Technology enthusiasts are some of the most difficult people to get a gift for. They normally take care of buying all technology-related items themselves. If they do want something, it’s usually too hard to remember what it was, or it’s pretty expensive. Fear not! We understand the conundrum you find yourself in and are ready to help. We, enthusiasts, have come up with a couple of gift ideas that are sure to make your geek happy.
Tile – Quickly find misplaced items
Losing something at home or while visiting is a recurring pattern throughout our lives. We all do it and it’s very annoying when we’re in a hurry. The people behind Tile figured out a way to help us keep track of our precious items using the power of technology. Tile is a small, Bluetooth device that you attach to your frequently-misplaced items, such as your purse, keys, or wallet. Using the Tile app on your smartphone, you trigger any of your items to sound an alarm. Additional features also include helping you locate your items by telling you how far away the device is from your phone, or the day and time it was last seen by your smartphone. If your smartphone is also on your list of frequently-lost items, you can use any Tile to trigger an alarm on your smartphone.
Chromecast Audio – Make your speakers smart
There’s a lot of audio gear out there that doesn’t have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi streaming built-in. Google knows that you aren’t going to replace it just because it doesn’t have streaming tech. That’s why they created an audio version of its very popular Chromecast device. The Chromecast Audio allows you to stream audio and music from a vast variety of apps straight to your existing speakers. It plugs into any speakers or audio system using an industry-standard 3.5mm (e.g. headphone) cable. Anyone can easily set one up, and the Chromecast app allows you to manage multiple Chromecast and Chromecast Audio devices in one home. One of our favorite features is the ability to stream to multiple Chromecast Audio devices at once for a home-packed jam session.
Smart Outlets – Monitor and control
Technology is giving power outlets an upgrade. You may not see much need for one at first, but this quick review might change your mind. Smart outlets are power outlets with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built-in. Once connected, you can wirelessly trigger your outlet on/off using your smartphone. Some smart outlets track how much energy is being used and when the outlet was triggered, giving you insightful information that could help you lower your electricity bill. Most outlets connect to a central hub (e.g. Apple TV, Wink, SmartThings) which let you trigger on/off commands from anywhere (e.g. while at work) or using an artificial assistant (e.g. Alexa, Siri, Google). Lastly, if you want to get creative, you can configure smart outlets to trigger on/off based on behavior (e.g. Turn off iron outlet when I leave the house). There are several brands that offer a range of features and prices that are sure to fit any budget.
Wi-Fi 2.0 – The better Wi-Fi for your home
In 2016, consumers were presented with a new kind of Wi-Fi that involved using multiple devices versus the typical “one.” The concept was borrowed from businesses and enterprises, which often need Wi-Fi coverage throughout large buildings or complex offices. Many people don’t know of the many variables that interfere with their Wi-Fi. Speeds and strength are affected when a Wi-Fi connection travels through two or more walls/floors, any major appliance, metal, bodies of water, or concrete. Don’t be tricked by all of the hype surrounding some of the big routers that promote many antennas, long distance strengths, or high-speed numbers. Wi-Fi connections are two-way, which means that although one side of a connection is strong and powerful, your mobile device’s antenna remains comparatively smaller and weaker rendering it to “communicate back.” The solution is to set up multiple access points that bring the Wi-Fi signal closer to your wireless devices. When your device doesn’t have to reach far to get Wi-Fi, your speeds and strengths (aka satisfaction) dramatically increase. Like most consumer tech products, these Wi-Fi systems come with very easy-to-follow instructions that most people can follow.
AI Assistants – Tech that’s always at your service
Several years ago, Amazon introduced a revolutionary device that was part speaker, part virtual assistant. The Amazon Echo, as it was called, introduced the concept of a great music speaker that you could have a conversation with. The built-in assistant, called Alexa, uses an internet connection to provide you with answers to your questions and complete any variety of tasks you asked her to. Echo/Alexa’s unexpected popularity became difficult for Google and Apple to ignore. Google released the Google Home with equally-versatile Google Assistant onboard. Apple also announced their intent to bring Siri into people’s home with the debut of the Homepod (to be sold Q1 2019). Amazon, unwilling to easily give up market share, expanded their Echo line to include various speaker sizes and new models with LED screens. Today, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri can do a wide-variety of things including bill payments, order items, request an Uber, complete tasks, and control home devices…all at the sound of your voice. With tech companies flooding the market, you are sure to find an AI-powered device that fits your budget.
Analog Photos – A return to paper images
We know this topic doesn’t seem to fit the purpose of this tech article, but give us the opportunity to explain. While techies love the knowledge, power, and convenience that technology provides us with, we can admit that a few of our simple pleasures were victims of the digital transformation. Pictures, for example, now flood our social networks and take up space on our mobile devices. Paper photos, like the famous Polaroid or popular 4 x 6, are now a rare sight amongst millennials. Luckily, a couple of devices are bringing paper photos back. The Polaroid Instax, for example, is a small camera that instantly delivers a 2 x 3 Polaroid that mimics the quality and feel of the original Polaroid cameras. Easily load the camera with film and taking the picture for instant gratification. Then there’s the cleverly-named Canon Selphy, a small device prints 4 x 6 pictures. Canon’s smartphone app (Android and iOS) makes it easy to wirelessly print your photos. The 4 x 6 prints are borderless and loading the paper/ink is extremely easy. There will always be a place for paper photos in our lives (office desk anyone?).
Smart Lighting – New tricks, new roles
Smart light bulbs have been around for a while, but updated protocols are making them less expensive to make. Smart lights are devices that emit light but can be controlled from a central hub or device. Much more than the typical light bulb, smart lights now include light strips, ambient wall lights, modular panels, and color LEDs. Most of these devices come with the same set of basic features, such as wireless on/off switching, dimming brightness, and automated routines (turn on or off on a regular schedule). Advanced features can include controlling the color(s), behavioral-based control (e.g. turn on/off based on your location), remote control from anywhere in the world, and smart white balance that helps ease you out or into sleep. Philips Hue offers lighting solutions that sit in the living room and changes its color based on what’s playing on the television, which enhances your viewing experience. If your lighting is compatible with any of the standard smart-home communication protocols, you can control your smart lights using your preferred AI assistant (e.g. Alexa, Google, Siri).