Sensors/IoT Smart Home

Neoji blends automation with energy monitoring

The Premise. The smart home revolution is banging down the doors of houses and apartments redolent in their wasting of energy; both for utilities and in the way residents have to get up, go home, and be present to control anything. Now that that revolution is here, homeowners need access to an automation hub that shares their goals and priorities.

The Product. Neoji can control the entire home using an app on a smartphone or tablet. Equipped with air sensors, a microphone, and an HD camera, homeowners can monitor their own home at their leisure or be alerted to motion or sound when they’re not paying attention. Because Neoji can learn about what’s part of the daily routine and what’s out of the ordinary, phones won’t be littered with notifications about pets playing or kids coming home from school.

The Pitch. Neoji introduces itself as a flexible device perfect for everything from baby monitoring to home security. With a focus on cutting energy costs and doing its part for the environment, Neoji takes things a step farther by planting or preserving a tree for every backer. Neoji wants to collect $100,000 in pledges in order to complete development and move beyond the prototype stage.

The Perks. A Neoji with app, energy coaching, and 24/7 technical support will arrive in April 2015 for those who pledge $299 to the campaign. A color choice between white and black is available for $349, and the model with an HD camera and air quality sensors can be had for $399. A flexible development kit with wall-mounts and access to the SDK goes to backers with $499 to contribute. Additional tiers offer multiple Neoji devices.

The Potential. Neoji is trying to be an all-in-one home automation system that revolutionizes the way homeowners interact with their property. The problem? It’s a little late to the party. In terms of its features and compatibility, this is really in the realm of what consumers are expecting from a device like this. The only way Neoji stands out is in its ecologically-focused presentation. If the campaign video is any indication, Neoji is somewhat fixated on reducing energy costs. For those that have a similar mindset, this will be the smart home environment controller that will be the best fit. Otherwise, Neoji winds up being another face in the crowd.

Tech Accessories

CosmoKey keeps your data safe with two-factor authentication

The Premise. Security is a massive concern with cyber-attacks on the rise and more and more logins and passwords required by every application and site out there.

The Product. The CosmoKey provides safe, secure two-factor authorization through the CosmoKey app which allows users to login to any of their favorite sites and then press the button on the palm-sized hardware token to authenticate their credentials in a way that keyloggers or other malware can not penetrate.

The Pitch. The introductory video for the CosmoKey doesn’t do the best job of explaining exactly how the hardware side of the CosmoKey works or how one sets up the device. The campaign page does a little better explaining the process with which one uses a CosmoKey and where it might come in handy, but still leaves some details cloudy. CosmoKey Ltd. has set £25,000 as their fundraising goal to complete testing of the hardware token and make the device even more secure. Stretch goals are in place to make the API completely open once funding is reached and another unlocking the CosmoKey Vault which will provide correct logins for any stored site at £100,000.

The Perks. A £50 pledge gives users access to the CosmoKey app for either iOS or Android with 2 years of paid service starting in September. The authenticator token hardware is available at the £150 level, and will be sent out to backers in November of this year. The Maker’s Edition comes out early (in August) with the most recently available version and grants access to the API to enhance the functionality of the device, with 1 year of service included. For those that want to make CosmoKey a part of their business server security, the VPN server with one hardware token is available with a year of remote service for £1,000.

The Potential. Two-factor authentication is a great way to be more safe, but a device like this just complicates matters further. Picture a situation in which the CosmoKey is lost or left at home: now the user is locked out from accessing any site they need to get into that they’ve set up through the device. With other forms of biometric scanners becoming more readily available, having a portable device that needs to be brought along with any computer, tablet, or phone just makes the whole process much more cumbersome than it needs to be, even in matters of protecting and securing data. It’s a good idea, just poorly executed.

Tech Accessories

USBCondom cuts off serially transmitted diseases for safe charges in strange ports

usb-condomThere are days, and even nights, when the business of life just distracts a person from making sure that their gadget is fully charged before leaving home. The only problem with charging at work or a friend’s house or perhaps a public charging station is the threat of unintended data share, or worse, malware or hijacked data. So USBCondom was designed to allow gadgets to be charged safely by cutting off the data pins in the USB cable and allowing only the power pins to connect through. The safety tool looks like it could if could beef up its own resilience with a better enclosure, though. For $10, backers get one product with an expected ship date of July 2014.

Cell Phone Accessories Wearables

SUNZs unlocks phones and does other things that phones also already do

sunzsOne little-known risk when it comes to phone security is that an often-unlocked touch screen may have smudges showing the security code needed to access the device. SUNZs is a buckle for any wristwatch that has an NFC chip inside that can be tapped on the screen to unlock the phone, access key features, and can be programmed as a quick launcher for up to eight apps. The product is pitched in an infomercial style, and claims to be “the coolest and most useful tool ever,” which may be overstating things a bit. Of course, since it requires NFC, the iPhone is out for now. SUNZs is available in six colors, and will ship out in August for backers who pledge $13.

Tech Accessories

Privus encrypts digital communication to keep it from prying eyes

PrivusWith whistleblowers raising issue with online security from hackers and governments alike, encryption can be an important tool to protect privacy. The Privus system allows users to encrypt their emails, chats, and texts easily for complete privacy. All you need to know is in the first second of the video, as a CIA and NSA Surveillance Contractor declares the Privus encryption unbeatable. For a pledge of $25, backers can get access to Privus email encryption with a year’s subscription to Privus Premier. Those who want safe physical storage can add on a 16GB USB drive with Cipher-Key application for a total of $65.

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.

Tech Accessories

Taptucam is what webcams wear to foil voyeur hackers

taptucamFans of the ABC show Shark Tank may have recently seen a product called Eyebloc. The  small piece of plastic fits over laptops and iPad front-facing cams primarily to thwart those who might spy on you through your camera in order to capture passwords or compromising poses. The Spanish duo behind Taptucam do not shy from the latter in their lewdness-alluding campaign video that shows off the simple clip-like device for keeping your computer from unintentional broadcasting. Of course, a Post-It note or many other inexpensive barriers will also do the trick. But for those who want a touch of style in their stifling can pledge $7 can pick up a five-pack in May 2014.