Trying to pinpoint what exactly in your car is making that weird ticking noise can drive anyone to madness. As sensitive as our ears are, they’re not always as great at precisely locating where a sound is coming from. Thankfully you have four other senses to help, particularly your sight, which this unique SeeSV-S205 acoustic imager lets you use to actually see sound. Read more…
Disrupt NY 2013′s Startup Battlefield competition is underway, and now New York native Keen Home is taking the stage to present its first-round pitch. Keen Home is a home automation startup, which aims to follow in Nest’s footsteps by building remote vents for your central air conditioning and heating systems that can be controlled from your smartphone to optimally direct air where you actually need it — and away from places you don’t. Keen just launched its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo . Keen Home is the brainchild of Ryan Fant and Nayeem Hussain, both of whom have experience founding companies in the home real estate and property-management space. The two believe their startup can appeal to consumers who want both more convenience in managing their home’s HVAC systems, and who want to save money and conserve energy. Keen Home’s debut product, the Keen Vent, accomplishes both. The idea came from Fant noticing that when vents were closed in other rooms, heating and cooling the one he was currently in became much easier. The problem is that those vents generally operate separately, and manually, in most homes. Even with some systems that provide a remote, like Activent, they aren’t centrally controlled in a way that makes them individually manageable from an existing device like a smartphone. “We found that just by closing four vents in an average-sized home, we’ve reduced the run time of the furnace by about 30 percent,” Fant explained in an interview. “So not only were we redirecting air to rooms that were actually in use by intelligently closing vents, we were increasing efficiency, as well.” Keen believes that the focus is always on the thermostat when it comes to home heating and cooling efficiency solutions, which is good but it ignores other parts of the problem. The Keen Vent solves that, by providing both a user-guided and automated way of opening and closing vents to change how air flows through a home. A homeowner can set a schedule for individual vents, too, and it can plug into weather data to respond intelligently to changing conditions. Fant says the Keen Vent can provide up to 32 percent reduction in run time for HVAC systems, which means lower monthly bills and less toll on the environment. Most heating and cooling vents in households are around 60 years old, Keen Home said on stage during their Disrupt Battlefield presentation on Monday. Individual vent covers will cost around $40 per vent, Keen predicts, with a $150 charge for the system in total. There’s also a recurring fee of around $4 per month for access to the cloud-based management platform, which also provides monthly reports. But Fant and Hussain plan to partner with utility companies and homebuilders to try to offer the tech initially at a discount price, perhaps with, say, six months of service rolled into a new construction. It’s the same model that satellite radio provider Sirius/XM uses to sell subscriptions with new cars. Keen Home is launching its Keen Vent product on Indiegogo today, and believes that seeking crowdfunding, as well as traditional investment, will help it get the word out and prove product viability. Its biggest challenges will be proving to users that a recurring subscription around centralized vent control is worth the cost, and in making sure that legacy players like Honeywell don’t swoop in and simply build their own similar systems. The team says that being aggressive with partnerships with big utility companies, the way others like Nest and thinkeco have done in the past, will be the key to making sure it can overcome both. Keen said on stage that the majority of its audience would be people who don’t know what a smart home is, so they tried to make sure it was as easy to install as possible. That’s why they’ve made the install process as simple as possible, and setting up the online dashboard involves only entering a code and then doing a roughly 15 question survey. In addition, they’re planning to partner with HVAC contractors to take care of more complicated installs. Battery life is expected to be around a year for the vents, so it’d be roughly equivalent to changing the power source on devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Another day, another Johnny Cash-accompanied test of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Grasshopper rocket—which is not to say this isn’t exciting, because consistency is the name of the game for a commercial reusable rocket. Especially the Grasshopper, which can take off and land vertically. In this most recent test, the Grasshopper takes off, hovers at about 820 feet, and lands neatly back on its launch pad. For those who haven’t been keeping track, that’s about triple the height of the last test , and six times higher than the test before that ! [ Elon Musk ] More »
Bunnie Huang paid a visit to Shenzhen’s Mingtong Digital Mall and found a $12 mobile phone, with Bluetooth, an MP3 player, an OLED display and quad-band GSM. For $12. Bunnie’s teardown shows a little bit about how this $12 piece of electronics can possibly be profitable, but far more tantalizing are his notes about Gongkai, “a network of ideas, spread peer-to-peer, with certain rules to enforce sharing and to prevent leeching.” It’s the Pearl River Delta’s answer to the open source hardware movement, and Bunnie promises to write more about it soon. How is this possible? I don’t have the answers, but it’s something I’m trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints. First, there are no screws. The whole case snaps together. Also, there are (almost) no connectors on the inside. Everything from the display to the battery is soldered directly to the board; for shipping and storage, you get to flip a switch to hard-disconnect the battery. And, as best as I can tell, the battery also has no secondary protection circuit. The Bluetooth antenna is nothing more than a small length of wire, seen on the lower left below. Still, the phone features accoutrements such as a back-lit keypad and decorative lights around the edge. The electronics consists of just two major ICs: the Mediatek MT6250DA, and a Vanchip VC5276. Of course, with price competition like this, Western firms are suing to protect ground: Vanchip is in a bit of a legal tussle with RF Micro, and Mediatek has also been subject to a few lawsuits of its own. The MT6250 is rumored to sell in volume for under $2. I was able to anecdotally confirm the price by buying a couple of pieces on cut-tape from a retail broker for about $2.10 each. [No, I will not broker these chips or this phone for you...] The $12 Gongkai Phone
Microsoft’s next Xbox, which could get an initial unveiling as early as next month , will use an AMD system-on-a-chip according to a new Bloomberg report . The new AMD SoC will mean that Microsoft is moving to an x86-based system architecture, which Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 is also adopting. The change is great news for AMD, and for gamers, and bad news for AMD’s chief rival Intel. The new Microsoft console will be running a “Jaguar” CPU, which is also what’s going into Sony’s PS4, alongside a Radeon graphics processor from ATI, an AMD subsidiary. The similarity between the two SoCs employed in each next-gen console should go a long way toward silencing complaints from developers that it’s too difficult and resource-intensive to develop for each type of console. A shared x86 architecture means that it’ll be much easier to port titles, both between consoles and from the PC. For AMD, it means gaining access to a much bigger chunk of the console gaming industry, at a crucial juncture: the desktop and notebook PC market is shrinking, facing increasing encroachment from devices like the iPad, meaning there’s less room to vie with Intel for market share in a space where Intel already clearly dominates. The console industry hasn’t exactly been a shining beacon of growth itself, but with a hardware refresh imminent, AMD is in the best position to capitalize should consumer interest once again be caught by fancy new console devices. The problem with Microsoft’s decision to reportedly change over to AMD is that it will likely render games made for the 360 incompatible with the next-generation platform. But long-term, the decision means it’s much easier for developers to work with, which should translate to an alleviation of financial pressures on game studios that are already facing revenue crunches which are forcing cost-cutting measures. The console exclusive might be more of a rarity, but gamers benefit, and we could also see shorter development cycles leading to more frequent game releases. Another party left out of the fun might be the Wii U, which uses a PowerPC based processor under the hood. But overall this is very good news for gamers, since it could both free up resources for developers to spend on innovation and R&D, and suggests both consoles will behave much more like home entertainment PCs based around the TV.
Seagate will be shipping a 4TB hard drive that has the distinction of being the world’s first to include a 1TB per platter design. This basically means that each spinning disk in the hard drive has a capacity of 1TB, and that there are four of them. It’s not everyday that you can claim to that have something that’s the “world’s first”, so don’t be too hard on Seagate. This certainly isn’t the first hard drive to have a 4TB capacity, but apparently the new 1TB per platter design significantly increases the hard drive’s performance over the competition. It consumes 35 percent less power than comparable drives on the market with 4TB capacities, and at 145MB/s, it has the highest average data rate as well. But most importantly, the new design will also bring down costs. A hard drive in an external casing can be had for $212, while just the bare drive will cost around $190. Bring on the terabytes, Seagate. My body and my illegally downloaded movies are ready.