When I first heard about the Petnet SmartFeeder, I bristled. How could something so basic as feeding a pet be in search of a smart solution? I deposit a half-cup of dry kibble in my dog's bowl twice daily--done and done. Is no human endeavor sacred? I can see that there are times when an automatic pet feeder makes sense: an unpredictable work schedule, say, or an impromptu invite, either of which could step on the toes of your pet's meal time.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating water accounts for fully 18 percent of the typical household's annual energy consumption, second only to the amount of energy consumed to heat and cool their residence. And because the typical tank water heater keeps 40 to 50 gallons of water piping hot 24 hours a day, seven days a week--whether or not anyone is home to use it--20 to 50 percent of the energy is completely wasted. Following an aborted crowd-funding campaign in late 2014, Aquanta (formerly Sunnovations) is now taking pre-orders on its Aquanta "learning" water-heater controller, which it expects to ship in July. In a note to its would-be backers when it cancelled its Kickstarter campaign, the team said while its campaign was unsuccessful, the exposure it garnered lead to "a sizable number of large and exciting strategic and distribution partners to contact us." Fast forward 18 months and Aquanta CEO Matthew Carlson tells me his company has "had test units in the field for more than a year."
Desktop digital picture frames have largely faded away, a side effect of the ubiquity of smartphones. Now the next thing to go digital is the artwork on your wall, such as the latest connected-art canvas from New York City-based Meural. The 27-inch, 1920x1080 display is large enough to be a focal point on your wall or fireplace mantle, and it taps into a collection of more than 20,000 pieces of art via an 802.11n Access to the collection is included in the 495 price of the frame (a "Lightbox" model sells for 595). The frame has 8GB of built-in memory, so you can store a number of works at once.
Vacuum bags, containers, and dustbins share a common flaw: They tend to release dirt and dust into the air when you detach and empty them. Much of that dirt and dust settles back on the surfaces you just cleaned. For allergy and asthma sufferers, this is more than an annoyance--it can trigger an attack that can make performing this household chore a risky proposition. Oreck's POD Technology addresses this problem with a self-sealing and disposable container that locks in dust and debris, so it doesn't escape into the air when you remove it from the cordless vacuum. Instead of emptying the pod into the trash can, you drop the whole thing in and replace it with a fresh one for your next vacuuming.
The Cinder Precision Grill promises to cook your food at a precise temperature, just like a sous-vide device, and then sear it so that you don't need a grill or a second pan. It mostly lives up to those promises, but it's big, very heavy, and is a pain in the neck to clean. And at $499 ($399 if you buy it during its Indiegogo campaign), it's quite expensive. In my home, the only appliance that's earned a permanent spot on the countertop is the coffeemaker. Everything else gets stored in a cabinet, drawer, or the appliance garage.