At Home

At Home (15)

Friday, 20 May 2016 07:02

Sense Monitors Your Power Usage

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If you're wondering why your electric bill is so high, the Sense home energy monitor is just what you're looking for.  Install it in your electric panel, download the app, establish a WiFi connection, and Sense will detect the appliances connected to your power line and monitor their power usage.  Using current sensors on your circuit breakers, a 1 GHz ARM processor monitors the power line and "multidomain device signature detection algorithms" in the cloud distinguish one appliance from another.  That means that Sense doesn't rely on smart appliances for its data.  The gathered metrics are sent to the phone app giving you the time of day, duration, and the amount of power consumed for each appliance.

Currently the Sense app is available for the iPhone with an Android version promised for August 2016.  Web and computer interfaces and Sense Solar, a version for solar panels, are currently being developed for future release.


Thursday, 19 May 2016 07:09

Google Home Personal Assistant Unveiled

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Google Home is Google's answer to Amazon's Echo voice actuated assistant.  Like the Echo, it's a small plug-in speaker with multiple far-field microphones that pick voice commands from anywhere in the room.  You can have Google Home turn on the lights, set a timer, schedule an event, answer questions,  stream music, or control other compatible devices.  It  uses Google's Cast standard so you can have it can stream music to Home units in other rooms or talk to the Chromecast unit plugged into your TV to play video clips.  A customizable case will let you choose colors and materials to suit your décor.

Google Home won't be available until later this year, but Google announced it at their I/O conference yesterday to give  developers, and those considering purchasing a competitor's product, a heads up.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016 10:32

Wemo, Meet Nest

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WeMo, the home automation platform from Belkin, now can interact with the Nest Lab's Nest Thermostat.  Using the latest WeMo app, your WeMo controlled lights and devices can turn off or on with Nest's knowledge of you when you leave and return home.  It's no longer necessary to switch between WeMo and Nest apps either as you can use the WeMo app to control the Nest's target temperature.  Interaction with Nest is supported on the  WeMo Switch, WeMo Insight Switch, WeMo Light Switch, and WeMo maker. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016 07:59

Create A Personal Cloud

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Cloud storage is a common way of sharing your files among the computers and devices you own, but if your storage needs are great, you'll wind up paying for the privilege.  Lima let's you bypass the middleman and easily set up and manage your own cloud at home.  The device plugs into your router and an external USB hard drive of your choice to form a VPN using TLS military grade encryption.  Your cloud data is stored entirely on your hard drive, so your file capacity is determined by the size of your hard drive and not by the limitations of a third party server.  The Lima device can automatically transcode large media files, optimizing them for the size of the device, to ensure the best playback experience.  Going to be somwheare without internet access? No problem you can designate which files you want to be available off-line.  Communication between devices is peer-to-peer and only meta-data is exchanged for synchronization.

The Lima software runs Windows 7 and greater (desktop only),  Windows 10, OSX Yosemite and El Capitan, IOS 8 and 9, and Android 4.X and later.


Saturday, 14 May 2016 07:35

Amazon Dash Button Lets You Create Your Own IoT

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You're probably familiar with those dash buttons from Amazon that make it easier to order items like detergents, paper towels, and Doritos with a single click.  Now Amazon has released a programmable version so you can create your own IoT functionality.  The simple WiFi device connects to AWS IoT, AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon SNS, and many other Amazon Web Services without writing device-specific code.   You program the logic behind the button in the cloud to configure button clicks to count or track items, call or alert someone, start or stop something, order services, or even provide feedback. 

To get started you'll need the button and an Amazon AWS account.  You provision the button with your AWS IoT certificate and private key.  When you click the button it connects and publishes a message.  You configure the AWS IoT Rules Engine to decode single-click, double-click, or long-press events and route them to any AWS service. Alternatively, you can create a custom action using node.js, python, or Java in an AWS Lambda function to connect to third party services such as Facebook, Twilio, or Slack.   

Amazon suggests using button as a remote control for Netflix, a switch for your Philips Hue light bulb, a check-in/check-out device for Airbnb guests, or a way to order your favorite pizza for delivery as example applications. 

The buttons are currently unavailable, but Amazon can send you an email once they become available again.

Thursday, 12 May 2016 09:03

Light Your Camp - Charge Your Gear

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No more fumbling in the dark when you're out camping.  Just pick up your mobile device and turn on the lights with this connected lantern from BioLite.  The BioLite BaseLantern is a flatpack lantern that doubles as a miniature smart grid that can light group settings and charge your phone and other devices.  The lantern features a rechargeable 7800 mAh li-on battery that provides burn time of up to 54 hours or provide power to other devices via two USB ports.  Two custom ports on the lantern can power the company's SiteLites to light group settings.  The BaseLantern also is available with a more hefty 12000 mAh battery for extended use scenarios.

Bluetooth LE connects the lantern to an app on your IOS or Android device.  The app allows you not only to turn the lights on and off, but to dim and adjust the warmth (color temperature) of the light,  In fact, if you prefer, you can change the color of the light to any color of your choosing.  The app also controls any attached SiteLites, can activate a proximity mode that turns on the light automatically when someone approaches, and provides power usage analytics.

The BaseLantern is expected to be available October 2016


Wednesday, 11 May 2016 13:50

Wireless Turntable Connects With Social Media

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Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.  The TRNTBL from VNYL not only communicates with your speakers, headphones, and other devices via Bluetooth and AirPlay, but connects the tracks you spin to your friends and social media.  It does this identifying what you're playing and building a playlist which it shares with Spotify and which you can share with your friends.  Your friends can tune in on Spotify and stream what you're playing in realtime or stream the playlist from the beginning.

The TRNTBL is from the folks at VNYL, the $39 per month vinyl subscription service, and will be available this summer.  You can pre-order it now for $351 and pocket the savings from the regular retail price of $420 once it ships.


Monday, 01 June 2015 14:03

Air Analyzer Helps You Breath Easy

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The Awair smart air analyzer analyzes your indoor air quality in real time, learns your routines and communicates with other smart devices in your home helping achieve optimal air quality in your home or office.  You tell Awair what matters most- sleep, productivity, or allergies as examples, and it tracks  the air quality level in the given room and provides you with recommendations on how to change your behavior based on your habits and lifestyle preferences.

The unit's sensors monitor temperature, humidity, CO2 , toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and dust and comes up with a an Awair Score so you can understand the quality of air you're breathing.  It can connect to other smart devices such as thermostats, humidifiers, and air purifiers to help maintain optimal air quality.

Friday, 29 May 2015 10:33

Shield Media Hub Now Available

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NVIDIA's Shieldtm  Android TV device is now available in two versions.  The 16 GB Shieldtm is $199.99 and the 500 GB Shieldtm Pro is at $299.99 in the NVIDIA store.  The unit connects to your TV turning it into a media hub for streaming and game play.  Included apps include Netflix, Google Play Store, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Photos & Videos, and PLEX.

Shield is built around NVIDIA's Tegra ® X1 processor which NVIDIA claims provides up to 25 time the performance of other popular streaming devices.  Video features include 4K Ultra HD readiness and 4K playback at 60 FPS. 

If gaming is your thing, the box supports the NVIDIA Gridtm game streaming service, NVIDIA Share, and NVIDIA GameStreamtm.  The gaming controller and remote control units appear to optional accessories, but to sweeten the deal, NVIDIA is currently offering a $30 Google Play gift card and three free months of Google Play Music.  If you pony up to the Pro model, they'll also throw in a free copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

Monday, 25 May 2015 06:39

Liquor Bottle Has A Message For You

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Why put a message in bottle when you can put it on the bottle?  This vodka bottle from Medea has a scrolling LED message band that you can program using a free smart phone app or a button on the bottle.  "Everyone likes to see their name in lights,” says Brandon Laidlaw, president  and chief operating officer of Pleasanton, California-based Medea Vodka.

The bottle comes programmed with six built messages, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Congratulations, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I Love You that you can easily select or you can enter your own custom message.  Your message will scroll for 45 minutes before shutting down to conserve the battery.

The vodka in the bottle is reputedly not bad either having won the Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. 

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