Smart Home

Netro relies on the cloud and the sun to water your garden

Many homeowners rely on lawn sprinkler systems to water their gardens and lawns. However, traditional lawn sprinkler systems tend to waste a lot of water and don’t always do a great job supplying water exactly where it’s needed.

Netro is a watering system designed for easy use in residential irrigation and is made up of the Sprite cloud-based watering controller and Whisperer, a solar-powered plant sensor. It works in conjunction with an app for Android and iOS mobile devices. Netro helps to reduce unnecessary water usage and keeps gardens healthy.


SunFocus catches rays to cook good eats

Solar energy is slowly becoming more and more commonplace, and for good reason: the benefits are innumerable to list. Despite solar’s potential, its one sore spot has to do with the generally inefficient methods of harnessing it. Fortunately, plenty of crowdfunding campaigns have sought to fill this void with new attempts at doing so.

The SunFocus is a three-in-one solar electric oven able to switch seamlessly from solar to electric energy and back automatically, with a plug-in option just in case. The portable oven roasts, steams, bakes, and boils up to 12 lbs. of food, using up to three curved focusing lids to reach temperatures as high as 350°F efficiently.

Personal Transportation

Pack your bags and get moving with the Coolpeds Solar Electric Scooter

Everyone knows how brutal those mile long treks can be to and from work. A comparable experience is trudging through the vast innards of most airports to the gate which is inevitably on the other side of the entrance. No one likes it, but still it must be done. No one says it can’t be made easier, though.

The Coolpeds Solar Electric Scooter is looking to make it easier to think about the long distances required when simply getting to work or traveling. The scooter combines an eco-friendly transportation option with the storage potential of a small piece of carry-on luggage. A compact brushless motor hub does the work in getting users places, while a USB port charges a wide-variety of common devices people use everyday, all while weighing in at a sprite 7kg. It just takes about three hours to fully charge, so users might be waiting around for a bit.

The Impossible Bike does a better job at the scooter part of the equation without any storage to speak of. In any case, the Coolpeds scooter is going for $399, $200 off its eventual retail price. The $59,000 Indiegogo campaign is looking to have the product shipped by April 2015.


Baseload Buster uses PV panels to lower electric bills

Who doesn’t want to reduce their electric bills? But shifting one’s house entirely over to a solar panel energy system from a fossil fuel-based energy system can be costly.

The Baseload Buster from Amsterdam company Sun Invention offers a third solution that uses photovoltaics (PV) to convert solar energy into direct current electricity. The system includes four solar PV panels of 250 watts each that collect sun during the day to create a maximum of 1,000 watts of pure energy during daytime harvesting. Excess energy is then stored in Lithium batteries to deliver energy during the night or during especially cloudy weather. The PV panels run with an extra cell optimizer to avoid large losses during energy production.

Users can adjust the storage setting on their own based on factors including the region it is being used in, what season it is, and personal consumption level. Sun Invention is looking to raise €20,000 (~$24,200). Backers who spend €2,950 (~$3,600) will get the four panels including a new solar cell optimizer, and a 20-meter connection cable that connects the Baseload Buster connection box to the user’s existing home grid energy system. Country-specific AC connectors are ready to order also and versions for both 50 Hz and 60 Hz grids can be offered by the company.

The system sounds promising. But while the Baseload Buster is clearly less expensive than switching over entirely to a solar energy system, it is still too costly to attract mass consumer adoption. It is also hard to gauge just how much savings the user can expect to see each month.

Chargers/Batteries Smartwatches/Bands

SolarHug gives mobile phones an energy lift with the sun

Everybody with an energy-sucking smartphone knows how frustrating it is when the device goes dead mid-way through the day when they’re nowhere near a power source to charge it. That’s why wearable charging solutions are so appealing.

SolarHug can be used just like a USB flash drive. Just connect a smartphone, or other electronic device, to the bracelet and the phone will immediately start charging. In 50 minutes, the phone will be fully charged. One hour in the sun recharges about 5 percent of the bracelet’s battery. SolarHug is covered with a flexible solar panel that charges the battery inside, even if there is minimal light.

The device can also be used for 128 GB of data storage. Backers who pay £50 (~$78) as part of an early bird special (a 50% savings off its regular price) will get a SolarHug when it ships in April. London-based Grandpa Technology is trying to raise £70,000 (~$109,000) by mid January.

Similar wearable devices perform the same basic function, including the Carbon analog watch. The mostly aluminum SolarHug is not the nicest smart bracelet on the market, and its design could be a turnoff to some consumers. It also remains questionable how many consumers will spend more than $100 to wear a bracelet to charge their mobile device when much cheaper accessories can be bought that do the same thing.

Chargers/Batteries Tech Accessories

Hydrobee charger uses wind, rain, and muscle to juice up your devices

The demand for battery power on tablets and smartphones is simply never met. We use these devices day in and day out, taking advantage of all the cool apps and capabilities they have to offer. However, most find that their device only lasts half the day and dies at the worst moments.

Hydrobee never wants any smartphone to die ever again. This mini power plant harnesses solar, wind, hydro and mechanical energy to power any USB compatible device. Charge it up with a bike ride, day out in the sun or running water. Then, when the time comes, unplug and set off for the day. Hydrate will be there to charge your device with its stored energy.

We’ve seen all kinds of these devices on Backerjack. Batteries that charge from wind or sun, but it’s rare to see a product that takes almost any kind of energy it can get. Hydrobee’s versatility is what truly sets it apart from other products. Interested backers can grab their own $145 by May 2015. Hydrobee is looking to raise $32,000 on Kickstarter.

Chargers/Batteries Imaging

SunnyBAG action case stores GoPro and charges it with solar energy

Any extreme daredevil knows that the best way to capture cool stunts is to use a GoPro camera. These cameras’ durability and versatility make them perfect to take to rivers, mountains, cliffs, jungles or any other daredevil-y place.

Up until now, GoPro cases have been rather lame compared to the cameras themselves. Introducing SunnyBAG: a GoPro case that not only protects these cameras wherever they may go, but also charges them. The case is covered with solar panels that soak up rays, turning them into battery life for the GoPro. In addition, the case can also charge smartphones, tablets, Google Glass, smartwatches and any other USB compatible device.

While the charging time for devices supported by SunnyBAG may be on the longer side, this case is still very interesting. It’s ideal for thrill seekers who spend the whole day on the move looking for the next piece of action. Backers can have their very own by April 2015 for $89, if SunnyBAG can meet its $30,000 goal on Indiegogo.

Camping Chargers/Batteries

WakaWaka returns with a solar charging power kit

Kickstarter success story WakaWaka already has a history of creating simple, innovative devices that harness solar power into personal electricity. Now, they tackle a situation in which electricity stops being an option. The WakaWaka Base is a portable “power and light first aid kit” that includes a foldable solar panel and base that can connect to LED flashlights, phones, or any USB device to charge it. The solar panel is strong enough to charge even on cloudy days, and the base can hold enough charge to power a week of light or five full smartphone charges with no additional solar energy.

Ideal for any storm preparedness kit, camping gear, or car trunk, the WakaWaka Base ensures that nobody ever has to worry about being stranded and having their phone battery die on them or having to wander around in the dark. WakaWaka needs $70,000 to test, manufacture, and release the Base. The peace of mind the Base provides costs only $89, and will be out in May 2015. This kind of product innovation is what makes WakaWaka products so popular, and there’s no reason why any smartphone user or homeowner should be without the WakaWaka Base.

Smart Home

Smart control kit lifts the difficulty in controlling window blinds

One of the biggest hurdles that home automation faces is the cost and complexity of installing devices for every small or mundane aspect of a house.

Tilt My Blinds thinks that smart blinds are a great addition to any home, and wants to make the process simple for anyone. Working with virtually any kind of existing blinds, Tilt My Blinds is a simple device that takes less than 15 minutes to install on each set of blinds and allows for scheduled opening and closing of the blinds as well as control via Bluetooth devices or wireless switches. The blinds are powered by a battery which can be charged using any USB outlet or with an optional solar panel to save even more time and energy. It’s going to take $50,000 to make a properly-funded endeavor. A Tilt My Blinds retrofit kit will cost backers $75 and arrive in February 2015.

For those automating their home piece by piece, Tilt My Blinds is a great way to add some futurism into even the most quaint of dwellings. The solar panel is  great for taking even more effort away from managing the blinds, and the TV plug add-on to reduce viewing glare demonstrates the kind of foresight that should make this product successful.


Fusion Writer concept fuses together laptop and e-reader

It was a dark and stormy night. And that being the case, writers or professionals working on a document were taking big risks using their laptops and saving more frequently than ever before.

Using the same principles behind e-readers and other products that use electronic ink, the Fusion Writer is a slim word processor that is waterproof and can stay powered for two months. With a 13” LCD backlit display, solar power charging, Wi-fi and Bluetooth compatibility, and an Android OS, the Fusion Writer may only do one thing, but it aims to do that thing better than any other product on the market. Fusion Writer creator Ivan Samokish has set a funding goal of $50,000 CAD to buy quality components and finish development and production on the device. Getting in on the Fusion Writer’s prototype stage takes a $600 CAD pledge and will be ready by April 2016.

Some may scoff at the idea of a dedicated word processor in this day and age, but the amount of foresight that’s gone into making the Fusion Writer a hands-down leader at handling this task will make it a tool of the trade for journalists, authors, and writers around the globe. The only thing missing is some hands-on demonstration to give backers peace of mind that this project will see completion.