Cell Phone Accessories

Kalt turns your mobile device into an infrared thermometer

One of the nice, convenient features of smartphones is their ability to tell users exactly what the temperature is outside with just a glance at an app. Kalt is for smartphone users who have wanted to take that a step further and be able to use the device to tell them the temperature of objects all around them.

The Kalt sensor, from Cleveland company Robogaia Industries, plugs into a smartphone or tablet and works in conjunction with an iOS and Android-friendly app. The sensor reads the infrared energy that an object emits without actually touching it and translates that into a readable temperature of the user’s choice between Fahrenheit, Celsius or Kelvin.

The sensor’s case is a semitransparent plastic that lets the user see some details of the internal components. It is being fielded in four color options: blue, green, orange and yellow. Backers who pledge $41 will get one sensor when it ships in March as part of an early bird Kickstarter deal. Robogaia is looking to raise $9,999.

The device holds some potential if its sensor is truly accurate. Certainly it would be nice to know the temperature of certain electronic devices that may be overheating, for example. But the company doesn’t do a good job of demonstrating any perfect use-case scenarios in its Kickstarter campaign video.


The Backerjack Podcast, Episode 4, with Ross Rubin and Steve Sande

Steve and Ross, your two favorite crowdfunding connoisseurs, focus on four fresh products in this week’s Episode 4 of The Backerjack Podcast:

  • For those whose smartphone distance represents the longest yard, you can keep tabs on key factoids on the portable Chumbyesque  Displio.
  • Those who fear the gases, chemicals and radiation threatening to penetrate their tin foil hat can monitor it all with the Scarab. On the other hand, those who think more immediate threats come from people spitting in their food can drool over the Saliva Scanner.
  • And those who want to pair their tablets and phones with the most radical redesign ever of a mobile keyboard can partake of the tripartite TextBlade .

All the campaigns and preorder pages are still active so check out our thoughts before signing up to back them.

Subscribe via iTunes or RSS, download the podcast by saving this link, or listen to it with the player below:


Connected Objects

LifeStyleLock zero5 lets you know when prying hands attack your drawers

Many people keep certain items in a desk or nightstand drawer that they don’t want their kids or others to get their hands on. It could be medication. It could be a gun. It could be money.

The LifeStyleLock zero5 connected furniture lock uses Bluetooth and proprietary sensing technology to connect to an Android and iOS device. The zero5 leverages a proprietary solenoid locking mechanism, and it was built in the same way as locks built for industrial uses. If there is an attempted breach, the owner will be immediately notified. It should only take about 15 minutes to set up, and the lock and accompanying drawer assembly accommodates a large amount of imprecision in the installation, the company says. The zero5 attaches to the user’s nightstand, dresser or desk, but the front and side appearance of the furniture is unchanged.

The two main components of the zero5 are the locking mechanism and the housing. Both components are already fully engineered, its maker says. The zero5 uses on-board sensors to provide its owner with security awareness:  Early backers who pledge $250 will get a limited first edition version of the device in April. After that, backers who pledge $250 will get a lock one month later. LifeStyleLock is looking to raise $500,000 by Jan. 19.

The device will come in handy for many consumers, as long as it is as easy to set up as its maker claims and as long as the consumer actually has items that need to be locked up. Including both strengths and smarts makes for a pricier product. However for those who want remote notification, it may be worth it.


Plant OS garden sensor and app gives your green thumb something else to do

Even if the exact scientific knowledge behind the processes behind gardening were unknown for thousands of years, deep human intuition would’ve figured it out anyway. As our understanding of the natural world continues to evolve, it’s been made clear how much the process is not only an art, but a science as well.

There’s a very intricate dance that plays out between light, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide that contributes to a plant’s growth. High Tech’s Plant OS uses a family of sensors and controllers to keep an eye on all of these factors. Every minute, the THC unit records levels of each variable and sends that information back to a user’s smartphone. This works together with the Plant Tachometer camera to provide a high-resolution photosynthesis reading to use as reference for the environment.

What good is all this information if a user can’t act on it? The Plant OS Power Controller allows just that, providing a space where appliances like air conditioners, CO2 machines, and dehumidifiers can all be plugged in and controlled remotely using the companion app. The app gives users a space to check out and share all their data, something High Tech encourages as a way to gain more understanding of the intricacies of plant growth. An $899 Plant OS Starter Kit is suitable for a small garden, comes with a THC meter, a Plant Tachometer, and a Power Controller. The Deluxe version supports two and goes for $1,999. Backers can expect their kit in March 2015 should the campaign reach its $50,000 goal.

Technology has creeped into every part of our lives, and gardening is one of the few areas where this isn’t true. Others in the gardening space, like the Blossom Wi-Fi, Sprinkl, and Eve provide ways to remotely water a few plants or even a small yard, but no other product is as fully featured, covers as much space, or is as exhaustingly detailed as the Plant OS. High Tech wants the Plant OS to be the premier consumer-grade gardening system and it shows.


Tiny Mono provides development platform potential

Sometimes, our smart devices are a little too smart for what we want to do and a little too rigid for the intrepid among us. This makes merely tinkering with the different platforms in our lives pretty much impossible. Innovations like Arduino boards and Raspberry Pis lets buffs realize their ideas, but they can easily get out of hand and end up with nothing but a jumble of wires.

The one difficult thing when it comes to creation is testing out the idea, but the Mono makes it easy to do just that. The tiny device comes equipped with a 2.2″ TFT touch display, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and a temperature sensor. Mono is a gadget as much as it is a development platform. As such, it’s completely open source, so it can act as an interface for other, custom ideas, or act on its own. By downloading tailored apps from the MonoKiosk app store, Mono can act as a one-touch light for Phillips Hue connected bulbs, or can display weather forecasts, for example. A single, fully loaded Mono goes for kr710 (~$119), and is expected in May 2015. The campaign is looking for kr500,000 (~$83,300) in funding.

In and of themselves, the applications touted by the Mono seem fairly tame, but its potential is really in how makers end up utilizing it. An expansion connector on the device’s back allows for increased utility such as connected power, a 3.5mm carries multiple digital and analog signals, and an SD card slot really gets the mind going when it comes to how much programming and data a single 32GB card can hold. All this tech in the hands of the right person can result in comparable, more innovative products than those on the market now, all at a fraction of the cost.

Smart Home

SandboxHome packs in multiple components for a smart security system

Finding a home security system that’s both effective and affordable tends to be a somewhat impossible task. Starter kits are always available, but lack necessary features or only offer enough equipment to target a specific area of the home.

SandboxHome is designed to take all of the advancements in smart home security, bundle them together, and provide enough equipment to cover all the important parts of the home with adequate security. The SandboxHome kit starts with five intrusion tags that can be placed on any door or window to send an alert when these apertures are opened or entered without permission. Next, two HD video cameras are included to allow photo and video recording of any intruders or live feeds of the home’s activity.

Add to this a smart doorbell that has a built in intercom and HD camera so any visitor can be greeted or screened appropriately. For those that prefer a more traditional security system, an optional service of 24/7 live monitoring by security operators can be added in to make sure someone is responding to any break-ins as quickly as possible. SandboxHome has set its goal at $50,000 to assemble the prototypes and build relationships with manufacturers and assemblers. Everything in the SandboxHome system can be purchased for $400, with delivery in March 2015.

Single devices have popped up recently to offer the smart doorbell/doorman system, or the live feeds from security cameras placed in the home, but SandboxHome is offering all of that functionality at a price that’s actually pretty reasonable. The app looks fully featured and easy to use, and for homeowners or renters looking to just make one purchase to encapsulate their entire security needs, this may be the product for them.



MaxMyTV puts everything on your TV that isn’t TV

Even with smart TVs, the use of applications often requires navigating menus, creating tiny picture-in-picture windows, or navigating away from programming completely. Not only do smart TVs need to become smarter to adapt with the change in technology, they need to become more intuitive.

MaxMyTV is a simple smart hub that does both of these things by using overlays and a remote designed for calling up functions without interrupting TV watching. Connecting via HDMI as a bridge between the existing cable or satellite set-top box and the TV and communicating with other devices through open source ZigBee, MaxMyTV then functions with a host of accessories including a sensor, an IP camera, a smart outlet, and more.

This allows MaxMyTV to function as a social media hub for live-tweeting popular shows, a front door camera, and much more. The included remote offers buttons that directly pull up sidebars offering email accounts, sports scores, social networks, and smart home sensors for temperature, lights, or security. The basic system includes a MaxMyTV Smart Hub and the remote control, and goes out to backers who pledge $149 in March 2015. MaxMyTV is hoping to generate $250,000 worth of support to improve the product, get certified, and also pay for tooling, production, and shipment.

Adding more features and a better interface to smart TV functions is a great idea that is easy to get behind. As to whether MaxMyTV offers the best features, the sharpest interface, and the best way to go about expanding the smart TV/home experience, that’s a bit harder to call. The overlays look like they still take up a good deal of screen space, and, since it’s an additional device, it doesn’t appear to shrink down the display to account for this. Ultimately, MaxMyTV just looks like a stopgap to tide consumers over until something better comes along.

Video Games

Hybrid Play brings digital games into the real world

One of the biggest critiques of video games is that they doesn’t promote enough physical and social activity, leading many to shun the medium entirely without considering their many positive benefits. The inventors behind Hybrid Play have a love for both video games and outdoor physical activity, leading them to create a product that bridges both worlds.

Hybrid Play comes in the form of a Bluetooth-equipped sensor that clamps onto any sort of rotational or static playground element, like swings or slides. Once attached, with the help on the onboard accelerometer, that element can be used as input for a game on a smartphone connected nearby. This leads to a group of children shouting instructions to another group of children on a slide or wherever else to successfully control the game, encouraging activity, verbal communication, and teamwork. And if the two exclusive games for Hybrid Play get stale, the iOS/Android companion app allows users access to the rest of the both exclusive and classic games like Pac-Man for the platform, along with the ability to create your very own. Hopefully, all this together will actually keep a child’s notoriously fickle attention span occupied over the long run.

Hybrid Play is not only about bridging this divide, but also teaching as well. Gamesonomy support means that users without any programming knowledge will be able to create their own games for use with Hybrid Play, and one of the campaign’s stretch goals includes Scratch Jr. integration, an introductory language that teaches five to seven year olds how to code. The campaign is looking to raise $140,0000 by November 28th, 2014. A Hybrid Play kit is going for $124 with an April 2015 delivery window.

Fitness Wearables

SensoTRACK envelopes the ear, tracks many vital signs continuously

Although wearable technology is on the up and up, you still need to wear a a few different bands along with a watch of some sort to get a mostly full picture of the way your body works across disparate variables. Even if you were fully equipped with all this technology, they wouldn’t necessarily talk to each other — leaving you to figure out what it all means.

SensoTRACK was born out of the desire to give a user as much connected data as possible to not only benefit  their daily lives, but their exercise regimens as well. Sensogram Technologies, Inc. sets out to make a device that could withstand the rigors of physical activity, and so constructed it from a weather-resistant, sweat-proof shell that fits around the ear. The SensoTRACK houses a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a proprietary “optical biosensor” that measures heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation with a high degree of accuracy. It also includes a speaker that gives users real-time feedback on what exactly to do in order to increase the efficiency of their workout, based on goals that can be entered into the web portal or the mobile app.  SensoTRACK can be had for $199, and the company hopes for enough backers to fulfill their $250,000 goal.

The crowdfunded world is full of the types of wearables that make the criticisms of the market seem justified. Some, like Arcus or Olive, are focused on one type of user benefit. On the other hand there are a few, like Zoi or LEO, are aiming to use the data in real-time to benefit the user. SensoTRACK falls into the later camp but shrinks the device down and places it on the ear where it’s out of the way. Add this to the claimed sensitivity of the proprietary sensor and it may be something to look out for, only if the seemingly unending number of features don’t end up hampering it as a result.

Cell Phone Accessories Smart Home

Rico reuses your older smartphone into a smart home station

Keeping current with the latest smartphones is a battle with many casualties, namely all the old phones that just wind up in a closet or a drawer collecting dust. What if there was still a way to put their processors to use?

Rico is a cute little smart home sensor package that can function basically on its own to do motion detection, smoke monitoring, and controlling devices connected to smart outlets. What makes Rico unique however is that it also serves as a housing for smartphones, that combines the strengths of smartphone hardware with home automation sensors. As a result, this opens up the possibility of having an HD security camera with microphone and speaker connected via 3G and Wifi.

In doing so, Rico pushes two important realities of the modern age: finding a use for devices that are too often simply discarded or forgotten and helping consumers more easily enter the era of the smart home. Rico developers MindHelix, Inc. are trying to raise $100,000 to finish design, testing, and production phases on the project. Interested supporters can grab a Rico for $99, with an estimated delivery in November 2015.

While the individual feature set of the Rico may not be anything groundbreaking, the method that it goes about accomplishing home automation is very clever. It would be nice to see the addition of a smartphone provide more than just audio/video functions and network access, but ideally this will help some consumers save money on home automation.