Archive for the ‘Home Devices’ Category

 

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.

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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

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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UK customers are now able to pre-order Amazon’s Fire TV Stick – a cut down version of the Fire TV set-top box.

The Fire TV Stick was previously only available in the USA, but the UK will shortly have a rival to the Chromecast and Roku in the battle for the living room.

The Fire TV Stick plugs directly into a spare HDMI port on your TV and is USB powered, so it can all be tucked away discreetly. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video support come as standard and the device also supports 3rd party apps such as Spotify and BBC iPlayer.

Downloadable games are also supported and for those that require a little more control than the supplied remote can provide, a dedicated joypad can be purchased separately for £35.

Pre-orders start today on Amazon.co.uk and the stick will be officially released on April 15th. The normal price of £35 is reduced to just £19 for existing Amazon Prime members if reserved by 08:00 tomorrow (26/03). Those of you without a Prime subscription are in luck too – Amazon will sell you the stick for just £7 after a rebate if you take out an Amazon Prime membership.

Fire TV Stick features:

• Dual-core processor
• 8 GB storage
• 1 GB RAM
• Dolby Digital Plus support
• Remote control
• 1080p Video output
• Voice search and secondary remote control via iOS / Android app

You can find more details on the promotion via the link below:
Amazon FireTV Promotion

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Here at TheTechSpy we are still testing the tado° system which so far has been working wonderfully.

We will be doing another review at some point to see how we have got on with the system, which so far has sat unassumingly in the background, which is exactly what we wanted it to do. Our first review can be found Here

The guys at tado° have today made it even better, with the announcement of tado° Care. We think this is brilliant and are pretty sure this is the first of its kind.

Here’s what the company says;

“This digital boiler protection is an additional service which is part of tado° Heating and ensures that your heating system always runs flawlessly. tado° is the only Smart Thermostat which is able to connect to the digital boiler interfaces of most manufacturers in Europe. With this direct digital connection to your heating system, malfunctions and maintenance requirements can be detected well in advance to prevent boiler breakdowns. In case of any service or error messages you will be notified immediately via Mobile App news feed and you will get detailed self-help instructions from us. If necessary, we will connect you to an engineer.”

tado° Care brings the idea of the Smart Thermostat to a new level. Not only does it look after your heating needs and as I said above, just sit in the background so that you almost forget it is actually there, but now it continues to look after you even when you are not using the system. It is very easy during the summer months to forget that you have a heating system so you would most probably not even realise that it has a fault, but the first day that you know about it, is the day you need the system the most.

Here is a company that has not only brought out a cool product in a now crowded marketplace, but is revolutionising the market place itself.

Well done guys

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