The Evening Standard’s Technology Reporter Phoebe Luckhurst talks through the latest news from the weird and wonderful world of technology.
For something so small, your smartphone wields disproportionate power.
It gets you home (thanks, Citymapper); it gets you laid (thanks, Tinder). Now it’s also managing the roof over your head: a new generation of heating apps enables you to control your heating wirelessly.
Leaders include Nest, the smart thermostat company purchased by Google for £2.1 billion and HIVE, which was established by British Gas in 2012.
Other options include Honeywell, Tado and Neo.
They’re competing for your heating and trying to turning your house into a smart (and toasty) home.
How does it work? Each option has its USP but they all enable you to control your heating using a smartphone.
The wireless link is created using a router attached to your boiler and you save money by only using energy when you need to.
Nest’s technology was created by Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. It’s nicknamed the “learning thermostat” as it is intuitive. It studies your schedule and your preferred temperatures and establishes a programme to fit.
Google is working on connecting Nest to other home technologies: for example, the August Smart Lock, which syncs your Nest thermostat with the front door and triggers the heating to stop or start when you arrive or leave. Or Whirlpool: the Nest thermostat tells your washing machine when you’re home and switches it automatically to quiet mode. Both were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show last month.
Hive, which was developed by British Gas, offers a sleek interface that incorporates graphs to show you how you use your utilities. You can sign up for texts that inform you when temperatures hit a certain level.
“People now expect to control their lives from the palm of their hands” says Kass Hussain, managing director of British Gas Connected Homes. “On average people waste £150 every year heating their homes when they don’t need to - seven million homes are heated unnecessarily. Millions are struggling to control their heating with inefficient controls that are hidden under the stairs. They’re using HIVE to turn the hot water on when heading back from a run, or to turn the heating off from a taxi on the way to the airport.”
Honeywell’s evohome system uses “smart zoning” technology, which prompts you to create heating zones for different rooms in your home.
“By delivering exactly the right amount of heat only to the rooms that are being used we use less energy without even noticing it” assures Krzysztof Meinicke, the Connected Homes product manager. “When working from home we no longer need to heat up the whole house to stay warm. Instead we can specify precisely which rooms should be heated.”
Other options include Tado (which tracks your location, so it knows when you’ll be back and want the heating on) and Neo (which has an “Away” mode for when you’re on holiday).
These apps are part of the wider movement of “the internet of things,” networks that sync devices and applications, enabling you to control systems remotely.
The movement has its detractors: this week critics cried “1984” as it emerged that Samsung Smart TVs are technically able to “listen” to viewers and record their conversations. But central heating registers low on the sinister scale, so even though last year at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas demonstrators showed that Nest could be hacked via USB in 15 seconds, in the end savings (and smartphones) will undoubtedly outweigh security issues.
The heat is on.
The new world of video dating apps
Modern dating is like being stuck in an endless episode of Miss Marple - and about as erotic.
Each swipe of Tinder throws up a new riddle to solve: will this person look anything like their photos? Does the forced smile belie immigration views that would make Enoch Powell blush?
And, ultimately, are they worth giving up two hours of prime box-set time to actually meet up with? Dozens of snap investigations conducted in mere minutes. Taking a whole episode to solve who killed the colonel in the vicarage looks like the height of analogue apathy by comparison.
But a new wave of video-based dating apps, such as Tikr and Flikdate, is set to move the forensic analysis onto a new level.
No longer having to microscopically scrutinise profiles for clues. A world where black and white or headshot-only photos are highly suspect, a disproportionate ratio of beach pictures screams narcissist and more than one baby or puppy co-opted to project cuteness is plain unforgivable (this ain’t Athena).
In the world of CSI dating, moving images should be a big DNA breakthrough. A chance to hear what people sound like and see if there’s any kinetic attraction in the way they move. Oh, and maybe even personality too - a technological advance I can welcome with open arms after a concerted week of giving Tinder a go went awry.
For all the forensic rudimentaries, I still inadvertently ended meeting up with an “off-duty” high-class escort, a woman whose photos I resembled more than she did, and someone who’d have come across as more liberal if she’d worn a pointy white robe and carried a burning cross.
So this week I took the plunge on Tickr, where you upload 30-second video clips of yourself. “I don’t usually sound like Ed Miliband, but I’m coming to the end of man flu,” probably wasn’t my most alluring opening line. Nor was it helped by the screengrab photo from my video eerily replicating the very same bacon buttie face of the Opposition leader. But I was uploaded and able to peruse the, erm, nine profiles that you can freely view each day.
What followed was a peculiar four-and-a-half minutes of life. An inane selection of clips showing someone distantly diving into water, a woman approaching a bucking bronco but not getting on it, groups of unidentifiable girls dancing in a club, an ice-bucket challenge, a girl sanding wallpaper, a man (yes, man) juggling fire and one sweet woman who’d actually recorded a dating video clip (whose wish was to save the world).
There were a bonus half a dozen “top movies” you can also view on the site’s front page, whose “highlight” was a video of a 29-year-old from Derbyshire silently yet vigorously brushing her teeth while wearing a bra-less vest top.
For artistic merit, I doled out my solitary tick - and went to bed on near-tenterhooks as to whether she’d “Tick or Ick” me back. Alas, morning broke and the vigorous tooth-brusher had yet to reciprocate my feelings.
Meanwhile, I gave Flikdate a whirl. The “evolution” they spoke of seemed rather similar to Tinder but with the ability to video call people you liked the look of. I tried making a couple of calls but each was “unavailable”. I think I inadvertently left one poor woman a video clip of me looking startled.
Charitably, let’s call these Beta teething troubles. To be fair, on the odd video clip where you could actually see and hear someone - who wasn’t failing to mount a bucking bronco or mid-wallpapering — there were definitely more clues as to whether you might take a shine to them.
Video will have its day. Well, have its day again - dating agencies used to make VHS tapes of lonely hearts in the mid-Eighties. Precisely the same time on TV Miss Marple was clearing up that business at the Vicarage.