Strone Roam keeps your number home, calling fees low

Even with certain carriers getting more aggressive about attacking roaming fees, it’s possible to rack up big cellular bills when traveling if you’re not willing to hop from hotspot to hotspot.

The Strone Roam may be an alternative. To use it, users connect the cylindrical, Amazon Echo-like device to Wi-Fi and leave it at home with their SIM card inserted. Doing this routes all incoming and outgoing calls through their own number at local rates using the Strone iOS, Android, or Web app — no matter where they are in the world.

For this functionality, users will still need to buy Strone credit with which to make these calls or browse the internet, but that’s still far less expensive than alternatives such as Skype or aninternational packages direct from a carrier. Calls between Strone app customers are free.

Connected Objects Smart Home

GATE connected mailbox makes postal mail notifications just as annoying as e-mail notifications

Even though mailboxes have been around for at least a century, they haven’t changed all that much. They’re still physical boxes, they hold mail, and they don’t do much else. In a world where everything is digital and integrated with the Internet of Things, that simply isn’t enough when such important information is routinely mailed everyday.

GATE smartens up the humble mailbox by adding a Wi-Fi or zWave connected home unit and solar-powered mailbox sensor to the mix. With this done, a sensor-equipped mailbox can send an alert to the home unit whenever it is opened, notifying home owners with a blinking light at a range of 500ft. SMS, email, and Twitter notifications can also be sent out as well so that no matter where someone is, they can stay informed through their iOS or Android device. If mail theft is a big problem in the neighborhood, multiple GATEs can connect to share information about the occurrences. Each GATE goes for $249, with an expected ship date of December 2015. Its campaign is looking for $10,000, and ends June 20th, 2015.

GATE sits opposite the bare-bones Postifier, an Arduino-based mailbox solution that sports a low price but a lack of functionality. As such, there is no contest: GATE pushes the bar up on what a connected mailbox should be, truly bringing it into the 21st century — for a premium.

Connected Objects Music

Auris Zwing implants an Android tablet into a bassy boombox

Once upon a time, the mighty boombox was a staple of audio on the go, a pulsating package of portable partying. When the iPod became a huge hit, a number of battery-powered docking speakers arrived to amplify its extensive music libraries. And more recently, Bluetooth-based products accept streams from smartphones. But the reliance on iPods and smartphones took something away from the mostly self-contained boombox experience.

Those are the days that Auris is trying to recapture and modernize with ithe Zwing, a high-powered (110 dB), bass-tuned portable audio system that features a 7” Android touchscreen between its stereo speakers. Tapping Google Play, the Zwing can access virtually any mainstream music streaming service from a Wi-Fi connection. It can also access video streaming services that it can accompany with powerful audio. At least for music playback, the Auris is rated at 20 hours of battery life, so it should be able to provide the soundtrack through even Charlie Sheen-class blowouts.

The Zwing also has an HDMI connector for easy connection to a TV. And for those who would rather store their music and movies than stream them, it’s offered with up to 32 GB of flash memory plus room for 64 more via microSD. There’s also Bluetooth support for the opportunistic use of a smartphone’s screen versus the Zwing’s. Auris seeks $75,000 in its Flexible Funding campaign (which means it will deliver rewards even if it fails in its goal) due to end June 3rd.

Smart Home

Oomi smart home system does it all with easy setup and simple control

The home automation space is filled with products that promise both straightforward setup and ease of use, using the smartphone as the brains behind it all. Some achieve this feat, but require accessories all over the place for the system to work. And if does work, many products wrongly assume the smartphone is the best piece of technology for total control — having to wait for an app to open just to turn on a bulb is inefficient to say the least.

Fantem thinks a smart home should be much easier to set-up, and its Oomi smart home system is the result of that. The system is primarily made up of an Oomi Cube and Oomi Touch. The former is the star of the show, a Wi-Fi and Z-Wave enabled device filled to the brim with all kinds sensors, cameras, and a motion detector all to learn the rhythms of a user’s daily life and react to anything unexpected. The latter is a 7-inch, edge-to-edge glass tablet with physical buttons that makes setting up any part of the connected home as easy as a tap and a touch.

The primary parts of the Oomi system don’t operate by themselves. A few accessories expand the capability of the system and truly make a home connected. A user can turn any outlet into a smart outlet with the Oomi Plug, while the Oomi Multi-Sensor adds the Oomi Cube’s wealth of sensors into any other part of the home. Ambiance is covered by the Oomi Bulb, while entertainment is handled by the Oomi Streamer. This accessory adds both browsing and streaming capabilities to any TV in the home, pushing home alerts to the screen alongside of them.

Connected Objects Home

Mouse-Minder lets your smartphone know when it humanely captures rodents

When there’s a mouse scurrying around an apartment or a house, many people are simply content with getting rid of it as quickly as possible no matter how it’s done. For others, there a variety of reasons why getting rid of a mouse lethally go against their ethical or moral beliefs. Well, someone has built a better mousetrap.

The Mouse-Minder is a humane, non-lethal mouse trap designed to never hurt a mouse in the process of its capture. What sets it apart is its use of Wi-Fi to send an owner an email when a mouse is caught for timely retrieval and relocation. Its round design ensures for easy cleaning afterward so as to be used again if necessary. The Mouse-Minder campaign is looking for $119,200 in funding in order to ship the $65 product out by December 2015.

The Mouse-Minder lasts about a week with a set of 6 AA batteries, which are easy to find and recharge. However, this trap catches only one mouse while others can catch up to 30. Although there may be a demand for this product from big-hearted home and even business owners, most people just want the little critters gone.

Smart Home Television

We are all just living in smart homes with TVs ruled by mighty Paigo

The Internet of Things is really just a mess of standards trying to operate with each other at this point, leaving the door wide open for in-home solutions to the problem.

The Paigo smart home system is a challenger in this regard, serving as the digital brain to someone’s connected life. The smart home system is a comprehensive solution to connected quandaries. For one, it offers users home automation capabilities with anything in the home that is Z-Wave enabled, along with anything that uses electricity — even if the campaign itself is slightly vague on how exactly it does that.

Home security is another key focus for Paigo, as the system connects itself to equipment such as motion sensors and IP cameras to keep the home safe. For times when the main goal is to relax, the Paigo set-top box can connect to a TV and be used as a media center, browser, or Skype tool. Users can use Paigo’s companion “air mouse” capable remote to facilitate all these actions from afar.

All of Paigo’s capabilities culminate in a product with which users can check in on their home at anytime with a smartphone, tablet, or PC no matter where they are. Scenes can be set to automate devices all at one, either automatically or with a tap of a button. The Paigo Smart Home system will be awarded to backers for $584, and the $107,752 campaign goal is promising the product in December of this year.

The Paigo’s scope is incredibly impressive, but only if its owner has all the necessary equipment to have it truly perform at its most optimal — a huge financial investment if not already set-up. All in all, the campaign is slightly misleading in what it offers, and even vague, at points. In comparison, products like RoomBox and xRemote are clear about the extent to which they can and cannot do things — something backers surely appreciate.


Endless targets emerging markets for affordable PCs

Despite the ongoing decline in global PC sales, many people in emerging markets still don’t own a computer due to factors that include price tags that are outside the reach of many consumers in those countries.

Endless Computers are targeted specifically at those people. To lower the barrier to entry for consumers in emerging markets, Endless has developed a low-cost desktop central processing unit that works with TVs, much like early PCs. That eliminates the need for a monitor, which typically adds some cost to the price of a desktop PC. Although many people in emerging markets don’t own even one PC, they do tend to have at least one cheap TV.

Endless also created its own operating system and software that it is similar to that of a mobile operating system. The computers feature apps that include office software, games and photo editing software –- all tailored to emerging market users. Endless was also designed to work without Internet access, so there are more than 100 apps that don’t require access to the Web.

An entry-level 32-GB computer costs $169, but pricing will vary by country and the company is also fielding a more expensive 500-GB model. Each version features an Intel Celeron N2807 processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and ships in August. The initial markets targeted are Mexico and Guatemala, and more of Latin America will follow shortly after that, with plans for Asia, the Middle East and Africa planned for later. Its maker set a goal of raising $100,000 by May 15.

The computer holds promise for the specific markets it’s targeted at. But it remains to be seen if at least some of the targeted consumers will prefer low-cost convertible PCs such as those from One Laptop Per Child or scaled-up smartphones, especially as pricing on those products continue to decline.


Connected Objects

Noteu Wi-Fi display lets you know you have a message and not much else

Thanks to the Internet, there has never been a more abundant supply of information so freely available. As beneficial as this abundance is, the sheer amount can quickly become overwhelming without efficient methods of consuming it all. Smartphones do an amazing job of keeping up with the many Web sites and services people use every day to communicate, but sometimes there’s a desire for more passive notification, particularly among iPhone and Android holdouts.

For those times, the Wi-Fi connected Noteu smart clock helps out by constantly streaming information. Besides being a customizable alarm clock, the product uses widgets to push Facebook messages, tweets, e-mails, and RSS updates. In addition, IFTTT support lets users create custom alerts tailored specifically for them, such as shipping and stock updates. A single Noteu will run $133, with an expected ship date of September 2015. The campaign is aiming for $14,919 in funding.

This campaign marks the fourth go around for young inventor Jack Trowbridge, signifying a process of iteration that has led to Noteu’s current model. However, when compared to competing products like DISPLIO, it still falls short. It’s clunky, isn’t context-sensitive, and just doesn’t do enough especially considering it doesn’t seem like a user can act on any of the notifications from the device. IFTTT support expands its capabilities immensely, though, and may be its saving grace.

Connected Objects Home

Planty monitors plants, makes sure they’re feeling well

Plants are an excellent way to brighten up any home. But they need lots of care in order to stay alive. Most plants die because their owners aren’t sure of how exactly to care for them.

Planty offers a solution to that problem. With a sensor that goes directly into the soil, Planty sends the plant’s information via Wi-Fi to an accompanying app. It monitors moisture, soil levels, temperature and light. If the plant is too hot, a notification will be sent to the app. When the soil gets too dry, the app informs the user who can then deliver water to the plant with the push of a button. Planty’s smart pot is simply designed with a white round base that plugs into the wall.

Backerjack has seen many other smart planters like the Daisy and GreenVase. Planty sets itself apart with a sleeker design and a more versatile sensor. One will cost backers a donation of $99 with delivery in November 2015. The company seeks $100,000 on Kickstarter by May 23.


Runcible is unique pocket watch-style mobile phone

For consumers looking for a unique mobile phone with a unique internal and external design, there aren’t many options available on the market today.

The makers of Runcible are out to change that with a mobile phone modeled on the look of pocket watches. Internally, the Runcible’s operating system is built on top of Mozilla’s open source Firefox OS. It features a fully round screen and a palm-sized form factor. Although it uses Bluetooth, LTE and Wi-Fi, Runcible will never beep, alert or otherwise interrupt the user, its maker says.

Runcible is certainly unique, so there might be at least a small group of consumers attracted to it on that basis alone. Beyond that, however, it’s too soon to predict how well Runcible might perform in the marketplace, largely because of the few product details available on Monohm’s website, the device’s manufacturer. The device will ship in late 2015 though product pricing hasn’t  yet been provided. Monohm, though, says the cost will be comparable to a premium, unlocked smartphone.