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As the nights draw in and the weather gets worse - maybe it's time to think about waterproof gadgets? There's going to be a lot of it falling from the skies so you may as well be prepared! So here's our pick of six different waterproof gadgets!

Camera: Olympus Tough TG-820

Whether you're photographing the ocean landing of a Soyuz capsule by holding on to the outside, or capturing the magic of Bring Your Kitten To Work day and the pillow factory, the Olympus Tough TG-820 can probably endure it. It's waterproof to 10m, shockproof to 2m, crushproof to 100kg and freezeproof to -10 degrees celsius.

The camera inside this lump of armour too isn't bad either - it packs a 14MP sensor and has 5x optical zoom. It even shoots in 720p if you want to capture some video.

Perhaps most interestingly too, it also has GPS and a compass built in - ideal if the place you're using it in is basically just a blank map for miles around.

Phone: Sony Xperia Z1

Now what about your phone? If you're the sort of business tycoon who can't bear to be away from their emails, even when having a relaxing swim, then you need a Sony Xperia Z1.

It's a fully waterproof phone - both against submersion and from jets of water. And with it's large 5" display it's bordering on being a "phablet" (what a shame we can't drown the word "phablet"...) - and runs at full 1080p resolution of 1920x1080. It's running Android 4.2 - Jelly Bean, and inside packs a fast 2.2ghz Qualcomm quadcore processor.

What's perhaps most remarkable about the phone is that the camera is even better than the Olympus - 20.7MP! And it's important to mention that it's also dustproof - keeping the insides safe when you get out of the pool and step in to your sawmill.

Watch: 1. Luminox 3001 Original Navy SEAL Dive Watch

Now if it's good enough for Seal Team Six, it's probably good for a trip to the beach, right? The Luminox 3001 doesn't do anything particularly special - it's not a smartwatch - but it will tell you the time. Perhaps more crucially, it even works up to 200m underwater - which is what you want next time you're infiltrating an oil rig deep behind enemy lines from underwater.

iPad Case: OverBoard Waterproof iPad Case

Despite, umm, earlier press reports, the iPhone and iPad are not waterproof. This is a bit of a problem if you want to watch Netflix in the pool or have Words with Friends keep you company whilst out on your trawler. Luckily OverBoard have come up with a case that - get this - even lets you continue to use the touchscreen through it. Whilst the touchscreen won't work underwater (pesky physics), it does mean that you can safely start filming above the waterline before taking your iPad underwater.

Windows 8 Tablet: Fujitsu Stylistic M702

Now how about a tablet that works underwater natively? Check out the above video of a Russian guy dunking the Fujitsu Stylistic M702. Even though you know its going to be fine... it's still slightly scary to watch. In the video he's testing a version of the tablet running Android - but this is also available running Windows 8 Mobile, which runs a full sized version of Microsoft Office - so if you want to work remotely from the office... you can always work really remotely, with your snorkel on.

Spec-wise the tablet is pretty good: 1.7ghz, 32GB on-board memory, with a 10.1" HD display (1920x1200). The rear camera is 8.1MP and front camera is 1.2.

Car: Lotus Espirit Submarine

Now how about a car that can drive underwater? The model above was famously driven by James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Don't get your hopes up though - unfortunately it's off the market as last month it was snapped up by Tesla billionaire Elon Musk. So I guess you're just going to have to swim for it.

6 USB gadgets that you need in your life

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All aboard the Universal Serial Bus! Destination: Productivity. Well, maybe. Here's our pick of six interesting USB gadgets that will - in some way - enhance your life.

The 5 best Drone Camera videos

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Drones look set to be the next big thing as technology has now reached a point where all of the components are tiny enough for little helicopter-style blades to lift them up - whilst sending a wifi signal back to a smartphone in real time.

The BBC this week put into service their first ever drone camera. Just like Obama's flying death machines, these unmanned aerial vehicles are controlled on the ground and equipped with a camera - meaning they can get shots that would have been impossible under any other circumstances.

There's still lots of complexity around drones as the law is a bit fuzzy on the issue of when and where you can fly them (I guess lawmakers, like the citizens of the Swat Valley, didn't see them coming). But this will no doubt be cleared up as more and more people start using them. So here's our pick of the five best drone videos we've found:

Polish Protest

The BBC's drone rules prohibit them from using drones above crowds of people (so now swooping shots of Glastonbury then), but these Polish people play by a different rulebook. Here's a clip of a protest - watch as the camera follows the column of police and swoops around. It's very impressive!

How High?

Here's an awesome demo of just how high you can fly a drone. I can't help but wonder if the pilot kept worrying about the batteries failing... as that's a long way to fall.

In fact - it was so high up that when it landed the people who flew it lost it and gave up searching after four hours. It was only the next day when a police officer called to say he'd found it that they got it back.

Germany Drone Near-Miss

Drones are so new that not even the world's militaries have got used to flying them yet. Here's a video from a German drone in Afghanistan and it's near-miss with a passenger plane carrying 100 people.

When Drones Crash

So what about when drones crash? Here's one drone that lost radio contact with the pilot and then proceeded to fall out of the sky. It landed 25ft up in a tree - the owner had to find a large pole to knock it down. Apparently though there was only $25 of damage despite the high fall! Impressive!

Skip to 1:30 when the action begins.

London

Finally this astonishing video from TeamBlacksheep in London, in which the fly a drone camera near the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Gherkin, London Eye and even Parliament & Big Ben... and amazingly, manage to not get shot in the process.

We hope to be reviewing a drone or two soon - so stay tuned for that!

The UK electronics retailer Maplin has just started selling the Leap Motion, a new motion control gadget that could - and I emphasise "could" change the way we interact with our computers.

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It's a clever idea - taking it's cues from the likes of the Microsoft Kinect, £69.99 will get you a small dongle-like device, that sits beneath your keyboard/touchpad. Inside is a camera that will track your hand movements and gestures.

In theory it's pretty clever - it seems to be able to detect individual fingers, for individual gestures.

When you first get things setup, you're forced through a mandatory tutorial, which walks you through how the Leap detects hands - basically a warning not to go too far away from it, as it will stop recognising you.

To make it actually do stuff, it's all powered by the Leap Motion app, Airspace. You can download more apps into Airspace to do lots of interesting things. There's some pretty tech demos - like Kyoto, in which you wave your hands to interact with flowers, to some theoretically more functional apps like Touchless, which aim to put mouse control in the hands of... well, your hand.

There's also a number of different games (including an attempt at a first person shooter) and a number of photo viewer apps that can link up to various online services (such as Facebook and Flickr), and enable you to scroll through by waving your hands.

Now here's the thing... whilst this all sounds great... it's a bit... rubbish. Whereas the Kinect, by virtue of being mounted on top of your TV will have a pretty good idea about what's going on in the whole room, the Leap is much more limited. If you slip outside of the invisible boundaries, it can go haywire.

It also seems to get confused if there are two hands present.

And it seems to struggle with some basic tracking. The Touchless mouse app requires you to move your hand in two planes - side to side and up and down to move the mouse about, and in and out to click on things. Trouble is if you move your hand too fast, it loses you, so you have to move it in a deathly slow way to achieve any degree of accuracy. Worse still if you enable "advanced" control mode, you should be able to right click and scroll by pointing two fingers instead of one... but the Leap couldn't seem to figure out how many fingers I have.

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The Handwave app is interesting in theory too - that allows you to custom programme different reactions on your computer to different hand gestures. Great in theory - I'd love to be able to pause videos playing on my media computer with a wave of the hand. In practice though, the Leap seemed to struggle recognising the fairly obvious fist gesture I was making.

Playing "Block 54" was a similarly frustrating experience. It's essentially the game Jenga, and to play you have to use your hand to rotate around the 3D block tower, and then pick out blocks. Unfortunately getting the precision to play effectively isn't really possible. Whilst having a steady hand is supposed to be part of the game, the fact that the Leap couldn't figure out what my fingers were doing half the time just made it an annoying experience.

So it pains me to say - because I like the concept - that the Leap really needs some more work. Presumably a lot of it can be fixed in software - if the developers can just write better code to better recognise limbs and so on. Which makes me think Leap 2.0, if they can get it right, could be a good product.

Until then, it has the potential to be a good toy. If you're a developer, no doubt there's lots of different experiments you could try with it but for the time being, if you're a consumer looking for some fun activities and a new way of controlling your computer, it might be worth waiting for a Leap Motion 2.0.

I also can't help but wonder if the technology is not being used in the best way here - wavy arm motions aren't the best way to interact with a computer, especially when you have the precision of a mouse or touchpad. Though this said, I can imagine the tech behind it would work better mounted into the top of a screen on a laptop, for more subtle gestures. Rather than tracking the movements of the hands, why not track head movements, and allow me to skip through photos with a shake of the head?

5 Cool Things To Do With Your Raspberry Pi

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The Raspberry Pi, the amazing little £30 computer has been around for a little while now. If you're anything like me then you've probably left it to gather dust, after switching it on once and realising you don't know what to do with it.

This can all change though! Now the Pi has cooled a little, there's a large community of people who have not only built cool things, but have explained in an easy-to-follow way how they did it too. So here's our pick of five cool things you can do with your Raspberry Pi.

With any new technology it always takes a little while to figure out exactly how it should work. Remember the crappy touchscreen phones that required a stylus before the iPhone came along? Or how motion controls were only ever used for stupid party-game collection before the... hmm... no, sorry. Er, ignore that.

Anyway - the next big technological unknown looks set to be smartwatches. The tech is just about mature enough to mean that you won't be carrying around a refrigerator on your wrist, and we're currently watching as the big tech companies experiment to find the way to make a smartwatch a must-have device. Here's ten of the leading competitors at the moment.

Vodafone's 4G offering recently launched here in the UK and the network have just announced the addition of three new phones to the 4G ready line-up that will be particularly enticing if you're into photography.

Xperia Z1

The Sony Xperia Z1 is a powerful beast - sporting a 2.2ghz Snapdragon process. It has a 20 megapixel camera with a 27mm wide angle lens - and get this, unlike the new iPhone 5S - it is actually waterproof, up to a depth of 1m. And you can get one for free on contract for the, er, bargain basement price of £47/month for two years.

It's joined by the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom (click the link to read Chris's review!), a phone with a massive camera lens bolted on that'll be attractive to any photographers with it's 10x optical zoom.

Xperia Z1

Completing the set is the Nokia Lumia 1020, which instead runs on Windows Mobile. Available in either yellow or black, this has an astonishing 41 megapixel camera on board with a fancy Carl Zeiss lens and all that. (Stay tuned for our full review of the phone on TechDigest soon!)

The Lumia will also set you back £47/month, but Vodafone are sweetening the deal by extending a free Spotify subscription or free Sky Sports to 4G customers with these phones.

So if you're a photographer looking for a new phone, it might be best to focus on these handsets. I'm so sorry.

Automotive manufacturers Nissan are getting on the smartwatch bandwagon, today revealing the Nissan Nismo Concept Watch, said to be the first to connect a car and driver.

The watch will bring together biometric data on the driver with information concerning the Nissan car, including fuel consumption, as well as standard smartwatch features such as social networking feeds (here showing data on how "popular" you are on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram).

Charging via microUSB and with a claimed 7-day battery life, the Nismo uses two physical buttons, with a snap-fit strap that should fit many users comfortably. The device will pair with the car via Bluetooth LE and a smartphone app.

"Wearable technology is fast becoming the next big thing and we want to take advantage of this innovative technology to make our Nismo Brand more accessible," said Gareth Dunsmore, marketing communications general manager at Nissan Europe.

"On track, Nissan uses the latest biometric training technologies to improve the performance of our Nissan Nismo Athletes and it is this technology we want to bring to our fans to enhance their driving experience and Nismo ownership."

As purely a concept at the moment, there's no word yet on release date or pricing, but we'll keep you posted should that change any time soon. Check the watch out in the video above.

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Nikon has announced two new cameras at IFA 2013 in Berlin, the high quality COOLPIX P7800 and ultra-compact COOLPIX S02 cameras.

Billed as a professional performer in a compact body, the COOLPIX P7800 is billed as a multi-talented camera. Due to go on sale for £499.99 on September 26, it has 28-200mm f/2.0-4.0 zoom NIKKOR lens, built-in electronic viewfinder and large back illuminated CMOS sensor with 12 megapixels.

Designed for enthusiasts determined to get the best from their camera as well as professionals like architects or those working in real estate, the powerful P7800 features a bright, high resolution 7.1x zoom NIKKOR lens with 2 ED glass and 7 blade iris aperture for better background blur and super crisp focusing

The ultimate on-the-go camera, claims with rapid performance, quick start-up time and pin sharp autofocus with second generation Vibration Reduction, the P7800 is capable of continuous shooting up to 8fps and ideal for decisive photographers who might not have their DSLR to hand. RAW compatibility (NRW) means you'll always get the best out of the sensor, no matter what your image requirements.

When switching to video, the P7800's 3inch vari-angle monitor allows users to document a scene from the tightest of angles, or hold the camera at arm's length and capture a video diary, or self-portrait. Full HD 1080p (25 or 30fps) video resolution with built-in stereo microphone (and external microphone output) place adaptability at the heart of this powerful COOLPIX companion.

James Loader, Senior Product Manager for Consumer Products at Nikon UK, comments: "With its lightning quick responsiveness and bright, high resolution NIKKOR lens, the COOLPIX P7800 is a great choice for photographers seeking control and convenience without sacrificing on image quality"

He adds: "This class leading COOLPIX camera has been designed with the photographer in mind; with features such as the practical vari-angle screen and built-in electronic viewfinder to get the absolute best results in your videography and well as point-and-shoot photography. The manual controls incorporating three user modes, two function buttons and two command dials (rear and front) make it a truly special blend of performance and versatility."

S02_PK_front34l_lo.jpgCosting £119.99 and available from September 19, the COOLPIX S02 features a 13 megapixel CMOS sensor, 7.3GB of internal memory and a 3x optical zoom give the charming camera the functions of a larger model while the touch screen and intuitive interface lend the jewellery-like device a seductive build quality.

In addition, the camera's built-in Xenon flash, more powerful and better balanced than an LED light, will illuminate even the darkest of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, leaving your subjects stunned by the images, instead of the flashbulb. If the occasion suits a movie, the S02 records in Full HD so you'll never miss a trick. Night landscape mode even lets you shoot sharp images at low ISO combining four shots taken at a very fast rate.

The COOLPIX S02 will be available in white, pink, blue and mirror.

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It's been one of the tech industries worst kept secrets but at IFA 2013 in Berlin, Samsung formally unveiled the Galaxy Gear smartwatch,

Connecting to to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth, it is around the size of a regular watch with a 1.63-inch AMOLED (320 x 320 pixels) touchscreen display and 1.9-megapixel 'Memographer' camera on the side of the device for capturing snaps with a tap. 

Weighing a little under 75g, it provides much of the functionality of an Android device without needing to actually touch your phone. Core to the experience is the voice control, which will allow you to carry out all the usual functions like switching music on, making or receiving calls and sending messages, as well as operating apps. The device is also pre-loaded with Samsung specific apps, specifically targeting health and fitness fans with the inclusion of RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. 

The Galaxy Gear also serves as a wristwatch and includes several face options that create the opportunity for users to personalise their watch face. It will come preloaded with 10 different clock options and more choices will be downloadable via Samsung Apps. The Galaxy Gear experience can be further personalised by selecting from six colours that will be available at launch: Jet Black, Mocha Grey, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green (see picture gallery below).

Says Samsung Mobile CEO, JK Shin: "Samsung Galaxy Gear benefits consumers by integrating smart device technology even deeper into their everyday lives, and bridges the gap between the mobile device and fashion worlds to create truly wearable technology.

"Samsung Galaxy Gear frees users from the need to constantly check their smart devices while maintaining connections. It provides what we call "smart freedom" by allowing users to choose how, why, when and where they are connected." The Samsung Galaxy Gear will be launched in more than 140 countries around the world from September 25th, 2013. Prices yet to be confirmed. 

Meanwhile Sony's rival Smartwatch 2 goes on sale later this month priced £149 (179 Euros), while Apple, Google and Microsoft - which this week acquired Nokia's mobile phone business - are among those rumoured to be working on similar devices. A recent report by research analysts Canalys claims 500,000 smart watches will be sold this year, with that figure rising to 5 million in 2014. At IFA 2013, the Korean company also announced a new Galaxy Note 3 "phablet" and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet to rival the iPad. 

RELATED ARTICLE: IFA 2013, the five hottest gadgets to look out for
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samsung-galaxy-gear-patent.jpgA new Samsung trademark filing suggests that the company will be launching a smartwatch device with the name Galaxy Gear.

Previously, Samsung's rumoured smartwatch was thought to be called the Samsung Gear, but a newly uncovered trademark shows that the Korean tech giants will instead be pulling the device under the Galaxy umbrella.

The filing also goes on to describe a wearable digital electronic devices in the form of a wristwatch, wrist band or bangle capable of providing access to the Internet and for sending and receiving phone calls, electronic mails and messages."

"This design is of a body made of flexible displays and elastic materials that can be used while wrapped around a wrist or flattened out," it continues.

So what does that tell us about the device? Of course, the communications features listed above seem par-for-the-course with our expectations for a smartwatch. But does the Galaxy moniker suggest that a full version of Android will make its way into the watch? Seeing as the Galaxy range's one unifying feature is its Android base, it seems highly likely that the OS will feature in some way in the new watch, rather than employing a proprietary system. By extension, it would also open up the smartwatch to potentially be used alongside other brands of Android smartphone.

Of course, a trademark filing is no infallible indication of a product's existence, so we'll still wait official confirmation from Samsung before getting too excited. However, with the invites for the company's Samsung Unpacked event at IFA 2013 now out in the wild, one has to wonder whether or not the Galaxy Gear could be making an appearance on September 4th. Rest assured that, if it does, we'll have all the details.

TomTom_Watch.jpgTomTom have announced the release of a pair of new sports-orientated smart wristwatches today, the TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport GPS.

Both feature sizable monochrome displays, with one-button control and built-in GPS for keeping a track of distances ran and speed information at a glance.

Both feature 10 hour battery life, with the Multi-Sport aimed at a wider range of sports enthusiasts by also offering up metrics for swimmers and cyclists, making it the pricier of the two.

Keeping a track of all your exercise data on each device, the data can then be uploaded from each watch to TomTom's own MySports website, or MapMyFitness, RunKeeper and TrainingPeaks.

Available as of today from the TomTom Sports site, the watches will also be hitting sports shops later this month. Expect to pay £149.99 for the Runner and £179.99 for the Multi-Sport.

Google Chromecast.jpgIt wasn't just a new upgraded Nexus tablet complete with Android 4.3 (the latest iteration of the Jelly Bean flavour of Google's mobile operating system) which Google launched today. Also announced was a new TV dongle, designed to compete with Apple TV.

Called Chromecast, the dongle plugs into a television's HDMI port, and allows users to stream media from smartphones, tablets and computers. It will launch immediately in the US for $35 but international launches haven't yet been confirmed.

Unlike other similar devices, such as Apple TV, with Chromecast the media is streamed from the cloud, rather than from the mobile device itself. The emphasis is very much on streaming clips from services such as YouTube and Netflix via a far cheaper device.

Of course this isn't the first time that Google has tried to break into the TV industry (a move many critics believe is an attempt to exploit TV's strong advertising revenues) . It released a £200 set-top box with Sony which was poorly received.

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iwatch-concept.jpgFueling the fires of speculation surrounding its rumoured smart watch device, Apple has just filed a patent for the 'iWatch' trademark in Japan.

Engadget Japan have noted several companies filing applications for the name, and single out one particularly significant application coming from an address at Infinity Loop, Cupertino - Apple's US base of operations.

Though no further details are revealed by the filing, Apple's interest in the trademark shows the company is at the very least hedging its bets on the name, giving them the option to pursue iWatch branding in Japan at some later date if necessary. It seems incredibly likely then that the company are exploring smartwatch devices, with an aim to marketing them in Japan.

iWatch rumours have been knocking around for years now, and have increased in regularity and potency in recent months, with suggestions that Apple's Jony Ive is heading up a task force of some 100 developers on the project.

Apple aren't the only company rumoured to be working on a smartwatch, with both Samsung and Google said to have devices in development.

Just last week Sony also revealed their Smartwatch 2, which pairs with Android smartphones over NFC and offers second-screen-on-the-wrist communications functions.

sony-smartwatch-2.jpgBeating Apple to the iWatch punch (and Samsung too for that matter) are Sony, who have today lifted the covers off their Smartwatch 2 connected wristwatch.

Pairing up with an Android smartphone, the Smartwatch 2 is designed as second screen companion to your handset, letting you control some of its functions without taking the phone out of your pocket.

Connecting over NFC (and incorporating Facebook login between the two devices in the process), the Smartwatch 2 will let you answer calls, check maps, and even use the watch as a remote camera shutter for your phone.

Featuring a 1.6-inch 220 x 176 resolution touch display, the device uses an interface which is said to mirror the feel of Android, making navigating its functions familiar. As with Sony's Xperia Z range of phones, the Smartwatch 2 is also waterproof, letting you take it in the shower or out into rainy weather without concern.

Hitting stores in September 2013, news on pricing and stockists will follow shortly.

vodafone-power-shorts.jpgBringing a whole new meaning to the term "Hot Pants", check out Vodafone's prototype Power Shorts, which harvest thermal energy to give your mobile devices an extra bit of juice when away from a charger.

Using what Vodafone are calling "smart fabrics", the shorts contain a "Power Pocket" that capitalises on the Seebeck effect, a process that produces a voltage from the temperature differences across a thermoelectric module. The shorts also gather kinetic energy, with ferroelectret materials that build voltage as they are squashed and deformed as you walk. According to Vodafone, "these foam-like materials contain voids - the surfaces of which are permanently charged. As the size and shape of the voids changes, a net charge is produced at the surface of the material."

A days worth of walking about should give a smartphone an extra four hours of charge.

"We are exploring two specific technologies to charge the Power Pocket: thermoelectrics and kinetic energy harvesting," said Stephen Beeby, Professor of Electronic Systems at the University of Southampton.

"Both represent cutting edge research around smart fabrics and we are looking to integrate these into consumer products, in this case, a sleeping bag and a pair of denim shorts."

vodafone-sleeping-bag.jpgVodafone will also be testing out the Recharge Sleeping Bag at festivals over the summer, which works on similar principles to the Power Shorts. An eight hour sleep in the bag can deliver as much as an extra 11 hours of power to a smartphone.

"Our ambition was to create a practical but exciting solution to the charging-related issues experienced by many at outdoor events," Vodafone UK's Director of Communications, Christian Cull

"We hope that people harness the power in their pocket to keep them chatting, texting, browsing and photographing throughout their entire festival season!"

REVIEW: Netatmo Urban Weather Station

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Web-Hi_Netatmo_combo_no-Logo.jpgreview-line.JPGName: Netatmo Urban Weather Station

Type: Indoor and outdoor weather and environment monitoring sensor kit

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £139

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Everywhere you go, you can always take the weather with you thanks to the Netatmo Urban Weather Station, tracking minute changes in humidity, temperature, CO2 levels and sound levels at your home while on the go through both iPhone and Android apps. But, for £139, can it glean any more information than a TV weather report or a quick glance out of the window already can? Read our full review to find out!

review-line.JPGThe Netatmo Urban Weather Station kit is made up of two aluminium cylinders, one intended for indoor use that hooks up to your mains, the other destined to brave the elements outside, powered by 4 AAA batteries (which should see out a year's worth of use). They're attractive and relatively discrete items that communicate with each other over Wi-Fi and send data to a set of free iPhone, iPad, Android and desktop apps, measuring everything from temperature to humidity, sound levels to CO2.

Setting up the Netatmo kit is a relatively painless affair, though the supplied instructional documentation isn't all that helpful. You can pair the Netatmo to your router with either the desktop app with a USB cable (USB cabling is only needed during set-up) or through a similar process for iOS devices with iOS docking cables. Once connected to your Wi-Fi network, the sensors begin pumping environmental data to Neatmo's servers, which you can view via a web portal or the mobile apps through your user account, which is set-up during installation.Web-Hi_Product_no-logo.jpgNetatmo claim that the smaller outdoor sensor can be placed as far as 100m away from the indoor mains connected unit, but that distance is cut considerably once walls and other obstacles are placed in the way. In reality (unless you live under a wall-less gazebo), expect that range to be halved. It's also worth noting that the outdoor unit must be sheltered from harsh weather as it isn't waterproof. You'll have to find a little alcove outside for it to live in or face certain readings be skewed by factors such as heavy rain, for instance, a notable problem for a device that will spend almost all of its life outdoors.
Though the Netatmo kit offers forecast information provided by MeteoGroup, it's real USP is allowing you to disseminate the minute fluctuations of all manner of readings in your immediate environment. Indoor and outdoor temperature, air quality and humidity can be measured, while the indoor sensor also picks up pressure, sound and CO2 level readings.

All of these measurements can then be tracked and recorded through the desktop and smartphone apps, and even turned into XLS or CSV files for exporting into other applications. netatmo-iphone-screens.jpgIt's fascinating stuff, and at times a little too revealing! I got into a panic when I saw CO2 levels in my flat beginning to rise, though it turned out they were well within perfectly liveable ranges. But it proved to show just how muggy our indoors living conditions can be, let alone the pollutants outside. I'm just as concerned now with ventilation (especially around my kitchen's gas-powered oven) as I am with keeping the heating off.

Presented in modular charts and readings, flipping the smart device running the Netatmo app horizontally lets you see readings in granular detail through graphs, showing five minute incremental readings. Though working perfectly well on a smartphone, the iPad version of the app proved most useful, letting you cram more information onscreen at once and more easily compare and contrast data. The indoor sensor also has an LED indicator strip that, when activated by a tap of the top of the unit, glows red, yellow or green for a quick visual cue to indoor air quality levels.Netatmo_App_hd_curves-eng-metric.jpgEach version of the app can also be used to set up alerts, sent to your device of choice once the sensors pick up certain pre-determined readings. There are preset notification events that can be triggered, or you can create your own. For instance, setting the indoor sensor to pick up minute changes in sound levels when placed near your front door could well be used as a burglar alarm, or a way of letting you know your kids have got home safely from school. We can also see a busy market for the sensors for horticulturists with indoor greenhouse wares of the not-so-legal variety, too.

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Verdict:

I have to admit to being quite skeptical as to the benefits of the unit when first setting the Netatmo kit up, but it's won me over during the last couple of weeks. The information each monitor offers is presented cleanly and in fine detail, with a flexible alert system that can give the Netatmo some unexpected secondary uses. It's very pricey, and as such will likely only be the reserve of budding meteorologists or demanding greenhouse gardners, but all will likely find the details of their immediate surroundings presented by the Urban Weather Station fascinating.review-line.JPG

4/5

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sony-e-ink-pad.jpgIf you've ever put your back out lugging texbooks and notepads from lecture to lecture at university, you'll be wanting to give Sony a great big round of applause for their latest prototype gadget. The company are trialling a new E-Ink notepad that could potentially take the weight out of student rucksacks the world over.

Offering a Kindle-like 13.3-inch E-Ink touchscreen display and stylus, the slate is roughly the size of an A4 writing pad and far thinner and lighter at 6.8mm and 358g.

With a 1200x1600 resolution and 4GB of onboard storage, the idea is that the pad not only can be used to take handwritten notes, but could also be used to house textbooks and novels being studied, letting students add digital notes to the texts. A whole degrees worth of books and PDF notes could be carried on the lightweight device at once, with microSD expansion supported should it be needed.

Wi-Fi too is onboard, and will presumably allow for web browsing on the device and potentially the syncing of files between the slate and computers or other mobile devices.

Currently being tried out in Japanese universities, Sony plan to have the device on sale at some point before March 2014.

IRIS-notes-executive-2-top.pngreview-line.JPG Name: IRISNotes Executive 2

Type: Digital note taking pen and receiver

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £149 direct from IRIS

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Put pen to paper to PC or iPad with the IRISNotes Executive 2 kit, letting you digitise and upload your handwritten notes. It's a solid performer, but is it worth the high asking price? Read our full review to find out!

review-line.JPGThe IRISNotes Executive 2 kit consists of a digital pen and receiver that work in tandem to turn your handwritten notes into digital text that can be edited with a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. You use the pen as you would a standard biro (it uses conventional ink), and sit the receiver at the top of any standard sheet of paper. The receiver is able to track what you're writing with the pen, and then hooking up the receiver to a computer or iOS device over USB or 30-pin/Lightning adapter lets your writing be converted to digital text through the provided software. The resulting text can then be exported to Outlook, Word or Notepad for further editing on a computer, while the IRISNotes HD app for iOS lets you convert text for the word processing package of your choice.

The pen is a comfortable weight and only marginally thicker than a standard ball-point pen, with the kit able to store as many as 100 pages of text at a time before you'll need to offload them to a computer.

The IRIS OCR software does a good job of converting handwritten notes to digital type, but the legibility of your handwriting is important. I have a particularly sloppy style these days (too much time spent typing away!) and the IRISNotes Executive 2 sometimes struggled to accurately recreate my intended words. However, when I made a conscious effort to write more tidily than my usual toddler's scrawl, it was very accurate, so expect results to vary depending on your handwriting. Avoid cursive scripts for the best results, while left-handed folk will have to angle their hand in order to prevent blocking the line-of-sight of the receiver.

In terms of battery life, you should get around 8 hours of continuous use from both the pen and the receiver, more than enough to get through the average working day. Battery packs are built in so there's no need to hunt around for replacements, while the pen sensibly uses standard ink cartridges that can easily be replaced at a stationary shop.
Using regular ink, you'll still be able to scribble away with the pen even when it's out of power, though text can't be retroactively digitised - it's not simply enough to pop the receiver at the top of a written page and expect it to be turned into a digital page, as text has to be captured by the receiver as it's being written by the included digital pen.

So is the IRISNotes Executive 2 worth its £149 asking price? To answer that question, you really have to look towards the competition.

The Evernote note syncing apps for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac are free, letting you upload and sync all sorts of media (pictures, text, web clippings, audio) across all your devices - something IRISNotes Executive 2 does not. Evernote have also recently teamed up with Moleskin to offer Smart Notebooks that, when written in and photographed with the Evernote Page Camera app function, can be turned into digitised pages. Books start at little more than £10, but when they run out, that digital page capture runs out too as regular paper can't be used. The IRISNotes Executive 2 has the advantage in this respect.

A more close competitor is the Livescribe pen range, which works in much the same way as the IRISNotes system, but requires the use of special paper and does not convert notes to word processed documents. It however also allows audio to be recorded at the same time, allowing your notes to act as virtual bookmarks across meetings, interviews or lectures. It's a recommended alternative to the IRISNotes kit, even if its feature set varies slightly.

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Verdict:

The IRISNotes Executive 2 works very well, effectively digitising handwritten notes for editing in word processing apps, provided your handwriting is neat. It's not cheap, and there are equally good alternatives with similar functionality, but those who make plenty of handwritten notes on all manner of paper scraps will find this an invaluable tool. review-line.JPG

4/5

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Unless you are a big aficionado of electric bikes, A2B is probably not a brand you've ever heard of. But they actually launched one of the first electric bikes, or e-bikes, nearly four years ago.

Dubbed the A2B Metro it was quite well received at the time but at £2500 was quite pricey as well as fairly bulky, tipping the scales at a hefty 37Kg. Since then the company has gone through a number of changes, including new ownership (it is now owned by Indian scooter firm, Hero-Electric) as well as a complete re-branding.

Still available, the A2B Metro has been renamed the Octave while new models include the retro looking Galvani which I tested out at a launch at London's National Theatre. Also just launched are several new premium e-bikes manufactured in Germany, rather than the Far East where most are currently made. 

There's even a foldable electric bike, the Kuo, which at 19Kg is the lightest in the range. The aim for 2015 is to get the whole range down below 20Kg, making them much nearer the weight of a conventional pedal bike. 

Get on your e-bike

In 2013 it is expected that around 2 million e-bikes will be sold globally with Germany and Japan the largest markets by quite some margin with around 1 million units between them. Though the UK still lags some way behind with e-bike sales of less than 50,000 per year it's expected that initiatives such as e-bike rental for major cities like London will help boost numbers as well as raise awareness. 

Approximately 40 per cent of e-bikes are used for commuting purposes and they are particularly popular with older users (55 per cent of users are over 50) who are keen to cycle to keep fit but don't fancy the challenge of cycling up steep hills!

Whereas early incarnations of e-bikes were little more than conventional pedal bikes with huge batteries strapped on them, later models have - thankfully - focused more on design. Expected to retail for £1400 the Galvani looks like a conventional, if somewhat retro-styled hybrid bike at first glance but differs in one key respect - underneath the rear pannier sits a 36V Lithium Ion Battery. 

Two versions are available (male and female) though the male retro-looking version is by far the more attractive of the two. I tested out the black model but it is also available in white and silver versions.

Weighing in at around 23Kg, the Galvani is a little heavier than a conventional pedal bike, but there is a  Shimano Alivio 8 speed gear box if you want to change gears manually and use it in non-powered mode to give your legs and lungs a work out. As I was cycling on a flat surface I kept it in fourth gear, and switched on the power assist using the backlit display in the centre of the handlebars. 

Feel the power

Three Power Assist modes are provided and they take a little getting used to. However, basically the harder you pedal the more assistance will be provided. The end result is that you can find yourself going quite fast without having to put that much effort in, especially driving along a flat surface.

Maximum speed is limited to 25Km/h (15.5 miles per hour) to comply with legal requirements. Any faster and the bike would be classified as a scooter and you would require a licence. Either you can charge the battery via the mains in situ on the bike or you can remove it and charge it in your house if you prefer. Charging takes around 4 to 6 hours and gives a range of up to 90Km depending on how much you use the Power Assist modes.

So would I buy an electric bike? Probably not but that's because I don't like the idea of cycling in rush hour traffic around London, even with a motor. However, if I wanted to commute  by bike and lived somewhere quite hilly then I certainly would consider it. At £1450 it's not exactly cheap, but it would be a good investment especially when you consider how much public transport prices have gone up. 

See YouTube video of A2B Galvani Electric Bike below: And you can see me riding the bike here:


Specifications:

Model: A2B Galvani 

Price: £1450

Speed: Maximum speed 25km/h (15.5mph)

Range: Up to 90km (56 miles)

Battery: Lithium-Ion, 36v 9ah (recharging 

Motor: 250w brushless DC hub motor

Brakes: Tektro V brakes

Tyres: 28inch x 1.75 Kenda Khan

Weight: 22.8Kg

For more information go to the A2B website.
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