Do you bring your valuable tech and jewelry with you when traveling?

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Whether you’re getting ready for a spring break vacation or planning a summer getaway, don’t lose sight of your tiniest travel companions — namely your jewelry.

A recent study by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company found that more than 80 percent of fine jewelry owners will bring their pieces with them when traveling.* The two jewelry items most traveled with are engagement rings and watches. (Though it’s my guess lots of people are traveling with their smart jewelry now too!)Zultanite-Ring-1

“It’s no surprise that people bring their jewelry with them on vacation. Jewelry is part of who you are,” said Trina Woldt, chief marketing officer at Jewelers Mutual. “It’s meant to be worn and enjoyed, not left behind, especially a piece as sentimental as an engagement ring.”

However, Woldt said travelers should take extra precautions when planning their next vacation and encourages them to keep five tips in mind before heading out the door.

Here’s how to minimize risk of jewelry loss, theft or damage.

  1. Choose wisely. Take only the jewelry you’ll actual wear while traveling.
  2. Make a list. Document all the jewelry you’ll take with you, or take pictures or video.
  3. Carry it on. Never put jewelry in checked bags. Instead, wear it or stow it in your carry-on bag.
  4. Use the safe. Always store jewelry in the hotel safe when you’re not wearing it.
  5. Insure it. Get the right coverage before you leave. Look for a jewelry policy that covers loss, damage, theft and mysterious disappearance, and includes worldwide travel protection.

Bora-Bora-Island-6When you arrive at your destination
While the majority of the people surveyed said their jewelry never leaves their body while on vacation, experts at Jewelers Mutual recommend removing your jewelry before certain activities.

“Wearing jewelry in the hot tub or pool could damage certain precious stones and metals,” said Kay Kostelny, Jewelers Mutual’s Jewelry Recovery Specialist.

Kostelny condones leaving jewelry behind when wearing it could put you at a higher risk for damage or loss. When you are not wearing your jewelry, remember that it should be stored somewhere secure, not left on the hotel nightstand, in a purse or even in locked luggage.

According to the Jewelers Mutual survey, the hotel room is the most frequently mentioned area where jewelry is lost.

“These types of losses are preventable,” added Kostelny. “Storing it in the hotel safe is the best option next to wearing your jewelry and keeping it with you at all times.”

-This item has been reprinted from a news release supplied via Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company and Marketwired

 

 

Apple upgrades Health app; the internet hilariously poops on apps you can’t delete

Apple announced it was making some upgrades to its Health App at today’s Cupertinofest 7.9.3.

That got me thinking (and asking on Twitter), “great, but does anyone use the Health app anyway?” In my early experience with it it didn’t sync with much, didn’t track much and seemed generally useless.

Twitter agreed with me, and my thread evolved into a hilarious game of one-upsmanship where Tweeps showed off where they hide the apps Apple considers so important they’re un-deleteable. Some of those folders have nice, innocuous, but nonetheless true names.  Others are much more clever. And nearly all of them show how users really feel about Health app.. and some others.

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Apple “Extras”.. that’s nice…

 

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“Never use” is also rather kind.

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Mel calls a spade a spade (bottom right).

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This dog is NOT an Apple fan.

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Cute, and accurate. (Thanks Colin!)

 

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Last word goes to this guy!

Fitbit Blaze Review

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The new Blaze (right) beside to well-worn Flex.

I’ve been a Fitbit owner ever since I bought my Flex. It’s been a staple for me, not so much because I’m a gym junkie, but because it sit at a desk for the vast majority of my day. I try to keep active and get in my 10,000 steps, and my Fitbit keeps track so that I can get in an extra walk, park at the back of the parking lot, or hit the gym when I get too sedentary.

I was excited to hear about the two new Fitbit models announced this year; the Alta and the Blaze, primarily because my Flex is starting to look a bit worse for wear, and because I feel like I’m ready for some new features. While I was instantly attracted to the Alta because of its slim profile and similarity to the Flex, I was a little less interested in the Blaze. It seemed big, bulky, dated-looking and boxy. Nonetheless I was willing to put it though its paces.

Getting started with Fitbit Blaze
To use the Blaze you’ll need the Fitbit App if you want to keep long-term stats. With the app downloaded, you pair the device to your phone.  While it took me a few tries to get it to connect to the phone, it was soon connected and ready to go.img_1456

The Blaze has an interesting configuration; it’s essentially two parts; the band (which is interchangeable, more on that below), and the tracker unit, a flat, square device just over an inch square and slightly thicker than an average watch.  The tracker pops out of the band to allow for changeover, and must be removed and placed inside a tiny box for  charging.

At first I thought this band would be heavy and bulky, but after less than an hour, I had already forgotten it was on my wrist. Really, it doesn’t feel any heavier or bigger than my original Fitbit Flex, despite the obvious size differences.

I also like that the tracker unit itself can be popped out of the band, and tucked into a sports bra, sock, or pocket. This was one of my favorite features of the Fitbit Flex; it allowed me to hide the tracker if I didn’t want to be wearing something obviously athletic and rubbery on my wrist for a nice night out or a formal event. While the accuracy of the device may not be as exact if it’s worn elsewhere since it’s been made to be worn on the wrist, in my experience it wasn’t off enough to throw my day out of whack. And besides, the better looking these devices get, the less likely we are to want to hide them anyway, right?

img_1454-1What Fitbit measures

Before we go too much further you may be wondering what a Fitbit will keep track of for you.

  • Sleep: both duration and quality
  • Steps, including number of steps and distance, and active minutes in your day
  • Activity: record activities from running to cycling
  • Weight: the app will chart your weight either manually, or automatically when paired with the Aria scale.
  • Calories: when paired with apps like MyFitnessPal, you can share food info and match it up to activity levels.
  • Water Intake: again, a manual input item but can help you keep track of if you’re drinking enough water
  • Floors Climbed
  • Heart Rate: Fitbit devices with heart rate monitoring will keep track of your resting and active heart rates.

Customizing your Blaze

Customizable watch faces are an option for the Blaze, but you can’t switch them up form the watch itself, like other bands. Instead you’ll need to do this though the app in ‘Account’ menu. Not intuitive but at least the feature is there. It takes about 15 seconds from the time you select a new watch face for it to update on the watchband.

By default your Fitbit Blaze adjusts brightness based on the ambient lighting conditions. You can change the default in the settings.

You can set the Blaze to light up when you turn your wrist towards your face. I found this feature didn’t work as well as I had hoped. If I was taking a casual look, sometimes it didn’t recognize the gesture. If I was more deliberate about turning my wrist over and pointing it at my face, then it seem to work. But it took about a second before the display would light up. My experience with this feature was hit or miss.

Who’s the Blaze for?

Fitbit wants you to be clear; the Blaze is not for an elite athlete. The Blaze is for an average consumer who wants to do basic monitoring of fitness statistics, sleep, and activities while not looking like a track star. The Blaze is fashion and fun, with a fitness core. Fitbit suggests the more seriously minded athletes pick up its Surge device instead.

Basic operation
Alerts
A great new added feature of the Blaze is its ability to deliver notifications and messages right to your wrist. While I very much enjoyed getting a subtle buzz on the wrist when a text message or calendar alert popped up, this feature does have limitations. While you can read incoming text messages, you cannot respond to them. (At least not using my iPhone.) similarly, you can accept incoming calls, but you must have your smart phone with you as well, or you won’t be able to talk. While this may seem very limiting, the price point of the Blaze is far less than Apple’s watch, so you’re getting what you pay for if messaging and conducting business from your wrist is something you’re after.

Menus
By pulling down across the watch face, you get a menu which will allow you to turn notifications on or off, as well as play music if it’s connected.
Swiping up gets you a list of recent notifications such as calls, text messages, calendar alerts and more. These alerts will stack up and stay in the watch until you clear them.

Swiping right to left across the band will give you a series of other menus:

“Today”: The today menu will show you your fitness stats; such as steps, heart rate, kilometres traveled, calories, and floors climbed. To return back to the menu list, you hit the back button on the watch band.

“Exercise”: this menu allows you to register different activities like workout, elliptical, treadmill,  weights, bike, and run. You tap the exercise you are about to take part in and the Blaze will connect to your smart phone’s app to register the activity. Push play on the watch face to begin logging the activity, then stop it when you’re done. While technically Fitbit already knows when you’re doing some kind of exercise, having this connection to the app allows you to keep watch in real time on your statistics, such as distance or time.  When enabled, the Blaze will also use GPS tracking to follow your route on a run or a bike ride for example.

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One of the FitStar exercises.

“FitStar”: FitStar is a series of guided exercises that the band will walk you through. You can do a warm-up, or a seven minute workout. The watch band shows you a visual example of each short exercise, and a timer counts you down through it.
While three workouts are included in your Blaze’s software, if you want more options, you’ll need to buy them from Fitbit for a $46 annual fee.

“Timer”:   This gives you access to a countdown or stopwatch function.

“Alarms”: Here you can turn silent alarms on or off. But adding or deleting them requires your phone and the app.

“Settings”: A very simplistic version of the settings menu, here you can turn the QuickView feature on or off, adjust brightness, turn heart rate monitoring on or off, as well as shut down the device.

Accuracy

As I’ve written about previously, I very much like Fitbit  and choose it as my preferred activity band, because I find it extraordinarily accurate.

I’ve tried numerous bands and compared them both with each other, and done testing to see if the band accurately matches my steps, strides, and activities. Part of this accuracy lies in the ability to calibrate the Fitbit to your unique stride length, which is key for accurate tracking. (For more on how to adjust your stride length with Fitbit click here.)
No surprise then that the Blaze was just as accurate as my old standby Fitbit Flex.

Styling Options for Fitbit Blaze

With the Blaze, you have several options for wristbands. You can stick with a more traditional athletic wristband (“Classic”) which is made of rubber attached to the metal watch bezel, or there are also leather options in brown, grey or black. These bands will cost you about $140 and that’s on top of what you’re paying for the tracker. A gorgeous metal link watch band will set you back nearly $180. So while there are stylish options for making your band look less like a fitness accessory, and more fashion forward, they are not cheap.

Overall Review of Fitbit Blaze

One of the things I like most about my Fitbit Flex, is that it’s very subtle and still contains all the major tracking features I want. The Blaze is a whole different type of gadget for me, because it’s much larger, and more like a wristwatch then I’ve been used to wearing. But since this activity band also features heart rate monitoring as well as time display, it’s natural this device would look more like a watch them like a traditional activity tracker. It is bigger than I’m used to, but as I noted earlier despite its size and boxy shape, I quickly forgot I was wearing it, and didn’t feel that it got in my way or was overly noticeable.

I enjoyed the additional features, and definitely found myself checking in on my heart rate through the day. Having a built-in watch was a great feature, as is the notifications option. It was nice to get a subtle buzz on my wrist when I had a text message or alert.

In short, while I didn’t think I would be interested in this band as my go to activity device, I found myself liking it more and more the more I tried it. I could definitely see adopting the Blaze in my future.

Fitbit Blaze is available at Best Buy and London Drugs for $249. You can also get it from Fitbit’s website, or find more info there.

In the next couple weeks I’ll be reviewing the new Fitbit Alta too, so check back for more info soon. Already a Fitbit Fan? Check out my Fitbit Apps you’ll LOVE.

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Charging your Fitbit Blaze

 

New Ring Video Doorbell has smaller design, adds Live View

doorbell_proRing, makers of the very popular and easy to use Video Doorbell, are rolling out a brand new gadget dubbed Pro. Made as an upgrade from the existing doorbell, the new Pro version is smaller and slimmer than the original,  and has advanced features, like Live View.

Ring says the ability to peek in on homes at any moment, with a live video feed has been the number one most requested new feature, so it’s now available in the Pro model.

I’ve been a fan of Ring since first reviewing the original model and now one keeps watch over my home. Read my review here.

The new ultra slim wifi video doorbell with advanced features available today on pre-order for $249. Ring will now offer two choices for smart doorbells, Ring Video Doorbell, which offers dual power and super easy installation for $199 and Pro which requires doorbell power and has a handful of advanced features for $249.screen-motion-pro-b3c5ab536239238cce5b1e39e151f4bf

Interested in other home security options, like padlocks that work with your smartphone (no keys!) and wireless alarm systems? Check out those gadgets here.

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Fitbit launches 2 new trackers: Blaze and Alta

img_1453One of my all time favourite gadgets has to be Fitbit. The slim Fitbit Flex fitness and activity tracker has been my go-to for step counting, sleep monitoring and basically helping keep me active. (Read why here)

I haven’t looked at upgrading my Flex until now; mainly because it continues to work great, and I like its slim profile and the ability to pop the tracker unit out of the band, and hide it in my sock or bra if I want to ditch the rubber band-look. The recent addition of Tory Burch accessories has helped bring a more fashion forward look to the athletic devices, (see Tory’s Fitbit accessories and read more about Smart Jewelry here) but with Fitbit’s launch of two new bands, it seems everyone can be happy with both the looks and the functionality. In fact, Fitbit’s made these two new bands for people who are less hardcore about fitness (a serious athlete would want to look at the Surge), and more interested in keeping active while looking stylish.

Meet Fitbit Blazeimg_1443

The Blaze is Fitbit’s first foray into what could be thought of as a smart watch. The styling of this band makes it look more like a timepiece and less like an athletic tracker. There’s a colour screen, and improved exercise tracking, plus smart alerts from your phone.

I’m currently testing the Blaze, and will post a full review soon, but one of the things I’m already loving about it is that it to has a removable tracker unit that you can hide in your clothes, or slip into either an athletic band or a more jewelry-inspired band.

Fitbit Alta is fashion and functionFITBIT ALTA ONE

The other new band introduced by Fitbit is the Alta. This slim band looks a lot like the original Flex, but it comes with a variety of slick and pretty band options. I’ll be reviewing this Fitbit too, so watch for a full story soon.

Do you have questions you want answered about either of these new bands? Let me know!

Gadgets for Tech and Travel

ERIN FEB TECHThis month on Tech Talk on CTV, we looked at gadgets and gear that are perfect for travel, since it’s March Break/Winter Break season!

Spyder Commuter Power Pack

img_1168The Commuter is a 3-in-1 universal battery charger. It can be used in the car, by plugging it into the wall, or as a standalone power pack for on the go needs.The wall outlet and car charger end both fold into the battery pack so it stays sleek and compact when it’s not in use.

The Commuter is a perfect companion for travellers, since it weights a scant 4.5 oz or 128 grams, and you can charge from an AC wall outlet, via USB on your computer, or in the car. Plus it works with any smartphone or tablet.

Check out the full write up on the Spyder power pack on the blog here.

Mipow Power Tube 3000mipow power tube

This lipstick-sized tube is infinitely portable and gives your phone about one full charge. The feature that puts this one above others for me is that it comes with an Apple lightning cord hidden inside, meaning no tangled cables, and no forgetting one either! The tube comes in fun colours too. Get one from MiPow’s website.

Cable Cases & Wraps

We all need cables when we’re travelling; for powering everything from laptops, to phones, tablets, cameras and a host of other gadgets. Keep everything tangle-free and organized in a chic case. Levenger makes gorgeous soft leather cases with a variety of snap straps and zippered pockets to keep cords organized. The company also makes neat leather-wrapped cable ties that let you quickly tie up cables and stash them away. Big tabs let you find and grip them easily.

Nite Ize Cable wraps

These are like twist ties or pipe cleaners on steroids! Super bendy, but they’ll hold firm, these cable ties keep everything from earphones to power cords from getting tangles in your bag, on a flight or even in the car.

Parrot Zik3 Over Ear Headphones

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, there’s a way to allow that sound in.  For more, read the full blog review.

For more tech, gadget or travel news don’t forget to Like my Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ErinLYYC

To enter the Samsung contest I mentioned today, please go to www.ctvcalgary.ca

ERIN TECH TALK FEB 2

 

Smart padlocks mean lost keys, forgotten combos are a thing of the past

img_0885-1I was late for a bike ride, and tearing apart my closet and a cabinet looking for the key to my bike lock. Since it was nowhere to be found, I was forced to buy a new lock, only to find the key in a pocket weeks later.

Fussing with lost keys or forgotten combinations for padlocks is frustrating and as you see it can also cost you money. That’s why I was glad to try out a new solution: a smart padlock that can open with a tap on your smartphone screen. I was sent two versions of smart locks called Locksmart by Dog and Bone.

Set Up of Dog & Bone Locksmart locks

Set up couldn’t have been faster. In literally about one minute and three clicks on the smart phone I had both locks set up and ready to use. The Locksmart locks pair very easily with the phone, in my case the iPhone 6 Plus, and I had absolutely no bugs getting the system set up. Children and seniors would have no difficulty getting these high-tech devices going either; they’re made for real people, not just tech junkies.

Two different sizes: Locksmart and Locksmart Mini

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Locksmart Mini.

There are two different sizes of Locksmart locks. The first is a much larger and heavier round padlock known simply as the Locksmart. This one is obviously designed for more security and durability and would probably be best used on a gate, shed, or door.

The other lock is slightly smaller and lighter, and it’s covered in a full silicone wrap. This one is dubbed Locksmart Mini. I feel like this lock would be better used on things like school lockers, cabinets, or even luggage in a pinch.

How Locksmart locks work

Since pretty much everyone in the world knows how a padlock operates, I’ll focus on the features that make these locks different. With no dials, and no keyholes to speak of, the only way to operate these locks is via your smart phone.

Once you have the Locksmart app downloaded you simply pair the lock to your phone and then each lock  will appear in a list inside the app.

When you want to unlock your lock, you just tap the unlock button on the screen. The lock will snap open instantly.

Add an extra layer of security to the app

If you want to add a layer of security, in case your phone should fall into the wrong hands, you can adjust the opening settings so that you will need to use your fingerprint (if this feature is available on your smart phone or tablet) to open the lock. Similarly, you can set a numerical pass code that must be entered on the phone before the lock can be opened.
This would be handy not only if your phone is lost or stolen, but if you want to keep children who may have access to your phone from being able to open certain locks.

If you haven’t been connected to the lock in a while, or your phone has been too far out of range, or you have the power save feature enabled in-app, the lock may ask to be re-connected to your phone. This is done simply by pushing a small rubber button in the bottom of the lock. This has happeneddog and bone to me a few times, but the re-connection happens in about one second, so there’s no delay, and no fussing.

Instantly the app will tell you the lock is connected and the lock will pop open when you order it to. To lock it, simply snap the shank or shackle back into place.

Share access to visitors or repair people, or revoke it

Perhaps your lawn care guy has just arrived and needs access to your shed. You’re not home and neither are your keys, but that’s no problem, because from directly with in the app, you can grant access to anyone you want instantly. You can also revoke that access at any time.

The lock smart system will also keep track of who accessed each lock and when, so you can keep tabs on items you are trying to keep secure.

img_1051Winter-Ready: Works to -20

One of the main questions I had about these locks were whether they could handle our Canadian weather. Dog & Bone says these locks are good up to about -20°C. The locks are also weatherproof and can withstand rain, hail, snow, or heat up to 70°C.

Unlike another Bluetooth smart padlock I’ve tried out, these locks have notched shanks, allowing them to click shut with conviction. Some other bluetooth padlocks have smooth shanks that make me wonder if they’d be very easy to pry open. But not the Locksmart line; they don’t budge until given the digital command.

Batteries are rechargeable

You shouldn’t find yourself  recharging these padlocks very frequently. Powered with a lithium ion battery, Dog & Bone says a single charge will get you about two years of use, which equals about 3,000 opens before you will need to recharge it. The batteries are easily recharged via a micro USB plug in the bottom of the lock. A small battery indicator within the app give you ample warning when you need to think about re-charging.

The verdict: Locksmart by Dog & Bone

I loved these locks. They’re very convenient, extraordinarily easy to use and set up, and even when they go into Powersave mode and disconnect from your Bluetooth, they can reconnect in an instant.

Sharing access with others couldn’t be easier, so you’re never going to have to turn away a tradesperson, or neighbor needing to borrow some tools.

I have already transitioned to using these locks on our front and back gates, because they’re so easy and durable. I’d definitely recommend these to anyone needing a padlock.

Locksmart Locks are available through Dog & Bone’s website. Locksmart (large) is $89USD and Locksmart Mini is $69USD.

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