The scoop: iZON Remote Room Monitor, by Stem Innovation, about $130
What is it? A network-based camera that connects via Wi-Fi, the iZON Remote Room Monitor lets you watch rooms in your house or office remotely. The monitoring is done via the Stem:Connect iOS app, letting you see live images coming from the camera, or setting up motion-detection or sound-detection alerts. When the motion or sound is detected, the clip can be uploaded to your YouTube account as well.
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Why it's cool: This device and app were developed first for mobile devices, unlike other devices that rely on monitoring via a Web browser -- in fact, you can't watch your camera's feed through a PC browser (the company says a Mac app is coming, and other methods down the road). The small device is inconspicuous, and would work well as a baby room monitor, or if you have a second house and/or office and want to be alerted if the device detects motion. The YouTube upload option is also a nice touch. The camera and app were somewhat easy to hook up, as long as you're using an 802.11n Wi-Fi router with WPA2 (not WEP) security.
Some caveats: I had trouble with the motion alert and YouTube uploading; sensitivity adjustments need to be made so that you're not constantly getting alerted with very tiny motion settings. But at low sensitivity settings, I was consistently not receiving alerts, even though I knew motion was going on (I was recording video in the office). The device and app are a work in progress; I'd wait until Web browser monitoring and other settings were added to the system.
Grade: 3 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Wireless Dual-Band Travel Router, by Belkin, about $80
What is it? This small device provides a wireless router capability for travelers, hooking into a hotel's wired Ethernet connection and providing wireless connectivity for tablets, smartphones and notebooks. The wireless capabilities allow you to use one connection for multiple devices.
Why it's cool: This is one of the first devices I've seen that provides dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency) connectivity, although most of your wireless clients are likely on 2.4GHz. Still, as more devices add 5GHz functionality, having this option for lower interference and greater bandwidth is nice. Even if you only plan on using one notebook in your hotel room, it's nice to have this in case the hotel's Ethernet connection is in an odd place (on my last trip, the Ethernet cable was located on the night stand next to the bed, not near the desk).
Some caveats: Changing the SSID on the device from the default setting is a bit tricky, and there are no additional Ethernet ports for wired LAN connections (in case you wanted to provide mobile workers with additional connection choices).
Grade: 4 stars
Update: Seagate recently updated the firmware of its GoFlex Satellite external hard drive. With its internal Wi-Fi radio -- along with the GoFlex Media app for iOS devices -- you can store a ton of media (photos, videos, music) on the external storage drive and access them on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad via the Wi-Fi connection. The update now provides an ingredient missing from the original release: The Wi-Fi on the Satellite can connect via Wi-Fi to your home router, providing pass-through connections for other apps on the iOS device. So now, you can access your media through the GoFlex Media app, but you can also browse the Web or access Netflix through your home router's connection. Before this update, you had to keep switching your Wi-Fi settings in order to multitask. This update makes the Satellite a 5-star product, and a must-own for any iPad or iPhone user who doesn't want to clog up the device's internal storage space.
Shaw can be reached at email@example.com.
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