After devouring folding keyboards, FlyShark takes on the smartwatch

A common knock against most smartwatches is that their most significant functions, such as making phone calls, can only be used when a paired smartphone is nearby.

Following their successful campaign for a sleek folding keyboard accessory for smartphones, the makers of the FlyShark Smartwatch have set out to remove this codependence from smartwatches. Specifically, the FlyShark Smartwatch can make private calls and send and receive messages all without requiring users to touch their smartphones. Generally, the FlyShark Smartwatch can function independently so long as there is a Micro SIM card installed.

Like other smartwatches, it also functions as an exercise tracker and heart rate monitor. Unlike the soon to be released Apple Watch, FlyCatch also features a built-in camera. Other features include dual Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 support. The campaign, which seeks $10,000, will remain open until April 1, 2014.

FlyShark has some nice features, but the jury’s out on just how much appeal there is for a smartwatch whose main selling point is its independence from the smartphone. Many consumers on the market for a smartwatch, after all, likely already own a smartphone. It’s therefore a little hard to see how FlyShark can compete against popular brands like Samsung, LG, and Apple.


Connected Objects Lighting

Playbulb garden lights up your garden, saves you some green

Outdoor garden lighting tends to be pretty routine, offering little in the way of color. Few outdoor bulbs can also be deemed to be green, as in environmentally friendly, because they require the same electricity that indoor lights use.

However, the latest Playbulb LED lighting product -– the water-resistant Playbulb garden –- adds multiple colors, special lighting effects and smart functionality, and is driven purely by solar power. Each light is controlled via Bluetooth 4.0 by the accompanying free Playbulb X app for Android and iOS mobile devices. Users can change each light’s color with the app and also select from rainbow, fading, pulsing, flashing and candle light effects.

The built-in sensor detects lighting conditions and automatically turns on or off accordingly. The included monopod/spike allows more flexibility for installation. Once attached to the bottom of a Playbulb garden light, it’s easy to push into the grass to make the bulb secure. The monopod can also be removed if the user just wants to place the light directly on the ground. Each Playbulb garden costs $29.99 and will ship in May. Its maker set a goal of raising $10,000 by March 27.

Playbulb garden follows the Playbulb color and Playbulb rainbow, and will likely appeal to many homeowners with gardens. Other good features include its ability to run up to 20 hours on a full charge. One drawback is that its light might not be bright enough for some consumers. Customers shouldn’t expect to be able to use one to read a book outside at night. The product is featured in a recent Backerjack podcast.



Beam smart projector shows video, images from any light socket on any surface

editors-choicePico projectors that can be connected to Android and iOS mobile devices to display video and other content can come in handy at home and at the office when making presentations. Combining a pico projector with an LED light bulb into a device that can be connected to any light socket could make it even more handy.

patent-claimedThat’s precisely what the makers of Beam have created. It’s an always-connected 100-lumen LED projector that promises 20,000 projection hours, and comes equipped with an LED light, two 2-watt speakers and 8 GB of onboard storage. Beam features a tapered, cylindrical design that’s designed to accommodate any standard light socket. Any electronic device can be connected to Beam, including mice, keyboards, game controllers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers, and smartwatches.

Beam turns any flat surface into a big screen, whether it’s a table, ceiling, floor or wall. It also enables users to listen to music via its speakers. Beam can be programmed to do a wide range of things, such as play music or display certain content at specific times each day, or whenever somebody turns on connected Bluetooth speakers or starts the Beam app. It will ship at $399 in October. Beam’s maker set a goal of raising $200,000 by March 24. That money will be used to complete Beam development and start production, according to its Kickstarter campaign.

Beam, which is featured in Backerjack’s Episode 7 podcast, holds a great deal of promise. Its multi-functionality and unique design help it easily stand out from the growing number of pico projectors on the market, including TouchPico.

Smart Home

Neeo thinking remote is the one system that can control all devices in your home

editors-choiceHaving a smart automation system that can control all the devices in a home is something that a growing number of consumers are looking for. Neeo from the Cupertino, California, company of the same name combines some of the best features of a mobile app-based smart home automation system with those of a universal remote control. It also adds a few features that rival devices just don’t have, such as four antennas that integrate Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol functionality.

There are two main parts of the Neeo system: the “Brain,” a small hockey puck-shaped device made of solid aluminum and acrylic glass, that will command all of the user’s devices, including TVs and Blu-ray players; and the remote, which provides instant control of all those devices. Sensors in the attractive remote detect the user’s palm and matches it with that person’s profile. It then displays that person’s personal playlists, movies and favorites from connected devices instantly, the company claims. Also attractive is the remote’s 291 pixels per inch touch display.

If the user can’t find the remote, an SOS alarm function that is activated via an iOS or Android smartphone will help track it down. Neeo has a database of more than 30,000 devices that it can connect to and control, and is compatible with all major AV products made in the last 10 years. Kickstarter backers who pledge $148 will get one Brain in April and the free app. Those who pledge $219 will, in May, get the Brain and the remote in either the standard aluminum version or one of two limited edition SKUs, in black or white. The system’s maker is looking to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter.

As long as the Neeo remote is indeed compatible with as many devices as the company claims and the set-up process is as simple as it says, the system is among the most promising products to come along in the home automation and universal remote categories lately. It surpasses most similar devices including last year’s Droplit. As a universal remote, it also stands to be a major challenger to the popular Harmony remotes from Logitech.

Connected Objects

Tog controls Bluetooth devices, even when they get lost

It would be nice to be able to control multiple devices all from one hub. Especially when such a device has disappeared, maybe behind the pillows of a couch somewhere.

Tog is the latest Bluetooth-enabled button that can be used to remotely control Bluetooth LE devices including smartphones, laptops and lights. It can activate Siri or take a picture on a smartphone with no app required. The user can also configure it to control or mute music. The Tog design is open source, so it can be modified to do whatever fits the user. TogMods are magnetically attached modules that extend the functionality of Tog. An accompanying app is required to perform extra functions including locating the user’s smartphone when lost.

Backers who pledge $20 will get one Tog and TogMod in May as part of an early bird Kickstarter special. Tog is hoping to raise $50,000 by early February.

The product’s early bird pricing is cheap enough to attract some interest. However, just like with similar products, including Qblinks, there doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason for most consumers to spring for yet an extra smart device when they already have their smartphones so close at hand much of the time. However, if the phone gets lost, one may want to have Tog around as a backup.


Pi Watch open source smartwatch makes room for teeny Arduino board, microSD slot

As many cool and exciting things the smartwatches on the market allow users to do, at the end of the day they’re locked into their own hardware and software. This ultimately limits their use to only what the company behind it intends, and limits the imagination of those who buy it. As a result, consumers may have some of the most advanced tech on their wrist, but they basically have no clue how it works.

A big problem lies in the motivation to learn, something the Pi Watch does a good job of creating. The star of the show is the onboard, Arduino-ready Teensy 3.1, a powerful platform that supports a wide array of programming initiatives with the help of integrated Bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer, magnometer, microphone, buzzer, and infrared transmitter. A bright and round 220 pixel TFT LCD brings it all together, offering users 160 pixels per inch and a 10-point touch ring surrounding it for both pre-programmed and custom gestures.

So far, the Pi Watch has demonstrated light video playback, the ability to be a password keeper, the control of televisions with the infrared transmitter, and the ability to play custom games. A lot more content can be created and added to the watch with the help of the microSD card slot, even if the 480mAh rechargeable battery may not last as long as users may hope. The $119 Pi Watch is expected to ship in March of 2015 should its campaign successfully reach its $50,000 goal.

For the most part, the Pi Watch is being presented as a learning tool, evident in its less than stellar aesthetics. But it serves the purpose of engaging in the technology hands-on and follows the lead of other open source platforms like the RaspiTab, Pi-Top, and Novena, this time with a wearable, an exciting opportunity for many tinkerers.


KUFF is tough, lets you wear your files where you flex

With mounting concerns about privacy in the cloud, many people are going back to hard, physical storage to make sure their information is safe. While traditional USB sticks are portable, most of the time they’re flimsy. While hard drives can store tons of data, they usually aren’t portable and are prone to breaking down sooner or later. The creator behind KUFF is looking to perfect a product that features the best of both worlds.

Kuff is a wearable solid state storage that is worn around the wrist and features capacities from 16GB all the way to a whopping 1TB. An LED is planned for presenting custom information with the help of a developer SDK,. Although the Kickstarter campaign isn’t addressing the product’s clunkiness, it aims to fund the display along with wireless charging. Other features on the docket include connectivity with Bluetooth 4.0, iOS and Android companion apps, USB 3.0, and waterproofing using a nanocoating.

If the creator can put KUFF on a diet, get wireless connectivity and charging down, and continue marketing to media professionals and the DJ circuit, he may have a winner — he’ll just need to hit his goal of $21,000 to find out. One of these wearable storage devices will set backers back $110 with estimated delivery in December 2014.

Automotive Connected Objects

Bluetooth tire pressure management system lets you know when your tires are low

The Premise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under-inflated tires are at the root of some of the most common issues related to fuel efficiency and safety while driving. If a tire remains under-inflated at just 1 psi over its lifetime, its tread life decreases by about 800 miles, and for every 2.96 psi of under-inflation, fuel efficiency is reduced by 1%. With 26% of all passenger cars on the road under-inflated by at least 25%, that’s a lot of miles of tread life and liters of gasoline needlessly wasted. These factors also contribute to the almost 80,000 crashes that occur annually in the US due to flat tires or blowouts — some fatal.

The Product. The team behind the FOBO Tire wants to bring tire pressure management systems, or TPMS’s, into the modern age. Theirs is an iOS/Android compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy enabled system that always keeps a user informed about the tire pressure of their vehicle, with an in-car unit as well to use in the absence of a smartphone. Integration with smartphones allows for a tiered alert system, theft detection for the system, the ability to share the FOBO Tire’s information with friends and family, and even monitor up to 20 different cars. There’s also a separated edition for two and three-wheeled vehicles called the FOBO Bike up for grabs.

The Pitch. The video featured on the campaign is professional, chock full of information, and really demonstrates just how useful the FOBO Tire can be, going as far as to show how quick and painless installation is and introducing potential backers to the team itself. The product’s many features are clearly laid out in text form, with large, clear pictures to back them up.

The Perks. A single set of FOBO Tire will run you $90, which includes four sensors and one in-car unit, saving backers $59 off the $149 retail price. Similarly, the FOBO Bike can be had for $65, shaving $25 off the $90 retail price. The option for more sets of FOBO Tires or Bikes are also available, at price points ranging from $110 to $1050.

The Potential. Making pretty much any current dumb product idea smart immediately adds utility to it, so the combination of a TPMS with the smartphones that drive our lives is one of those no-brainers that takes some time to think up. As tire pressure is a very real and serious concern, its applicability to pretty much every driver will ensure this product becomes some sort of success. It improves on products like the TireMinder with its ease of installation, use, and the many benefits that come from smartphone integration, making this product many will be on the look out for.


Digitsole smart insole lets your phone provide toastier tootsies

The Premise. With the onset of a blustery winter comes all of the discomfort associated with it. Delays in public transportation, crowds of people seeking warmth in the recesses of coffee shops, and snowstorms that can slow cities down to a grind make the season unbearable at times. Short of wearing bulky boots or multiple socks, there isn’t much one can do to avoid walking around in the cold with wet and stiff feet.

The Product. Digitsole wants to melt that dread away with the market’s first connected insole. More than a novelty, it has the capability of independently heating up each foot through a companion smartphone application, so you never have to worry about your toes feeling like they’re going to fall off. It multitasks as well, tracking your fitness throughout the day while warming your feet and boasting an advertised battery life between seven hours and a few days, depending on use.

The Pitch. The company’s excitement at having created Digitsole comes through in both the campaign video and text. The video is clear and features company figures speaking about the product and what went into creating it. Rounding out the campaign, the text provides backers with more technical information about Digitsole, including material, weight, and large images breaking the product down into its many parts. A successful goal of $40,000 brings Digitsole to life by the end of the year.

The Perks. Early birds can get these awesome insoles for $99. At a regular price, $179 can also get potential backers a pair, while larger pledges can net them a customized pair, the possibility of multiple pairs for family and friends, or even a pair molded to their feet. All of these perks will ship in December 2014.

The Potential. Digitsole comes to the rescue of all those who have to work or travel long distances throughout the worst of winter, and, for that, its utility has to be praised. There just isn’t anything like this on the market so its uniqueness will ensure Digitsole’s success, as long as it does so without cultivating an unpleasant stench. Digitsole’s one drawback is that it’s only water-resistant, not waterproof. Similarly, even though battery life was addressed in the campaign, testing out capacity and putting it through its paces in real-world situations will definitely yield contrasting results. Let’s see how it works out this winter.