Homes Just Got Smarter with Kibbi

British Inventors ProjectWith the Internet of Things and smart homes being all the rage, it’s inevitable that there would be at least one smart home system at Gadget Show Live taking part in the British Inventors Project. Here’s the Kibbi – homes just got smarter.

KibbiThe Kibbi intelligent hub provides round the clock security combined with entertainment. The built-in HD wide angle security camera monitors 24×7 with motion detection and night vision, and saves video footage to either cloud servers or local USB storage. The keyfob-size Kibbi sensors are fixed to doors, windows, fridges and measure movement, vibrations and temperature. The speaker announces alerts and can wirelessly stream music too from smartphones.

The complementary Kibbi app works with Android, iOS and Windows – it’s good to see the Windows app here too.

The Kibbi previously raised nearly $57,000 on Indiegogo and pre-orders (£170) can be made through the Kibbi website with Deliveries expected from May 2015.

Secure Your Vehicle With Your Smartphone

British Inventors ProjectRegrettably car theft is a major problem worldwide and while car security has improved significantly over the past years, an increasing number of cars are being stolen using cloned keys or bypassing keyless security systems. Demonstrated at Gadget Show Live, My Smart Remote is an additional layer of security that prevents thieves from stealing a vehicle even if they have the key, whether physical or otherwise.

MySmartRemoteMy Smart Remote consists of a small electronic unit and a smartphone app for both Android and iOS. The electronic unit is installed discreetly in the car and this can lock down the vehicle and stop the car from being started. The electronic unit communicates via Bluetooth with an app on the owner’s smartphone putting in extra security which is largely invisible and crucially unrelated to the vehicle itself. Consequently, even with a cloned key, the car is going nowhere. An enhanced version of My Smart Remote can also control internal features of the vehicle including the horn, air-conditioning and opening the boot (trunk). There’s an anti-carjacking feature too.

My Smart Remote is on pre-order at CrowdShed. £159 gets the standard security version and for additional internal control, the enhanced version costs £299.

Popcord Keyring Charging Cable

British Inventors ProjectOne of the few “tech” products at the British Inventors Project, the Popcord is a short USB charging cable which loops back on itself to hang on a keyring. As it’s on your keyring, you never leave it behind so any time your phone needs a charge, the Popcord is on hand.

Elegantly made from metal to complement the latest mobile devices, it’s available in six colours and two variants, one USB to micro-USB and the other USB to Lightning for Apple owners.

Popcord

It’s on pre-order at GB£29 or a little under US$42.50 and is expected to ship shortly.

Huawei Announces P8 and P8 Max Smartphones

Huawei LogoThis afternoon Huawei announced in London a pair of new Android smartphones; the expected P8 and the entirely unexpected P8 Max. The latter is a total whopper of a phone but more of this later.

I watched the show the on-line (in between streaming drop outs) to see CEO Huawei Consumer Business Group Richard Yu show off the P8 and its strengths. The presentation focussed on four areas – Design, Camera, Connectivity and Usability.

hw_424126The P8 looks good – it’s a metal unibody design with an almost frameless 5.2″ screen on the front, a rear camera that’s flush with the back  and only 6.4 mm thin.

The presentation spent a great deal of time over the camera. That’s because it’s very impressive. The specs say that it’s a 4 colour (RGBW) 13 MP camera with OIS but it’s the other features that stand-out.

Enhanced for low light conditions. Macro capability. Director mode controls three cameras to capture a scene from different angle. Built-in time-lapse photography. Dual tone camera flash with both a white and warm light. Fast face recognition. Scene detection.

Despite being a metal unibody, Huawei have done clever things with the antennas resulting in 50% fewer dropped calls and a 20% increase in call connection rate. Other tweaks include “Wi-Fi+” designed to provide best quality of experience based on history and hotspot connectivity. The P8 is three times faster at connecting to the network when powered on, say, after being on a flight.

The P8 can take two nano SIM cards. With one dedicated SIM slot, the other slot can take either an extra SIM or a microSD card up to 128 MB card.

The smartphone is powered by Kirin 930 64 bit octacore CPU, with four 2.0 GHz cores plus four 1.5 GHz cores. As you’d expect, the cores are allocated tasks appropriate to their speed.

Average battery life is expected to be 1.5 days or 1 day of heavy use. A new and unique feature is what Huawei called a “power firewall” which is design to stop excessive or abnormal requests from apps, thus improving the battery life by an extra 2.3 days of standby time.

Another unique is a new gesture called “knuckle sense technology”. It’s slightly bizarre but simply the P8 can tell the difference between touching the screen with a knuckle rather than a finger.This is then used to do special things like cutting out selections.

Voice+ gives a 58% volume increase for noisy environments and the phone achieves a 90% wind reduction even when using a single mic headset. There’s also a “Super hands-free” mode for conference calls. The press release also mentions a P8 variant with a rear eInk screen which will handy for reading ebooks.

All-in-all, it’s a very impressive package and shows how far Huawei has come. There are two versions of the P8; the standard device for €499 and the premium version for €599, which is competitively priced as long as they use a reasonable exchange rate.

Turning to the P8 Max, it’s a full fat version of the P8 with a whopping 6.8″ screen, 64 GB RAM and 4360 mAh battery (cf 5.2″, 16 GB, 2680 mAh). Huge!!!

Check out the features of the P8 in the video below. If you want to see the whole presentation, it’s here.

 

BASE Sends Photos to Pictures

British Inventors ProjectGNC’s Gadget Show Live coverage kicks off with two concept product ideas entered into the British Inventors’ Project. First up is Kristina Parkes’s BASE which “enables new forms of connection between distanced people, creating a tangible channel of communication through a system utilising flexible displays and remote app-based transmission.”

BASE Shelf

In plain English, you send photos from your smartphone using an app to Polaroid-style flexible displays in a friend’s or relative’s home. It’s a neat idea that builds on the impact of Instagram to keep family and friends together, and the display shelf concept shows BASE as attractive and functional. The video below demonstrates the concept well.

 

OnePlus’ OxygenOS Joins The Android Party

OnePlus LogoThe first release of OnePlusOxygenOS arrived today, bringing a choice of Android flavours to owners of the OnePlus One handset. As part of OnePlus’ long-term strategy, the current Cyanogen KitKat-based OS is being replaced by an in-house build based on Google’s Lollipop AOSP. OnePlus’ relationship with Cyanogen soured after the latter signed an exclusive deal with India’s Micromax for the subcontinent, but a Lollipop-based version of Cyanogen for the OnePlus One is still expected shortly.

Feedback from early adopters suggests that OxygenOS is close to vanilla Lollipop with a few customisations but not nearly as many as Cyanogen offers. Nexus meets OnePlus, as it were. A few known issues are present and installing the drop isn’t for the faint-hearted as the deployment is not an OTA update; flashing the ROM is required. OnePlus have produced a short video showing off the OS’ capabilities.

Early adopters have reported a few issues too, which leaves me in a quandary as a OnePlus One owner. I’m a big Nexus fan having owned the Nexus 4, 7, 9 and 10, and I think OxygenOS will suit me well. However, I moved away from the Nexus 4 after the first Lollipop release ruined the phone (sometimes calls connect but the caller can’t be heard) so I can’t afford another half-working phone. At this point, I’m going to hold off until there have been a few updates but I’m looking forward to a long-term future with OxygenOS.

I Just Wanted To Give You My Money, T-Mobile…

T-mobile logoI’ve been in the market for a couple of smartphones. Specifically, one iPhone 6 Plus for myself and one iPhone 6 for my wife (and fellow GNC contributor) Jen. I was all set to purchase the new phones from T-Mobile earlier this week. But the utter failure of T-Mobile’s website lead me to buying from a competitor instead.

When I logged on to the T-Mobile site, I was immediately greeted with this message:

T-Mobile website browser warning

 

I was using the latest version of Safari on an iMac running the latest version of OS X. And yeah, I get it. Safari is often a bit of a thorn in the side of web developers. But, come on. It’s 2015. Macs are everywhere and many Mac users (including me) prefer to use Safari. Upon seeing this message, I knew I was in for trouble. But I carried on, anyway. I closed the browser warning message and clicked the “Shop” link at the top of the T-Mobile site.

From there, I selected a silver iPhone 6 Plus and continued on thru the rate-plan selection process, which went OK. Then, I went to add the second phone and that’s when the process started to fail. When the iPhone 6 screen loaded, it never gave me an option to buy the phone. I was stuck. I went back to my shopping cart to try and resume the process, and after much lag I was eventually given a “Processing Error” page that told me something had gone wrong, to wait a few minutes and try again.

So, I waited a few minutes and tried again with no luck. I waited a few more minutes and made another attempt. Still nothing. I’m not sure how many times I repeated this process before I started getting frustrated. I imagine at this point, most people would’ve given up. I guess I’m stricken with some sort of weird combination of patience and stubbornness. But, the thing is, I really wanted to buy these iPhones from T-Mobile.

[Read more…]

Booking.com Launches Booking Now App

Booking.com logoI was somewhat surprised to learn that 50% of travel bookings made within 48 hours of departure are booked on a mobile device. On reflection, it’s perhaps not that surprising, given that the spontaneous decision to travel is likely to be followed up immediately, rather than waiting to get home to get the laptop out.

It’s with this opportunity in mind that accommodation site Booking.com has launched Booking Now, an instant booking app that can get a place to stay in as little as two taps. After a successful launch in the US and Canada, the app is now available in the UK for iOS devices with an Android version to follow. The app’s built-in intelligence, along with GPS, helps it choose the best properties based on your preferences from over 600,000 properties in 70,000 destinations.

Booking Now - Booking.com UK imageWith the launch of Booking Now, we’re increasing our investment in mobile by leveraging our global scale, assets and partnerships to accommodate the growing number of customers who are booking reservations within two days or less of their stay,” said Darren Huston, Chief Executive Officer of Booking.com. “The new app puts users at the centre of the booking experience, drawing from our vast database of properties to meet their specific preferences at the very moment they need to book. Booking Now is designed to deliver a seamless mobile experience for spontaneous consumers, fitting perfectly into their multi-device, on-demand lifestyle.

Booking Now personalises real-time search results based on the traveller profile created by each user when they first start to use the app. The profile indicates specific accommodation preferences, such as budget and options like parking, included breakfast and wifi. Users are then presented with the most relevant accommodation available based on profile and location. The traveller can then modify their choice of accommodation to suit their itinerary and the places that they want to see. With Booking Now’s predictive analytics, the more frequently customers use the app, the more personalised their recommended matches become. Additionally, as user’s swipe through the app, they can pin their top hotel choice to the map so they can see where the hotel is relative to their location or other attractions.

The Booking Now app can be downloaded from the relevant app stores – iOS only for now with Android coming soon.

If only I had more time and more money to be spontaneous!

Monitor Tyre Pressures with FOBO Tire

Fobo LogoIn-car tyre pressure monitoring is a valuable safety tool, alerting the driver to a potential problem as soon as the pressure drops. Depending on the cost of the car, the alert can be a single red warning light on the dash through to wheel-by-wheel pressure levels. Usually the feature has to be installed by the manufacturer but Fobo Tire is an after-market solution that can be easily fitted to any vehicle, both cars and bikes. Jamie and Nick take to the road with Kevin Tan from Fobo.

Fobo Tire is Bluetooth-based tyre pressure monitoring system, consisting of four sensors that screw onto the tyre’s pressure valve, replacing the dust caps. The sensors transmit data via Bluetooth both to a small monitoring unit that can remain in the vehicle and also to the owner’s smartphone or tablet. The smartphone app works with both iOS and Android, and the app can track up to 19 cars (4 x 19 sensors), so it’s good for multi-car families or small business.

Fobo Tire costs $179 for four sensors and the in-car monitoring unit, and Fobo Bike is $79 for only two sensors. Available now from Fobo’s on-line store.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Massive Audio Dr Who Bluetooth Speakers

Massive Audio LogoTom Baker will always by my Doctor with his long scarf and robotic K-9 companion. I haven’t really followed the recent successful re-invention of Dr Who but the Tardis and the Daleks will forever be part of my childhood. For fans of the show, the folks at Massive Audio now have a range of Dr Who Bluetooth speakers. Jamie and Nick get Whovian with Jeremy Larsson from Massive Audio.

Officially licensed from the BBC, the range includes a Tardis and two Dalek models, which have sound effects and flashing lights for extra fun. There’s a ten hour rechargeable battery and the unit can act as a speakerphone with a noise cancelling microphone.

The Tardis and Dalek Sec are currently on pre-order for $119 and the Assault Dalek is $149. The initial stock run sold out so the next batch is expected in March.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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