Tech Accessories

Wirca works with USB ports to share files among devices

Consumers today increasingly rely on mobile devices to store all the digital content they need while on the go. The ability to add additional capacity to these devices, especially when Wi-Fi service isn’t available to store new content, would be extremely useful.

The Wirca wireless card reader is a tiny network-attached storage (NAS) server that accomplishes exactly that, expanding the capacity of a smartphone or tablet without the need for Wi-Fi. The tiny device can be attached to user’s key ring or even placed in a pocket, handbag or backpack. Wirca, which can work with up to eight devices at the same time, can be used to store music, videos, photos and other types of files. When attached to a computer or portable power source via USB, it also sends a Wi-Fi signal and provides the user with access to additional storage. The basic version costs $45 and comes without a TransFlash (TF) memory card, though certain SKUs will include one. Wirca can store a maximum of 2 TB and will ship in May. Its maker is looking to raise $5,000 by April 19.

Wirca holds some promise but faces an uphill battle because there are just too many other devices from familiar brands that deliver the same type of functionality, including Kingston Technology’s MobileLite and SanDisk’s Connect Wireless Flash Drive.


Smart Home

Sesame smart lock lets you open doors as you knock it from your pocket

Smart locks were quite possibly the smart home movement’s first attempt at a truly wireless home. Unfortunately, initial efforts resulted in oversized locks with impractical installation requirements and questionable security.

patent-claimedThe simple looking Sesame smart lock provides a modern day solution in this regard. The lock is manufactured with a five-patented design capable of being installed over a large variety of single-cylinder deadbolts, all without the need of any tools.

The lock uses Bluetooth LE in conjunction with military-grade encryption in order to enable home entry in a number of creative ways. For instance, users can utilize a companion iOS or Android app to remotely open a door or enable proximity entry by way of a nearby smartphone. Voice controlled based entry is also a feature of the device. Notably, users can be informed when doors are opened and closed, an important feature given that Sesame provides wireless and shareable access.

$149 gets backers both a Sesame lock and a Wi-Fi Access Point that lessens drain on the device’s battery. Its makers are seeking $100,000 and are aiming to get the product delivered by May 2015.

With its incredibly easy install and wealth of entry options, the Sesame smart lock is poised to find itself on more doors than competing products. This is well-tread territory, after all, previously occupied by the likes of August and Goji.

The Sesame lock, though, has some competition in Haven, whose all-business construction is the polar opposite of the fun, light-hearted tone Sesame takes — which may not sit well for those a bit more serious about their home protection needs. Still, its impressively easy installation process will undoubtedly attract many.



Smart Home

Blueguard smart lock and doorbell lets you welcome guests from across the ocean

Doorbells just aren’t what they used to be. A simple ring to announce a visitor only works when someone is home to actually answer the door. Otherwise, a doorbell is effectively useless.

The Blueguard smart lock and video doorbell system modernizes this part of the home which has been long overdue for an update.

The Blueguard system takes advantage of the prevalence of wireless networks everywhere, offering a deadbolt with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. This, along with an embedded color camera, allows homeowners, from anywhere in the world, to respond to someone at the door through their smartphone or via a web app. If no one’s home, an alert mode can be set whereby a motion sensor and camera will detect and record whoever is at the door, sending it straight back to the homeowner’s smartphone or computer.

All of this technology also allows for a multitude of entry options. Besides a standard key, Blueguard allows for coded entry or, even more interestingly, proximity based, one-touch entry to the home so long as the included Bluetooth fob is in the vicinity of the lock. A standard Blueguard package goes for $199, and includes two keys, two fobs, four electronic keys, four AA batteries, and the Blueguard deadbolt and interior. The $6,000 campaign is looking to ship the product in August 2015.

Although Blueguard claims to be the world’s first smart lock and doorbell, it most certainly isn’t. Other products like the i-Bell, Chui, and airBell also incorporate connected cameras, though Blueguard is the only product which includes a relationship with the lock itself.

Music Technology

Stream delivers open source multi-room music streaming

Multi-room, Wi-Fi music systems have become increasingly popular as emerging technology standards in the category, including AllPlay, continue to try and gain a foothold. But Sonos and other options on the market, such as the Core multi-room speaker system, are too costly for many consumers, often coming in at $300 or higher.

Stream is being touted by its maker as a highly affordable option, coming in at $199. Like similar products, Stream enables users to listen to music from Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes and their own personal music collections in all rooms of their homes. It’s an open system that can be connected via a free app for Android and iOS devices. Alternatively, iOS users can run Stream via AirPlay. Stream will ship in May. Its maker is looking to raise $50,000 by March 24 to give the manufacturing supplier a first order and pay for research and tooling costs, according to Stream’s Indiegogo campaign.

Stream holds promise largely because of its price tag, which separates it from much of the rival pack. But it’s not clear if that will be enough of a selling advantage. For now, the actual quality of Stream’s sound isn’t known, and that’s the most important feature of any music system.


Beam smart projector shows video, images from any light socket on any surface

editors-choicePico projectors that can be connected to Android and iOS mobile devices to display video and other content can come in handy at home and at the office when making presentations. Combining a pico projector with an LED light bulb into a device that can be connected to any light socket could make it even more handy.

patent-claimedThat’s precisely what the makers of Beam have created. It’s an always-connected 100-lumen LED projector that promises 20,000 projection hours, and comes equipped with an LED light, two 2-watt speakers and 8 GB of onboard storage. Beam features a tapered, cylindrical design that’s designed to accommodate any standard light socket. Any electronic device can be connected to Beam, including mice, keyboards, game controllers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers, and smartwatches.

Beam turns any flat surface into a big screen, whether it’s a table, ceiling, floor or wall. It also enables users to listen to music via its speakers. Beam can be programmed to do a wide range of things, such as play music or display certain content at specific times each day, or whenever somebody turns on connected Bluetooth speakers or starts the Beam app. It will ship at $399 in October. Beam’s maker set a goal of raising $200,000 by March 24. That money will be used to complete Beam development and start production, according to its Kickstarter campaign.

Beam, which is featured in Backerjack’s Episode 7 podcast, holds a great deal of promise. Its multi-functionality and unique design help it easily stand out from the growing number of pico projectors on the market, including TouchPico.

Smart Home

The only finger you’ll lift is a thumb with the xRemote smart home hub

The prevalence of home automation devices has given the Internet of Things a messy start. The more of these products are created, the more a common standard is necessary, and the faster infrared-based devices continue to be phased out.

Since that common standard isn’t here, the xRemote offers users a way to control everything instead. The smart home hub is outfitted with infrared sensors and Bluetooth LE to cover both the old and the new both in the home and a user’s body with the use of an Android app. As a result, preset modes can be designed with the help of the xRemote’s intelligent learning to tailor the home exactly to a user’s liking.

xRemote also boasts abilities like GPS location tracking to warm up or cool down the home in anticipation of a user’s arrival, or the remote control of lights within the home, and long distance control of the home from anywhere in the world through Wi-Fi.

xRemote joins the ranks of products like RoomBox, AnyMote and Puck in offering bridges for the gaps in home technology, but forces the purchase of multiple units to ensure range. A product like NUZii does so much more, but lacks the infrared component, which can be easily added in its case.

The flagship xRemote Gateway will be awarded to backers for $99, and the $100,000 campaign is promising the product in June of this year.

Connected Objects Home

Listnr assists in controlling the Internet of Things with claps, stomps, and snaps

One of the easiest ways to interact with the environment is through sound, and voice-controlled technology is at the forefront of this potential. For instance, Amazon’s Echo is trying to make one’s own voice the cornerstone of the cloud-connected experience. But sometimes, things just don’t have to be that complex.

Billed as a user’s listening assistant, the Listnr pays more attention to sound than to voice. The device’s iOS app allows users to attach connected objects in the homes (like a Philips Hue lightbulb) to actions like clapping, stomping, or snapping fingers. As a result, hands full of groceries or a comfortable position in bed won’t be obstacles to devices in and around the home. In addition, the Wi-Fi-enabled device can send notifications to iPhones, and even identify the emotional tenor of the voices in the room.

Overall, the product can be useful but only with a wide variety of actions. Without that, it just isn’t as compelling. Early birds can grab a Listnr device for $99, due to ship in August of this year. The campaign is looking for $50,000 in funding by March 6.

Connected Objects Networking

Eero can be your hero in overcoming wireless dead zones

A frequent annoyance for Wi-Fi users is when a dead zone prevents them from accessing the Internet in certain locations of their homes. Another annoyance is having to reset a router when it mysteriously stops working.

Eero has been designed to blanket a user’s entire home with fast, reliable Wi-Fi in order to eliminate dead zones and all the other frequent wireless issues that Internet users typically experience. The device looks like a basic router and plugs into an existing cable or DSL modem. Users then just download an Android or iOS app and it will instantly recognize Eero and prompt users to create their own network name and password. Additional Eeros need power from a standard wall outlet and get placed around the home with the help of the app.

A typical apartment will need two Eeros, while an average house will need three and a larger house will require four to work at maximum effectiveness. The Eeros work together to form a mesh network. Unlike traditional routers and extenders that only allow for data to make a single hop, Eero allows for multiple hops with minimal signal loss. Consumers can connect up to 10 Eeros. One unit will cost $199 and its maker will bundle three at the discounted price of $499 when it ships this summer.

Eero holds a lot of promise, as long as it works as effectively as its maker claims. The Splitter is a rival device that attempts to resolve wireless dead zones, but Eero is a far more advanced system.


Spider tries to bite rivals with smart antenna beamforming technology

Many Wi-Fi routers can only support a very limited number of devices. But the Spider Wi-Fi router can connect more than 100 devices by using smart antenna beamforming technology. As its name implies, the device also has eight antennas, along with eight RF receivers and transmitters.

Most Wi-Fi devices still operate at 2.4 GHz, despite the limited bandwidth it provides. Trying to run more than one 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network to overcome that issue often results in interference between the networks. Spider, however, features two onboard 2.4GHz Wi-Fi cards. The eight antennas and RF receivers/transmitters enable the device to run powerful adjacent channel and co-channel interference cancellation algorithms to completely eliminate the interference between the two 2.4GHz frequencies.

Backers who pledge $125 under Deyond’s current early bird campaign offer will get one ivory white Spider when it ships in August.  Spider is looking to raise $90,000 in funding.

The device has real promise if it works as well as its maker claims. However, the product faces potentially stiff competition from the six- and eight-antenna routers that D-Link bowed at CES. It’s usually rough for a relative newcomer like Deyond to face a major brand name like D-Link, which has established, wide distribution in its favor.

Connected Objects

DISPLIO E Ink display offloads device notifications to a tiny box

editors-choiceThere’s a subtle dance between the devices in the lives of so many and the users who own them. The former aggressively leads, throwing out an endless stream of information to the latter who, for the most part, has to keep up with the many flashes, pop-up notifications, and rumbles throughout the day.

Users could customize the notifications to their liking but that can come at the expense of being less informed, or they can opt to use DISPLIO. The product is a tiny Wi-Fi enabled, E Ink display designed to serve as a point where devices can offload specific, contextual information based on where it’s placed. So at home, DISPLIO can display weather or cooking recipes. At work, the number of Facebook likes can be tracked alongside revenue for that quarter, along with a built-in speaker to catch a user’s attention for very important updates.

Different widgets can be reloaded or switched out using tap, shake, and rotate gestures, while new widgets can be designed using the combination of DISPLIO’s open API, library of various language support, and a design editor to make it all look pretty. A DISPLIO with a choice of multiple colors can be had for $99. The $65,000 campaign is looking to ship the product in June 2015.

E Ink displays are coming into their own, evident in the steady stream of products similar to DISPLIO, like the Vikaura, both of which are strikingly similar. The latter comes in different sizes and supports Bluetooth LE, making it slight more practical. DISPLIO’s small size, though, makes it a nice companion around the home or office.