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Deal Alert: Arlo Q (2-pack)

From time to time Netgear has been slashing prices on the Arlo line of cameras. Today is another one of those times with the Arlo Q going on sale.

When you think of Arlo cameras most think of the companies battery powered, one hundred percent wireless cameras. Well the Arlo Q is not one of those. It is a wired camera. The Arlo Q camera features 1080p video, night vision and seven days of cloud video storage.

While I am not a huge fan of the lock of the Arlo Q cameras this is a pretty good deal which will save you $72 off the price of the two pack. So if you have been looking at the Arlo Q cameras now might be a good time to jump on board.

arlo q

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Facebook Wants to Get Into Your Home

Facebook has tried its hand at hardware in the past with the Facebook Phone made by HTC which failed miserably. This time around Facebook wants to get into the home video calling game with the release of the Facebook Portal and the Facebook Portal Plus. I have to say that this might not be the best time for Facebook to release hardware that includes a camera, I am pretty sure we are all sick of hearing about what Facebook is doing with our data but never-the-less the Facebook Portal and Portal Plus are coming.

Now I am a fan of video calling, I was an early adopter of the Motorola Ojo ten plus years ago and use my Amazon Echo Show for video calling all the time so I am excited to see someone trying to crack this space. The Facebook Portal and Portal Plus actually have some interesting technology in them that could make them very useful but I still do not see them selling very well amid all of the privacy concerns we currently have.

Both the Facebook Portal and Portal Plus include what is being called a “Smart Camera” which is basically a camera that uses facial recognition and motion tracking to follow you around while you are on a video call. They also both have Amazon Alexa built-in allowing you to control your smart home, shop on Amazon or access any number of Skills for Amazon Alexa.

I am really interested to see how the Facebook Portal and Portal Plus do in terms of sales once released. I know I will not be getting one and I would like to think that amid all of the privacy concerns that have come up surrounding Facebook that many people would not but let’s be honest people will.

What about you, would you buy the Facebook Portal? Let me know in the comments below.

So You Want Your Wyze Cam Video in ActionTiles…

I have wanted to write this post for a while now but I just needed to first successfully integrate Wyze Cam video with ActionTiles on a Kindle Fire HD8. This has been a project that I have been putting off for some time for no reason other than laziness. I finally got my ass in gear and actually got this setup. While getting into the project of integrating video from Wyze Cam into ActionTiles I did a lot of reading online and there is a lot of information out there but also a lot of partial, and downright false information out there.  It is my hope that through my research you will benefit and I hope to simplify the process.

Requirements

Setting Up Your Wyze Cam

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is get your Wyze Cam(s) up and running. Wyze Labs has put a lot of work into the user interface and software setup process for getting your Wyze Cam(s) online and the process is as simple as:

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  • Download and open the Wyze App
  • Create or log into your Wyze Account
  • Press the + sign to add a device
  • Plug in your Wyze Cam
  • When the Yellow Light on the back of your Wyze Cam starts flashing, press and hold the setup button on the back/bottom of the Wyze Cam until you hear “Ready to Connectwcs-2
  • In the Wyze App select, I heard “Ready to connect” from the bottom
  • Enter your Wi-Fi credentials
  • Scan the QR Code displayed on your phone with the Wyze Cam
  • From the device, settings update the firmware of your Wyze Cam

Setting Up TinyCam Pro

  • Download and open tinyCam Pro
  • Select the + sign from the lower right corner of the app
  • Select “Add IP camera. NVR/DVR”
  • Select Wyze Labs under Camera Brand
  • Select WyzeCam or WyzeCam Pan (depending on the camera you have) from Camera model
  • Enter a name for your camera
  • Enter your Wyze account Username in the Username section
  • Enter your Wyze account Password in the Password section
  • If you are setting up more than one Wyze Cam (and already have one set up) select advanced settings and change the channel number
  • Select the back arrow at the top left of the screen
  • Select the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and select Live view
  • Ensure that you have video streaming from your camera
  • Select the hamburger menu again from the top left corner of the app
  • Select Settings and then Web server
  • In the Admin section select Password and enter a password
  • Check the Radio Icon next to Enabled in the Guest section
  • Select Password in the Guest section and enter a Password
  • Hit the back arrow at the top of the screen twice to go back to the main camera display of tinyCam Pro
  • Select the hamburger menu again
  • Turn on the Web server by clicking on the Radio Icon to the right of Web server
  • Make note of the IP Address and Port Number listed in the box that displays under Web server

 

ActionTiles Setup

  • Go to ActionTiles.com on a web browser
  • Click on “App Log In” in the upper right corner and log into your account
  • From the editor select the Panel that you want to edit
  • Add a Media Tile to the panel
  • Select Add Media
  • Give Your Media a Name
  • Enter the following URL (modified for your use case)
    • http://ipaddress_of_web_server:port/axis-cgi/mjpg/video.cgi?camera=1&user=guest&pwd=password_from_guest_section
  • Click SaveSelect the Radio Icon next to your newly created Media and select ADD

You should now have your Wyze Cam integrated with ActionTiles. I am doing this on a Kindle Fire HD8 that is wall mounted in my kitchen. I am also using that same Kindle Fire HD8 to run the tinyCam Web Server so for me there is no need for a sacrificial device just to run that.

Adding Wyze Cam video into ActionTiles takes another step in the direction of centralizing all of your smart home devices. For me, ActionTiles has replaced most of my smart home apps and the ones it has not replaced I am launching from within ActionTiles but that is the topic of a future post.

What are your thoughts about integrating Wyze Cam or really any video supported by tinyCam into ActionTiles? Have you done it? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Amazon Echo Show Gets a Browser

An update for the Amazon Echo Show has started rolling out which adds a web browser, and support for routines. A web browser for the Echo Show has been a requested feature almost since the Echo Show launched so it is nice to see Amazon acting on this. For giggles, I tried YouTube and it appears to be working which is nice since we lost YouTube some time ago.

As with most all of Amazon Device updates this is most likely a staged rollout although you should be able to force the update by navigating to Settings > Device Options > Check for Updates from the Echo Show.

What are your plans for browser use on the Amazon Echo Show? Let me know in the comments below.

The Google Home Hub is Official

We have seen a fair number of leaks over the last few weeks with speculation about the Google Home Hub, well yesterday it was officially announced and should be a pretty good smart display contender.

While I have not been a fan of Google’s Voice Assistant for a while now (even though I do keep a Google Home Mini up and running) I have to admit the Google Home Hub is a very nice offering from the company. From what I have seen it looks better than the third-party Google Assistant powered smart displays from Lenovo and JBL. I also think that Google can give Amazon a run for its money with this one because of its very attractive $150 price point.

The Google Home Hub will be available on October 22nd with pre-orders going live yesterday on the Google Store and Best Buy. I for one can not wait to get my hands on one and see how it fairs especially when compared to the new Amazon Echo Show.

Stay tuned for a review of the Google Home Hub after it is released later this month.

Deal Alert: Amazon Echo Show Wyze Cam Bundle

Today while doing my normal browsing through Amazon and adding and removing the new Amazon Echo Show from my cart I noticed that they have a package that included an Amazon Echo Show and a Wyze Cam for only $5 more. I have been on the fence about picking up the new Echo Show since it was announced but I have always been a big fan of Wyze Cam so seeing this bundle peeked my interest and tipped the scale in favor of actually placing the pre-order.

I love the integration between my current Echo Show and my Wyze Cams and use it almost every day. While I really do not have a need for another Wyze Cam I really do not see the harm in picking one up for only $5 more than what I was going to spend on an Echo Show.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD8 Gen7 Gets Rooted

It should come as no surprise that the Amazon Kindle Fire HD8 has found a nice niche as a wall mounted control center for many SmartThings and ActionTiles users over the years. They have always been affordable and had enough power to do most of what we wanted them to do. One thing however that we have not been able to do reliably due to firmware updates from Amazon is root the Seventh Generation fo the Kindle Fire HD8. Sure you could sideload the Google Play Store and get by with the apps that you could get to install but truly having root access had escaped us and left us somewhat crippled because with root there is just so much more we can do. Well, today that changes as an XDA user who goes by the handle <br /> has come up with and published Hardmod Root a guide for rooting the Seventh Generation Kindle Fire HD8.

Now you might be saying, why should I care about the Seventh Generation HD8 when the Eight Generation HD8 is available? Well in case you did not already know the Eight Generation HD8 does not exactly add anything mind-blowing and prices on the Seventh Generation HD8 are only going to get better. With the hardware differences being minimal why not jump on the previous generation and have yourself a tablet that you can customize as much as you want?

Now, all that aside rooting the Seventh Generation Kindle Fire HD8 is no small feat as this is a hardware modification and not something that can simply be done with software. From <br />’s XDA post the general steps involved:

  1. Preparation – Gather the materials, build an SD card adapter, etc.
  2. Disassembly – Take the tablet apart and turn over the motherboard
  3. Hardware Modifications – Soldering the SD card adapter to the board
  4. Communication – Getting the device to talk to your computer
  5. Software Modifications – Installing SuperSU by hand
  6. Testing and Cleanup – Checking for root, removing the SD card adapter, reassembly.

I am generally okay with going this as it is inexpensive hardware and I have been working with electronic components for some time and not seeing anything here that would cause any major hurdles. That being said if this sounds a bit scary to you and you are not comfortable with a soldering iron you may want to skip this. But if you do feel up to the challenge head over the XDA and read the full instructions.

I for one am excited about this and can not wait to get a Seventh Generation Kindle Fire HD8 rooted. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Amazon Updates the Alexa App

Amazon put a fresh coat of paint on the Alexa App for both Android and iOS with in my opinion a big emphasis on home automation and control. While this new design does not add any revolutionary functionality it is absolutely a nice refresher and makes things easier to use for controlling your home.

The first thing you will notice in the updated Alexa App is that the Smart Home section is missing from the hamburger menu. When I first launched the new app I was confused right away. I had seen screenshots of what the smart home section of the new app looked like and eagerly wanted to see it but could not find it. Fear not because the Smart Home section now has its own icon on the main launcher bar at the bottom of the Alexa App. Clicking on the house in the lower right corner brings you to your devices and from here you can access all of your Smart Home devices as well as your Echo & Alexa devices, your groups, and your Smart Home Skills.

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Once in the new Devices section of the Alexa App, you will immediately notice that your Smart Home Devices are categorized and represented by icons at the top of this page. This is a huge improvement over the long list of devices you used to have to scroll through which could be very cumbersome once you get north of fifty devices. What I do not like however is that Amazon determines what groups things go into and while most of the time this will not be an issue, I would like the ability to change group assignments. As it stands right now you can only change the device type on certain categories of devices, I am hopeful that in future revisions of the Alexa App Amazon will add this functionality and continue to improve upon the base that it has built.

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Clicking into a category in the Alexa App brings you to an almost card based list of your devices. This page reminds me a lot of the Google Now app when it first launched only with a dark theme. The more I think about it it is also a lot like the Phillips Hue App in the way it lays out your devices which is nice as I would love for nothing more than a predetermined theme and layout guidelines for mobile apps so that everything has a similar look and feel but that will never happen.

One thing I have noticed since updating to the latest version of the Alexa App is that some of my devices are showing as offline which is not the case when I look at them in SmartThings so I will have to play around with that and see what I come up with. I have actually been meaning to remove all of my devices from Alexa and start fresh for some time so this might be what puts me over the top. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the devices that are showing offline as they span multiple categories and some of them are even virtual devices in SmartThings so not sure how a virtual device would be offline. This is a very fresh app redesign that appears to be a major overhaul so I guess some issues are to be expected and I am sure I will get them ironed out quick enough.

What I really like about the new design and Smart Home focus of the Alexa App is that speaker groups are also more prominently displayed and accessible right from the same device page. No more having to jump to different sections of the app depending on what you were trying to set up. Having everything device related in one section really does make the Alexa app easier to use and makes managing your devices and setting up your Smart Home easier.

I am a big fan of dark themed apps. While I liked the true black used in the last Amazon Alexa App this newer greyish black is nice as well. I probably would have worked in some true black perhaps as a secondary color in the card style device lists but I am in no way a UI design person and can only talk from what I think I might like. I do commend Amazon on sticking with the dark theme however and that is something that I wish more companies would do. I mean do any of you actually like looking at white screens?

Overall I am excited about the new Amazon Alexa App. While the Alexa App is not something I use much and I think that is probably the case for most people it is nice to see Amazon still putting time into polishing it up nicely and giving us a refreshing look at it.

What are your thoughts about the new Amazon Alexa App? Let me know in the comments below.

Product Review: SmartThings Motion Sensor (2018)

Continuing along with the fresh revisions to the SmartThings line of accessory devices, today we are going to be taking a look at the newly redesigned SmartThings Motion Sensor. The old SmartThings Motion Sensor was pretty ugly and I was excited to see a refreshed version become available. Let’s take a look at the new SmartThings Motion Sensor and see if it is a valid contender in the motion sensor market.

good

  • As with all of the new SmartThings releases, the price is excellent
  • Modern design
  • Flexible mounting options

bad

  • Size
  • Only monitors temperature and motion

If you look at the old SmartThings Motion Sensor the first thing you will notice is that it is a square box. Why someone would think that was good design is beyond me. Well, I am happy that while still squarish the new SmartThings Motions Sensor is much better looking than the previous generation. I was however very shocked at the size of the SmartThings Motion Sensor when I took it out of the box. From looking at the box it gave me the impression that it was going to be small, well it’s not so I guess I will have to get over that. The rounded corners and flowing lines on the SmartThings Motion Sensor give it a much more modern and less boxy look than its predecessor which is very nice and makes the SmartThings Motion Sensor something that if you can get over the size of should fit nicely into your home.

stm-4

Another big pitfall of the previous generation SmartThings Motion Sensor was mounting, because of its box design and no thought going into pretty much any of it you were stuck mounting it flat against a wall. I am happy to see that Samsung corrected that with this release and the SmartThings Motion Sensor now comes with a magnetic ball mount that is very flexible and allows for just about any mounting accommodations you can think of. The only complaint that I can come up with in terms of mounting would be that I wish the base had a screw hole in it allowing for you to screw it into something instead of relying solely on double-sided tape.

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As with just about any Zigbee sensor setup in the SmartThings App was pretty straightforward and my hub picked it up right away. I went into this kind of blind intentionally and was surprised once I had the SmartThings Motion Sensor set up to find out that it only monitored motion and temperature. Now that is not so much a complaint because I would have easily found that information out from the packaging but I decided not to. As I mentioned when I opened the box I was surprised to see just how big the SmartThings Motion Sensor was so in the back of my head I just had this idea that there would be additional sensors onboard, perhaps something to monitor lux or humidity? Again I can not hold this against anyone as there are no claims of additional sensors in this device and I guess I was hoping there was just to that I could justify the size.

The SmartThings Motion Sensor triggers pretty fast and resets quickly as well. The actual sensor on the SmartThings Motion Sensor is mounted in a recess in the casing design and this recess appears as though it gives the SmartThings Motions Sensor a fairly large field of view which is what I attribute its ability to pick motion up fast too. I found that the motion reset was about 20 seconds which was nice as most motion sensors are in the 30-second range. I do however wish that this reset could be customizable like I have on my Fibaro Motion Sensor as having this flexibility opens up so many more use cases when it comes to automation and not just security.

Overall Rating

four-star

The 2018 revision of the SmartThings Motion Sensor is a night and day improvement over the previous generation without a doubt. It looks more modern and performs very well, if you can get over the size of it (which I can not) then you should absolutely consider the SmartThings Motion Sensor for your application.

Is anyone using the 2018 revision of the SmartThings Motion Sensor? Let me know in the comments below.

Amazon Alexa Multi-Room Audio Groups Are Getting Better

Last night while playing around on my phone killing some time before bed I decided I would finally set up some audio groups with my Amazon Echo devices. I had started to do this when the feature first became available but quickly abandoned it because I could not add an Amazon Echo to more than one group which I felt really crippled the functionality.

Well after playing around a little bit I found that now you can have an Amazon Echo in more than one group. Well sort of. I can not figure out why because all of my Echo Devices are all on the latest firmware but I was not able to add all of them to multiple groups only some and I can not find any rhyme or reason to it.

I decided to do a little bit of searching on the internet and came up with nothing and quickly got distracted by something shiny which lead me down another rabbit hole that eventually landed me on Reddit. While on Reddit scrolling through my feed, I noticed that someone else had posted stating that they too could add an Amazon Echo to multiple groups so I again got back onto that.

I still can not explain why only some of my Echos can be added to multiple groups, my only guess is that it is a slow rollout and eventually all of my devices will have this ability. But after playing around for a bit I was finally able to get some Multi-Room Audio Groups that I am happy with. Why on earth the ability to have an Echo in more than one group was not a feature from the first implementation of groups is still beyond me but at least this is a sign of this functionality coming.

Has anyone else found that they can add an Amazon Echo to more than one Multi-Room Audio Group? Let me know in the comments below.

Product Review: MantisX

Before we get into to this, let me preface this by stating that I am a responsible law-abiding gun owner and believer in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. I will be talking about guns and gun accessories in this article and if these topics will offend you please stop reading now and check out some of my other articles.

Today we are going to be taking a look at the MantisX Firearms Training System. Right about now you might be asking yourself what does the MantisX Firearms Training System have to do with IoT? Well, that’s simple the MantisX is a Bluetooth connected sensor system that uses its sensor data communicated to your mobile device to aid in training shooters of all experience levels. Throughout this review we are going to talk about how the MantisX works, shot detection, the size, weight, and performance of the MantisX as well as the MantisX app and available accessories.

good

  • Live fire shot detection is very accurate
  • The app is very well designed
  • Accessories are available to use the ManitisX on various firearms

bad

  • Dry fire shot detection could use some work to eliminate false shot detection from racking the slide
  • The App should display battery life of the MantisX

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As mentioned the MantisX is a small sensor-driven, Bluetooth connected shot trainer that mounts to any accessory rail on a firearm. The sensors inside of the MantisX detect muzzle movement just before, during and after each shot that it registers and assigns a score to each one as well as tells you what it thinks is the cause of the movement. Sounds a little hard to believe right? I was skeptical at first but as I used the MantisX I learned so much about my shooting technique that I do not know how I would have done so without it. I have never considered myself a great shooter, I mean I could hit a target and get okay groupings but I was by no means an expert. After using the MantisX, I am still not an expert but I did gather enough data to increase the accuracy and repeatability of my shooting.

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Getting the MantisX up and running is pretty simple, this should be evident by the small instruction card that comes with it. You simply mount the ManitisX to your firearms accessory rail, turn it on, download the MantisX app on your smart device and connect hit connect. You should be up and running in a matter of minutes. Now you might be wondering at this point, what if my firearm does not have an accessory rail? Well, you have some options here, Mantis has a lot of accessories available for the MantisX including many “MagRail” adapters that replace the magazine baseplate on many popular firearms magazines or this is also a good excuse to purchase a new firearm! In any case, you should still be up and running in a matter of minutes.

I was planning on using the MantisX on my full-sized 1911 which does not have an accessory rail so I decided to go with the Wilson Combat 1911 47D MagRail Adapter and mount the MantisX to that. This worked well and required me to make no modification to my firearm which I liked. The downside to this is that you are stuck with using one magazine which any shooter will tell you can make for a long range trip. You could purchase multiple MagRail adapters but that would still require you to move the MantisX on reloads so that is not really an option. I did know this going in and it is not the fault of Mantis that I was using the MantisX on a firearm without an accessory rail so I can not knock them for it but it did, however, limit some of the predefined drills I could do in the Mantis app as some require reloads. I big positive about going the MagRail route, however, is that most holsters that will accommodate your firearm will most likely not accommodate your firearm with an accessory mounted on them, using the MagRail however you can train and complete the exercises in the Mantis app that require firing from a draw.

The first exercises I did with the MantisX are what most people probably will do and were dry fire. Now it is important to note that in the settings menu of the MantisX you need to set it properly to live fire, dry fire or co2 or it will not even come close to picking up your shots accurately. It is very nice to see these options as I assume they change the sensitivity of the sensors in the MantisX. I was surprised right away that while I was dry-firing the MantisX was actually picking up my shots accurately and I also found that hey I am not a bad shooter as my scores were decent. I do need to mention however that I did experience some false trigger pull readings while racking my slide but they were few and far between so whatever algorithms Mantis is using inside the MantisX or the app, they are working as intended.

Next, I headed out to the range and switched to live fire. Remember after dry fire training when I said: “hey I am not a bad shooter as my scores were decent?” Well, forget that because things changed quickly in live fire mode. This is where I was really sold on the MantisX, it was picking up every shot and telling me what I was doing wrong. I could easily see repeatable patterns of mistakes and when I corrected those mistakes I could see the mistakes that those corrections were causing.

Using the MantisX you have access to a lot of real-time data about what you are doing right and wrong, but you also have historical data that you can plot over time to see where your shooting is going and what steps you need to make to correct issues. the MantisX app does a great job of not only displaying the information that it gathers from the MantisX but also telling you what you may be doing wrong and giving you pointers on how to correct it. As you will surely know if you are a regular reader, I love data and think you can never have too much of it and I also spend way to much time extrapolating that data. Well, in this case, Mantis is doing all of that extrapolation for me and because of the way that data is presented all I have to do is analyze and adjust accordingly. How do we get more connected device companies to take a similar approach to data?

Now when I had originally ordered the MantisX I was concerned that I would be putting this big bulky accessory on my firearm and it would screw up my shooting. I had read several reviews that claimed the opposite and that the MantisX was small and light but when I received the MantisX and got it out of the package I was still shocked by just how small, light and unimpressive looking it was. This was actually pretty impressive to me because it showed just how much thought went into the design of the MantisX which is another lesson connected device manufacturers could learn from Mantis. Add to the design the fact that the ManstisX is USB rechargeable and averages roughly five hours of battery life and you have yourself a small but impressive device.

Overall Rating

five-star

The MantisX is getting the first and probably the last five-star rating that I will give out for a while. Like a 100 score in MantisX, a five-star rating is next to impossible but in this case very well worth it. The Mantis team has put forth an amazing product that can help shooters of all skill levels and made it connected which speaks to two of my passions, connectivity, and firearms. The MantisX delivers on every promise that it makes and is only getting better as time goes on through app updates and added training programs in the mantis app. If you are a shooter of any skill level and want to get better as well as adding another connected device to your collection then I would highly recommend the MantisX.

Anyone using the MantisX Firearms Training System? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Amazon Alexa Skill Connections

In what is certainly an interesting development, Amazon is working on a way to allow Alexa Skills to “communicate” to each other. The new feature called Skill Connections is being previewed by developers and should allow users to perform actions across multiple skills seamlessly.

Currently, in the developer preview of Skill Connections, developers can integrate printing, restaurant reservations, and taxi reservations into their skills with the serves for those being provided by Open Table, Uber and HP. Theoretically, let’s say you want to go out to dinner, you could have Alexa book you a reservation through Open Table and book you an Uber. You could do this as two separate actions but wouldn’t it be better if you only had to talk to one skill? Alexa, already knows where you are going to dinner because OpenTable booked your reservation so why should you have to tell a sperate Uber SKill where you are going? With SKill Connections hopefully, soon you won’t.

Now, this is all well and good and I have to say I am excited about it but I really want to see where this goes when it is opened up to more than just printing, booking reservations and printing. How could we use this in our every day connected lives to make our voice commands do more for us? That is what I really want to see.

Skill Connections really is a big step for Amazon and I think when this rolls out and is open to more services we could see some interesting development that could truly revolutionize connectivity and voice control.

What would you do with Skill Connections in your connected life? Let me know in the comments below.

Phillips Hue Gains Siri Shortcuts

With the release of iOS 12 Apple users got a reason to start using Siri again in Shortcuts. In short, Siri Shortcuts allow you to use Siri allows you to perform tasks across multiple apps easily from the dedicated Shortcuts App or by assigning custom trigger phrases for Siri.

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Siri Shortcuts opens up a new level of usefulness (was there any usefulness before?) for Siri and Phillips Hue is taking advantage of that an adding support for Siri Shortcuts in their latest app update. This will allow users to set Phillips Hue lighting scenes by using custom triggers and also allows for Siri to “learn” when scenes are used to that she can prompt the user on there iPhone or Apple Watch when it is time to turn that scene on. It is important to note however the integration between Phillips Hue and Siri Shortcuts will require that you are using the Gen 2 Phillips Hue Smart Hub (the square not the circle).

I have always been an Android user but certainly, appreciate some of the technology that Apple brings and Siri Shortcuts is a very nice addition. This sounds a lot like what Amazon is trying to do with Alexa Hunches so over time it should be interested to see the comparison.

Have you tried Siri Shortcuts with Phillips Hue? Let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.

Deal Alert: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

Amazon is giving its kid-focused devices some love this week. First, we saw the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 10 Kids Edition get a discount and now continuing on that the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is getting its own discount. For an Echo Dot that is essentially just in a rubber case I still think the Echo Dot Kids Edition is overpriced but if you are in the market for an Echo Dot that may be a bit more rugged then perhaps this is the deal for you.

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Amazon Silently Releases the Fire TV Stick 4K

Didn’t we just have an event where Amazon announced everything that we should be expecting in the near future? I thought so too but I guess that was not all as yesterday Amazon released the Fire TV Stick 4K. This is nice to see as I think more media needs to switch to 4K content so having a streaming device in this price point that can deliver fills a nice hole. From the Amazon listing for the Fire TV Stick 4K, the specs seem to be pretty much the same with the exception (as the name suggests) of 4K video support and Dolby Atmos. But if you look closely you will notice that the remote looks a bit different. In addition to the buttons, we are used to seeing you have a dedicated power button and volume controls which could make for a nice control package. This got me looking a bit further and discovered that the Fire TV Stick 4K has the ability to control devices it is connected to, assuming they are supported. This should work much like the Amazon Fire TV Cube which I have been very happy with.

I am pretty excited about the Fire TV Stick 4K as I have a television that I need better control over that only has a Fire TV Stick connected to it. Unfortunately for me that television does not support 4K so I will not be taking full advantage of the Fire TV Stick 4K but I still think I may upgrade just for the device control aspect.

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After a little more digging I found the all-new Alexa Voice Remote with power and volume controls also available for preorder so it looks like I simply need to upgrade my remote and not my whole Fire TV Stick. The new Alexa Voice Remote is compatible with the 3rd Generation Amazon Fire TV and the 2nd Generation Amazon Fire TV Stick.

 

Product Review: Heath Zenith Notifi Elite

It is not secret video doorbells are big business, just look at the players involved, Amazon, Google, and Netgear just to name a few. While video doorbells from these company are easy enough to get into consumers hands because of the brand recognition they have, they are more difficult to get into the construction trade. Heath Zenith, however, has a huge stronghold on the construction trade and I think they can use that to deliver there Notifi Elite Video Doorbell in the new home market. In my opinion, the days of traditional doorbells are numbered and everyone will be moving to connected versions and the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite can help get the trades involved in building new houses on board.

good

  • The nice squishy feel of the button
  • Thirty Day Cloud Recording
  • Sound Quality

bad

  • Unusually thick
  • Shiny black face shows fingerprints very easily
  • Only 720P Video

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The Heath Zenith Notifi Elite has the potential to make a big impact on video doorbell adoption mainly because of the Heath Zenith name. I think Heath Zenith recognized this and is trying to capitalize on their relationships with the construction trades before any of the other players in video doorbells has a chance to gain that foothold. I think the Heath Zenith did that however by putting as little technology as possible into the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite. Now that is not to say that the Heath Zenith Notfi Elite does not do what it claims to do as it absolutely delivers on everything it lists on its package but there is a discernible lack of polish to not only the design and build quality but also the UI in the smartphone application.

Installing the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite is very similar to any other video doorbell system, simply replace your existing “dumb” wired doorbell with the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite and install a small power pack at your doorbell chime. So this brings me to the first thing that is important to note, you will need an existing wired doorbell to install the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite. If you have a wireless doorbell system or no doorbell system at all you will either need to install one (which could be very challenging post construction) or find other options. Now I do not really disagree with this however as I feel that battery-powered video doorbells have enough downfalls in terms of performance and reliability that they are just not worth considering as a solution but it certainly does limit the market of the Heath Zenith Notfi Elite as an aftermarket solution.

In my testing I found the video quality and field of view of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite to be adequate at best. The decision to-go with a 720p image sensor may have been a mistake as 1080p really should be the standard for all video products. That being said one can easily make a comparison between the quality of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite and the Ring Video Doorbell with the Ring Video Doorbell getting the upper hand as it can be installed wirelessly.

When it comes to two-way communication, however, I think the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite may have the upper hand against the other video doorbells in the price point. As I mentioned in the video above the speaker grill on the face of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite is unusually large which leads me to believe that we have a decent sized small speaker inside which would also explain the size of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite.

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Looking at-the box for the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite it appears to-be a nice looking video doorbell but that quickly ends once you open the package. The size of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite is just uncalled for especially the thickness. From the glamour shot on the front of the box, it is hard to tell just how large the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite and I can only attribute the size of it to the perhaps less expensive components use. A perfect example of this is the PIR motion sensor is it comically large, in-fact, almost every component visible on the front of the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite is bigger than it needs to-be and is also bigger that what should be the star of the show, the camera.

Overall Rating

two-half-star

Overall I thing the Heath Zenith is an underwhelming video doorbell made by a company that just does not know connected devices and how to make them. However, I think the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite will make a splash in the video doorbell marketplace simply because of Heath Zenith and the relationships with home builders that they have. I am torn by this because I hate to see a subpar product on the market but if it gets connected devices into the hands of home builders it can have an impact on the category’s and exposure that video doorbells and home automation have.

Has anyone used the Heath Zenith Notifi Elite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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