10 Tech @ Smart Home

twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Print Edition: October 2012

Our lives are made fuller and more satisfying by the devices we use at home or at work. When you switch on the fan, when you power your laptop, when you switch on the television, you do not realise it, but it is technology innocuously making an intervention in your life-for the good.

To celebrate gadgets and to salute their makers, G&G is listing the 40 top tech aids over four issues, starting with this October edition. The G&G Top 40 will feature the most excellent among gadgets for the home, for professional use, for fun and entertainment and for use while on the move.

Besides, it will be G&G's privilege to give you tips and tricks on how to make the best use of these cool gadgets.

The first Top Ten naturally has to do with the home, for it is at home that we spend the most time and it is also there that we seek comforts without compromise. While most of us think of home gadgets as only those that entertain us or help us out in the kitchen, we showcase the top technologies available for a host of domestic functions and applications.

1. ZICOM 7-INCH VIDEO DOOR PHONE (Price on request)

Top protector. This hi-tech video door phone from Zicom will allow you to see and speak to a visitor before unlocking the door. Along with a 7-inch touch monitor and button for unlocking the door electronically from inside, the Video Door Phone also comes with a camera, infrared LED, microphone and speaker. Pressing the bell activates the outdoor camera unit and the indoor monitor where the image of the visitor is displayed. The user then presses a button to speak to the visitor and on validation presses another button to release the lock. Aesthetically designed, the device can also be converted into a digital photo frame or an mp3 player by inserting an SD card or a pen drive.

2. SCHNITZER GRAIN MILL (Price: Rs 21,000)

Top freshness: Nothing can match the nutritional quality of freshly ground flour. So replace packaged flour, or the local flour mill, with the portable Grain Mill from Schnitzer to reduce all types of grains and spices to a powder. With a solid beech wood housing, this compact appliance is ideal for everyday use. Unlike commercial grain mills, this appliance can produce flour at a low temperature, and therefore, retaining the nutrients. The milling stones are self-sharpening and are designed for long life and continuous low temperature fine-flour output. It can be adjusted for various levels of grinding such as fine or coarse. It is powered by a 360 W brushless motor with direct drive and can produce up to 110-300 gm of flour per minute and 80 gm of flakes per minute. The Schnitzer Grain Mill is available at Organic Haus. (www.organic-haus.com)

POWER PLAY: BEE RATINGS

Ever wondered what the BEE label on your home appliance means? An agency under the Union Ministry of Power, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been tasked with reducing wasteful energy consumption. For this, BEE has set up a star-ratings system that determines how energy efficient a gadget is.

The BEE labels have one to five stars; a higher number of stars indicate that the electrical appliance has higher energy efficiency. A 5-star product consumes 30 per cent less energy that a one-star product. But there is a flip side to the star rating.

While buying a new product, you will realise that a 5-star rated product is more expensive than a 1-or a 2-star rated appliance. But remember that while you may dole out more at the time of purchase, that cost is easily recovered within 1-3 years of the purchase.

For instance, the Rs 7,000 extra that you may pay for a 5-star rated AC is easily recouped since it saves Rs 2,000 a year in power costs.


3. MIELE H5981BP (Price: Rs 5,99,990)

Top baker: This stylish German oven has 90 litres of space divided into three shelf levels. The H5981BP also offers 150 automated programmes which can be selected with a touch of a button. Whatever the selected dish, the oven decides the temperature, moisture, fan heat and duration required for perfect cooking. It also has a unique moisture plus feature that introduces the right amount of moisture needed for the dish. For a delicious crust on breads, it uses the fan along with steam. Other features include automatic rapid heat-up for up to 65 per cent shorter preheating time, residual heat usage, energy saving mode, two tone speed light illumination displaying heating phase, navitronic touch control, etc.

4. LG HOM BOT (Price: Rs 43,990)

Top cleaner: Vacuum cleaners are becoming independent and smart. The LG Hom Bot is an easy to use appliance that vacuums the floor on its own. It has got cameras on both the top and the bottom to map the house and finds its way around it. The dual camera mapping system calculates the surrounding areas 50 times per second for optimised paths. The side brushes help in cleaning corners and edges while the microfider mop comes handy for hard floors. Although the noise level while in operation is extremely low, you can also schedule it to clean when you are not at home. The Bot can also finds its way to its charging base when necessary. It has the world's first floor vision system (OFS) in which 2,000 images of the surface are created per second to provide moving distance information to the Bot. The digital bumper, which can vacuum and mop under your bed without any hassle, is also a first.

WI-FI DEMYSTIFIED

WHAT IS IT?
Wi-Fi lets a computer connect wirelessly to a network or the Internet. There are three types of Wi-Fi connections: Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) using radio waves and with suitable for a larger area, Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) using Bluetooth for ranges under 30 ft and Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) using cellular towers for wider ranges.

HOW TO SET IT UP?
Wi-Fi can be easily set up at home with the help of a router. Look for a router that gives the best speeds. As of now 802.11n routers are the best with speeds up to 450 Mbps and it is best to buy these routers. But soon 802.11ac, which can achieve speeds of up to 7 Gbps, could become the standard. But remember, all these are on paper and you will never see such speeds in a home environment. Before you buy a router also check what kind of Wi-Fi suits the devices you have. Also make sure that the device you have supports WPA2 which offers the highest level of security.

HOW TO SECURE?
The best way to secure your wireless network is to use encryption, either the older wired equivalent privacy (WEP) or the safer WiFi protected access (WPA). WEP uses a password while for WPA you need a pass phrase. Whatever method you use, make sure your password is strong. Also make sure that you change the SSID (service set identifier) of your router to something unique so that you don't have 10 Linksys or Asus routers in your building and can't make out whose is yours.



5. PHILIPS DYNALITE (Price on request)

Top illuminator: The Dynalite from Philips acts as a complete solution for controlling lighting, security, blinds and curtains and temperature indoors. These multi-function sensors can detect motion in a room and accordingly adjust the level of artificial light. Compatible with LEDs, CFLs, halogens, tube lights, GLS bulbs, etc. from various lighting companies, the real intelligence unit is installed behind the interface board. Operated via remote control, the dedicated mobile application can help you control the lights from a distance.

6. HITACHI SUMMER QC (Price: 27,990 onwards)

Top cooler: Air conditioners can consume a lot of power. So you need to find one that provides effective cooling but is energy efficient as well. Hitachi's Summer QC is a 5-star rated Window AC. Available in 1.1ton capacity onwards, it offers silent cooling and uniform air distribution. The auto climate technology is an intelligent feature that has temperature and humidity data for over 100 cities fed into the AC. It then recognises the city, time and day along with individuals metabolic needs (by user) to set the ambient temperature of a room. The twin turbo technology onboard increases the heat exchange capacity at high temperatures ensuring the ability of the machine to deliver optimum cooling.

PRESERVE ELECTRICITY

As if the rising temperature and the constant power cuts were not enough, we now have to worry about the rising cost of electricity too.

Energy efficient home appliances can do their bit, but it is high time we contributed by following some basic conservation steps and ensuring discipline. For starters, we should make a habit of switching off lights, fans and other electrical appliances when not in use.

Also, it is a good idea to use the windows for illumination. What is more, the use of windows also allows for natural air to circulate, reducing dependence on fans and ACs. We can also install electrical wires and switches that prevent electricity loss.

Remember too to turn off appliances from the mains - putting them into sleep mode leads to use of energy. Similarly, once gadget like mobiles and laptops are charged, unplug it from the sockets.


7. TUNTURI CROSS SPINTER (Price On Request)

Top fitness aid: A smart home is incomplete without a perfect workout gadget. Bringing together the best of a cross trainer and a spinner bike, the Cross Spinter offers an excellent cardio workout along with full body tone-up. This equipment has a large flywheel that ensures constant resistance. The console placed on the front displays the information on the four small LCD screens.

8. SAMSUNG RF67-579L (Price: Rs 83,000)

Top chiller: This 579-litre French Door refrigerator from Samsung looks elegant and easily fits into tight spaces. It is designed to have capacious food storage while offering maximum user convenience in a 33-inch space. This refrigerator has two separate cooling systems that maintain the optimum temperature and humidity for each compartment; the air doesn't circulate between the fridge and the freezer. The chilled air flows through multiple vents at every shelf level to provide consistent temperature throughout the refrigerator and freezer. It has space-saving LED lighting that illuminates every corner of the refrigerator. These LED lightings are added to sides of the fridge to add a style factor to practicality.

COOL EXTERNAL SURFACES

When the temperature is soaring outside, we rely on air conditioners to cool the interiors. But there are simple ways to reduce the temperature of the home by a couple of degrees.

This involves installing shades over windows/doors to stop solar radiation from entering the building during summers (remove them to allow warming in winters).

This natural way of preventing overheating during summers and warming the house in winters helps reduce power consumption by ACs and heaters. Double glazed windows with air gaps can substantially reduce indoor heating too.

Also, heat reflective paints  or reflecting 70-80 per cent of the sun's rays. Apply on the external walls and the rooftop. Lastly, insulation


9. GODREJ E-LAPTOP PRO (Price: Rs 9,000)

Top security: Even today, most of think that electronic safes are designed only for stashing away cash and jewellery, maybe conditioned by those old Hindi movies. But Godrej has come up with an innovative safe that can store laptops and other gadgets. This is a hi-tech home safe that is equipped with an internal charging unit that can be used to charge the gadgets as well. It also has an internal LED that allows viewing in the dark. In case of a wrong password being inputted, the safe freezes automatically. Don't worry if you have forgotten the password-there is a mechanical override.

10. BRAUN 730S - 4 SERIES 7 SHAVER (Price: Rs 16,495)

Top groomer: Belonging to Braun's super premium shaver range, the 730s-4 can provide a thorough and comfortable shave. It is a foil-type dry shaver with sonic technology that emits over 10,000 micro-vibrations per minute to help capture more hair. Along with a normal mode, there are modes to suit sensitive skins and different facial geographies. It also has a long hair trimmer that takes care of sideburns without blemishing the skin. Easy to use, this shaver is also easy to clean. The razor can be removed for cleaning under a running tap. Or else, you can use an easy Clean & Renew liquid cleaner-just dip the razor in it for cleaning and your razor gets sterilised and charged for the next shaving session.

LED TVs: WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND

LEDS ARE LCDS TOO: LED televisions are actually LCD TVs, but with LED backlighting instead of the cheaper and more common CCFL. In LCDs, the backlighting using the fluorescent light strips is more uniform than an LED where the more efficient diodes adjust themselves according to the picture.

THE DARK SIDE: This strength of the LED TV is also its biggest weakness. In more of these, the tiny diodes are arranged either along the edges —all four or just two sides. So the parts of the TV farthest from these light-emitting diodes appear darker than the rest of the screen. So most LEDs, at least the cheaper ones, suffer from the problem of uniformity. The costliest TVs have LEDs all across (full-array) the TV and have better uniformity, of course at a price.

FRONT FACING: LEDs don't really solve the biggest drawback of the LCDs, their limited viewing angles. So if you are trying to view the picture from the side of the TV the experience will be far from pleasurable. In fact, some LEDs worsen the problem even though they have better pictures when you are watching from the front. So look for TVs with the best viewing angles. Don't go by the claims, actually go towards the sides and check for yourself.

POWER SAVING, REALLY: LEDs are without doubt more efficient than LCDs. But a CNET survey claims this is at most a 10 per cent saving on power consumption when compared with LCDs. So maybe it's not nearly a big plus.


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