Philips Hue at Gadget Show Live

Hue Personal Wireless LightingWe’ve always been fans of the Philips Hue here at GNC and looking back I reviewed Hue back in December 2013. At that time, Hue was only a small range of connected light bulbs. Today Hue has a much wider range of bulbs and integrates with other elements of the connected home such as Nest, while Hue Tap brings practicality, turning on lights with a physical switch.

The latest addition to the family is Hue Go, a portable light with a built-in rechargeable battery giving three hours of light. Bowl-shaped and 12 cm across, the Go can be controlled as any Hue light via the app. Off-net when there’s no smartphone handy, the Go’s on lamp controls can switch through seven presets, making the Go great outside even when there’s no wi-fi.

Hue Go

For more on the latest developments in Hue’s world listen to my interview with Chris from Philips at Gadget Show Live.

Oomi Cube Smart Connected Home

Oomi LogoContinuing the current trend of connected homes and smart houses, Oomi‘s unique selling point is the user experience, claiming to be the easiest to setup and the smartest at learning. Jamie talks dream houses with Chris Hall, President of Oomi.

Eighteen months in the making, the heart of the Oomi system is the Oomi Cube and the Oomi Touch. The Cube is the brains of the system and is full of sensors, including ones for motion, noise, temperature, humidity, breaking glass and smoke. The Oomi Touch is an Android tablet which is used to setup and control the whole system though “Tap-and-Touch”. Tap the connected device to be added to the system and then touch the app on the tablet to get it setup correctly. Easy-peasy.

Oomi IQ is built-in to the Cube and the idea is that it learns from the activity in the home around it and starts responding to changes in an intelligent way. Simplistically, if it’s dark and there’s someone in the house, turn the lights on. Sounds great but it will be interesting to see how it works out.

Oomi will be available mid 2015 and pre-orders will initially be taken through Indiegogo, though the campaign is not yet live.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly  for the TechPodcast Network.

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Oort SmartHub Integrates With Bluetooth

Oort Logo

Smart homes and the Internet of Things are very much in vogue at CES this year with vendors offering a wide range of products, some of which hardly deserve the name “smart” and others that are genuinely innovative. In the latter camp, there is Oort which tries to “make your world smarter”. Don learns more from Radek Tadajewski, Wizard of Oort.

The difference between Oort and many of its competitors is that Oort has been designed to work openly with Bluetooth devices from the start. By using Bluetooth profiles as the integration mechanism, Oort can use any Bluetooth device that has the necessary profile. To get you started, there’s a $350 starter kit which includes the Oort hub, light bulbs, sockets and a tracker beacon though other devices can be added as needed. As you’d expect there’s a smartphone app for Android and iOS which communicates with the hub and the connected  devices. You can view the status of devices and sensors through the smartphone app, whether you are inside the house or sitting in the office, and you can turn devices on and off as needed.

There’s more in the interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Unikey Brings Keyless Entry To Your Home At CES

Unikey logo

It’s no secret that technology is making its way into every aspect of our lives, and our homes are no exception. Most of us know how frustrating it is to arrive home, only to spend 5 minutes digging around trying to find your house key. Fortunately, with new advances in smart technology, that nuisance could soon be a thing of the past.

Todd had the opportunity to talk with Dirk Wyckoff, VP Sales & Marketing at Unikey, a technology company that’s working to replace traditional keys with the convenience of a smartphone. Unikey’s technologies have been incorporated into a variety of smart-lock products, which wirelessly communicate with your smartphone to lock and unlock your door before you even touch the doorknob.

To find out more about Unikey and the products that use it, visit unikey.com.

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

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eyeSight Singlecue Gesture Control at CES

eyeSight logoWhen it comes to motion tracking and gesture control, gaming has shown the way especially with Microsoft Kinect and the Xbox. Outside of this arena, there’s been relatively little traction though eyeSight are hoping to change this state of affairs with Singlecue. The two Todds talk to Tal Kryzpow, VP of Product Management, to find out more.

The Singlecue is a tabletop device that’s roughly the same size as a Kinect, though unlike its sibling, the Singlecue has a small central display. Singlecue converts gestures, such as an upright finger to the lips, into an action, in this case “mute”, which it then passes onto the relevant devices in the room using infrared. As it uses IR, it’s compatible with almost every piece equipment in the home that uses a remote control. The Singlecue also uses WiFi to interact with technology such as Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lighting.

The Singlecue is currently on pre-order at $129 but will have MSRP of $199 when it goes on sale in Spring 2015.

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

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CES 2015 has Apple Home Kit compatible devices from Incipio

wac-outlet_1

Home automation, sometimes known by the scary name of “internet of things”, is a big deal these days. The recent CES show in Las Vegas did nothing to banish that notion. To compliment Apple’s recent Home Kit release, Incipio brought along some products to show off.

“When Apple announced HomeKit, our team immediately went to work on developing cost effective solutions that are deeply integrated with iOS and that have more compatibility than current home automation devices on the market,” says Andy Fathollahi, Chief Executive. “Today, Incipio delivers three user-friendly home automation solutions and a complimentary app, at an incredible value, that will truly impact and simplify day-to-day routines with just a tap of your device or a Siri voice command”.

The Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Outlet was unveiled, bringing automation to your plugged in items. There is also the Light Bulb Adapter and Power Strip. All products are compatible with Siri, can be used to create zones and controlled by the company’s own app. Pricing details follow below.

  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Outlet – MSRP $24.99
  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Light Bulb Adapter – MSRP $24.99
  • Incipio DIRECT Wireless Smart Power Strip – MSRP $59.99

Tekoia introduces new control for your home automation

Tekoia_logo_final_nobg-04-150x69Home automation may be the wave of the future, but it’s also becoming more standard for many people, thanks to popular items like the Philips Hue bulbs and more. As cool as it can seem, all of these new items need to be controlled by something. An Android app is the perfect fit for this, and thankfully there’s a new option for enthusiasts.

Tekoia’s SureMote is designed to let customers use a phone or tablet to control and monitor the home. It also covers media devices, accomplishing all of this through a combination of WiFi and an IR blaster.

“Currently, the app  covers all digital media appliance controlled by IR, as well as smart TV’s and security cameras controlled and monitored with WiFi”, the company states in its announcement. This includes smart TVs and media streamers including Samsung, LG, Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV.

The company plans support for Nest and various other home automation protocols. Availabilty details were not included in the announcement.

Philips Hue and FC Bayern Munich

Hue Personal Wireless LightingThis is going to be a challenging post for a large chunk of GNC’s audience. Not only is it about football with a round ball, it’s about German football too. Anyway….Philips have partnered with one of the biggest club’s in Europe, Fußball-Club Bayern München to promote Philips Hue LED lighting systemFC Bayern Munich logo (German / English)

With names familiar to soccer fans worldwide, the promotional video shows off the footwork of Xabi Alonso and Rafinha, the skills of Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer. The video’s short lighting sequences illustrate the wide range of options and lamp colour changes, all controllable via an app available for both iOS and Android.

The eye-catching and visually impressive campaign with the FC Bayern stars underlines Philips Lighting’s leadership,” says Thomas Fine, Head of Brand, Communications and Philips Digital DACH. “It also shows how the future of lighting looks in your own home, and how light brings emotions into our everyday life.Light Magic is the 20 second, emotional spot that runs on all major private broadcasters in Germany from mid-December onwards. There’s a longer version of the advert here.

In the coming months, the Munich football stadium will also be equipped with comprehensive exterior LED lighting. Its 380,000 light spots will allow dynamic colour changes with a range of 16 million colours, just like Philips Hue bulbs. The partnership between Philips and FC Bayern Munich is long-term, designed to increase awareness of light as an emotional product and position Philips as the leading innovator in the field of LED lighting.

You can read GNC’s review of the Philips Hue lighting system from last year.

Archos Connected Home Comes to CES

Archos LogoIn advance of next week’s CES, French firm Archos have announced a bundle of good news relating to their Smart Home which I reviewed a few months ago.

First, Archos is opening up the Smart Home ecosystem to the market standards for devices operating on the 433 MHz frequency, including compatibility with other major brands in the home automation market like Somfy, DI.O Chacon, Blyss, Otio and Conrad to control everything from blinds to heating and security. With the new “Learn & Control” feature, users can connect and control all their connected home accessories from their tablet or smartphone whether inside or outside of the home.

Archos Smart Home

“We are in an era where we want to control everything, and the home is central in this trend: no matter if we’re at work or anywhere else, we like knowing what’s happening at home and we want to be able to manage it, even when we’re not there. With the open Smart Home system, Archos is aiming to be a leading player in the home of the future” says Loic Poirier, CEO of Archos.

FoscamIn addition, the Archos Smart Home is now compatible with Foscam cameras, one of the market leaders in IP cameras. Owners can stream video directly on their smartphone or tablet, taking full advantage of the their IP camera’s features (HD video, IR night-vision, movement detection, PTZ movement) within Smart Home programs, e.g. opening a door activates a video recording, which is then streamed to a smartphone.

The Smart Home worked previously with the Tasker app but for those wanting to get into the Internet of Things, the features of the Archos Smart Home can now be mixed into IFTTT recipes to automate common activities.

And finally, the price of the Smart Home halved from an RRP of GB£199 to £99 with similar price cuts in the US. The Archos Smart Home system wasn’t without a few flaws, but at this price it’s an enticing entry point.

For more information about Archos and its entire selection of connected devices, visit Archos during CES 2015 at Sands Expo Hall A-C, Booth 70437.

Archos Smart Home Review

Archos LogoThese days it’s either i-this or smart-that with new gadgets measuring and changing our personal environment. From Fitbit to Philips Hue, the internet of things is steadily growing and into this increasingly connected world, French firm Archos have stepped in. Their Smart Home tablet wirelessly connects sensors to a central hub that monitors and initiates actions based on conditions. Archos kindly lent me a Smart Home to raise the IQ of my house. Let’s take a look.

Archos Smart Home Box

In the box there’s the Smart Home tablet, plus six connected objects; two mini-cams, two movement tags and two weather tags. The tablet itself looks much like a digital photo frame but it’s actually a small 7″ device running Android 4.2.

Archos Smart Home Front View

Archos Smart Home Rear View

In the looks department, the Smart Home tablet fits the bill with styling that wouldn’t look out of place in a living room. It is all plastic, including the screen which seems to be acrylic rather than glass, but perhaps will better withstand being knocked. Some thought has been given to the design as the screen’s viewing angle appears to be have been adjusted slightly so that screen looks good when someone looks down at it, rather than straight on. There’s only about 2.5 GB of free memory on-board but there is a microSD card slot to boost the Smart Home’s capacity. Performance-wise, it’s no speed demon with a 1.2 GHz ARM processor, but as most of the time the Smart Home just sits there receiving data, it’s a not a big deal. A camera and a thermometer are built into the tablet too and these can be used to take pictures and measure the temperatureas well as the connected objects.

The connected objects are shown below with the mini-cam, weather tag and movement tag from left to right. All have sticky pads which allow adhesion to flat surfaces round the house. The mini-cam ball is held in the foot by magnets and it means the ball can oriented in almost any direction. The weather tag measures temperature and humidity, and the movement tag can measure both motion and door opening / closing.

Archos Smart Home Sensors

Getting setup is easy and straightforward. Running the Archos Smart Home software initially asks for the different rooms where devices are located.

Smart Home Rooms

Once the rooms are setup, the connected objects can be added into the relevant room. The objects use Bluetooth rather than Zigbee and pairing is simply a case of holding down a button on the connected object for 5 seconds. It worked flawlessly. The pairing screen shows all the objects available, not only the ones in the box.

Accessories

Once all setup, the Smart Home tablet presents a view with the room and all the objects in the room.

Hall

In the Hall, I had two mini-cams, a weather tag and a movement tag. Tapping on any device in the app then gives more data or information – here’s the weather tag showing data over the past week for both temperature and humidity.

Temperature and Humidity

Great but how do we get from monitoring the weather to doing something smart? Archos have the answer by building simple “if this, do that” programs. For example, if temperature falls below two degrees Celsius, email to me “It might be slippy.” Or more usefully, if the door opens, take a picture and send an email – like this.

Program

Sure enough, when the front door is opened, I get an email (my personal email is address is obscured by the black box).

Mail

 

The mini-cam also takes a picture (or a short video) but they won’t show a live feed, presumably because Bluetooth can’t transfer the data very quickly. You’ll notice one of the slight problems….the Smart Home doesn’t really take pictures fast enough as in many of the photos the person who opened the door has already moved out of shot. These are all real life photos, nothing was staged. A mini-cam positioned further down the hall generally did better at getting people entering the property.

Minicam Pictures

Out of the box, there’s a fairly limited range of actions such as send email, turn on plug and so on, but Smart Home can use the Tasker app to do more. Tasker supports a wide range of actions, including starting other apps, which makes it quite a powerful solution. However, even this simple email-me-on-the-front-door-opening is useful when wanting to know if someone has arrived home safely (or a thief has broken into your house!)

Other nifty features are that the Smart Home can be accessed from other tablets or smartphones. After a straightforward authorisation process, the system can be viewed from other devices both inside and outside the house. Here’s what it looks like on my smartphone.

Smartphone View

Overall, the Smart Home worked well, mostly sitting on the table doing its job. I did find that I mostly used my ordinary tablet (a Nexus 7)  to work with the Smart Home rather than picking up the unit itself. I set the Smart Home tablet up as a digital photo frame using the standard Android Daydream screensaver to fit into the room.

There were a couple of problems, the first being the range and penetration of Bluetooth. I live in a modest house with brick walls which meant that the weather tag at the rear of the property couldn’t be picked up if the Smart Home tablet was in the front room. Secondly, battery life – the mini-cams seemed get through a set of batteries in about a fortnight and each one took three CR2450 button cells. The movement and weather tags weren’t quite so bad – perhaps a month and only one battery. As an aside there’s no way of muting the low battery warnings that appear in orange on the screen. A connected object could be disconnected but that deleted the historical date at the same time.

Bizarrely, the other problem was how I felt about spying on my family, which is not anything to do with the Archos Smart Home, so I’ll save that for another post. I can see the Smart Home working for families with children that come home when the parents are still at work and the email notifications would give any parent a measure of comfort that their son or daughter is home safe.

The Smart Home costs GB£199 from Archos’ online store. Other additional connected objects are “coming soon”, including an HD weatherproof camera and a siren tag. In summary, the Smart Home is a well integrated system that has room for expansion with more types of connected objects but watch out for the limitations of Bluetooth range and battery life.

Thanks to Archos for the loan of the Smart Home.