Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

There is only one thing that TheTechSpy team need in the morning to get them going and that is a good cup of coffee.

Whether it’s a cappuccino, flat white or even a swift espresso, most of us feel better with that little hit of caffeine to get the old grey matter sparking.

So you can imagine, when one of coffee’s giants Nespresso announced the release of a new coffee machine which now includes a little smartphone connectivity, we were more than interested.

Nespresso Prodigio is one of a handful of connected home coffee machines that we have  seen….and my is it a beauty.

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Nespresso have always been an elegantly styled company and this machine is totally in line with their brand. I couldn’t see this machine out of place in any home and the fact it is a small form factor helps as it would be perfect for an apartment.

Now, the techie side….this machine is not yet connected to the internet of things, but that’s not to say that they will not do this in the future. It all works through a Bluetooth connected app which allows you to see water level, when the machine needs descaling and also when you need to buy more capsules (which you can order through the same app). All these notifications will be useful to any person using this on a daily basis.

But what we really wanted to see was some sort of remote use, which when you think about is a little pointless as at present my ordinary bog standard Nespresso machine only has one button to press after putting a pod in and turning it on. But if we looked at all tech like this, I think we would see a lot of devices would not even exist under this premise.

The app allows you to remotely make a cup of coffee at 3 set sizes, which potentially has some good use. If I am honest, after a week of waking up at 5.15am I would probably be fed up with opening an app and making a coffee like this, but where it would get interesting is if Nespresso worked with IFTTT which would allow you to set a chain of actions, for example when my alarm goes off start brewing my espresso or when I get in from work start making a coffee.

I think this machine is cool, but it represents the advancement of technology in a sector that normally would not be associated with this. That is the important thing here, that companies like Nespresso are realising that this is needed. The firm’s managing director Francisco Noguiera said that the machine is to “showcase the latest coffee technology” and to “listen to the consumer need for greater convenience and personalisation of products” which in my opinion although true, this machine is a little half hearted in that sense.

The device in its current state is merely a talking point when friends come around, but if we set aside the actual tech it is a beautiful looking machine albeit a little overpriced at £200+.

Would I go out and buy this? No, for the first time in a long time I think I will stick with my existing unconnected Nespresso machine which merely asks me to turn it on and then make a choice of 4 buttons as to which coffee I want.

Once again, we look forward to the future of this booming sector.

TheTechSpy

 

 

 

 

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Following on from our review of the D-Link Smart Home Plug, we have decided to take a look at the other products in the ‘mydlink Home’ range. In this review, we’ll be looking at the Monitor HD video camera.

The PIR Sensor will be covered in an upcoming review.

Introduction

The Monitor HD is a 720p video camera that can be used anywhere in the home. The camera has night capabilities with IR LEDs capable of illuminating  up to 5m, and so for the purposes of this review, I will be installing it in my nursery as a baby monitor.

First impressions

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It’s a nice looking camera with a gloss white finish which should compliment most interiors. On lifting it from the box, the first thing that hit me was just how incredibly light it is. This may sound odd, but before I even start to use it, I want to weigh the thing down!

Setup

Sure enough, after plugging the mains cable in and positioning the camera where I wanted it, the slight curvature of the mains cable angled the camera away. It took a few attemps to get it to sit still in the right direction. Fortunately you can mount it on a wall using screws and D-Link kindly provide a drilling template in the box should you wish to go down that route.

As with the other products in the range, the camera has a WPS button on the side which when pressed in combination with the WPS button on your  router, will connect to your home Wi-Fi network.

D-Link advertise the camera as for use exclusively with it’s mydlink Home app (available on iOS or Android). Indeed, for most people, this will be what they use and it will be more than satisfactory. However, after digging a little deeper I discovered that it’s capable of operating as a standard IP camera over HTTP/S, RTSP and UPNP. It’s worth noting this as I don’t think D-Link are doing themselves any favours by ignoring traditional IP camera sales when it works so well.

So just to reiterate, you can view the video/audio stream in the mydlink Home app, or any IP camera app. The initial setup of the camera and any firmware updates will need to be done in-app though.

Firmware updates are applied in-app, automatically…

 

 

Performance

Here is a full colour daytime shot taken from the nursery window:


And a full colour daytime shot in the nursery:


This is a split view showing the D-Link DCS-935L operating as a traditional IP camera alongside a Foscam IP camera on the fantastic LiveCams Pro app.

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Top: D-Link DCS-935L (IR LED on). Bottom: Foscam 9804W  (IR LED on).

Extras

Audio is provided via a built-in microphone, but there’s no 2-way baby-soothing audio functionality.

Summary

As a starter camera, I can honestly think of nothing  better due to its integration with the mydlink Home app and the provided setup wizard.

It really is the kind of thing you could buy for your grandmother and she’ll be able to configure it for herself. Dig a little further though and D-Link have provided the features to make this a good investment as a standalone IP camera too. It’s a product that will grow with you if you’re new to this sort of thing.

 

TheTechSpy rating: 8/10

Hot in for review at The Tech Spy offices this week is the Yale Easy Fit SmartPhone Alarm.

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This is Yale’s top of the range wireless alarm and being part of their ‘Easy Fit’ range promises to be a breeze to install thanks to all components being pre-paired. So, let’s get on with it….

Unboxing

Included is the control panel, keypad, siren box, dummy box, 1x standard PIR room sensor, 1x camera PIR, 1x door contact, Ethernet cable and all fixings.

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Pre-installation

The first step was to plug the control panel into my router using the supplied Ethernet cable and power it on. Next, I downloaded the Yale app to my iPhone and once installed, I created myself an account.

I was then prompted to enter the control panel’s MAC address to register the alarm and the app immediately picked it up. So far, so painless.

Installation

The siren box was the first thing to go up, and it really was as simple as drilling four holes in the exterior wall, screwing it in and switching it on. If you’ve ever had a wireless alarm where the components need pairing before installing, you will know my relief that the siren box remained silent during install!

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With every wireless alarm I’ve installed in the past, the siren has gone off at some point while I’ve been 20ft up a ladder. Let’s just say that it’s not a pleasant experience and I dread it each time. Granted, that may have been me not pairing the siren correctly or triggering the tamper switch accidentally, but either way. I had no such problems this time.

The PIRs, door contact and keypad all have ‘knockout holes’ for screwing to the wall, but these need to be drilled rather than punched through. It’s simple enough however and took 5 minutes.

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The keypad was mounted by the front door and the door contact was easily mounted on the UPVC  patio door using the supplied adhesive pads.

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The standard room PIR was easily affixed to the corner of the living room wall with just a couple of rawlplugs and screws, as was the Camera PIR in the kitchen.

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And that’s it!

Testing

On opening the app (I am using the iOS version), you will prompted to login to your Yale account. Unfortunately this isn’t a one-time occurrence – you will be prompted to login every time you open the app unless it has recently been suspended to the App Switcher.

The app will however keep the username and password fields populated with the last successful credentials, which makes this a little less frustrating, but only if you’ve ticked the ‘Remember me’ box.

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Hopefully with a software update, the app will skip this login page entirely and just use last configuration settings to take you directly to the main page. For now though, it’s just another page that needs to be loaded and clicked through before you can remotely arm or disarm the alarm.

Once logged in, the next step is to check that all of the accessories (devices) can be communicated with successfully.

Here you can see the 5 devices that ship with the alarm as standard:

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You may notice that the Status column appears blank for every device. This is a little confusing at first, but blank means ‘Good’. If a device was offline, you would see a yellow exclamation mark in this column. I’ve tested this by taking devices well out of range and also by removing the batteries. A green tick would be more informative than a blank cell and this is something I will suggest to Yale.

The Walk Test

The Walk Test is an essential part of the install process that verifies the sensors actually pick up movement (or a contact break in the case of the door sensors). This involves pressing the Walk Test button at the bottom of the device page and then, quite literally, walking around the house. The PIRs should pick up any movement and an audible chirp should be heard from the control panel.

The door contact and normal PIR worked as expected, but I couldn’t get the camera PIR to pick up any movement as I walked around.

Try as I might, I could never get the camera PIR to pick me up. Biting the bullet, and going against every urge I had, I eventually succumbed to calling Yale’s support line. I explained the problem and they ran me through some tests, including re-pairing the device to the control panel, but to no avail. They promised to send me a replacement PIR which duly arrived a couple of days later for me to pair with the alarm and try again.

Even with the new PIR, it just would not pick me up on the Walk Test so I called Yale again. Their support representative informed me that the PIRs ‘sleep’ for 90 seconds after the last detected movement in order to conserve battery power and would therefore need a short period of time before registering any movements on the Walk Test. I tried this too, but even after 4-5 minutes of waiting out of sight, the camera PIR still wouldn’t register any movement.

They advised that for a proper test I should arm the system and then try to enter the building through the area monitored by the camera PIR.

Success! An immediate trigger of the alarm! Testing of the other area covered by the normal PIR also worked along with the door contact. So it transpires that the alarm is actually in full working order but the instructions regarding the Walk Test could do with updating. The camera PIR isn’t configured to trigger a Walk Test event – possibly due to the fact that there is much more hardware inside and still running off AA batteries –  but it does work normally when the system is armed.

I also received a photo taken by the camera PIR during this ‘break-in’ which is stored on Yale’s server and accessible in the app:

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Yale will keep a list of the last 100 images for you, which is more than enough and these can be passed to the Police in the event of real burglary. It should be noted the the camera PIR is assisted by a flash rather than any form of IR-assisted imagery.

The alarm supports up to 20 zones which can be individually assigned home/away/burglar/entry modes depending on what the normal method of access to your property is.

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Let’s be honest though, the real reason for this alarm though is the remote arm/disarm. The amount of times that I’ve forgotten to arm my alarm long after I’ve left the house unattended for the weekend is staggering and I’ve been left contemplating turning around to go back or begging a family member to pop around to arm it. Well, forget those days, the future is here. It really is as simple as this screenshot would suggest:

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Hit Arm to arm, Disarm to disarm, what could be easier?

Conclusion

A solid, modern, smartphone enabled alarm. 8/10

Pros

Once installed, rock solid.

Responsive and helpful customer service.

Cons

Confusing installation instructions.

App doesn’t auto-login.

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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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As you can imagine TheTechSpy not only sees a lot of gadgetry pass in front of its eyes but also gets to play and review some of these products.

Of course, you get to see some of these wonderful devices appear on our blog, but not all devices we see cut the mustard when it comes to something we are passionate to talk about.

One of these products is the portable battery. It seems like everyone and his friend is queuing up to offer their take on portable power. We see such a variety of different types and quite frankly are bored of testing these products which basically are all the same and have now real definition to make them stand out from the crowd.

Most of the batteries sent to us lay here in TechSpy Towers looking very sorry for themselves as we really see no point of bringing these to your attention…..until now!

From the minute we started dealing with Zendure, I have to say the service has been impeccable. This aside, when we received the products you immediately see the difference between this and every other battery we have come across. The packaging has been thought about which quite often gets left when it comes to crowd funded products, so it shows an element of professionalism right from the start as the company displays no characteristics of a start-up.

Zendure kindly sent us not one, but two batteries to take a look at and we instantly fell in love. Firstly we were sent the Gridder One, which is an 8000mAh portable battery which is water, dust and shock proof. Straight from the off you can see with the design of the product and its packaging it is being aimed at the outdoor type with its IP65 rating. Like all of the batteries the company produces, they allow you to charge your device while the battery itself is being charged which is very useful indeed.

The Gridder One feels like a rugged product and even has little doors to protect the USB sockets within which do not feel like they are going to break at the first instance. The device has small LED’s on its side to show how much charge is remaining and to go with the rugged design, its LED can be turned on to perform SOS signals when you are in some real trouble.

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The second battery in Zendure’s arsenal is the A2, which is the smallest of the range. Made with a ABS/PC composite for its reinforced shell the company demoed the device’s durability by driving a car over it and it withstood the pressure.

The A2 is a 6000mAh battery and looks like one of those cool Samsonite cases that you see at airports. Again, I could bore you with more talk of the effort put into the packaging, but I think this particular product speaks for itself. The battery has the ability to output 5v 2.1A which is enough to charge your iPad at a very reasonable speed.

The size and feel of this product is what makes it so desirable. You can charge this while it is charging your device via the USB socket and also turn the charging on and off by the button at the top of the battery.

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I have extensively tested both batteries and both seem to perform alike. the 2.1A allows you to charge an iPhone 5s from 60% to 100% in just over 40mins which in real life testing is probably the best we have seen.

The testament to this product is with all the devices that we have seen over 2013-2014, the A2 is the first I personally have wanted to own and use on a day to day basis. Its the one that I would have gone out and spent my hard earned cash on and not looked back. This battery takes pride of place in my bag I take to work and even sits happily in my suit jacket pocket.

This company is one to watch, get your orders in for Fathers Day as they are selling for around $60.

 

 

Home automation is becoming a bigger and bigger topic every week as “The Internet of Things” grow. With more and more devices coming to market, thanks to the likes of not only the tech giants out there but crowd funding like Kickstarter, we can now enjoy the control of things like light switches, thermostats, power sockets and even our media centres.

Now don’t get me wrong, it has been a childhood dream of mine to be able to control things in the house through Home Automation and even going that step further when the house ends up doing it for you as it knows you are home….but with all these new devices one thing stands out that could prematurely end this whole revolution before it has started.

Every one of these new devices, comes with an app. If I am in my house and I want to turn a light on, I can unlock my iPhone, click on the app and simply choose the light I want on. Cool? Yes…but surely it was easier to just get up and switch that light on? I then decide it is getting a bit cold, so I click on another app and this allows me to turn the heating on in my house providing me with a comfortable environment. It is all good, but technology here has made my life harder, which is not the point of it at all.

Smartthings, crowd funded via Kickstarter, were one of the first to try and put this right. The idea was to put all of the devices under one app, so they could all talk to each other and of course you only had to go into one app to control them all. This idea was the step forward “The Internet of Things” needed, allowing each device, even if it was from a different manufacturer to work with each other, so if a sensor was triggered as you arrived home, you could have it switch on the heating and turn the entrance lights on.

My only issue with this is that you still need to open an app. The guys over at Athom have designed the Homey, which is a spherical shape device that sits in your house and you can talk to. Now of course it has the app, as this makes it easy to set up and of course collaborate the tech, but when you walk into your kitchen you can ask the device to turn lights on Siri-style, or turn the tv on to a certain channel….this is home automation!

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Homey talks to pretty much all devices and here are a few things it can do;

“Homey combines your devices and the internet, allowing for smart scenarios:

When you get home, your lights fade on, your thermostat is already set to a comfortable level and your favorite music is streamed to your receiver.

When you need to wake up, the curtains or blinds are opening, your morning tune is playing on your stereo while the weather for today and your e-mails are being read to you. The smell of fresh and automatically made coffee gets you out of bed.

When you’re in the supermarket, you decide it’s going to be pizza tonight. You tell the Homey app to pre-heat your oven by switching it on. If you have a smart fridge, your grocery shopping list is sent to you.

When you want to watch a movie, the blinds close, your lights dim, your music fades out, the TV is set to the correct channel and your media center plays the movie.”

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The list of products the device communicates with at the moment is enough for us to take notice as normally with these types of ideas they are very thin on the ground. But I am sure you will agree, Homey is everyone’s Homey;

LightwaveRF
Airplay
Sonos
Nest
Hue
Spotify
Logitech
Bose
Philips
Samsung
Gmail

We love this device and even at $229 with an arrival time of June 2015, we still think this is well worth the investment. We just hope that no one else beats them to the market first, especially as Apple tonight announced its home automation project HomeKit.

The idea of virtual reality has been around for a very long time, but few have been able to perfect the idea like the boys at Oculus Rift.

This company not only smashed through its Kickstarter campaign goals but still has investment flowing in with Facebook purchasing the company and now Samsung working with them to create a headset for its own media.

Of course, in any great market, others will strive to take a piece of the pie as the public is hungry for the new technology. The gaming industry is worth nearly $80bn, and some games gross more than some films nowadays so the fruit is there for the picking.

Oculus may be seeing its first real rival from China in the form of ANTVR. Still small and mobile enough to do what it wants without the huge corporate board that Oculus has with Facebook peering over its shoulder demanding results.

The ANTVR Kit includes a customisable remote, which is compatible with all games. The coolest form the remote takes is the hand gun which I think most of us will enjoy, giving you that "Time Crisis" type feel which we all enjoyed back in the 90's arcade scene.

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The controller can be a simple joy pad, or happily transform into a joystick or steering wheel making it very versatile.

The headset is equipped with Full HD display (1920x1080, 1.03 megapixel per eye) and will give an IMAX style viewing environment with its large screen. They creators have even thought about glasses wearers making sure there is enough room inside to still wear them. It supports all the mainstream platforms including PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Android devices. All you need is a standard HDMI signal to use the headset as a screen.

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The headset can be wireless, but currently it is an expensive add-on which we don't really think you need. We do like the idea of the "shotgun style" bullet reload to change the batteries in the device.

This is certainly a formidable rival for Oculus, it's price point is pretty much the same and it looks no lesser quality than its bigger brother and presents Oculus with a spin....the cool controller.

Starting at $300 with an estimated delivery date of September, we really cannot wait to test these out for ourselves.

Over on Kickstarter