Automated homes are nothing new. For decades, people have toiled over connecting household object to intranets and servers in a desperate attempt to simplify lives. But the work rarely justified the results. Then came the so-called Internet of Things. Nest, Sonos, Hue, Yale Locks; all these products eliminated the need for a Ph.D in geekery. Just remove the item from the swanky packaging, follow the instructions and install the smartphone app and voila, a smart device.
Enter Revolv. This $299 device connects all these smart devices, effectively making a unified smart home. This might be the quintessential first world problem, but as smart devices grow in popularity, there will increase a need for a device to make everything run together. And the Revolv does just that. It’s the missing link in today’s Internet of Things.
In my house, I have several smart devices: A Nest Thermostat, WeMo outlets and a Kwikset deadbolt. All these items previously operated independently of each other. They didn’t know they existed within the same house. The Nest couldn’t talk to the Kwikset lock. The Kwikset couldn’t tell the Nest to fire up the furnace when the front door is unlocked.
The complication can get more troublesome in houses with Sonos systems, Philips Hue lights, and Insteon and GE smart systems. All of these items require a separate app to control their functions. The Revolv not only consolidates control to a central app, but allows for all sorts of macros and pre-programmed functions.
The smart actions allows owners to group logical functions together. Using location sensing, when the owner is, say, 100 yards away from home, the Revolv can lock your front door, turn down the heat, and turn on a Sonos system to give the dog some background music. Or, alternatively, when the owner is within 100 yards of his home, the Revolv can unlock the front door, turn up the heat and kick on the Sonos.
Combined with Belkin WeMo remote outlets and Philip Hue lights, the possibilities are nearly endless. The Revolv could turn on a candle warmer and foot bath, dim the lights and tune into your Fleet Foxes station for a relaxing evening at home.
Setup was surprisingly trivial. Plug the Revolv into power, install the app, and follow the on-screen instructions. Some devices automatically connect to the Revolv. Others require manual syncing. I had to hit a couple small buttons on the backside of my Kiwkset lock.
The device is not without flaws. The Revolv’s current logic doesn’t recognize multiple smartphones. If I happen to leave the geofenced areas, the Revolv doesn’t know that my wife happens to still be in the house and doesn’t want the temperature to drop to 62 degrees. But those are trivial annoyances in an otherwise fantastic device.
If you own multiple smart devices that you control through a smartphone, buy the Revolv. Its novelty alone makes it worth the cost of admission. Upon installation, a lightbulb will go off over your head as you realize this was the device missing from your home. It combines all your devices into universe. It’s akin to the formation of The Avengers. Separate, all your devices are like superheros that can stand their own. Together they can take on thousands of aliens dumping out of a wormhole in the sky.
Our long worldwide nightmare is almost over. The next USB plug will finally be reversible just like Apple’s Lightning connector. No more blindly jamming the connector towards the receptacle, just knowing that it’s not going to work. In the near future, the plug will always be the right side up.
The upcoming connector, called Type-C, is designed for the USB 3.1 specification and scheduled to be finalized by the middle of 2014. The plug is said to be the size of the MicroUSB plug and sport an array of new features including scalable power charging and support data rates nearing 10 Gbit/s.
“While USB technology is well established as the favored choice for connecting and powering devices, we recognize the need to develop a new connector to meet evolving design trends in terms of size and usability,” said Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, in a released statement today (PDF). “The new Type-C connector will fit well with the market’s direction and affords an opportunity to lay a foundation for future versions of USB.”
The USB 3.0 Promoter Group didn’t release a picture of the upcoming connector.
This plug will not mate with existing USB plugs and receptacles. This means, sadly, one day, the dozens of MicroUSB cables accumulating in a junk drawer will be obsolete. Your collection will be a relic. But, I for one, welcome the march of innovation with open arms just so I don’t have to do the little dance flip-flopping dance every time I need to plug in a gadget.
Jeff Bezos shocked Middle America during a CBS “60 Minutes” segment with Charlie Rose: 30-minute Amazon deliveries by drones. Whether it’s a real product or genius PR stunt on the eve of the biggest online shopping day of the year, it doesn’t matter. The idea of a sky full of drones just hit the mainstream.
Amazon isn’t the first company to experiment delivery by drones. In fact, over the last year, several companies beat Amazon to the punch with very similar services testing carrying tacos, pizzas and packages by multi-rotor crafts.
Skycatch demonstrated its aptly-named Tacocopter at Disrupt SF 2013. It flew past attendees, delivering a warm taco feet from the panel of robotics experts.
But what about a pizza? A UK franchise of the U.S.-based Domino’s demonstrated over the summer a drone carrying two pizzas, forcing career pizza delivery men and women to question the longevity of their profession.
China-based SF Express started limited live trials of package deliveries earlier this year. And SF Express’ reveal wasn’t helped along with a prominent news agency like in Amazon’s case. Drones carrying packages were simply spotted in Dongguang, in southern China.
As reported by Quartz at the time, local companies are not bound by rigid government regulations and restrictions in China. Forget the black hole that is the FCC, apparently Chinese businesses that want to use drones must be granted approval from the local civil aviation authorities first. There’s a certain appeal to delivery drones in China. Heavily populated areas are fighting a losing battle against smog and traffic congestion. Drones could be part of the answer.
Amazon’s program would offer 30 minute deliveries of small items – that would cover 86% of Amazon’s orders, Bezos indicated during the 60 Minutes interview. In theory, this would completely eliminate the lack of instant gratification currently lacking from shopping online. In its place would be the fact that your order would be delivered by a drone. A drone! I would order a pack of pencils just to have them dropped on my front door by a robot. But this revolution will not happen anytime soon. At least not in the States.
Amazon Prime Air is unquestionably more marketing gimmick than service in the pipeline.
Bezos is a marketing genius. Amazon Prime Air is unquestionably more marketing gimmick than service in the pipeline. Even Bezos cautioned on 60 Minutes that drone deliveries are still years out. The air regulations are not in place, and the drone technology still needs to mature.
Amazon is currently under fire for working and hiring practices. They are fighting a losing battle against making customers pay taxes in certain states. The Guardian discovered the retail behemoth skirted paying the UK’s corporation tax despite £7 billion in local sales. And there’s always talk about Amazon’s lack of substantial revenues. But now the company has drones!
If any company in the U.S. could pull this off, it would be Amazon. The retailer has demonstrated its knack for modernization time and time again. Of course there is a list of potential issues including regulations, scaling, and people with Airsoft guns. Innovation will overcome obstacles. However, the slope here is rather slippery. If Amazon can do this, why can’t Walmart? Will this solution to decongest roads simply result in congestion 30 meters above the ground?
Library books on demand. Inter-industrial complex deliveries. Even the delivery of a drone by a drone. The sky is the limit (sorry) for drone deliveries.
It’s never been easier to make your home work for you. In the past, installing home automation devices was a laborious and obnoxious task, reserved for only the most committed geeks. But now home automation items can be wrapped and given as gifts. Best yet, these products are fully functional on their own, not requiring the installation of a central hub like in the past.
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Learning Thermostat is a staple of a modern smart home. It’s beautiful, easy to install, and works well. At $249, it’s likely more expensive than four standard thermostats, but the home owner should see lower energy bills thanks to the built-in sensors that monitor the home, automatically adjusting the temperature when it senses no one is around.
The Learning Thermostat can also be fully controlled from a smartphone or the web. Want to make sure the home is toasty warm when you arrive? Load the Android or iOS and pump up the heat a few minutes before you get home.
Nest didn’t just reinvent the thermostat. The company recently revealed its take on the smoke detector as part of the company’s quest to transform the home. The Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that connects with a smartphone, notifying home owners of potential problems like low battery level as well as when their house is on fire. Plus, if you happen to burn the bacon, you can simply wave your hands at the Protect to silence the alarm. It’s $129 and available in white and black.
Think of the Philips Hue as a smart light bulb. The LED light can change to a huge number of colors all controlled by a central bridge connected to a smartphone app. Wake up to warm lighting. Go to bed to deep auburn. Recreate a stale library with bright white. It’s all possible with the Hue. Plus, a bunch of 3rd party applications are available, transforming the simple light bulb into a pretty interesting gift.
The best way to get into the Hue light is to purchase a four-pack of the bulbs. Available for $199, the Starter Pack, includes everything a person needs to take full advantage of the lighting system.
The Belkin WeMo are Internet-connected outlets. Turn on a baby monitor. Control a coffee machine. Click on a space heater. The Belkin WeMo outlets controlled by smartphone apps make all of this possible.
There are several different options available. Starting at $49.99 the Belkin line includes motion detecting outlets, light switches and even one model that includes energy monitoring, allowing the home owner to track the outlet’s energy consumption from afar.
Meet Revolv, a novel way to wrangle all of these stand-alone home automation products. Give this to the person that already has the aforementioned products and is stuck controlling their home through a bevy of smartphone apps.
The Revolv allows for smart macros. Click one button to turn on a space heater with a WeMo, change the lighting on a Hue, turn on a Sonos system, and lock the doors through a Yale lock. Click another button to turn everything off. It’s $299 and the ultimate gift for the person that already has everything.
The Sonos Play:1 is the latest addition to the Sonos family. At $199, and relatively small, it’s the baby of the group. But the small size is deceiving. We found in our testing that it still packs a big sound and in traditional Sonos fashion, makes playing music a trivial affair.
Give the Play:1 to a Sonos newcomer or to a person who already has a Sonos system. Both will love it and will instantly find a place to work it into their home. With the $199 Play:1, Sonos now has options at nearly every price point.
The V5 is a gorgeous $399 speaker from Wren Sound Systems. It sounds great, and looks even better. Bluetooth and AirPlay options are available. When sat on a shelf or tabletop, the speaker harkens to a time when speakers were subtle, designed to fit within a home rather than stand out like a sci-fi movie prop.
In case you do not have access to your smartphone, computer, tablet, smart TV, Xbox 360, PS3, Boxee Box, PS Vita or any of the other countless connected devices, you can now watch YouTube on a Nintendo 3DS.
Nearly 2 years after its launch, the 3DS now has a YouTube app. The top screen plays back the video while the bottom serves up touchscreen controls. The shoulder buttons control navigation and the directional pad provides scrolling options. Or, use a stylus to control everything. Essentially, the app performs as expected.
Ironically, the app does not support 3D YouTube videos.
The app is now available through the 3DS eShop in North America and Europe, joining Netflix and Hulu which launched just last month.
(In case it’s not obvious, YouTube is not available on a Game Boy Color, nor does it ship in cartridge form. But these mockups, like the one featured here, are pretty awesome.)
Oh, Amazon. You’re silly. But also very right.
In Amazon’s latest assault on the gadget establishment, the Kindle HDK 8.9 takes on the iPad Air, correctly pointing out that Amazon’s offering has a better screen and is lighter than its Apple counterpart. Plus, the Kindle HDX 8.9 is cheaper.
With this advert, Amazon joins Microsoft in selling their wares directly against Apple’s. This commercial, like some of the Windows tablet tv spots, is rather blunt, right down to a mocking tone of the voice-over narrator. But, arguably, unlike the Microsoft attacks, Amazon’s selling points are valid and worth considering for some buyers.
The Kindle HDX 8.9 is a worthy competitor against the iPad. The screen is more dense and generally higher quality. The HDX is lighter and cheaper. For a good chunk of buyers, as in, those looking to watch YouTube videos, play some older games, and shop Amazon, the HDX is a great option. The only thing the HDX lacks is access to Apple’s iCloud ecosystem that brilliantly syncs commonly used communication and productivity tools across Apple computers and mobile devices.
Amazon has steadily grown into a legitimate consumer electronic company. From humble starts with the original Kindle, the retail giant knows how to start small and scale into a major player. Is the Kindle HDX better than the iPad? Not really, but the gap is quickly closing. Plus, drones.
The Apple Campus 2 is cleared for launch. Again. A unanimous vote by Cupertino City Council cleared the last hurdle for Apple’s so-called spaceship HQ.
“We’re really proud that you decided to stay here in Cupertino,” Councilman Gilbert Wong said, addressing Dan Whisenhunt, Apple’s head of real estate and facilities, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Yesterday’s vote was mostly a formality since the council approved the construction last month. This final vote reduced the annual tax rebate Cupertino gives to Apple. According to a deal struck in 1997 when Apple was on the verge of collapse, Cupertino gives back 50% of the taxes generated each year from Apple’s business-to-business sales. The new deal has the city returning 35% back to the company, generating an additional estimated $1.2m each year for the city.
Apple is expected to break ground this year. Apparently heavy equipment is already on site. The 2.8 million square-foot HQ will open in 2016. And as with every Apple product, expect a gratuitous amount of leaks and micro-analysis of every move.
In today’s edition of “U.S. wireless carriers are dicks”, we’re going to look at the latest in how carriers and the CTIA are protecting valuable revenue streams by blocking features that would curb smartphone theft.
Over 1.6 million U.S. consumers had a smartphone stolen in 2012. One in three thefts within the U.S. involved a mobile gadget. Speaking to CBS This Morning today, San Francisco’s Attorney General stated that 50% of their robberies and thefts involved a smartphone. It’s an epidemic and wireless carriers are dismissing the solution.
According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, officials from in New York, San Francisco, London and Philadelphia called on the wireless industry to present a solution. Samsung did just that earlier this year for its own devices, but the five largest U.S. wireless carriers denied it their customers.
According to emails obtained by CBS, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, all decided to not include the feature in the Samsung handsets sold by each carrier. Meanwhile, the CTIA, the trade association for wireless carriers, helped the FCC and certain police departments create online databases for stolen phones.
In theory, this list – compiled for, managed by, and unique to each wireless carrier – would prevent stolen smartphones from being reactivated. But it doesn’t protect against data theft, and is largely useless if the phone is shipped out of the country. A kill switch is needed and placed in the hands of smartphone owners.
Samsung and Apple both moved to implement a kill switch within their devices earlier this year. Apple had more luck than Samsung. Since a staggering majority of Samsung smartphones sold in the U.S. run Android, wireless carriers are able to modify the software before selling the device to consumers. U.S. carriers simply removed the kill switch.
Apple’s solution is not perfect but is a big step forward. The Find My iPhone application allows consumers to locate and remotely wipe phones. Then, new with iOS 7, the original owner’s credentials have to be entered before the phone can be reactivated – even after the phone was completely reset. Meanwhile, Google offers a similar feature baked into Android, including the ability to remotely locate and wipe a stolen phone. But once the device is remotely erased, it can be reactivated under a new account.
It’s unclear exactly why wireless carriers denied thoughtful security features to their customers, but preserving profit is main theory. Each carrier offers insurance for stolen phones. And what’s a person supposed to do when their phone is stolen? Walk around unfettered like it’s 1995? No, they go get a new phone at either the full price, sign a new contact to get the phone at a discount, or pay the deductible on that insurance plan.
It’s too early to tell if the CTIA’s national database will curb smartphone thefts. Logic seems to dictate that it won’t, though. The thieves will just sell them overseas, out of reach of the CTIA’s databases and the wireless carriers they represent. Think selling internationally is hard? Replace Craigslist with eBay in that illicit workflow and voilà – thieves are good to go once more.
The wireless industry as a whole needs to let go and put more power in the hands of the owners. Give owners a native kill switch, a software solution baked into the core of the phone, which upon activation, would completely brick the phone if it gets stolen.
The auto industry was once plagued by stolen radios. The problem was solved when car manufacturers took a hard stance and made it so a stolen radio would not work outside of the original car. But don’t expect the wireless industry to take such a hard-line. An car owner with a broken window missing radio does not go out and buy an expensive new car. They buy a new window and radio.
Meet the Qualcomm Toq. The $350 smartwatch will be available come December 2nd directly from Qualcomm. The watch packs some interesting features including Qualcomm’s own low-energy screen technology called Mirasol that should make it more readable in direct sunlight. The smartwatch race just got a bit more interesting.
Qualcomm designed the Toq to bring Android notification to a smaller screen. Reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the device is rather attractive even if it’s a touch bulky. The watch only connects with Android devices and runs a bespoke OS.
The smartwatch market is very similar to the mp3 player market prior to the iPod’s eventual domination. Nearly every consumer electronic market is throwing their hat into the ring with their own interpretation. However, consumers have yet to latch on primarily because the concept itself is still under development. Samsung’s smartwatch is essentially a gimped smartphone, Sony’s is centered around notifications, and the Pebble offers basic functions for a low price.
The smartwatch market needs a device to break open the market. The market needs a device to show consumers why the need a smartwatch. The smartwatch market needs an iPod. And the Qualcomm Toq is not that device and Qualcomm knows that.
By Qualcomm’s own admission, the Toq will not be a blockbuster. Think of it as a proof of concept. It’s a limited edition and at launch will only be available from Qualcomm itself. Qualcomm, after all, does not have the consumer electronic distribution channels to properly compete within the walls of retail stores.
This isn’t the first time Qualcomm has tried the consumer electronic game. Remember the FLO TV? Probably not. The small device brought live TV to buyers willing to shell out $350 for the device and $8.99 a month for the service. The device rocked a 3.5-inch screen and stereo speakers. Unexpectedly, FLO TV didn’t survive. Qualcomm refunded buyers the cost of the device and sold the wireless spectrum to AT&T for $2B (which was probably Qualcomm’s original intent).
Qualcomm likely has a similar outcome planned for the Toq. If the company can drum up enough hype around its smartwatch, it will be in a better position to license or sell the smartwatch’s key technology such as the Mirasol screen or the custom OS. Qualcomm doesn’t want to get into consumer electronics. It’s too smart for the that.
The PS4 is a lovely gaming kit. It’s sleek. Monolithic. And relatively small in comparison to the Xbox One. Sony did its 4th generation console right. iFixit found in its teardown that the gaming system is nearly as beautiful on the inside as it is on the out. But that shouldn’t be a big surprise. It’s a Sony product and Sony knows how to build things. However, iFixit did find something somewhat shocking: The latest PlayStation is very user serviceable. On iFixit’s scale of 1 to 10, the PS4 scored an 8 meaning most users can expect to rip the system open and tinker away. Most importantly, the hard drive is very easy to access, giving owners options to upgrade to a larger or faster option. The hardest thing to service, per iFixit, is apparently the fan which is buried deep the system’s innards. iFixit and others have yet to teardown the upcoming Xbox One. That should be in the coming days. Hopefully Microsoft designed it with the same thought as the Xbox 360E, the last model of its generation. That model was simple to open up. In fact, all of Microsoft’s gaming systems from the start have been trivial to crack open and tinker around. The original Xbox’s modability was a significant factor in its widespread adoption. Let’s hope Microsoft hasn’t forgotten that. With the gaming world entering the 7th generation, there is hope that hardware makers, namely Sony and Microsoft, have learned from past mistakes and gamers shouldn’t have to fear a red or yellow light of death caused by shoddy hardware design.