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Brief Published: 13 Jun 2014

Homey: Home-Automation Hub

Homey - a voice-activated home automation system

Homey is a new voice-activated home automation system that allows users to control everything from the temperature to the TV simply by talking to the device. Designed by Dutch start-up Athom, the project has already raised more than €170,000 ($230,000) on Kickstarter, beating its €100,000 ($135,500) target with 13 days to go.

Priced from €229 ($340), the small white orb is compatible with most wirelessly controlled household items, enabling users to manage their appliances, home entertainment systems, lighting, online data and social media accounts through just one hub. Using state-of-the-art speech recognition, Homey currently communicates in English, Dutch, Spanish and French, with more languages to be added soon.

Unlike other similar systems, which control appliances via an app, Homey combines the user's devices with internet services such as email and weather forecasts. This would enable it to warn you that it's going to rain, for example, and remind you to take your umbrella before leaving the house. On your departure, it could then turn down the thermostat, switch off all your lights and devices to save energy, and even ensure that your front door is securely locked.

Homey uses seven wireless technologies, including wi-fi, Bluetooth and near-field communication, along with a powerful infrared LED. The open-platform design also allows other developers to design apps for the system. For more on intelligent home devices, see Cromatica: Hackable Light Speaker; the voice-activated Ubi computer, featured in Touch-Free Tech; and CES 2014: Home Electronics.