18/06/2019

Amazfit helping you build your Cor fitness

Amazfit are a relatively unknown brand in the UK, but they're big in China and are actually reasonably well known as as they make the Xiaomi Bands and it's possible to use Amazfit products with the Mi Fit app (which integrates into Apple Health - while the Amazfit branded app is standalone, though may offer some increased functionality with their products).

The Cor is the next generation on from the Arc which has a monochrome OLED display while the Cor is now colour. It has the usual complement of measurements, steps, sleep tracking, calories (made up as it's not tracking anything you eat etc) and pulse rate via n optical sensor under the body of the unit.

It's also possible to get notification from various apps and these can be enabled and disabled in the Mi Fit app.

Though the display is colour, it doesn't really add much to the previous and unless a preset display is chosen, some displays can affect battery life (as they get updated more often).

Step counting, heart rate and sleep tracking are comparable with the Fitbit AltaHR (wouldn't surprise if the actual electronics internally were the same or very similar), where Amazfit does excel is in price, the Cor can be had for around $40 from your favourite Chinese site. It's also waterproof to 5ATM so can be used for swimming and snorkelling and other water sports without fear of damaging it.

Amazfit are definitely a brand to watch in the fitness tracking department and they're constantly coming out with new products.

Recommended in terms of price and functionality, though the Mi Fit app doesn't yet compete with say Fitbit's, also battery life is claimed at 20 days and though it might not actually quite reach that, it will definitely last a week or 2 on a single 2.5hr charge.

13/06/2019

Klevio - the smarter way to lock your home

Klevio, previously known as Sherlock and spun out from Onefinestay is an hardware device and app (iOS and Android) that can connect to your existing door entry system or just installed making allowing you to open your door remotely.

The simpler install just replaces the "socket" part of the lock with an electronic version (electronic strike) which is connected to the Klevio hardware. If there are multiple locks, the electronic strike will be on the main lock.

If there's an existing door entry system, minimally Klevio will just work as normal allowing remote control any connected locks. This could just control the front-door if a house install or a communal front-door lock and flat lock (flat install). Depending on the type of door entry system, Klevio will also enable audio to be connected too, there's Klevio page that shows compatible systems, this allows you to speak to the person at the door and so you can decide to let them in or not )when the press the door bell).

The Klevio unit should ideally be near a mains power source (it uses as USB power supply provided by Klevio) and near the lock / door entry system. Klevio do nicely provide stickers for the power supply say "do not unplug" as (well in my case) the main reason for the unit to stop working is someone unplugging it to plug in a vacuum cleaner or such like.

The Klevio unit is about 6 inches square and tends to blend in when mounted on a wall. Any cables that need to be installed are done so discretely so they run next to existing infrastructure and don't glaringly cross walls etc.

The installation engineer will need to know your WiFi SSID and password so the that the Klevio device can connect back to Klevio and then be controlled by the app. The 4G version also will work even if your WiFi or broadband fail as 4G is used as a fall-back. Though it happens rarely it really can be a life-saver when you need to get back into your property and your Internet isn't working.

The app is where the cleverness happens, it will show any locks that are enabled (and allow you to name them i.e. say "Communal Door" and "Flat Door"). If your door entry system is supported, when someone rings the bell, the app will be notified and then you can speak to the person at the door and decide whether to let them in or not. Unfortunately the entry system on my flat doesn't support voice, but it works fine controlling both the flat door and main house door.

The above functionality would be good enough i.e. being able to let people into your property when you're not there, but where Klevio get clever is that you can transfer or lend keys to other people. Lent keys can also be timed, so they expire on a certain date. This is really great for having people to stay so they can get access without having to find and give them a physical keys (which they then lose and you have to change the locks) or if you're an Airbnb host, just get your guests to install the Klevio app and lend them the keys for their stay. Digital keys are so much nicer than physical keys. If something does go wrong, any issued keys can also be easily revoked through the app too.

Remote unlocking of doors may seem an unnecessary luxury, but it has certainly been an invaluable service that has got myself out of trouble several times having locked myself out my flat. It's also really useful when you need to let someone in when you know you're going to be out, but can still access data through your phone.

The unit can be purchased directly from Klevio. Definitely recommended.

The unit comes in two flavours WiFi and 4G back-up for £299 or WiFi only £249.

There's also two install options, one for a house for £200 (one door) and one for a flat (flat door and communal door) for £250.

04/06/2019

It's the ring that motivates you to fitness.

The Motiv ring is just that a ring, however it has many features associated with much bigger devices that you'd expect to wear on your wrist. It counts steps and activity, measures your heart rate (well pulse rate using an optical system on the inner section of the ring) and sleep.

Here's everything it tracks

  • Active Minutes
  • Resting Heart Rate
  • Activity Types
  • Calories Burned
  • Activity Intensity
  • Steps
  • Distance
  • Sleep Duration

The ring is made from Titanium and comes in black, silver and rose gold and US sizes from 6 to 12. Remarkably, there's battery inside that can last for a couple of days and it charges in about 90 minutes (it comes with a USB charger that magnetically pulls the ring into the correct charging position so the contacts align).

There's a companion app (Android and iOS) that has all the display functions as the ring just has an RGB LED on the outside of the ring under a transparent strip.

It works with Apple Health and Google Fit and also Alexa.

The app has some Lab features, like take a picture of your hand next to a dime and it will estimate your ring size (which in future may mean you don't need to order the ring sizing kit). There's also a security feature where the ring measures your step cadence and then it can automatically be used to unlock apps etc.

Your achievements can be shared with friends on social media and with your inner circle (other Motiv users that you add). There's also a FindMyiPhone feature that is activated by twirling the ring around your finder.

One glaring thing missing is FindMyMotiv, if you lose the ring, there's no way to locate it. It would be really useful to put the ring into "lost mode" where the LED and maybe heart rate sensor is turned on, so it would be visible if dropped (unfortunately that's what occurred while playing sports in a park, so it was impossible to locate, if it flashed, it would have at least been possible to spot it as the sun went down).

People will know that quantified-self is something close to my heart and the Motiv definitely had the best sleep tracking of all the devices I've owned. It's also small and would suit people who don't want to wear bulky trackers that go on your wrist (so often asked "why are you wearing 2 watches?"), though as someone who's never worn a ring before, it's definitely noticeable wearing it (and more noticeable when you've lost it and it's no longer on your finger).

Having worn it for about 6 months, it did get a bit of a battering and there were some scratches and the black finish showed the titanium underneath, but a great inconspicuous fitness tracker.

It's recommended to purchase a Motiv ring sizing set that costs £99.99 (which is offset again the cost of the ring itself when that is purchased). The ring costs £199.99 (i.e. if you know your ring size, it's possible to just purchase the ring, or order the ring sizing set first and the cost of that will be taken off the ring when that's ordered).

Draytek Vigor 2860ac VDSL router

The Draytek Vigor 2860ac is a pretty advanced router with 6 internal Ethernet ports (Gb/s) and WiFi (802.11ac i.e. 2.4 and 5GHz).

There's a telephone port that has an ADSL2/VDSL2 modem supporting UK services like BT Infinity and there's another Ethernet port for WAN access (usually to drive a PPPoE modem) that can also be used to drive a back-up line.

The 2 USB ports can also be configured to support a 3G/LTE mobile connection (and configured to fail-over) or they can be used to host a disk and then share it over the network.

The WiFi is supported by three MIMO antennas supporting (in theory) 1,300Mb/s and 300Mb/s o 2.4GHz. It can also do a network scan and pick the most unused channels to optimise performance in your environment.

There are a huge range of configuration options that are accessed through a web interface (there's also console access where most things can be done through a CLI). These can be pretty daunting, though for a casual user most won't be used. By default there are several VLANs configured (though not enabled) and the LAN and Wireless will be configured to use 192.168.1.x and push out IP addresses via DHCP.

It's possible to use a 'real' IP block using the IP Routed connection, however the VLANs will still have their original settings and the router will internally still be connectable on the 192.168.1.1 (to most people it won't make a difference, but it can really confuse things when debugging stuff).

The web interface is arranged in reasonable easy to understand sections

  • Dashboard
  • Wizards Online Status
  • WAN
  • LAN
  • Hotspot Web Portal
  • Routing
  • NAT
  • Hardware Acceleration
  • Firewall
  • User Management
  • Objects Setting
  • CSM
  • Bandwidth Management
  • Applications
  • VPN and Remote Access
  • Certificate Management
  • Wireless LAN (2.4 GHz)
  • Wireless LAN (5 GHz)
  • SSL VPN
  • USB Application
  • System Maintenance
  • Diagnostics

Also

Central Management

  • VPN
  • AP
  • Switch
  • External Devices

And

Support Area

  • Product Registration

The router does support SIP functionality, but as with a lot of routers, it might be better just to let SIP stuff through and handle filtering on the actual VoIP devices. There's also a pretty good firewall, so incoming packets can be blocked at the network edge.

The router can be configured through the web interface and this is true for both connecting via the "Internet" and LAN sides of the network, which is useful if you need your ISP or systems integrator to configure something, but generally it's safer to have the WAN access turned off.

Oddly there was weird issue when configuring the Wireless LAN settings. In theory you can configure the 2.4GHz and settings will also be applied to the 5GHz radio, unfortunately (probably user error) something didn't quite work and though the SSIDs were identical, the password didn't seem to be copied across, so nothing could connect to 5GHz. Manually setting the password and everything worked.

It is possible to set a hotspot portal that can also be set to authenticate so allowing guests on to the network (and if VLANs are set can restrict bandwidth and such like).

The Vigor 2860 is a pretty capable router (though now replaced with the 2862).

The new model costs around £250.

03/04/2019

Brahman Design making beautiful things

Brahman Design recently graduated from CRL the accelerator based in the old EMI Vinyl Factory in Hayes.

Previously Brahman had Kickstarter'ed a pencil sharpener, however it wasn't any ordinary pencil sharpener. Though using a standard blade from a pencil sharpener (that's replaceable), the sharpener actually is used like a traditional woodworker's plane which is held and moved across the surface of the pencil (and around) to sharpen it, with graceful sweeps. It's also called a Høvel which is pretty nice and it's made of chunky weighty brass.

That was successfully funded and they have sold through various partnerships.

Now it's the IRIS's turn which is exactly what it says on the tin, except it's brass too - well the surrounding ring is brass and the central iris is made of another metal. It can be used to draw different sized circles. In this digital age, it's made for designers, who want to get back to traditional tools (or more likely have it sit on their desk so they can admire traditional tools or just show off).

Neither are cheap, but they are quality products made to be given as presents to the discerning people who still draw with pencil and paper. The Brass Høvel retails for £50 (and the wooden base for £20) and the Iris will be out on Kickstarter soon.

21/03/2019

CRL's demo day, hardware start-ups for the love of making things

The evening of Thursday 14th of March was Central Research Laboratories demo day, once again held at U+I (one of the backer of CRL).

It was kicked off by an introduction from Matt Hunter of CRL and then Marcus Sheppard from U+I - really just the normal things about the accelerator and that applications would close shortly for the next cohort.

Then followed a panel discussion chaired by Matt with the Rob Nicoll founder of Chip[s]board (who was on the previous CRL cohort) and Arnold du Told CRL Investor in Residence.

Alice Johnson the CRL Programmes Manager then gave an introduction and to the start-ups themselves.

The first start-up up was Cosi Care and Lauren Bell who have a solution to treat eczema. It's a hardware device that has a cool surface and reduces the effects of the eczema while being easy to use.

Agile Planet presented their Bio Burner Bio which is a compost material made by processing waste wood in a special kiln. It actively removes C02 from the atmosphere, and has a range of benefits including improving plant growth. Agile Planet have created a new home burner that will enable anyone to create biochar in their own garden. Design to be released in 2019.

Nxsteps's Alecia Esson presented their Bluetooth enabled shoe inserts that can measure the pressure on various parts of the feet and with an accompanying app, analyse stresses while running and other sports.

Alex Strang presented Moment Pebble which is a stone that lights up and encourages the user to be mindful in the workplace as Mindfulness is now big business as well as helping people's mental states in the busy world.

Saving women everywhere is Y-Heels and Yaagni Patel allowing users to clip/slot off their heels so removing the discomfort without having to cary a second pair of shoes. Simple, yet sophisticated.

How do mountain biker's and other sports users protect themselves? With Hero Skin of course which is the next generation of body armour which is worn on the chest. It's flexible and comfortable and allows movement giving the user protection while they have the freedom to carry out their sport. As a mountain biker Dorota Grabkowska the Founder and CEO knows about the dangers of not using Hero Skin benefits that come with using it.

Last but certainly not least was Odin Ardagh from Brahman Design. They would have been a tough act to follow anyway. Previously they made the Høvel which is a brass pencil sharpener that uses standard pencil sharpener blades that can be replaced and rather than placing the pencil in the sharpener, it's used like a plane on pencil itself. This was made to be used by designers for designers and gifted for that bit of desk jewellery that every designer should have to show they appreciate design. The newest object is called the IRIS and it's just that, a circular brash ring with an inner iris that can be adjusted to make a small or large circle. Again it's functional, but actually just really pretty and it feels good to use.

So for once an accelerator that has start-ups that are not just IoT/blockchain/AI/etc companies - people doing hardware but things that are interesting and making beautiful things because they can

10/03/2019

Have a phone, then protect it with a Mous(e)

Mous is a company that produces phone cases - originally for iPhones, but now for Samsung phones too. Well you've spent all the money on some shiny new hardware, you don't want to break or scratch it really.

The cases come in a variety of materials (carbon fibre, walnut, shell, leather and bamboo), though they are just a skin on the actual base material. The case is highly impact resistance and has some clever tech inside that distributes a shock wave through the case therefore avoiding the phone and reducing the chance of damage. Mous have tested their cases on real phones by dropping from the tops of buildings, ladders etc.

The back of the case also has a magnet embedded, so the phone can be stuck to various things, there's a car air vent/grill mount to allow for dashboard mounting.

This works nicely to use something like Google Maps or Waze and isn't too conspicuous so you can just glance over the phone without being too distracted.

Since the mount is also magnetic the phone stays reasonably well put (though it can dislodge if you hit a large bump or pothole).

There's another mount which uses a suction cup to stick to the windscreen. The suction is pretty good and it takes quite a bit of effort to remove the mount after use (and tends to leave a ring behind). Again the phone stays attached reasonably well (though the unit that was tested, the metal section did come out, though a blob of glue fixed that).

The phone is much more visible, though that can be advantageous depending on what kind of application is run on the phone.

Mous also make a wall mount

That is just the standard mount with a sticky back, your milage will vary depending on what surface it's being attached to and how clean it is.

There's also a card attachment, that sticks to the back of the case, allowing a couple of cards to be kept with the phone, which is useful if your going somewhere and only want to worry about carrying the phone and not a wallet (say at a festival or beach, so you can still be contacted and buy things).

A lightning charging cable is also available that has a very tough casing which is unlikely to be broken.

One last thing, if a case is purchased a hybrid glass screen protector is included (although also sold separately), which will protect your screen from nasty scratches (and a hammer if you feel so inclined).

So if you're looking for a decent case (and screen protector) that has a bunch of accessories that allow you to mount or store your phone, you can't really go wrong with Mous (don't leave the house with your shiny iPhone or Samsung without one).

Pricing for the Limitless 2.0 case is £39.99 for carbon fibre or leather and £49.99 for the wood finishes.

11/02/2019

It's time to kerb crawl and be connected

Connected Kerb is a new start-up is trying to revolutionise the way people and more importantly councils and developers support electric cars by installing multiple charging points in the kerb adjacent to parking bays.

The kerb units are constructed from recycled plastic and have an electric charging point, however they also offer support for V2X (vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to anything) communications which can allow cars to download data back to their owners and the manufacturers (or even deals for servicing etc). In future V2X communications will also convey information back to the car for smart-city applications.

The units are also WiFi enabled, allowing localised hotspot functionality of up to 350Mb/s and can directly support IoT radio standards as well as 5G off-load in conjunction with the mobile networks to remove the notspot issues that will come with higher frequencies that 5G uses.

If that wasn't enough, the units also have air quality, proximity sensors and temperature gauges allowing accurate measurements to be taken at street level. This is especially import for air quality as some existing solutions measure the levels where the sensors are mounted at much higher points thus not giving accurate ground readings.

As well as the kerb unit, there is another version that can be mounted on street furniture such as lampposts and signage poles.

There is currently a trial running in Borough in conjunction with Southwark Council, Virgin Media and National Grid.

Last year Connected Kerb won the Mayor of London’s Award for Urban Innovation.

Hopefully more councils will adopt this technology so really allowing electric vehicle use so electric charging becomes part of the basic infrastructure and not a luxury.