All posts in “Technology”

Samsung turns to Harman to further SmartThings development

Harman and Samsung have entered into a strategic association that will have Harman taking up the SmartThings’ standard and carrying it forward against other Internet of Things products. Announced today, Samsung SmartThings R&D team and HARMAN Connected Services (HCS), a division of HARMAN International, will collaborate on the platform with HCS developing and supporting the SmartThings applications and device development.

Samsung purchased early Internet of Things darling SmartThings in 2014 for around $200 million. Since then Samsung has slowly expanded the product line and worked the services into several Samsung product. Yet from an outside vantage point, SmartThings has been treading water.

Harman, also a Samsung company, will take on key SmartThings development tasks including with developing and deploying the SmartThings app, work third party sensors into the SmartThings ecosystem, develop SmartThings Cloud and develop the SmartThings roadmap.

SmartThings launched as one of the early companies that offered a complete, turnkey Internet of Things ecosystem. The company raised a $3 million seed round in 2012 and demoed its wears at CES 2013 by retrofitting a rented house in Vegas. Samsung purchased the company in 2014 when the IoT wars were heating up. Since then, SmartThings has largely been left behind as Alexa and Google Home have grown in popularity. It will now be up to Harman to make SmartThings live up to its early promises.

Philips releases outdoor connected Hue lighting

Philips Hue products are going outside. Available for purchase this summer in the U.S., the lighting company has a range of new outdoor lighting products extending the world of Internet of Things to the great outdoors.

These products mark an important change for the Internet of Things world. As WiFi range and consumer demand increases, products such as these will become more available. Soon, consumers will expect to talk to products outdoors as they would indoors. I do. Last summer, I retrofitted an Echo Dot for outdoor use and connected it to a small amp that powers some outdoor speakers. It made weeding the garden a lot more enjoyable.

Like their indoor counterparts, these Hue products are a tad on the pricey side but offer a range of features not available on traditional lighting products. Once connected to a standard Philips Hue hub, the lights can be controlled through the Hue app or a voice assistant.

The new line includes a standard, weather-resistant bulb for $29.99, wall mounted lights starting at $49 and several color changing models, too. The spotlight Philips Hue Lily costs $270 and comes with three lights, while the Calla is $129 and is designed to illuminate pathways — both have access to 16 million different colors.

The Tapplock One is a fingerprint padlock with solid smarts

Apple’s Touch ID was a step change in convenience for securing its mobile devices, and now that same level of convenience is available in a padlock. The Tapplock One is now shipping, and features a fingerprint sensor for unlocking, as well as a companion app with a Bluetooth unlock backup.

The Tapplock One began its existence on Indiegogo with a crowdfunding campaign back in 2016, but now it’s out and shipping, both direct from Tapplock and from a number of retail partners. The gadget features IP66 weather resistance and works in temperatures between 14 F and 140 F, and has battery life of up to one year on a single charge.

Tapplock One’s real advantage over other smart padlocks is its versatility – you can unlock it three different ways, including via fingerprint and Bluetooth, as mentioned, but also using a “Morse-Code” backup pattern of pressing the power button with either long or short presses. That means that no matter what the failure scenario, you always have a way out, so long as there’s battery charge remaining.

The app also supports provisioning remote access, meaning you can let someone else unlock it with there devin via Bluetooth, too. It’s a smart and handy feature, especially if you’re sharing access to a shed or storage unit with an Airbnb guest, for instance, or anyone else staying at your place.

You can tell from the heft and feel of the Tapplock One that it’s solidly constructed, and indeed so far in my testing it’s held up well to they elements protecting my outdoor shed. It’s survived snow and ice, and still reads my registered fingerprints reliability via the small square pad in the center of the lock’s face.

The Tapplock One’s main weakness might be its proprietary charger. It’s good for durability and surviving exposure to the elements, but it’s bad because you need the cable that came with the lock, and I have to imagine you’ll be hard-pressed to remember where you put it when that once-yearly charging is needed.

At just $99 US, the Tapplock One isn’t going to break the bank, and though it’s more expensive than a traditional key or combo-only variant, the smart features make using it extremely convenient. I don’t know how many padlocks I’ve owned have ended their useful career buried in drawers because I couldn’t remember the combination after a few months’ break from using them.

The Ring Floodlight Cam is an outdoor security slam dunk

A good home security camera is easy to install while offering surprising peace of mind. The Ring Floodlight Cam, $249 and available now, offers both.

The camera mounts where your old floodlight would have been – if you have a standard outdoor electrical box it will connect right into your current setup and it even worked with my older “pancake” style electric box – and it connects to your network via Wi-Fi. It works flawlessly right out of the box and all you have to remember is to not turn off the light switch (thankfully they include a sticker for your switch). Once it’s set up you can make the cam react to motion and light up when it senses an intruder nearby or simply stay on all night, maintaining vigil over your car or fruit trees. It also includes a night vision mode that keeps an eye on things even in the dark.

The system will send notifications when it senses motion and a $30/year monitoring plan will keep video for up to 60 days. The video, as you can see below, is good enough to make out motion and possibly identify people but it doesn’t quite offer enough resolution to read a license plate a few feet away.

Finally, like other Ring devices, you can speak to folks who are approaching the light through the app and even set off a siren that, while loud, will probably get swallowed in the sea of city noise. It is, however, nice to know it’s there.

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After using a number of these cameras, including the Netatmo Presence, I’m pleased with the durability of the Ring Cam. While it doesn’t have Netatmo’s sci-fi styling, the floodlight looks just like what it purports to be: a big light for dark places. Further, because there is no internal SD card the Ring is completely watertight, an issue that came up when I was running the Presence.

Ring did everything right. Unlike other camera solutions that are either standalone or must be installed into new construction, the Floodlight Cam is backwards compatible and very well made. The entire system installed quickly and works flawlessly (so far) although time will tell if it can survive Brooklyn rainstorms.

If you’re in the market for a floodlight and high design isn’t a concern this is the way to go.