Tag Archives: Samsung

Ikea Tradfri Outlet with Samsung SmartThings



Samsung’s SmartThings might be one of the smarthome market leaders but its branded sensors aren’t the cheapest by a long way. Savvy SmartThings specialists are constantly on the hunt for cheaper devices from other vendors but these often require custom code (device handlers) or strange steps to get them linked up.

Coming from the other direction, Swedish homemakers Ikea have their own smart home system called Tradfri. It’s currently more of a Philips Hue competitor as it focuses on lighting but it is expanding and has recently brought a smart plug to market….or as Ikea calls it, a wireless control outlet. It uses Zigbee for communication, and best of all, it only costs GB£9 compared with over GB£40 for the SmartThings variant. Let’s take a look.

 

The Tradfri wireless outlet isn’t going to be winning any design awards. It’s plain white plastic all round, with a hidden white LED at the bottom. Right underneath is a small pinhole for resetting the device with a paperclip. There’s no override button to turn the plug on or off, so keep a smartphone or tablet handy. The unit is rated at 13A / 3kW but not for inductive loads, i.e. no washing machines.

 

Enough of what it looks like…can the Tradfri smart socket work with SmartThings? It certainly can! It just takes a little care and some simple configuration via the SmartThings portal. There’s no need for device handlers or any advanced SmartThings tweaking.

The first step is to get the outlet paired with SmartThings. Fire up the SmartThings app (I’m still using Classic) on your phone or tablet and choose “Add a Thing”. The app will start looking for devices and there’s two gotchas here. One, the Tradfri device needs to be reasonably close to the SmartThings hub and two, the device needs to be reset via the pin hole on the bottom of the case. Just push in with a paper clip for a few seconds and the little LED will pulse at the bottom.

Within a few seconds, SmartThings will find a Thing but won’t know what type of Thing it is or what features it has. This is where the SmartThings IDE comes in at https://graph.api.smartthings.com/. You’ll need to login with either a Samsung or SmartThings account.

Once logged, in go to My Locations and choose your place. I’ve had to redact a few items for my privacy.

Now click on devices to get all the devices in the location. Scroll down through the list until you find the Thing. To make it easy, it’s in alphabetical order.

Click on Thing and then Edit to see the device’s current properties.

Change where it says 2015 Samsung Smart TV to ZigBee Switch and then hit the Update button.

The Thing’s revised entry now has ZigBee Switch and Local processing, which is a good thing. Simply it means that any activity by the sensor is processed locally by the SmartThings hub and isn’t handed off for cloud processing.

Returning to the SmartThings app on the phone, the system now knows that the Thing is a power outlet and has updated the functionality.

Tapping on the screen toggles the Tradfri smart plug with the relay clicking almost instantly. Of course, “Thing” can be renamed to something more sensible, like “Fish Tank Lights”.

And that’s it. The Tradfri wireless outlet is now an integrated part of the SmartThings setup and can be used in Automations and SmartApps, and all for only GB£9, which is a total bargain. As a further benefit, the outlet works as a Zigbee repeater which strengthens the Zigbee wireless network. The only downside I have found is that there’s no physical override button to turn it on or off, but that’s a minor quibble.

To summarise…..if you have SmartThings, the Tradfri wireless outlet works perfectly with it and costs GB£9. Get down to your local Ikea and get stocked up.

Or watch my video below for more details.


Samsung Updates its Windows VR Headset



Samsung announced a new advanced display technology for the HMD Odyssey+, bringing true-to-life visuals to its entry into the Windows mixed reality space through the Windows Mixed Reality Platform that delivers an improved life-like and immersive experiences.

To me, it sounds like the updated HMD Odyssey+ was designed to be physically comfortable. The headset weighs 1.3 pounds, and has a wide eye box measuring 146mm to help match a person’s facial features. The headband and display are adjustable.

The headset also has built-in volume controls that can be used to easily adjust the volume when needed. There’s even a anti-fog material on the the Samsung HMD Odyssey+’s face padding to ensure the eye box doesn’t mist up. It is possible to adjust the Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD) wheel for a perfect fit.

I’ve read that some people experience nausea when using immersive gaming headsets. The Samsung Odyssey+ has exclusive Anti-Screen Door Effect (Anti-SDE) Display innovation. The purpose is to prevent the Screen Door Effect that can hinder immersion and make some people become dizzy or to feel nauseous after playing for a while.

Personally, I think it was very smart for Samsung to put effort into making gaming with the HMD Odyssey+ as comfortable as possible. It will encourage people to use their headset to play video games – and to spend more time playing.


Samsung DeX



The Samsung DeX Station converts a Galaxy S8 or S8+ smartphone into a desktop computer. Plop the S8 in the DeX, plug in a keyboard and mouse, hook up a TV, and you’re set with Android on the big screen. That’s the theory, what about in practice? Let’s take a look.

The DeX hardware is circular device, about 10 cm across, with a top surface that sweeps smoothly back and up to reveal the USB C connector for the smartphone.

Around the base are two USB 2 ports, a full-size HDMI socket, a 100 Mb/s network connector and a USB C for powering the DeX.

Getting setup is simplicity itself. Connect all the hardware up and slot the phone in. There’s no additional software to add as it’s all built-in to the S8 and the DeX itself. I used a wireless keyboard and mouse combo connecting to a USB transmitter. The TV connected to the HDMI port with a cable and I used the WiFi on the S8 for networking.

When the S8 is placed in the DeX, a prompt appears asking whether to start DeX or to only mirror the S8 screen. Choosing the former gets the DeX desktop in its full HD glory and it looks convincing. But what’s it really like?

  

Let’s start with the positives…the DeX desktop is what you’d expect an Android desktop to be like, using familiar apps in a windowed world. It’s fast and all the apps on the phone are available through DeX. Google Maps works and it’s perfect for YouTube and web browsing. Samsung promotes DeX-optimised apps via its app store.

  

But while many apps seemed to be quite happy with DeX and run in both full screen and windowed modes, some apps don’t like DeX and display as if they are on the S8 in portrait. This is frustrating and while this could be expected for games like Monument Valley, it seems odd that Netflix can’t cope – surely this would be seen as a “must have” by Samsung? Some apps don’t have all the necessary controls either – it’s tricky to pinch-to-zoom with only a mouse pointer.

  

Of course, games players and movie watchers aren’t the target audience for DeX. Samsung see this as a tool for business and promote the benefits of Microsoft apps and Office365 in the literature. For example, instead of a lugging a laptop for a presentation, take DeX, plug it into the data projector and you’re sorted. Need to do a quick bit of editing? Steal a desk, connect up DeX, fire up Word and you’re working.

Where DeX also scores well is with VDIs (Virtual Desktop Infrastructures) like Citrix. Connect through to your office backend to run a virtual Windows PC and you can be working as if you are at your own desk. From that point of view, it’s slick. While DeX isn’t going to replace a laptop on an extended business trip, it makes sense for a short visit when you want to travel light.

Pricewise, the DeX station has an RRP of GB£129, though it’s already discounted by £40 in several online stores. It’s still a percentage on top of the S8 and S8+.

Overall, DeX does what it sets out to do and the key question here is not about the technology. It’s whether Samsung’s vision and the DeX Station match your way of working. YMMV, as they say.


Samsung Introduced First HDR QLED Gaming Monitors



Samsung Electronics introduced the future of gaming with their new CHG90 and CHG70 curved monitors, which feature the powerful High Dynamic Range (HDR) picture enhancement technology typically reserved for televisions. When combined with the CHG90’s ultra-wide design and the CHG70’s quantum dot composition, this HDR integration produces a realistic, detailed picture that showcases games exactly as developers intended, and dramatically improves gameplay with crisper colors and sharper contrast.

The QLED quantum dot technology delivers a new metal core and supports both approximately 125 percent of the sRGB color spectrum and 95 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI-P3) motion picture standard to deliver an exceptionally wide color range.

Samsung’s CHG90 sets the new visual standard for gaming displays by projecting a 32:9 aspect ratio and 3,840×1,080 double full HD (DFHD) resolution across a 49-inch screen. The CHG90 literally extends the playing field for gamers, with its broad design surpassing industry standards while simultaneously representing the widest monitor in the company’s gaming portfolio. The monitor delivers stunning 1,800R curvature and an ultra-wide 178-degree viewing angle, maintaining content visibility from any location within a given space.

Available in 27- and 31.5-inch variations, the CHG70 integrates HDR and quantum dot technologies, with a 144Hz refresh rate further helping to bring out the best in gaming content. This combination offers gamers a viewing arena that is brighter (600nit peak brightness), clearer (2,560×1,440 WQHD resolution) and more luminous, and which brings the slightest visual nuances to the forefront in extremely light or dark environments.

The CHG90 and CHG70 arrive as the first Samsung gaming monitors to feature AMD’s new Radeon FreeSync 2 technology. This frontline functionality eliminates the stuttering and tearing that often disrupt gameplay to drive seamless frame transitions. Likewise, Radeon FreeSync 2 supports a wide color gamut to showcase HDR content with twice the perceivable brightness and color than that offered by the sRGB standards.

In a strategic partnership with EA studio DICE and Ghost Games, the CHG90 and CHG70 have undergone rigorous turning to ensure optimal HDR picture quality. Additionally, both monitors recently received HDR compatibility validation with Nvidia’s graphics cards, ensuring they can clearly showcase a wider range of HDR-based gaming titles and PC devices.


An Unplanned Upgrade



Note 5A few weeks ago my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 4 started acting weird, randomly rebooting at inopportune times. To make a long story short, on the second trip to a Sprint store the technicians determined that it was a hardware problem.

Since Sprint has no more Note 4 units available for replacements, their only alternative was to upgrade me to a Note 5. Ever since the Note 5 was announced, I didn’t want it. The Note 5 has no removable battery, and no Micro SD card slot. My plan was to keep the Note 4 and skip to the generation after the Note 5 that should be released sometime towards the fall of this year.

The free upgrade to the Note 5 does not affect the plan I’m on – I can still upgrade to the new Note (6 or 7, depending on what Samsung decides to call it) when it comes out. I was stuck, so I took the free upgrade.

Even though I was somewhat prejudiced against the Note 5, I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with it. The upgrade in overall performance and the snappy feeling of the device is tremendous. The other thing I’ve been amazed with is excellent battery life, which happens in spite of the improved performance over the Note 4.

The overall size of the Note 5 is physically smaller than its predecessor, yet it retains the 5.7” inch screen size. Samsung was able to achieve this by shrinking the bezels even further, particularly on the sides.

For some time now I’ve been using my phones to scan documents for work. I started doing this with a Galaxy S3. The process was faster with the Note 4. It flies with the Note 5.
My bank recently sent me a new chipped debit card, so I had to go through the process of logging in to various services to update my information. To my surprise, I was able to efficiently do all of this updating via the Note 5, mostly due to its speed and responsiveness.

Are there things a mobile device can’t do? Of course. For one thing, a 5.7” inch screen is too small for many tasks. Could I type out an article or record and upload a podcast on the Note 5? Yes, but the mobile form factor just doesn’t work well for these sorts of tasks – they cry out for a real computer in order to be carried out quickly and efficiently.

Smartphones have matured, yet there remains room for improvement. In my opinion, improved performance and improved battery life are the two biggest things that will induce me to consider upgrading to a new phone. Improved camera performance is always a nice thing to have, but camera performance alone won’t induce me to pull the upgrade trigger.

Styling and silly emotional gimmicks have diminishing appeal in a mature market.


Samsung SmartThings IoT System Vulnerable to Security Breaches



SmartThings logoThe Internet of Things and by extension, the connected home, is here. But is the world really ready for every facet of our daily lives to be connected to the internet? That smart toaster that notifies you via smartphone when your breakfast is ready might be a cool, convenient addition to your kitchen. But it’s a potential attack vector for hackers to breach your home network. And while it may be nothing more than a harmless prank for a hacker to reset your IoT-connected toaster to the “scorched earth” setting, the reality of this kind of security breach is much worse. Once an experienced hacker gets in thru the toaster, the home security system or front door lock could be their next targets.

That’s exactly what researchers discovered when testing out Samsung’s SmartThings IoT system of products. The test was conducted by computer scientists at the University of Michigan. What they found may come as shocking news to anyone considering outfitting a home with connected devices. The research team devised several exploits that worked against a SmartThing network by taking advantage of intrinsic flaws in the network’s design. One of the exploits was even able to extract the PIN from a connected door lock and send that PIN via text message to an outside recipient.

Most of the exploits were created by taking advantage of how Samsung’s SmartThings control apps interact with a network. Researchers were able to find multiple ways to intercept or redirect data being transmitted between these apps and the network. These processes made it possible to eventually gain entry to almost anything on the network.

It might be a good idea to hold off awhile on purchasing that shiny new SmartFridge. I suppose if you have only one device like this on your network, it could be OK. But once you’re adding door locks and security systems to your network, you’re potentially opening yourself up to these kinds of exploits.


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.