A few months back, I got into the home automation game thanks to encouragement from Dave and Adam. I’ve experimented with a few different platforms thus far, and particularly like Philips Hue alongside Staples Connect.They work well together.
Since first adding a Palm V modem to my tech arsenal about 15 years ago to access Mindspring dial-up email on business travel, I’ve remained Internet-connected when mobile (and have even used “mobile” connectivity to power the home). The last few years, I’ve done my best to stay off public WiFi — the level of exposure and ease of interception exceeds my comfort levels. I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid and it’s not like I dabble in state secrets, but I’d rather not make my personal data any more accessible than it probably is. (Remember that time someone tweeted as me via Southwest Air WiFi?) Not to mention, those wireless networks (free or otherwise) often don’t perform so well – either by (poor or upsell) design or due to saturation.
With that in mind, I’ve been a huge fan of mobile phone tethering — which was fully ensconced within my workflow by 2006, when I kept my laptop online via a USB-connected 3G Sprint PPC-6700 while riding Amtrak to a NYC event. Continue Reading…
Back in September, Wink announced the addition of Relay to their ever growing lineup of home automation products. The Relay is a wall mounted touch screen device that connects to your Wink home automation system and is powered by an Android variant. It features Wifi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth communication protocols, but missing are the Z-Wave and Lutron ClearConnect capabilities included in the original Wink Hub. For $300, you might reasonably expect that that the Relay could replace the Wink Hub. Alas, not. Continue Reading…
Late in October, Fitbit announced three new activity trackers: Charge ($130), Charge HR ($150), and Surge ($250). Each offers different features depending upon your need. At the base, the Charge provides step activity, floors climbed, calories burned, automatic sleep tracking, call notifications, and silent alarms. Moving up to the Charge HR, Fitbit includes an optical heart rate monitor (PurePulse) that uses light to track your pulse throughout the day and during workouts. The idea being that included heart rate data will provide a better measure of calories burned (more on that in a bit). The top of the line Surge includes everything from the Charge HR, but also adds a larger screen and GPS to the mix. This means you are able to log walks/runs even when you don’t have your phone on you.
Last week, Fitbit sent out a special limited release email to those who showed interest in the new Charge HR and Surge products. As these products were not supposed to be released until early 2015, it was a nice surprise. Fitbit provided a one time code to purchase the new trackers and I was lucky enough to receive an email for the Surge. Order was placed Thursday night, and on Monday the Surge was delivered. Continue Reading…
By way of the FCC (1, 2), we learn D-Link intends to expand its range of home monitoring products beyond WiFi and into the realm of Z-Wave with a pair of new CR123A-powered environmental sensors. From the product manuals:
The sensor DCH-Z110/Z120 have PIR or door/window integrated with, temperature and illumination, which are 3 sensors function in one, based on Z-Wave technology.
Beyond that arcane product labeling, these will also be known as the myllink Z-Wave Motion Sensor and the mydlink Z-Wave Door/Window Sensor. We can’t say we’re entirely surprised to see D-Link go further down the smart home path, given their collaboration with Zonoff to produce the new Staples Connect hub – which communicates via WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee… and, of course, Z-Wave.
As Radio Shack fights for its life, the once pioneering tech retailer has undertaken a number of positive maneuvers recently. From “interactive” store remodels rolling out nationwide to embracing the smart home, featuring Insteon, Radio Shack is reasserting their relevance in this space – as a destination for geeks and civilians alike. Heck, they’re even Apple Pay friendly.
The most interesting development in my mind is Radio Shack’s take on the Best Buy Geek Squad with “Fix It Here!” – the in-store servicing is capable of handling a variety of smartphone repairs, including screen and battery replacement. Given the high cost of unsubsidized smartphones and sometimes specialized tools or parts (if not skills), this is a valuable service (that I hope to never experience). But, to further put in in perspective, a co-worker cracked his screen a few months back and found someone local online… But, upon arriving at the repair person’s home, he was totally wigged out and bailed. Instead of replacing the phone at great expense, as he did, a convenient and legit operation like Radio Shack’s, would have been appreciated.
Back in March, Plantronics announced the BackBeat Fit ($130), a sportier version of their Backbeat Go 2 Bluetooth headphones designed to withstand the abuse of regular fitness workouts (and confirmed sweaty lawn mowing! :-). I’ve been evaluating these headphones the past few weeks and wanted to share a rundown of features and my overall opinion.
When you unpack the BackBeat Fits, they come with the headphones themselves, a carrying pouch that doubles as an armband for your phone, and a micro USB cable and charger. The headphones use Bluetooth 3.0 for connectivity which gives you a range of 33ft from your device. As with most new Bluetooth devices, the pairing process was easy with an iPhone 5s. You simply go to the Bluetooth setting page, turn on the BackBeat Fit which goes into pairing mode, and then select the headphones to pair. The BackBeat fit can also remember up to 8 different devices for pairing so it’s easy to switch between multiple sources if needed. Continue Reading…