Smart Home

FlipFlic won’t leave you blinded by the light

It can be a major drag to face interruptions every time the window blinds need to be adjusted due to glare.

FlipFlic is a solar-powered, energy-saving device that adjusts window blinds based on sunlight, temperature or any schedule that is set via the accompanying app. An iOS app is already available and an Android version will follow soon. The automation device is easy to install. With one click, FlipFlic, which is about the size of a roll of quarters, attaches to window blinds magnetically.

Sensors/IoT Smart Home

Koto trio of sensor cubes monitor your home’s environent

One of the keys to a healthier lifestyle is as basic as the air we breathe, but that can easily be forgotten because of hard it can be to know exactly what to do to make it better even in our own homes.

To help, the Koto family of smart sensors has been designed to make sure you have all the information needed to make the proper health decisions. The system actually consists of three products. The Koto Blink is a tiny box filled with sensors measuring temperature, humidity, light, and noise, all in an effort to make your living space more comfortable.

The Koto Air is an upgraded Blink, combining its sensors with an air pollution and dust sensor to create a fuller picture of the home and a more robust set of data with which to make the subtle adjustments to the home necessary to stave off mold in older homes, for example.

Tech Accessories

Tye mobile security device protects your stuff, saves the day when they stray

There are many products on the market track a lost pet or stolen smartphone. There are also many devices on the market that can be used to lock up a bicycle or other object so that it can’t be easily stolen.

patent-claimedTye is a new three-in-one, patent-pending device that can do both of those things, and also serves as an alarm system for electronic devices in much the same way that a car alarm system is used for vehicles. The device’s hub gets attached to any device that its user wants to protect. The hub communicates constantly with a small remote that the user hangs onto. If somebody attempts to take the protected device, Tye will sound an alarm.

An app for smartphones and the Apple Watch alerts others that there’s been an attempt to steal a protected device along with the exact transgression spot . Tye can operate up to 90 feet from the device via Bluetooth or up to 400 feet away using ZigBee wireless technology. It is expected to cost about $59-$64 once its Kickstarter campaign ends and will ship in September. Its maker is hoping to raise $60,000 by May 19.

The nice thing about Tye is that it can be used to prevent valued property from straying and find it if it does. Its use of Zigbee helps extend its local range but a cellular option would make the offering even more powerful.


Maker/Development Smart Home

Personal Robot combines home automation with facial recognition, other technologies

editors-choiceHaving a device in the house that can function as a personal assistant, while also serving as a home automation system would come in handy. Especially when it combines far-field voice recognition with emotion, facial and object recognition. Introducing the Personal Robot, one such device, from the New York-based company Robotbase.

Personal Robot features a 3D depth camera and noise canceling microphone array technology, and it can communicate with the user’s connected devices via wireless Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee, BLE and Wi-Fi. The far-field voice recognition enables the device to hear the user’s commands all the way from the other side of the room. The user can ask Personal Robot for information including the local weather, news, sports scores and recipes, as the video on its Kickstarter campaign shows. The device can also be used to play music, schedule meetings, set alarms, and control the temperature in a home to save energy and money. Backers who pledge $995 will get one when it ships in December. Its maker set a goal of raising $50,000 on Kickstarter.

Other devices on the market have attempted some of the same functionality. But Personal Robot’s advanced software, which incorporates deep learning algorithms, give it an advantage over some competing products. Some consumers might find the computer-animated female character that is featured on the device’s screen a bit creepy, although the device’s maker says the user can change how she looks.

Smart Home

Neeo thinking remote is the one system that can control all devices in your home

editors-choiceHaving a smart automation system that can control all the devices in a home is something that a growing number of consumers are looking for. Neeo from the Cupertino, California, company of the same name combines some of the best features of a mobile app-based smart home automation system with those of a universal remote control. It also adds a few features that rival devices just don’t have, such as four antennas that integrate Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol functionality.

There are two main parts of the Neeo system: the “Brain,” a small hockey puck-shaped device made of solid aluminum and acrylic glass, that will command all of the user’s devices, including TVs and Blu-ray players; and the remote, which provides instant control of all those devices. Sensors in the attractive remote detect the user’s palm and matches it with that person’s profile. It then displays that person’s personal playlists, movies and favorites from connected devices instantly, the company claims. Also attractive is the remote’s 291 pixels per inch touch display.

If the user can’t find the remote, an SOS alarm function that is activated via an iOS or Android smartphone will help track it down. Neeo has a database of more than 30,000 devices that it can connect to and control, and is compatible with all major AV products made in the last 10 years. Kickstarter backers who pledge $148 will get one Brain in April and the free app. Those who pledge $219 will, in May, get the Brain and the remote in either the standard aluminum version or one of two limited edition SKUs, in black or white. The system’s maker is looking to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter.

As long as the Neeo remote is indeed compatible with as many devices as the company claims and the set-up process is as simple as it says, the system is among the most promising products to come along in the home automation and universal remote categories lately. It surpasses most similar devices including last year’s Droplit. As a universal remote, it also stands to be a major challenger to the popular Harmony remotes from Logitech.


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.

Smart Home

Homey will get your back when it comes to controlling your home

The Premise. Since Star Trek, homeowners have always wanted to be able to control their home devices with simple spoken commands. Now that the smart home is quickly finding adoption around the world, a voice-controlled module will greatly propel that market into a must-have for anyone.

The Product. Homey is an attractive little orb that can control devices across seven of the most common wireless protocols (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, NFC,  Infrared, and more) with simple, spoken voice commands. The device is designed to be easy to use and adjust as more and more devices can become controlled by taking to one’s home.

The Pitch. Athom, developer of Homey, has put together an attractive video that shows users adjusting the thermostat, queuing up movies with subtitles, and even setting the mood in the bedroom. Athom is far along in the development process, but are raising money through crowdfunding to keep retail costs down and fund the manufacturing process, with a goal of €100,000. Stretch goals are available at €200,000 to create if-then flow commands that will automate things even more, and at €300,000, multiple colors will be available including a Pokémon-themed Poké Ball color scheme.

The Perks. Setting up a home with a Homey will take a pledge of €229, with an extra €20 for shipping in June 2015. For €239, the Geek Edition is available, giving developers two wireless transceivers, jumper cables, and access to the development kit to add more features to the device. Homey can be had a little sooner for €399, arriving in April instead of June.

The Potential. Home automation is an industry that everyone wants a piece of, and Homey looks like it might become the interface that people want to adopt. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Google Nexus Q and adopting a similar feature set to the EmoSPARK, the Homey already might look like a copycat device, but the sheer number of wireless connectivity options and flexibility of functions makes it an intriguing option. Another chief competitor for the Homey will be the Ubi, which right now might be a little less powerful in terms of precise control, but also offers users the ability to answer basic internet questions by asking them out loud. With so many choices, it’s the little differences that will separate the success stories from the footnotes, and it seems like Homey might be able to edge out most of the competition when it comes to features and design.

Smart Home

Talk to your home and have it listen and respond with ALYT

The Premise. Part of the smart home dream has always been being able to talk with a place of residence and trust it to control climate, security, and sense problems. Of course, for as long as smart home technology has been developed, it’s been reaching toward this goal without ever getting there.

The Product. ALYT is an Android-powered hub that looks like the solution to these problems. By being an open platform operating on just about every imaginable form of wireless data, ALYT allows for voice and video recognition to control virtually any aspect of a home – as long as developers create an app for it. Compatible with iOS, Android, Bluetooth, NFC, Z-Wave, 3.5G and more, the flexibility of the ALYT system opens it up to all kinds of innovative development.

The Pitch. By all indications of the video introduction, there seems to be nothing the ALYT can’t handle. From protecting homes from floods to keeping an eye on the family pet while at the office, the flexibility of the ALYT is on display. For those that need a little more convincing, the campaign contains lots of details on how ALYT can be put to use for almost any home application.  ALYT needs to raise $100,000 for production and certification, with stretch goals offering increased compatibility and other features.

The Perks. For developers that want to get started with ALYT as soon as possible, the $149 reward tier comes with a prototype PCB, wireless detector, wireless door sensor and a self-development kit to arrive in June of this year. Home users who simply want a functional ALYT without developing for it can get one in July for $199, and from there, more accessories are available at higher tiers depending on what owners want an ALYT for. A home security kit can be had for $299, a smart home functionality kit is $329, and a video surveillance kit is $479, all expected to ship in November. All reward tiers including a shipping fee of at least $15.

The Potential. ALYT is very high-concept, as it really seems to offer more as a platform than as a consumer-level device. Once the apps and the development get rolling, it would be easy to see how this hub would be a must for any smart home. For now, however, the ALYT is only as strong as its app base, and that may lead consumers to look elsewhere for their smart home hubs, whether it’s the popular Revolv or the similarly-designed Ninja Sphere.