Archives For Gadgets

Zonoff with Nest thermostat close-up

Last year at CES, Zonoff’s demo suite was full of the Staples Connect hardware they power along with a variety of familiar brands like Lutron and Jawbone. This year, several other friends joined the party including the Google Nest smart thermostat and a souped-up, Sonos-fighting Bose sound system.

The desire for Nest integration is obvious, although this is the first we’ve seen the smart thermostat connected to the Zonoff platform. So while Zonoff may not yet “Work With Nest” … they clearly work with Nest. Bose system support is perhaps slightly less obvious, but it makes sense when you contemplate pairing music or talk radio with other sensors tied to lighting and motion detection. Put a speaker in your bathroom, and you can set the music to turn on when you open the door in the morning. Put one in the kitchen, and you can program it to play NPR when you head in to make dinner in the evening. Continue Reading…

As expected, the “Internet of Things” was a hot topic at CES. And everyone seems to want a piece of this market. For example, we’ve got an iPhone case maker pitching networked power outlets and a fitness tracker company that wants to sell you some Bluetooth light bulbs. Sadly, chaos reigns … given the number of competing standards, proprietary solutions, poorly articulated visions, and even Hubs requiring bridges. Take Kevo and August, makers of “smart locks” — most likely due to power requirements, beyond hardware costs and engineering considerations, both solutions communicate solely via Bluetooth LE. Meaning, at present, it’s mostly smartphones than can interact with their hardware and only from short distances. Enter the Kevo Gateway (Ethernet, above left) and August Connect (WiFi, above right) bridges … that will in turn relay communication from lock to say your SmartThings or Staples Connect hub or to a remotely located phone (but requiring an additional purchase or for a fee). It’s messy. And the highly disjointed nature of this smart home land grab will slow adoption. At least until the the leaders identify themselves.

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Intro

At $450, I had no intention of buying the original Withings Activité watch. That’s a bit steep for my watch buget, even if it does incorporate activity tracking and is Swiss-made. Seeing an opportunity to use a similar design, Withings announced at CES 2015 a new version of the Activité called Pop ($150).The Pop looks almost identical to the Activité, except that it is made with cheaper materials which brings the price point down to a more reasonable $150. The features remain the same across both trackers. The Activité can record steps, track if you are running, and can automatically log sleep at night. These features are very similar to the new Fitbit Charge, but it’s safe to say that one of these looks more stylish than the other. :-)

Read on for additional impressions of the Activité Pop! Continue Reading…

The Ghosts of CES Past

Dave Zatz —  January 4, 2015

With the 2015 edition of the annual Consumer Electronics Show upon us, it’s time to reflect on how various companies utilize their time in the sun. And, unfortunately, the signal to noise ratio is not always favorable for the gadget blogger given a large number of introduced products that skulk away with nary the follow-on discussion and no product on shelves.

Some of the more intriguing CES 2014 items we covered that pulled a Houdini:
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lenovo-cloud-camera

Besides general software clunkiness, a large percentange of network cameras just look awful. In fact, I decomissioned our fairly practical Foscams because they just don’t look very nice around the home. The highly rated Dropcam, now a Google/Nest subsidiary, has been one of a very select few that have bucked at trend… which probably has contributed to their success and Google/Nest acquisition. Well, we may be days away from Lenovo upping the ante in this space. While we can’t yet comment much on the interface or recording functionality, this sexy 802.11 b/g/n/ Lenovo Cloud Camera hardware just passed through the FCC ahead of the “Internet of Things” CES.

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Not content preparing a smattering of sensors and the latest Staples Connect hardware, D-Link is set to unveil their very own “Connected Home Hub” — probably a mere ten days from now at CES. Details on the short cylindrical job that just passed through the FCC:

The DCH-G020 is a Connected Home Z-Wave Gateway used to control a variety of Z-wave home sensors for the application of home automation. It is able to talk to variety of Z-Wave sensors and communicate with other DLink connected Home devices.

Beyond Z-Wave communication and the apparent Ethernet ports, this Connected Home Hub also features 802.11b/g/n. On the software front, D-Link’s associated Dlink app updates will include the requisite scheduling and notifications… along with an interesting QR code scanner to (perhaps) more efficiently add new hardware. Continue Reading…

mobitv-connect

Next up in the streaming stick space is the MobiTV Connect… that just passed thru the FCC. The company originally known for streaming amazingly low resolution television content to Sprint phones clearly continues to pivot. And, back in September, MobiTV told The Donohue Report their HDMI hardware would launch via two US wireless carriers in early 2015. More akin to Chromecast than Amazon Fire TV Stick, the microUSB-powered dongle is designed to be controlled via smartphone. Indeed, the FCC-published manual includes Android screenshots used for wireless pairing – with both Bluetooth LE and WiFi making appearances. Of course, much more interesting than the stick hardware itself, are the over-the-top video services that may be made available … and at what cost.

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Background

Three years ago, Nest announced their first smart thermostat clocking in at $250. While others balked at the price, I saw the value of something that could potentially reduce our family energy expenditure. And save money we did! Despite the upfront cost of the Nest, after having used the device that first twelve months, I estimated we dropped our gas and electric bill by $500 for the year. The second year, the savings continued. I offloaded my 1st generation Nest and upgraded to the 2nd generation Nest along with adding a few of the Nest Protect smoke alarms to the house.

But despite seemingly being all-in on the Nest platform, there recently have been a few changes to both their products and the thermostat market in general that have me rethinking our current setup – including potentially switching out to a new brand. First, Google acquired Nest. As much as I appreciate Google’s ability to find pretty much anything on the Internet, I have reservations in providing them too much data, especially when it comes to our home. Call me paranoid all you want, but that’s simply how I feel.

Second, the Protect product seemed so promising at first release. Our Nest is situated in the dining room which is rarely accessed when we are in the house, therefore the Nest can not accurately tell when we are home or not.  With the wired Protects, Nest would be able to monitor our house for motion and help adjust the auto features which would alleviate the Nest from not being able to “see” us when we were home.  I found that this really didn’t work so well when we had our four-legged furry friends running around the house during the day. I was hoping that the Protects would help build a better picture of our occupancy of our home, but it really didn’t seem to add much smarts to the Nest, just false alarms for movement.

Enter Ecobee3

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the Ecobee3 launch back in September. For the most part, I was happy with my Nest and really didn’t see much benefit to the Ecobee3. I was wrong. After noticing a few of the tech sites I follow start to post more about the Ecobee3, the more I became interested. This was especially the case when I payed attention to the remote sensors that can be added to the Ecobee3. Could this solve the problem that my current Nest platform has with not being able to determine not only occupancy of the house, but also the correct temperature for the different rooms? Continue Reading…