Secure Your Contactless Cards with Merlo Wallets at Gadget Show Live



Merlo LogoHere in the UK, contactless smart cards are increasingly popular with every credit and debit card in my wallet now enabled for PIN-free low value transactions. They’re very popular as travel cards too, with London’s Oyster card being a good (but not unique) example. Convenient as this contactless technology is, there can be problems. With a wallet full of cards, sometimes the wrong card can charged or the right card not recognised, but there have also been scare stories about criminals using portable card readers to take small amounts.

Merlo has a solution to this problem with a lovely range of British-designed leather wallets with built-in blocking technology, plus two outer unshielded pockets. What this means is that you put most of your cards inside the wallet where they can’t be read but put the card(s) you do want to use in the outer pockets; say, one travel card and one payment card. Pass your wallet across the reader and the right card is used.

Merlo London

Part of the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I chatted with Mark from Merlo to understand more about their new wallets. Prices ranges from GB£38 to £75 with four different wallet types available for purchase from Merlo’s website.


British Inventors Project Awards at Gadget Show Live



British Inventors ProjectOne of the best bits of Gadget Show Live is the support for the British Inventors’ Project. Designed to showcase the best of British invention and innovation, the Project sets aside part of the GSL for the inventors to demonstrate their products. It’s always interesting to see what’s on show, with some inventions little more than sketches on the back of an envelope, to final products looking for trade buyers and distributors.

British Invention of the Year 2016There’s an award for the British Invention of the Year and last year the winner was the OmniO Rider, a backpack buggy. You can here my interview from last year’s show here and it was good see that this invention has gone on to full production.

In 2016, the British Invention of the Year award went to eFOLDi, an electric scooter that folds up into both a chair and a suitcase. The pictures show it both folded and unfolded, and the eFOLDi easily morphs between wheeled vehicle and suitcase. If you are interested, the eFOLDi is pre-ordering on Kickstarter for GB£699 (while pledge levels remain). The videos on Kickstarter show more detail on folding and unfolding the scooter. The project is a short of its £90,000 goal with a little over a third raised and 25 days to go. Good luck.

Regrettably, I didn’t get to interview the eFOLDi team, but I was able to record the award ceremony, which was hosted by Hosted by David McClelland and Jason Bradbury. The audio isn’t great – I was standing at the back!

eFOLDi

Over the next few posts, I’ll be covering the great inventions of the British Inventors’ Project 2016. There’s some fantastic stuff to come.


Rust Now Assigns a Permanent Gender to Characters



Rust logoRust is a survival game on Steam. It is created by Facepunch Studios. The game is currently an early access game and is in active development. A recent update randomly assigns a player a permanent character gender.

Rust is multiplayer game where players attempt to survive through awful conditions “where humanity has been reduced to cavemen”. There are several things that can cause your character to die including falls, prolonged exposure to radiation, starvation, and being killed by another player. That player can then take your stuff. Players can decide if they want to survive by killing the other players or if they want to make friends and band together with other players.

Players cannot, however, choose the gender of their character. When the game first became available, the only option was to play a white, male, character. Later, the game arbitrarily assigned players with unchangeable skin tones and faces. Recently, an update to Rust added female models to the game. As before, the game assigns the character’s gender and appearance. The gender of your character is assigned by your Steam ID.

As you may have expected, this has caused some players to complain because they do not want to play a female character. Some have gone so far as to state that they will quit playing the game if they have to play a female character. Others wanted to play as a female character, but were assigned a male character, and were disappointed. A quick read through the Rust Forums also reveals that there are some players who are very happy to have been assigned a female character (for a variety of reasons).

The Rust blog post about the update includes the following:

We understand this is a sore subject for a lot of people. We understand that you may now be a gender that you don’t identify with in real-life. We understand this causes you distress and makes you not want to play the game anymore. Technically nothing has changed, since half the population was already living with those feelings. The only difference is that whether you feel like this is now decided by your Steam ID instead of your real life gender.

The blog also notes that this is the first pass of an ongoing rework of the player model. This means that “you’re probably not stuck with your new face forever” (as the blog post explains). There is no indication that players will ever be allowed to customize their character themselves, though.


Smanos Launches K1 Smart Home at Gadget Show Live



Smanos LogoIn the last of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I look at one of the new entrants to the market, Smanos. The Dutch firm announced their new K1 Smart Hub at the show and while it’s a good-looking piece of kit, the K1 is coming into an increasingly crowded space. I chat with Rafael about Smanos and the difference it brings.

Coming from a security background, Smanos has brought its understanding of that space to the smart home. The first iteration of the K1 focusses on security: the starter kit includes a siren, door/window sensor, motion sensor and keypard with the Smart Hub. As might be expected, the devices use Z-Wave for communication and there’s an app for managing and controlling the system, so additional sensors can be added easily.

Smanos K1 Smart Hub

In order to set Smanos apart from the competition, the K1 has well designed sensors that wouldn’t look out of place in a bijoux pad. All white and chrome with surface detail, it’s clear that the sensors are part of a matched set, and not awkwardly thrown together to meet a functional need.

K1 Smart Home

In addition to the K1 Smart Hub (GB£249), Smanos launched the UFO panoramic Wi-Fi HD camera (£149) with a massive field of view, and a smart video doorbell (£159). Both of these look neat.


Congratulations SpaceX #1109



Congratulations SpaceX on a successful landing on the Barge. Was awe inspiring. In addition today Ohana, I have a full stack of tech news.. Mike Dell will be guest hosting next show, so I am sure he will entertain you better than I do.. I off to the World Wide Radio Summit and then NAB.

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Hive Expands for Smart Home at Gadget Show Live



Hive LogoA British Gas incubator, Hive has been a British success since 2013, bringing smart heating controls to UK homes. Building on the back of this success Hive are expanding their portfolio and making Hive the heart of the smart home. In the third of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I talk to Elvin about Hive and their new range of products.

Hive Heating SystemThe Hive team first realised that while almost everyone in Britain had a central heating system, it was often poorly controlled and inefficient, either through a lack of understanding of the controls or simple laziness. Few people go beyond adjusting a thermostat for summer and winter, never mind worrying about turning the heating off when out for the evening.

Next, they designed easy-to-use replacement heating controls that could be monitored and adjusted from a smartphone or website and fortunately the team used a standardised wireless protocol called ZigBee as part of the Hive solution. This crucially meant that the Hive system could now be extended with other new products using the same wireless technology.

Hive ThermostatHive have added the three smart home basics of smart plugs, motion sensors and window / door sensors, with lighting to come soon. As with any smart home, there’s the complementary smart phone app for the review and control of devices with the home.

Finally, the backing of British Gas as a household name gave homeowners reassurance to adopt the new technology and install Hive.

The Hive heating system consists of the main hub, thermostat and receiver, and it costs GB£249 including installation. Extending the system into a smart home costs £39 for the smart plug and £29 for the motion and door sensors. There’s more info on Hive at www.hivehome.com.


Reddit Expanded its “Block User” Feature



reddit-logo-01-674x501It appears that Reddit is working on making itself a nicer place to visit. The company has expanded its “block user” feature. This change was made at around the same time Reddit launched its new mobile app.

The Reddit announcement about the improved “block user” feature starts by pointing out that Reddit is a place “where virtually anyone can voice, ask about, or change their views on a wide range of topics, share personal, intimate feelings, or post cat pictures.” It goes on to acknowledge that this openness can lead to “less awesome stuff like spam, trolling, and worse, harassment.”

It turns out Reddit already had a “block user” feature. It was limited to apply only to private messages. The updated “block user” feature can be used to block users that reply to you in comment replies (in addition to private messages). All you need to do is click the “block user” button while viewing the reply from your inbox.

From that point on, the profile of the blocked user, along with all their comments, posts, and messages, will then be completely removed from your view. You will no longer be alerted if they message you further. As before, the block is completely silent to the blocked user.

In short, Reddit is making an effort to give users the ability to decide for themselves what kind of experience they want from Reddit. Or, as the Reddit post says: Our changes to user blocking are intended to let you decide what your boundaries are, and to give you the option to choose what you want – or don’t want – to be exposed to. The announcement encourages people to report harassment to Reddit’s community team.

Blocking a user means you won’t see anything else that user posts, but the blocked user will still be able to see everything you post publicly on Reddit. The expanded “block user” feature cannot be used to block entire subreddits and have them removed from your sight. It appears that that Reddit is planning on making more improvements. The announcement ends with: These are just our first steps toward improving the experience of Reddit, and we’re looking forward to announcing many more.


Fibaro Swipe at Gadget Show Live



Fibaro Home IntelligenceThe second of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live comes from Fibaro and their “Home Intelligence”. Originally from Poland, Fibaro was established in 2010 and consequently has one of the longer pedigrees in home automation and smart homes. I think it would fair to say Fibaro hasn’t received the public brand recognition it deserves but remains a choice for those in the know. I chat with Arron from Fibaro who tells me about their latest products.

As with any smart home solution, Fibaro’s system is controlled by a central hub but unlike most other vendors, Fibaro offers two hubs, the Home Center 2 and Home Center Lite, which meet different needs and budgets. Fibaro continues to offer extra choice with the option to retrofit controls into existing light and power sockets, or to integrate with new services like Philips Hue. There are all the standard smart home sensors too – motion, door/window, flood and smoke. What I particularly like about the Fibaro door sensor is that it comes in seven different colours – not everyone has white door frames!

Brand new to Fibaro is Swipe, a 3D motion-detecting panel which controls the system using hand gestures. Wave up, turn the lights up. Wave down, turn the lights off. Those are the simple gestures though Swipe can interpret several more movements and combinations of gestures too. Impressively, Swipe can be hidden behind stud walls or below desks so it’s not even visible, or it can be hidden in plain view as a photo frame. Contrary to the interview, Swipe is GB£119.99.

Fibaro Swipe

Apologies for the audio – it was very noisy in that part of Gadget Show Live.


Samsung SmartThings and Yale Smart Locks at Gadget Show Live



Yale LogoIt was smart homes galore at Gadget Show Live with at least five vendors showing off their wares. Geek News Central got interviews with four of them, and here I start with Samsung SmartThings and their partner Yale which has two smart locks which integrate with SmartThings. In this interview, I first talk with Miles, who takes me through SmartThings, followed by Hannah from Yale, who tells me about the new locks in the Smart Living range.

Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale have two locks in the SmartLiving range. One is the “Keyless Connected” smart lock to replace a rim cylinder, typically found on wooden doors, and the other is the “Keyfree Connected” smart lock for multipoint locks. Those locks are typically found on double-glazed, uPVC or composite doors.

Yale Keyfree Connected Smart Lock

Each lock has a range of unlock options from PINs, RFID cards, remote fobs and smartphone apps and there are additional security features to resist tampering, from alarms to lockouts after too many PINs have been entered. PINs can be from 4 to 10 long and 24hr PIN codes can be setup for visitors too

The Keyless lock is self-installed and priced from £99, though the Z-Wave equipped version is around £180. The Keyfree is around £350 but comes with installation.


Transparent Appliances from Morphy Richards at Gadget Show Live



Morphy Richards LogoWhen I arrived at Gadget Show Live, household and kitchen appliances weren’t at the forefront of my mind, but I was astounded by Morphy Richard’s transparent toaster and iron. Yes, you read that right – transparent – you can see right through them. Impressed and with thoughts of transparent aluminium, I chatted with Leon about the new “Redefine” range.

Morphy Richards have four appliances in the new range; a hot water dispenser, kettle, iron and toaster. While all are beautifully designed, it’s the latter two which make an impact with transparency when there’s a expectation of solidity. There are no tricks here with hidden wires either; the ThermoGlass is the heating element and gets hot to smooth the clothes and brown the bread. Aside from the visual impact of a see-through toaster, the ThermoGlass provides a lovely even heat across the whole surface and it’s easy to see how toasted the bread is.

Morphy Richards Toaster

In addition to the good looks, the new appliances focus on energy efficiency. The benefit of the hot water dispenser is that only the right amount of hot water is heated every time and the ATOMiST vapour iron uses 75% less energy and 80% less water.

The Redefine range has been on sale since before Christmas. The toaster is GB£199, the kettle is £99, the iron is £249 and hot water dispenser is £149. They’re pricey but you’re not just buying a kitchen gadget, you’re buying an aesthetic experience.

Morphy Richards iron