Sunday 18 February 2018

Get smart: The latest tech wonders to hit the shops

Huawei P8
Huawei P8
Fitbit Surge
The Vamp
Graeme McDowell wearing Game Golf
Netatmo Welcome
Sensor socks

From clever socks to golf gadgets, Ronan Price assesses the latest tech wonders to hit the shops

PowerPot from €110,

The ultimate in portable charging, the PowerPot gives you battery juice while camping - or could even be a lifesaver in the event of a power cut at home.

It generates power from heat - enough to charge a phone or any USB device in the case of the smallest model. So all you need do is pop some liquid into the 1.2-litre aluminium pot, lob it onto your camping stove or open fire and - bingo! - the juice begins to flow from a socket in the handle while you cook.

Fitbit Surge €250,

Fitbit virtually invented the fitness tracker category seven years ago and the Surge is the ultimate evolution, a cross between a smartwatch and a simple band.

With GPS and a heart-rate monitor on board, it targets fitness enthusiasts of all disciplines, from running to cycling to gym (but not swimming). But with a nod to the likes of Apple Watch, it can display the time, plus texts and incoming calls from your smartphone - though you can't interact with them in any way.

Battery life is reasonable (until you use the GPS) and the tracking accuracy performs better than all but pro units such as those from Garmin.


Huawei P8 €430 SIM-free or €150 on a two-year Meteor contract,

The phone world doesn't begin and end at Apple and Samsung. Chinese giant Huawei may be a less- familiar name but it knows its stuff when it comes to building sharp phones without the exorbitant price tags.

The P8 squares up to the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 and mostly comes away with its dignity intact. A big, beautiful screen, robust glass/metal design and capacious battery combine to earn the Huawei a shot at the big time.

Sugru €9 for three, €16 for 8,

Not strictly speaking a gadget, but this wonder invention from Kilkenny woman Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh is going global because of its handiness in every room in the house.

It's basically self-setting rubber that can be moulded into any shape you can imagine. Once fully set after 24 hours, it is dishwasher-proof, heat-proof and freezer-proof. Yet it can be (fairly) easily removed if necessary.

The Vamp €70,

CD players have largely followed vinyl into the hi-fi graveyard since smartphones took over but there's still a need for quality speakers in most homes. That's where The Vamp comes in, resurrecting any old hi-fi speaker with sprinkle of Bluetooth magic.

Plug this small cube into the back of the speaker and connect it to your phone (or computer, etc) via Bluetooth. Voila: instant tunes with real oomph and depth that you don't get from modern, tinny Bluetooth speakers.

Unfortunately, it can't do stereo, even though you can hook up more than one speaker at a time. The Vamp's rechargeable battery is good for 10 hours of music, which should be more than enough to annoy the neighbours with foundation-shaking bass.


Netatmo Welcome €200,

Working parents can't always be at home to check on their children but the Netatmo Welcome camera gives a virtual peek with its video feed accessible remotely. Rather than relying on anyone to log on to the camera, its motion-sensing and face recognition unite to send a notification to a parent's phone such as when a child arrives home from school.

Its uses go beyond that, of course, to encompass home security, recording footage of unknown intruders, even in the dark. You can tap into the video feed any time you like but communication is one-way only. Strong privacy controls enable you to prevent recording when known people are in the house.

Game Golf €200,

Golfers adore analysing their rounds - usually in hazy detail at the 19th hole. The Game Golf tracker does away with all the guesswork, recording everything from shot distance to fairway accuracy using GPS.

The main unit is a small pouch that clips to your belt (as shown right by Graeme McDowell), which connects to a small tag that fits on every club. With a small bit of set-up and the help of a computer after your round, all your strokes are catalogued and geo-matched to the course (assuming it's one of the 36,000 mapped worldwide).

Sadly, it doesn't connect in real-time to your smartphone (though there is an app with which you can check out your previous rounds).

Now when you claim in the clubhouse you really did drive 340 yards on the difficult last hole, your buddies will have to believe you.

Sensoria Smart Socks €210,

It's either the acme of civilisation or the logical extension of internet-connected things - but, yes, socks are now "smart". Where commonplace fitness trackers typically monitor just distance and time, the Sensoria goes further to record your step rate and foot strike.

Regular runners know the perils of landing each step on the heel and realise that a faster step cadence leads to more efficient exercise. The Sensorias, through a combination of sensors in the chunky socks and a slightly clumsy anklet, track all such movement and can give instant feedback to help you adjust your movement.

The socks wear out after a few months (replacements cost €45 for two pairs!), so consider the Sensoria a short-term solution to sort out your stride.

Irish Independent

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