Square chief teases a smart debit card

Square Cash’s virtual payment card might not be quite so virtual in the future. Company chief Jack Dorsey has teased a strange, all-black Visa debit card that Recode suspects is really a physical Square Cash card. A Square spokesperson declined to comment, so take this with a grain of salt, but there’s evidence to suggest there’s something to this teaser. You see, Square seriously considered a payment card back in 2014 — the company is no stranger to exploring the concept of a real-world card that draws from online funds.

There’s no guarantee that Square will launch a debit card, no matter what Dorsey is carrying in his pocket. The company reportedly ditched its payment card out of a reluctance to either antagonize its partners or wade through a tangled financial industry. However, there are a few incentives to at least consider the idea.

For one, Square has previously said it would like to “own both sides of the counter.” If it handles both the cards and the payment readers, it doesn’t have to give a cut to anyone else. There’s also the simple matter of catering to a wider customer base. While you can use Apple Pay to go shopping with Square Cash, not everyone can or wants to use an iPhone to make purchases at retail. This would let you use your virtual wallet anywhere that accepts debit cards, regardless of your phone preferences. And simply speaking, a physical card is more inviting to those people hesitant to shop with their handsets. Even if most Square Cash users aren’t about to use a tangible debit card, they might appreciate the option.

Via: Recode

Source: Jack Dorsey (Twitter)

Engadget RSS Feed

How a smart breast pump won CES

When we previewed CES 2017 last week, none of our editors saw the Willow smart breast pump coming. But the humble device, which slides into a nursing mother’s bra and allows for hands-free pumping, won two of our Best of CES awards and generated press coverage across the internet. We were hardly the only outlet that declared the device one of the most innovative things we saw at the show.

It’s hard for a little-known company to make this kind of buzz at CES, where you have to compete against giants like Sony, Samsung, LG, Honda, Toyota and more of the world’s biggest companies. But once and a while the stars align and a gadget from an unknown startup breaks through the clutter. What made Willow such a hit this year?

Willow: Hands-on

We’ve seen devices like Willow become a phenomenon before. Hapifork dominated the CES 2013 conversation with the somewhat absurd premise of tracking how many bites you take, how long you chew and how long you eat. Unfortunately, using the Hapifork was a big letdown. Hapifork is far from the only oddball connected gadget that got a strange amount of attention: The creepy Mother connected home platform and ridiculous Belty smart belt are two more examples of bizarre gadgets that got more attention than they deserved, because that’s what happens at CES.

Willow was also likely helped by the fact that it’s a smart, connected device. While the promise of the Internet of Things has largely gone unrealized thus far, our readers seem to have a fascination with the weirder connected devices that we cover — particularly the devices that have no business being smart in the first place (like this toaster!). It’s not surprising, then, that a smart breast pump garnered so much attention — but the fact that it turned out to be actually useful made it more than just a punch line.

There are a number of other reasons that Willow dominated the conversation this year. Crucially, the Willow attempts to solves a real problem in a way that other products don’t. That’s a rarity at CES. New mothers have to pump several times per day for months, and it sounds like the Willow can make that experience easier. For starters, the Willow can be worn under a normal nursing bra, which means frazzled moms can continue to get other things done (or just hold on to their newborn) while pumping. It can also track output for them, and the pump’s bags can be stored right in the freezer and cut open when they need to fill a bottle.

For various reasons, no one on team Engadget was able to actually try out the device, but our research showed that there’s nothing quite like Willow on the market. Yes, other smart pumps exist, but based on our research, Willow appears to be the best option by far. If it delivers on its promises, it could make a tedious activity easier, and that’s worth celebrating.

However, it’s not good enough for Willow to have just made a good product. Thousands of companies exhibit at CES every year, and surely they’re not all selling iPhone cases, backpacks with e-ink screens and similar nonsense. But oftentimes, one of the big companies showing at CES delivers something that ends up being the buzz of the show, sucking much of the oxygen out of the room for the smaller companies with lesser marketing budgets.

Every year, we cover all variety of unconventional devices from unknown creators, but no publication can see everything at CES. And when big announcements from huge companies (such as Sling TV in 2015 or Chevy’s affordable and long-range Bolt EV in 2016) make headlines, it’s harder for offbeat products to get the attention they might deserve.

That wasn’t the case this year. Yes, LG won our Best of CES award with its stunning OLED TV that’s thinner than an iPhone. It’s an amazing TV — but it’s still just a TV. We’ve seen them before, and next CES we’ll see yet another stunner. That’s one thing you can count on at CES like clockwork. But the number of new mothers who could benefit from the $ 429 Willow likely exceeds the number of people who could afford and are in the market for LG’s flagship.

That utility truly set Willow apart this year. One of the biggest downsides of CES is the deluge of gadgets that are not only bad but also inessential, unnecessary, with no real reason for existing. Lots of others have the potential to be great but are still just iterations on existing products already on the market. Willow, on the other hand, is using technology to solve a real problem, something that all too few gadgets at CES do. Here’s hoping this year’s unexpected darling of the big show in Vegas delivers on its promises.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.
Engadget RSS Feed

The best smart leak detector

By Rachel Cericola

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

After spending over 10 hours pouring water, mopping it up, and changing wet socks to test the performance of seven DIY leak detectors, we’ve decided that the D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor is the best smart water sensor currently available. It’s one of the few options that doesn’t need a smart-home hub, making it a more affordable solution than the competition because it can work with your existing Wi-Fi network. It can—like the rest of the units we tested—deliver alerts whenever water is present, but it also throws in a few perks that aren’t available on any other smart water sensor at this price.

Who should get this

Water sensors are small devices that can alert you whenever water is present around the refrigerator, the washing machine, sinks, and toilets—even in the basement. If you’ve got a leaky basement or appliances of a certain age, a smart water sensor makes for a strategic addition to your home.

Some smart water sensors work alone via Wi-Fi, and others connect to a smart-home hub; when wetness occurs, both can send a message to your phone so you can respond with a towel or a plumber. The units we’re talking about here can’t actually shut off the water; they simply alert you to the danger so you can respond quickly.

Though you can get a leak sensor that will set off an eardrum-piercing tone for as little as $ 10, if you want to get alerts and remote access, be prepared to pay a bit more: Our recommendations hover around the $ 60 mark.

How we picked

We tested a variety of smart water sensors, including Wi-Fi models and those that work with Z-Wave smart-home hubs. Photo: Rachel Cericola

We compiled a list of smart water sensors by doing a Google search for reviews and roundups; once we had a list, we looked for feedback on Amazon and Google. Although we found a million different leak sensors, when you factor in the smart aspects, the list of what’s out there is much smaller. We narrowed that list further using features, availability, and price. The average cost for a smart water sensor that fit our criteria is about $ 60; you really shouldn’t pay more than that. That narrowed our list down to seven products to submit to our water-torture tests—each product is easy to set up, works with an app, and can be used almost anywhere you expect water to make an appearance.

How we tested

We used a spray bottle to determine how little water would trigger an alert. Photo: Rachel Cericola

For each of our tests, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Most of the devices used either the SmartThings or Wink hub, so we used the applicable app; when the device connected via Wi-Fi, we used that device’s specific app.

When dousing each smart water sensor, we used four different amounts of water to see if it would react and how quickly. We used measuring cups to douse each sensor with one-quarter cup of water, as well as a full cup. We also measured sensitivity using a spray bottle and, finally, by completely submerging each unit in a bowl of water.

The main purpose of these devices is to alert you to water, whether you’re at home or away, so we made sure each detector delivered those alerts to a mobile device from afar. Anything beyond their basic features was considered a bonus—for instance, quite a few of the devices on our list allowed you to check on room temperature and even battery life.

Our pick

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor is a reliable smart water sensor that’s also affordable. It’s actually the least expensive option we tested—not coincidentally, it’s also one of the few models that doesn’t need a smart-home hub. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi to deliver water alerts through the mydlink Home app (available for iOS and Android devices) and integrate with other smart devices in the home. It’s also the only model on our list that relies on power from the wall rather than a battery.

The D-Link device performed well throughout our testing, sending out alerts about six to 10 seconds after the sensors first touched water. It also features an audible alarm that you can hear from about 35 feet away, though that sound doesn’t travel as well through floors.

The app associated with the D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor—mydlink Home—is pretty basic. Other than a record of when water was present, it offers options to change the device’s name, add in a personal photo, and create rules. For instance, we set the device to send both push notifications as well as an email whenever water was present; texting is not an option here.

For a stand-alone device, it does offer a few integration options as well. If you search the D-Link Water Sensor channel on IFTTT, there are ways to get phone calls, post to Slack, trigger the Nest thermostat, and more. It also works with other D-Link Connected Home devices, which you can control and set up integrations for from the same app.

A pick for smart-hub users

If you don’t have access to an electrical outlet, and don’t mind using a Z-Wave hub, the Fibaro Flood Sensor is a great choice. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Fibaro Flood Sensor features an audible alarm that also triggers when someone tilts or tampers with the device in any way. It has a temperature sensor and a visual “drop” display that can change color based on if there’s water, weird temperatures, or bad network connections. As an added bonus, this little circular device can actually float—which can end up being a huge bonus if a leak turns into a flood. However, unlike the D-Link, it requires a smart hub, a requirement that kept it from being our top pick.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Engadget RSS Feed