New Playbulb Candle S; now rechargeable & brighter

It’s been HOT where I live. Really, bakingly hot.  The kind of heat where you don’t want to turn on the oven for dinner, or even boil water. Lighting candles is out of the question. Despite the fact that some subtle flickering ambiance is nice, adding anything that says ‘heat’ is not happening. That’s why I love Playbulb’s new electronic candles, Candle S. Continue reading “New Playbulb Candle S; now rechargeable & brighter”

BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber

Beddi glow smart alarm lightCan BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock help me wake up better?

There are few sounds that irk me as much as the screech of my alarm clock. It goes off each day at 2:50am so I can snooze it a few times before I finally crawl bleary-eyed and groggy from my warm covers at 3:30 to head to work. Believe it or not, snoozing like that actually helps me feel like I got ‘extra sleep’. (Does anyone else do that?)

I’ve always hated the sound of ringing alarms. I use the radio sometimes, but I find it disconcerting to hear people talking in my room before I’m fully conscious and know what the hell is going on. It’s all the more unsettling when I realize the radio is tuned to Coast to Coast AM and they’re talking about a phenomenon of people waking up with the demonic Hat Man shadow-person standing over their beds. Shudder.

Better, more gentle wake up?Beddi glow smart alarm light

There has to be a better, more gentle way to wake up, and I think I may have found it.
I was recently sent a BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock for testing and review. BEDDI Glow allows you to wake with a simulated sunrise light, your own music, or FM radio. It’s also got a host of other neat features that makes it pretty handy.

BEDDI Glow alarm Features

The BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock gives you options for your wake up. I’ve been using the simulated sunrise feature and the ‘relax’ sound effect. Continue reading “BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber”

6 smart light hacks for Christmas holiday decor

There are two types of people when it comes to lighting up the house for the holidays; the gung-ho Clark Griswold types, and those for whom the thought of climbing a ladder in the cold inspires dread.

If you’re in the latter camp, know there are easier ways to make your home festive thanks to technology.

Holiday Hack #1: Smart Plugs for Automation

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Want to control your Christmas lights from another room, or even another city? Smart plugs like the WeMo Switch allow you to plug in virtually anything, from Christmas lights, to mobiles or animated figurines and turn it off an on with your smartphone or tablet. This works really well for tree lights in particular, since crawling under or behind the tree to pull out the plug is often a pain.

Smart plugs can also be used on automatic timers, coming on at dusk and turning off when you want.

Holiday Hack #2: App-connected string lights

Plaubulb string christmas lights smartMiPow, makers of Playbulb lights has come out with a smart connected string light for this holiday. 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 automatically. Best of all, these are for indoors or out.

With a kit like this you don’t even need a smart plug. Read my full review of String here.

Holiday Hack #3: Stick-up LED Lights go anywhere

img_7356-2The amazing thing about smart lighting is how versatile and flexible it is. Case in point; a couple new LED string lights that are thin, pliable and flexible so you can stick them up anywhere.

Philips Hue String, Osram Lightify Flex and MiPow Playbulb Comet are just three great examples of lights you can stick anywhere for holiday decor.  If you use removable 3M Command adhesive tabs, it makes moving them and removing the tape even easier.img_7347-2

Use these light strips on the inside of a window frame to show your neighbourhood your red, green or icy blue colours. Coil them into frosted glass vases for temporary colourful lamps, wrap them around large mirrors, or stick them under furniture for holiday ambiance.

Want to go to another level? Nanoleaf Aurora is a unique set of flat plastic panels that can be stuck pretty much anywhere; you can use them to create a holiday-themed wall decoration, and adjust the lights to flicker red and green or frosty blue and white.

Holiday Hack #4: Make a light-up Christmas Tree

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Feeling creative? Why not use the Aurora to create a flat panel Christmas tree in a small space where a real tree is just not realistic? Simply arrange the triangular shaped panels in a tree shape, configure the panels to turn green (go for a gold on on top, reminiscent of a star!) and you’re holiday ready!

Read my review and all about the Nanoleaf Aurora here.

Holiday Hack #5: Use a wireless lamp in your table settingimg_9005

Table setting is an art, if you ask me. Matching dishes to napkins and selecting florals requires some level of flair which I struggle to achieve. That’s where I pull in smart lamps; I can turn the Mipow Sphere glass globe green to match my good china, or I can set the Philips Hue Go lamp to a cool snowy hue for a winter feast. The Go lamp also works well under the Christmas tree to give it some extra colour pop or by the fireplace.

Holiday Hack #6: Use coloured bulbs for decor

img_9003As I’ve written before, smart lights are an easy way to decorate your home for any occasion. Painting your room with light can warm up a room, cool it off, or give it a holiday theme with the touch of an app. Lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs can be set to holiday red or green easily, you can use LIFX’s ‘scenes’ to create a holiday glow, or employ a MiPow Playbulb to provide both a light show AND music from its built-in speaker!

Holiday Hack #6: Use the Internet of Things to automate … ANYTHING

img_7355-2If you haven’t experimented with IFTTT (If This Then That), you’re missing out.  IFTTT uses apps and smart devices to create actions that happen automatically. I wrote about how you can use it to turn coloured smart lights blue when snow is in the forecast.   But you can also use it for holiday fun. Need a quick lesson on how it all works? Click here.

If you own a smart doorbell and some smart lights you can use an IFTTT ‘recipe’ to play Christmas music on a Sonos speaker when the doorbell is pressed, and to set lights flashing green and red. Read more about how to do that, or to achieve the same effect with a motion sensor, via the Yonomi app here. You can also surf the IFTTT website for holiday light and sound recipes that have already been created and borrow one that suits you.

Do you have a Holiday hack or IFTTT recipe we should try? Post your ideas in comments below!

New Philips Hue lights & accessories review & how-to

img_6004As the days grow shorter, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a look around your home and assess whether your lighting can use an upgrade.

Philips has recently announced several new products and accessories in its smart lighting kit lineup called Hue.

I recently had a chance to test out some samples of these new lights and accessories. Regular readers, or viewers of the monthly CTV Tech Talk know I really like smart lighting for its versatility, colour changing abilities, ease-of-use, and low energy consumption. So anytime I have an opportunity to test new product, or see upgrades that have been made, I love to educate readers and viewers about what’s new, what they can expect, and if these gadgets work as they should in the home environment.

What’s new with Philips Hue

The new additions to the Philips Hue kit I tested included a motion sensor, LED adhesive strip lighting, and new more saturated coloured light bulbs. We’ll look at each piece of the kit, what makes it unique, different, or new and improved, and how well it works.

I should note right off the bat, that all of the accessories and lights in the Philips Hue kit require the use of the Philips Bridge to connect all the devices together, and  to connect your smart phone via your Wi-Fi network. A great way to join the smart lighting club is to purchase a starter kit, which comes with three bulbs and a bridge.

You will also need to the Philips Hue app, or other third-party app to control your lights and get the most from them (More on those below). With the Philips app you’ll be able to set timers and alarms, control colour changing, set scenes or moods, and group certain lights together to turn on or off in sync.

Philips Hue – Reviewing Lightstrip Plusimg_5897

Philips Hue Lightstrip plus is a flexible length of LED lighting. It will display both white or coloured light in just about any situation you could imagine. The light strip plus is completely bendable, so it can wrap around anything from a mirror frame, to a window, a headboard, or even your television.

For you feature geeks out there, the light strip plus emits 1600 lumens at 4200 Kelvin and uses AC power. Extensions to the kit are available but are sold separately.

I set up this light in a couple of ways. Though the light strip plus comes with an adhesive backing, I rigged up a temporary set up so I could move the lights from location to location in my home. I tested them under the kitchen cabinets, then underneath a sideboard in the dining room (there’s a photo at the top of the page). My final test was to wrap the light strip around our 50 inch TV in the media room.

The light strip is very versatile and easy to use with the Hue app. Though the app is not as intelligent or interesting as it could be, it works just great, allows you to use all the basic functions, and is very responsive. Several third-party apps add more fun and functionality to the Philips Hue kit, but the basic app works just fine.

I very much enjoyed having more available task lighting that I could place exactly where I needed it. I also really love the look of using it underneath a piece of furniture to create less harsh lighting in the room, and more of a soft ambient glow.

Try ambient lighting in your media room

I’ve done some reading which suggests ambient light around or behind your TV can help combat eye strain. I decided to try to add the Philips Hue Lightstrip plus to the edge of my 50″media room TV. Though the set up was only temporary and didn’t look very attractive, it’s easy to get the idea of how this would look in a permanent installation.

I played with several different settings of colour and brightness during a movie. The subtle back late was a nice change of pace from the normal stark blackness of my media room.img_5988

While there are special apps that claim to be able to adjust the colour of your lights to the program or movie you are watching, the Phillips Hue app itself does not do this. So while you can adjust the general ambient colour or brightness, you can’t customize the experience; not without paying for an extra app. This is something I’d like to try down the road, but for this review, that’s kind of secondary.

Bottom line; this light strip works well, has good strong colour saturation, is very versatile, and if you rig up temporary adhesive (like a 3M command strip) you can move it as you need to.

Philips Hue Motion Sensor 

img_5896The addition of a motion sensor was a big deal for Philips. The small 2-inch square motion detector is light and compact with an adhesive back. If you don’t want to install it permanently, you can tuck it nearly anywhere, from a counter, dresser, even on top of a painting or frame; wherever you need it to detect motion. The motion sensor is powered by two AA batteries, meaning it’s completely wire-free, and with regular use those batteries should keep the sensor powered for  two to three years.

It won’t blind you at midnight

The motion sensor adds a lot more versatility and new functions to the Hue lighting lineup. More than just turning the lights on and off, this device gives you many new options. For example, using the Hue app you can set the lights to come on at different strengths or colours depending on the time of day or night;  you can set a night light function, so if someone in the house wakes up in the middle of the night, and goes to the bathroom, the Philips Hue lights will turn on, but only dimly to light the way.

Motion detected instantly

The sensors have a great range, and can see about 100° in all directions. Indeed, I have the sensor in my dining room, with a direct line to a hallway about 18 feet away, and when I walk past, it’s still able to see me.  The lights fade on in less than a second; there’s really no lag from detected motion to lights-up.  I was actually quite impressed with the responsiveness.

New version Philips Hue bulbsimg_5997

While the Philips Hue kit is very easy to set up and use, if I had to find fault with one aspect of it up to now, it’s been that the light bulbs aren’t super colourful and aren’t as richly saturated as some other bulbs I’ve tried. (Namely Lifx and Osram WeMo).

That’s all changed now with the re-issue of new bulbs from the company. They look identical but it’s the guts inside that now produce deeper richer colours. I did notice that they do appear noticeably stronger and more saturated, allowing you to use them to decorate with light for holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, or to just enjoy relaxing or invigorating colour scenes at home.

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

I have lights… why do I need SMART lights?

It’s a fair question; why upgrade to (often more expensive) smart lights when you can get illumination the old fashioned  way? To answer that question, I present, “5 COOL things you can do with Philips Hue lights.”

  1.  Get your lights to flash when the doorbell rings. You’ll need a video or connected doorbell for this one, and the free IFTTT app. (What’s IFTTT? Read my explainer here) Using IFTTT, you create an ‘applet’ (formerly called a recipe) that tells your lights to flash when your doorbell, like the Ring Video Doorbell is pushed. In simplest terms, you allow IFTTT access to your doorbell and your Hue hub, and the app gets them to talk to eachother, even though they don’t normally work together.
  2. Get lights to change colour according to the weather. This is a feature I love.  Use IFTTT again to get your local weather info to send alerts to your light bulbs.  Have them come on bright orange when it’s going to be a scorcher, or turn blue for a snow day. Click here for my how-to.
  3. Turn on lights inside when motion is detected outside. Another applet function from our friends at IFTTT; use a dedicated connected motion detector, or camera like the on on the Ring doorbell, and then have it communicate with your lights. When it detects motion at your door, day or night, that action triggers the lights to turn on to make it seem as though someone is awake or at home. The applet can be found here.
  4. Sync a light show to music. If you have a connected speaker like Sonos, you can get it talking to your Hue lights. Get it to create you a light show that complements your music.
  5. Use a Hue go lamp to wake you with warm light:  Not new, but also worth mentioning as part of the Philips Hue kit is 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. Using the Philips Hue app, I have it set to slowly fade on about 15 minutes before my alarm goes off, to a soft sunrise pink-orange. By the time my alarm rings, the room is bathed in soft light for a gentle wakeup.

What would you do in your home with new smart lights and accessories? Let me know in comments below. The new Hue motion sensors sell for $39.95 (CDN or USD). The Light strip is $89, and the starter kit of bulbs is $179-$199. Check out the whole line here.What

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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.

 

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

 

Gadgets you need at home; portable wireless lamps & robot cleaners

From cleaning robots to room-freshening lamps, on CTV Morning Live this month, we looked at some cool new gadgets for the home.

iRobot Mopping Robot

iRobot Braava jet 240I’ve been testing the iRobot Braava jet 240. This little lunchbox-sized device will sweep and mop your floors for you. It uses small pads with cleanser infused inside them and a jet of warm water to mop your floors and sop up spills. You just hit the button on the top of the device, and the robot will clean about 100+ square feet of space on one battery charge.

A full review of this little housekeeper is coming soon, meantime, check out the unboxing video to see what you get.

iRobot Roomba 880

img_0923-1The iRobot Roomba 880 vacuum is a large circular gadget, significantly larger than a dinner plate, and about three or 4 inches tall. You can schedule this vacuum to clean your home while you’re at work or away, and come home to a floor free of dust and pet hair; even under the furniture.

While Roomba’s weighty, he’s not heavy and he comes with a built-in handle so you can pick him up and carry him around. The Roomba can also be used at any moment (off the schedule) simply by pushing the ‘clean’ button in the center of the vacuum. The robot will back away from its base station and begin cleaning in a somewhat hard to follow but linear pattern. The robot learns its way around furniture and is smart enough to back away from stairs. The Roomba will clean an entire floor of your house and then return to his base station when the battery begins to run low. The Roomba 880 also has the ability to sweep up small spills by pressing the “spot” button.

For my full review of the Roomba 880, click here.

MiPow  Playbulb Sphere Lamp

img_1039I love colour changing lights.  They can totally change the look of a room. MiPow Playbulb Sphere is a beautiful, affordable frosted glass globe lamp that rests on a small base when charging but it can be moved anywhere for a portable colorful glow. You can get 6-8 hours of light on a single charge.

The Playbulb Sphere (full review & write-up here) works beautifully on the small side tables, or even as a chic dining table centerpiece since it’s only about 15cm in diameter. PLUS — Click the link just above here to see how this lamp can transform a whole room with colour.

Philips Hue Go Lamp

img_9005The Philips Hue Go lamp connects with a nice long AC cord for power but it also works off the cord, as the rechargeable lamp is also fully portable and lasts up to six hours on a charge. For the newbies, you don’t even need the app to start playing with it; a small button on the bottom of the bowl allows you to cycle through a variety of light colours and effects while a small wedge keeps the lamp steady on its rounded bottom.

Getting the lamp set up on Wi-Fi was very easy. You just download the free app then “add new device”.  Once you do that the app will search for devices on the network and it automatically finds the Go lamp. Once it pairs you’re in business. read more about the Go lamp in my review.

The above products are available at stores like Best Buy, London Drugs and Home Depot.

If you have any suggestions for gadgets I should learn about or check out for possible blogs or TV segments, I’d love to hear from you! Just use the “Contact” form here on the blog, or message me on Twitter or Instagram @ErinLYYC

 

 

Another new TV acronym: What’s HDR TV?

hdr3If you’re in the market for a new TV, there’s a new acronym you’re likely seeing.  And if you haven’t yet, you will. “HDR” is a new TV feature that again raises the bar on video quality, colour, contrast and overall viewing experience.

What is HDR?Samsung-2015-TV-640

The Consumer Electronics Association or CEA, (which is the standards and industry organization for the US that’s kind of like the United Nations of electronics and gadgets) says HDR or High Dynamic Range TV “is a new capability that promises to deliver an expansive range of brightness and shadow detail, further enhancing the viewing experience.”

In a press release about HDR the organization explains, “HDR provides a significant step-up in delivering an incredible viewing experience for the consumer,” said Brian Markwalter, senior vice president, research and standards, CEA.”

So in a nutshell, a very small and simplified one, HDR is a format improvement that will make TV look better.  But how? And what will that mean to you if you buy a new TV?

This article was written for Best Buy’s blog. Click here to read the full article.

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Installing and using the smartphone-controlled Osram Lightify Flex LED kit

Osram Lightify KitI’ve been looking for an easy under-counter lighting solution that can brighten up my dark kitchen, without requiring a degree in electrical engineering.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the Osram Lightify Flex system was to install. Even better is the option to control the lights using my iPhone, and being able to change their colours!

There’s a full review coming soon, meantime, check out my video showing what’s in the kit, how to install it, and what it can do for you.

If you have any feedback on the Lightify line, I’d love to hear it.  Add your comments below.