Philips Hue lights get wireless motion detection

Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Box ShotRegular readers know how much I love smart lights.  They give so much versatility to your home’s ambiance and colour.  The Philips Hue line is a popular kit that allows you to easily get started with adding smart LED lighting, timers, colours and more to your house.  Today, Philips has announced more smart functions are coming to its system, with the addition of a motion sensor for the Hue line.

Philips Hue line includes the Hue bulb starter kit, which can be placed into any regular light bulb socket, allowing lights to be controlled via a smartphone or tablet (or the wall switch). There’s also the Hue Go lamp  which I’ve written about previously; it’s actually the light I use to subtly wake me up at my 3am alarm time.

Philips Hue preview; hands-free motion detection

The new Philips Hue motion sensors were demonstrated for me in a private, advance Skype call.  Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Hallway & BedroomThe sensors work quickly, triggering the lights to come on in half a second in the live demonstrations I was shown. You can walk into a room, and instantly, any Philips connected lights will come on and allow you to see, without ever touching a switch, or digging for your smartphone.

“The Philips Hue motion sensor not only provides hands-free control but also helps deliver peace of mind. You can be guided safely throughout your home at night with lighting,” said Sridhar Kumaraswamy, Business Leader, Home Systems, Philips Lighting. “Plus, you no longer have to remind the kids to turn off the lights when leaving a room. The reliable detection the motion sensor provides when you exit supports this and also helps you be more energy efficient.”

Sensors know if it’s 2am; light adjusts accordingly

Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Use Case

Cleverly, these motion detectors also have a daylight sensor, which will adjust the level of light so that if you get up at 2am for a crying baby or to pee, the lights will only come on at a low level so you’re not getting blinded. Now that’s putting thought into your design.

Philips Hue motion sensors are battery powered; no cords!

The detectors are individually battery powered so you can stick them anywhere; wall mount them, leave them on a table, or tuck them on a shelf, or the top of the frame of a painting; you’ve got versatility.  With two AA batteries, Philips tells me in our call that the sensors will last about two to three years with ‘average use’ of a few times per day. The sensors are also said to have a great range, and can see about 100° in all directions. Hue Motion Sensor - AppI’m hopeful I’ll be able to test these out for myself later in the fall when the sensors become available.

Of course, what colour the lights come on, when, and how is all infinitely customizeable via the Hue app.

Philips enhances colour saturation in Hue line, adds new bulbs

Philips has also re-engineered its Hue line lights to have richer colours than before.  Where it was sometimes hard to achieve rich, true saturation, in the newest generation of lights, Philips tells me it’s now been able to achieve far better colour.    I hope to be able to compare the new colours (using the old bulbs/lights) in tests later this year.

Philips has also added new bulbs to the line; the GU10, popular in Canada (hallogen fixtures) and the BR30 spot light.

The new Hue motion sensors sell for $39.95 (CDN or USD) and will become available in October 2016.

 

Artists to use old farm equipment to create giant walk-in camera

graineryFour artists are banding together to create works of art inside a giant empty grain bin.  The project will create a massive ‘camera obscura’ inside the old corrugated metal structure.

The plan is unfolding at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage northeast of Nanton, Alberta. Camera obscura is Latin for ‘dark room,’  and as the group undertaking the project explains it, “the basic idea is to have light enter through a pinhole into a dark space; thereby creating a projected image,” says Dr. Josephine Mills, Director/Curator at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. “This is the forerunner of the camera and the source of the name of this technology.”

Pinhole camera technology is one of the earliest forms of photography, and using the grain bin just takes something that can be make out of a cereal boxSketches or cardboard tube, and expands it to a huge scale, with what could be very interesting results.

“I’ve always wanted to exhibit the fabulous contraptions built by Kamloops artist Donald Lawrence to take pinhole photographs and make projected images,” explains Mills, “When I heard about Donald’s major SSHRC Research Creation Grant and the team of artists he had put together for the project, I knew that bringing these artists to work at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage was a perfect match,”

So what will the finished photographs look like?

Calgary artist Dianne Bos is setting up her “See the Stars” prospector’s tent where she’ll make cyanotype prints.  “Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print, says Mills.  “It was used by engineers well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost way to produce copies of drawings called blueprints.”

A simple pinhole camera
A simple pinhole camera

Holly Ward, from Vancouver, is using cyanotype photography to explore the Coutts’ herbarium collection and will provide demonstrations throughout the day.  Sarah Fuller, based in Ottawa, will install video projects related to the Coutts home and gardens and conduct an Anthotype workshop using local spinach.

The Prairie Sun Project, as it’s being called happens on August 21, 2016 is the first project involving major Canadian artists creating work at the Coutts Centre.

Smart PLAYBULB String lights perfect for holidays

Plaubulb string christmas lights smartChristmas lights have been boring for much of modern history.  They came in just red, green or white, they all looked the same, and they didn’t do much to incorporate themselves into people’s unique personal styles. That’s different now with the introduction of the PlayBulb String lights.

Playbulb: Smart LED holiday lights

These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all aotomatically.

Playbulb string is easy to use

I’m a fan of the Playbulb line of  lighting devices because they’re dead simple to use; plug them in, and check the app.  They’re likely already connected and show up in your app, but without all the fidgety set-up and configuration many other ‘smart’ lights require. You could even give these to older parents who aren’t super tech savvy, and they’ll be able to operate them easily  — and without crisis phones calls to you for tech support!

These lights come in a string of 10 meters/33 feet, with optional extensions sold separately. It’s worth noting you can only go to a max of 66 feet on any plug/outlet.

Gauging interest on Kickstarterimg_5231

Interestingly, I learned Playbulb is doing a Kickstarter campaign to get these lights to market, which I think is a very unique way to gauge customer interest in a new product.

“Our challenge here is to accurately estimate the required materials purchase for the first batch of mass production,” write the Playbulb folks on the campaign’s page, “KICKSTARTER is a perfect platform for us to test the market. We like to know how tech-lovers think about our new products. We need to hear your opinions so that we can keep enhancing our hardware and software. We also need your helps to spread out the message. With the fund we raise on KICKSTARTER, we will make materials purchase planning accordingly.”

Not surprisingly the campaign was over its goal in no time, and many of the kits are sold out (or about to be at the time of writing this).

Playbulb String works indoors or outdoors

After an afternoon of testing, I’m in love; the Playbulb line by Mipow works so well.  It’s easy, fun and very versatile since these lights can be use either indoors or outdoors.  They’re going to be a hit for upcoming holidays like Halloween (bright orange??) and definitely at Christmas.

mipow string water

mipow christmas mipow playbulb holiday string christmas light

 

Roku’s new 4K TV is easy to use with a gorgeous picture

roky tv4K or Ultra HD is the newest revolution in TV technology.

If you’re new to this TV term, 4K is all about the pixels. Millions of pixels. Millions more than the next best TV which is 1080p.

If you think of a TV screen as a giant grid made up of minuscule squares, a 4K image has about 4,000 horizontal pixels (that’s where the name “4K” comes from). In total, it has about 8 million pixels on the screen, or about 4 times as many as the next best TV. To explain it in a visual way, manufacturers are jamming as many total pixels as there are in all of a 1080p set, into about a quarter of a 4K screen. That’s a lot of pixels.

4K TVs are becoming much more common, and even though there are complaints there’s not enough content to watch, that’s starting to change.

Meeting the 50” Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV

I had several weeks to test and review a new 4K TV to see what all the fuss is about. I cobbled together a temporary set up in my basement to test it out. The TV is the 50” Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV. For the newbies, Insignia is the manufacturer, and Roku is the smart software or operating system platform that the TV uses. Roku is a well known maker of smart streaming devices like the Roku Streaming stick, and it’s a platform that’s bug-free and easy to use.

Set Up – Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV

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Setting this TV up is very easy. Unpack it, plug it in, and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi. You’re ready! You can of course also connect to a 4K Blu-ray player (I tested it with the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player) or other 4K compatible device. Yes, you can connect other non-4K devices, but the whole point of a 4K set up is to enjoy maximum resolution.

The full review of this TV was done for Best Buy’s Plug In blog.  Check it out HERE.

Robot Lawn Mower from Husqvarna saves your summer: Review

Husqvarna Automower lawn robot grass canada calgarySome folks LOVE yard work; for many others, cutting grass is a chore that eats into your time off. Consider then, that you could get a device that takes care of all your lawn cutting needs; the Husqvarna Automower robot lawn mower will cut your grass and keep your yard in shape all without you needing to lift a finger.

Husqvarna Automower is a robot lawn mower

The Husqvarna Automower is a relatively new product in Canada, but it’s been hugely popular in Europe for some time (and boy, do the Europeans have fun with their automowers! From racing stripes, to cammo to ladybugs, they’re totally customizeable.).

The mower is slightly smaller in size than a standard lawn mower, and has no handle.  Small wheels keep it moving, and a small panel in the top allows you to make adjustments as needed.husqvarna mower ladybug

What can the robot lawn mower for for me?

The Automower can be set on an electronic schedule, so it will keep your lawn trim all season long.  The mower doesn’t go out once per week and slice down the lawn by two inches, instead it mulches the lawn by cutting very small amounts each day; the lawn will appear as though it just stops growing.  The robot is fully autonomous, and will find its way around your yard mulching grass until it needs to return to its base station for a recharge.

How the Husqvarna Automower work?

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Guidewire laid in the grass and held in place with stakes.

The mower should be professionally installed. A Husqvarna dealer can help with planning and layout for your new set up.

First, you need to lay a guidewire around your yard so the robot knows where its boundaries are.  While this sounds simple, a small break in your guide wire can render your whole wiring job useless.  It took three pros about 6 hours to properly set up my boundaries, test the connections and troubleshoot it when it wasn’t quite working.  You’ll want to do this right and get it professionally installed so you don’t have to worry about it.

Husqvarna Automower yard robot calgary
The Automower, base station to the left, and a sample patch of grass that was allowed to grow while the mower trimmed the rest of the yard.

The Automower works by operating within its guidewire; essentially acting as a “Roomba vacuum” does, but for your grass.  You can use the wires to “fence” off any areas the robot should steer clear of, whether that’s your vegetable garden, flowers or a child’s play area.

 

The Husqvarna Automower comes with a base station which it uses as a home base and recharging station. The positioning of the station is important; it shouldn’t get too much sunlight, and you’ll want it to be out of the way.  I’m told many homeowners in Europe will actually build tiny “mini garages” for their Automower, and if I were to own one, I think I’d do that too to help it fit into or hide away from the yard.

 

How loud is the Husqvarna Automower? Mine ran at night, without a complaint


Surprisingly, this mower is absolutely silent.  Compared to the ear-splitting grind of a traditional electric or gas mower, you will not even hear this one at work in your yard.  In fact, it was so quiet, I had mine scheduled to run at night, and I never heard it, nor did my neighbours.

What if someone tried to steal my Husqvarna Automower?

The Husqvarna Automower has anti-theft protection built in.  For starters, if someone were to lift it up to carry it off, an alarm will sound.  Second, you need a pin code to operate it.  Third, if a thief were to try to operate it without its base station or pin code, it would cease functioning.  And fourth even if an intrepid thief were to, say, try to buy a new base station and get the pin code reset, this can only be done via an authorized Husqvarna dealer.  The dealers’ records show who owns each device and their lost/stolen status. Attempting to reconfigure one without the proper documentation would result in all kinds of red flags, and perhaps a call to the police.img_3350

What happens in the rain?

Rain doesn’t bother the robot. If the grass is too wet for cutting, the Automover can sense this, and it’ll return to base until things are drier.

Will the Husqvarna Automower hurt pets or children?

The mower won’t hurt anyone, human or animal, that comes into contact with it.  For starters, the mulching blades are small, so they likely wouldn’t even make contact with flesh.  If they did, they have a foldaway spring which prevents them from cutting when they hit a hard object.

Another safety feature; if the mower bumps anything like a foot or a sleeping dog, it will simply back up and choose a new direction.

What happens if something goes wrong?

Husqvarna Automower installation calgary
Getting great service from Alberta Forest & Garden, Husqvarna dealers, in Calgary.

I had a couple of issues with my temporary installation; primarily the wire loop becoming disconnected from the mower base station.  The staff at Alberta Forest & Garden were quick to come out and take a look and make repairs any time I had a problem.  In this case the problem was that the guidewire was only temporarily staked to the surface of my grass.

In an ideal and permanent installation, the wire is buried underground so there’s no worries about kids, pets or trippy adults pulling it loose.

A couple times early in the testing, I heard the alarm go off in the middle of the night. it turns out the robot was falling into a bit of a pit in the lawn, and its built in security system was worried someone was trying to make off with it.  The solution was to make a barrier around the deep pit so they mower wouldn’t get caught.

In another case the automower was missing chunks of grass.  That was easily remedied by adjusting the wire boundary, and also adjusting how far the mover is allowed to stray past the wire.  It was increased by a few inches and that helped it get a good cut from edge to edge.

Overall review of the Husqvarna Automower

I really, really liked this device.  It worked well, and kept my lawn short all summer long, without a lick of work from me.

The totally silent operation meant the mower could work while I slept, and wake up every day to a beautifully manicured lawn; all we had to do was handle the trimming.  If that’s more work than you want to do, it’s possible to make some small adjustments to your yard’s landscaping so no trimming is required either; I’m talking about adding edging, hedges, gravel or mulch.

Any problems I had with the mower were handled quickly and cheerily, and I feel confident any ongoing issues would be dealt with quickly.

I can’t find a single thing to complain about with the Husqvarna automower.  It’s definitely something I’d get for my home or property… and may still one day!

Where can I get one of these Husqvarna Automowers? What do they cost?

My demo unit was supplied for 3 months by Alberta Forest and Garden in Calgary. They are licensed Husqvarna dealers.  I highly recommend them for their great attention to detail and friendly service.

Pricing starts at $2100 CDN (315 model: cuts 1/3 acre) and goes up to $4000 (450X model: cuts 1.25 acre), depending on the model you choose.img_3372

 

LG Music Flow H3 speaker review

LG Music Flow H3 4All about the LG Music Flow H3 wireless portable speaker – Wireless portable speakers are popular because they can be placed in any room, they sound great, and often they’re easy to set up and use, integrating seamlessly into your life.  If only that were the case with the LG Musicflow H3 Smart Hi-Fi Audio speaker I have been reviewing since a unit was first shipped to me back in May.

Basics of the LG Music Flow H3 Speaker

The LG Music Flow H3 is a small, portable speaker.  It measures about 5” by 7” and pushes out 30 watts of sound. The speaker is heavy, which made me think it was solidly built, and a great user experience was ahead of me. The speaker comes in black or white, and requires just an AC power connection; you’re supposed to be able to control everything else through your smartphone or device. The speaker is supposed to let you play music, podcasts, or Google Cast streaming services (like TuneIn Radio, Pandora or Spotify) among other things.

Watch the short video review below, or click through HERE to read the full text of the review I did for Best Buy Canada.

 

Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ErinLYYC.

Goutte D’O rain drop cabins from Parks Canada entice campers

gouttedo590_I LOVE this idea.  A six meter mini-cabin in the shape of a drop of water is now open to campers in Canada.  The Goutte D’O (water or rain droplet) is a small portable accommodation option designed to entice campers who might find tenting too rustic.

Gouttes D’O make debut in Canada parks

gouttedo275The Goutte is a hard-sided wooden structure with screened windows and a suspended net loft to add space. Parks Canada says, “there is a sofa bed on the main level and a hammock loft above. TheGoutte d’Ô can accommodate a couple or a family. Ideally, this accommodation is suspended or on stilts. For the piloting phase, the Goutte d’Ô will be installed on a wooden platform at Point Wolfe Campground in Fundy National Park.”

It goes without saying that there are no bathrooms inside these tiny huts, and campers need to bring their own bedding and supplies, but that’s not unlike regular tenting. Pets are also verbotten in the Gouttes. Four people can fit inside and sleep inside the gouttes; two in the sofabed and two in the loft, thhough I’m guessing it might be a bit more comfortable with two adults and two kids.

A handful of these would look so cool hanging in a campground, don’t you think?

The Gouttes are $70 a night to rent during a trial phase. This structure is just one of a handful of new structures appearing in Canadian National Parks in hopes of enticing more people to commune with nature. Micro Cubes, Tree Cocoons and Tiny Homes are some other examples. (Read this cool blog from This Big Adventure about the cocoons)

Check out the new cabins here. I’d love to know who is making these chic spaces, because honestly, I’d love one for my backyard! I’ll see what I can find out from the fine folks at Parks Canada.

Tiny home_website

 

cocoon_tree_tent_1

 

Photos courtesy Parks Canada and Big Adventure.

Vimtag P1 Smart HD camera review

img_4605Home security cameras are becoming more popular, both because they’re coming down drastically in price, and because the quality of video is improving dramatically, not to mention the user interfaces are much easier to operate.

Families are using in-home cameras for watching kids and teens, for keeping an eye on the house while out of town, or for policing workers and tradespeople.

I’ve tested several cameras, and I can tell you I’ve seen it all when it comes to ease of use; some cameras I’ve needed an engineering degree to operate and set up, while others have been pretty simple.

The Vimtag P1 Smart Cloud home security camera definitely falls into the easy category. It’s super simple to set up, easy to use, and the video picture is crisp, clear HD, and there’s even a two-way audio talkback function.

Vimtag P1 Smart Cloud home security camera features

-Hi-def video recording with 4x Digital Zoom
-Crisp hi-fidelity sound with 360 degree audio pickup and two-way voice functionality
-Multi-user mobile functionality
-Fully controllable pan and tilt functionality for near complete inhouse coverage
-Advanced Night-Vision Technology
-Wireless data storage via Vimtag Cloud Storage box (sold separately)
-Motion triggered push notifications (with wireless sensors, sold separately)

Setting up the Vimtag P1img_4986

Vimtag touts the camera’s “foolproof plug and play setup for installation in under three minutes,” according to the company website, and I found this was bang-on. The camera is literally plug-and-play simple; the part that will take the longest is downloading the app and setting up an account.

The app is easy to use and navigate through, and you can easily move the camera by touching the screen in the app. You get 360 degrees of movement from side to side and the pan and tilt functions are similarly broad, so you can see just about anywhere in the room where the camera has been placed.

Great HD video

The HD video from this camera is outstanding; there’s not a hint of graininess or blur, so you know you’ll have a crystal clear view of whatever you need to see. And if you need images or video to provide to police in case of a break in of theft, rest assured you’ll be able to share sharp, detailled images. The cameras is so good, I was playing with it, and took a great selfie! Not your everyday use, but it’s one way to show you the great video quality.

d38d26b2-a51a-4fcd-8abf-b347d2dabe0cCloud & Recording not built in

The camera doesn’t record footage and store it to the cloud unless you purchase an extra storage device.That S1 Cloud box is an additional $150, so unless you want to add this feature, you’re left with only live view capabilities.

You can take short videos and snap still photos from the camera app interface, but unless you happen to catch something live, your surveillance capability is limited.

 

The camera is $129 from Vimtag or on Amazon.