Readdle Documents 6.3: better PDF reader, new cloud file management & smart MP3 search

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Ukrainian developer Readdle today pushed an amazing new update to Documents, a Finder-like app you’ve always wanted that lets you read, listen, view, annotate and organize almost anything you want on your iPad and iPhone…. Read the rest of this post here


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Daily Deals: $40 Sony DualShock 4 controller, $144 smart thermostat, and more

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iDB’s Daily Deals post is a roundup of our favorite deals on tech and tech-related products from around the web. This includes everything from smartphones, tablets and accessories, to connected devices and even video games.

Every deal you see below has been hand-picked based on a variety of factors including personal experience, online reviews from customers and experts, and discount percentage. So what are you waiting for? Get shopping!

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[Deal Alert] All-time low for Amazon Key Home Kit, with security camera and compatible smart lock, starting at $169.99 ($120 off)

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Amazon announced its Amazon Key home delivery service late last year, allowing Amazon Prime members to remotely unlock and monitor their front door using a kit consisting of an Amazon Cloud Cam security camera and a compatible smart lock. Aside from being able to detect when someone is entering your home, Amazon Key can also let you grant access to an Amazon delivery personnel so they can leave your package in your home, instead of at your doorstep where anyone could grab it.

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[Deal Alert] All-time low for Amazon Key Home Kit, with security camera and compatible smart lock, starting at $ 169.99 ($ 120 off) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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WeMo Bridge adds HomeKit & Siri support to your Belkin smart home accessories

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Belkin’s popular line of WeMo smart home products was recently brought into the HomeKit fold with the release of the new Smart Bridge, a simple device that lets you control your existing WeMo devices via the Home app and Siri.
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Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $40 on a Google Home smart speaker

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This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.
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Amazon Key smart lock features are available across the US

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Amazon Key is a relatively new smart lock service that allows delivery people to enter your home (they're monitored, of course) and leave packages. Users can also grant entry to certain people while they're away, as well take advantage of keyless ent…
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Five automation ideas to improve your smart home lifestyle

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We often talk or write about our smart homes without realizing that some folks don’t understand what it is that a smart home can actually do. That’s partially because there’s such a wide range of things we can automate or control by voice in our homes, that there’s no simple answer: The automations and smart devices I have are likely very different than the ones you have.

Still, there’s merit in laying out some examples for two reasons. First, we might actually be able to better answer the “what is a smart home” question with some practical, real world solutions. And second, sharing a few examples here will (hopefully!) inspire you to add to the list through our comments.

Collectively, we’ll all have nice group of ideas to make life easier in our smart homes. Keep in mind that these are less a set of step-by-step instructions and more of a conceptual list that you can implement or tweak based on your devices and software.

Don’t leave the door unlocked

I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s and extremely effective solution to a problem I had: My young adult children sometimes come home at night after I’ve gone to bed. That’s not the problem though. The issue is that they don’t always remember to lock the door. Since I have a Z-Wave deadbolt installed in my front door, I decided to have my smart home hub automatically lock the door if it’s been open for five minutes. If you decide to do this, make sure you don’t lock yourself out though. My lock can be opened by my phone or watch, but it also has a keypad entry system.

Start the morning right

For a while I had my downstairs kitchen light go on at a specific time so that my wife wouldn’t walk down to a dark room. Scheduling this by the time is pretty easy but there are some days she sleeps in and some days she wakes up earlier. What she always does before going downstairs, however, is take a shower with the bathroom exhaust fan on. The last thing she does, without fail, is turn that fan off before heading downstairs.

A smart switch for the fan is a simple trigger event for home automation and once that switch hits the off position, the kitchen smart light — not to mention my coffee maker with a smart plug — can be enabled at exactly the right time, every time.

Keep an eye on the kids or pets as needed

We walk our dog so this doesn’t apply to me but Stacey has a small pet door in her home so the dog can go outside. With a webcam in a nearby window, she can keep an eye on the dog, but it may not make sense to have that camera on all the time. Adding a tilt sensor, similar to ones you find with smart garage controllers, to the pet door can trigger a webcam to power on. The same approach could be used for kids going out the back door: Add a magnetic sensor to the door and fire up the webcam to make sure playtime is safe.

Sundown is a great trigger for indoor lighting

One of the first automations I ever set up was to turn on the outdoor lights at or just before sundown. It’s easy to do and although the sun sets at a slightly different time every day, most smart home hub software can adjust for this. It took me months to realize it but sundown is a perfect event trigger for indoor lights too. Sure, you can keep some or all of the  house lights off until you get home and have them light up based on geofencing, a garage door opening or some other mechanism. But why not use the sun instead of some other hardware or device?

Trigger routines and scenes based on calendar events

Stacey had mentioned a routine / scene she created for doing yoga. When asking Alexa or Google Assistant to run the “Yoga” scene, her TV turns on, the downstairs temp lowers to 75 degrees, a Lutron fan and Philips Hue lights both turn on. That’s useful but I took it a step further, and you can too for your own scenes.

Try connecting IFTTT to your Google Calendar and a supported home automation shortcut or scene. I created a 9am Yoga event as a trigger on my calendar to fire up a similar routine. Lights were dimmed and relaxing music was fired up at nine on the dot, but sadly, I didn’t do the yoga part. Not only does this alleviate the voice command, but it makes more likely you’ll actually do the yoga, or whatever event you want to carve time out for.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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Smart cities market value to hit $2 trillion by 2025, says Frost & Sullivan

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The overall market value for smart cities will surpass $ 2 trillion by 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan – with artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of it.

The analyst firm believes AI, alongside personalised healthcare, robotics, advanced driver assistance systems and distributed energy generation will be among the cornerstone technologies of future smart cities.

With more than 80% of the population in developed countries expected to live in cities by 2050, now is the time to act. According to a study from Counterpoint Research, which this publication examined earlier this week, there will be more than 125 million connected vehicles shipped by 2022.

The convergence of technologies – such as smart cars integrating with smart traffic lights – will be an important factor, but getting citizens engaged will also be key. Last month, Gartner put together a series of recommendations for local government CIOs in Asia, citing the importance of discussions between the government and its citizens. According to Frost & Sullivan, more than half of smart cities will be in China, generating $ 320 billion for its economy by 2025.

Europe will have the largest number of smart city project investments globally, according to the research, while the total North America smart buildings market – comprising smart sensors, systems, hardware and software – will surpass $ 5bn by 2020. The analysis also noted the rising importance in Latin America, citing Mexico City, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janairo as active cities in this area. Smart city projects in Brazil will drive almost 20% of the country’s IoT revenue by 2021.

“Currently most smart city models provide solutions in silos and are not interconnected. The future is moving toward integrated solutions that connect all verticals within a single platform,” said Vijay Narayanan, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan in a statement. “IoT is already paving the way to allow for such solutions.”

You can find out more about Frost & Sullivan’s smart cities studies here.

iottechnews.com: Latest from the homepage

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Bristol looks for partner in smart city initiative

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NEWSBYTE Bristol City Council has tendered a £400,000 contract to find a supplier to deliver phase two of its Smart City strategy. The programme looks to upgrade urban traffic management and healthcare, among other connected services.

According to a posting on the UK government’s digital marketplace, the local authority is looking for a partner to “lead, plan, prioritise, prototype, and deliver the technical innovations that will form Bristol’s SMART services”.

The work will also cover a variety of other areas, including security and surveillance, energy, the environment, and waste, says the announcement.

The local authority said that it wants to ensure better use of its assets, funding, and technology. The successful applicant will help to ensure that programmes are taken all the way from concept to implementation.

Under the scheme, commercial strategies will also be put in place to ensure that Bristol’s fibre network, Operations Centre, urban assets, and infrastructure are all “fully utilised in an efficient way to ensure the best use of technology, capacity, people, and processes”.

The first phase of the Smart City programme has already been completed, and Bristol City Council wants to complete phase two by February 2019.

Multifunctional operations centre

Under phase one, the council built a new multifunctional operations centre, which includes an IT platform on which other systems can be integrated to provide dashboard-based management, insights, and analytics. Urban traffic management will be the first programme to move into the new centre, followed by tele-health and broadband rollouts.

Phase 2 also hopes to increase the number of customers using the Operations Centre. Alongside Operations Centre staff will be other council employees and partner agencies, such as Bristol is Open, the University of Bristol, local emergency services, and clinical commissioning groups.

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The expected contract length is 8-9 months with a maximum budget of £400,000. The closing date for applications is 5 April.

Read more: Asia Pacific smart city spend to top $ 28.3 billion in 2018

Read more: Smart city hotspots: FLIR manages traffic using thermal imaging

Read more: Councils partner with Telensa on smart city programmes

Read more: Poles apart: Five cities putting smart streetlights to new uses

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Smart energy: Why vehicle-to-grid technology is on the move

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There’s a lot to be said for using car batteries as temporary energy storage facilities, but significant barriers still stand in the way of widespread uptake, as Jessica Twentyman explains.

What do you get if you cross an electric vehicle with a smart building? According to Hitachi Europe, Mitsubishi Motors, and energy company ENGIE, the answer could be an energy-neutral office block that uses cars in the parking lot as a temporary energy storage facility.

Last week, the three companies announced a project in the Netherlands that will see them test out their theories, by linking a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to ENGIE’s office building in Zaandam, via Hitachi’s two-way V2X Charger.

The V2X Charter can be used not only to recharge an electric vehicle (EV), but also to discharge the energy held in its battery back into a building when needed. In this way, when a building equipped with solar panels generates more energy than it needs, for example, the excess might be stored in vehicles until it’s required.

For the next stage of its project, the consortium will examine how EVs, renewable energy, and smart building energy management systems might be more closely coordinated to reduce energy costs and emissions, with the ultimate goal of making buildings energy neutral, according to Hitachi Europe’s chief digital officer, Ram Ramachander.

“Our technology can also help to create new business cases across the EV value chain,” he says, “including vehicle-to-grid technology, which enables flexibility with their energy distribution.”

V2G promises

The term ‘vehicle-to-grid’, or V2G, is not new. The idea of using car batteries as a source of power in grid services has been seen as attractive for several years, not only because of the growing lithium-ion capacity tied up in EVs, but also because much of that energy is not being used a great deal of the time.

As Vincent Cobee, corporate vice president at Mitsubishi Motors, puts it, the project in Zaandam aims to show that EVs and PHEVs “can be a vital component of energy in the future.”

Last month, automaker Nissan announced a partnership with energy giant E.ON at the Geneva Motor Show, which focuses in part on “vehicle-to-grid infrastructure and advanced bi-directional charging technology to allow customers to optimise their energy use and costs.”

The UK government seems to see a lot of promise in V2G, too. In February 2018, the Department of Transport announced a new £30 million investment in V2G technologies, which it hopes will unlock the potential for EVs to be used to power homes, rather than the other way around.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman certainly didn’t hold back his enthusiasm for the technology. “These projects are at the cutting edge of their field,” he said. “Just like the visionary designs of Brunel and Stephenson in transport, they could revolutionise the ways in which we store and manage electricity, both now and in the future.”

One of the groups that will benefit from that funding brings together energy storage specialist Moixa Energy, the UK’s National Grid, Western Power Distribution, and Nissan’s Technical Centre Europe, among others.

If electric vehicles are left plugged into smart, two-way charging points when not in use, argue the consortium’s members, their batteries can feed power into the network at times of peak demand. Just ten new Nissan LEAFs can store as much energy as a thousand homes typically consume in an hour, they claim.

“Smart chargers can also control when cars recharge to avoid stressing the network and to store surplus power when demand is low. This will allow the grid to operate more efficiently, support high levels of renewables, and rely less on fossil fuel power stations,” the consortium says.

Its study, V2GB – Vehicle to Grid Britain, aims to establish the best way to incentivise a rapid rollout of the technology, via sharing the revenues that result from V2G energy flows among drivers, owners of smart charging stations and car parks, and aggregators of battery capacity.

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A promising technology, but the journey to becoming a mainstream, everyday option is still some way off for V2G. One concern it that discharging energy from a stationary EV stresses its battery, which is one of its most expensive components.

Paying drivers to take part may prove to be the critical incentive that helps V2G schemes succeed, but not all drivers will be persuaded to participate, especially if they’re concerned about their EV being drained of power just before they set off on a journey. This is where smart energy management software may play a big role, by helping to ensure that charging and discharging fits in with drivers’ preferences and schedules.

Utilities’ ability to keep up is also in question. It’s no secret that many are already struggling to deal with growing EV charging requirements, even though they look set to gain massively if they can reposition themselves as ‘the new petroleum companies’.

Recent analysis by research firm Wood Mackenzie, for example, predicts that simultaneously charging 60,000 EVs in Texas could cause a massive grid failure in that state – even though that total accounts for just 0.25 percent of the 24 million vehicles registered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Plus, there just aren’t that many EVs available that support two-way flows. Most EVs can chug away at charging points, but vehicles capable of regurgitating the contents of their battery for use elsewhere are yet to emerge in substantial numbers.

In short, automakers have a lot of work to do to make V2G systems work.

But that is not to say that the hurdles can’t be overcome in time. The benefits are potentially huge: a more resilient smart grid, energy-neutral buildings, cleaner air, and lower carbon emissions.

Read more: Electric car demand supercharges lithium-ion battery market. Positive news?

Read more: Battery breakthrough puts superfast-charging electric vehicles on road

Read more: WaveRoller energy: Why the sea is the world’s biggest battery

Read more: Pirelli smart tyres underpin its Cyber Car strategy

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