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loop-modular-tv.jpgWe've heard plenty about modular phones, like Google's Project Ara, but what about modular TVs? The world of the smart TV is changing so quickly that Loop decided to create a system to enable users to easily upgrade and customise their home entertainment systems themselves.

On their Indiegogo page, the team behind Loop explain that they were becoming frustrated with the limitations of smart TVs, as well as the broken promises of the big names in the industry, which is why Loop was created.

On a basic level, Loop is a display unit. But you're able to add any extra bits and pieces depending on what kind of entertainment system you're looking for, whether that's monster speakers, a webcam, a 3D screen or a dual processor central unit.

Not only can you customise Loop based on what kind of TV experience you want, but you can also customise the materials that are used and the extra components to ensure it looks just right in your living room, too.

Find out more about Loop on its Indiegogo page here.

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We've read a lot of articles over the past few months about drones being used by businesses to transport goods around instead of relying on a regular old human beings. For normal deliveries from Amazon or your local pizza place using drones seems a little OTT, but now San Francisco-based company QuiQui (that's pronounced quickie) is trialling drones that deliver important medications and prescriptions to customers at all hours of the day.

The drone trials will begin in the city's Mission District later this year and customers only need to fork out $1 to have their pills dropped to them. And when we say dropped to them, we're being quite literal. An accompanying app will alert customers when their medication is about 20 feet up in the air and they can confirm they'd like it to fall from the sky to their desired location.

QuiQui is hoping to raise even more funds to get a whole fleet of drones out in the wild to deliver potentially life-saving medication to patients as fast as possible.

Although it all may sound a little unnecessary and like something from Blade Runner, the deliveries could prove to save a lot of time, help those who are unable to get to their local pharmacy and even prevent medical emergencies.

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There are smart bulbs, TVs, kettles, ovens and plugs on the market, so we're hardly surprised that the SmartMat is now available to alert you of all the comings and goings inside your home.

Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the SmartMat works with a Wi-Fi connected sensor that can detect the weight of humans and pets. It sounds a little pointless at first, but there are a range of possibilities that you can programme into your mat, for example, having the TV turn on as soon as you walk through the door, being alerted when an elderly relative goes to leave or receiving a text when your dog is waiting to come back inside. Okay, so it's not life-changing stuff, but it is a useful addition if you're working on making your house as smart and connected as possible.

You can find out more about the SmartMat on Kickstarter and grab one for yourself for $75.

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It may have been beaten to the finish line by Philips, and more recently LG, but Samsung's first smart LED bulb has been unveiled and it's called, wait for it, the Smart Bulb.

It looks like other offerings but it's actually Bluetooth-only, whereas the bulbs from LG and Philips can also hook up to your WiFi network.

A Samsung press statement explains this is a move "eliminates the need for a bridge and wireless AP, enabling the user to connect and control it directly from a smartphone or tablet PC", but it also means users will need a Bluetooth hub in order to set up home automation - but there's no official word out yet about whether that'll be included with a set of bulbs.

The bulb can dim down and has a basic colour range from warm to cool white, so it's not trying to compete with the disco-like (and not to mention gimmicky) capabilities of the Philips Hue. Interestingly, Samsung has said that the Smart Bulb is likely to last ten whole years, but details about price and availability are yet to be unveiled.

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There are already loads of apps designed to make cooking, baking and experimenting in the kitchen easier than ever, so it's about time we had more gadgets that sync up with our apps in case we make a mistake. Drop is an iPad-connected scale and app combo that works with you to follow a recipe and changes the method on the fly if you add too much of one ingredient or not enough of another.

I have a very throw-it-all-in-and-hope-for-the-best attitude to baking, but some recipes really do require you to get the measurements 100% accurate, which gives amateur bakers like me very little wriggle room. Luckily the drop detects if you've made a mistake and lets you know how to adjust the other ingredients, the method and the cooking time to ensure it doesn't all end in disaster.

Drop also recommends alternative ingredients if you realise you're all out of something at the last minute, it tells you exactly when you should start preheating your oven and prompts you to take photos of your marvellous creations afterwards to share with your social networks.

Unfortunately the Drop team haven't released any solid details about when the scale and app will be available, but subscribe here for regular updates.

There's not long to go now until Mother's Day here in the UK (it's Sunday the 30th of March you terrible human being), so we've collected together some last-minute gift ideas for those in a panic about what to buy.

We know that not all mums are the flower-loving kind, but these Ted Baker cases provide your iPhone with a decent level of protection, as well as looking all cute and floral.

We've been trialling the Susu case (on the right) for the past few weeks and it's got us a tonne of compliments and survived a fair few (OK twenty) falls onto concrete.

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Ted Baker iphone cases from Proporta from £24.95.

We know, we know, buying many mums a fitness tracking bracelet might seem like a not-so-subtle hint that they need to get into shape, but we couldn't resist adding the all new Jawbone Up24 tracking bracelet to the list.

For those into health and fitness it's a mid-range option that will track your activity levels, steps and sleep, as well as providing you with motivational goals and tips throughout the day.

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Jawbone Up 24 from Amazon, Apple and John Lewis from £125.

If your mum likes coffee but just sticks with an old machine or (shock horror) the instant stuff, then you can pick up a decent and multipurpose machine from John Lewis for under £100.

We like this one from Lavazza, which allows you to create all kinds of hot drinks at the touch of a button and comes in bright red.

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Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Coffee Machine by AEG from John Lewis for £69.95.

If your mum isn't the type to stalk you online, then share what you've been up to with a personalised Instagram poster. Many companies allow you to create your own Instagrammable merchandise, but we like these simple (and fairly cheap) poster options from Firebox.

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Instagram Poster from Firebox for £19.99.

The second Jawbone product of the list, meet the Mini JAMBOX speaker. It's a pocket-sized, lightweight Bluetooth speaker that pairs with a range of devices and comes in a choice of bright colours.

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Jawbone Mini JAMBOX Speaker from the Apple store for £129.95.

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After launching its new Chromecast streaming dongle in the UK last week, Google has also unveiled a new app called Photowall, which turns a your TV into, you guessed it, a big wall of photos.

Chromecast users will be able to send their photos to their screens via an iOS app and an Android version is expected soon too. The app also allows people to collaborate, so they can send multiple photos that are then combined into a YouTube video.

Although there are similar apps already available, the seamless experience is bound to appeal in all kinds of situations, whether you're sharing snaps of your adventures at a family gathering or reliving a big, messy night out with friends while you're passed out on the couch.

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South Korean-based LG Electronics has launched its first foray into the connected lighting marketplace with its Smart Lamp.

The new smart lighting product is a direct competitor to Philips' awesome (yet kinda pointless) Hue bulb and allows users to control a range of different features directly from their iOS or Android device.

You can set the Smart Lamp up to flash when you get a call (in case your ringtone just doesn't cut it anymore) and sync up light pulsations to the beat of your favourite track. However, these gimmicky tricks don't really impress us as much as the security features, which enable you to turn the light on when you're out to deter burglars, as well as the alarm clock functionality, which means you're woken up by a gentle light as apposed to a piercing alarm clock.

The Smart Lamp is launching in South Korea for 35,000 won (that's about $32) at some point over the next few months, but there's no official word about when it'll reach US and UK markets.

ideal-home-show-big.jpgThis week the Shiny Shiny team were invited along to the Ideal Home Show at Earl's Court Exhibition Centre in London.

After hours getting lost in the maze of smart tech products, treehouses that looked like huge spiders and a sickeningly pink health and beauty section, we've managed to pick out just five things we learnt during the show.

Unlike big tech events there were no huge launches to shout about, but plenty of gadgets, exhibitions and accessories dedicated to making your life just a little bit easier.

1. Virgin Media wants to be the key to the connected home

Virgin Media put on a flashy show detailing all of the new products hitting the market that will bring us the smartest most connected homes imaginable. Of course the whole point was to prove how great Virgin's high speed broadband is, but that didn't stop us from being introduced to Jamie Oliver's HomeCooker that stirs itself and the team at WiFi Plug...

2. The WiFi Plug is a smart, simple and cheap way to control your home from your phone

As part of the Virgin Media demonstrator's performance about the connected home, the WiFi Plug played a key role because it's just such a simple but smart way of controlling what goes on inside your house. Simply purchase a WiFi Plug (or a dozen of them for even more control) and you can then decide when to turn it on and off remotely via a dedicated app and easy-to-use labelling system.

It sounds really basic but there are so many possibilities - controlling a fan from your bed, turning off the kid's TV after an hour, switching on a lamp at home while you're on holiday for a few hours to deter burglars... The list really is endless.

3. Tree houses are still really cool - even after you've grown up

quiet-mark-treehouse.jpgIf you visit the Ideal Home Show this year you'll see that The Quiet Treehouse is the star, towering above all over the exhibitors like some kind of giant, friendly spider. It's a pretty impressive structure in itself, but inside there's lots going on too. The treehouse has been made by a partnership between Quiet Mark and John Lewis to evolve our understanding of sound quality and development.

Sounds cryptic, right? Well Quiet Mark is a not-for-profit that aims to make the world a quieter, calmer place by reducing the noise of household tools and appliances and giving its universal symbol of approval for manufacturers who play by its quiet rules. John Lewis is getting involved because Quiet Mark will be deeming loads of the department store's electrical products as "ear-friendly" or something more technical.

The Quiet Treehouse itself was built specially to keep out the noise of the really busy trade show and achieved that in style, as the interior was kitted out with John Lewis furnishing and a tonne of amazing tech products.

4. Bose is still the boss when it comes to sound

bose-sound-link.jpgSeasoned Shiny Shiny readers may remember our encounter with the awesome Bose SoundLink Mobile Speaker back in 2011. Since then, the audio specialists have launched the SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III, an audio device that seamlessly pairs up with your phone via Bluetooth and lasts up to 14 hours on a single charge. We put the speaker to the test with the guys at Bose and were (kinda literally) blown away by the depth and clarity of the sound.

5. When your phone runs out of juice it really isn't the end of the world

Admittedly more of a gadget for on-the-go than in the home, Ye!!'s Energy Pocket has been around for a few months now. However, it's still a winner for fast recharging on-the-move as it's super light and pocket-friendly at 87g, packs enough power to charge your phone 1.5 times, and looks bright and colourful while it's at it.


light-wave-rf-big.jpgSystems that allow us to control the temperature of our homes from our phones have been gaining popularity over the past year and are no longer just fun toys for uber techy types, so it's no surprise we're seeing a whole load of new and exciting innovations in this space.

At Gadget Show Live in April, LightwaveRF is launching a new element to its range of smart home products, which will provide people with more control over their home's heating system than ever before.

The new Heating Range will allow people to monitor and control their heating systems by using a smartphone, a tablet or a PC wherever in the world they are. A few systems already allow this amount of control via remote devices, but LightwaveRF's latest release also gives home owners control over boiler on/off times, the temperature of individual rooms (and even individual radiators) and the temperature of designated "zones" within their homes too.

According to a press release from LightwaveRF, the products from the new Heating Range will be available from mid-summer 2014.

sammy-screamer-pink.jpgAs a kid I threw my mum's engagement ring between the cracks in some floorboards and it was never seen again. You could say I was an awful kid, or that I was just curious and wanted to get my hands on special things. Either way, a Sammy Screamer attached to my mum's jewellery box would have averted all kinds of expensive mishaps.

Created by a company called BleepBleeps, the Sammy Screamer is a kinda scary looking device that parents can attach to things in order to keep track of items within their homes.

So attach Sammy to a jewellery box, biscuit tin or cleaning products cupboard and if it's moved he screams and a push notification is sent through to your phone. When you buy Sammy he comes with the company's smartphone app - so you have complete control over volume, sensitivity and when he can start tracking.

BleepBleeps are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter for Sammy and he's already exceeded his goal by nearly four times - despite the fact he looks (and sounds) pretty terrifying, but we guess that's kinda the whole point.

Check out the BleepBleeps website for more useful colourful devices with faces - we like Tony Tempa, a temperature tracking gadget.

Tado Heating App Review - a warm reception!

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Whilst we've got used to upgrading our phones, computers and games consoles every couple of years, one piece of tech that always remains the same is the thermostat. I mean, why would you need to change it? Thermostats are boring, right?

Not any more - the Tado Heating App has just launched in the UK and it looks set to make your life a whole lot better.

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What Tado does is hook up your heating to your home internet connection - enabling you to control it using an app. But it does so much more too. No more freezing cold mornings, no more uncomfortable nights when you forget to turn the temperature down before you went to bed - and no more staring with bewilderment at that weird dial on the boiler to figure out how to make it switch on at the right time.

The Hardware and Installation

Tado has been around for a couple of years in Germany, but the latest version launching here is newly redesigned for the UK market. Inside the box there's a few different components: the Tado thermostat itself, a separate temperature monitor and a receiver unit that plugs into one of the wired ethernet slots on your home router (it doesn't use your normal wifi).

Obviously the biggest challenge is going to be installing it. Originally, the plan was for Tado owners to install it themselves - apparently 95% of owners in Germany were able to do it singlehandedly. The Tado people tell me though that they've changed their plans for the UK, and will be offering professional installation to buyers - apparently thermostats over here operate on a much higher voltage, thus increasing the risk of death if someone like me starts poking around with a screwdriver.

Once the difficult bit at the wall has been installed (probably by an electrician) setup is nice and easy. Simply login to the Tado website with the username and password provided in the box, plug the receiver unit into your router and it'll call home and guide you through the setup process.

What's really nice about what you get in the box is that they've thought of everything. Not only do you get provided with a current-detecting screwdriver (in case you do want to have a go yourself), but you even get tab stickers to label the wires in the wall with - so if you move house and want to take your Tado with you, you can put your old thermostat back on the wall with ease. The separate temperature monitor is a good idea too. The thermostat box does contain a temperature gauge in it - though obviously if your thermostat is right above your radiator then this isn't terribly useful. So you can put this extra device somewhere more representative of your overall room temperature.

What the Tado uses this for is for automating the temperature - switching the boiler off if your house is already warm, rather than pumping more heat in. Which is great for use in summer, or if you have, say, a fireplace that can heat the room but not talk to the boiler. (They haven't invented wifi log fire places yet, alas).

The App

tadoapp.pngSo that's how it's put together - but how does it actually work? When you've downloaded and installed the app on your iPhone or Android smartphone, you start by setting your optimal temperatures for daytime and night - and the hours in which you sleep. This means that without you having to do anything, Tado will know to let you sleep at a cool 16 degrees, before heating things up so you can eat breakfast at a toasty 22 celsius.

"But my boring thermostat can already do that", I hear you cry. But this is where things only get started.

Not only does Tado have the real time feedback of a temperature gauge in the device figuring out how warm it actually is, and not just what it should be - but thanks to the power of the internet, it knows what the weather is going to be like too. So if it's already going to be warm and sunny out, it won't waste energy on your boiler - but will let the sun do all of the hard work instead.

Even cooler than this (umm, pun not intended) is that because the app is running on your phone, you can enable presence detection. This means that Tado will know if your home or not - and if you're not it can turn the heat down to save both money and the environment. It's even clever enough to figure out when you're heading home and switch things up before you even step in the front door. And don't worry if you have multiple people in the house - simply install the app on everyone's phone and the Tado will make sure they don't freeze to death.

There's also controls to easily toggle manual mode, and you can even switch everything off for when you go on holiday - with the Tado keeping things at 5 degrees, so your pipes won't freeze.

It even gives you a breakdown of projected costs and savings on your heating bills. And you can even see your usage as some nice graphs. Great!

The app is super slick, works great, but isn't 100% perfect though. I found rather quickly that I had to switch the presence detection mode off as it was draining my iPhone 4S (the GPS arrow symbol never quite switched off fully). But I'm optimistic a fix to this can be found. What's absolutely crucial to remember is that a minor niggle like this can be amended through an update to the app - which is easy for Tado to do. The hard bit - connecting the thermostat to the internet - has already been done, and never needs to be messed with again.

The Verdict

So is it worth getting a Tado? Interestingly in the UK they're selling it in two ways: You can buy the kit outright for £249, or rent the kit from them for £6/month - with a "guaranteed £10/month savings" on bills. So confident are Tado that they'll even give you a refund if you're not getting these savings after a year.

Usually the price comparison is going to be with other devices - a normal thermostat is around £20... but... you've already got a thermostat. Is it really worth replacing?

I've give an emphatic yes. Not only is Tado a thoroughly accomplished product for something so new, but if you're anything like me then your mind is filling with possibilities. I'm personally hoping that they link up Tado with Ifttt.com - the enables you to cleverly link different services (eg, "if someone tags me on Facebook, download the photo to my Dropbox). Imagine if it'd be possible to hook up your Tado with your Belkin Wemo Motion Detector (also supported by Ifttt) - and use that to trigger the presence detection? Imagine if it could hook up with your Google Calendar, so could figure out exactly where you'll be and whether your house needs heating!

Thanks to Tado, thermostats have just got a whole lot smarter - and the possibilities are only just starting to heat up!

5 wifi gadgets to make your home smarter

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We're used to living in a world where we upgrade our phones, computers and TVs... but what about some of the more boring technologies around the house, that have been the same for years? Would you ever think to buy a new thermostat? Probably not - but maybe you should. Here's five top wifi gadgets to make your home more exciting.

light-up-pins.jpgWe're always looking for new ways to get jobs done more efficiently and force our lazy little brains into being as productive as possible, which is why we love these LED pins, because they light up when the job they're pinning needs to be completed.

Designed by Kim Sung Min, It's Time to Read Me is a pinboard concept, which allows you to pin important tasks and also set reminders about when in the day they need to be completed. However, instead of an annoying alarm, the pins will slowly light up.

It's just a concept idea for now, but it won the red dot award for best design concept, so fingers crossed it'll one day become a reality and make us all super productive and happy about getting on with our jobs. Well at least it can try...

[Via Like Cool]

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