Top 5 Power Solutions

Pivot-Power

As we accumulate more and more gadgets the number of four-way extension blocks needed to provide power for them all increases too. But the humble four-way isn’t the only solution, these days there’s a wide choice of kit to help you power and control your various devices. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting options.

Pivot Power

The problem with standard four-way extensions is that many of today’s gadgets are powered by chunky transformers. Often these are so big that they block part of the adjacent socket so that you can’t plug anything else into it. The Pivot Power looks like an oversized bike chain but its clever design lets you bend it into different positions so that you can use all of its five sockets no matter what shape and size your adaptors are. It has built-in surge protection too and costs £29.95 from prezzybox.com

Piggy6

PIGGY6

A different solution to the same problem is the cutely named PIGGY6. A much neater design than the standard, flat extension strips it provides six filtered mains sockets in a circular configuration making them more easily accessible. In addition it features a built in HomePlug 3-port Ethernet bridge so that you can tidy up your network connections too. The PIGGY6 is avalable from solwise and costs £51.11.

Energenie-11

Energenie ENER011

Whilst it looks like it’s just a chunkier version of a standard extension strip the ENER011 has a trick up its sleeve. Four of the six sockets can be controlled from your PC via a USB port. They can be programmed to switch on and off at a particular time or triggered by an event. You can pre-program the unit for timed switching via the PC then unplug it and use it elsewhere, so you could use it to switch lights on and off when you’re away from home for example. The ENER011 Costs £49.99 direct from energenie4u

Energenie-22

Energenie ENER022

Also from Energenie is this GSM controlled power socket. Send it a text and you can switch power to a device on and off from anywhere. It can accept commands from one master phone and up to four others, it sends a text to the master phone whenever it’s switched so you always know its status. There’s a temperature sensor included too so you can use it to turn on a heater for example if things get a bit chilly, plus it has an internal clock for timed switching. It costs £129.99 from energenie4u and you need to add a pay-as-you-go SIM card.

Sweex

Sweex PP210 Intelligent UPS

Uninterruptible power supplies have long been popular in the business world but have always been rather pricey for home use. The Sweex PP210 though offers protection for up to four devices at an affordable £89.99. It gives a backup time of approximately 20 minutes in the event of a mains failure allowing you time to power down in an orderly way. It also features an Ethernet pass through socket to protect your network connection against surges. Plus there’s software that allows it to be monitored from a PC via a USB port so you can trigger an automatic shut down if there’s no one around when the power fails. You can buy one at maplin

Netamo’s Urban Weather Station: Health Benefits and Meteorological Readings

Netatmo

We Brits love our weather – if all other avenues of conversation dry up, the damp and blustery conditions are one sure-fire fall-back. Now Netatmo is planning to exploit our meteorological weakness with the Urban Weather Station, a device it describes as “the first personal weather station with Air quality sensors, for iPhone, iPad and Android devices”. You shell out the princely sum of £159 for two sleek, cylindrical devices that between them measure both weather conditions and air quality inside and outside your home, then view those results via a free app on your iPad, iPhone or Android mobile.

Setup is simple, as demonstrated by  our video unboxing guide: the outdoor device, powered by four AAA batteries, straps to a suitably sheltered point outside using a bracket or supplied Velcro belt, while the indoor cylinder plugs into a handy power socket. Constructed from a mixture of aluminium and white plastic, each cylinder is designed to look sleek and unobtrusive, so should fit seamlessly into most living or office spaces.

Both devices need to be within range of your Wi-Fi network, but setup is simple: just temporarily plug in your mobile to the indoor cylinder, and it’ll grab the connection details it needs. Once done, both devices can start funnelling data to your mobile at scheduled intervals, or whenever you tap the button on top of the indoor device.

The Weather Station uses your phone to get an exact location, which ensures it’s able to calibrate its barometric-pressure sensor to your altitude. The sensors collect information about temperature, humidity, air pressure, noise, CO2 levels and air quality, before delivering all this information to your phone. MacWorld noted in its recent review that early readings tend to fluctuate as the unit acclimatises itself to its new home, but once settled down, it delivers accurate results.

The app not only provides a beautiful display of all the information provided by the Urban Weather Station, it also stores every scrap of information it receives, eventually providing graphs of all the data for comparative purposes. The app also provides up to six days of local weather forecasts, while users can sign up to Netatmo’s Urban Weather Programme, which shares your station’s data for the benefit of others living close by as well as meteorologists, scientists and environmentalists.

Those looking for a complete weather breakdown may be disappointed by the lack of options for measuring wind direction and speed, but the Urban Weather Station offers more than just a glorified barometer and thermometer; it also measures air quality and noise levels indoors and outdoors. Armed with this information, the app can provide timely reminders about when to ventilate your home as the CO2 levels rise plus warn you to stay inside when air pollution levels are at their worst.

With the UK’s increasing problems with air pollution starting to make national headlines, Netatmo’s timing in releasing the Urban Weather Station couldn’t be better. It could become the urban dweller’s must-have accessory this summer.

Netatmo’s Urban Weather Station is now available for £159 at netatmo.com.

Top 5 Heating Apps

Coping-with-the-cold-ice

March 2013 saw unprecedented freezing weather descend upon the British Isles. Few were spared and many, including me, had their heating system conk out as 50mph winds ripped down fencing and trees and swirled down gas boiler flue pipes extinguishing pilot lights and rendering heating systems all over the country “out of action.” Your heating system is the kind of thing that you only really appreciate when it isn’t working, so we thought it was a good time to weigh up the heating alternatives of the modern era, in the form of apps.

Tado – The ‘Personal Heating Assistant’

The Tado has been dubbed as being Europe’s answer to the American smart phone heating controller, the Nest. What this device does is to make sure that you are not paying good money to heat up the sky and also to ensure that you return home to a nice snug warm habitation. In other words, the Tado is a mobile thermostat control.

If, for example, you are going to be late home from work you can turn the heating down to low or turn it off all together and when you are ready to return home you simply whack up the temperature from your smartphone and sometime later walk into a nice warm house.

Tado is compatible with most conventional heating systems and can essentially replace an existing thermostat.

Tado

Danfoss Heating Solutions app

This is a useful tool that is said by Danfoss to “simplify daily tasks.” The features of the Danfoss app includes am installer tool plus explanatory video, a flow and pressure calculator, information to set the flow through radiator valves correctly, although at the present time these instructions are only available in German – Not much good then for non-German speaking Brits stuck with  a mal-functioning boiler!

Danfoss Heating Solutions

Remote Heating Control from British Gas

Aside from intricate and quirky ideas such as cloud cover and weather changes, surely the number one important element of a remote control heating system is to turn your heating up or down and on and off?

With the Remote Heating Control app you simply text your boiler a message – “Turn the heating off!” and because you have paid £149 for British Gas’s remote heating system and downloaded their app, the boiler does exactly as it is told.

Remote Heating Control from British Gas

Mangrums A/C and Heating app

The Mangrum’s A/C & Heating app enables users to stay informed and connected with the air conditioning and heating suppliers, Mangrum’s. The app is free to download and is claimed – by Mungrum’s – to be really easy to use. – We’ve heard that one before!

Although what you don’t get for free is the air conditioning and heating system unit.

Mangrums A/C and Heating app

The Heating Calculator

A fairly comprehensive calculator for working out the heating settings for every room in the house, the Heating Calculator stores multiple jobs (or houses) and is therefore the ideal tool for a person in the heating industry, namely a gas man or a plumber.

The Heating Calculator calculates the ideal radiator valve setting for each room and works out the kilowatt needs of the house in order for the correct size of boiler to be purchased.

The Heating Calculator

Image courtesy of Twitter user @each1teach1

Tê: The “Proper Brewing” Tea Machine

According to the UK Tea Council, the British consume 165 million cups of tea every day or 60.2 billion per year. According to product development company Cambridge consultants we are not doing it right. Cambridge Consultants has developed a capsule based tea brewing system that promises perfect cups of tea every time via a one button touch system.

Before you scoff, Cambridge Consultants do have a history with this sort of thing and one of its many achievements was helping to create the first round tea bag.

Tea-Hand

Tê (I love your accent) is based on a traditional tea brewing method – “but with the convenience of a disposable capsule”. I’ve never found tea bags to be that inconvenient Tê’s ability to reduce brew time and increase drink quality.

Cambridge Consultants poured (pun detected) considerable brainpower into analysing how tea can be brewed differently from the traditional teapot or tea bag method. The key to Tê is a specially engineered recirculating pump technology which is incorporated in the simple capsule – for maximum convenience and minimum mess.

“Whilst coffee systems have seen a significant amount of innovation over the last decade nothing has changed in tea brewing, leaving the tea drinker almost forgotten about. We saw a real opportunity to use our experience in the beverage industry to level the playing field and make a step change in this category.”

Edward Brunner, Group Leader of the Industrial and Scientific Group at Cambridge Consultants

Tea-Machine

Tê brews in just two minutes, which is apparently half the time of a traditional tea pot. It also gives you control over the strength and flavour of your cuppa. The cost of the machine has obviously yet to be determined but they are targeting the lower end of the price range for similar coffee devices – with capsule cost mainly depending on the type of tea leaves selected.

TeaTotal

“Contrary to other tea machines on the market, this is based on a genuine tea-brewing process – rather than simply a ‘single-pass flow’ with fresh water. The technology process has been developed with black teas but has the potential to be used across a range of herbal and fruit teas, and other hot drinks.”

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating the Tê machine at CES 2013, January 8-11, in Las Vegas.

Sara’s Cooking Class app review

Cooking is big news at the moment – witness the popularity of TV shows such as the Great British Bake Off and the various incarnations of Masterchef. And this interest in all thing culinary is not just confined to grown-ups, kids are getting in on the act too – Junior Masterchef has just started a new series on TV, and the shops are full of gadgets and gizmos to get children cooking this Christmas.

So it’s no surprise that the makers of Girlsgogames, an online social-gaming platform for girls, have just launched a cooking app.

Saras-Cooking

The app features the most popular character on the site, a friendly cartoon chef called Sara, and Sara’s Cooking Class is aimed at girls (and boys too if they want) aged from around six to 12, to enjoy ‘cooking’ in a virtual world, helped along by Sara.

The roleplay app encourages girls to try out recipes such as red velvet cake, pizza and sushi – Sara helps them along and they gain points as they complete the recipes against the kitchen timer.

Latest Gadgets caught up with Dieneke Kuijpers, marketing director of GirlsgoGames, just before the launch. ‘We’ve talked to girls in the UK, US and Holland, and we have found that they all want to pretend they are older and they want to copy their mums. The good thing about gaming is that these things don’t always work in real life, and your recipe doesn’t always come out as you expect, but in the virtual world you can always succeed. And girls love to succeed and get praise from Sara when they get it right.’

‘This provides a safe environment for role play and it gives them control’

The developers also spoke to mums about the app: ‘They told us it was really important to stay in touch with their daughters, if they were playing on screens, and this cooking game was a real favourite as they could play it together. And once the recipe is finished the girls will often say, can we try this at home – so it takes their skills into the real world and offers a bonding experience for the mums and daughters. I even spoke to a dad who said that because of the game they’d made pizza at home for the first time,’ explained Dieneke.

Sara’s Cooking Class app is launched today, Thursday November 8 both as a lite (free) version, and as a full (premium) version with additional features. It is available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition: White knuckles never looked so good

I drove a Harley around Europe recently and had a particularly eventful journey crossing the Great St Bernard Pass, one of the best classic mountain road experiences you’ll ever get in Europe. It was, it has to be said, the perfect opportunity to put my helmet mounted  Hero Go Pro through its paces, and thankfully for me I didn’t need to go back and repeat the feat, the Hero lived up to its name in a heroic sort of way delivering some pretty sharp on the move video footage.

GoPro-HD-Hero-3

The new Hero 3 version however is a different story altogether. It’s 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessor (very welcome when its bolted on top of your head) and waterproof up to 60m. But the real genius of the Hero is in the visuals:  this generation can capture ultra-wide angle HD video  in various degrees of clarity depending on how meaty your SD card happens to be. 60 fps at 1080p 48 fps at 1440p, 120 fps at 720p, 30 fps at 2.7Kp  and 15 fps 4Kp. Whilst 15 frames per second is not what you would class as cinema quality, it is described as the world’s first 4K capable action cam, so there.

For me though, the real benefit is in the much improved stills department. The GoPro 3  can capture 12MP photos at an impressive rate of 30 photos per second, more than enough to recreate that adrenaline high you got from that snowboard leap, or passing by those snoozers on the black downhill run.

There’s  built-in Wi-Fi  so you can stream footage to your mobile media, GoPro App compatibility, and the Wi-Fi Remote which is normally a £79.99 accessory is included in the package.

With budget considerations a factor, there are also more modest silver and white editions available, The GoPro Hero 3 will make those action packed days even more heroic.

The HERO3: Black Edition £379.99, HERO3: Silver Edition £279.99 and the HERO3: White Edition £179.99.

www.GoPro.com

simplehuman sensor bins and sensor pumps

We were invited to the Good Housekeeping Institute to play with some of simplehuman’s latest innovations and to develop a serious inferiority complex over the state of our kitchens.

simplehuman first caught my eye a few years back with their sensor bins. I’d be hard pushed to call a bin beautiful but there is a real elegance to the fingerprint-proof design of the sensor bin and it’s an incredibly stylish way to spend £275. Unfortunately it’s also a £275 bin which, on my humble salary is like throwing money away (you see what I did there. I should be paid more).

simpehuman-sensorbin

Fortunately simplehuman have released a sensor bin for the people – or at least people with £100, which is a lot more in-line with other bins in the elegant mid-range category (yes there is such a thing).

simplehuman bins use touch-free multi-sense technology. It’s pretty clever stuff and it’s designed not to pop up unless you really want it to. I tried sneaking up on it or walking casually past the bin and at no point did it react to my presence unless specifically called up. The magic powering this lid is found in an easy-to-access compartment round the back which houses 6 alkaline C batteries (the sort you’d see in a heavy duty torch), which they assure me have been optimised to last a year.

The innovation doesn’t stop with the attention grabbing sensor. There’s also a pretty clever integrated trim ring to hold everything in place, a clutch system to prevent motor jams should you tamper with the lid and fingerprint-proof stainless steel finish.

simplehuman-sensor-pumps

simplehuman have also worked their sensor technology into a range of sensor pumps. I saw some brushed nickel sensor pumps, some compact sensor pumps and a colourful children’s range – all carefully designed with clever valves to avoid messy drips or clogs. There is a smart looking brushed nickel sensor pump which retails for £39.99 and a more affordable compact sensor pump for just £29.99 both available from [simplehuman.co.uk] (www.simplehuman.co.uk)

Vier shower system: The perfect shower – before you step in

Showers are great – except for those first few minutes, when you stand there shivering as you try to get the temperature right and avoid scalding your nether regions or dodging the freezing flow of water before it gets to the perfect temperature – if indeed it ever does.

Vier-Shower

But now, gadget lovers, thanks to some technical wizardly, it is possible to use a wireless console to get the shower set up before you’re even undressed. In fact, you can set up your perfect shower while you’re still in the bedroom watching breakfast TV.

Vier is a digital shower system, with the option to buy a wireless console that works up to 10 metres away from the bathroom. The Mira Vier (which is Dutch for four) has a wall-mounted console, along with the optional wireless devices. The ‘warm up’ facility lets you set up your ideal water flow and temperature, and then the system pauses, until you are ready to get in the shower.

If you hope to save money on energy bills and water use, particularly if you have a water meter, the ‘eco’ setting, which ensures a moderate flow of water will be a bonus. There is also a digital clock display, so that you can check how long you have been in the shower – good for saving water, and for making sure you’re not late for work!

The Mira Vier has four spray patterns, which can be activated by flipping the showerhead. The shower can be ceiling or rear-fed and can be used with a pumped or high pressure valve to suit your home’s water system.

Prices start from £799, with wireless controllers costing £179 each. See www.bathstore.com for more.