I’ve been following the mobile industry for some time now. For many years, it was as an average consumer, but since I started writing, I’ve been keeping an eye on the trade show circuit, attending events like CES, CTIA Super Mobility Week, InterDrone, and more.
The connected devices available these days are pretty fantastic from a nerd’s point of view.
Last month, I received a couple of packages from some of the companies featured at CTIA and this is a breakdown of some of the new tech I got to play with and test, along with a few of my favorite gadgets.
1. NuNet 720p-IR LED Light Bulb Camera ($149.99 on Amazon)
A recently-divorced friend of mine was looking for a cheap security camera setup in case her ex-husband decided to show up at her house and get crazy. While researching solutions, I came across this 720p camera in a lightbulb from NuVending (I was contacted for being on the Super Mobility media list).
I was initially skeptical about the quality of the camera, but it turned out to be a very crisp video output, whether in low-light black & white, infrared nightvision, or with the light turned on, displaying full-color HD video.
Unfortunately for my friend, the bulb sockets outside her home are too low to use this bulb as a security camera as it points down and would only catch children at the front door. It does include an extension arm that would fix the problem, though it would obviously look like a camera, and at that point, it’s easy-to-reach location wasn’t ideal.
However, once I setup the app on my PC, tablet, and Android phone, I was able to access it on both my WAN and over an Internet connection. This makes the gadget a very useful piece of spy gear (especially if you’re ok with skirting local laws, which may not allow audio/video recording without prior consent, regardless of the reason).
I also found that by plugging the camera bulb into a desk lamp, it makes for a useful webcam and will soon be using it to record podcasts. The only downside is the audio recording wasn’t that great, and I’ll need an external microphone to record quality videos.
Here’s a quick video test without audio to show you the quality. Try to ignore how disheveled I am in it – I live in a van, work from home, and don’t typically show up on camera without a little prep. I’ll do almost anything for science though…
You’ll notice there’s no blur, even with me moving my head around quickly, and you can tell my teeth are smoke-stained and yellowing. Nice quality on the device, though I could use a little work.
2. SlimPort Nano Console ($50 on NanoConsole.com)
Android owners are used to using MHL connectors to mirror their Android phone on a TV through an HDMI connection, whereas Apple fankids are familiar with DisplayPort.
In between the two is SlimPort, a micro-USB conversion to not only HDMI, but also DVI and other popular video connectors, including DisplayPort. This make the technology useful to have to ensure universal compatibility.
Found mostly in Google’s mobile phones, SlimPort is a useful technology, as it doesn’t drain the phone’s battery in order to display 4k Ultra HD 2160p video on your TV.
The Nano-Console not only includes SlimPort technology, but it can hold and charge your phone while doing it, making it a great addition to any home entertainment center. You can also connect a laptop through the extra HDMI port to extend your TV’s ports.
Connection is easy, and once paired with the bluetooth remote, you’ll be able to control your Android phone from across the room. The device is fast enough to enable gaming or watching a movie (so long as your phone can handle it), and with a paired Bluetooth gaming controller, the Nano-Console is easily comparable to any Android-powered TV or gaming device.
3. Nucharger PB13 13000 mAH Power Bank ($42.99 on Amazon)
I travel quite a bit throughout the year, and keeping my mobile technology running while on the road is easily one of the biggest issues I have.
To alleviate the problems, I have several solar panels (one 100w/12v panel attached to my van, and a couple smaller, more portable panels to carry while away from my vehicle) and external batteries to ensure I’m never without a charge.
The problem I found is most power banks (such as my IBattz 20400 Optimus) include, at best, a single 2-amp USB charging port, along with a 1-amp port. This isn’t enough to charge my tablet (unless it’s powered off, and even then, it’s slow), and can barely handle the mobile phone.
Thankfully,the Nucharger PB13 has a 3-amp port, which is finally enough to not only charge my tablet, but charge it while using it. The PB13 also includes a bluetooth headset, but, since I’m not a complete douchebag, I don’t use it.
If you’re looking for a solution to charge a high-powered tablet, check the output amps on the device specifications before purchasing. USB cables are all much different than they look, and the data transfer rates and power transfer capabilities are vital to their functionality.
You can’t just buy some generic crap at the gas station and expect it to work.
4. Alfa Network AWUSO36NH USB WiFi Adapter ($29.99 on Amazon)
Last month I built a custom computer rig that’s both portable and capable of handling virtual reality. I also had to ensure it’s capable of dual-booting and handling packet injection, since I’ll be travelling quite a bit with it.
The Alfa AWUSO36NH turned out to be exactly what I needed, providing multiple antennas and a clip to attach it to a laptop.
Not only do I get great connection speeds both indoors and outdoors, but finding a Wi-Fi connection is easier than ever. The only downside is the constant flashing blue light, which inhibits melatonin production.
So, be sure to unplug this device before passing out if you want a good night’s sleep.
5. Diamond Multimedia FXR100 File Transfer Adapter ($25.99 on Amazon)
If you’ve ever migrated data from one computer to another, you’re aware it can be a pain in the ass. There are several ways to do it, and which method you choose largely depends on the equipment available.
This USB transfer cable from Diamond Multimedia is a tool that’s come in handy on more than a few occasions for me.
One issue I’ve come across since using mobile computing solutions like tablets in the last few years is you can’t just plug a Windows tablet into a PC and transfer data like you can with Android. Also, moving information between a laptop and desktop can be cumbersome and time consuming.
While it’s possible to transfer the data to an external hard drive or memory card, then copy on to the new machine, this USB transfer cable cuts that effort in half.
Although it’s only USB 2.0, data transfer speeds are acceptable.
Simply plug each end into the USB port of the computers you wish to transfer data to/from, and allow the drivers to be installed. This will create a LAN between the two computers and allow for easy data transfer between both machines.
6. NuNet Speaker/LED Color Bulb ($39.99 on Amazon)
Bluetooth speakers and mood lighting can completely change the ambiance of a room. Putting both into one gadget makes for an interesting experience.
Not all of us can afford to outfit our entire home with smart gadgets, but there are a few items that can transform a house, and these speaker bulbs are among them.
With the ability to connect and sync up to 15 bulbs on one device, you can cheaply install a decent surround sound audio system in your home using just these bulbs.
The sound quality is on par with any other bluetooth speaker on the market, and an app to control the bulb is available for both iOS and Android.
Using these bulbs in conjunction with a NanoConsole syncs your TV, lights, and sound through your smartphone or tablet, creating any atmosphere you want. If you’re throwing a party, the lights can be synced with the music to change colors along with the song, though the feature is a little glitchy.
I initially was more impressed by the light bulb camera, but after spending some time using each in real-world scenarios, this speaker bulb is easily one of my favorite IoT gadgets on the market today and a sign of great things to come.
7. Samsung Gear 2 Smartwatch ($199.99 on Amazon)
I love smartwatches – even when I was a kid, I always had some sort of calculator or video game watch. Comparing the tech from back then (late 80’s to early 90’s) with what’s available now makes me wish I were born a couple decades later.
With an Android-powered watch synced to your smartphone, you can control much of the cool IoT stuff listed here from your wrist. These smartwatches are also capable of running video game emulators and a calculator program, making them the pinnacle of technological excess.
I picked this watch up from CTIA Super Mobility Week in late September, but didn’t get a chance to actually start playing with it until late last month. I’ve ghostwritten a few articles on smartwatches for other people, but this was my first chance to get some hands-on time and get accustomed with the tech.
As a tech geek and hardcore gamer, it doesn’t matter that I won’t soon be competing in the Nintendo World Championships from my watch – all that matters is I can see Mario and Link in all their animated glory on the tiny screen on my wrist.
All those sensors and notifications aside, this is a really cool toy, and does have a few spy gear uses, if you’re looking to become the next 007.
8. Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($49.99 on Amazon)
And finally we come to the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch. When I was first given this device at the 2015 Collision Conference in Las Vegas, I initially dismissed it.
I assumed it was simply a new-age Clapper device that seemed a bit expensive ($79.99 at the time) to control a single household appliance from your cell phone. Turns out this is actually an ingenious piece of tech and I should’ve trusted Belkin a little more.
When you download Belkin’s WeMo app and plug this device into your electrical outlet, it reads the energy usage of the appliance and essentially turns it into a smart appliance. WeMo technology is now being built into some appliances, light bulbs, and more, and out the box, it pretty much is just a Clapper device.
With a bit of work, however, you can hack the WeMo switch to automate anything that plugs into an electrical outlet. Check out how this YouTuber uses the switch to automatically monitor his modem for downtime and power cycle it.
The use cases for home automation through a WeMo switch are numerous, and this WeMo switch turned out to be a much more interesting piece of tech than I originally gave it credit for.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Main Street, and BBC.