Archive for the ‘Apple Apps’ Category

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So, iOS10 has finally dropped, it has bricked some iPhones but the majority have got away unscathed. We are still trying to decide what we think, but here are the changes this shiny new firmware will bring you;

iMessage – This is probably the biggest update in iOS10 with the ability to be able to draw messages with your finger and send the animation to someone else. You’ll be able to use rich links in Messages. Share a link and, as it would in Slack or Twitter, artwork and a precis of the article may be pulled in, so your friends can get an idea of what they are about to click on.

Bad news for the emoji haters as iMessage will now add emojis into predictive text giving you the option to swap full words for pictures. The death of the English language is nigh.

It has also been opened up to third party developers, meaning that there will soon be apps in the messaging service that can be used to order food, shop, book tickets and send people money within a chat. We are loving the iMessage Super Mario App.

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Voicemail Transcription – iOS is apparently going to put your voicemail into text so that you can glance at it without having to listen to it. It will be interesting to see how accurate this is.

Home App (HomeKit) – Finally the launch of the hotly anticipated HomeKit. Those of you with automated homes will be able to link most devices under one app which has always been an annoying thing with automation. HomeKit will allow you to quickly dim lights, tell Siri to turn up the heating and have access from the lock screen to do all of these. We are especially looking forward to seeing how this feature handles scenes which will allow at a click of a button or a few words to Siri and your room will be ready for movie night with a raft of set processes starting ie lights going off, Apple TV turning on and blinds closing.

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News – Redesigned and now looking simpler, the News app is the go-to for any news. Subscriptions have now been allowed so we assume Newstand will soon disappear. There is also a ‘Breaking news’ notifications from the app. You can toggle the feature from settings and even custom-tune the publications you wish to see pushed to your device.

Photos – Apple says it will use deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects. The app can now draw together photos and videos that are linked by place, people and time and then automatically create reels and trip customisable short clips which Apple is calling ‘Memories’.

Siri – We have seen a deeper involvement with Siri in iOS10 with HomeKit making full use of voice control. But more interestingly it has been opened up to third party developers meaning that soon you will be able to ask Siri to check other apps other than Apple ones. A great step forward.

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Feature Changes; 

•’Slide to Unlock’ has been removed, and instead you’ll see ‘Press home to open’. This will prompt you to enter your pass-code or will unlock the phone if you use Touch ID.

• Deleting Stock apps has been a real issue for some people and now you can delete as you wish. Enjoy the power!

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• Apple will now keep track of where you park your car so you don’t have to bother. Apple maps will detect when you park and automatically drop a pin so that you can find it later.

• Bedtime is the new clock feature which you tell what time you want to get to bed on a given night of the week, and your phone will let you know when the clock strikes that hour to remind you to get some shut eye.

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• The update will bring with it more than a hundred new and redesigned emoji characters with multicultural and gender types.

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A couple of years ago, I reviewed one of the first generation of smart thermostats on the market in the UK. Long before Nest was available, the German made Tado was making significant inroads into our fledgling IoT marketplace.

Two years have now passed and Tado have released v2 incorporating an upgraded Smart Thermostat and an Extension kit for dual zone control. In my opinion this is sorely needed so I have big hopes that it works as well as intended.

Before continuing to review this upgrade, we need to look at a some statistics from the 2 years the 1st generation system has been in my property.

Straight energy saving comparisons between Tado v1 and the traditional method of heating that was pre-installed in my property (the legacy thermostat) are actually difficult to quantify for a number of reasons. We cannot compare money spent as we have fluctuations in energy prices which would cause us some calculation issues. Secondly, the weather. Of course this is being tested in Britain, weather changes all the time, so one year could have been considerably hotter or colder than the next so please keep this in consideration.

KW/h expressed in units are what are reported but for the purposes of this review I will refer to them only as units. I took an average of the three years prior to my time with Tado (with the same energy provider) and compared the result to the units used each of the two years with the device.

Here are my results;

Year 1: 21% less units used

Year 2: 26% less units used

As you can see, under my conditions, using Tado has saved a significant amount annually which would have easily paid for the price of the 1st Gen model in the first year.

The bottom line is that Tado deliver on their promise.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the new upgraded version.

smart_thermostat_hardwareTado with cool white LED display

I opted for a professional to install it for me, firstly as I did not want to mess around with my heating system but more importantly I wanted to see how Tado handle the entire upgrade.

As the equipment arrived with instructions on how to install, my first thought was that Tado had got a little mixed up as the instructions advised me to register the device before booking my installation which sounded a little odd as I already had a Tado system in the house.

But I should have had more faith in Tado because my new devices were registered and a professional installation were booked in an instant by following the instructions.

I will say that I think that Tado could improve on their communication with their upgrade  customers, specifically that the proper procedure is to register new devices first which will eventually allow you to book an engineer install further along in the process.

Each step felt like it was leading up to a manual setup which I did not want.

Secondly they could just advise the user that your old setup will run alongside the new one until the professional fits the devices which does become apparent at the end of the process.

But with all that said, Tado continue to impress me with not only the devices but the way they make setup so easy to follow. You may have a nagging feeling that the setup process will eventually lead you down the wrong path but if you stick with it, you will have no problems. Tado know what they’re doing and I could name a few tech companies who could take a lesson or two from these guys.

The only thing that seemed to cause the engineer some trouble was pairing each device.

I think this was more due to the engineer’s lack of knowledge rather than Tado’s design as one call to Tado themselves and it was fixed remotely in a matter of minutes.

If you can take anything from this review – call the Tado support team if you have any problems – the service really is second to none.

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Anyway, back to the devices. The first generation Tado thermostat has been replaced with a similarly looking white plain thin box. When discussing the aesthetics with my wife, she hit the nail on the head when she said “the box just disappears into the wall, you wouldn’t even notice it day to day” and that is exactly what a thermostat should be. Clever but invisible.

But don’t be fooled by the boring exterior, one press of the front button and the device wakes to show the temperature set in a very cool white LED. Each press flips to a new display showing the current mode:

Heating Status (On or Off)

Temperature

Hot water setting (if you have configured the system for this)

The next two pages show the conditions. Two touch sensitive led little arrows allow you to change the settings on each page.

Tado has been set up in my property to control two zones and my hot water tank. I can control each zone independently from the device or my iPhone.

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Above is the photo of the first page showing the main temperature in that room and of course below the set point temperature which is where the heating will come on if the room temp drops to that level. You can see at the bottom the fact that Tado tracks where it’s users are, which in my opinion is the best thing about this system. It is simply brilliant that the system knows when I am just round the corner and may need the heating ready for when I get back as the room temp is below the set point temp, but equally if we are 20 miles away at work, the system knows not to do this as it will take at least an hour to get home.

Equally zone 2 also operates in the same manner and can be set independently from zone 1 which is downstairs for us. The system allows you to set times when the system will operate, so for example in zone 2 we only need it to work in the evening as we normally go up there to relax and watch TV. But because of the timing feature, if we were home during the day this zone would not be heated as it was outside of the time range we had set. This is all very versatile and will fit around any family household but again is all very easily over-ridden by going manual on the app or simply clicking the button on the thermostat which with a few finger presses lets you override.

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Tado are a very interesting company and have already signed up to Apple’s HomeKit. The eagle-eyed amongst you would have noticed the Tado logo in the HomeKit presentation in Apple’s WWDC earlier this week which means that not only are the company working with the whole HomeKit which will become available in Autumn 2016, but it should also allow the device to be able to work alongside the other brands that were also on screen in the pic below.

IMG_0579Apple HomeKit Brands

Imagine what this means for a moment, if Tado get this right you will be able to have the device interact with brands that are nothing to do with Tado themselves. For example temperature spikes as it is in Manual Mode in error – flash my Philips Hue lights red to notify me. Or even better, use Tado’s geo-fencing properties to know when I am coming home to ensure heating is on (Tado), lights downstairs are on and ready (Philips Hue) and the garage door is now open (Fibaro Z-Wave Sensors). This will be subject to the Extension Kit being upgraded by Tado as I have been informed this will not be a simple software upgrade as the Extension Kit came out before Apple’s certification process.

On top of this Tado support have told me that the devices themselves also have some unused sensors inside which they may use at some point in the future. This intrigues me as it shows they are future proofing themselves. They have also now signed up to IFTTT, the popular website which again connects devices.

We are looking forward to testing the individual radiator controls as this is the logical next step to total heating management in the modern home allowing you to control individual radiator temperatures per room, but these are due Q3 2016.

To conclude, Tado is a no-brainer for me, if you haven’t got one, then start looking into it as it should quite rapidly save you money in an area which seems to be getting more and more expensive.

The system is solid, with even more solid support to go with it. It will fade into your wall as you forget it is even there and I think this is exactly what it is designed to do.

 

TheTechSpy Rating: 10/10

 

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

 

 

 

 

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 

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

I think it is safe to say that now it is a normal sight in society to see the majority of people carrying a smart phone. Most of us carry around our whole lives in these little devices, which have private information, social network logins and our lives in photos just a few clicks away.

The other issue is that not only is there a sentimental value to the device with everything it has inside, but we forget of the actual monetary value and most of us walk around in public openly looking at our smart phones without a care in the world.

Imagine walking down the road, holding £500 in cash in front of you for the world to see….I am not sure that would last very long as thieves look to make an easy steal.

The good news is that you can protect yourself with certain tweaks which a lot of iPhone owners do not know about.

Before I start the most important thing to have is a pin number or passcode to lock the device. Make sure you ALWAYS have a passcode as this is the first line of defence to someone snooping through your device. Also make sure your device auto locks itself after a few minutes, this will ensure that if you put the device down and walk away it will lock on its own and will need your unique passcode to unlock it.

Find My iPhone:

Firstly, make sure you have Apple’s very own “Find My iPhone” app which can be downloaded from the app store, as this will allow you to track your iPhone if it has been lost or stolen. With this app you can remote wipe the phone to at least give you some peace of mind and put it into “Lost Mode” which allows you to locate and post a message when the phone is turned on. This can be accessed via the internet on any web browser through iCloud.com or on one of your other Apple devices with the “Find My iPhone” app installed.

Once installed, do the following to turn the service on;

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on iCloud
  3. Tap on Find My iPhone.
  4. Turn On the option for Find My iPhone.

Recently I lost my rucksack on the train which had my iPad inside. On returning home I launched “Find My iPhone” from my iPhone and was quickly faced with all of my Apple devices in a list. I could see the iPad in question had not been turned on yet, so I clicked on the device in the list and put it into “Lost Mode”.

Lost Mode

This allowed me to firstly set a tracker on it which meant I would be notified as soon as it was turned on and its location. I then could set a phone number and a message allowing the person who turned it on to know who owns the device and how to get in contact. If you think you could be near the device you have lost, you can also set a loud tone to sound which will allow you to find it if it is in close vicinity and will annoy the person that has it.

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Three hours after putting it in Lost Mode, I was notified that the device had been switched on and of course the location of the device and within minutes I got a call from National Rail staff telling me that they had the device and that I could pick it up.

Now this does rely on two things, firstly that your iDevice has a connection of some sort as this is how it pushes info back to you and secondly that the person who switches it on actually gets in contact to return the device. If they do not get in contact, we recommend giving the details to the police as you will now have a location. At the very worst you will be able to erase all of the data on that phone through the app.

Safeguarding Your iDevice:

Now, criminals have got tech savvy and have realised that merely switching off location services disables the tracking feature which police can use to track the phone down, so here is how to stop them doing this;

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Hit General
  3. Select Restrictions – at the point you will be asked to set up a pass code, do this!
  4. Click “Enable Restrictions”
  5. Scroll down and look for Deleting Apps and toggle the switch to “Off” – This stops people deleting “Find iPhone” which aids in locating the phone after its been stolen.
  6. Scroll down to the section labelled Privacy
  7. Click on Location Services and then click “Don’t Allow Changes” – This stops location services from being disabled without your pass code.
  8. Lastly, scroll down to the Allow Changes section and click on Accounts, then hit “Don’t Allow Changes” – This will stop anyone disabling your iCloud account and will allow the phone to be tracked as long as a Sim card is in the phone. Even when a thief puts their own sim card in, your details cannot be taken off even with a system wipe.

This makes it impossible for your phone to be disabled, so if you do encounter the worst and your iPhone is stolen, call the police and hand over your iCloud account details and let them track your phone.

Nowadays our lives are dominated by screens. Whether it be your PC, Laptop, tablet or smartphone, we are all focused at some point in our day on them.

Although this seems like a bad thing, one thing is for sure, environmentally this is great, as paper is slowly becoming less of a part of our lives.

I am not sure if this is the same for you, but this does mean with all that finger poking at screens and mouse clicking, I almost feel like I have forgotten to hold a pen, as when I go to write a note it feels like I haven’t held one in years which I have to say I do miss.

But of course with most things recently, somebody comes along to bridge that gap and today we focus on OTM Technologies who have started crowdfunding Phree, the digital input device.

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This is the “write anywhere” device which lets draw, write, annotate on pretty much any surface. It will connect to all of your devices over a Bluetooth connection and is compatible with apps like Office, Evernote, OneNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard, Viber and more. So you can sketch or jot down ideas, thoughts or even take down details instantly.

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Personally, I can really see this being used in meetings, quickly jotting down notes and minutes to view digitally at a later date, but I have to say I do like the idea of being able to just pull this out and start writing anywhere.

One thing that really surprised us was the fact that not only is it an awesome digital input device, but it will also function to take calls as a headset and to briefly see texts and write to reply back to them…..now that is cool!

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The carry case will charge Phree on the go. The cap attaches magnetically to the body of the case to form an adjustable stand for any smartphone. Just place your phone in the stand, begin writing or drawing off-screen with Phree – you have an instant mobile workstation that actually works. Phree can be ordered with or without a case.

The dimensions are as follows L x 142mm, W X 18mm and a Weight of 30 gr with a touch swipe display on board the pen. Phree at the moment comes in 4 colours, but the designers will run a survey to properly deduce what colours people want.

We love this and have not seen anything like it. It is is fully funded on Kickstarter and you can currently nab yourself one for $189 with a case.

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