Posts Tagged ‘Android’

 

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.

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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

 

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It still amazes me that with all the tech stuffed inside our phones and all these expensive materials used to build them, they still break so easily.

We all know someone who is walking around with a cracked iPhone screen trying to find the cheapest way to get it fixed. I once saw an iPhone 5 fall off of a colleague’s desk straight onto the carpeted office floor. It dropped no more than 80cm to the floor and the result….a completely cracked screen.

So when this particular case was brought to our attention, we had to have a little look.

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The Quadlock case is called this due to its locking mechanism which attaches the specially designed case that you put onto your phone, directly to the mount. This in turn can then be attached to different hosts and one thing is for sure, once locked in place (which is very easy) the phone is very securely attached indeed.

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The first thing I thought about when I opened the packaging was how I was going to live with having the case that Quadlock supply constantly on my iPhone 6 as it would just be annoying replacing it every time I went out for a run or cycle. I started to instantly dismiss the idea of ever owning a kit like this.

But after two weeks of having the case on my iPhone, I really like the feel of it. It has beefed the phone up in the right way and I actually find myself holding the phone more because of it. Even as a standalone case this would protect your iPhone, but I do wonder whether dust and dirt will eventually collect inside the lock section. But in two weeks of use this hasn’t happened and on further inspection it would be quite easy to clean.

I have had no issues docking the phone on my nightstand with the case on, as it is unobstructive and really doesn’t increase the size of the iPhone that much at all.

As you can see from the front it looks like a normal case which even has a small lip to ensure that if you place the phone down on its screen, it won’t actually touch the surface protecting the screen from scratches.
Quadlock make an attachment for cycling, running, driving and of course even selfie taking. I have got the cycling attachment which fits onto the middle of the handle bars by two very strong bands. The company supply two sizes of band to cater for most bikes. The size I have gone for was quite tough to put on but I would say this is a good thing as the attachment is now sat firmly in place and that baby is going nowhere.

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You secure the phone into place by pulling the little blue sleeve down (shown in the picture) which is on a spring so immediately snaps back into place. The Quadlock easily slots in and holds the phone firmly. This is very well designed and I would be perfectly happy cycling with this in front of me with no worries of it ever coming off or even sliding with any turbulence you may encounter on your ride.

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Along with the case and lock mechanism, the company even supply a nice rubberised clear case which can be attached to the whole setup to protect the iPhone even further while cycling. I suppose if you were out cycling and it was raining this would aid protection from the elements, but I will admit I have not tested it with rain so cannot confirm.

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The Quadlock can be purchased for all iPhones from 4 to 6 Plus and the Galaxy S4/5, so it would be ideal if you were using the phone for directions and its GPS capabilities.

I do like the idea of being able to use this on a run and even to hold my phone in my car rather than the traditional annoying phone holders due to its ease, rigidity and solid feel, but you will have to get used to your hand going behind the device to unlock it out of place where the gap is quite tight.

All in all we love this product, not only is it a nice case within its own right, but it also serves the purpose it was built for allowing you to travel with your smartphone safely in play.

It’s the right price for a solid product, well done Quad Lock

TheTechSpy Rating – 8/10

Tile, Inc. launch their second generation Tile today. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, the Tile is a $25 Bluetooth tracker that can be used to keep tabs on keys, bags or anything else of value.

The battery is not rechargeable or replaceable which means that when the battery dies the whole Tile needs replacing, but on the plus side it’s a sealed unit with an IP5 waterproof rating. The battery is estimated to last around a year under normal circumstances. Now, whether $25 a year to track one item is worth it is up to you.

Ask yourself how much it would cost to replace the item you’ve attached it to.

The Tile boasts such long battery life compared to other trackers because it has no GPS radio and instead relies entirely on the location data provided by your phone.

In an ideal world the Bluetooth range could be up to 100m. In practice, it would be less due to walls / interference etc.

As for the operation of the Tile app, if you lose your item you just open the companion app, click on the relevant Tile and click Find. If your Tile is within Bluetooth range, the app will give you the option to find it, alongside its current location information. If you press the Find button, the Tile will begin to loudly chirp away so that you can locate it by ear.

If your Tile is out of range, the app will report the last time and place it was seen so you know where to start looking.

If you still can’t find it, the community of Tile users can help.

Anybody who happens to walk past your missing Tile with the app running on their phone will anonymously update its location. As Tile put it – “This feature is 100% private—no one knows you’re looking for a lost item but you.”

But that was the first generation Tile.

The second generation Tile includes new features designed to keep it ahead of the pack. We’ve been testing one for the last couple of weeks to see how it fares.

I was a initially a little disappointed to find that the new Tile hasn’t lost any bulk compared to it’s predecessor. Second generation devices like this are usually a bit smaller due to the miniaturisation of components and manufacturing refinements.

That feeling was short lived however as this new model houses additional circuitry for its killer feature – Find My Phone.

This flips the concept of using your phone to locate the Tile on its head. Now, double pressing the ‘e’ on the Tile logo locates your phone. It’s a great feature and one I’ve actually used more often than ‘find my Tile’ over the last few weeks. The beauty of this feature is that you are very unlikely to misplace both your phone and your Tile so if you have access to one, you can find the other.

It even promises to make your iPhone sound an alert when on silent. This does work, to an extent. So far as I can tell, it achieves this by playing music.

Think of it this way – your phone can play music even when the ringer is set to ‘Silent’ and the Tile does the same thing.

The one flaw I’ve found with this method is that if your phone is connected to a Bluetooth headset or other audio accessory,

the audible alert is routed through that device and not the loudspeaker.

I’ve reported this to Tile and they are looking into it. I have a Withings Smart Baby Monitor and their app overrides the current audio path to always play audio through the loudspeaker every time you connect, so it is possible.

Overall, I’ve found the Tile to be incredibly useful and the new Find my Phone feature is an excellent addition. For now, I only have one Tile attached to my keys and I think that’s all I need.

If it had a user replaceable battery it would be a much more attractive product, but as it is, I would give it 7.5 / 10

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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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Give your iPhone 6/6+ an Android style back button with this ingenious screen protector.

Those of you in possession of Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone models will have experienced occasions when your hand just isn’t in the right location (or simply isn’t big enough) to reach the back button at the top left of the screen.

Sure, most apps now support the handy “swipe in anywhere from the left” feature added in iOS 7, but not all them do.

This is where Haloband has you covered. Launched on Kickstarter this month, the Halo Band is a smart screen protector that uses sone clever capacitive routing to link the area where the Back button normally resides to the empty area to the left of the Home button.

They’ve already smashed through their initial funding target but you still have time to get in on the Super early bird discounted price of $12 for a single unit.

Order yours at the link below:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/haloband/halo-back-make-your-iphone-perfect

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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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As we know, Apple make products beautifully simple that just work.

It doesn’t matter how many times Android, Microsoft or any of its competitors point out Apple’s weaknesses, you still just feel better with an iPhone in hand or a MacBook Air on your lap, even if isn’t the fastest on the market at the time.

Few products manage to capture the simplicity of design and still remain fully functional like Apple. But over the last few years, we have started to see some crowdfunded projects which follow the same line as this tech giant to great effect.

Premium One is a modular designed dock which can not only hold your Apple Watch, but the creators have also thought of those people who have the whole Apple Family of devices.

Made from aircraft grade aluminium, the dock looks like it could have been made by Apple themselves. Coming in 3 CNC precision drilled models, they look cool and hide all cables from sight as they charge the devices.

Premium One – Takes one Apple Watch – The watch is charged via the same MagSafe charger employed by Apple.

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Premium One W2 – Takes one Apple Watch and one iPhone

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Premium One W3 – takes one Apple Watch, either one iPhone 6 or 6 plus or any 5 series model, and in addition your iPad Mini or Air/Air 2.

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What we love about this product is not only the design and simplicity, but its modular design, and how it can be expanded in future. Once again it looks like something Apple would sell on its shelves in the Apple Store so would look more than at home providing charge on your bedside table.

Coming in black, silver and a bi-colour mahogany this product looks great. Starting at $55 for the W1, $89 for W2 and then finally $129 for the W3, we think this has been well priced comparing it to others in the market place.

Already fully pledged on Kickstarter, head on over and get yourself one before it goes!