Pixeom keeps your files in the cloud, you in the loop

The Premise. These days, it seems just about every company out there wants you to keep your files in their “cloud,” or share and collaborate with your friends and coworkers using their tools. But whether you pick Google, or Microsoft, or Apple, or Adept, or Box, or Amazon, or some other random cloud provider, where is your data stored? Who really has access to it? And what happens when they have an outage? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could store your own data, and still get all those benefits of cloud collaboration, without having to set up your own massive server farm?

The Product. “Take back ownership of your data,” say the developers of Pixeom, a cloud-in-the-palm-of-your-hand device that makes it practical for consumers to host their own server appliances. The securely encrypted and hugely expandable gizmo can stand on its own as an entirely private sandbox for you and your friends to play in, or can join a global “personal exchange network” of Pixeom devices talking to one another.

The Pitch. Pixeom’s brother-and-sister creators use their pitch video to talk about the benefits of storing your information yourself and hosting your own apps and discussions. They’ve developed hardware based on the Raspberry Pi embedded Linux platform and software to match, and they’re looking for funding to get from the prototype stage to full production of their device. Among other tasks ahead is to optimize the software for better performance.

The Perks. The interesting rewards start at $75, where you get the Pixeom software on an SD card to install on your own Raspberry Pi device, and for $125 and up you can pick up their Raspberry Pi-based hardware when it’s ready. Bonuses for higher pledges include faster hardware, a 1 TB external hard drive, and even user interface and exterior design customization, topping out at $5,000, which nets you a VIP invite to their launch party.

The Potential. Google, Apple, and Dropbox have all provided the kind of cloud service that many consumers want, where they don’t have to think about where it is, how much it costs to run, or what to do if a component fails, and don’t mind trading away their eyeballs for advertising or their loyalty to an app ecosystem. The little product has predecessors in the likes of PogoPlug, the Connected Data Transporter, and connected hard drives such as the WD My Cloud. Still, particularly for open source advocates, Pixeom is a compelling product for consumers and small businesses who want a little more control over where their stuff is, don’t want to commit to a particular company’s apps or ads, and don’t mind putting a little effort and attention into maintaining such a service for themselves.

Connected Objects

PowerUp 3.0 turns your smartphone into a paper airplane pilot

The Premise. Paper airplanes are great fun, but no matter how good you are at folding them, there’s only so far they’ll go. Furthermore, it can take a great deal of effort and practice to control them with any degree of accuracy.

The Product. PowerUp 3.0 is a battery-powered, lightweight transceiver, control module, propeller, and rudder mounted on a carbon fiber frame designed to resist crash damage. The idea is to clip it to your paper plane (you provide the paper and mad folding skillz) and let it soar around as you control it with the iOS or Android app. The lithium polymer battery charges via micro USB connector, just like a phone. PowerUp 3.0 uses low-power Bluetooth wireless technology, enabling control from up to about half a football field away.

The Pitch. PowerUp 3.0’s campaign is worthy of such a fun product. The humorous pitch video explains how the PowerUp 3.0 came about as the result of a challenge to build upon Shai Goitein’s earlier experiments with propellers for paper airplanes. The 3.0 version of the paper airplane module makes things “magicaler” and Shai needs 50,000 of your “magic beans” to bring it to market. The campaign page also goes into more depth on the device’s specifications. shows some impressive raw flight footage, presents a closeup of the iPhone control app and highlights some inspired suggestions for paper airplane designs. The enticing stretch goals include an Android client at $150,000 raised, the ability to control two modules on one plane from a smartphone at $800,000 raised, the ability to have dogfights via proximity sensing at $1 million raised, and plane-mounted video capture at $2 million raised.

The Perks. While even $5 an actual paper airplane signed by the designer. At $30 and up, backers get a PowerUp 3.0 control module due in May 2014. Bonuses include an extra battery pack, extra control module, wall adapter, pilot hat, even a personalized flight jacket as the donation levels climb.

The Potential. Paper airplanes are the great toy equalizer, easy and accessible at their most basic, and this looks like a fun (and still affordable) way to extend the idea. The PowerUp 3.0 fits nicely between the paper airplane alone and model planes that need lots more talent or energy to build, or lots more money to buy. It’s also a great way to get a kid interested in model planes, but let’s be real. This is for the kid or the geek in all of us.