On3 PowerCliq Smart Battery Case

PowerCliq LogoCombo battery cases for the Apple iPhone are commonplace from no-name clones to well-known manufacturers whose brand is almost synonymous with the product. On the other hand, combined case, battery and Bluetooth headset packs with smart battery management are really quite rare. In fact, On3‘s PowerCliq is the only one I know of, so watch Don get a hands-on demo from Brad Yasar of On3.

The PowerCliq is a 2700 mAh battery case for the iPhone which has two additional features. The first is a Bluetooth 4.0 headset that slides into the back of the case for both storage and charging. The second is that the charging features of the external battery can be controlled by app on the iPhone. When plugged in, most battery packs simply charge until the smartphone is fully charged and then keep it topped up; there are some schools of thought that suggest this can be detrimental to the long-term performance of the battery.

On the PowerCliq, the app can be used to set a minimum battery level such that the recharging doesn’t kick in until the iPhone’s battery falls to that level and once fully charged, turns off. This larger discharge / charge cycle is supposed to improve the life of the battery.

The PowerCliq is fundraising on Kickstarter with early birds getting in at $88.  Update: since CES, the Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. There’s a note on Instagram saying that this is to allow for new developments and the campaign will restart soon.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Babolat Play Connected Racket Raises The Game

Babolat PlayBabolat‘s pedigree in tennis is hard to beat, going right the way back to the 19th Century, when the company helped create the first racket strings. Today, it’s pushing forwards into the 21st Century with a new connected racket based on their AeroPro Drive to help both tennis professionals and keen amateurs improve their game. Don chats with Jean-Marc Zimmermann, Babolat CIO.

The Babolat Play racket looks like an ordinary racket on the outside but with sensors integrated into the handle, players now have access to a wealth of information – power level, impact position on the racket head, type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash), top spin or back spin, all provided through a smartphone app for both Apple and Android. Incredibly, there are no sensors outside of the handle, so the racket can be treated like any other racket when it comes to match preparation and re-stringing. The racket can be taken on court for six hours between charges, which is plenty for a couple of matches, and holds over 150 hours of performance information.

The Babolat Play racket will be on sale in mid-January for $349. Two further models will be on sale; one lighter for junior players ($299) and one with a larger head (if I understand correctly), also at $349.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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ShotTracker Basketball Performance at CES

ShotTracker Logo

Sports such as running and cycling have been well supplied for several years with monitoring and tracking devices to record and improve performance. At this year’s CES, several other sports have become connected, including tennis with the Babolat Play racket and here basketball with the ShotTracker. Jamie and Todd chat to Davyeon Ross, Co-Founder of ShotTracker.

ShotTracker is made of 3 components: a wrist sensor, a net sensor and the ShotTracker App. The wrist sensor and net sensor work together to track shots: when a player shoots, the wrist sensor sends a signal that a shot was attempted and the net sensor sends a signal indicating if the ball made it into the basket. Both signals are sent to the mobile device via Bluetooth where the ShotTracker app keeps track of the player’s shooting stats. The wrist sensor fits into sweat band or sleeve to go on the player and the net sensor clips onto the net.

The app shows statistics (shots, makes and misses), gives workouts and helps identify on-court weaknesses. Data from multiple ShotTrackers can be aggregated into a coaching version of the ShotTracker app, giving a team view. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

The ShotTracker starter kit is on sale now for $149 from the store.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly andTodd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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StickyPassword Password Manager at CES

StickyPasswordOne of the plagues of modern life is the need to remember umpteen passwords and it’s getting worse as hackers get more sophisticated and passwords need to get longer and more complex. The ex-AVG team at StickyPassword have put together a comprehensive cross-platform password management solution. Todd sits down with Thomas to learn more.

StickyPassword Premium is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon devices, and can synchronise between multiple devices either via direct wifi or through the Amazon cloud. Security appears to covered with AES256 encryption and the data file is encrypted before transmission minimising the risk of interception during a sync. Where available, i.e. the iPhone, fingerprints can be used to secure the app and data: for everyone else it’s a single master password.

If you want to try it out, there’s a free version that has everything except the sync. For that it’s $19.99 a year.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Brinno Time-Lapse Cameras at CES

Brinno LogoAmongst other things, Brinno specialise in time-lapse cameras, recording life one frame at a time. Their products have proved very popular with the construction industry who often want to record the rise of a new building. The Gadget Professor, Don Blaine, chats with long time friend Chris Adams, Brinno President.

In a TPN world premiere, Brinno show off the TLC120, an update of the TLC200 Pro into a smaller package. The addition of wifi and a complementary app lets the user see what the camera sees on their smartphone. The TLC120 will go into a production in about a month.

To bring an extra dimension to time-lapse movies, Brinno are bringing out a rotating camera platform that can be controlled by wifi from an app too. The direction and rate of turn can be adjust by the owner and when combined with a relative rapid frame capture rate, creates great panoramic shots.

There are some cool time-lapse videos on Brinno’s site, from flowers blooming to an aircraft landing and moving a bridge, and there’s more on YouTube.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Smart Hearing Aids from Siemens at CES

Siemens Hearing Test IconAs people get older, one of the more common complaints is of hearing loss. Many of those getting older now have grown up with technology and expect more than brown lumps of plastic which simply won’t do in an Apple-designed world. Today’s hearing aids are small, discreet and smart. Todd hears about the latest products from Thomas Powers of Siemens Hearing Instruments.

Siemens’ latest assistive hearing device is the Binex, which uses signal processing to help people in traditionally difficult listening environments, especially those where there’s a high level of background noise, such as restaurants or trade shows. The aid intelligently reacts to the noise, filtering out the unwanted sound while keeping nearby voices clear.

Worn around the neck, the easyTek streams audio from a Bluetooth-connected device directly into the hearing aid so it’s great for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet. The easyTek can be controlled by the easyTek app for Android and iOS smartphones to discreetly adjust programmes and volume, listen at a preferred level without disturbing others or direct the microphone towards the next person at a restaurant.

Available now, the smart hearing aids cost around $1500-$2000 which includes assessment and fitting.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Perfect Bake with Connected Scales at CES

Perfect BakeAlthough the Internet of Things is very much of the moment, sometimes all you need is a connected device. In this case, the device being connected is a set of kitchen scales. Todd and Todd start cooking with Darin Barri and Perfect Bake Scale and App.

Targetted at cooks and bakers, Perfect Bake combines digital scales with a tablet app to make sure that the weight (or more correctly mass) is just right. Connected via the audio jack, scales can weigh in real-time, showing the quantity on the tablet screen. The app has hundreds of recipes and can walk the baker through the steps with mixing times and instructional videos. The scales come with colour-coded preparation bowls to help too and the app can adjust quantities to suit appetite.

There’s an even an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is right, so whatever’s baked, it’s baked perfectly every single time.

The app available for both Android and Apple devices, the Perfect Bake Scale and App is available now for $69.99 from Brookstone. A Bluetooth wireless version will be available later in 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Capti Narrator Comes To The Desktop

Capti LogoFor most people it’s usually faster to read than it is to listen but there are times when it’s better to listen than it is to read; while driving or at the gym, or even for pleasure to nod off to sleep. If this sounds of interest, take a look at Capti Narrator.

Capti Narrator is a popular app for the iPhone and iPad which takes text and reads it out. It’s sophisticated with features such as playlists and it can read from a range of textual formats (.pdf, .doc, .rtf, .epub, etc.) sourced from a variety of locations – Google Drive, Dropbox, Instapaper, local storage and more.

At this year’s CES, Charmtech Labs LLC has announced Capti Narrator v1.0 for Mac and Windows computers which greatly increases the flexibility of the app. If Capti is installed on more than one device, the playlist can be synchronised via Capti Cloud and seamlessly switched between devices. Capti makes it easy to add webpages to the playlist and it skips ads, menus, and other clutter and reassembles articles spread across multiple pages. Without installing Capti, the Capti Bookmarklet can be added into any web browser on Windows, Mac, or Linux to add webpages to Capti Cloud.

Capti can be downloaded for free from www.captivoice.com.

TrackR Bravo Goes to CES

Trackr LogoIndigogo darling TrackR is at CES 2015 to show off the latest incarnation of its mini trackers, the TrackR bravo. If you aren’t familiar with TrackR products, they’re small, coin-sized devices which easily attach to valuable items that you want to track, from keys to laptops and pets. And if you do misplace something precious, the TrackR app for both iOS and Android, can locate any lost item in seconds by ringing your missing item or point the way using TrackR’s Distance Indicator. If it’s really lost, you can use Crowd GPS to track it down.

Trackr Bravo

The latest version, the TrackR bravo, raised over $1 000 000 in funding at Indigogo and is in the closing stages of development with full production expected in February 2015. It’s only 3.5 mm thick and 31 mm across, making it easy to attach and there are accessories such as a pet collar attachment and a waterproof housing. The TrackR bravo can be pre-ordered for $29.

TrackR received a batch of the latest development samples just in time for the CES and they’ll be at the Sands Expo Booth #74335. Pop round and see the TrackR bravo in person.

Fitbit Flex Review

Fitbit LogoOver the past year, I’ve noticed more and more people wearing activity tracking devices and here in Northern Ireland I tend to see Fitbits rather than anything else.  Fitbit has been advertising on TV lately too with “It’s All Fit” and I’m sure that there will be a good number of Zips, Flexes and Charges under the Christmas tree come 25th December. I’ve worn a Zip for nearly two years as part of my efforts to keep my weight down and on review today I have the next model up, the Fitbit Flex. Let’s take a look.

FItbit Flex Package

The Fitbit Flex comes in a neat transparent package that shows off the coloured wristband and opening the packaging reveals the fitness tracker itself, large and small wrist bands, a USB sync dongle and a USB charging dock.

Fitbit Flex Contents

The fitness tracker itself is the small black rectangular unit and it’s slipped inside a small pocket in the wristband to be worn both during the day and asleep at night. The wristbands are made of a soft plastic and are available in ten different colours with additional coloured bands on sale from Fitbit’s online store. The large size fitted me well and the smaller one will suit women and children. It’s not obvious in the pictures, but the Flex uses a push-through buckle to keep the band on. It’s a little tricky to get clicked in sometimes, but it keeps the wristband on and in the two weeks of testing I’ve not had any problems with the Flex falling off accidentally. The Flex is supposed to be water resistant to 10m (30ft) and while I didn’t go that deep, it did survive 1000m of surface swimming.

The tracker has a set of LEDs which show through the transparent plastic window on the wrist band. The user interface is simple with five round LEDs used to communicate with the owner and at a basic level, each dot represents a fifth of the way towards the daily target. For example, if the target is 10,000 steps, one LED is worth 2,000 steps. The picture below shows the tracker has measured 6,000 steps, give or take. Normally none of the lights are on but tap on the band at the tracker and the lights come on.

Fitbit Flex

The Flex has an internal rechargeable battery which lasts about 5 days between charges. To charge the Flex up, the tracker unit is taken out of the wristband and placed in the USB charging cradle which in turn is plugged into any available USB port. Charging is relatively quick, typically taking less than an hour.

Getting the activity data off the Flex is easy too, with syncing available between the Flex and both PCs and smartphones. Fitbit is agnostic with clients available for Windows, Macs, Android and iOS, though check compatibility to be sure as the phone or tablet has to support the Low Energy (LE) version of Bluetooth. Syncing with a desktop or laptop is a case of downloading and installing the app, sticking the USB dongle in and getting going. The dongle and Flex are pre-paired so there’s nothing to worry about there. Sync to a phone is similar – download the app from the relevant store and run it. The app will automatically search for the Flex and connect up. A Fitbit login is needed from fitbit.com and signing up for that is free. There’s a full lifestyle portal online which gives access to fitness stats from any web browser.

Personally I used my Flex almost exclusively with my Android phone (Nexus 4) and tablet (Nexus 9). The app shows daily activity, sleep patterns and can record exercise, weight, food and water if the information is added in conscientiously.

Flex Summary  Flex Summar

Different views of the data can be shown – on the left below is a weekly view. Contrary to indications, I didn’t spend Saturday lounging in front of the TV, but forgot to put the Flex on! The Flex can also track sleep patterns, though it can’t automatically detect sleep and needs the wearer to indicate the approximate time of going to bed and getting up.

Weekly Flex Summary  Flex Sleep Tracking

The Flex unit can vibrate too and vibration is used to give feedback to the wearer on attaining goals. It can be used as an alarm as well and although I wasn’t really keen on wearing the Flex in bed, the wake-up alarm worked well for me, prodding me to stir when I’d turned my other alarm off. I don’t normally wear a watch in bed so I did find wearing the Flex at night a little odd but that’s very much a personal feeling.

In the two weeks I used the Flex, I didn’t come across any other problems bar one time that the unit needed reset. I’m not sure what happened: I think I might have tried to sync with the Flex from both phone and the tablet at the same time but resetting the Flex was simple using the normal paperclip-in-reset-hole and no activity data was lost.

I came to this review as a Fitbit Zip wearer and to start with, I did think that the Flex was a little bit of a backward step as I couldn’t see the number of paces that I’d taken – the Zip shows this information on a small LCD screen.  However, over the course of the trial, I’ve got used to it and if I really want to know, I can do a quick sync with my phone to get the data. The Flex is much better than the Zip when it comes to wearing during activity and doesn’t get accidentally pulled off or left in the locker on trousers. The water resistance of the Flex is a bonus too. One downside is that the Flex doesn’t tell the time, so it can’t replace a wristwatch. For many people this isn’t an issue as they don’t wear a watch but for those who do, the Fitbit Charge is perhaps the answer.

The Fitbit Flex is priced at £79.99 RRP but can be found a little cheaper on-line.

Thanks to Fitbit for providing the Flex for review.