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Wyze Cam v2: A wireless smart home camera

Wyze Cam

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I was first introduced to Wyze Cam in January 2018 and I bought one right away. It was billed as a wireless smart home camera and you couldn’t beat the price … it was $26 at Amazon! I tried out that first one and was incredibly disappointed. It kept dropping my wireless network and didn’t seem to have any smarts to it. I returned it.

Nine months later I was out with a fellow techie and we were discussing our latest gadgets. He brought up the Wyze Cam v2. He couldn’t say enough positive things about it. He made sure to point out that it was the second version that he had. I ordered one the same day and it was the same price, so not a major purchase. [Note: You can buy it directly from the manufacturer for only $20 plus shipping!]

The new Wyze Cam v2 was great. There were no problems connecting to my wireless network and the software was much smarter than the previous version, detecting movement on the screen and drawing a green box around the motion that it recognized using new AI.

Like the original version, the v2 is a small cube that looks like a robotic eye. It records in full HD at 15fps (frames per second) as opposed to 10fps on the original. It has two-way audio so you can talk and listen live. It also has night vision for picking out images and motion in the dark.

According to the website, a feature I was not familiar with is “Smart Sound Recognition: Wyze Cam recognizes the unique sounds of smoke alarms and CO monitors and alerts you to these specific emergencies.” That is a nice safety feature to have.

The cam includes free 14-day rolling cloud storage where events are automatically saved in the cloud for you. It also uses end-to-end encryption so your privacy is safe. Additionally, you can pop in a microSD card (not included, but very affordable) and you can continuously record locally; when it gets full, it just overwrites the card. You can record in HD or SD if you want to save space on your card. You can even set a time frame and intervals to easily create a time lapse that can be recorded to the microSD card.

There is a magnetic base and it includes adhesive tape and a metal bracket for mounting, so you have quite a few options there. It is meant for indoor use only.

The Wyze Cam only uses the 2.4GHz frequency from wireless routers, so no getting it on your 5GHz band.

It does not have a battery, so must be plugged into a power source. It comes with a 6 foot power cable, but can be extended to 11 feet with the mounting kit (sold separately at Wyze for $3).

Wyze has it’s own proprietary app that is available for Android and Apple/iOS. The app is pretty straightforward. You can see your cameras live or go back to a point in time. It can notify you whenever there is movement and you can watch those notifications instantly. You can even record or take photos directly from the live stream

Wyze Cam v2 even works with Alexa and the Google Assistant (if you have a compatible screen) so you can pull up your camera on a larger screen to view it. I generally just use the app.

All in all, I think this is a great security tool, especially for the price. If you have been debating buying a wireless security camera, then this is the one for you.

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Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found at gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Google Home Hub: A smart speaker with a screen

Google Home Hub

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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The Google Home Hub is a smart speaker with a screen. It looks like a small tablet with a thick base (where the speaker is). I had the opportunity to try one out from my friends over at Verizon. It is a great controller for your smart home just like the other Google devices: Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Home Max; you would probably even compare it to Amazon’s Echo Show which is the Amazon Echo with a screen.

The device itself has a 7” touchscreen display with a light sensor and far-field microphones to pick up your voice from across the room. As I mentioned, the base is a full range speaker. It does not have a camera, so video calling can only go one way, but that also feels less obtrusive and Google was definitely looking out for our privacy on this one. On the back of the device is the power cable (it must be plugged in), volume buttons, and a mute control for the mic…for when you want privacy from your digital smart speaker.

The hub can do all of the normal digital assistant tasks like play music, track your shopping lists, share your calendar, do timers and alarms, etc.

Compared to my Google Home Mini, I like that there is a screen which visually shows information on the questions I ask such as the weather forecast or my calendar for the day; the hub still speaks a response, but also displays results on the screen for anything that you ask.

I chose to set it up in the kitchen as I generally like to use timers and it was recommended to use for cooking where you can see cooking examples from sources like YouTube. What I found I did not do was use it to control smart home features like lights and such as it was not in a central location for me to do so.

The coolest feature for me was that it operates as a digital picture frame when not in use and pulls in my photos from Google Photos. The light sensor gauges light and adjusts the brightness on the screen. I found that pictures looked fantastic with rich colors and great contrast.

The Home Hub also allows you to play YouTube TV, if you subscribe to the streaming service, and that makes it into a little TV you can watch on. I found it fun to put the news on in the kitchen while I was cooking, but with the screen at only 7 inches, I couldn’t see myself going out of my way to watch on the small screen.

With its Home View feature, you can see all of the devices that are connected to the hub in your smart home. This makes it easy to turn devices on and off both via voice and touch on the screen. However, as I mentioned for me, the voice control is in the wrong place and would need to be more central in my home.

At the current sale price of $129 (normally $149), the Google Home Hub is a fun device, but not a device I feel that I need to run out and buy. If I didn’t already have others hubs, I would definitely consider it in order to control all of the various smart devices in my home.

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Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Smart Home Tech that Adds Value to Your Home

Let’s be honest: nobody wants to have to go through the process of selling their home. It takes time, energy, and a lot of planning, which, in today’s day and age, are all very valuable things. Luckily, there are things that can make the process a bit easier.

Home improvements are often thought of as ways to make your home more desirable and updated, but they can also be quite expensive. Additions and upgrades can cost thousands of dollars, and you aren’t guaranteed to see a high return on investment. The better solution? Technology. Smart home technology can be affordable, and it can also make your home much more valuable in a matter of minutes. Here are some ideas:

Use technology to make your home more efficient

Almost every homebuyer looks out for energy efficient homes. Yes, these homes are absolutely more sustainable, but they’re also way better at keeping energy usage at a low and, in turn, keeping the energy bill low as well. A quick and inexpensive way to make your home more efficient is to change out the lightbulbs. LED light bulbs last much longer and use between 20% and 80% less energy than other bulbs on the market because of the way they’re engineered.

An automated thermostat that is connected to your heating and cooling units will also save you money on energy. A high percentage of units are designed to run continuously, whereas units hooked up to an automated thermostat turn off once the room hits a specific temperature. Especially in areas with hot summers and frigid winters, automated thermostats can save homeowners money and help you sell your house today.  

Use your smartphone

Smartphones and mobile apps have come a long way, and many electronics, appliances, and in-home utilities can now be controlled by them. One way to make your home stand out to potential buyers, including both those enthralled by technology and those who have mobility issues, is to hook specific pieces of your home up to your smartphone. These pieces can include the heating and cooling systems, lights, television, sound system, and security system.

Update security

Everyone wants to feel safe in their home, and a proper security system can give you that piece of mind. Regardless of the neighborhood your home is in, potential buyers will be on the lookout for homes that are guarded by security systems. New advances in technology have allowed us to keep an eye on our homes even when we’re far away from them. Smart security systems link cameras and sensors up to the cloud so that we can see what’s happening even if we’re thousands of miles away.

If you’re looking for tips on how to sell your house, look towards technology. Not only will your home look super cool, but it will also be more accessible, safer, and energy efficient. For assistance on how to take advantage of incoming technology, how to use it, and how to find gadgets and appliances that are suited for you, contact the Gadget Guy MN!

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This article is written by Julia Aldrich. Julia is currently living and thriving in Colorado, though her roots are in Pennsylvania. Some of her hobbies and passions include writing (obviously), running, traveling, and eating good pizza. She’s also a lover of quirky books, and suggestions are always welcome.

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How to tap technology to make life at home easier

Robot Hand

This post was originally published in the August 9, 2016 edition of the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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As I wrote about in my last column, I am making a foray into smart home technology, using Amazon Echo as the hub for my “getting smarter” home. Now, I look at all of my plugs, switches, and everyday appliances and think about how I could automate them. Also, when I hear about friends’ frustrations with everyday household challenges, I notice areas where they too could use technology to simplify their lives.

For instance, a friend recently shared a frustration about lights being left on in the house. She said that when she comes home in the evenings, her family leaves lights on throughout the entire house. With a modest smart home integration, it would be easy for her to have household lights grouped together and then easily turned off all at once, or across specific groupings (such as upstairs or downstairs). A step further would be to use her Amazon Echo and just vocally ask Alexa to turn off all of the lights.

For my friend who has trouble remembering whether or not he locked his front door, a smart lock would be incredibly helpful. He could use a model that simply locks automatically when the door closes. Alternatively, he could use a lock that is connected wirelessly. The wireless lock can be monitored online through a smartphone or computer, so he could easily check his phone to verify the door was locked. There are smart locks and handles from traditional lock and key companies as well as market newcomers that focus on the deadbolt.

My parents, who are proud owners of two 60-pound boxers, would do well with a robot vacuum (like the Anker RoboVac 10 that I love, or a Roomba) to help complement routine floor cleaning. Also, a connected thermostat like Nest or ecobee3 would be a great device to help automate, control, and monitor usage of their heating and cooling in the home.

One of the newer sensors that I am using is a wireless switch, but it also can monitor the energy usage of any device connected to it. I use it in the master bedroom with a window air conditioning unit, and now have an idea of the monthly cost of keeping our master bedroom (a converted attic) cool and comfortable in the summer.

While recently traveling, I used wireless switches in my home and set up an “Away” mode which turned lights on and off at designated times. Plus, I was able to turn on some of the window air conditioners remotely and begin cooling my house to ensure our home was comfortable when we returned. It was reassuring while away to look at the app and see that my lights were on at the times that I had pre-programmed.

There are light switches, plug-in switches, sensors for windows, garage door sensors and switches, connected doorbells, and many more simple options make your home smarter.

For the most part, these smart home integrations are easy modifications. Though, in some cases, it does take time and planning to get all devices connected and set up; you have to consider how you want to control your devices and if they will all be connected through a hub or not. If trying to setup your own system, be patient and have fun.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Make your home smarter

Circuit Board

This post was originally published December 1, 2015 by the Southwest Journal.

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Hello, Southwest Journal readers! Gadget Guy here.

These days, smartphones are virtually ubiquitous. People across a wide range of age groups depend upon their smartphones for communication, entertainment, education, navigation, and more! But there’s also a new “smart” solution that’s emerging with greater popularity — the “smart home.”

Smart homes, or smart home devices, allow people to automate and control home functions such as lighting, heating, and electronic devices remotely from your smartphone or computer.

Some smart homes can be incredibly advanced with “intelligent” feedback systems. For instance, a smart home’s fridge could inventory contents and order additional items as food is used up. But there are also a lot of small steps that you can take to make your home more connected to your environment and, therefore, smarter. Here are smart home solutions that can give you greater control of home functions. Also, some of these examples can actually make your home safer as well.

— Connected thermostat: The Nest thermostat is a great example of a WiFi connected thermostat that can be controlled by a smartphone or computer. It is a learning device that will learn habits and patterns to create efficiencies in temperature and temp control. Nest and other connected thermostats can be connected to other safety, security and comfort and entertainment feature-enabled devices as well. These devices include door and garage sensors to know when you are arriving and leaving, automatic lighting, wearable devices that can tell your thermostat when you are waking up, and more.

— IP cams: IP cams can be used for security to simply keep an eye on your home, inside or out. However, they can also be great for those with kids and/or pets. With an IP cam, you can login from your connected device (smartphone, tablet, computer) and check in on what is happening when you are away, or just peek into different rooms in your home to see if your kids (or pets) are getting into trouble.

— Smart lights/bulbs: Smart lights can be as simple as a light bulb that is WiFi connected and plugs into an existing socket. With smart lights in your home, you can turn on lights when you are out of town or simply turn them on from a different room. You can set them to turn on or off at certain times and even to turn on as an alarm clock with a light bulb-enabled sunrise.

— Sensor lights: These are more commonly used for outdoor security lighting that is triggered with motion, but there are sensor lights that are designed to be installed indoors and can be used for safety to turn on lights as you enter the room or turn off lights when no one is present. These lights are great for kids and seniors to turn on room lights automatically.

— Floor lighting: Simple LED light strips can illuminate dark hallways for safer walking at night and can be added to either a simple timer switch, automatic brightness sensor, or other connected devices. This can make finding the bathroom for guests in the middle of the night a much quieter affair.

— Amazon Echo: This is Amazon’s new home “computer” for connecting with other devices and services through your home. Using voice commands, one can ask it questions, instruct it to play specific music, and add items to your shopping list and even do the shopping for you.

— Sonos and Chromecast Audio: With both of these devices, you can wirelessly send music anywhere in your home. Sonos has multiple wireless speakers available and Chromecast Audio connects to existing speakers. Both can make it easy for your music to follow you from room to room.

Some of the above are quite simple and some take a bit more time and effort, but they are each worth exploring. Minnesota Public Radio recently aired an NPR episode of All Tech Considered called “What Happens When Your Lights, Appliances Are Connected To The Internet.” One of the biggest issues raised on the program was around security; once all of your devices are connected to the Internet via your wireless router they can see what other devices on your network are doing and are susceptible to being hacked. This emphasizes the importance of having wireless security with an encrypted router and a strong password. The likelihood of you being hacked is pretty small, but the more connected devices you have, the more possibilities exist for weak security within one of your devices.

Another issue may arise if you want to connect all your devices together. In which case, you are working with disparate systems and they may not communicate with each other. It is getting easier with both Apple and Google coming out with kits to be the hub for your home, but there is no single, universal solution yet. And some devices work with only some hubs while others may work with another hub. Make sure and do your research before buying a bunch of separate devices simply hoping they will work together.

Please share with me some tricks you have used to make your home smarter at paul@gadgetguymn.com.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or email him at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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