Smart Home gadgets you NEED now

wemo houseThere’s so much we can do to get our homes running smarter.  There’s any number of products that will do things for you automatically, or examples where once inaccessible technology can now be yours at home. Everything from automating your lights, to remotely locking your doors, checking the weather on demand, or even testing your food for impurities… it’s all possible now inside your own home.

Tech Talk on CTV News


I recently had a chance to run tests in my home of several “smart” gadgets, and we showed them off on CTV Morning Live (watch HERE).  Here’s a bit about each one, and some testing notes.

Wink Hub and Pheripherals

wink hubThe Wink hub is kind of like a nerve centre of home automation.  The hub connects to your home’s wifi, and drives the Wink app on your phone.  The app then allows you to control any number of add-on devices.  I did have some initial trouble getting the hub working, but Wink/Quirky was quick to replace what was likely a defective unit and I was up and running again quickly.  Once the hub and app were in sync, I was quickly able to set up GE Link light bulbs, which allo you to use your phone to turn the lights on and off and to dim them.  I tested the soft while light bulbs, which was great, but it would be even better if the LED bulbs had colour options like LIFX or Philips hue bulbs I’ve reviewed previously.  That said, you can actually run Philips hue bulbs on the wink hub, but you do still need the Philips hub or starter kit, so it’s kind of link bulb

I also tested the Quirky Pivot Power bar along with the Wink hub.  It’s a wifi-enabled power bar that allows you to turn some of the outlets on or off remotely.  The Pivot also curls and pivots (hence the name!) and allows you to plug in large size plugs or transformers with ease.

The Wink system has been easy to use and program, and one of the only downsides is the large size of the hub.  I also know some reviewers have had trouble with getting the system set up initially, as I did, but the Wink/Quirky customer service folks handled things very well.

WeMo Hub and Pheripherals by Belkin

wemo-img-overview-3By comparison to Wink, the WeMo hub is tiny; it fits in my palm.  This was by far the easiest set up I’ve had lately; the hub conected instantly and without trouble.  I set up WeMo light bulbs first and they too connected instantly.  I did have some confusion setting up the add-ons like the WeMo Insight switch, but I figured out after a few minutes that the WeMo app actually has 2 screens that look like the set-up screen.  I was using the wrong one.  Once I figured that out, and got into the right one, the plugs connected easily. Once everything is connected, you can use the WeMo app to set timers for lights, or your heater, fan, you name it.  I wake for work well before the sun is up, so being able to set the lights to slowly come on, or the fan to warm the room before I get out of bed is a treat. The WeMo system is available at Best Buy, and Future Shop.









Lapka personal environment monitor

What’s a Personal environment monitor?  The Lapka kit contains 4 sensors which measure  radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity and how organic your produce is.lapka It connects to your iPhone and the Lapka app and displays its readings on your phone.  I tested my home for radiation and electromagnetic  fields, and it came up fine.  I also used it to test some fruits in my pantry for the presence of nitrates (from fertilizer).  My biggest beef with the Lapka is that there’s not a lot of information either in the package or online about what you’re testing for, or why.  I felt like I needed an advanced degree to know what I was doing with the PEM.

Roolen Breath Smart Humidifier

I really love this product, both because it looks like the most futuristic humidifier you’ll ever see, and because it was easy to use, and ABSOLUTELY QUIET.  I have a humidifier at home and it’s so noisy we need to keep it on the other side of the house from the bedroom.  The Roolen is silent.  It emits a cool mist that humidifies your home and in “automatic” or smart mode, it will automatically shut off when your home hits optimal humidity. Simple, easy and smart.  A full tank will also last almost 18-24 hours, so it only needs filling once per day. You can get one in Canada on

roolen breath
Roolen Breath Smart Humidifier


Netatmo Weather Station

netatmoThe Netatmo weather station is a neat idea for weather geeks.  One of its brushed aluminum cylinders sits unobtrusively in the home, the other goes outside, and you access their info via an app on your phone.  It measures temperature, of course, but also humidity, and noise levels indoors.  it’s also equipped to send weather alerts to your phone, but I found they didn’t work in Canada.  A neat idea for a gift if someone you know loves weather.  Add-ons include alternate temperature sensors and a rain gauge. You can read my full review of the Netatmo on Future Shop’s Tech Blog or get one on their website.




This Epic Luggage Will Change the Way you Travel Forever (No, it really will!)

trunkster rolltopIt’s not too often I get blown away by something that lands in my inbox, but the Trunkster Zipperless Luggage has done that.  Just about wrapped up on Kickstarter, the company has definitely made it’s goal and then some, and that’s probably because they’ve taken a basic product we all take for granted, and completely redesigned it to make it handy, clever, and a travel necessity.

Trunkster has taken all the things you HATE about a carry-on (or they are making a full size version), and done away with them; the finicky zipper is gone, replaced by a rolling front door that gives you access to the bag without having to splay the whole thing open on the floor like you’re gutting an animal pre-flight. “The last major update to the core design of luggage was wheels. And while many cool new features have been introduced since then, most have failed to improve the actual experience of using luggage,” says trinkets on its Kickstarter page.

Trunkster keeps the wheels and handle part of luggage design, but the company says it’s made them better.  “Trunkster features a robust, side-to-side handle that gives you absolute control and enhanced balance through many grip positions. Plus, the handle’s special design allows for an uninterrupted cargo space for optimum packing capacity.”  I’m not exactly sure what a “robust side-to-side handle” means.  But if it means it doesn’t break or get stuck after a dozen uses, I’m in! I also appreciate the fact it appears the telescoping slides don’t infringe on packing space. I’d love to get hands-on with one of these bags to truly see how this all works.

The Lost Bag that Finds Itself!

Losing a bags sucks, to put it bluntly.  Especially when your airline gives you the line “We don’t know where your bag is, Ms Erin, but I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere.” So reassuring.  So what if your bag could track itself and tell YOU, and the airline, where it’s snuck off to?  Amazing.  Why hasn’t this been thought of before? Especially when you think tracking devices like Tile and others are now so small, and that it would be so easy.  This is quite simply a brilliant, brilliant innovation for luggage.

trunkster design plans

Power on the Go

Trunkster has made it easy to keep all those devices you need to keep connected or entertained on the go fully charged.  The Trunkster carry-on bag has a built in USB charger and battery that will charge a phone up to nine times.  Longer than the world’s worst layover! So while all the other airport zombies are crowded around the 11 available charging stations or licking musty airport carpet to access a hidden wall plug, you’ll be sitting in comfort with a glass of your favourite beverage in the airport bar, still fully charged!

The Bag that Weighs Itself

With all the new baggage fees out there, many people are choosing to carry on to save money.  Which means airlines are soon going to start cracking down on size, number and weight of carry-ons.  You won’t get caught, because the Trunkster has a built in scale that will display in pounds or kilograms.

trunkster specs

Other features:

  • World-Class Construction – made from brushed airplane grade aluminum and 100% virgin polycarbonate (durable, lightweight, and scratch resistant) with a matte finish.
  • Compression Panels – specially designed panels with a single hand closure mechanism to compress contents.
  • All-Terrain Spinner Wheels – robust, ribbed, omni-directional wheels that glide smoothly and silently over any surface.
  • Hidden Compartment – minimalist compartment for travel essentials like passport, notebook, pens, etc. Also holds removable battery.
  • TSA Lock – custom Travel Sentry TSA-approved combination lock to keep your bag safe from intruders.

trunkster animated

This Kickstarter campaign is overfunded, so congrats to Trunkster.  I’m really impressed with the thought and intelligence that’s gone into the design, but I’m curious about how well that rolling door design will work, especially after being banged around a lot.  The company  has apparently thought of that, because they’re offering Kickstarter backers a 5 year warranty on the bags, which I think is a smart idea. I hope to be able to review this product soon to let you know what it’s really like hands-on.  The company estimates the retail price of the carry-on with GPS to be around $500.  The Kickstarter price is $335, plus shipping (cheap to Asia Pacific and the USA, not cheap to Canada – its $100) The checked version would retail around $600.