Five gadgets to smarten up your home
Imagine having a robot mow your lawn. Or checking your fridge for milk from your phone. Or even using your fridge to book an Uber. Maybe it’s not all practical, but they are possible. And pretty darn cool. Smart technology products abound to help us with many tasks that we once could only dream about. Here's a list of five smart home products worth checking out.
Five gadgets to smarten up your home
1. Nest Learning Thermostat
No more playing with the thermostat. The Nest Thermostat automatically programs itself to help save energy. It learns about your house—how long it takes to warm up or how much of a draft there is—then adapts to help make your heating and cooling systems respond more efficiently. It also sends safety alerts if your AC breaks or your furnace isn't keeping up.
2. BeOn Smart Security Lighting
Outsmart burglars with this automated security and safety lighting system. It automatically records your lighting schedule then replays it when you're away. Programmed through your phone, BeOn also protects you during power outages with five hours of light through its built-in backup battery and emergency lighting during fire alarms.
3. Robomow Robotic Lawn Mower
Sit back and enjoy yard "work" with the Robomow. Akin to a Roomba, this robotic mower targets grass instead of dust bunnies. It travels independently around your yard to keep your lawn in check and runs automatically on a schedule you set. Because it's battery powered, it's quiet enough to run at night. There's a Robomow for every lawn size and (almost) any budget, and all can be controlled from your smartphone.
4. Amazon Echo
Ever wish you could ask your home to do stuff? With the Echo, you can. Through Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, the Echo is also your home automation assistant. Its built-in microphone connects you to Alexa so you can control nearly your entire home through voice commands as the number of Echo-compatible smart home products continues to grow. Alexa can link all of your devices so that all you have to do is tell her to stream music, play your favourite podcast, turn out lights, lock doors, set a timer—even order a pizza or book an Uber.
5. LG Smart InstaView Fridge
Make shopping lists and buying your fifth bottle of mustard a thing of the past. The InstaView's large touchscreen lets you track expiration dates, and turns translucent so you can see inside the fridge without letting out the cold, keeping your food fresher. It takes a picture of what's inside, so using the app, you can check what you need while at the store. You can also write notes, play music and browse recipes—which it reads aloud so you don't have to press the screen with messy fingers while cooking. Add to that, the InstaView integrates with Alexa (see point #4), which means you can use voice commands to do any of these tasks and more.
The world's first-ever smart hairbrush knows your hair better than you do. Forceful hair brushing can damage hair. This smart brush uses multiple sensors to identify your brushing patterns and feeds the data to a mobile app that also factors in weather. It then generates personalized brushing tips like using less force or conditioning more to better care for your hair.
This is but a sampling of what's available in the realm of home automation. If you can think of something in your home you'd love automated, chances are there's a product out there that does it...or there’s one in the works.
Simple tech hacks to make life better
Want to start 2017 off ahead of the game? Check out these simple hacks to use technology more efficiently and effectively. Here's to a new year of doing things better.
Six easy tech hacks to make your life better
1. Charge your phone faster
Your phone has drained down to three per cent battery and you don't have much time to wait for it to power back up. Now what? Set it to Airplane Mode. This will stop the battery drain that staying connected requires and will speed up the charging process. Also, if you have an iPad charger, use that more powerful charger instead of your iPhone one as it will help do the job quicker.
2. Download any video on YouTube
Funny cat videos, hair-styling tutorials, Psy performing Gangnam Style—YouTube is the place for watching all your favourite guilty pleasures. But did you know you can download videos on YouTube? Just type "ss" before the "youtube" part of a video's URL link. For example, www.youtube.com/watch becomes www.ssyoutube.com/watch. Choose from different file types and any resolution up to the original quality. Just make sure the videos you select aren't copyrighted.
3. Get quick articles summaries
Ever see a post and wonder if it's worthwhile to read the whole article? Use the free Chrome extension TLDR to summarize any web page, article or blog post on Google Chrome. TLDR stands for "too long; didn't read" and efficiently offers the gist of a story so you can decide if you want to take the time to read the whole article.
4. Delete online accounts
Think of how many online accounts you've opened over the years with various services and retailers. You're probably no longer using several and those companies shouldn't have access to your information anymore. Some websites make it easy to cancel an account, but others do the opposite. To guide you through severing online ties and remind you of outdated accounts, use Accountkiller.com or JustDelete.me to delete accounts from popular websites such as Skype and Hotmail.
5. Use less data with Google Chrome's Data Saver
Any way to save on data usage is a win. Google Chrome for mobile now lets you reduce data traffic and speed up browsing with Data Saver. Not only can you lower your cell phone bill, you can also load webpages faster on slow connections. But keep in mind that Data Saver doesn’t work on secure pages.
6. Sign up for free WiFi
Another easy way to save data is through Shaw Go WiFi, free for Shaw Internet subscribers. You can stream, download, post and email with unlimited access to more than 80,000 hotspots nationwide. Doing so can save you up to $50 per month on data*. Now that's a sure-fire way to make life better.
*$50 per month savings are based on leading competitors' cellular data plan charges and cellular data usage at a minimum of 6.1 GB per month.
Stretch your online shopping dollar
It's that time of year for holiday shopping and great online sales. But don't let it stress you out. Here are helpful hints so you take advantage of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. And don't fret if you miss them; these tips can help you save money, all of the time.
Stretch your online shopping dollar
Search for promo codes
Before checking out, Google for a promo or coupon code or use a coupon site like BargainMoose bargainmoose.ca. You can also sign up for a savings program like Honey Honey, which automatically applies the best coupon code at the checkout for you.
Avoid shipping fees
Shop at sites that offer free shipping or in-store pick up or, meet the minimum total to get free shipping. It's worth spending $10 more on socks than paying $8 just for shipping. And hey, now you have new socks!
Check refund policies
Check to see if you can return your purchase to a store to avoid return shipping fees and associated hassles. This is particularly helpful for clothing and shoe shopping, so you can buy a few sizes to make sure you get the right fit.
Cart items you're undecided about
Register on the sites you're shopping, and use the cart to store items you're not sure about. Sometimes companies will email you an offer to encourage you to purchase or alert you when the item goes on sale.
Follow your favourite brands on social media
Brands usually post on their social media accounts the latest deals and promos, and sometimes you can get special access or discounts just for following. Same goes for e-newsletters, which sometimes offer a discount for your first purchase.
Shop on reward sites
Use sites like ebates.ca to get free money simply for shopping online.
Weird, but Wonderful
Shop during off-peak hours
If you're a night owl, you can save big as many sites release their deals in the wee hours, Tuesday to Thursday. If you're watching for a particular item to go on sale, keep checking back during this window of time.
Ensure the site is secure
Only buy if the checkout area is secure and uses SSL encryption or similar. You'll know because there will be a little lock symbol next to its URL, and it will begin with https instead of http. You can also use payment services such as PayPal to ensure security of your payment information, plus they offer purchase protection as well as special deals of their own.