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 

Mio MiVue 518 review

Posted: December 30, 2015 in General

“A great budget dash cam with decent quality HD video recording”

Price when reviewed: £69 from amazon.co.uk

The Tech Spy rating: 9/10

Specs

  • Full HD 1080p video recording.
  • 2.4″ LCD screen.
  • Built-in GPS for speed and location tracking.
  • 130° wide-angle lens.
  • F2.0 aperture for good low light performance.
  • G-shock sensor to detect sudden or severe movement.


What’s in the box?

  • MiVue 518 camera
  • Adjustable suction windscreen mount
  • 12v charger
  • User manual

I think it’s important to note that a Micro SD card is NOT included but is required. A Samsung 32GB Micro SD card can be purchased for around £10 from Amazon at the time of writing.

Unboxing and First Impressions

The unit is one of the smallest units I’ve seen available and I think that’s a positive thing. Frankly, I’m surprised at the growing trend for the larger screen units at the moment. Due to the possibility of driver distraction, dash cams tend to automatically switch off the screen after a minute or so – a larger screen is therefore only really a benefit when playing back recorded video but has the downside of obstructing more of the driver’s view during normal use.

Review

Let’s start with the operation of the unit – the good news is that it requires no manual operation whatsoever. Just plug it in, and you’re away. There are three basic modes of recording video:

Normal – The unit is always recording in this mode when it has power. If you plug it in, the unit powers up and immediately begins recording. In fact, you can’t stop it recording unless you power the unit off completely. If it’s on, it’s recording. This means there’s no chance of being involved in an accident but missing a crucial bit of evidence because you forgot to click ‘Record’.

Emergency mode – This is activated when the ‘G-Shock’ sensor detects a sudden movement that would typically indicate an accident. In Emergency mode, files are stored in a protected folder on the SD card meaning that they won’t be overwritten like they are in Normal mode. This should give you piece of mind that after a collision, the simple act of driving home won’t delete vital recordings.

Parking mode – This acts in the similar way to Emergency mode. When the car is parked, the unit will record collision video to a separate, protected area on the SD card should the car be struck. This does however require constant power, for which the supplied 12v charger is unsuitable. Most vehicles do not continue to supply power to the cigarette lighter (or accessory socket as I believe it’s called nowadays) when the ignition is off. To get around this, Mio sell an accessory separately to permanently wire the unit up to the vehicle’s battery. If I left my car for extended periods in safe locations like airport car parks, I’d consider buying this.

I leave the unit in the car all the time and always plugged into the cigarette lighter. Rest assured, the unit stops recording videos a couple of minutes after I leave the car and lock the doors and starts recording again when I unlock the car and power is restored. It’s all automatic and means that the unit is never recording unnecessarily.

I began testing the unit with a 16GB micro SD card, but quickly swapped this out for a 32GB card when I realised just how much storage space the files use. The video is recorded at 1080p running at an average of 100MB/min. Data on the card is recycled constantly with the oldest files being overwritten with new files. I found that a 16GB card would only give me a couple of hours recording and I didn’t feel that would be sufficient.

File Playback

Mio provide a software application for viewing recorded files called MiVue Manager. This is not provided in the box, but is available to download from their website.


 

It has some nice features such as allowing you to filter recordings by day, by mode etc. as well as plotting the vehicle’s location on a Google Maps window as the video is played.

G-shock data showing 3-axis accelerometer data is also displayed in time with the video and makes for a very involving viewing experience.

If you’re using Windows 10, then files play natively -there are no codecs required. This means that if  you don’t want to download the MiVue Manager, you don’t have to.

Files also play natively on my Samsung TV using a USB Micro SD adapter:


That’s the boring stuff out of the way, so let’s have a look at the footage!


Day time footage is great for the price point.


Low light is pretty good too.

Verdict

It’s a tidy little unit, which takes all the responsibility for operation out of mind. This is exactly what a device like this should be – set it and forget it.

The feature list is extensive, especially at this price point and the video quality is good in both day and night modes.

The MiVue Manager software is particularly impressive for its ability mix in video and metadata in the form of a real time Google Maps location and G-Shock data. I’m sure that if I was involved in a crash, watching the Emergency recording in the MiVue Manager would tell the tale better than I ever could.

The Tech Spy rating: 9/10

 

Hot off the heels of the Mio 658, we now have the pleasure of testing the Mio 638 Touch which is equally as impressive as its bigger brother.

In my last review I started off by not being that persuaded by the whole dash cam revolution. After testing the 658 and now living with the 638, I am a dash cam believer.

I strongly believe that these will either be part of future cars or be something that will be required by law or at least your insurance company.

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Let’s start off with the fact that these Mio devices are so easy to set up. I literally took this out of the box, plugged it in and stuck it on my windscreen and I was away. Of course you do need to plug in a micro SD to get going and maybe tweak a few of the settings, but apart from that their is nothing else to do.

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The 638 looks to be exactly the same body as the 658 but with a few different features. This model has two micro SD card slots allowing for a capacity of 128gb (class 10 recommended). I will say that you do not need two SD cards for this to function as we have also tested with just one. When I first looked at the technical spec I thought this would be for huge capacity but this is not the case and really would not have been necessary for this reason. Instead the second slot is for backup, taking footage from the first just in case. I suppose its bigger brother does this via WiFi straight to the phone which is a very cool feature, but we won’t always have our phones at hand in the car or connected, so this way probably makes more sense for most people.

The Full HD 1080p camera records your journey as soon as you start the car. It takes a few seconds for the GPS to pick up satellites but this wasn’t an issue at any point.

The 638 has a button on the side of the screen very much like the majority of Mio devices. When pressed it takes a copy of the latest event, storing it for you under the “Events” folder for later viewing in the software. The filesystem is very easy to understand separating all necessary events into folders.

This dash cam comes with speed camera notifications which others in its field do not include so it is a welcome addition. The camera itself sits on the windscreen, best placed under the rear view mirror. When recording the screen shows your current speed instead of what it is recording in front of you. I have seen other comments on the web with people saying they would have liked to have seen the footage and cannot understand why you would need a speedometer when you car has one already, but I think that seeing what I am recording in front of me would just be off-putting where as not a lot of people know that the speed shown by GPS devices is actually more precise that your cars own.

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The speedometer can be changed from kilometers to miles but the 638 does seem to suffer with the same software issue as the 658 along with its very own. Firstly shared with its bigger brother is the fact that for some reason when a speed camera notification is displayed on screen it shows 2mph lower than the actual limit. For example, if I was driving up to a speed camera in a 30mph zone, the 638 shows a big traffic sign on screen with 28 in it…I really am perplexed as to why the devices are doing this.

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Secondly, although I have changed kilometers into miles in settings and it happily shows me my speed in miles on the main screen, when the safety camera notification comes up it insists on telling me in kilometers and I see no way of changing this. I am sure this can be easily fixed via a software update…..come on Mio pull your finger out.

Although the safety camera alerts need a few little tweeks, this doesn’t stop them from being a seriously good feature of this device. Not only will it alert within a certain distance which you of course can amend, you can even add cameras that you come across to the database so that it will come up in future for you.

The dash cam can be used to take pictures at any point by touching the little camera icon on screen. This would primarily be used to take pictures of your car when damage has occurred or while mounted on the windscreen if you want to take a picture of anything in front of you.  Here is an example of the picture quality at night.

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Night picture

 

Along with the GPS, Mio have included a G-Sensor inside to pick up any collisions or hard braking that may occur. I tried with a little bit of emergency braking and the system worked well. The device notified me with a “ting” sound that it had saved that recording to the SD card for me to look at later.

Now I know if you are reading this then you are technically inclined and would want this stuffed with every bit of tech available to man, but really their is no point to this camera if the footage is not very good, so here it is in full glory;

Day Footage:

Dark Footage:

 

The device allows you to decide whether you want sound recorded in the car, we have toggled this feature off.

I do like this camera and think that pretty much everyone will get on with it. The instructions are not the best, but we come across a lot of devices like that nowadays. This wouldn’t sway me from recommending it or buying it as it is so easy to set up out of the box.

If Mio can sort out the software issue concerning speed units, then we will have ourselves an almost perfect dash board camera.

If you are looking for a Dashcam for your car, this is one of the best I have reviewed.

TheTechSpy Rating: 7/10 (8.5/10 if they get the units updated)

Currently around £149 in the UK.

 

 

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

Continuing in the world of home automation products, today we are reviewing the D-Link ‘mydlink Home’ Smart Plug.

Introduction

What can be said about such devices? They are an evolutionary step forward from those old timer sockets used to fool burglars into thinking you’re at home by turning a lamp on a preset times.

In addition to being able to set a schedule, with these new breed of products you can also remotely turn on and off any mains-powered device from your phone or tablet manually, from anywhere in the world.

First impressions

The unit comes in a neatly presented box containing just the unit itself, instructions and quick install card.

The smart plug is a actually very nice looking. Long gone are the days of companies doing the bare minimum in design for devices that will, in all likelihood, be hidden behind a cabinet.


Setup
This really couldn’t be simpler. The unit has a WPS button on the side which, when pressed immediately after pressing the WPS button on your home router, connects directly to your home Wi-Fi network. Most modern routers have this functionality and it really does make setup a breeze.

Once it’s connected,  it’s just a case of downloading the iOS or Android app to your smartphone or tablet and creating yourself a mydlink account (in-app).

The app will find your device providing you are on the same Wi-Fi network. Then, all that needs to be done is to give it a name and choose an icon for it. After the initial setup, you no longer need to be on the same network to control your Smart Plug.

In my case, I have the Smart Plug controlling my tumble dryer.

See the little power icon below? That’s it. That’s how you remotely turn it on and off. Simple.


There are two reasons I chose a tumble dryer for this review:

1) I wanted to try a high current appliance. Pulling nearly 3KW through the Smart Plug should give it a good run.

2) My 3 year old twins have a terrifying desire to climb into things while the other closes the door. Boxes, cupboards, and yes, the tumble dryer once too. With the dryer under the kitchen unit and the mains socket located behind it, the ability to switch it on and off at the mains is difficult. 

The D-Link Smart Plug provides me with a means of doing just that, easily.

Here it is when ON:

Extras

You can view the current load and temperature of the plug in the device information page:


You can also set rules, such as turning appliances off automatically when a preset consumption limit is breached. Email alerts and push notifications are also supported. As previously mentioned, scheduling is supported for making burglars think twice when you’re away from home by hooking it up to a TV or lamp.

Summary

All in all, it’s an excellent little device that delivers on it’s simple objectives. I have noticed that it’s a little bulky though and so doesn’t play well with other plugs in my 4-way gang lead. 

It handles my tumble dryer with no problem, and like I say, that’s a very high load appliance, so top marks there.

At around £39.99, it may be a little much for some, but with D-Link pushing the range which now includes home cameras and PIRs, it’s well worth a look if you’re looking to automate your home.

TheTechSpy rating: 8.5/10

I have never really liked the idea of a dash board camera as slowly we are letting everything we do be subject to a lens. Already we are recorded when we walk down the street and some of us even in our own homes, but now we are even letting the humble lens into our cars.

But as I found out, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

We were lucky enough to get sent the MiVue 658 WiFI to test in a real world environment and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised.

Before I even talk about the camera itself, I have to admit having the camera there made me think a number of things. Firstly, if these take off, which we can already see they are, I can see these becoming mandatory or a requirement from your insurance company.

Think of it….you ring up or go online to get your next quote and they will either supply it to you or give you money off your quote if you say that you will be using one.

Forgetting the obvious fact that this will pick up any accidents that may occur and later I could use as evidence against somebody else, this device really made me drive differently as suddenly I realised that if a crash was to occur my actions for the first time were actually going to be subject to investigation via the footage.

So its a good thing that we start with the fact that this dashboard camera comes with speed camera locations inbuilt and will warn you of any cameras that you are approaching. This comes as standard in the box and with free monthly updates for the life of the device which is very cool.Unboxed

So let’s take a look at the device in a little more details;

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Design:

This is a very neat little camera and pretty unobtrusive on your windscreen. I think this is best placed near your rear-view mirror as most of us are used to having something there, so to have a small device like this below would not distract you and is probably best placed for filming.

I really like the design, but I have to admit the suction cup mount is a little annoying. The actual USB charging cable is threaded into the mount itself so you have to pull the camera away from the dock which normally ends in you pulling the whole dock away from the windscreen. I would have much preferred a Sat Nav style dock.

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The other annoying thing is the extra long charging cable supplied which comes with a car style 12v adaptor fixed on one end and a mini USB on the other. The 12v cigarette style adapter is far bigger than most of the supplied adapters which come with Sat Navs today and I really cannot see why it has to be so big. I think a USB on the other side so that you can use the cable in your own multi USB adapter would have been better as the majority of car owners will want smartphones and sat navs being powered at the same time and will want to use this when they get home to charge or take data from outside of the car.

Key Features:

This dashboard camera is jam-packed full of tech. This is the real top end with GPS, camera locations and WIFI included. With all of this said, when you turn the device on, you get a real pointless “Welcome” spoken out loud….not sure why, but they have….let’s move on.

Let me start with the speed camera locations, this is superb, a nice notification to let you know at just the right distance that you are coming up to a camera and it even shows you the distance counting down. The only thing that was a little weird was when in a 30mph zone, the traffic sign is shown on screen, but for some reason it shows a speed sign with 29 in it (which as a sign doesn’t exist in the UK). Very odd, but I am sure it is easily rectifiable with a firmware upgrade.

WIFI connectivity is a very cool feature. I do like the ability to have the phone connected and instantly be able to download the footage just recorded to your phone. If you have your smartphone connected via WIFI all the time, then by clicking the orange button on the right of the dashcam screen it will instantly backup the footage to the MiVue App. Even though you are connected via WIFI, your phone is still able to receive data over 3/4G allowing you to use the phone normally.

With the help of the inbuilt accelerometer, if you have a collision the device automatically creates a 20 second video clip and transmits it to your phone’s MiVue app for safe storage and if you feel like uploading to social media the app makes it very easy. Oh dear!

The device accepts a micro SD up to 128gb which helps when you are filming in such a high quality and using things like Parking Mode, which are triggered with movement and can be used in the car while you are not present. You can also use the dashcam in Photo Mode which allows you to remove the device from its dock and use it to take photos of any damage that may have occurred in an accident. The good thing is here is that GPS coordinates are also stamped onto the photo for further evidence of the accident.

I think lastly we have to look at video quality as if this is bad then the device might as well go in the trash. Overall I am extremely pleased with the quality and would happily use this in my own car. Registration plates can be a little hard to see with motion, but with a few well timed pauses on the footage I was able to pin point the exact registration.

Here is some video footage from the device;

Video During the day

Video in Dark Conditions

Key features:

All in all I think the quality is fine and like the fact that the speed and GPS coordinates are stamped onto the footage so that you do not have to dig around in the software looking for them. Of course it could be sharper as motion blur does at the first instance make it harder to look at finer details, but once downloaded to your phone or PC you can easily find out what you need as the internal stabilisation has done its job.

Along with having great quality video footage this device is more importantly easy to use. I couldn’t see many people having to dig out the manual and that is important in something that is going to be used in this manner.

You can buy these now at £159.99 on the internet and we think this is well worth a try especially if you drive for a living.

TheTechSpy Rating 8/10