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Honeywell launches new smartphone-enabled thermostat [Star Tribune (Minneapolis) :: ]
[June 10, 2014]

Honeywell launches new smartphone-enabled thermostat [Star Tribune (Minneapolis) :: ]

(Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 11--These days, smartphones allow people to deposit their paychecks, map their destinations and, of course, order pizza. Now Honeywell offers a new twist: a thermostat that tracks your smartphone and automatically resets temperatures whenever you're out of the house.

Honeywell introduced the device, called Lyric, on Tuesday as the smarter, hipper version of the iconic "Round" thermostat that Honeywell first offered to American homeowners in 1945. Today's version uses Wi-Fi, "the cloud" and encrypted data, and it promises to be very green.

"The Lyric thermostat knows when you are coming and going based on smartphone location and so can deliver comfort when you're home and savings when you're away," said Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell's Environmental and Combustion Controls division. "Using the location of your smartphone, the geofence feature automatically turns the Lyric thermostat into energy-saving mode when a home is empty and then senses when you are coming home and heats or cools the house to your preferred temperature." Honeywell's device will retail for about $279 and can be installed professionally or by the homeowner. It will be available in Lowes stores in August and in Home Depot and other retail stores around October, said Tony Uttley, vice president and general manager of Honeywell's Home Comfort and Energy Systems.

Lyric comes a year after Honeywell introduced a voice-activated thermostat and a pilot system that, using Wi-Fi, can connect appliances, lights, heating and entertainment equipment to an e-reader that dispenses energy-saving tips. The idea is to make energy savings and comfort effortless, while staying cutting edge for consumers who expect more wireless conveniences for the home.

It took 18 months, millions of dollars and a team of about 50 engineers, programmers, designers and marketers to bring Lyric to market. Uttley said the market for all Wi-Fi-connected home appliance and energy systems is estimated to be $5 billion and Honeywell intends to increase its market share.

Lyric's geofence feature is set by the homeowners to detect when their cellphone passes a preset perimeter that is either 500 feet or 7 miles from the house. Officials insisted that the device won't track a person's location but only senses when the cellphone passes the designated virtual "fence." At that point, the Lyric app will calibrate and reset a house thermostat to the best energy efficient setting possible -- usually between about 62 and 85 degrees. Midwest homeowners should expect to save $133 to $173 a year with the automated resetting, Honeywell said. Customers in other parts of the country could save more or less.

Kevin Weirich, Honeywell senior product marketing manager, said the Lyric thermostat is the first in a family of Lyric products that will roll out over the next few months. The idea is to offer wireless technology that maximizes "home connectivity." Future Lyric products will link smartphones with multiple systems that let homeowners remotely turn on security systems, lock doors, turn off lights and shut garage doors from any location, Uttley said.

Right now Lyric is a sleek round thermostat that is embedded in a wall just like its "Round" predecessor. But the new device glows red when the heat turns on, blue when the air conditioner comes on and green when the system is in the energy-efficiency mode. With the tap of a button, it also displays weather and humidity information and can be programmed to send automatic alerts when the furnace filter needs maintenance.

Consumer concerns? But some consumer watchdog groups say homeowners should ask questions before embracing countless phone apps and home technologies that use Wi-Fi systems to track every little detail.

"When you look at apps like this, the real questions are 'how long will they keep the data? Is it personally identifiable? Who has access to the data?' Often these are hard questions to get. If they are, that should be a concern," said Rebecca Jeschke, media relations director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Some tracking technologies, such as toll readers on cars and cellphone data, have found their way into court cases involving divorces, custody battles and police demands for data, she said. But beyond privacy issues, there could be security issues.

Honeywell officials said they anticipated such questions.

"The way we do data encryption [and testing] is state of the art," Uttley said. "Because of our aerospace and defense work, we have to take data privacy extremely seriously and cybersecurity extremely seriously. So this Lyric platform was built with that in mind." Dee DePass -- 612-673-7725 ___ (c)2014 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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