• Contiguous Digital Life

    Last week Apple's staged their September event to announce the new iPhones and iPads that are available. The company also announced a refresh of the Apple TV set top box. While the updates to the software and hardware are notable one thing that seems to have been neglected during the event was HomeKit, the underlying software solution that will tie together our domestic lives.

    Why is this interesting to those of us living in northwest Indiana?

    Because, as we've written about on the site in the past, home automation is becoming a bigger topic in our lives. Security, HVAC, kitchens and other functionality-specific devices are becoming integrated into the Internet of things. Like the unseeable force, this ubiquitous layer of technology has nearly engulfed nearly every facet of our post-modern existence.

    Can you name a service or sector of our day that hasn't been newly informed by tech development in the last 10 years?

    However, having a comprehensive solution that is user friendly is something that people are looking for but cannot yet expect. Unfortunately, the software is not yet cognizant enough to operate without a heavy human hand capable of tweaking the algorithm from time to time to optimize the output. We don't yet live in a world that knows when you're home watching Netflix alone or when you have company (and can make recommendations based on who is present in the group). Imagine setting-relevant curation of content.

    This opportunity for refined shared experiences means means better results out of dashboards at home with family in Schererville or at the office with coworkers up in Chicago. The contiguous mesh of wireless networks buzzing through the air is poised to allow for a consistent and constant mobile experience no matter where we go.

    Many companies are working on artificial intelligence assistant-like technologies to help bridge meatspace with the digital worlds that are increasingly permeating our daily regimens. Right now it seems likely that AI will first stand for "augmented intelligence" (with much of the augmenting coming from the human side of the relationship) to help our technology hone in on the customized experiences we are growing to assume are in place.

    It looks like it might still be a while before all the heavy-lifting necessary for the semantic experience researchers like Tim Berners-Lee and others have philosophized about. There is so much contextual data that needs to be input and related before this is a reality. The value is immense but the appreciation will be reliant on an experience that doesn't turn people off to the onboarding process. In the meantime, we'll just have to appreciate a lifestyle that is more akin to what we watch on network sitcoms than what we see in near-future sci-fi.

  • Does Fluffy Need to Go to the ER?

    Since warmer weather has started to creep out from behind the clouds, we all will be coming out of hibernation to enjoy it. Unfortunately, with better temperatures comes greater risk for Fluffy.
    Here is just a short list of things that have an increased chance of happening in the warmer months. Of course, if you are ever concerned about your pet, don’t hesitate to call your local twenty four hour animal hospital to find out what move you should make next.

    Hit by a car

    If your pet has been hit by a car, bring them right away. This is also true for any kind of serious trauma that can happen. You need to take extra caution when approaching your pet after the trauma occurred. Immediately after they can be confused or in pain and this may cause them to be fractious and bite you. Even the nicest dogs and cats have been known to do this.

    Even if your pet seems to be okay, you don’t know what has happened inside of your pet’s body so some diagnostics such as x-rays are definitely needed to make sure there were no internal injuries. While a radiograph or another type of imaging is definitely warranted, they may not always show what is truly going on internally. It is possibly that signs of an internal injury may not show up until hours after the incident has occurred. So if you do end up taking Fluffy home for the night, he needs to be closely monitored and rechecked right away if any other abnormality is recognized.

    Hyperthermia

    If it’s too hot out for you, it’s probably too hot out for your pet. All you need to know to avoid heat exhaustion in your pet is to use common sense. Only let them outside to use the bathroom. Always make sure there is plenty of water available for them to drink. Do not leave them in your car while you run errands. You can check your pet’s body temperature at home rectally if you have a thermometer available. A normal temperature in a dog or cat ranges anywhere from 99.0°F to 102.5°F.

    You should be even more wary of hyperthermia if you have a flat faced breed, a small breed, and geriatric-aged dogs. If you do decide to take your pet on a quick walk or a car ride on a hot day and later they appear restless, panting relentlessly, start having diarrhea, or just generally not acting like themselves, bring them in right away.

    Dog Fights

    A laceration or open wound created from another dog, or any other animal for that matter, has a greater chance to get infected. That tooth or claw has so much bacteria on it which is then introduced into the wound when it is made. Even if it looks minor, your best bet is to just get it cleaned and have your pet put on some antibiotics just in case. Also, if Fluffy is only a small dog (10 lbs or less) and was attacked by a much larger breed there is the possibility that much worse injuries could have occurred. Similar to when a dog gets hit by a car, it is always warranted to get further testing done to make sure all of your pets’ insides are ok.
     
    Labored Breathing

    If you think your pet is having even the slightest bit of trouble breathing, just bring them in. Respiratory issues are not something you want to mess around with. When they are severe enough, time can run out pretty quickly. Respiratory distress can be caused by several things as well. Causes can range from a viral or bacterial infection, asthma, laryngeal paralysis, and even congestive heart failure. Check out their gum color. Is it blue? Then do not wait another second!

    Toxin Ingestion

    First, if your pet has ingested absolutely anything out of the ordinary, call a veterinarian. Even if you think what your pet ate is non-toxic, still call just to be 100% sure. If it truly is something toxic, a lot of times a drug can be given to make your pet vomit up the toxic substance. Far too many times I’ve seen week long Tylenol or pain medication toxicity cases come in because the owners didn’t ask what they could give their dog to help its limping leg. Not to mention all the anti-coagulant rodenticide toxicity cases after it’s too late and your pet has bled out in the ER. Even when it comes to things such as sewing needles, chicken bones, or a piece of toy they decided was appetizing, just give us a call. We will help you.

    Stay Healthy Together

    Hopefully this helps you to care for your pet for years to come, keep them a healthy member of your family!

    Jessica Rozak works at an emergency care facility as a CVT in Illinois.
     

  • Herbal Soak, Swirl & Soothe | Crowd Funding Campaign

    Herbal Soak, Swirl and Soothe

    People use their hands in just about every daily task. As such, the hand suffers from all kinds of ailments. Arthritis. Cramps. Carpal tunnel syndrome. And just everyday injuries. Besides just pain, the hands’ exposure to substances in the environment can lead to skin conditions, like warts, infections or even burns.

    Whatever the case may be, the Herbal Soak, Swirl & Soothe is up to the challenge.

    Soaking a hand in water is a proven treatment for easing hand pain. The Herbal Soak, Swirl & Soothe contains a basin into which the user can pour hot or cold water. They then stick their hand through a spout for a soak, without the risk of spilling. However, the device goes far beyond just your everyday soak.

    A special pump circulates the water around the submerged appendage. This massages the hand, providing a level of relief with therapeutic qualities that simply soaking does not. And since it’s all contained within the dome of the machine, there’s no splashing onto the floor or on you. It takes the mess out of your massage. Additionally, the cost is much less than an expensive spa visit.

    As previously mentioned, the Herbal Soak, Swirl & Soothe also works for skin conditions. Salt or herb treatments can be added to the tub with the water. The pump then propels the mixture into all parts of the hand for a more even spread than a still water soak.

    Jerome FlemingThe Herbal Soak, Swirl & Sooth was created and developed by Jerome J. Fleming. A lifelong machinist and millwright, Fleming understands the toll work and life can take on a person's hands. He's researched and tried various methods and herbal mixtures to ease his hand pain and treat his skin. The machine he built is the culmination of all those trials, combining the best, most effective methods into one package. Early testimonials agree that it works.

    The machine is already patented and trademarked, and ready to go in to mass production. To this end, Fleming is seeking to raise $25000 over 60 days, and is turning to you for help. Pledges can be made to Fundables, and prizes such as office supplies, t-shirts and even golf balls will be given to pledgers who give a certain dollar amount. Those who donate $110 or more will even receive their very own Herbal Soak, Swirl & Soothe.

    Go to the FUNDABLE CAMPAIGNto pledge now, and this exciting new product could be on the shelves in time for Christmas!

  • Online Identity & Social Media

    With social media becoming such an important part of our social lives, online identity has naturally followed.The creation and maintaining of an online identity is something that we all do on a day-to-day basis. What we choose to post, what we comment on, what we remarks we make, what we select as a profile picture. It all helps us craft an online persona to display to others. Consciously or subconsciously, we all have an aim to be perceived in a certain light and a lot of the social media platforms have recognized this. Facebook is continuously adding features that make it easier to make a statement about yourself. It started with sharing articles that project your viewpoints to your friends and continues with the emergence of cover photos.

    Apps like Foursquare really helped to start bridging the gap between our online and offline identity. Foursquare encourages users to “check in” to broadcast current or past locations to their friends. This really gives users the chance to further craft their online identity by only checking into places that they want their friends to know about. Not many users are going to check into a gas station or bank a few times a month, but you can almost guarantee that a user will check into almost every professional sporting event they attend. This a perfect example of crafting an online identity that may not totally match the offline one since a user will almost always choose to only display content that shows them in a favorable light.

    With the amount of time we spend online looking at each others online we must ask ourselves, do we really know our friends or just the version that they choose to display. I would argue that our online persona's are just magnification of our offline lives with a little bit of editing. I can really never think of a time that there was a huge discrepancy between online and offline identity of someone I personally knew.
     

  • Smart Homes: Cheaper than you think

    The idea of the smart house is something that has always been presented in movies like “Smart House” and shows like “The Jetsons”. Are we living in an era where the smart house will arrive? I think yes and I will show you how to do it for under $1500.

    Lets start with the essentials, the doors. Outfitting your front door with an August Smart Lock will run you $250. The August Smart Lock allows you to unlock your front door deadbolt lock with your smartphone, as well as loan out “keys” to visitors.

    Once you get in the house, you are going to want to turn your lights on. That is where smart bulbs come in. The GE Link bulbs seem to have the most bang for your buck when it comes to smart bulbs, and they have one of my favorite advertisements from the last year. You can snag two GE Link Bulbs and the required Link Hub for $50. Each additional bulb will run you $15. This seems to be the best option right now, but I think smart sockets are the way of the future. Something like the Emberlight will save you money in the long run by allowing you to use regular bulbs, instead of having to drop $15 every time your bulb burns out. Though the supply of incandescent will continue to shrink. Also, the Emberlight doesn’t require you to buy a hub, it works directly with your existing wifi. Emberlights are available for preorder now and you can grab a 3-pack for $169.99.

    Now time to sit down and watch some TV.  Upgrading to a Smart TV is cheap if you already own regular HD TV with an extra HDMI port. There are various offerings for TV boxes out there, but I would go with the $35 Chromecast. Chromecast allows you to cast video from your smartphone by simply pressing the “cast button” in the desired media app. In my experience, the Chromecast is quicker and more functional than any of the actual smart televisions on the market, and it is a lot cheaper than upgrading.

    Right now we are at $455 for our budget, next week we tackle some more big ticket items and see if we can keep the modern smart home budget under $1500.

    Read Part 2

  • Smartphone Connectivity: Domestic Life

    Last week I explored the current connectivity capabilities that our smartphones have with our cars. This week, I will explore how well our smartphones are connected to our home life. The ranges of home connectivity options are vast but I hope to touch on some capabilities that are useful to the average user.

    With the MP3 player becoming a relic of the past, many people’s smartphones are pulling double duty and supplying music for most users. As for home use, most people probably listen to music on their computers. However, with bluetooth it is a simple as syncing into an stereo receiver and having all the controls to your home stereo system’s playlist in your pocket.

    Another great use is streaming media to your television. With Chromecast, Apple TV or Roku, all it takes is a press of a button with the Youtube, Plex, Netflix or Amazon Prime app and the media will start playing through your television. A simple wifi connection is all that is needed for the Chromecast to detect your device. Once connect to the network you will have complete control of the media through each app on your phone.

    Finally, if you want to make it feel like you are living in the house of the future there are some really functional home control devices like Nest, the August Lock, and various garage door opener manufacturers designing openers that are compatible with smartphones. These gadgets use WIFI or Buetooth Low Energy (BLE) in order to interact with your phone. Once set up, you can have full control of your home with a smartphone.

    The increasing connectivity abilities of smartphones highlights that our smartphones are eliminating the needs for other gadgets, as well as basic objects like keys and wallets. We are quickly moving towards a future where you will just grab one object before you leave the home, your smartphone. In a suburban community like northwest Indiana, this will be a major benefit. We have significant commutes to work, school or recreation and who wants to drag extra items around?

  • The price of a smart home: Part Two

    A smart home for under $1500. Can it be done? 

    Last week I wrote about some essential products that brought the current running total to $455. Let’s take a look at some more must-haves for any smart home.

    Cleaning up

    Let’s start with the bathroom this week, in the shower. Specifically a mechanism that can be installed without tearing up any walls. This product is the Eva Smart Shower. It is installed between the existing shower head and the wall. The Eva Smart Shower will let you set a desired water temperature and will shut off once it reaches that temperature. Once you step under the shower head, the shower will turn on at your desired temperature. It also pairs with an app that shows your water usage and savings. If you preorder the Eva Smart Shower now, it will cost you $150, after the preorder is over it will cost $200.

    Warming Up

    For home temperature control, the Nest Thermostat has been at the forefront of adaptive thermostats. It takes note of when and by how much you adjust the thermostat. The Nest will monitor these patterns and adjust the temperature itself in order to save you energy. The Nest Thermostat also has a companion app that lets you adjust the home temperature from anywhere. Also, as a nice bonus, the Nest Thermostat will link with some other smart devices like the August Smart Lock to help determine if you are out and will adjust the temperature accordingly. A Nest Thermostat currently costs $249, which seems like a fair price point for the amount of savings it would help create.

    Closing Up

    A smart garage door opener is not something I really think is an essential, that is until I get to work and fear that I left the garage door open. There are various options from all of the major garage door opener manufacturers. The price for upgrading to a smart garage door opener is around $250. Which can be a small price to pay for peace-of-mind when leaving on a road trip.

    Drink It Up

    Finally, on to the kitchen. There have not been a lot of appliances that link up with your smartphone, yet. It probably isn't really safe to be able to turn on some of these appliances when you aren’t present. However, there is one piece of kitchenware that links up with your smartphone that truly shows where our society's priorities are at in the morning: the coffeemaker. The Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker allows you to schedule a brew on-the-go and notifies you when your coffee is ready. And what more could you ask for from a coffeemaker? The $150 price tag isn’t bad either. Seems to be right in line with other high end coffeemakers.

    Wrapping Up

    All of this brings us to a little over $1300, which is much lower than I expected. My initial estimate was around $5000. So I guess that goes to show you how affordable some of these smart devices are presently. For some people these might not be a reasonable expense, which is to say that i'm sure we'll see other makers enter the market and drive the costs down over the coming years.