75% of Japanese Want Hacker Protection for Devices – Japanese consumers are very concerned about hacker attacks on the smart electronics in their homes. Most want an automated update service that prevents unauthorized access to data in devices over the Net. Electronica Trend Index 2020 surveyed 7000 consumers in seven countries and the Japanese consumers were the most aware of the data risks associated with smart electronics. But many Japanese also see smart electronics as a way to reduce risk in many areas of their lives. 79% favor alert systems making it safe for older people to stay in their own homes longer. And 74% want a car that autonomously alerts police and reports its location when stolen.

New Google Home is a Winner – It competes with Amazon’s Echo and may be a better deal, but the sound from it is terrible. It is a Wi-Fi speaker that reacts to voice commands like Echo, but with shocking accuracy. The vast Net knowledge of the search giant is part of its free Google Assistant app that comes with their Pixel smart phone. It is a personal and customized helper. It’s very small (smaller than the Echo), looking like a futuristic solid deodorant. Just plug it in, fire up the app, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and log into your Google account. You can link streaming from Spotify and Pandora or take advantage of the free six-month YouTube Red trial which gives an ad-free YouTube experience. There are limited controls on the device itself but it is really designed to be controlled with your voice. You can even start playing videos on your TV display with just a voice command if you use Chromecast Audio, the cheap ($35) dongle attached to regular speakers to stream music – that will improve the audio quality. Google Home can also control a variety of smart home appliances such as the Next thermostat, Phillips Hue lights, and other gadgets. Just tell it what you want to happen and it will handle the rest. Other services will want to tie in soon. Who wants fancy screen menus when you can just say out loud what you want to watch and have your TV light up with the right program? The Home is $129.

StormAudio, Part of Auro Technologies – Storm has entered the U.S. market with a line of high-quality home theater sound components, partly due to the popularlty of both UHD and object-based surround sound. Home theater has become again a hot market for professional system installers. StormAudio has a line of preamps/processors and amplifiers which include up to 32 channels of processing for formats such as Auro-3D, DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. The company is based in Belgium and their processors have the firm’s StormRemote monitoring technology and StormOptimizer room-EQ technologies. As an example, their PA 16 Elite delivers 225 watts into 16 channels ($11,500).