UK are in fuel poverty today, defined as spending more than 10% of household income on energy. Will be 6m by 2010.

Everything I heard reinforces the view that we need to tackle the energy crisis in many ways simultaneously, and in particular that better management of domestic energy consumption can make a real difference, quickly.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Solar Air Heating in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

We’ve considered installing a solar-thermal hot water heating system at home - the rear roof of our house faces south-west which would be ideal. But we’ve been put-off by the capital cost and disruption, and also by the realisation that hot-water-heating is only a relatively small part of our total energy bill – which is dominated, in winter at least, by space-heating.

Because we have small children, our house is usually occupied even during the daytime, so in the Winter we have to set our “programmer” (timer) so that our central-heating is “on” for most of the day. In Summer we can of course turn our central-heating off completely. But Spring and Autumn are interesting seasons, because the outside air temperature varies unpredictably from balmy to freezing (so sometimes the heating is needed and sometimes not), and yet it is often sunny.

On the rear of our house we have a conservatory, which gets very warm when the sun shines. My wife realised that throwing-open the doors between the house and the conservatory on warm days provides a very effective way to air-heat the house – with no capital outlay. 

AlertMe makes this effect very visible, and shows us how to optimise it. The chart below shows a week earlier this month. All the inside rooms are averaged-together, and on 4 of the 7 days there is a significant proportion of the day when the conservatory is considerably hotter than the house. 


If we zoom-in and display the "typical day" from this data, we see that for about 6 hours of the day our conservatory can on average provide useful heating of our home, and we should open the doors at 11am and close them at 5pm.

Monday, 4 August 2008


Back in June we presented two talks at the second European ZigBee Developers Conference, in Munich. The two talks were on our experiences developing the first consumer ZigBee product and on how designers can make their ZigBee products easy to set up, without sacrificing security or interoperability.

It was exciting to see so many people working on ZigBee products - there were some great new enhancements on display including super-low-power designs, polarisation diversity antennae, and 868MHz modules, and we spoke to lots of people using ZigBee in new applications, including agricultural monitors, a lift manufacturer, and domestic energy monitors.

We're always happy to tell people how happy we are with ZigBee - the more companies we can persuade to ZigBify their products, the more devices we'll potentially be able to talk to!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Automated Home podcast out

Automated Home blogger Mark McCall has published an interview with AlertMe co-founder and director Pilgrim Beart and design engineer Amyas Phillips. In it he asks about how AlertMe came to be, our experiences with ZigBee and our plans for the future, plus we both get to recommend favourite pieces of gadgetry at the end.

You can listen online or get the podcast on itunes.

If you enjoy that (or maybe if you want to listen to someone else!) check out Mark's Top 10 Tech Podcasts as well.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Alertme more secure than banks

Our web security guru Steve has been getting all excited about a new website called TLS Report. Its already a massive hit amongst web administrators, now we think its time to share it with our blog readers too!

TLS Report tests the security of supposedly secure web services and gives them a grade and a score. The kind of security it tests is cryptographic, basically how hard it would be for an evesdropper to get hold of confidential information passing between your web browser and a website. That's different to other kinds of security, like not using the same password everywhere and not telling everyone that you collect diamonds as a hobby, but it is the basis for providing secure web services where you know that the website on the other end is the real deal, and that nobody in between you and the website can read what you're saying to each other.

TLS is actually the name of a protocol (Transport Layer Security) which browsers use to set up secure connections to websites. The first part of the protocol's job is to check that the website is really who it claims to be, and not a fraudulent phishing site (what's phishing?). This is done by checking the sites' certificates. To properly understand certificates, you need to understand something about how public key cryptography works, but basically they're digitally-signed documents from people we definitely trust saying "I know this website, and I say you can trust them too". If they check out, your browser can be sure this site is who it says it is. It is good practice to renew certificates regularly.

The next part of the protocol lets your browser agree with the secure website's server what kind of security to use - specifically what cryptographic cipher to use (what's a cipher?) and how to exchange keys (what's a key?). Most browsers support a variety of different ciphers and key exchange mechanisms, often including old and out of date ones which are no longer considered secure. Properly secure websites shouldn't offer to use these antiquated methods.

TLS Report checks the freshness and security of a sites' certificates, how up-to-date the ciphers and key exchange mechanisms are, whether the version of the TLS protocol itself is up to date, and whether the site meets the minimum requirements for some payments-related security standards. Then it gives the site a score.

Secure.alertme.com, where Alertme customers log in to their systems, ranks joint 3rd in the roll of honour with a grade A and a score of 82. Shop.alertme.com does equally well.

Is that good? Yes it is! Compare our score with some online banking web sites:
According to TLS Report, Alertme is better than all of them! (as of June 17th 2008 anyway)

There's some debate as to how TLS Report awards its grades, and the banks are sure to improve - that's really the point of TLS Report - but congratulations to Steve and his team!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

June newsletter out today!

If you're not on our mailing list already, read the latest AlertMe newsletter online here.

To subscribe, just send a blank email to friends@whenineedtoknow.com with the word 'subscribe' in the subject line.

Alertme comes out top in MSN.com review

MSN technology columnist Rob Clymo reviewed AlertMe against another system, and handed the laurels to us!

We've worked very hard on good design and ease of use, so we were especially pleased that Rob picked out those features for special praise:

"AlertMe wins the prize for idiot-proof set-up and installation."

"The component parts have been fabulously designed and look like a family of iPod peripherals in their brilliant white plastic finish."

Read the full review Beating the Burglars on MSN.com.

New features now available!

We've been working hard since our launch to bring you new features and a better AlertMe experience. Now we're delighted to announce that version 1.2 of the Alertme software is ready, and available as a free upgrade to all our customers.

So what's new?

'At Home' and 'Away' are now joined by 'Night Mode', a new mode for you to use when you're at home but want to protect unoccupied parts of your home. A new Lamp service lets you choose what you want each lamp to do when you are At Home, Away or in Night Mode. Keyfobs are now automatically detected when they leave or come back home, and you can set up Presence alerts to let you know by SMS or email when someone comes home, goes out or both. There is a new Voice of AlertMe to welcome you back to your home (and tell your intruders to go away).

We've also made lots of useful improvements:

Battery Life of battery-powered accessories is improved to between 18 months and 3 years, depending on the accessory. We now tell you the Causes of Alerts - when an Alarm goes off, we tell you why. The window/door sensor icons on the Accessories page now show you whether the corresponding door or window is open or closed. When an intruder alert has occurred, the hub now continues to sound the alarm until the alert is cleared by a keyfob or remotely via SMS or the website. myHistory now contains more information and events for you to browse and enjoy, and if you click on any accessory in the Accessories page a detailed information pane will appear. You can now delete sensors from your system. Finally, SMS control allows you to control and monitor your home via SMS text message on your mobile phone.

You can download a PDF of the full release notes here.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Changing faces

Laura James has left AlertMe. Laura's contributed a huge amount to AlertMe, and we all wish her luck in her new job.

You'll now find QA engineer Charles and the Customer Services team manning the forums, and various of us updating the blog. For AlertMe technology issues, including ZigBee and connected homes, please contact :

Dr Amyas Phillips
email : amyas@alertme.com
direct line +44 (0) 1223 222 157

For non-AlertMe things, Laura can be reached at lbjames /at/ gmail.com

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Crowdsourcing - for security?

AlertMe is always keen to spot other home security projects, even "hobbyist" ones that we know most of our customers wouldn't be able to do for themselves, because sometimes they embody interesting ideas.

The BUGLabs team, who produce an open source consumer electronics development platform, blogged this week about their home (well, office) security system. They've connected motion sensors and cameras, via a BUG system, to twitter and twitxr, so that friends of the company who follow these data feeds can spot people coming in to their office. You can keep an eye on their office with the rest of the crowd here; this is an example of crowdsourcing (what's crowd-sourcing?).

I think AlertMe disproves the statement "the static/automatic nature of an off-the-shelf consumer electronics device [means that it is] designed to do its task very specifically" - we show that consumer electronics can be a platform and can have new services deployed on it. But the general idea of crowd-sourcing security raises some interesting issues. Would you trust your twitter, or facebook, friends to monitor your home, or assess whether a picture was of an intruder or not? Does having information about your home's security online - either for anyone to read, or just for your online friends - is a security risk? Do you think they are more able to take action to help you and your home than other friends, family and neighbours? Or is AlertMe in fact already crowd-sourcing security, by keeping you and your nominated contacts in the loop via text and email? (Feel free to discuss this on our forum)

Nonetheless, the idea of a "Social Gadget Network" discussed in the post is an interesting one, and with AlertMe already producing text and email notifications from the home, we're part of it (along with Andy's house, the botanicalls potplants, and more).

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

European ZigBee developers conference

For all the ZigBee fans out there, AlertMe has had two talks accepted for the EuroZDC next month.

Amyas will be talking about the elephant in the room: commissioning, which is how you set up a ZigBee network from a bunch of disparate devices each with a ZigBee radio, and how you make it secure and functional for a range of applications. My talk is about AlertMe's experiences with ZigBee, how we choose it and tested its suitability for our application, and the challenges of going from prototype to product.

Hope to meet some of our readers in Munich! We're looking forward to getting more involved in the ZigBee community.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Gadget Show success!

AlertMe is enjoying the holiday weekend here in the UK, after a great week following our appearance on Channel 5's Gadget Show.

You can read what the show said about us here - we detected the burglars and informed the householder in seconds - just the way we intended :)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Set your recording devices!

AlertMe will be on the Gadget Show, Monday 28th April, Channel 5, 8pm.

All the staff will be poised with popcorn to see our kit starring on the small screen. We've not seen the footage yet, so we're waiting with baited breath...

Friday, 18 April 2008

Fighting crime, Web2.0 style

Greater Manchester Police now have a Facebook application, to alert users to local crime! Users get crime news items in their Facebook feed, and can post items of their own too.

There are even videos to raise awareness of crime issues.

Chief Constable Rob Taylor says “Facebook has 59 million users, seven million of which live in the UK, so we realised that this was an excellent way of spreading our messages to people on a more personal basis.”

(Thanks to Techcrunch UK for the link!)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

PIR-based Marauders Map

When we tell technically-minded people about Alertme, often their first question is "where are the cameras?" Well, there aren't any! For most situations, we think motion sensors do a better job.

There's a great illustration of the ways motion sensors are actually better than CCTV in this article on New Scientist's website. Its about how engineers at Mitsubishi's research labs in Cambridge, MA, used a network of simple Zigbee motion sensors to make a Marauder's Map, letting them monitor how people use and move around their building.

In the video, you can see how the PIRs let a single researcher monitor the whole building, with no need to intrude on everyone's privacy by blanketing the whole place with CCTV. In the locations where there is a CCTV record, the PIR data lets them search it much more effectively than they could otherwise.

CCTV often seems like the obvious choice for this sort of thing, but the problem with video is that machines find it difficult to understand and search, and it needs lots of costly equipment. PIRs on the other hand give an easy to understand 'someone's here' / 'nobody's here' message, are able to monitor a wider area, are very small and far more cost effective.

Of course, there are times when a picture is worth a thousand words, and being able to see whats going on in your home is exactly what you want. If you participated in our video survey, you'll already know we've been thinking about this. The consensus so far seems to be that you want a camera that works at night, doesn't have any wires, is easy to use, and is nice to look at. That's a tough specification, but we'll see what we can do!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

feeling secure?

Bruce Schneier often has something worth reading about security. Today he blogs about how people confuse feeling secure, and being secure. I quote: "If someone tries to convince us to spend money on a new type of home burglar alarm, we as society will know pretty quickly if he's got a clever security device or if he's a charlatan; we can monitor crime rates. But if that same person advocates a new national antiterrorism system, and there weren't any terrorist attacks before it was implemented, and there weren't any after it was implemented, how do we know if his system was effective?"

Well, a company may not be able to change crime rates overnight, but one thing we know is that with AlertMe, if you haven't heard from us, your home is safe and secure. So that's one less thing to worry about :)

Monday, 7 April 2008

I've got something new

Chill out with the girls on AlertMe's new video:

Now, where's that cocktail...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

IBM Master Inventor visits AlertMe

Just before Easter we had a visit from IBM Master Inventor Andy Stanford-Clark, who runs the Pervasive and Advanced Messaging Technologies team at Hursley Park. Hursley is home to several IBM products including Websphere MQ, which is middleware.

Middleware (which is also an interest of our friends in the Opera group) is software designed to move information around organisations, especially between other software applications. There are lots of ways software programs can talk to each other, but because organisations get things done by taking in raw materials - including information - and processing them into a final product, the movement of information through an organisation is extremely important. In fact, it is often their main reason for existing! When those information flows become very complex, and they usually do, it is hard for managers to know what's going on. Its even harder for them to change how things work. That's dangerous, because efficiency and being able to adapt quickly are vital survival skills for many businesses.

Middleware makes it easy to manage those information flows. It gets its name from where it sits, between the parts of the organisation that generate information and the parts that need information. It automates processes, makes sure applications can get information when they need it, translates between different applications' languages, keeps track of who's allowed to do what, and delivers messages reliably. That leaves application designers free to concentrate on doing what they need to do, instead of reinventing the wheel. Also, having all the business applications that share information talk to MQ and not directly to eachother makes it much easier to integrate new features and streamline the way things work. That gives business leaders more freedom to try things out and respond to change.

MQ was originally designed for corporate intranets, running on relatively powerful computers which could talk to each other via high speed links, but Andy and his team are busy extending it to work with lower bandwidth connections and less powerful devices. They're doing this with an MQ extension called Telemetry Transport (see MQTT.org). In the world of small and cheap connected devices, information flows are often very local - around a home, say, rather than around a corporation - and are often considered an integral part of a larger application, rather than simply connecting distinct applications together. But middleware still offers the same advantages of transparent design and easy reconfigurability.

Being an IBM Master Inventor, a big part of Andy's job is exploring how how his technology can be used. He's already demonstrated many applications using things like embedded linux computers connected by GPRS, and now he's interested in really tiny microprocessors connected by ZigBee.

We first read about his work in Eureka Magazine, which recently featured his Power Orb. The Orb reacts to his rate of electricity usage by changing colour from cool blue to hot red as it increases. Andy showed us how he can also get this information on his mobile phone (using a Java MIDlet) and even publish it to a Twitter account (what's Twitter?) via Twitter's API (what's an API?). In fact, if you look at his Twitter feed, you'll see that electricity is only a small part of the information Andy collects from his house - there are also updates on lighting, heating, temperature, phone and water usage. Each update comes from a simple sensor, via MQTT. The system works both ways too - it is possible to turn the fountain, lights and heaters on and off by flicking switches on a web page.

We got a lot of good ideas from Andy's visit, including a bunch of cool things AlertMe could do in the future. The Power Orb is a particularly interesting one, because we already have a Lamp accessory that glows pretty colours according to whatever rules we build for it. Twitter feeds excite us too, because they seem like such a great idea and the world is still figuring out what to do with them. We'd love to hear what you think! Sign up to our forums and let us know. How would you feel about your house having a Twitter feed? Would it be amazingly useful or scarily public? Would you prefer it to use IM? (what's IM?), or email? What would you want it to say to you?

Linux FTW!

The lovely folks over at Linuxdevices.com have featured AlertMe in their latest newsletter, and there is an interview with me posted here.

The article uses one of our splendid new kit photos:

Thursday, 13 March 2008

What do we want? Energy!

Our first survey is complete, and the results show that ways of monitoring and controlling energy usage at home were popular, so now we are drilling down to find out more detail about what you would like. Do you want to be green? Would you get an AlertMe kit that could help you check that granny was OK? Are you concerned about your utility bills? Let us know - AlertMe can help!

Try out our new Energy survey here.

A lucky winner

Our first online survey of customers, and potential customers, is now complete. This investigated a number of concepts which AlertMe could pursue now that we've launched Peace Of Mind. You can see the results here. The lucky winner of our Prize Draw was David Ely, pictured right. David says "It was fun taking part and learning more about where AlertMe is going. I'm looking forward to the next survey and another chance to win £200!"

Monday, 25 February 2008

It's official - AlertMe is ZigBee!

AlertMe's shipping product, our home security and monitoring kit, is now the first security system to obtain ZigBee product certification from the ZigBee Alliance! We are thrilled that our people-friendly smart home security system has been certified, which is the culmination of a lot of hard work to make sure that not only is our system great for users, but it meets the standards of the tech community too.

You can read the press release here.

Here's the ZigBee team celebrating - Laura James, Chris Holgate, and Amyas Phillips. We would like to thank Ant Skelton and all the people at Ember who have helped us, without whose sterling work this would not have been possible.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Will Hutton says "China needs AlertMe"

I went to the Cambridge Network Open meeting last night, and gave a short pitch about AlertMe before the meeting started, since Cambridge has been so supportive in our Beta test phase.

The well-known journalist Will Hutton was the guest speaker and gave a fascinating talk on his topic "China and the West in the 21st century". During the panel session after his talk, when asked what he thought China might need from the UK, Will responded that Cambridge in particular had two things that China values: academic excellence and the kind of enterprise and intellectual property creation represented by AlertMe.

Thanks for the quote, Will. I'm looking forward to reading your new book on China, The Writing on the Wall.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Special launch edition - up for auction!

AlertMe is now offering our SPECIAL LAUNCH EDITION - only 10 limited edition kits, signed by the team, and including an AlertMe logo T-shirt and 1 Gb USB memory stick!

It's up for auction on eBay - CLICK HERE TO BID.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

ZigBee at the Consumer Electronics Show

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas gets quite a lot of mainstream press these days, as well as being thoroughly covered in the "techie" media.

TechwebTV have a video interview about ZigBee, in which they talk to the ZigBee Alliance's head of marketing, Brent Hodges. Brent talks about the ways in which ZigBee can help people have more energy efficient homes, by connecting thermostats, appliances, lighting, and electricity meters together. He also mentions ZigBee being used for home security, and around 5 minutes 10 seconds into the clip, you'll spot AlertMe's demo!

If you're at CES this year, you will find our very own VP Marketing, Nik Rouda, at the Ember booth, and demos of our kit at both Ember and Control4's booths.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Solar Hot Water

Just before Christmas we had an interesting meeting with folks from Viridian Concepts. With high oil prices and global warming, there's lots of interest in domestic solar water heating solutions but it can take a long time for such systems to pay back their install costs. Viridian's novel approach is to avoid chasing every last percent of operating efficiency and focus instead on keeping the initial cost low, so payback time is short. Their "Solar House" report is a model example of how to gather and present data clearly, and a real treat for a graph-nut like me. They also taught us the important concept of Embodied Energy - the energy used to make a product, including all of its constituent parts.

If and when AlertMe integrates with domestic Heating controls, maybe we'll end-up working together - of course we plugged the benefits of ZigBee to them!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Ember powers AlertMe

News from AlertMe and Ember:

Read the press release here.

A great start to the New Year!