This Gadget Freak review looks at a personal motion tracking device that uses Bluetooth to help you track down items you tag in a range of up to 150 feet. You can uses these tags, PebbleBees, to keep tabs on anything from your keys to your dog. We also look at a DIY solar phone charger that is built in a mint tin and only costs $7 to build.
Our vintage Gadget Freak is a dishwasher indicator that uses a flashing green LED to let people know when the dishes are clean.
Personal Lost & Found
The PebbleBee is a Bluetooth personal motion tracking device that coins itself as your "personal lost and found." These small, durable, and water resistant tags communicate with Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy in a range of up to 150 feet.
You can tag virtually anything with the PebbleBee -- your keys, shopping bags, pet, child -- and set a range finder so you are alerted when they get out of their set range. So what if you lose something out of your range? That is what the PebbleBee cloud is for. You can access your PebbleBees from any compatible phone through the PebbleBee cloud, share your PebbleBees with other users, and set designated friends. Your privacy is kept secure as the PebbleBee cloud, with "security protocols to validate the user for permission to either see or use the PebbleBee." There is also an option to use your tag privately.
Once you have your items tagged, you can keep track of them on their app or set the tag to buzz or light up (spark) when you want to locate them. Their free application is compatible with Android 4.3+ Bluetooth 4.0 equipped devices, iOS iPhone 4s or newer, and iPad 3 or iPad Mini. The iOS app is open-source, so you can customize your updates.
Utilizing a 3-Axis gyroscope, 3-Axis Accelerometer, and 3-Axis Compass, the PebbleBee has a replaceable 285 mAh CR2430 button battery that can last up to three years. You can also run your tag in private mode to help preserve your battery life and increase wireless performance.
The PebbleBee is currently an active Kickstarter campaign that has gone way beyond its goal of $20,000. Backers are scheduled to get their tags in May.
DIY Solar Phone Charger
User tech savy on Instructables created a solar phone charger from an old tin mint case. The charger is powered by both the sun and a battery and was created as a cheaper alternative to other solar chargers.
For the total cost of $7, materials used included a 3V solar cell, 1.5V to 5V boost module, rectifier diode, rocker switch, battery holder, rechargeable battery, and 10 or 25V capacitor all stored in a mint tin.
One it was assembled and tested with a voltmeter, an iPhone was plugged in to the smart tin and was able to charge 3% in five minutes.
Creating gadgets in mint tins is something our Gadget Freaks should be familiar with -- Al Linke created a breathalyzer in an Altoids tin in Gadget Freak Case #207.
Vintage Gadget Freak: Dishwasher Indicator Eases Unloading
Most dishwashers come equipped with an indicator that lets people know when the dishes have gone through a complete washing cycle. Some people will open the dishwasher and get some clean dishes, but they won't unload it completely. The "clean" indicator will turn off, but people might not know whether the dishes are clean.
This gadget uses a flashing green LED to let people know the dishes are clean. An infrared proximity sensor detects the presence of a person near the dishwasher and turns on the LED circuit. The LED state remains set until someone completely empties the dishwasher. Even after you open the door and take out only a few dishes, the green LED will flash when people approach the dishwasher, so they see a reminder to unload it completely.
After the dishwasher is emptied, a red LED starts flashing, and people can start to load it with dirty dishes. Now no one will have any doubt about whether the dishwasher is full of dirty or clean dishes. The indicator tells it all.
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- Gadget Freak Case #242: A Gadget's Call for Assistance
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- Gadget Freak Case #230: The Inexpensive Dimmable LED Desk Lamp
- Gadget Freak Case #227: Wearable Computer Keeps Tabs on Fido & Kitty