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Inspect-a-Gadget Logitech competition

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We have a Logitech Business BCC950 Conference Cam up for grabs. 

We reviewed this nice little bit of kit last year and were suitably impressed...

Logitech claims that its ConferenceCam bridges the "small meeting gap" in the market. It accommodates groups of 3-4 people without them having to sit each other's laps. This removes the need for a large scale meeting room video system which can be very costly. It is also surprisingly light; weighing 568g it can easily be picked up and taken into a meeting room.

Additionally, this device would suit home workers, enabling employees to have meetings using software such as Skype in full HD clarity.  

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All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning the prize is come up with a caption for the following image:

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We've all been there, so hopefully there will be plenty of inspiration. Make sure you comment on this blog post below (make sure you register with your email address so we can contact you if you win)

Closing date for the competition is midnight on the 30th of June and the winning caption will be chosen by the Computer Weekly team. Judges decision is final

This competition is open to UK residents only.

 

 

Terms and conditions

  • This competition is open to all UK residents aged 18 or over except for employees of TechTarget and Logitech and their immediate families.
  • The competition closes on July 30th 2013 at midnight.
  • Each participant can only enter the competition once.
  • The prize will be awarded to the individual that comes up with the best caption for the photograph.
  • The winner will be chosen by ComputerWeekly.com.
  • The winner will be notified by email.
  • No cash alternatives are available.
  • Entering the competition is free. No purchase is necessary.
  • The ComputerWeekly.com's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The name of the winners will be posted on Inspect-a-Gadget and will be contacted by email within 30 days of the competition deadline. All email notifications will be sent to the email address provided by participant entering the competition. The participant must respond to email notification within 14 days of the email notification. Unclaimed prizes will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.


Entrants can contact ComputerWeekly.com with any questions at the following email address: cbaldwin@techtarget.com with the subject of the email 'Logitech COMPETITION.' But all competition entries must be submitted via commenting on the blog post.

By entering the competition, entrants are deemed to have accepted these terms and conditions.

 


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MobileNow: Next generation mobile device management

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Log into the desktop browser for MobileNow to have all the power to manage a fleet of mobile device users.

Currently available for iOS, with Android and other operating systems in the pipeline, MobileNow solves the security questions raised in an age where mobile working is the norm and more and more employees are using their home devices in the workplace (BYOD).

The minds of IT departments around the world are frazzled by the security issues these portable devices cause: data leakage and privacy issues being the main worry.

Appsense has launched a solution to securely manage devices within a company. The SaaS mobile device management (MDM) platform provides an easy to use dashboard for administrators to track who has what device and to go in and alter to a degree, what the devices can do.

Designed for enterprise and mid-market organisations, it bridges application/data access, corporate compliance and strong security to personal devices in work environments.

MobileNow boasts a single interface for IT departments to get a programme up and running, while continually monitoring with no further infrastructure. The product is quick to get started, while offering a number of different profiles with a range of security features which can be applied to different groups within the organisation.

Additionally, MobileNow enables the user to still freely use their device without any fears that their personal data may be remotely wiped if the company feels as though it needs to protect confidential data. Apps and emails which are used for business purposes sit safely within the MobileNow platform, while business email messages and attachments are secure in transit by Encryption AES 256-bit encryption.

"MDM been around for a little time in an early stage which tends to lock down the device," said Ashley Tuberfield, product marketing manager of Appsense. "This is the next generation around mobile information management concerning apps and data rather than the device."

I gave MobileNow a run for its money on an iPad mini this week and firstly, I must note that I was experiencing the solution from the perspective of the IT department (through the administration console in a web browser) and also the as an employee (through using the iPad device). 

Administrator and adding users

My first experience was to set up the administrator page, which was fairly straight forward, once I got past all the passwords I had to note down to remember. I can imagine an IT department finding it very straightforward.

Appsense also told me that IT departments can import all the company's users from an active directory. If a company has already grouped its users, this will be recognised, otherwise it would be beneficial to spend a little time organising users into groups such as 'finance' or 'sales' which then can have different levels of access and restrictions, which you can add later on.

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The level of organisation was very formulaic, with a clear dashboard of sections. It just takes a bit of time, like with anything, to get the hang of the different areas. But after setting up your employees and devices the main sections to familiarise yourself with should be 'device policies' and 'app policies' this is the brains of the operation.  

Device policies

This is the main part of the MDM solution. Here you can set policies and apply them to different employees or groups of employees.

Your policies affect the functions of your device, from whether you can screen capture , to allowing the camera to work on the device.

This feature was very useful, imagine IT departments want to stop you using the device's camera, gamecentre, allowing Safari to collect cookies or to use iCloud backup - then a change to the policy could be pushed to the device in an instant. However, when I tried this out first hand, it did work the quickest over WiFi, I tried it on a medium strength 3G connection and it took about 30-60 mins to push through from the desktop browser where I changed the settings to the iPad mini in my hands.

App policies

MobileNow claims to securely isolate business applications - both in-house and 3rd party apps - from personal applications. Again, it ensures business data is always encrypted, compliant and protected by the policies you have set. Here you can set policies such as whether you can print from the app, geolocation restrictions (in the US only), timeouts, or password lengths.

You can also upload internal apps and the solution wraps it securely in real time. Additionally, you can add an app link to the iTunes Store to use the Apple Volume Purchase programme. Rather than everyone buying an app individually, you buy licenses beforehand and make them available. For instance you can buy 100 licenses, which gives you 100 redemption codes. You can then upload them to mobile now, and when a user goes to download the app, Apple takes one of the redemption codes seamlessly in the background.

Finally you can push company apps onto employee devices.

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Final thoughts

This piece of software is very intelligent and for enterprises thinking of moving into the tablet space, but worried about security, this solution can solve most worries. However, the system is very "Big Brother" and the power is in the hands of the administrator. While the administrator can't see your screen or know your whereabouts, it is slightly creepy how functions can just disappear or reappear from your device without you doing anything.

That said, if it is a company device, the administrator is completely in their rights to do so, but from a BYOD perspective, you might start to get annoyed if your camera disappears on the day you want to take a picture of your kid doing something cute in the park. However, at least with MobileNow you will know that any existing photos will not be remotely wiped off by an over-eager administrator.

As with most security, it's a balancing act. IT departments should have good communication with employees so they know what is going on with the hardware that they use on a day-to-day basis.

MobileNow is a very strong solution and will take a lot of pain out of deploying a mobile workforce. 

Click here for pricing.

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Review: gDoc Binder

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I first came across gDoc Binder at CES on a table Windows PC. The software enables you to digitally create a ring binder of documents, which can be formatted and organised as you would with a real-life ring binder. The table PC showing off the product in Las Vegas really helped demonstrate the ingenius user experience of the product, you could swipe through pages just as we are now used to when reading books on tablets.

gDoc binder officially launched on the 5th of March, and I've been playing around with a copy for a couple of weeks now. I've been trying out the traditional desktop experience. The instruction manual (which is a gDoc) was really useful in setting up, but it was really easy to get going.  You start off with a template, choose how many tab dividers you want and create.


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You "open" the binder by clicking on the cover once, and it opens to reveal a traditional looking ring binder along with a table of contents. Now this is where I began question the desktop user experience opposed to the tablet - the way the binder opens and pages turn is a little clunky on the desktop and also to mention that the graphics are a little Windows 95 for me.


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The good thing is that it supports over 32 different file formats, including PDF and word documents. I found that inserting files took a little while to load, but once it got passed the first couple of documents, it sped up. You can also drag and drop documents as well as multiple files, but it did have a little trouble with over ten documents.

The table of contents also automatically updates with the file names of the documents you insert.

I found the tablet view quite intuitive, being able to drag it into different positions and angles, and it also demonstrated to me again how I think this works much better as a tablet application. It currently exists as a Windows 7 and 8 PC and tablet application, with other operating system applications hopefully in the pipeline,


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You can also create documents within your ring binder using the gDoc software - but for myself this wasn't particularly useful as I could just as easily import my word documents. You can share the binder in an email in a XPS document

The company recently won a KnowList Award for the professional service industry in the Technology Innovation category. The award was granted to the developer version of the software which allows IT departments and consultants to customize the software for clients, such as adding connectors into existing document management systems.

During the awards it was noted that the judging panel felt that gDoc provided a "tangible benefit" to the legal profession in managing their documents. By using a familiar and natural concept, users found that it saved time when producing closing bibles and court bundles.

"gDoc Binder makes it easy to review and track an entire matter in a completely natural way because it is based on the familiar paper binder concept that has worked in the legal sector for centuries. I've been looking for an electronic file that you can flick through and mark up for years but there's been nothing available until now," said Robert Cohen, IT Director at City firm Speechly Bircham.

When you consider companies who have to import hundreds of documents this would save time and space. And just think at the end of the day, how much physical shelving space you are saving.

It would just be nice to soon see the enterprise benefitting from the same graphics quality as consumers are now used to, because at the end of the day, there is a continuous cross over in expectation.

The company is offering the software for $10 which gives you the ability to create 10 binders. Available to buy from the gDoc Store and Amazon.


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HANDS ON: Facebook Graph Search

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Facebook launched its new social search function, called Graph Search, last night, and I have been lucky enough to try out the additions which the company have said are still in beta test mode.

The social network, which boasts one billion members, 240 billion photos and one trillion connections, will enable users to "naturally" search through people, photos, interests and places.

Graph Search will enable users to filter content on Facebook to find out particular things, such as which nearby restaurants their friends have liked or which friends like a certain movie, or to search for photos including selected people.

Facebook will then order answers depending on the number of "likes" or the level of a user's interaction with their chosen person, place or photograph, placing more familiar links at the top of the search results.

Dressed in his statement black zipped-up sweater (for the love of God, you're a millionaire, shell out for a checked shirt at least? No? OK), Zuckerberg stated that while Graph Search is not a web search, like Google, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft's search engine, Bing, to enable users to search the internet when Facebook fails to find an answer.

When I used Graph Search for the first time last night, Facebook provided me with a two minute tour which showed you how to type questions into the search bar. It seemed to personalise the tutorial for me, using "Cardiff University" as an example search term.

However, that's where the personalisation ingenuity stopped, for me at least.

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During the press conference Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and his cronies were describing different types of searches and how they had enabled Graph Search to recognise natural language. They suggested 'photos I have liked' as a search term to gather all the images you have positively engaged with.

Trying out Graph Search for the first time at about 11pm last night, I forgot the "correct" terminology and typed in 'my favourite photos'. Facebook decided to autocorrect my sentence to 'my favourite girl photos' and presented this page of rather nude women, which may I add, I haven't 'liked'.

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I found another couple of faults, which can only be expected in a beta test version - It seems that my best friend who lives in Bangor, North Wales, lives in Cardiff, because any Cardiff filters I put in she pops straight up.

I can see this going down particularly well with users who wish to check out single men and women. Just type in 'single friends of friends who live in London' and friends of friends who have publicly shared their relationship status will appear as the results. Maybe if everyone everyone knows is taken, Bing will direct you to Match.com?

While the tech industry generally seems underwhelmed with the added functionality, it will be interesting to see how small businesses may be able to explore their customers' likes and dislikes and target advertising at them. For instance if a user has liked a bar, it will be interesting to see if the bar can then go ahead and filter, finding that user to like a particular cocktail or cuisine, then pointing out special offers to them which will in theory be more attractive to the customer.

Zuckerberg kept a quite tight-lipped on using Graph Search for business, avoiding questions, but answering in regards to existing sponsored advertisements on Facebook:

"You build good businesses over time, by people wanting to use something," said Zuckerberg. "Sponsored ads extend quite nicely to Graph Search, but there is nothing new for this."

I predict that Facebook users will not mind the inclusion of Graph Search in general. It's not a redesign of the site, which is when users usually get up in arms about scandalous changes to their ever-so-familiar pages... for about two days. 

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The search bar will feature at the top of Facebook on the blue bar, with the home button moved over to the right. Facebook users do like complaining though, so they might kick up a bit of a fuss, until they realise the power of the Graph Search functionality to increase stalking by 600%.

Still in beta, Graph Search will be rolled out to a "very small audience" from 16 January. The company will collect feedback from users before rolling out to a wider audience. Graph Search will also go through tests before being available on mobile devices.

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CES 2013 REVIEW: Tech Tips precision stylus

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Pop the piece of plastic on the end of your finger tip and make sure you practise for a little while. It's a bit tricky to get the angle right in order to make a connection with the screen, but these Tech Tips from a US start-up company try to compensate for sloppy handwriting and difficulties when clicking on tiny webpage links while using your smart device.

This fairly good idea, if not quite implemented as well as I would have liked, trying the tips out on my iPhone with a screen protector, proved a little sluggish (see video). My colleague tried them on a Samsung Galaxy S3, which worked considerably better, however the hard keys at the bottom of the device - which still require sensitivity to work - didn't work as well as your actual finger when being used with the Tech Tips.


The tip of your finger gets a bit sweaty from the plastic and it is not that precise when writing - so my handwriting wasn't great, but it was better than when using your finger tip.

However, it is great when you're on a website which has not been optimised for mobile use and the hyperlinks are really tricky to select with the pad of your finger.

Another problem is, how do you measure your finger tips to know what size to ask for, small, medium or large?

Capacitive touchscreens do not actually detect touch, but instead detect the presence of an electrically conductive object. Tech Tips have included this technology into small pieces of plastic to produce an electrical conductor that smart devices will recognise.

The company is looking to have discussions with UK distributors in the coming weeks, and Tech Tips will also be available on Amazon within the months.

At this point the individual retail cost for a single Tech Tip stylus is $3.49n (£2.17) and $9.99 (£6.21) for a multi-pack of four.

The company has also demonstrated Nano Nails - fake nails which include this technology. I don't wear fake nails myself, but I can see these as a really great idea that could take off as my friends tell me how difficult it is to use their phones when wearing ludicrously long pieces of plastic.

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Image: Tech Tips Nano Nails

Still in beta mode, the Nano Nail doesn't have official pricing as yet, however, they are expected to be around $10-12 (around £7) for 4-5 pack of nails. The company is currently still in the process of testing out the technology, for instance a set of nails which were worn for a week needed touching up with the nail polish, and Tech Tips is currently looking to see how the technology withstands to nail polish remover.

What other objects conduct the electrical impulses needed to work a touchscreen device? 

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What I learnt at CES Las Vegas

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Spending a week in Sin City for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was surreal and exhausting. It never sleeps, and as a technology journalist in Las Vegas covering the biggest tech show of the year - neither do you.

So CES is over and now that I'm no longer jet lagged -proven by being able to make a cup of tea this morning, without adding coffee - I thought I'd piece together five lessons learnt from a week under the neon lights:

  1. Boundaries of the phabet are getting smaller and smaller. Phones are progressing to 6-inch screens, like the Huwaei Ascend Mate which was launched at the show. While tablets are also shrinking to 7-inches, where will the line be? I'm guessing we will find out at Mobile World Congress in February.
  2. Start-ups are way more interesting than the big players. Why spend hours queuing for the Samsung press event, which is basically just a glorified press release, when you can spend your time getting lost at the Eureka Park in the Venetian, chatting to start-ups? Much more interesting discovering something new and tangible than the massive big companies launching yet another degree of clarity for the television set.
  3. Massive SLR cameras and wheely bags should be banned from press scrums; unless you can remember you manners and not punch me in the face with your oversize camera, or PICK UP your tiny bag to avoid people tripping over it. Seriously, tripped over twice and my Welsh roots failed to help me rugby tackle journalists who thought that the possibility of breaking Lenovo's newest table pc two seconds before its major competitor was worth bruising me in the face for.
  4. Sparkly iPhone cases. This is consumerism at its highest. Almost blinded me as much as the gambling machines at the casinos, if I see another pink diamante piece of plastic, even this Disney Princess might throw up.
  5. Smoke and electric shocks. All that static built up from walking miles over carpeted floors has to discharge somewhere, when you open a door to a hotel you tend to get little shocks, which surprised me and soon got quite annoying. Also smoking isn't against the law in the city, combine that with the air con, jet lag and late nights and expect to have very uncomfortable eyeballs unable to withstand contact lenses. 
Well there you have it. Great week all around and CES, hopefully see you next year!
W

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CES 2013 HANDS ON: Huawei Windows 8 phone and giant phablet

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Huawei launched a few devices at CES in Las Vegas this week, while none of them were confirmed with regions, dates or prices, two smartphones, which are expected to ship to China and then worldwide, caught my eye.

The Ascend Mate - giant phablet with the "worlds largest screen"

Again, a growing trend at CES this week has been a huge leap in screen size, be that in tablets, phones, monitors or TVs. Huawei's Ascend Mate is a monster. Huuuuge, at 6.1-inches of HD 1280 x 720 LCD touchscreen compared the 5.5-inch screen of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

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But tell me something, when tablets are generally growing to ridiculous sizes, but also shrinking to 7-inches, and smartphones are growing to 6.1-inches, where will the line eventually be in the phablet space? In six months time, what will be a phone and what will distinguish a tablet?

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I found the Android device surprisingly light in the hand. The rows upon rows of Android apps sitting on the screen could get very messy or be a joy to organise for someone as OCD as me.

The Ascent W1 - Huwaei's first Windows 8 device

This entry-level Windows 8 device looks much simpler than a Nokia Lumia 920 or a HTC 8X. It still has the insanely bright colouring of the other Windows 8 devices, however it doesn't feel as superior as the other devices did when I first held them.

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It's light enough, but still feels a bit chunky, like the Lumia. I found the back panel in the bright blue to look not very appealing in plastic, which made it look like a child's toy.

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The device was fairly responsive, with easy scroll feature, but not as light to the touch as the Lumia and HTC models. It also comes with the standard additional features of Windows 8, such as kids corner and this model also features NFC.

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As I said, no pricing or availability announced as yet. 

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CES 2013 HANDS ON: Sony Xperia Z

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Sony has unveiled its new flagship smartphone handset at CES in Las Vegas, the Xperia Z. The smartphone comes with a full HD screen, Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and it comes ready for 4G use.

It is also waterproof, so no need to worry about sending text messages from the confines of the tub. Sony claims the device will survive in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes, which would come in handy when you want to clean your phone - just rinse it in the sink.

The device screen is 5-inches, which borders on the phablet territory of the Samsung Galaxy Note, which stands at 5.5-inches. This is a screen increase of 0.4-inches from its predecessor, again being another screen in CES to be increasing in size rather than shrinking.

Despite its larger size, the device is nice and slim and feels great held in the hand. Its predecessor, the James Bond 007 device, aka the Xperia T, had a scalloped back panel and a matte finish. The scalloped back is now gone and the Z also goes back to preferring shine and fingerprints - I think this makes it classier and more modern looking.

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This picture shows the Xperia T on the left and the Xperia Z on the right 

The device also features NFC, opening up possibilities of the mobile wallet (once banks get their acts together to enable a service). While you wait for that to happen, you can use the device to eliminate wires while enjoying music, one tap and you can connect to headphones or your home entertainment system.

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Sony has included a few overlays to the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system that it runs on, such as hold the homescreen button to skip straight to Google, and quick start buttons for apps of your choice, such as notes. 

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Additionally, Sony has included a nice feature for quickly browsing images from your gallery while still on the homescreen - Timescape allows you to flick through images to easily access the one you need quickly.

This version of Android's operating system comes with Office Suite and I found the keyboard of the Z comfortable to type with.

Sony is hoping to regain some traction in the market, but will this device take attention away from Samsung and Apple? From my short-lived hands on experience, it's nice enough, but I don't think it has as many selling points as the flagship devices of its competitors to make a noise in the market.

The device is also available in as the Xperia ZL with a lower screen resolution and a matte finish on the backing. This is also not water resistant. 

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CES 2013: The smartest home in the neighbourhood

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The connected home is one of the big themes at CES in Las Vegas this year. The idea of connecting all your devices to the internet and seamlessly to each other has popped up a few times at the pre-CES press events already. 

Expect to soon see many uneventful pieces of technology suddenly being connected to the internet, like a fridge.

And Samsung have done just that. The T9000 LCD Refrigerator was unveiled at the company's press conference this afternoon, its unique selling point was that users can to adjust the freezer and fridge space based on need. However, the fridge also features an LCD screen which is connected to the internet, so you can use apps such as Evernote to track your shopping list and connect your phone to your fridge to use it as a baby monitor.

So it seems that the fridge magnet supporting that simple scrap piece of note paper will soon be obsolete. What will the tourist boards across the world think of this travesty?

Moving on slightly from intelligent fridges, another company at CES this afternoon touched on the idea of the "smartest home in the neighbourhood", the networking equipment maker, Netgear.

"Every device in the house powered by electricity should be connected to the internet.," said CEO, Patrick Lo.

In three years, the smart home market will have increased from $1.2bn today, to $3.6bn in 2015, he said.

Other than smart TVs and games consoles, we will soon be filling our homes with cameras and sensors on door handles to detect our presence.

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Netgear announced updates to various pieces of its technology portfolio including a nightvision version of its award winning VueZone surveillance camera. VueZone is a highly portable, wirefree camera for small businesses and home owners who can access live video feeds on their mobile devices.

However, a smart home is useless without ubiquitous connectivity. Netgear pointed out that the top "dead zones" for wireless connectivity in the house were the back garden, garage and the bedroom. While unveiling a dual-band wall plug range extender, the company also showed off a product which invoked the phrase "beam me up Scotty." Netgear took this opportunity to introduce its beamforming technology, which allows a router to detect wireless devices in the home and beam a wireless signal in its direction to ensure complete connectivity.

Keep an eye on the blog for more news about the connected home and connected devices as I swan around Sin City trying to inspect all the latest gadgets and gizmos in town. 

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CES Las Vegas: Trends for 2013, smartphones and BIG data

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I've had 24 hours in Las Vegas, managed to get over the jet lag, walked what seems like miles up and down the strip, had the fluorescent lights burning holes into my contact lenses and my stomach has been lined with traditional American grub.

And CES doesn't even start until Tuesday.

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Having been invited to pre-CES press events, which included the usual star-gazing ritual of dictating the next year's trends, I was given an insight in what we should expect in 2013.

So what am I to expect, besides going home a broken woman, with all money lost to the Roulette table at the Excalibur Hotel

Two predictions that sparked my interest was how we will continue to use our smartphones more and more (well, duh!) but more interestingly, how the device will analyse the intense amount of data captured on a day-to-day basis. 

1. The post-smartphone era
Jobs spoke of a post-PC era when the iPhone was launched, but Shawn Dubravac from the Consumer Electronics Association, believes we are moving into a post-smartphone era where we are moving away from communication being the primary purpose of our mobiles. This is so-much-so that data-only packages are beginning to become available in places like Korea.

He told us that 65% of our mobile use is now non-communication related, and we will continue to use our devices as "hubs" for other functions such as checking your blood pressure and changing the channel on your TV.

2. An age of algorithms
Keeping with the idea of using your smartphone as an extension into your non-digital life, Dubravac continued to explain how we are starting to capture information into our devices in a digital way, such as monitoring your weight and noting it down into a fitness app on your phone. We should expect to see these streams of diverse data intermixing with each other to offer suggestions to how we live our lives. 

Scary or clever?

He came back to the blood pressure monitoring example; this data could then be overlapped with information from your calendar and location via GPS. Your "hub" device, could then analyse your blood pressure at different points and locations, suggesting that you might be quite stressed in a particular meeting, or on your morning commute. Now, if like me, you're quite aware that the tube makes your skin crawl and your weekly 9am Monday morning meetings complete wreck your week's planning, but it could be broken down even further. 

Your device would analyse trends, so for instance it might notice a slight change if you leave the office fifteen minutes later one day, and then suggest it might be better for your health if you do so regularly, because the commute is not quite as stressful. 

Computer says, "Jump!" 
You ask, "How high?"

No predictions on how many hybrid tablets will be sold in 2013, but I feel this is much more interesting in the way our lives might change because of the tech that we buy.

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