What happens when someone has a crazy idea. You get the AmazonBasics Microwave with built in Alexa voice assistant. The crazy part is the price at just $60.
As you can see, the microwave itself is fairly basic. However, you can now make your microwave do the following –
– hoover your house, no just kidding, but wouldn’t that be wonderful
– activate quick cook presets to defrost veg, make popcorn, cook potatoes
– use an Echo device to control your microwave eg Alexa start microwaving
– reorder food
– reheat at the time and power level required
– buy the latest headphones, wait really, yes really
The microvave is fairly compact, has 10 power levels, a kitchen timer, a child lock, and a turntable. Alexa is always getting smarter with new presets. External dimensions (Width x Height x Depth): 17.3 in. x 10.1 in. x 14.1 in. ; Turntable (Diameter): 10 in. It is a 700 watt microwave.
So are you ready for a voice assistant connected microwave?
Welcome to my review of the LightwaveRF Smart Home products. In my review, I take a look at the LightwaveRF Link Plus, Smart Wall Sockets, Home Thermostat, Smart Radiator Valve and Boiler Switch.
The new generation of products from LightwaveRF now feature HomeKit support, which adds additional two way functionality. Of course, Alexa and Google are also supported. LightwaveRF products are also sold on the Apple online store.
LightwaveRF solve a problem with smart home usage, by actually makes with physical switches smart. This means you can still turn a light switch on from the wall, or use an app, Apple Watch, Siri, Google or Alexa. Not everyone likes using an app or voice control assistants, so by still having a physical switch to adjust, keeps everyone happy in the house. It is also by far the better way of making a home, smart.
With a wide range of products, the inclusion of HomeKit support, LightwaveRF Smart Home products are recommended.
The leading smart home provider LightwaveRF has released its new range of products that are compatible with Apple HomeKit. The new certified Generation 2 range consist of a new Smart Link Plus, Smart Dimmers, Sockets and heating accessories. Combining HomeKit means LightwaveRF devices can be controlled with IOS apps and Siri voice commands, as well as Google and Alexa.
I have received the starter kit, shown above, which consists of the hub, dimmer and 2 way switch.
The new LightwaveRF range has been part of a two-year research and development program with new features including a built-in energy monitoring, colour changing LEDs to indicate status and wire-free two-way switching.
Initial setup involves connecting the Link Plus to the Wi-Fi router. Then you are able to control lighting, heating, power and security through voice control using Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. You can also use Apple Home and the LightwaveRF apps.
The dimmer and smart plug looks really smart. I can’t wait to test this out fully.
For nearly 2 years my living room lights were all controlled via an app. These were the Belkin WeMo Smart Lights. These were on an Amazon Black Friday deal in December 2014.
At the time, the Philips Hue lights were also discounted but they were nearly three times the price, so economics became the deciding factor. Belkin did promise to update the system to provide HomeKit but 2 years down the line they have renegaded on that promise or are asleep at the wheel!
So I decided to bit the bullet a few weeks ago, sell my Belkin WeMo Smart Light system, and acquire a few pieces from the Philips Hue system that work with Apple’s HomeKit and nearly all other systems on the market, including Amazon Echo and Samsung Smart Things.
It is quite handy buying the lights around Christmas time, as often there are some decent deals available. If you are buying into the Philips Hue system make sure you buy the Philips Hue Hub v2 and upwards as this is when HomeKit support was added. If you have the original Hub, you can just go out and buy the newer version hubs. The same goes for the Hue lights. There are now 3 versions. Version 1 are the white bulbs that don’t change colours, version 2 added rgb colours and the brand new ones , version 3 go slightly brighter and have richer blues and greens. However, there is nothing wrong with version 2 or 1 bulbs as these work just fine. Also the extra brightness obtainable in version 3 bulbs is only possible with certain white hues. So buy the older versions and save some money. That is what I did. I decided I would not need every room to have colour changing bulbs.
So the first change I did was to place the Philips Hue version 2 bulbs into my living room. To use with Apple HomeKit is a simple setup. You will need two factor authentication on your iCloud account and for remote access either an iPad left in your home or an Apple TV 4th edition. Fortunately , I have two factor authentication already setup and the latest Apple TV.
To start using Apple HomeKit, you simply open the Home app on your iPhone, search for the bulbs, then scan the HomeKit code on the Philips Hue box or Hub sticker. You can add the bulbs first using the Philips Hue app, which I would recommend doing, as the app will update the firmware. So with HomeKit enabled, activating the lights using Siri is now live. So using Siri via my Apple Watch or iPhone, I have full control of the lights, turning them on or off, setting a scene, adjusting the brightness or changing the colours. Now the real test became with my wife. Could she get used to using Siri to operate the lights or would she get totally p*ssed off with the technology.
Once I had set up HomeKit on my iPhone, added some scenes and a few other settings, from the home app, I invited my wife into the HomeKit setup. She accepted on her iPhone 6S. So when she came into the room, I told her to ask Siri to turn on the lights using her Apple Watch. I then asked my wife to ask Siri to change the colour of the lights to a colour of her choice. She did this and was genuinely suprised at how cool and easy it was to operate the lights. This then gave me the go ahead to start changing more and more of the bulbs around the home, and include a few motion sensors and add some automation to the setup.
Now in case you’re wondering, you don’t need Siri to operate the lights. Flicking up on the iPhone to bring up the control centre, scroll left twice and your in the home scenes and accessories tab. Here you can turn the lights on or off, adjust the brightness or colours. 3D Touch is used on the icons. I will embed a video to show this and a load more options. You really should watch this video to see how Apple have produced such a great home application.
So after nearly a month, I have automated the lights in the upstairs hall landing, master bedroom, living room, kitchen and dining room. If I leave the house or return home, certain sequences of lights turn on or off, at particular levels of brightness and colours. If I move around the house and trigger one of the motion sensors, certain lights are turned on or off. The automated procedures are smart enough also to know that the lights only need come on after sunset as well (if you select this to occur). All this slick functionality is a joy to experience as a tech geek. Also being able to control the lights from the Apple Watch is cool. You don’t even need to use Siri on the Watch, as the home app with dock enables you to control the lights as needed. In the kitchen I added some Philips Hue light strips. These provide superb mood lighting. Green is the favourite colour with these. The light strips are hidden too. They have 3M sticky tape on the strip to secure them properly. If you buy version 1 light strips, these are not extendable. Version 2 can be extended. Version 1 strips do have changing colours though. I have used version 1 strips as they were long enough for my needs and saved money too.
Sounds like a dream doesn’t it. Well, it’s not quite that. These are the lows or things to think about. Unless you live alone, then the below points are not as important or relevant. If you change all the lights or a high percentage, you may not always have your iPhone or Apple Watch on you. My wife is a good example of this. So that means you really need to think about installing the Philips Hue switches in certain rooms to be able to manually control the lights just in case you haven’t got any Apple devices nearby. I would recommend having these switches in the main living areas e.g. Living room, kitchen and main hallway. I haven’t got these installed, so am trying to see if with the aid of motion sensors and automation processes I can avoid installing these. I might not be successful here, as my wife may not enjoy the inability just to walk into the living room and press a switch to turn the lights on which is simple and less effort sometimes. It’s all a fine balance.
Like all uses of technology it has to make life simpler and more enjoyable. I believe I have reached that balance, but if I go the next step and change every single light bulb, I will need to also invest in the Philip Hue light switches. Problem is, going to the next level is very expensive. I also am very pleased with the moderate setup which adds automation, mood lighting and a certain cool factor.
Just some final thoughts. I wish in the UK, that the Apple HomeKit hardware was more extensive. I imagine in the coming months there will be more products coming out though. However, I am prepared to wait patiently as Apple’s HomeKit system is the most secure available. This is really important point as I can tell you I don’t fancy my home lights and other internet connected devices being hacked.
More information and the latest pricing on Philips Hue range of lights, sensors and switches – Click HERE.
Amazon had their Echo Dot on a Bank Holiday offer which took £10 off the price, making it £39.99. The offer is still valid today on Cyber Monday, so if you want one, click the link below in the useful links section at the end of the article.
There is not much to the Amazon Echo Dot. In the box is the Echo Dot itself, a micro USB cable that plugs into the UK adapter. A few mini booklets are provided. All you have to do is download the Amazon Alexa app, plug the Echo Dot in to the power socket, sign in via the app and it takes your wifi credentials and sets itself up.
You can now say things like, Alexa will it rain tomorrow. Or will it rain on Wednesday, and stuff like that. If you want the Echo Dot powered by a voice spoken assistant called Alexa, you can add more features, called skills. The USA has over 3,000 skills. The UK is somewhat behind that number, but it has only recently been launched in the UK.
So what can the Echo Dot do now –
– Amazon Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms and more
– Connects to speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable to play music from Amazon Music, Spotify and TuneIn
– Controls lights, switches, thermostats and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Hive, Netatmo, Nest, tado° and others
– Hears you from across the room with 7 microphones for far-field hands-free voice control, even in noisy environments or while playing music
– Includes a built-in speaker so it can work on its own as a smart alarm clock in the bedroom, an assistant in the kitchen, or anywhere you might want a voice-controlled device
– Always getting smarter – Alexa updates through the cloud automatically and is continually learning, adding new features and skills
So in no particular order these are the lows and highs, starting with the lows first –
– sometimes it did not understand my voice/accent.
– you have to remember to start every sentence with Alexa. It is not aware of context and any commands have to be spoken precisely as it has been programmed
– my Belkin Wemo Smart Lights did not work with the Echo Dot without adding a skill (or service) from Konomi. Once added I could say things like “Alexa, lights on”. This was all working perfectly, and then none of the voice commands worked. I got this working again, only for it to fail again
– Be careful with compatibility. I though Wemo products were supported by the Echo Dot. Turns out it is only certain WeMo products and not my smart lights. (in hindsight it would have made more sense 2 years ago to spend the extra and buy Philips Hue lights)
And now for the highs –
– setup was a breeze
– I really like the small size of the Echo Dot. It is small enough to not disturb the look of any room. The microphones work really well.
– despite the issues with Belkin WeMo Smart light bulbs, this is the only product that has been able to connect to these and allow operation by voice
– Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot has vastly more connectivity services than Apple’s HomeKit.
– The speaker on the Echo Dot is much louder than I expected and sat on a solid wooden shelf delivers a lot of punch for its size
– With Prime Music (the free option) I can play music from most genres
– If the sound is not loud enough, connecting to a bigger speaker is easy.
– Its early days but the amount of stuff and services the Echo can connect to is vast
The big plus is it doesn’t need voice training. That means my wife can turn the lights on, off or dim them using her voice. Early days but so far, its great fun and impressive little piece of kit.
“A massive cyberattack has hit at least five of Russia’s largest banks allowing hackers to access 24,000 CCTV and home video cameras in 30 countries including the U.S.
The attacks saw as many as 660,000 requests being sent every single second using a network of more than 24,000 hijacked devices located in 30 countries.
Russia’s central bank said the attacks used botnets made up of electronic devices hooked up to the internet such as CCTV cameras or digital video recorders plugged in to offices and homes worldwide.”
So own up, have you got a connected device? Perhaps not yet but are thinking of getting one. This could be in the form of wireless lights, an internet connected weather station or a security camera that is connected to the internet. Maybe you are thinking of getting an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot or a Google Home. Then again, have you thought about the Apple TV Box, Amazon Fire or Google Chromecast.
What if all or some of these devices were hacked? Whilst some of the cool features of the devices are labour saving, smart and probably slick to own, have you ever thought about have secure they are?
With hacks like the one above and more previously, are we becoming to dependent on the world of connected devices!
I have been testing the LG 360 Cam which is one of the LG G5 Friends. I got my LG 360 Cam from Clove Technology who have this in stock as this post goes live.
I have been using the LG 360 Cam along with the LG 360 VR. The experience is far better than I had expected. The LG 360 Cam has many features which will be covered off in my review. For this post I will show you a 180 degree photo below.
Just for info the LG 360 Cam can be used with other Android devices and the iphone and iPad.
The real gem comes with snapping 360 photos and videos. I will be sharing the 360 degrees photos and more videos in my main review, so for today see a 360 VR 40 second video of my local village – Princetown, Dartmoor. You will need VR glasses to view this back or something similar like LG 360 VR, Samsung Gear VR or even Google Cardboard. The other option is using a compatible browser and the latest YouTube apps on iOS and Android. If you have a Windows Phone its lol unlucky.
The LG G5 allows you to split the screen during playback and have the front camera playing on the left and the rear on the other side of the screen. This looks rather neat.
And don’t forget if you’re interested in any of the LG G5 Friends or any of smartphone or accessory head over to Clove Technology.
Welcome to my review of the Netatmo Welcome Indoor Camera.
The Netatmo Welcome Indoor camera unique selling point is its ability to recognise faces and then send you notifications to your phone.
See video from Netatmo below showing this in action.
The Key Specifications
– Dimensions – 45x45x155mm
– In the Box – 1 x Welcome camera, 1 x USB cable, 1 x power adapter, 1 x 8GB micro SD card
– Build – Single piece of durable aluminium shell, Matte black plastic piece infrared transparent.
– Hardware Requirements – High-speed Internet connection needed, Public hotspots not supported.
– Connectivity Specifications – Ethernet RJ-45 port: 10/100 Mbits, Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4G)
– Camera – Video sensor: 4MP, Resolution: Up to 1920×1080
– Minimum iOS 8 for iPhone / iPad, Android 4.3 minimum
– Browser Support – Webapp available for the two latest versions of: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer
– Monthly Costs – Nil, Free to Use, App available on the App Store / Google Play.Free access to your camera online.
– Data Storage – MicroSD card up to 32GB (8GB class 10 MicroSD card included)
– Faces – Max 16 faces
The Netatmo Welcome camera is a lovely piece of hardware and doesn’t look like a typical camera. This means it gets blended into your environment without people gets paranoid they are being “watched”. In fact, you forget its actually there. On the rear there is an ethernet port, micro SD card slot and micro USB port. The front is minimalistic.
Background Notes for Review
Notes – I originally reviewed this after 3 weeks. Further down is my update after 4 months following a significant firmware update that added lots of new features which are documented along with a tip if you have dogs.
I have been using the Netatmo Welcome for 3 weeks now and overall have been pleased with its operation and results and intend to keep this indefinitely as my home connected security indoor camera. I also have several IP Cameras which were a total nightmare to setup and configure as remote access involved changing my home router configuration. I have now retired these. In terms of other connected devices, I have a Netatmo Urban Weather station which is coming up to 2 years old and a range of lights that are controlled from my iPhone and or Apple Watch. Due to protecting my own privacy, screen shots of the app in operation have been edited to remove views of my home.
The Initial Setup
Netatmo have made the first setup as simply as possible. I setup my Netatmo Welcome camera using my iPhone 6S Plus. I downloaded the Netatmo Welcome app from the Apple App Store and then followed the on screen setup instructions provided by the app. The app asks permissions to share Wi-Fi setup from your iPhone to the Welcome camera and literally within 5 minutes the camera is connected. Points to note. The Welcome camera only operates at 2.4G . Over the next 24 hours a new firmware arrived and got installed on the camera and the app showed me faces and asked me to identify who the respective people were. For each member of your house, a face profile gets created.
The concept of the Netatmo Welcome camera is simple. It learns all the faces of people who live in your home/flat and then notifies you when somebody comes home and tells you who they are and also if somebody arrives who is not recognised. When movement is detected, it records a clip onto the micro SD card which can be streamed back on to your phone and or downloaded remotely to your phone as well. When at home you can also play back the recorded video clips.
Other options include a range of privacy and advanced security options. For example if your Netatmo password gets changed, or someone logs into your account you can receive an email. Netatmo will also block your account if there are too many failed attempts occur. In terms of learning faces, you can go into the app settings and speed up the learning process. You can also tell the system when the house is empty and adjust other settings as shown below.
Using the app on your phone is really easy. It shows a live view snapshot when you open the app. You can then hit the play icon to stream live video. Turning your phone landscape provides full screen playback and streaming. Scrolling the screen reveals details of who is at home and or when they were last seen. Scrolling the screen the other way reveals a list of when movement was detected. Tap on one notifications and you can watch or download the recorded movement. Now if your home is broken into and someone steals your camera, you will get a notification that Welcome was switched off. The person cannot access your data and videos without your Netatmo account details. However, this also means if the camera is never recovered, you cannot view the videos stored on the camera either. However, if you sign into My Netatmo on the web you will be able to see a screen shot of each video before it started the recording of the motion.
The video quality is excellent and the camera switches to night mode which provides clear images and video as well.
As I have mentioned I have had the Netatmo Welcome indoor camera for 3 weeks now. In that time, the camera has come offline about 4 times for no apparent reasons and then reconnected a few hours later. I don’t know if its my broadband dropping although that wouldn’t surprise me as the connection does vanish occasionally. I have only had to pull the power cord out and replug back in to restart the camera just once when it became unresponsive. In terms of recognising faces this is now 90% accurate. I have relocated the camera several times to get a better position. To be honest, positioning is crucial. If the camera is recording motion to the micro SD card, it is not possible to see a live view until this has finished.
UPDATE – 4 months later, Netatmo released a major firmware update. This improved its performance and reliability but also added Dropbox support and tags. With Dropbox you can now upload video clips to the cloud instead of using the micro SD card.
Tags are waterproof sensors for doors and windows. Photo above is one of my tags. The Netatmo tags are superb as they detect the motion before the intrusion occurs. That is because they detect vibrations. The Tags’ have an integrated open/closed state sensor, so you can choose to be alerted if you have accidentally left a window or the garage door open. And then you can check directly on your smartphone if all windows are closed.
Tips – I have 3 labradors and the Welcome camera was recognising my dogs faces. So instead of telling the Welcome camera they were not faces, I did the opposite. So now it recognises my 3 labradors and that means I don’t get any false notifications about an unknown face.
The Special Stuff
The Netatmo Welcome camera supports third apps and that extends to IFTTT. This opens up a whole world of different sequences that can be achieved. See screen shot below.
You can also add Welcome tags to the system, sensors for doors and windows. The other aspect I like about the Netatmo Welcome Indoor camera is once bought, there are no other costs. Its free and it has no monthly charges either.
As I mentioned already, Netatmo allow you to sign into to your camera via a web browser which uses their web app. Using a web browser, if you have other Netatmo products, you can access all the different connected devices in one go.
The Netatmo Welcome Indoor camera recommended retail price is £199, although if you click the link below it is available for a lot less. It provides piece of mind with its face recognition and notifications with zero ongoing costs once purchased. Add to the fact it supports third party app integration and it becomes a decent investment. It also doesn’t look like a typical camera so blends into the home environment.
And now after using it for over 4 months the added new features of tags and Dropbox integration really add to its value.
Welcome to my review of the miGuard Response A105 Wireless Plug and Play Alarm system. I was looking at the various options on the market and decided to take a closer look at the miGuard A105 starter kit as it seemed to tick all my requirements and was priced reasonably at £69.99. It also had the ability to be expanded which was a key feature for my circumstances.
The Key Features –
– 100% Wireless configuration
– One Button Pairing
– Works as an accessory or standalone alarm panel
– Built in battery for 8 hour standby
– Mute operation and remote alarming
– Supports up to 40 wireless accessories include remote control
– Built in 1,000,000 RF codes combinations to maintain high reliability
WS-105 Alarm Panel
– AC Power Supply 3.7 V 600mAh lithium backup battery
– Volume 90db
– Static Current less than 13mA, Alarm current less than 100mA
– Radio Frequency – 315 MHZ or 433.92 MHz
– Dimensions 90 x 90 x 42.5mm (plug part on rear not included in dimensions)
PIR-910 Pet-Immune PIR Motion Detector
– Power supply DC 3V (2 x AA batteries)
– Static current less than 90ua, Alarm current less than 9.5ua
– Detection scope 8m/110 degrees
– Transmitting distance less than 80m
– Radio Frequency – same as WS-105
– Detector dimensions 108 x 52 x 36.8mm
– Bracket dimensions 52 x30 x 26.5mm
RC-80 Remote Control
– Power supply DC 3V (CR2025 lithium battery)
– Transmitting current less than 7mA
– Transmitting distance less than 80m in an open area
– Radio Frequency – as WS-105
– Dimensions – 58 x31 x 9.5mm
DWC-102 Wireless Door/Window Contact
– Power supply DC 1.5V (1 x AA battery)
– Static current less than 35uA, Alarm current less than 40ua
– Transmitting distance less than 80m
– Radio Frequency – same as WS-105
– Transmitter dimensions 71 x 34 x 17.5mm
– Magnet dimensions 51 x 12 x 13.5mm
In the Box
– 1 x WS 105 Alarm Panel
– 1 x PIR-910 Pet-Immune PIR Motion Detector
– 1 x DWC-102 Wireless Door/Window Contact
– 2 x RC-80 Wireless Remote Control
– 1 x Bracket for PIR Motion Detector
– 2 x Double sided tape for door/window contact
– 1 x User Manual
– 2 x screws and wall plugs
In other words, everything you need to get you going is included in the box. So how does it all work and function? Answer very easily but let me explain.
The WS 105 Alarm Panel receives and processes signals from all the other components. Apart from those included in the box, you can add up to 40 wireless accessories. I really like this aspect of the system. The Alarm Panel is the device on the right side of the photo with blue plastic in the middle. If the alarm panel is triggered it sounds a loud alarm noise and the strobe light flashes. It is powered by AC 100 – 200V simply by plugging it in to the wall socket. To operate you just press the button on located on the front. Press to arm or disarm accordingly.
The PIR-910 Pet Immune motion detector works off 2 AA batteries. It features an intelligent passive infrared motion detector, designed to detect humans within 0 to 8m. It also features a fuzzy logic to minimise false alarms. I have dogs so wanted to see how this worked with them. The specs state that pet immunity is for small animals up to 25 kgs. It worked with the 2 girls but George is much bigger and he triggered the alarm. To aid fitting the detector a wall bracket is provided which includes a ball head to help position correctly.
The DWC-102 Wireless Door/Window contacts are fairly self explanatory. The two pieces work using magnets and when the magnet is moved away it transmits to the alarm panel. Double sided tape is provided too for fitment. This detector used 1 x AA battery.
Finally the whole package is rounded off with 2 remote controls. These allow you to arm, disarm, activate SOS and Home Mode. Home Mode is available when you are using zones and means all the detectors are active except for the Home zone area. The SOS button is pressed twice switches to home mode and turns the nightlight on as well.
The included user manual is excellent and provides lots of detailed diagrams and instructions and how to correctly install and position all the detectors plus explains all the extra options. For a beginner, it is simply and plug and play system, but with the ability to expand the system onwards and upwards it can become quite a mighty piece of kit.
The miGuard A105 DIY Alarm system has proven to be reliable and simple to use piece of kit and therefore is recommended by me.
I had heard a lot about the Fake TV so decided to try one myself. It is manufactured by Response Electronics. With the Fake TV it appears as if you are at home watching TV and therefore fools burglars to think somebody is at home.
– Visual deterrent to intruders/burglars: giving the appearance that someone is at home watching TV
– Realistic TV programme simulation: completely unpredictable, no light or colour pattern repeats
– Eco friendly – uses less power than a night light
– The built in computer controls its super bright multi-colour LED light output – equivalent to a typical 27″ TV
– Light sensor automatically triggers FakeTV at dusk
– Two settings: Dusk+4 hours and Dusk+7 hours
– Automatically turns on when dark outside (0.5 lux)
– Automatic shut-off at the switch selectable time
– Mains powered – 240V AC Adapter included
This £25 gadget is so simple and brilliant to use, I just wished I had invented it myself. All you have to do was plug it in a room, in a way that it can’t be seen from the outside. You could for example close your curtains so there is just a peep of activity visible from outside. If plugging it in upstairs, it probably is not as important to shield it from people outside as they are unlikely to be that tall to see thru an upper floor window from the outside. Once in position, just turn it on.
For my tests, I plugged it into a front bedroom located upstairs. It came on automatically at dusk. I then stepped outside to view the scene appearing from the upstairs window. It absolutely looked like someone was watching TV. I watched the view from outside for a good 30 mins. A few hours later, I went outside again and was just as amazed as I was originally. In fact, it looked like adverts were running at one point too. Size wise the Fake TV is the size of your hand. It projects a strong mix of light across your room with ease. It also only uses the same amount of energy as a night light.
The Fake TV is a simple idea but a good security device to act as a deterrent against burglars. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, and this is one of them.