Lighting Smart Home

Brightup smart lighting adds context to lighting control

The Premise. The electric light revolutionized everything. Since then there have been several upgrades from a hardware perspective in terms of bulbs or light output, but not much in the way of operation. While several companies are allowing people to control their lights with their mobile devices, one company wants to put the mobile device in charge and make the whole process automatic.

The Product. The brightup smart lighting system avoids the smart home lighting automation equipment that has been promised for decades but has rarely seen adoption. Instead of installing a complicated network for the home’s outlets, brightup has a set of outlet caps that can be plugged in the home. Then, lamps or other lighting systems can be plugged in, and interface with the home’s central unit. The central unit detects the smartphone on which the brightup app is installed, and turns on the lights to greet users. Settings for dimmer switches that detect TVs or travel mode which gives off the illusion of someone in an empty home are also available.

The Pitch. The designers of brightup use their video to make a lot of vague statements about technology, but once the concept of brightup’s functions start, it’s easy to see the appeal. The campaign’s pictures show off the technology and the internal components, as well as feature several seemingly unrelated blocks of computer programming. To meet its goals of keeping prices low and complete the plastic tooling, brightup needs 130,000, or just over $175,000.

The Perks. The brightup starter kit costs €159 (under $220) with approximately an additional $20 shipping cost outside of the European Union. The starter kit comes with 1 central unit and 1 device (a plug or in-wall dimmer). 2 additional units come in the featured bundle for an additional €40, or the entire house can be connected at the €449 (~$615) level with 1 central unit and 10 devices. Higher tiers are meant to be shared among multiple people and come with up to five central units.

The Potential.  Having a home’s light completely set up on the brightup system seems like a great idea, but the price point is a little steep to start with. The system does little to conserve power like competitors unless residents forget to turn lights off when they leave, and the security mode would only work in rooms where brightup plugs were installed. It’s a neat idea, and certainly an innovation where one is sorely needed, but it’s questionable whether or not brightup’s unique features are worth the additional cost. Currently, the technology is not compatible with U.S. electrical systems.

Connected Objects Lighting

LumiSmart brightens up the smart home, stretches purpose of desk lighting

The Premise. The lamp on your desk right now is probably unremarkable at best. It may be nicely designed or have a few modes of brightness, but its light certainly wouldn’t be one under which you’d pen anything to write home about. Despite its simplicity, it’s still a vital part of your desk layout and you would work in darkness without it. Isn’t it about time that one of the more essential tools of productivity gets an upgrade?

The Product. The LumiSmart is the latest product to enter the “smart” family. The lamp integrates with the user’s living habits in an attempt to seamlessly improves everyday lifestyle. It does this by integrating an ambient light sensor, a temperature sensor, a camera, a motion sensor, a voice recognizing mic, and speakers. By connecting to your phone over Wi-Fi, the LumiSmart can notify you of its surrounding environment. LumiSmart also has an adaptive platform that allows the users to create their own app to customize their lifestyle. Such ideas include an alarm clock, a security system, or a reminder system. The possibilities will go as far as the user’s creativity.

The Pitch. The campaign video shows off the different features of the lamp and how they may improve everyday life. For example, LumiSmart can let you know when someone comes in the house, or remind you when you need to take a break from working. There are tons of examples since the apps can be customized and shared, so its up to the user how they want to use the lamp.

The Perks. The LumiSmart comes with a pretty hefty price tag. The early bird price for a standard lamp will set you back $149, with the price rising up to $200 once that deal expires. Developers can still get a hold to the LumiSmart for $200 to have more access to the platform and various APIs. In what seems like some bad math, people who pledge $999 will receive four LumiSmart lamps with some educational materials. Economic rants aside, LumiSmarts are scheduled to be delivered in September 2014.

The Potential. The LumiSmart embraces some interesting features and ideas, but there’s not much besides lighting that this lamp can do that your smartphone can not. It’s not necessary for a lamp to send you reminders or be an alarm clock, and its simply not necessary to spend hundred of dollars for a redundant piece of technology. Just because something can be a connected thing, doesn’t mean it should.

Smart Home

Jalousier lets sun shine in on home automation with blinds control

The Premise. Blinds and curtains can often be difficult to maneuver and operate, and they always have to be readjusted for different lighting environments. Even expensive electric blinds still have to be operated by button or a remote control. Wouldn’t it be great is the blinds could just adjust automatically?

The Product. The Jalousier, named for the French word for blinds, looks to overcome the everyday obstacles normal blinds pose. The device is able to monitor different stimuli such as lighting conditions, room temperature, sun position, and weather. Using these variables, the Jalousier adjusts the blinds to optimize natural daylight, provide privacy, and lower artificial lighting, cooling, and heating by up to 18%. The built-in wifi makes it accessible through your smartphone, and integrable with your smart home community.

The Pitch. The Bulgarian team offers a pretty self-explanatory device, and the video shows just how simple it is to use. The project creators explain the difficulties of wrestling with blinds and always having to readjust them, and then they show how the Jalousier factors in different variables to adjust to the ideal angle. The design of the product makes it easy to install and take off with minimal effort, and the video shows just how easy that is.

The Perks. If you want to try it out at the early bird price, one Jalousier will cost $99. If you want to expand to more blinds throughout your house, the price doesn’t get lower as you purchase more—it’s a flat rate of an additional $100 for each additional device. Currently, Jalousier expects to deliver its device by October 2014.

The Potential. The Jalousier has a minimalist design that packs some interesting features that change the way we control our blinds. Electric blinds can often be too pricey, so the Jalousier is a more economic solution that also puts more control in your hands through their free app. Control of one’s blinds isn’t at the top of the home automation wish list, but after the precedent set by products such as Nest thermostat and Hue light bulbs, it seems as though another home automation task is about to be democratized.


Flekt shapes and diffuses your DSLR’s popup flash

The Premise. To get that perfect shot, serious photographers rarely rely on just a camera in their hands. Any photographer’s assistant can tell you that there’s plenty of ancillary equipment like tripods, beauty dishes, extra lenses and external flashes that needs to be lugged around. But sometimes one needs to lug a little less.

The Product. Flekt is a diffuser that works with the built-in flash on your DSLR in order to eliminate the need for a much larger piece of equipment. Photographers use diffusers to prevent the harsh contrast of dark shadows common when using a flash. The accessory attaches to your DSLR via a magnetic piece called a Magattach inserted into the camera’s hot shoe. Light is then redirected by the reflector onto the Flekt attachment with a white, silver or gold reflector. The purpose of Flekt is to give professional photographers and advanced amateurs a way to achieve studio-quality lighting using just the camera’s pop-up flash, eliminating the need for other equipment. One can bend the shape of Flekt to create some variety in its lighting effect.

The Pitch. Flekt’s inventor, Preston Vance, and partner Max Beach present the concept of Flekt and explain the details that went into the product’s design. Preston  explains that he hired 10 photographers to give him feedback on the initial beta version in order to refine later product designs. While Flekt is the first in this product line, Preston’s ultimate vision is to have the photography community design attachments and reflectors which will then be created by his team.

Reading the rest of the campaign page, you’ll see that Flekt has been seven years in the making and that the founders are looking to raise $70,000. Other tidbits include sample photos and a few gifs which show how easily the system comes together. In a bold move, the site compares an image taken with an iPhone to an image taken with Flekt on a DSLR. While not really comparing apples to apples, it does capture the potential of image quality the product versus the common alternative.

The Perks. Material rewards for Flekt backers start at $65, which nets 150 early birds a Flekt system with the white reflector coating. From there, options continue to $150, which provides backers with the entire Flekt system including all three audaciously named reflector coatings – Lambertian White, Silver Exciter and Gold Exciter. If the project meets funding goals estimated, delivery of the systems will be September – October 2014.

The Potential. Several camera accessory brands have versions of pop-up diffusers, but Flekt is unique in that it offers a full system of interchangeable reflectors and was designed with several camera brands in mind. The photog community will likely put Flekt through a variety of tests to understand whether the innovation truly stands up in terms of image quality. The flip side is, that if Flekt passes the test, it will likely be eagerly embraced. What Flekt has going for it is its portability, simplicity and versatility.

Connected Objects Pets

Bluetooth-connected app control brings color to the collar

The Premise. Nighttime can be rough for dog owners — especially owners of skittish dogs. If a dog runs away under the veil of night, how are you supposed to bring it back to safety?

The Product. A team in Boulder, CO has created a Bluetooth LED dog collar to hopefully make these situations less stressful. While still early in its development and may be useful for those who own multiple dogs, it seems a bit trivial in the grand scheme of things. Upon first glance, the generically named collar looks like any other dog collar save for the LED studs. Once activated via the smartphone app that it talks to, however, the collar quickly illuminates, becoming something out of a science fiction movie. You can create custom profiles for each dog, ensuring that you know who is where if you’re dealing with multiple animals at once. The collar is waterproof and runs off of standard AA batteries. The custom profiles feature is perhaps the most valuable part of the offering. It allows you to create a digital dog tag, and you can share your profiles with others via the Web.

The Pitch. The very basic video — music, poor lighting and artifact-filled audio — sets up the idea that the project owners view the dog collar as something of a frivolous stepping stone before moving on to bigger and better things. The campaign page goes on to show closeups of the product and accompanying Android app; there’s no iPhone support for now.

The Perks. Because the collar uses Bluetooth, it’s perfect for those who use smartphones on a daily basis.  Due to ship in March 2014, the collar will ship to backers for #30.

The Potential. For fawning owners of finicky dogs, this could be a fun product that might end up getting a lot of use. Turn your dog’s collar green for Christmas and orange on Halloween, or  your favorite team’s color on game day. For a connected product, it’s pretty inexpensive and one could easily see it or something like it showing up on the shelves of Petco.