When I first heard about the Blink security cameras, I was immediately impressed and intrigued. Having tried both the Piper and Canary in my pharmacy, to more or less mitigated results, the Blink seemed like the perfect solution.
Piper (full review) suffers from one major flaw: the camera doesn't turn itself back on after a power failure if the back-up battery is empty (and since we have lots of blackouts here in Lebanon, I got tired of buying new batteries every two or three weeks). It also doesn't have a native scheduled arm/disarm feature; I really shouldn't have to manually arm and disarm my cameras when a simple time-based schedule is easy to implement. Read More
Amazon's Echo success took me a little by surprise. It seemed like we went overnight from questioning the idea of a voice assistant in a speaker to almost everyone owning an Echo and companies rushing to add Alexa support for their services and products. Part of what seemed like a quick success is due to the Echo Dot, the smaller cheaper version that you can sprinkle around the house in places where you don't care about excellent sound quality.
The second generation Echo Dot builds on that. Unlike the first one, you can order it directly from Amazon without having to use another Echo. Read More
Google Home preorders have started arriving and interested consumers can head down to certain brick & mortar stores to pick one up starting today. I've been messing with Home for a little while and I feel like there's already quite a bit to say about it. Read More
You don't understand the feeling of violation that a theft causes until you open the door to your home and see everything moved, turned, tossed, and the muddy footprints of a stranger everywhere on your floor, your kitchen cabinets open, and even your bedspread removed and balled up in the garden. That happened to my family's mountain house many, many years ago, and I still remember the feeling of disgust over the scene as well as helplessness with all the police procedures that followed. The perpetrators were never caught, just like any minor theft that occurs in Lebanon — they only took small appliances — and we ended up installing gates and locks on all the windows and doors. Read More
Connected "smart" lighting is far from a new concept, but in late-2012, Philips released the first Hue lightbulb which became the blueprint for a new category in an old market. It was no longer enough for lights to turn on at a scheduled time or with a clunky wireless remote, they had to become smarter, more efficient, more flexible, and we wanted to control them with our smartphones. But a product of this type lends itself to variations, special features, and stylistic choices beyond those of the original innovation. This brings us to the Yeelight, a Bluetooth-enabled bedside lamp with a stylish look, simple controls, and a couple of clever features to go along with it. Read More
When I was in the process of opening my small pharmacy more than 3 years ago, I contacted a security firm and installed several thousands of dollars worth of surveillance and alarm equipment. It works reliably, but it's a huge pain to change any setting in the system (there's no user interface, just a bunch of wires and keys) or get any footage out of it. It feels antiquated compared to today's more modern Internet-connected smart solutions with simplified experiences, but that was the most appropriate choice at the time.
A couple of months ago, I got a Piper unit, a "smart, elegant, security and home automation" system as the company markets itself. Read More