Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

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;

658 wifi

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.

mivue 658 back

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

We review the BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit – a hybrid PowerLine adapter kit which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and Wi-Fi access point.

u_10026909

Introduction

Ethernet bridge PowerLine devices are some of the most simple networking devices there are. In a nutshell, they allow you to connect one Ethernet-cabled network device to another over your home ring main [read: mains sockets]. They are typically completely Plug-and-Play meaning there’s no configuration. It’s a convenient and relatively inexpensive means of networking your entire house:

img-bb-extender

They are however, nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for the best part of a decade, but the proliferation of Wi-Fi in everything from TVs to games consoles has meant that they’ve seen a decline in usefulness in most homes.

From a technical perspective, the ‘Ethernet Bridge’ type of PowerLine adapter should therefore be an absolute cakewalk to review.

The BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit though is a hybrid device which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and a Wi-Fi access point.

41AGijkOd6L (1)

Why might you need one?

Reason 1 – Wi-Fi problems

Like most people, I own a lot of Wi-Fi enabled devices. For the most part, they work well, but I do have issues with signal strength in my house. I live in a 1930s semi with solid internal walls and it means I get next to zero signal in the bedrooms from my router downstairs.

Reason 2 – Ethernet-only devices in remote locations

I already use a pair of 80Mb/s Netgear PowerLine adapters to provide a network connection for my Ethernet-only Foscam IP Camera. The camera can capture video at 720p but it struggles with my setup because the 80Mb/s quoted is a theoretical maximum that can never be achieved in the real world. Having tested it before starting this review, I can see that it tops out at 8Mb/s, just 10% of it’s advertised maximum. This is the reason I can only ever watch stuttering video at 10 frames per second from my camera.

REVIEW

Setup and test conditions / notes

The tests will be run exclusively from a laptop and not from a phone or tablet as this will allow for both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections.

We will be using Virgin broadband, capable of 100Mb/s. The router is located downstairs in the living room.

The house was renovated a couple of years ago and was completely rewired including new sockets and consumer unit (fuse box). Bear in mind that PowerLine adapters transmit and receive data through the mains so their performance is entirely dependent on the quality of your home electrical wiring. Below are my results but your mileage will vary.

Speed tests

Firstly, I ran a speed test on both my existing LAN and Wi-Fi for benchmarking purposes.

This is the result of my laptop plugged directly into the router via Ethernet cable:

This is the result of my laptop connected to the router over Wi-Fi (in the same room):

4607968526

That’s the benchmarking out of the way, now let’s get on with testing these things!

I plugged the Broadband Extender into the mains socket closest to the router and connected them with the supplied Ethernet cable.

I then plugged the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot into the furthest mains socket away from the router (the kids’ bedroom) and connected it to a laptop via Ethernet cable. I chose the furthest socket away because unlike normal Ethernet cabling, the length of mains cable that data must travel through makes a huge difference to the speed of the connection. Closer sockets will give better speeds.

This is the result of my laptop plugged into the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Ethernet cable:


That’s pretty staggering and very close to the magical 100Mb/s !

This is the result of my laptop connected to the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Wi-Fi (in the same room):


Pretty good too considering the Virgin Wi-Fi topped out at 56Mb/s. It’s certainly a lot better than not being able to use Wi-Fi at all upstairs!

Conclusion

All in all, a very good product from BT. I really didn’t think I’d be seeing nearly 100Mb/s over a PowerLine adapter any time soon, but it seems like we are nearly there.

If you have the need to connect an Ethernet-only device from one room to another or have Wi-Fi dead spots in your home, this is a great purchase, especially at £39.99 from Amazon.

TheTechSpy rating – 8/10

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

firestick-inline

When it comes to the crowd sourcing websites, it’s not that easy to find a unique product anymore as it seems that every day a new USB battery charger, “Smart” suitcase or iPhone dock populates the pages.

I have to say, as tech bloggers we have been pretty disappointed with the lack of cool tech that has arrived on the market with only the odd device exciting us at the end of 2014.

Today we saw Displio….This is an e-ink display that will simply show you what you want to see….simple!

Displio Colours

Sometimes in life you have to take things back to basics. Yes, we can see this information on our phone or our computer, but you physically have to go through a number of steps to make this happen. Displio is different, as this device allows you to display information via widgets simply on the screen so that you can at a glance, see what you want to see.

The device will show things like the weather for a particular area, or your appointments for the day and can even show you details like email message counts, FitBit data, Facebook likes and messages, Twitter feeds, reminders, PayPal balances, and tracking details for shipments all taken from the internet via the WiFi connection.

2

The idea of this is simply brilliant. I can imagine how this would fit into my life, on my desk at work or in front of me when I wake up and brush my teeth in the morning. The brilliance of this is the simplicity, as all we want is a glance of info during the day to remind us of things that we want.

d684505c20d0d64ca5ba6201165eeb3b_large

The Displio device is offered in seven different colours and in a wood casing too. It gets power from an internal battery allowing it to be placed anywhere you want and being e-ink this will have a great battery life. Users tap the device to reload it and with its inbuilt accelerometer it will adjust the screen. The screen is a 2.7-inch E Ink unit and it has a speaker for alert sounds.

The only problem with this device is its price. At $99 on Kickstarter I would not buy more than one which in reality I would need to fit into different areas of my life. Let’s hope the price comes down as I think the company may struggle to fulfill pledges on this occasion.

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

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

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

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

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

App

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homey

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

LightwaveRF
Airplay
Sonos
Nest
Hue
Spotify
Logitech
Bose
Philips
Samsung
Gmail

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

So, the long awaited Doorbot arrived at TTS Headquarters just before the holidays and we could not wait to get this bad boy out to start reviewing it.

Let’s be clear here, from the second it is pulled out of its courier parcel, you do not think “Crowd-funded” product. This device would look completely comfortable sitting next to the first class products you ordinarily see in an Apple store.

On opening the box I was surprised to see the care that has been taken with this device. Firstly, not only are you given a screwdriver handle which also includes a screwdriver bit  to help you fit the device, but they also include a liquid level and drill bit with all wall plugs to ensure this can be fitted right from opening the box.

Open Box

Fitting is remarkably easy. Even those less DIY savvy of you will have no problem getting the device in place. The instructions show all the different places you may want to attach it to with a step by step guide and the camera can be angled quite freely to deal with most front door situations . We have ours directly connected to our old door bell wiring to power it but also wanted to have the door bell still chime inside when the Doorbot is pressed which is not actually functioning. We are currently waiting on the guys over at Doorbot to address the situation.

Once installed, setup was again very easy. It uses your smartphone app or can be accessed online via a laptop. My only gripe with the setup is that it only supports 802.11b when you would expect it to at least be N graded. We had trouble connecting the Doorbot to our Wifi and to get it to work we had to move the router much closer reducing the distance away from the router from 15 metres to 5 metres away (although the app still shows a very low signal).

After setup has been completed, using the device is relatively straight forward. The button is pressed and you get a notification on your phone. In this case we are using it with an iPhone so the notification is like all others and once opened you get the choice whether to answer the call seeing who is at the door (this took about 7-10 seconds to appear). We especially liked the walkie-talkie type push button to talk so that you get complete privacy inside the house when talking to someone at the door, but was not that impressed with the low quality video which is delivered to your device. We think this should be either your choice as it depends on your internet speed and wifi connection or an auto function depending on your connection.

All in all, this is a good product. The Doorbot team need to address a few issues which I am sure can be fixed in future updates delivered direct to the device. On viewing comments online their support is a little to be desired at the moment, but it will take them time to catch up with all support related issues as we cannot forget this is a small start-up which do not have the comfort of a whole department just to answer technical issues.

The Doorbot is an awesome product when you think of its roots, but they already have competitors close on their tails. Get yours for $199.

doorbot