Category Archives: Interview

Flic Gets Smarter with Flic Hub at CES 2018



Flic‘s smart Bluetooth buttons will be familiar to GNC readers as I reviewed them back in 2017. To be honest, the buttons aren’t that smart but it’s the clever smartphone software that does all the cool stuff. Consequently, if the Flic button is out of range of the owner’s smartphone, it’s somewhat useless. Fortunately Flic recognised this and announced an Indiegogo campaign for a Flic Hub that would take away the reliance on a nearby smartphone. Todd clicks with Elin to find out what’s new at Flic.

The new Flic Hub removes the need for a nearby smartphone in a home or office environment and lets Flic smart buttons integrate more closely with other automation and process management systems. Flic is looking to grow in the enterprise with customers focusing in the safety and hospitality industries.

The Hub can communicate with more Flic buttons so in theory, there could be hundreds of buttons in a location, and the integrity of the overall system is improved without dependence on the smartphone vendors. This creates a more reliable and dependable platform that enterprise customers are looking for, taking Flic beyond smart buttons.

The Flic Hub is expected to go on-sale shortly.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Just a Drop of Blood with Apollo Medical Devices at CES 2018



With the advances in medical sciences and technology, there’s often no longer the need to “Send it to the lab, stat!” to get up-to-date info on blood chemistry. Soon, readings will be given at point of care in a few minutes, if not seconds. Todd consults with Brian on their latest blood diagnostic device.

Apollo Medical Devices has been working with Case Western Reserve University in Ohio to develop a point of care blood diagnostic unit that uses a drop of blood to give information in seconds on eight key indicators such as sodium, potassium, pH and blood oxygen.

The new devices should be in production with 12-18 months and cost will be in line with industry norms for the test.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Code Your Crab and Train Your Tortoise with BinaryBots at CES 2018



Self-assembly robots and smart toys are great for introducing and teaching children the basics of coding. It’s a hot area at the moment, especially with Nintendo Labo coming soon, but here we have British outfit BinaryBots and their animal-themed programmable robots. Todd and Chris play with the smart pets.

The team at BinaryBots have a range of robotic toys starting with straightforward cardboard-based models through to more complex creations using the Totem construction kits. There are crabs, spiders and tortoises, each will unique actions. The robots can be connected up to a BBC micro:bit computer for coding and programming. Children can code their robot and to see how it responds to light and other stimuli.

The cardboard-based robots are available now with the new Totem-based ones arriving in April. They’re priced at GB£40 / US$55 for the cardboard models and GB£60 / US$80 for the Totem, though you’ll need to buy your own micro:bit for the latter.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Need a Housesitter? Ask Kevin at CES 2018



It’s a sad statistic that around half of us in the Europe and US will experience a break-in or burglary during our lifetime and unfortunately, I’m one of those. Most burglaries are over in less than five minutes and by the time the police turn up, the criminals are long gone. Smart homes and security alarms only go so far and what you really want is to deter the burglars from breaking in at all. You need a housesitter and Mitipi have one called Kevin. Todd thought Kevin was a minion

Kevin is the first IoT device to simulate the presence of people in a room by emitting light, shadow effects, and sound, meaning burglars will think someone’s home, and won’t want to break in for fear of being confronted or even caught.

Kevin is extremely easy to use. Place the device in a main room with a window, say, the living room. Once set up, Kevin can be controlled via the buttons on the box, or through the companion app. To pretend someone is home, Kevin uses a smart logic that considers multiple factors such as location, language, weather and home type to produce a realistic simulation with light, sound and shadows.

Kevin is currently on Kickstarter and the best pledge is SFr249, which is around GB£190 or US$270. Delivery is expected in December 2018.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Keep Porch Pirates at Bay with BoxLock at CES 2018



From a consumer’s point of view, internet shopping is great: huge choice and prices to fit every pocket. Sure it takes a day or two to come but that only increases the rush while you wait for the delivery…..only that’s the snag. Many of us are in work when the delivery comes to our empty homes and either the delivery service takes it back to their depot or you parcel lies at risk of theft until you get home. BoxLock have an ingenious solution and Todd unlocks its potential with Brad.

BoxLock is an internet-connected smart padlock with a built-in barcode scanner. To use BoxLock, you first get a secure container or bin which can be locked using a traditional padlock – it’s usually called a hasp – and put it out front. The BoxLock then goes on the bin instead of the padlock.

When the delivery driver arrives, he (or she) simply grabs the BoxLock and presses the button on the top to scan the tracking number on the package. The BoxLock checks online via wifi and only packages addressed to you and that are actually out for delivery that day will unlock the BoxLock. The driver opens the container, places your package safely inside and then closes it all up.

Your BoxLock smartphone app then notifies you which package was scanned and that your BoxLock is safely locked with your packages inside.

Several of the big delivery companies are on board including FedEx, UPS, USPS and Amazon, so it’s perfect for keeping those porch pirates and packet thieves at bay.

BoxLock is current InDemand on Indiegogo for pre-ordering at US$109 (the video says $129 retail) with deliveries expected in June 2018.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Kolibree’s Magik Toothbrush Brings AR to Brushing at CES 2018



Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children and it can easily be prevented by regular and effective brushing. Getting children to brush is another matter entirely but French firm Kolibree are looking to gamification and augmented reality to get children excited about brushing. Todd finds out what is like to interview Arthur with a toothbrush in his mouth.

Kolibree’s Magik toothbrush plays an augmented reality game where the children defeat evil cavity monsters by attacking them with their toothbrush. Using a smartphone or tablet, the child sees themselves in a “magic mirror” and fight boss monsters to win superpower masks. At the end of a brushing session, the app shows the child and parent how well they’ve brushed and any areas missed.

The Magik brush is expected in Q3 2018 and Kolibree is looking to price it at under US$30. Sign up at Kolibree to hear when it’s ready to buy.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Petrics Helps Owners Shed Pet Pounds at CES 2018



Just as in humans, obesity in cats and dogs brings health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Over half of the pets in American households are overweight and this reduces their life expectancy by several years. Petrics want to help owners spend less time managing their pets and more time loving them with a couple of new products aimed at reducing obesity. No treats for Todd from Edward.

Winners of two CES Innovation awards, Petrics are coming at the problem from two fronts. First Petrics have a Health & Nutrition application which records the animal’s food and exercise, but also guides the owner towards appropriate meal choices for their pet. Second, Petrics are launching a smart pet bed which works with an activity tracker to measure pet exercise and weight. This will pass information to the Health & Nutrition app, giving the owner current and historical information about their animal’s condition to see if new regimes are having the right impact.

The app and bed will be coming to the market early in 2018, priced at US$100-$300 depending on the size of the bed.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Kano Codes for Kids at CES 2018



Kano‘s mission is to encourage people, particularly children, to see computers not as unchangeable appliances but as tools to be made, shaped, coded and shared. Their kits plug together bits, boards, buttons and cables to make individual and personalised computers. Joanna gets to the heart of the matter with Todd and the Pixel Kit.

Kano’s approach is to challenge each young developer into programming simple apps that achieve technical goals. Using Kano’s development tools, Kano Code, it’s really easy to build programs as the tools come with code building blocks for things like displaying an emoji or responding to noise via a microphone. It’s very easy to quickly produce something that’s fun and keeps children interested.

The Pixel Kit is available now for just under US$80 and GB£75 from both online shops and major retail stores.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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BIO-Key Uses The Power of Touch at CES 2018



Fingerprint readers are well established in all but the lowest cost smartphones – look at the Moto G-series for phones priced around US$200 – and it’s a trusted solution. So it’s not surprising that fingerprint readers are now appearing in other devices such as padlocks and bike locks. BIO-key are fingerprint specialists and have a range of locks and readers that do away with keys and passwords. Todd unlocks the potential of his finger with Scott.

BIO-key’s locks can be opened by a range of technologies depending on the model. Most use fingerprints, but others also have Bluetooth capabilities and some use PIN codes. There are some real benefits in using a fingerprint for unlocking – no key to lose, no combination to remember.
Prices start at US$39.99 for the TouchLock Designer, and a TSA approved lock is $54.95.

BIO-key produce fingerprint readers for PCs too, so if you don’t want to type in your password, check out these USB devices.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Lizn and Hear the Conversation at CES 2018



True wireless earphones have been around for about eighteen months and products are beginning to innovate away from making the earphones technically better and physically smaller. As an example, Lizn‘s “hearpieces” are wireless earphones but also have some properties of a hearing aid. Todd listens to Michael to find out more.

The clue to Lizn’s USP is in the name itself – it’s a play on “listen”. C’mon, keep up. As well as being discreet Bluetooth wireless earphones, the earphones have directional amplification to help the wearer hear conversation in difficult circumstances. The dual microphones use advanced sound processing to enhance the consonants in speech which helps understanding in noisy environments.

The earphones come in three different colours, ruby red, caffe latte and anthracite grey. They’re on pre-order for US$149 with an expected retail price of $199, and should be available in April.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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