Each new week brings with it an abundance of new gadgets — whether devised by tech giants like Google and Samsung or pushed by hopeful entrepreneurs to Kickstarter, they run the gamut from useful to niche to tech that nobody really needs. This week we’re looking at dumb gadgets made smart — though some of them still end up pretty dumb.
If you’re the kind of person that carries valuable tools around with them, or that rides a bike and parks it in a public place, you’re setting yourself up for grief. Anyone can pick locks with a little practice. But what if you equipped yourself with a padlock that didn’t have a key? The LockSmart Mini is a padlock that uses Bluetooth and talks to your phone to unlock.
It’s certainly sturdy — like a good padlock should be. Padlocks have two elements — a case (the thick metal body) and a shackle (the locking hoop at the top). On the $US70 LockSmart Mini, both are made from tough metals, steel for the shackle and die-cast zinc alloy for the case. It’s not a brass-bodied lock that a dedicated thief could hacksaw through in a matter of minutes, and for a padlock — the kind of thing you secure an unattended gate or pushbike with for a few hours or days — this is more important than you’d think. You can trust the LockSmart to stay in one piece.
Battery life isn’t a problem, at all, and neither is charging. Dog & Bone says the LockSmart Mini will last for 3000 cycles of locking and unlocking, or up to two years of hibernation between unlocks. Now, when you’re comparing it to an actual padlock with actual keys and no battery, there’s no level playing field, but for any Internet of Things-y ‘smart’ device, two years is a pretty impressive figure. Charging, done with the ubiquitous microUSB connector and cable, is reasonably quick — and it’s not like you have to do it any more than once in a blue moon in the first place.
Elppy The Smart Ring Misses The Mark For A Wearable
The idea of smart wearables is one that has been popular with consumers and entrepreneurs alike, with the latter pushing the gauntlet to see what wearable items they can make smart. They all need to have one thing in common, however — they should look like something that you might actually want to wear, which Elppy the smart ring… does not.
In fact, I’m not sure if it should actually be called a ‘smart ring’, which brings to mind the idea of a fitness tracking ring or something similar. It’s certainly not very fashion-conscious as a ring, either. In reality, it’s more like a remote on a loop, though the chunky ring part makes it far more obvious in your hand than a regular presentation remote or remote photo trigger would be — not to mention harder to get your hand into the right position to use.
Once the tech becomes compact enough, I’m sure we’ll see some interesting takes on the smart ring concept. I just don’t think the Elppy is on the right track.
Apparently, we’re in the middle of a “global infidelity crisis,” a crisis that can only be solved by a smart mattress that pings your phone when it’s being used for sex. Wait, what?
Smarttress is a real-looking product from Spanish company Durmet, which claims to use ultrasonic sensors to detect when two people are going at it on a bed. It then pings your phone to inform you of this fact.
I’m still partly convinced that this is a late April Fool’s joke, but working on the terrifying assumption that it’s not, let’s look at this idea on its merits. On the plus side, you’ll know if your significant other is having sex on your bed (although not on your couch, futon, desk, kitchen table, floor, car, or hotel bed); on the downside, you’ll know for certain that you’re a paranoid sociopath who needs wildly inefficient ways of keeping tabs on people.
There are other, more manifest practical flaws (not to mention what I’m assuming is astronomical cost of an app-enabled bed), but I really want to focus on the initial assumption that a) infidelity is a global crisis, and b) the best way to solve it is by spying on people.
QuietOn Smart Earplugs Are A Surprisingly Good Idea
The idea behind QuietOn’s smart earplugs is pretty simple, but it’s often the simple ideas that are the most effective. QuietOn puts active noise cancelling technology into a wireless pair of earplugs that are small enough to fit easily inside your ear. While most of us have probably used a good pair of noise cancelling headphones on flights at one point or another, they tend to be too bulky to get into a comfortable position to sleep.
QuietOn was tested as part of a program run by Finnish Airline Finnair, which let the company test its product with 60 passengers on board, getting their feedback afterwards.
The Indiegogo campaign price will set you back $US130 for a pair with their carry and charging case, while the post-campaign price is estimated to be around $US174. While it’s a little pricey — compared to a regular set of earplugs that’ll set you back a couple of dollars at most — the tech would be invaluable to those who fly often, or who have trouble sleeping in noisy environments. There doesn’t seem to be any lack of interest, either, with the Indiegogo campaign raising a huge 818% of its funding.
Performing any kind of surgery on the brain is already a tremendously difficult procedure, but removing only cancerous tissue is even more of a challenge because it’s very difficult to visually distinguish the good brain from the bad. But what if the scalpel in a surgeon’s hand could tell the difference between the two?
Researchers and engineers at the University of Hannover in Germany, and the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, have developed a smart scalpel that uses piezoelectric transducers on its tip to quickly tell if brain tissue is healthy or not.
It takes the modified scalpel, which looks like it has a miniature ping-pong ball on the end, just 400 milliseconds to distinguish between healthy brain tissue and the cancerous stuff using a very clever test. That tiny white sphere vibrates at an imperceptible rate causing any tissue it touches to vibrate as well. Cancerous tissue vibrates at a much different rate than healthy parts of the brain. The scalpel can distinguish between the different vibrations, and immediately provide both audio and visual feedback to the surgeon who’s wielding it.
This Smart Clothes Peg Proves We’ve Gone Too Far
Some things just don’t need to be smart. Pegs are one of those things. And yet Peggy is a smart peg that aims to um… help parents manage their laundry habits and ‘free up their time to enjoy outdoor play with their kids’. It’s really stretching the ‘smart’ concept.
Developed by OMO, the Peggy will monitor the weather — including temperature, humidity and precipitation and UV sunlight — and let parents know via WiFi when it’s the best time to do the washing. Which would be useful for people who actually have the time to be able to decide when they do their washing, who are also somehow incapable of looking outside to see if the weather is nice. It will also ‘formulate the approximate drying time of the user’s clothes’ and notify parents via a push notification. Okay.
The most baffling thing about all of this is that is supposedly will help parents find more time to play with their kids (it was developed in response to “new research which found that 94% of parents admit to not spending as much playtime with their kids as they would like”), as though knowing when to hang out and bring in your washing will somehow save you time in actually doing it. If you’re interested for some strange reason, you can register interest here.
Any home can be turned into a smart one. Or so we’re lead to believe. Almost every appliance you buy for your home today has a version that connects to the internet. From your coffee maker to your washing machine they can all ‘communicate with the cloud’ or offer an app that lets you interact with them, but does that really make your home a smart one?
Well, no, not really anyway. You’ll have a house full of connected smart devices but not a smart home. Not to mention, on their own, most of those devices offer little to no extra functionality over their unconnected ‘dumb’ counterparts.
Take the smart bulb for example. One of the most popular ‘smart home’ devices on the market today, the average smart bulb is connected to your home network allowing which in turn allows it to be switched on & off or scheduled to do so and perhaps dimmed. All of which can already be achieved, likely more efficiently too, by simply flicking a switch or investing in a $20 timing socket from your local hardware store.