Smart Home Wifi Touch Switch

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Compatible parent mode AP mode we press the touch button twice one time okay twice next Wi-Fi name Wi-Fi password okay next it starts Perry found first-generation first generation for AP.

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The ATP refresh okay it works it works this is for first-generation this themes switch can post enter into first or a second generation it depends if you press it a choice like just what I.

Home-security-systems-jamestown-ca-95327 – Smart Home Security

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How To Delete Your Amazon Echo Voice Data

Does the Amazon Echo eavesdrop on conversations? Is our chit-chat a privacy disaster in the making? Should we be worried about what Amazon is learning about us in our very homes? Short answer: No. The Amazon Echo does NOT eavesdrop on pillow talk.

The far-field communication technology DOES pick up voice commands and connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service called Alexa. The voice requests are processed in the cloud and the results are delivered to the device. And those voice requests are saved.

The Amazon Echo only records and stores the wake word and the voice command that follows. You can see the complete record of the voice requests and delete them if you are overly suspicious.

How to Delete Voice Data on Amazon Echo

Alexa

  1. Launch the companion Alexa app for Android or iOS.
  2. Tap on the Hamburger icon on the top right. Then, tap on Settings and then go down to History.
  3. The History screen lists all your voice interactions in chronological order.
  4. Tap on any recording and listen to the audio. Click on the Delete Voice Recordings button to erase the file.

How to Mass Purge Voice Data on Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

  1. Launch a browser and go to amazon.com/mycd and sign into your Amazon account. Or, the URL can be country specific — for instance, amazon.in/mycd.
  2. Go to Your Devices > Echo Dot > three dots menu > Manage voice recordings. A pop-up will give you the chance to clear out the whole stash.

Amazon warns users that deleting the recordings may degrade your experience using the voice features. So, take an individual call when you decide to purge the entire history. You can also ease your concern by pressing the Microphone Off button on the device.

Like any other electronic device, Amazon Echo also has its vulnerabilities. The Echo responds to wake commands and specific skills. It also has a tiny attention span as it waits for your commands. Even then, it is reassuring to know that you can delete whatever you have spoken to it.

Do you wipe the history clean now and then? Do you have any privacy fears about your little virtual companion?

Creepy But Fun Surveillance Ideas With Smartthings

Where would James Bond be without his gadgets? Luckily for the super-spy, he could always rely on Q to outfit him with the latest high-tech tools to carry out his espionage, but anyone not on the MI6 payroll might not be so fortunate.

However, today it’s easier than ever to get your hands on top-notch tech. With a set of Smart Home devices like the SmartThings suite, you can spy and snoop to your heart’s content. Here are some fun ways to use a SmartThings Hub with a SmartThings Presence to keep a watchful eye over your surroundings.

Snoop on Someone

The easiest way to use a SmartThings system for surveillance is via a Presence. The Presence is likely one of the first accessories any SmartThings user will buy following the Hub, and it’s simple functionality offers quite a range of possibilities.

Pair your Presence with a Hub, and you’ll be able to track when it comes within range of the device, as well as when it leaves that perimeter once again. To connect a new Presence, press the plus symbol on the Dashboard of the SmartThings app, select Connect New Device and follow the process.

smartsetup

Once that’s in place, you can either set up notifications that you’ll receive on your smartphone or via an SMS message when the Presence enters or leaves the area surrounding the Hub. You can also access a log of those various coming and goings, as well as the time that they occurred by navigating to Activity in the Settings menu for the individual device within the SmartThings app.

The recommended functionality of the Presence is to keep friends or family members in the loop as you go to and from your home, but anyone looking to perform a little espionage might find that it’s small enough to be slipped into a bag or the glove compartment of a vehicle without the intended target noticing.

That sort of behaviour might strike you as unethical — and in most situations, you’d be quite right to think so. That being said, there’s plenty of reasons that you might have the best intentions for your snooping. For example, what if you were sure that your teenager was sneaking out at night, but you couldn’t prove it?

Expedient use of a SmartThings Presence would give you the evidence you need to catch them red-headed!

Tweet Upon Arrival

Say you wanted to track the comings and goings of several individuals to a particular location — this could be family members and your house, or co-workers and your office. There are plenty of different ways to make this happen using SmartThings, but for this example we’re going to use a useful website called IFTTT and a Twitter account to make it easy to set up and readily accessible.

First, create an account on IFTTT, navigate to My Recipes and then Create a Recipe.

From here, click this and search for SmartThings in the trigger channel input field. Select Presence detected from the large list of options that you’re presented with, and select the SmartThings Presence from the dropdown menu.

inputs

Now, click on that and we’ll set up the response that will run when a Presence is detected. Search for Twitter and select it as you did before, and select Post a Tweet. You’ll be presented with an example tweet to show you how it will look in practice, so you can make any edits that you might want to.

actionfields

The important thing about this step is that it uses generic placeholders for the name of the device and the location, which will be replaced with specifics once the recipe is active. Automating this aspect of the procedure means that you’ll be left with a Twitter account that acts as a timeline of the various individuals’ movements.

Click on Create Recipe and you’re done. This recipe really only scratches the surface of what can be accomplished with IFTTT and SmartThings working in sync — check out MakeUseOf’s Ultimate Guide to IFTTT for more information on just how powerful the site is.

Monitor Your Staff

Smart home devices are typically used domestically, but there’s no reason that they couldn’t be implemented as part of a smart office. Using a Hub and IFTTT, you can set up a digital “timecard” system to make sure your staff clock in and out on time, everyday. Best of all, you don’t even need to outfit them with Presence devices — any smartphone can be used in its place, as long as the SmartThings app is installed.

To do this, you’re first going to need to connect your IFTTT account to your Google Drive account. Then, create a new recipe and select SmartThings as the this component, then choose Presence detected. Choose the first Presence that we’re going to add to our timecard from the dropdown and click Create Trigger.

Now, select Google Drive for the that component, and select Add row to spreadsheet. In most cases, this will be the best way to set up the document, but depending on your particular needs Append to a document might make more sense. It’s really a matter of personal preference, boiling down to whether you want to use a text file or a spreadsheet.

timecard

Next, you’ll be given control over several Action Fields, as you can see above. Name your spreadsheet something sensible and choose your preferred Drive folder path, but leave the Formatted row field as it is. You can change it later on, but for now the standard set-up is ideal for our uses.

Select Create Action and then Create Recipe. Then, repeat the process for as many individuals you want to track on the timecard, and do the same procedure using Presence no longer detected as the this component if you want it to monitor staff leaving the office as well as arriving.

components

Now, you have a spreadsheet that will keep a log of all this information without you having to do any of the legwork. When the document reaches 2000 rows, it will simply create a new spreadsheet and start the whole process again.

Have you found a novel way to use SmartThings for surveillance? Found a great recipe on IFTTT? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

10 Clever Ways Motion Detectors Can Improve Your Life

Motion sensors are already a part of our lives, whether you know it or not. These little sensors are used to turn on your phone automatically when you need it. They’re used in simple mechanisms like in sinks at busy washrooms. But you’ll only fully realize how awesome they are when they enter your home.

The motion sensor is one of the most important parts into making your home smart. You’d be surprised how little it costs to get a basic motion sensor. You can pick up five infrared motion sensors for as little as one dollar each. Motion sensors also work easily with popular DIY electronic kits like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

Here’s a brief glance into the various ways in which motion detectors will make your life far easier once you adopt them.

1. Automatically Switch on Front Porch Light

One thing we learned from the man who has lived in a smart home for 20 years is to start with something small, like lights. So your motion detector journey should also begin with that. The easiest setup, and one that will fill you with joy, is to switch on the front porch light when you enter your property.

Smart Motion Sensors Front Porch Light

You can buy these easily online, but why buy expensive items when you can roll up your sleeves and make your own for cheap? Instructables user Ayush Sharma has a step-by-step guide on how to make a simple motion sensor light. Total cost? $7. No-brainer, this one.

2. Open the Garage Door Automatically

Set up a motion detector at the base of your driveway. Connect it to your garage door opener. When your car pulls in, the door will open automatically. It couldn’t be simpler. In fact, there are already motion detector garage door openers. Try Genie or Chamberlain, they seem to have good reviews on Amazon.

Smart Motion Sensors Open Garage Door Automatically

Apart from opening the door, you can also set up simple automation to switch on the lights when you drive up, just like the front porch light.

3. “Honey, I’m Home!”

Got a garage with two car bays? Set up one motion sensor in each bay. When your car or your partner’s car parks in the bay, the motion sensor will detect it. Then it’s a simple matter of connecting that sensor to a Raspberry Pi or Arduino to do a whole host of things.

Smart Motion Sensors Honey I Am Home

The coolest would be to send a message to your other half’s smartphone, saying you’re home. You can also program it to automatically start the lights in the house (if they’re switched off) or turn the thermostat to your preferred setting. It’s quite easy to program these things, and actually a fun way to learn coding.

4. Catch the Sneaky Culprits

Worried about your kids sneaking out of the home after curfew? Want an alarm to see if someone has broken into the outhouse? Motion sensors are the easiest way to get it done. Set up a sensor at each door or window. Switch them on when you go to bed. Just like that, you’ll be alerted every time someone is coming in or not when they’re not supposed to.

Smart Motion Sensors Breaking In

In fact, you could add a webcam and get a photo of the culprit in action! It’s not difficult at all to create a DIY motion security camera with a Raspberry Pi, and it will cost you a fraction of the price of buying an off-the-shelf item.

5. Save Energy Costs

Your thermostat doesn’t need to be working overtime when you’re not at home. The lights should switch off when you leave home. Your computer should also go into sleep mode. A motion sensor can do all that.

Smart Motion Sensors Thermostat Save Energy

Set up a sensor at all entry points, and enable a simple counter script. Once the number of people who enter and the number of people who exit is the same, your desired energy savings can kick in after five minutes. It’s a smart technology to lower your home’s carbon footprint.

6. Get Reminders Before You Leave

You’re walking out of the house. You know you’re forgetting something your husband told you about, but you can’t remember what it is. What if he could have left you a reminder as soon as you open the door?

Smart Motion Sensors Memo Minder Reminder

Memo Minder (UK) is a motion-activated reminder gadget. You record messages into it. When you walk past the door, it’ll play back the message. So you can leave one message for the thing everyone always forgets (“Have you taken your keys?”) or something customized for a particular individual.

It’s actually a fantastic smart device to keep an eye on elder folks. But that doesn’t mean us young ones can’t use it to augment our addled memories too?

7. Start Your PC and Programs Automatically

Picture this. You set up a motion sensor in your parking spot at the office. As soon as you drive in, a message is sent to a little box connected to your work desk. This box will switch on your PC, and then automatically start the programs you use regularly. By the time you walk into the office, your work desk is ready for action!

Smart Motion Sensors Automatically Start PC

There’s already a simpler version of this you can make for yourself. Instructables user PeterSmaal made a cute little box that automatically starts programs using a motion detector. What you’ll be doing is an advanced version of that, but begin with Peter’s setup and then move on upwards.

8. Make Your Pet’s Life Easier

A dog is a man’s best friend, but a smart home with a motion sensor is the dog’s best friend. If the dog is in the backyard and wants to be let back in, he can activate the motion sensor to get in.

Smart Motion Sensors Dog Cat Pet Door

And if you’re a cat person, here’s a fantastic suggestion by our managing editor Ryan Dube:

Use a motion detection camera to send you a picture of the cat litter box after your cat has used it. You’ll know whether you need to clean it or not, without actually going to check each time.

If your nostrils are as weak as Ryan’s, this is going to be a gift from the heavens. It’s time to become a smarter pet owner with the help of technology.

9. A Candid Portrait of Your Life

You’ve probably seen several of those “one photo a day” videos and projects on the internet. How about making a similar video that offers a candid snapshot of your life at home?

Smart Motion Sensors Motion Triggered Camera

Connect a motion sensor to an unused camera. Every time someone walks by, the camera will take a photo. Pretty soon, you’ll have a lovely portrait of your life at home.

It’s your call on where you want to set your camera and sensor. If you put a large enough memory card in your camera and lower the resolution, you should be able to click over 100 photos a day for a year. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make a DIY motion-triggered camera.

10. Check Up on the Elderly

Older folks understandably like their own independence. But you would obviously want to keep an eye on them, in case they have a fall at home or something.

Smart Motion Sensors Elderly

Set up a motion sensor by their bed, so that in case they fall, they can wave their arm to call for help. Or if they’re at an age where they need help getting in and out of places, motion sensors are the easy way to know when they are trying to move.

Remember, it costs a buck to get a motion sensor, but it’s going to cost you a heavy conscience and large medical bills if you weren’t there for a loved one.

What’s Your Genius Motion Sensor Idea?

Once you start thinking of how motion sensors can improve your life, you will come up with a million possibilities and ideas. Much like many of these have inspired you, share your insights with others to inspire them!

Tell us how you would use a motion sensor to make your life easier.

Amazon Echo Vs. Google Home Vs. Apple Homepod

In 2014, Amazon quietly released the Echo, a 9-inch tall cylinder speaker controlled by a cloud-based voice assistant that goes by the name Alexa. Following the Amazon Echo’s popularity, Alphabet released the Google Home in late 2015. At the end of December 2017, Apple will also be joining the fray with the Siri-powered HomePod.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between all three voice-activated speakers: Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod.

Hi, Alexa

The Amazon Echo is one of five products that make up the top-selling lineup of Alexa-powered home devices. This list now includes the Amazon Tap, Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo Look, and Amazon Echo Show.

We’re mentioning these speakers only to illustrate the challenges Google Home and Apple HomePod face in the marketplace. These speakers aren’t just competing against one device, but rather five, each available at different price points. Despite this, from here on, we’ll limit our discussion to the Amazon Echo, as it relates to the other two speakers.

Hardware

The Echo features seven microphone sensors embedded under a LED ring at the top of the device. These sensors use what Amazon calls “beam-forming technology,” allowing it to hear from any direction.

Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod amazon echo image

As a long-time Echo user, I can confirm that it’s a wonderful listener even when there is background noise. It reacts to everything, as long as the questions and comments begin with “Alexa,” which is the device’s default wake word. You can also call the Echo “Amazon,” by changing a setting in the Alexa app.

Although voice largely controls the Echo, the device also contains three input controls on the top. The first of these is the LED ring, which you can turn left and right to change the speaker volume. There’s also an action button and mute button. The former provides a way to disable a timer or alarm. The latter turns Alexa’s ability to listen on and off.

Inside, the Echo includes a 2-inch tweeter and 2.5-inch woofer. This combination makes for a pleasant sound quality.

The Amazon Echo is currently available in black and white. If you want a speaker that blends into the background, I’d suggest the black model. If you’re feeling like a rebel, go with the white.

Software

Alexa, like Google Assistant, processes data in the cloud. Without an internet connection, the Echo becomes a very dumb device. But, when it has an internet connection, Alexa can do a lot.

Music

With Alexa Voice Service, you can ask Alexa to play music, provide information, and update you on news, sports scores, weather, and more. To get started, you need to download and install the free Alexa app. From there, you’ll be asked to connect the Echo to your local Wi-Fi network and verify your Amazon account.

Echo provides hands-free voice control for many of the most popular music streaming services, including Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Because Echo also works as a Bluetooth speaker, you can also stream from other services like iTunes from your phone or tablet.

It’s very simple to use Echo as a music speaker. Alexa does a great job at finding songs and playlists. You can give Alexa Music-related commands, such as, “Alexa…”

  • “… turn it up.”
  • “… play the Beatles playlist.”
  • “… play Today’s Hits from Pandora.”

Having a speaker to listen to music is one of the main reasons for buying an Echo. However, thanks to Alexa, Echo is much more than a reasonably-priced home speaker.

Amazon Apps

Alexa Skills are apps that work with Amazon hardware to give you a more personalized experience. To date, there are over 3,000 Alexa Skills and counting, courtesy of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which allows third-parties to create these skill sets.

Alexa doesn’t have these skills automatically. Instead, you must install them from the Alexa app.

For example, you can ask Alexa to order a Domino’s pizza or request an Uber. When you’re bored, challenge Alexa to a game of Jeopardy! When you’re looking for a fancy meal to prepare, ask Alexa to read back the Food Network recipe on the TV right now.

An API

One important aspect of Alexa Skills is the Smart Home Skill API. With this tool, manufacturers can have Alexa communicate with their smart appliances. As a result, you can talk to control lights, door locks, thermostats, fans, and more. The biggest players in the smart home industry have products that interact with Alexa, including Philips Hue, Ecobee, and Samsung SmartThings.

Amazon is so serious about the Alexa Skills program that it’s begun courting would-be hardware partners with its $100 million Alexa Fund. With this fund, venture capital funding is being provided to fuel voice technology innovation. In other words, you should expect the number of Alexa Skills to continue to rise in the coming years.

Being Prime

Amazon provides a few extras for Echo users who are also Prime subscribers. You can enjoy hands-free shopping with Alexa on millions of items on Amazon as an exclusive benefit of your Prime membership. You can also listen to unlimited Prime Music, which also includes original audio series and playlists handcrafted for every interest.

Amazon Echo is $179.

Okay, Google

Google Home was first teased in May 2016 at Google I/O. Five months later, it was officially demoed, with a public launch date that November.

Hardware

Google Home isn’t going to win any design awards thanks to its funny exterior that looks like a two-toned air freshener. At the top, you’ll find two far-field microphones alongside four LED lights. This location also serves as a touch surface, where you can play or pause music, change the volume, or mute the system.

Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod google home

The base of the device is covered in gray fabric, although you can change this using one of the extra bases Google offers. These come in both fabric and metal varieties.

Inside, Google Home features an integrated “high-excursion” speaker that delivers “crystal-clear highs and rich bass.” You can pair multiple Google Home devices to enjoy the same song in every room of your home.

This feature is a big deal. Alexa speakers don’t communicate very well with one another. Plus, you can’t use two or more Amazon Echos to play stereo sound.

Software

Google Home’s killer feature is Google Assistant. Like Alexa, Google Assistant uses a cloud to answer your questions. Unlike Alexa, Google Assistant uses natural language processing, which improves reliability.

As a bonus, the appliance can also access your Google account for information about your daily schedule, assuming that you use Google Calendar.

Music

Google Home is compatible with a handful of music services including Google Music, YouTube Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn. Note that you need a YouTube Red subscription to listen to Google Music or YouTube Music on the device.

Smart Home

Google Home also has a smart home component similar to what you’ll find on the Echo. Google Home works with Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, TP-Link, IFTTT, and more. There’s also compatibility with other Alphabet products, including Google Chromecast and Nest.

Chromecast integration allows Google Home to act as an audio receiver. For example, you can throw a song from your smartphone to a better speaker in your home, simply by tapping the Cast logo within a supported app. This process works on any Chromecast-connected device, including televisions.

Welcoming Developers

A specialized Google developer kit helps would-be companies to integrate their products with both Google Assistant and Google Home. The Actions Kit comes in two flavors: direct and conversational.

Direct Actions are for straightforward tasks, such as turning on a light in the bedroom or playing a song from YouTube. More complicated Conversational Actions require some back and forth between you and Google Assistant. For example, you might want to set your Nest Thermostat to an absolute temperature for X number of minutes.

Google Home is $129.

Hey, Siri

First introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2017, Apple HomePod is expected to offer features a lot like those found on both Amazon Echo and Google Home. However, there’s one area where Apple appears to have gone in a different direction: sound.

Hardware

Apple HomePod comes equipped with some pretty impressive internals that will allow it to offer 360-degree sound. Under the hood, you’ll find a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, seven tweeters, six microphones, and more.

Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod apple homepod

Better still, the device is equipped to analyze a room’s acoustics to adjust the sound based on its location. In doing so, the device directs the music in an optimal direction.

Want more than one HomePod? Thanks to AirPlay 2, you can add HomePod devices to multiple rooms. And these speakers can communicate with one another so that you can play your music all around the house.

Software

With Apple’s Siri, you’ll be able to control the music on HomePod with your voice. The same goes for HomePod’s integration with Apple HomeKit. This protocol allows software developers to make applications that work with home automation products. In other words, HomePod, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, will allow you to control home appliances.

Music

Not surprisingly, Apple Music and Siri both play a big part in what makes HomePod tick. With Apple Music integration, users will have access to over 40 million songs from over 2 million artists.

Because of AirPlay 2, you’ll almost certainly be able to listen to other music streaming services on HomePod. However, Siri will only work with Apple Music, at least at the beginning.

What about Bluetooth? Apple hasn’t said whether HomePod has support for this protocol, which would open up even more music streaming services for use on the speaker.

Wait and See

There’s still a lot about HomePod that’s unknown. However, it’s already clear that Apple plans on positioning the device as a high-end speaker system for the home. This decision makes a lot of sense given the device’s premium pricing.

When it’s released, Apple HomePod will be available for $349.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

The smart speaker market continues to evolve and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead. At the time of this writing, Amazon Echo offers more features than Google Home, although that’s beginning to change thanks to Google Assistant.

HomePod’s release will have a profound effect on the smart speaker market. The increased competition will almost certainly lead to even better products from all those involved, which is a win-win for consumers.

If you’re in the market for a smart speaker right now, the Amazon Echo continues to be the product to beat. There’s no way of knowing where the market will be in just a few months time. Stay tuned.

Which voice-controlled smart home control center do you think will come out on top in this market? Are you waiting for the Apple HomePod? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

How To Set Up Hidden Security Cameras In Your Home

Whether you’re looking to secure your home, or want to catch your cleaner stealing, hidden cameras are a novel way to boost your home security.

We’ve previously discussed wireless home security cameras, along with a DIY security camera network from old smartphones, so today I’ll be showing you how to secure your home with hidden security cameras.

Why Choose Hidden Surveillance Cameras?

With systems such as the Reolink DIY CCTV system costing less than $400, many people believe hidden surveillance cameras are not always necessary. While traditional CCTV systems offer excellent value for money, they do have two distinct disadvantages:

  1. Encourage crime: As CCTV cameras are easy to identify, potential thieves may believe you have something worth stealing if you’ve gone to the trouble of installing security cameras.
  2. Encourage interference: If a thief is aware of a security system, they can take steps to disconnect or otherwise disable the system.

Hidden security cameras easily solve this problem. A criminal won’t know to disable the cameras if they don’t know the cameras are there. Similarly, if it’s not obvious that a home is protected with cameras, criminals may not think to target your house.

Are Hidden Surveillance Cameras Legal?

Generally speaking, the use of hidden cameras in your own home is legal in most states, but recording in certain circumstances can be illegal, as can recording for nefarious purposes.

home security hidden cameras

It’s unwise to place cameras in private areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms, and recording audio is almost always illegal. You may also want to consider if you want to record your family or not. While not illegal, it usually makes more sense to arm your system — enabling record functionality only when the house is empty.

Regardless of your system, you should always double check your local state laws before configuring anything more complex than a basic anti-intruder system.

Smoke Detector Wi-Fi Camera

For your first hidden camera, a wireless 1080p camera disguised as a smoke detector is an excellent choice. The MEAUOTOU spy camera has several premium features, including motion detection, live video streaming, and mobile device push notifications.

This camera is totally hidden inside a non functional smoke detector. You’ll still need a real smoke detector, so be careful with your placement — people may get suspicious of two smoke detectors right next to each other.

Camera Time

home security hidden cameras

For your next camera, this hidden camera alarm clock features night vision, motion detection, and has a built in battery. This camera records to microSD cards, supports loop recording, along with mobile device remote viewing and notifications.

If analog clocks are more your thing, this 1080p wall clock camera will easily blend into any room, and the built in battery should last more than enough time to protect your home in the unlikely event of a power cut.

PIR Sensor

If you’re looking to get really stealthy, the Conbrov IP camera is cleverly disguised as an ordinary PIR sensor. Like the previous cameras, this model features remote viewing and control via your mobile, along with motion detection.

The camera lens is visible on the front of the unit, but it’s unlikely anybody will spot it, especially in the dark. This camera does not have a battery in it either, so you’ll need to install it in a semi permanent position.

Lights, Camera, Action!

There’s no better place to hide a camera than in a lightbulb — who would ever think to look there? The Bellcam Light Bulb Security Camera provides all the features you expect from a wireless camera, such as night vision and motion detection, but it also includes some unique features.

Two-way audio is built into the bulb, so you can talk to your guests (or intruders!) through the camera. It also features a 360-degree panoramic lens, which is certainly a unique perspective, and gives you a view of the whole room just from one camera. The bulb still operates as a normal LED light, and you can operate it remotely via the app.

This introductory video by YouTube channel GatoCam shows off this camera’s capabilities nicely:

Like the camera above, this lens is unfortunately visible when looking at the bulb — although who would think to check the lightbulbs for cameras?

USB Charger Camera

What better place to hide a camera than in a USB charger. The USB charger camera features a 1080p camera, and is a fully functional USB charger!

With loop recording, and the ability to view multiple cameras on one app, you can’t go wrong with this little camera. The 90-degree wide-angle lens ensures you capture the best angle, despite being so low to the ground.

You’ll need a microSD card if you wish to record any video, so make sure you check out our microSD card buying guide.

DIY Hidden Camera

If you’re looking to hide a camera, and nothing store bought will do, then this mini spy camera is just what you’re looking for.

Measuring just less than one inch square, and with a magnetic back, you can easily attach this tiny camera almost anywhere. With a built in battery, and 1080p image quality, this is one camera that no one will ever spot.

home security hidden cameras

Unfortunately, such a small camera comes with a few trade offs. There’s no wireless control via an app, so you’ll need to manually start and stop recording. There’s no power supply either, just a bulky USB cable, so you’ll need to get creative if you want to leave it permanently powered on.

The Name’s Bond, James Bond

This is a long list of hidden surveillance cameras, but we’ve actually barely scratched the surface. With hidden camera watches, pens, desk lamps, photo frames, and much more, there’s practically no limit to what or where you can hide a camera.

If you’re just getting started with surveillance cameras (hidden or otherwise), then make sure you read our guide to IP vs. DVR cameras. If you’re on a tighter budget, our guide on how to secure your home for less than $30 will help you out.

Have you installed any hidden cameras around your home? What’s the best place you found to hide them? Let us know in the comments below!

Connect Your Fitbit Tracker And Ifttt To Automate Your Home And Life

With over 3.3 million fitness bands sold between 2013 and 2014, these devices are fast becoming one of the most commonly found health gadgets in many homes across the world. This makes it one of the most convenient devices to use as your first step toward building what many people would consider a “smart home”.

Fitbit dominates the fitness band market at 67% of all sales. This means that more homes today than ever before have residents who use the Fitbit band. Even President Obama was spotted sporting a Fitbit Surge!

Combine the popularity of the Fitbit with the fact that IFTTT now offers a dedicated Fitbit channel, the Fitbit is an ideal device to experiment with automating your life and your home in ways that you probably never even considered.

Building Your Fitbit Smart Home

When many people think of the term “smart home”, they think of a futuristic home with lots of intelligent lights, shades that open and close automatically, and thermostats that increase or lower the home’s temperature automatically. The reality is that you can actually start automating your life with simple gadgets that you may already have in your home right now, like a smart TV, your smartphone or tablet, your computer, inexpensive smart gadgets under $100, and of course even your Fitbit band.

If you have an IFTTT account, then before you can get started with the automations I’ll go over in this article, you’ll need to register the Fitbit channel, which was first introduced in 2014.

FitBit

Once you’ve got your Fitbit registered with your IFTTT account, you’re ready to roll. You can set up any of the following automations with your Fitbit, or choose from the list of additional ready-made IFTTT recipes listed at the bottom of this article.

Ring Your Smartphone If You Sleep Too Long

One of the most frustrating things about being a heavy sleeper is when my alarm clock doesn’t work. It can go off through three or four snooze cycles, and then I may literally turn off the ringer and go back to sleep, not waking up until long after I intended to. For years, getting up on time was a constant battle that I had with myself.

If this sounds like you, then you’ll appreciate the Sleep parameters available in the Fitbit IFTTT channel as much as I did. You can create a trigger in IFTTT that goes off after you’ve slept a certain number of hours.

Fitbit2

Choose the Sleep duration above option, and type in a number in the Target hours field that’s just slightly beyond the typical number of hours you sleep each night before your alarm goes off.

So, if you usually go to bed at 10 PM and your alarm goes off at 6 AM, then that’s 8 hours. You should be awake within eight hours if all goes well, but you can set up a “panic” alarm to go off if your Fitbit recognizes that you’ve been sleeping for 8.5 hours.

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Once you’ve created this trigger, next you can create an action for IFTTT to call your smartphone and wake you up. To set such a call trigger, choose the “Phone Call” alert tool from the list of selections.

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Next you can type in the message you want the system to say to you when it calls after you’ve overslept. Make sure to make the message harsh enough so that you actually realize that you’ve overslept and need to get your lazy self out of bed!

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This last-ditch phone call has saved me more times than I could count; in one case even saving me from missing a presentation I was supposed to give at an important conference!

Dealing With Lack of Sleep

Just like oversleeping, not getting enough sleep can be a major problem as well. Thankfully, there’s another IFTTT trigger you can set to go off when you haven’t slept long enough.

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You can use this trigger to automate all kinds of things that’ll improve your life. For example, in the IFTTT library, you’ll find a recipe to activate the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch connected to your coffee maker.

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You may not need a coffee every morning, but when you haven’t had much sleep, it’s nice to have that hot coffee ready and waiting for you in the morning.

Another clever action based on the Fitbit lack-of-sleep trigger the night before is to automatically create a reminder in your Google Calendar to go to bed early the same night, so you can recover your sleep pattern.

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The Action recipe lets you embed ingredients from your Fitbit, so you can have the reminder set the day that you woke up, and make the event reminder get scheduled for around the time you want to go to bed. If your Google Calendar is set up to send notifications to your smartphone, you’ll get an instant reminder that you need to get to bed and catch up on your beauty sleep.

Another method to avoid oversleeping is to use the Fitbit sleep duration trigger above to fire up your Philips Hue lightbulbs when you’ve slept long enough and want to wake up.

In the IFTTT recipe library, you’ll find a ready-made recipe for this action too!

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There are few things that do a better job of waking people up than bright lights (or flashing lights!)

Automate Encouragement For Your Goals

One of the most useful Fitbit triggers you’ll find in IFTTT is the daily goals trigger. The nice thing about it is that it lets you select a specific goal that you’re tracking with your Fitbit, and the exact time of day when you want to reach that goal, or else trigger some action to happen.

The list of goals depends on the goals you’ve enabled in your Fitbit account.

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These goals only require a little bit of creativity, and a few very inexpensive WeMo or SmartThings outlet switches, to power on and off devices in your home that encourage you to reach those goals. The key here is that you set a specific time of day for each goal, and this will be the time that all of the resulting actions you configure take place.

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You can use another pre-configured IFTTT recipe to do this for each device that you want to trigger.

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You’ll need to create individual recipes for all of the devices you want to turn on and off.  Here are some ideas for various ways you can use this recipe to ensure you reach your goals by the end of the day.

  • If Calories burned is under your goal by 4pm, send SMS asking your wife or husband to cook a low-calorie supper for you if possible.
  • If Distance Covered is under your goal by 4pm, make the WeMo switch on your treadmill to turn on, and the one on your television to turn off.
  • If your Minutes Active is under goal by noon and you work at home, have the WeMo switch turn off your computer monitor and flash your Philips Hue lights to remind you to take a walk.

In fact, if you’ve bought a few WeMo switches (about $49.99 each) or a Philips Hue starter kit (about $190), the possibilities of automating all kinds of devices (or doing reminders and celebrations with lights) is really limited only by your imagination.

Other IFTTT Recipes For Your Fitbit

Whether you’re looking to automate your home or your life, there are all kinds of cool recipes people have already created on IFTTT that you can use. Here are a few of the best ones.

Many people think that a Fitbit is limited to the features and notifications that you can configure on your Fitbit profile, but as you can see, IFTTT expands the functionality of that little fitness band to a whole new level.

Did you spot any cool automations that you’re going to try out with your Fitbit? Are there any other cool ones you’ve used that you’d like to share with us? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!

Smart TV 3D: Is It All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

The smart TV still has potential to revolutionize home entertainment. If you’re unfamiliar with smart TVs, now may be the time for you to catch up and see what you’ve been missing. Now with Smart TV 3D technology, you have even more options to consider.

Long story short, Smart TVs are TVs with built-in Internet capabilities that allow you wider access to media than a traditional TV. But before you go out and buy one to add to your smart home collection, there’s one particular smart TV feature for which you need to ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

That feature is 3D content, which is something that people either love or hate. There’s rarely any middle ground.

So let’s take a look at 3D smart TVs to see if they’re worth the price markup. The results may surprise you.

Everyone Loves 3D Entertainment

Here’s the thing about modern entertainment: up until recently, all films and TV shows were projected in 2D even though we see in 3D. While 2D is certainly easier to capture and produce, the downside is that we lose an important element in the process: depth perception.

Stereoscopic 3D isn’t new technology by any stretch. There are recorded patents from the 1890s that illustrate attempts at 3D imagery using side-by-side projections and a physical device used to converge the two into one. Sounds similar to 3D glasses, doesn’t it?

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But 3D didn’t surge back into popularity until the 21st Century, hitting a climax with films like Avatar (2009), Gravity (2013), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). It’s around that same time – late 2000s, early 2010s – that smart TVs first hit the market with Samsung leading the charge.

And it wasn’t long after that before smart TVs began incorporating 3D display technology. My own smart TV, which is a few years old at this point, came with a two-pack of 3D glasses to watch 3D films and TV shows.

But what good is it? Can 3D entertainment at home replicate the experience of 3D in a theater? How many people even use the feature?

3D Smart TVs: Hyped & Hopeful

The biggest source of hype for 3D content came around the time of Avatar, a film that successfully transported audiences to a fantasy world lush enough to seem alive and real even on a traditional 2D screen – but with 3D glasses, it was a brand new experience altogether.

Recapturing that feeling is what 3D smart TVs were meant to do. How much more immersive would the experience be if you could lounge back on your couch, toss on a pair of freely-included 3D glasses, and watch as figures and forms reached out at you through the screen as opposed to the flat nature of traditional TV? In theory, it sounds great.

But it’s about more than just that.

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For one, there were promises made about the future availability of 3D broadcast channels in countries around the world. In 2010, South Korea began broadcasting a SKY 3D channel, while ESPN branched out into ESPN 3D, which provided 3D coverage of live sports. Other networks began dabbling in 3D video-on-demand around the same time.

And then there was the possibility of real-time conversion from 2D to 3D. Only high-end models came with this feature, but the concept was great in theory: the TV itself would alter an incoming 2D broadcast and output a modified version that would appear 3D when wearing the glasses. That way even non-3D channels would benefit from the technology.

All of this seems quite promising, doesn’t it? Which is why 3D smart TV sales climbed throughout 2010 (2.26 million units), 2011 (24.14 million units), and 2012 (41.45 million units). If that isn’t rapid growth, I don’t know what is!

The Reality of 3D Smart TVs

Unfortunately, 3D smart TVs fell short in nearly every single area where big promises were made.

First of all, the real-time conversion feature between 2D and 3D never proved to be as good as it was hyped to be. At best it produces pictures that are somewhat watchable, which is fine for things like live sport feeds, but even then it isn’t much better than watching in straight 2D. But at its worst, 2D-to-3D conversion is a big headache.

So until there’s a big breakthrough, 3D smart TVs suffer from a massive issue: a lack of relevant 3D content.

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Many of the 3D-specialized broadcast channels have shut off their signals. In 2013, the BBC ended all manner of 3D programming due to low adoption numbers. In the same year, ESPN, DirecTV, and Xfinity all ended their respective 3D channels. No surprise when only 115,000 Americans were tuned into a 3D channel at any given time in 2012.

This means that the only way to get good 3D entertainment is to buy films and shows that are specifically produced with 3D in mind. The problem? 3D is expensive to produce, so it’s often saved for high-action titles that have big budgets to work with, resulting in a dearth of content availability.

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And then there’s the issue of smart TV security risks, which is a problem that isn’t directly related to 3D viewing but relevant all the same. Buying a 3D smart TV means you need to be wary of hackers, malware, and spies (peeping through your smart TV camera).

Lastly, you have to wear those silly glasses if you want to watch in 3D. Some may be fine with that, but others – like myself – find those glasses to be both ridiculous and uncomfortable.

Worth It? The Answer Is “No”

Some have gone on record with claims that 3D TV is making a comeback, but I disagree. I think the peak is way behind us and the idea will die within just a few more years. In its current state, the technology just isn’t good enough to warrant the price or hype.

I’ve had my 3D smart TV for over three years now. The day I opened the box is the only day I’ve ever worn those silly 3D glasses, and not a day has gone by where I’ve felt like I’ve missed out.

Do you have a 3D smart TV? If so, how often do you watch 3D content? Is the 3D fad still in its infancy or is it well past its prime? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Stream of 3D Via Shutterstock, Couple Watching 3D Film Via Shutterstock, Smart TV & Remote Via Shutterstock, Group Watching 3D TV Via Shutterstock, 3D Glasses Girl Via Shutterstock

Are Stack Smart Lights The Affordable Alternative To Philips Hue?

The Philips Hue LED Lighting System is a smart home product pioneer, having launched in 2012. Years later, there’s no denying that Philips Hue continues to be one of the most popular smart home products available. Unfortunately, it’s also among the most expensive smart lighting system on the market.

Are Stack Smart Lights the Affordable Alternative to Philips Hue? stack

The list of Philips Hue alternatives continues to grow each year. Perhaps none show as much promise as Stack lighting, which offers features that are missing from the Philips Hue.  In this article, you’ll see how the newest kid on the block compares to the original regarding features and price.

Philips Hue: A Summary

Philips Hue is a selection of smart LED bulbs that are controllable through iOS devices and Apple Watch. With Philips Hue, you can choose from 16 million colors using the official Hue app.

In 2017, Philips Hue offered three types of smart lighting products that came in different shapes, sizes, and models. Hue white and color ambiance lights, the most expensive type available, provided the complete experience, offering unlimited colors and the ability to sync with your music, TV, and games.

Are Stack Smart Lights the Affordable Alternative to Philips Hue? philips hue starter pack iphone

Philips Hue white ambiance products offer a broad range of natural white light and are ideally suited for rooms where you want to concentrate, read, and relax. Philips Hue white products provide comfort, dimming lighting for the least amount of money.

Current Alternatives

There’s little difference between Philips Hue and its main competitors, including LIFX, Belkin WeMo, and GE Link. While the protocols may differ, each provides a lighting solution that you control with a mobile device using a home network. Most offer white and colored bulbs with the latter being the most expensive.

A Responsive Solution

By contrast, Stack lights automatically respond to changes in the environment’s ambient light and time. In doing so, the lights adjust brightness and color temperature without your intervention. Stacks Labs calls this a responsive, rather than a smart, solution.

What Stacks Lighting Can Do

Stack lighting focuses on four main points to achieve this responsiveness:

  1. Home awareness — Stack lights turn themselves on and off, depending on your occupancy. It also alerts you when someone enters your home.
  2. Circadian lighting — Stack intelligently adjusts the color temperature based on the time of day.
  3. Light sensing — Stack automatically dims and brightens each bulb according to the natural light in the room. This feature can reduce your energy costs by up to 60 percent.
  4. Initiative learning — Like other smart products on the market, Stack learns your inputs over time, creating a more personalized experience.

While Stack strives to minimize user interaction, many of the features found on other lighting solutions remain. For example, with the Stack app, you can still change the color temperature and brightness of the bulb and schedule wake-up times. You also have the ability to turn off occupancy and ambient light sensors as needed.

Interaction

Thanks to IFTTT, you can also link other connected lights to your Stack lights. For example, you can use an IFTTT applet to turn on your Philips Hue or LIFX lights every time Stack detects occupancy.

Stack lights also work with Amazon Alexa, Google Nest, and will soon offer compatibility for Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem.

Say Hello to Stack Enabled

The Stack Enabled program is another way Stack lighting is different than the competition. With this program, Stack allows other lighting manufacturers to embed its active sensor and signal processing technology into different lighting formats.

Stack notes, “These lights are then able to utilize Stack’s innovative building intelligence technologies to become truly responsive, at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.”

Initial partners include residential and commercial manufacturers, including Brilia, Lunera, and Plumen.

Pricing

Stack currently offers two starter packs through its website. The Stack Classic Starter Kit ($89) includes two A19 bulbs and one hub. The Stack Downlight Starter Kit ($99) consists of two BR30 bulbs and a hub. A19 bulbs are priced at $28 each, while individual BR30 bulbs cost $45.

Are Stack Smart Lights the Affordable Alternative to Philips Hue? stack classic starter

As a comparison, you can buy the Philips Hue White Ambiance A19 Starter Kit for $130. This package includes two A19 bulbs, a hub, and a dimmer switch. Replacement A19 bulbs are $30 each. You can’t purchase a Philips Hue starter kit that includes BR30 bulbs. Instead, they’re available for $30 each (or two for $50).

About Those Hubs

The Stack hub, like the one shipped with a Philips Hue starter pack, acts as a controller for your lighting system. In this case, each Stack light communicates with the hub through the ZigBee protocol. You only need one hub for each Stack lighting solution.

Should You Buy?

Over the years, Philips Hue has faced criticism over price. However, much of that criticism has focused on the company’s color ambiance lights, not on the newer white and white ambiance products. As you can see above, Philips Hue pricing compares favorably to Stack lighting. In some cases, it’s even less expensive.

With that said, Slack lighting is relatively new to the marketplace. Additionally, Stack Enabled products have yet to arrive on the market. The new products could certainly push prices lower as competition usually does.

For now, whether to buy Stack lighting as opposed to Philips Hue or a similar product, depends on whether you’re looking for a responsive or smart lighting solution. Most likely, a combination of the two might work best. A lot will depend on Stack and whether they can bring bulbs of various sizes and styles to market as promised.

Do you think responsive lighting is the future of smart lighting? Leave your comments below.