Archive for the ‘AirPlay’ Category

Top Home Automation

We live in the digital age, which means living in the dark—technologically—is an outdated idea. Since you should always be in the know when it comes to what makes your home and lifestyle easier and more convenient, here are a few of Modernize’s favourite home automation apps that will make your life just a bit easier.

Apple HomeKit

Apple’s HomeKit is a revolutionary framework that enables you to configure various accessories in your home. You can control these compatible devices right from the app, so the possibilities are nearly endless.

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One of our favorite HomeKit-friendly accessories is Elgato Eve Room. This smarthome sensor helps regulate air quality, humidity, and temperature. Tap Siri to assess your current air quality and conditions, and she can make necessary changes to keep you comfortable.

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iDevices switch allows you to remotely turn switches on and off. Whether it’s electronics or lamps, you won’t have to worry about leaving something on all day. Just click a few buttons, and you can rest assured knowing your home is safe.

SmartThings

SmartThings is another app that turns your phone into a remote control. Just connect compatible devices to the platform, and you’ll be able to monitor it all from your iPhone. The great thing about this app is that it lets you know if there’s a problem, and devices can communicate to create a stream of information.

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Did you leave the door open? Don’t worry. You can regulate your A/C so you don’t waste that precious (and expensive) cool air.

WeMo

Reduce your carbon footprint by monitoring electronics through Belkin’s WeMo. We all have “oops” moments, so if you leave your curling iron on, you can safely shut it off with your smartphone. You can even set up your coffeemaker to start your cup of joe right when you roll out of bed.

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WeMo allows users flexibility to automate as much as they want. The customizable app makes it easier to live and eliminates worry when you make mistakes.

Nest

Nest is an innovative home automation app that controls your thermostat, which conserves energy and your beloved paycheck. There’s no use wasting A/C or heat when the temperature fluctuates and you’re not home. You can easily control your home’s temperature on the go, so you don’t run into any surprises or high bills.

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Nest is a great first step if you’re not quite ready to fully automate, and some energy companies offer incentives for connecting your thermostat to Nest.

Philips Hue

You can control the lights in your home from your phone, too. Whether you’re having a party, hosting a party, rounding your friends up for book club, or just simply spending time with family, you can adjust the tone, color, and contrast of your lights to create soft mood lighting.

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Go festive around Christmas time with reds and greens, or spooky at Halloween with eerie orange and black light. You can control every bulb through the Philips Hue app. Guests will “ooh” and “ahh” about the added decor element!

Convenience and Reassurance

Home automation apps give you the peace of mind to leave the home and come back to a safe place with a perfect temperature. You can really cut down on energy costs and excess waste, which saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint. The days of worrying about what device you left running are over!

Our guest blog written by Kelsey Meyers from Modernize 

Bluetooth is a wonderful thing, and since the likes of Apple have created AirPlay, our devices can connect to others to release our playlists from the palm of our hands. 

The problem most of us face, is having to move on with the times….yes we all have the iPod, iPhone or Android handset, but our sound systems do not connect wirelessly, pushing us to connect our lovely portable devices via AUX and leave them by the sound system’s side. 

OK, you could go out and buy a whole new sound system, plenty of Samsung, Onyko and Pioneer Amps now include AirPlay, but you will have to part with around £500 for the pleasure. 

In come the guys at Audioengine who bring us the B1. This little device is an adapter designed solely for Audiophiles (doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t get involved), with high-fidelity output that directly connects into your sound system. It lets you stream audio wirelessly via Bluetooth from your smartphone or Bluetooth enabled computer with superb sound quality. 

The B1 is housed in aluminium which oozes quality and sets to warrant the price tag. It measures 1″H 3.5″W by 4″D and has an adjustable antenna on the front. On the back panel we find the RCA stereo output for your receiver, a 24-bit digital optical output, and a micro USB port for power through the included power adaptor. The RCA cable is included in the box. 

B1 Rear

Under the hood, the B1 includes a 24-bit upsampling DAC (digital-to-analog converter) which provides the high fidelity music. This device will work beautifully with high quality music files and will play them at their best. A lot of the other devices on the market tend to make your music sound worse, this device will never degrade what you have and that is the beauty of it. 

The B1 supports the aptX codec and both the A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles and is simple to set up, with the iPhone 5S taking just seconds to pair. Inside the box you get a small drawstring carrying pouch in addition to the USB cable and power adaptor if you want to travel with it. 

This device performs well, sounds great and is the epitome of wireless audio for 2014. If you like your music and find that nothing out there does your playlist any justice, then give the B1 a go…..this is a force to be reckoned with!

£140 here in the UK or $189 for the US. 

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Apple today had the 2014 WWDC and it did not disappoint. The firm for the first time streamed the conference live which not only saw them run through the new updates to its line-up but also welcome Dr Dre to the companies employment force.

Here are the major updates:

OSX Yosemite

* Notification Centre – Now all of your apps will be able to appear here instead of just Apple’s own.

* Markup in Mail – This feature allows you to annotate and draw on a picture or PDF within an email to send to somebody without even leaving the app.

* Spotlight – Updated to sit front and centre of the desktop and now it can search through contacts, internet and all of your documents. Federighi showed off how the feature can now make recommendations for movie times, nearby restaurants and even offer measurement conversions. Apple’s even worked Spotlight into the address bar of the revamped Safari browser, again to give users a one-stop shop for search across the web and local files.

* AirDrop – Yosemite now works with iOS, so iPhone owners can easily transfer files to the Mac and back.

*Handoff – The OS recognises work being done on iOS that a user might want to continue on the desktop. Once an action is detected on iOS, Yosemite will create an icon on the desktop to remind the user to complete the task. This sensing ability also extends to creating a tethered connection, as a user’s iPhone will now appear as a connection option in the WiFi drop down.

* Calls from your Mac or iPad – Now tethered to your iPhone, the other devices can receive/reject calls and even create calls by clicking on contacts or even website contact details.

Yosemite

iOS8 – Due in Autumn but available straight away to developers

* Notifications – When you are in an app and your get for example an iMessage, you will see the usual roll down notification, but now without leaving the current app you are in you can answer the message. This will work across Facebook and Calendar and will be offered out to developers to use in their apps.

* Mail – Taking on a “Mailbox” style, allowing swipe to delete, tag or flag.

* Spotlight – As with the upgrade to the OSX, Spotlight on iOS has also been upgraded. Now allowing you to search for songs in the iTunes store, movie times and locations.

* QuickType – An improved keyboard which now guesses what you are about to type with no just spelling but full phrases.

* iMessage – Apple taking on Whatsapp with plenty of upgrades to the iMessage app. Now allowing you to remove others or yourself from a group chat, set do-not-disturb if you are in a group chat but don’t want to see it all now and messaging with audio and video straight from the app. You can also reply to an audio message directly from the lock screen by holding the phone to your ear to listen to the message and then record your own in reply. You can now also issue a self-destruct on messages to make them time sensitive like Snap Chat.

* Continuity – This allows you to receive calls across all of your devices, but also lets you pick up where you left off from on a different device. So for example, you begin an email on your iPhone but then decide that you wish to finish it on your iPad, you just flick the screen on the new device and there it is.

* Family Sharing – A welcome addition for most parents, this allows you to share purchases among 6 members of the family, from films to music and also allows you to share your photos, calendar and documents with each other. If your pride and joy decides to buy something, the app automatically messages your device asking for your permission first.

* Health Kit – Looks a little premature to release this, but this app will collect data from all of your health apps and collate them. Eventually they want to be able to share this with your doctor and probably integrate it with the iWatch.

* Siri – Last but not least, Siri has got Shazam support and will now be able to tell you what song is playing by just listening to it. Of course it will then link you to be able to buy it.

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One of the most asked questions aimed at TheTechSpy is “What wireless speaker should I get for my phone?”. It’s a good question, of which has many answers, as over the last few years some interesting products have been released at various price points.

Of course, we have the likes of B&W, Denon and Bose up at the higher end producing some very tasty devices, but you pay for that class which some people just do not want to stretch to. To a certain extent we agree, as this is a product that is meant to be thrown in your case or bag, pulled out at impromptu situations with friends to enjoy music together and not always just to look stylish and pristine on your side table.

Last week we came across Blazar made by Beacon Audio, a cool little company that created a wireless speaker last year and like all good companies has improved on its design and taken it a step further. This device offers the best of both worlds….it looks cool in the house but is begging to be taking out and used on your travels.

This clever little speaker connects to any device with Bluetooth and can even pair the Bluetooth via NFC for those lucky enough to have it. It comes with a rechargeable battery which lasts up to 12 hrs and can even handle phone calls when you are listening to music with its in-built microphone.

Constructed of a single piece of aluminium, this speaker will not look out-of-place with most current setups. The speaker (if the $200k stretch goal is reached) will come with a beautiful leather carrying case to protect it which I don’t think any other manufacturer offers.

The guys have worked with some artists to bring you different versions of the unit with a little of that artist’s character, which give this an edge over most other speakers I have seen. Whether you use this to listen to music on the go, or watch a film on your tablet, the construction and design places it at the top end, but with a fairly mid range price of $124 (and $17 shipping internationally) for the silver version on Kickstarter.

We will see you on the pledge board! 😉

Blazer

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It was only a few years ago when we were all playing CD’s in our cars, with our glove boxes crammed with alphabetised CD holders to store our delicate discs. We were all worried about every bump in the road that would skip our prized collection while out on a summer’s day.

Now in 2013 things are very different! Technology has left no industry untouched and cars are really starting to see a massive change to keep up with these advancements.

Pioneer, no stranger to being top of the market have now released the AVIC-F50BT….the all singing, all dancing powerhouse for your motor.

This in-dash unit (type 2 DIN) has a motorised 7″ multi-touch, hi-Res, anti-glare display which looks amazing day or night. Packing a CD/DVD drive it will play films (DIVX) and music alike and even has a GPS chip in-built for navigation. The maps come pre-installed for 45 countries and will include 9.2 million POI’s and TMC traffic receiver for a superb navigational experience.

In terms of connections, it’s probably easier for me to list what it can’t have connected, but then that would be no fun at all. So here is the list;

– Bluetooth – Hands-free calling, music streaming via A2DP and phone book transfer.

– Micro SD/USB slots/Aux in – Playback functionality

– HDMI – Android smartphone connection

– 2 rear auxillary inputs

– iPhone/iPod connection – charging, music and video playback

– Steering wheel button connection – Using the factory fitted buttons to control the head unit.

Using its dual zone entertainment facility, you can display films on rear screens for any passengers you are carrying. It will also allow you to input climate and parking sensor data onto the screen (with compatible cars) to further integrate this monster into your car. A mic is included in the box to aid with audio setup using the inbuilt AUTO EQ for the best possible sound which shows Pioneer’s experience in this area creeping into the design.

My one gripe with these in-car units is security is not normally high on the agenda. Unlike the old style head units which came away to put off any would-be thief, the screen based units normally proudly sat in place with no real security function. But, the F50BT is not only password protected, but has a detachable screen plate….well done Pioneer!

The big thing in cars at the moment is app mirroring and Pioneer have not left this out. This allows the user to use compatible apps directly on-screen through the connected smartphone. With the likes of Apple rumoured to be pushing Siri onto your dashboard, voice guidance and text to speech have been included.

This unit will not only look great but perform it too. At £899.99 in the UK, and with 18 languages in-built, this is a serious upgrade to any car, but expect this to go on sale when the Siri integration really starts to gain momentum.

AVIC-F50BT

The big question on everyone’s lips at the moment with Apple is “What next?” for the giant whose share price has fallen from grace in the last few months. The company issued a record $17bn of bonds yesterday to raise money for future ventures even though it has a mammoth cash pile that the likes of Cyprus would be jealous of. The problem is the money can’t be moved back to the US due to the serious amount of tax that they will incur in doing so, as most is held overseas.

At first glance it looks worrying, but I really don’t think they have anything to worry about. After the high-profile bodge-job they made with the new maps and the subsequent firings at the company to repair the damage, the company is left with trying to fix the issue and coming out with new ideas and products to sustain their reign at the top.

Apple have begun creeping into the car market, with signings like Ferrari and Bentley using the personal assistant Siri to aid driving assistance. According to multiple sources close to the project, Apple plan to move aggressively into the in-car integration space within 2013. As more and more companies offer accessories for the car, Apple have moved away from creating accessories trying to cash into their products doing it natively, slowly removing market share from everyone else. The company has always been concerned with 2nd rate accessories being used with their products they have concentrated so much to perfect.

Apple is apparently working with car makers to update car centre consoles to work with iOS devices. The iPhone could be plugged into a car using a redesigned version of Apple Maps which would appear on the car’s built-in display in a mirror format. The benefit with this is that user will always have access to updated maps controlled by Apple and the millions of developers who could create apps for it using API’s and external info. Currently, the best offerings are from companies like Dension, which are good, but still a little limited due to the car manufacturers not properly teaming up with them. The big problem with the stock systems that come from the car manufacturers is the fact they are poorly updated and limited. Our state of the art cars, too frequently have not caught up with the advancements in tech, so mostly disappoint when you use the control system.

Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on the Eyes-Free Siri system, including BMW, Toyota, Audio, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is talking to the car makers to take advantage of the new Maps which they will hopefully release in June along with Siri’s car-integrated offerings.

One of the most interesting moves at Apple is the fact that the meticulous product visionary Jonathan Ive is now heading up software. He has already promised to make a complete overhaul of the look and design of iOS which some would say is overdue. The company is rumoured to be trying to finish iOS7 for June’s preview at WWDC, but no release date has been set as yet.

Apple seems to have always had an interest in the car market, with Eddie Cue now sitting on the Ferrari board of directors and Steve Jobs reportedly wanted to take on Detroit with a car design of his own….imagine that, the iCar!

This will be a very interesting sector for Apple to get into as there is so much scope for improvement and not forgetting the famous Apple-esque refinement that some of the luxury brands are missing.

BMW

 

Bowers & Wilkins have been the leaders in the iDevice speaker world with its amazing Zeppelin for quite some time now, the new Z2 promises to be as much of a “Stairway To Heaven” of sound as its predecessor.

The blimp-shaped Zeppelin has been well known to be the top of the crop when it comes to iPhone speakers, with its critically acclaimed sound output and unique design it truly was the speaker to own. One of the issues with the style is the size, it doesn’t fit in everybody’s space and with the likes of Bose releasing the SoundLink earlier last year, B&W have had to come out with the sleek bookshelf-sized Z2.

The Z2 not only looks good but also sounds superb! Sporting AirPlay and the latest lightning dock, it will pretty much take any of the Apple line-up. With the use of the iPad/iPhone you are able to purchase more Z2’s to put in every room of the house controlling each independently wirelessly from the palm of your hands. AirPlay on the Z2 works perfectly with Last.fm, Pandora and Mixcloud on your iDevice so that you can stream music effortlessly.

The British hi-fi experts know how to make great speakers, but this comes at a price….£330 in this case which will not appeal to everyone’s wallet. The Bose SoundLink  is a lot more portable, has a rechargeable battery, will connect via Bluetooth to any device and is priced at a more comfortable £249 with impeccable sound for its size.

Z2