Day to day use of my Remote Heating Control system

This is the fifth in a series of articles in which I am exploring Remote Heating Control – a technology of the future. Learn more about this series by reading the introductory article, called stepping into the future of smarter living.

Well Autumn really has begun, it’s now mid-October and the days are starting to get shorter. Trees are starting to drop their now golden brown leaves and there is a chill in the air that hasn’t been there since last winter.

Now that it is Autumn it is getting much colder, and this means that my heating is now really important to me. It’s that time of year when I want to stay warm, but at the same time am conscious to save energy.

Controlling My Heating Via Smartphone

I have recently bought a Samsung Galaxy S III, a smartphone powered by Google’s Android operating system. This means that I am now able to test out the Remote Heating Control app. British Gas have made an app for both Androids and iDevices, as I have an Android powered Samsung, I will be talking about the Android app.

The application is available for download from Apple’s App Store and from Google play, and is called myHome – after the online portal that you log into to control your heating.

The app is free to download, however (as you would expect) you need to have Remote Heating Control technology in your home for it to be of any use. You need internet access to be able to use the app, as it has to connect to the myHome portal in order to fetch real time data and store any changes you make; however that shouldn’t really be an issue though, as most smartphones now come Wi-Fi enabled and have optional 3G/4G. A smartphone isn’t really that smart without the internet!

Installing The myHome App

I was pleasantly surprised by how fast I was able to install and log into the app. I clicked on the Google play icon on my handset, I then searched for ‘myhome’ and third on the list was the app I wanted. I clicked on the app and pressed install and within seconds it had installed. I then ran the app, and it brought up a login screen, very similar to the one that can be seen if you log in to myHome on your PC.

British Gas myHome

British Gas’s myHome log in screen

After I logged in I was presented with a very similar screen to the one I see when I am online. I was able to control the temperature of my heating right this moment. As you can see, I was at work at the time, so the temperature in the house wasn’t set very high, however it had been on earlier in the morning, so the house was still relatively warm.

A screenshot of the myHome dashboard

A screenshot I took of the myHome dashboard once I had logged in to the Android app.

The heating status was set to Auto, as it was following the schedule. It was really easy to change the temperature, which I did by moving the sliding on the right up and down with my finger.

If you click on the thermometer at the top you get a temperature summary – showing you the temperature in your house and outside.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t edit my heating schedule via my Samsung, however I suppose the settings could get a little fiddly on the smaller screen.

If I want to change the schedule, the easiest way is online. That said, it is really easy to change the immediate temperature via smartphone. I am happy with the app, it loads very fast and is well designed. The layout is clean, and easy to use.

Other Features Of The myHome Portal

In previous article I have discussed some of the main features of the myHome online portal, such as being able to see your heating status and the temperature, and being able to set up a schedule for your heating, however there are some other features which are of use.

Under the ACCOUNT heading you are able to change details like your name and email, along with your PIN (the code you have to text when you want to change your heating via SMS) and alerts. I have the system set to alert me via email in the case of a failure of any of the technology and also it will contact me with any warnings that may be relevant, like to let me know the battery on my smart linked thermostat is running low.

As I mentioned in a previous article, it isn’t ideal that my thermostat now needs a battery, that said, it has been running for around 3 months now, and still has 5/5 bars of battery, and if it does start to run low, I will be told in advance of the batteries dying.

If you click on the DEVICES heading, you will be taken to a page displaying all the devices that are currently in your system. On this page I can see my wireless hub and smart linked thermostat. Both are reading status ‘All ok‘ and have full battery and signal strength. My wireless hub is plugged into the mains, to the battery should always read full on that, as the power is mains supply.

Finally, if you click on the HELP heading, you are taken to a screen where there are various guides to help you use the software. If you ever get stuck you can either call British Gas, send them an email, or consult one of their PDF help guides. There is also a link to the app download pages on this page.

British Gas myHome Help and Advice page screenshot

A screenshot of the Help and Advice page in the myHome online portal.

That’s about it for this week.

In two weeks time I will publish the sixth and final article in the series. It will summarise and conclude what I have learnt and shared with you over the last five articles, and I will also give my verdict as to whether the system met my expectations, and whether it is really a technology of the future. See you on the 2nd of November!

The App Store exceeds 25 billion downloads!

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California-based tech giant Apple – a company renowned for their phenomenally successful consumer hardware – have confirmed that the number of applications downloaded from its App Store recently exceeded 25 billion worldwide.

The figures that make up this total include apps sold via the store for all of Apple’s iDevices – including the iPhone, it’s various iPods and the iPad. Apple’s iDevices are used by an estimated half a billion people world wide (500 million) a colossal amount!

A black iPhone 4S

A black iPhone 4S – one of the iDevices which Apple have sold half a billion of (globally)

The announcement by Apple follows news that the winner of the company’s App Store Countdown to 25 Billion Apps – Chunli Fu from China – will be given a gift card worth $10,000 in free gifts as a reward for being the person to download the 25 billionth app from the Apple Store.

The app that marked the 25 billion download point was the game Where’s My Water (the free version). The app is a puzzle game that tests the physics skills and knowledge of the user, and can be downloaded onto virtually all of the main Apple iDevices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The game is one of the biggest selling and most popular apps available via the Apple Store – an in-house option for downloading Apple products which has proven to be revolutionary since the company started it.

In the period since the Apple Store was launched it has grown to the point where it now has 600,000 apps available for download, to users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod. These apps are available in more that 100 countries world wide, with nearly 200,000 of the apps being created by Apple itself. The apps available cover a wide range of subject areas, such as sports, games, news, business, travel and health and fitness. Just look at the Technology Bloggers ‘apps‘ category, to see reviews of some of the great apps on offer.

Apple’s Internet Software and Services senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, said:

“We’d like to thank our customers and developers for helping us achieve this historic milestone of 25 billion apps downloaded. When we launched the App Store less than four years ago, we never imagined that mobile apps would become the phenomenon that they have, or that developers would create such an incredible selection of apps for iOS users.”

Thanks to this and other user-friendly promotions, Apple remains the company to beat in more than one field!

Which tablet works best for you?

With the holidays fast approaching, tech companies are readying new products to woo people looking for the latest hot item in the tech industry. Games consoles, flat screens, and smartphones have had their time in the sun as popular holiday purchases, but this year belongs to the tablet.

Apple dominated the tablet market last holiday season with the introduction of their revolutionary iPad, a wild success with consumers. Since then competitors have tried to emulate the magic of the iPad in an effort to cash in on the new tablet market, but to little avail: HP’s tablet failed to impress consumers, while Motorola’s Xoom tablet has struggled to establish a solid consumer base since its release in January.

But Apple now has two serious contenders to face in the tablet arena: Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet. Amazon and Barnes & Noble, are both wildly successful companies in their own right, are looking to transform the popularity of their digital reading devices into sleek, user-friendly tablets. Now that there are at least three viable tablets to choose from, it’s time to determine which would be the best buy for the holiday season.

Price

We can separate the tablets from each other right from the beginning by looking at their price ranges. The Apple iPad 2 starts at $499, while the Kindle Fire Starts at $199 and the Nook Tablet is priced at $249. Now the disparate prices may be enough to determine a consumer’s purchase; the $300 price gap between the Kindle Fire and iPad 2, for instance, will likely drive many consumers to choose the cheaper tablet.

An iPad 2

An iPad 2 showing off how ‘amazingly thin’ it is

But of course these tablets are priced according to their features. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are much closer in price, and analysts expect that consumers will transfer their digital reader loyalties to the tablets — Kindle users will go to the Kindle Fire and Nook users will likely follow suit with the Nook Tablet. Both tablets will be optimal for digital reading, web browsing, and multimedia functions.

Part of Nook’s more expensive price tag can be attributed to the better hardware: the Nook Tablet has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, compared to the 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage on the Kindle Fire.

While the iPad 2 stands as the most expensive tablet on the market, it also boasts more attractive components than either other tablet. With a larger screen (9.7 inch), built-in 3G, and access to hundreds of thousands of apps from the Apple store, the iPad 2 certainly offers a host of features that would make any tablet competitor blush. Is it expensive? Yes. Do you get what you pay for? Yes.

Stand-Out Features

There are certainly stand-out features to consider with every tablet. The Kindle Fire may not have the hardware on par with the other two tablets, it will have optimized internet usage through Amazon’s cloud service based browser, Silk. In theory Silk will allow the user to perform multiple functions online at once without overburdening the tablet because part of the computing power will be done via Amazon’s cloud system. The Kindle Fire also has the Amazon name in its favor, one of the most trusted names in online retail.

The Nook Tablet has the distinct advantage of being sold at brick and mortar Barnes & Noble stores. A consumer can walk into a store and purchase a Nook Tablet on a whim, something that the Kindle Fire simply can’t compare to.

Barnes & Noble have also hinted at creating spaces similar to Apple’s genius bar, built solely for the maintaining and assistance for all things Nook related. If there’s any credence to that rumor, it could help jettison the Nook Tablet to the top of the market.

As for the iPad 2, its standout feature is simple: it’s an Apple product. The brand loyalty alone has driven millions to purchase the tablet, regardless of the high price tag. But it remains to be seen if Apple will continue to charm potential tablet users in the face of these newly minted tablets from its competitors.

7 Apps You Must Have on Your iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S in black and whiteApple has made computing very easy by integrating some of the special functions of computer on mobile phones. The iPhone is a smartphone series made by Apple. These products are becoming increasingly popular that everybody boasts of owning one.

There are several things that your iPhone can do for you, if you just have the right app for it. From multimedia applications to GPS tracking applications, there is barely anything you can’t find for your iPhone in terms of applications.

The new iPhone 4S released by Apple is a super smartphone. Just in a few days after the launch of the mobile phone, several million copies have been ordered online and ISPs like AT&T have made more sales than ever from it.

But this iPhone 4S might only look more interesting if you have some apps that can make your iPhone 4S livelier.

1. Plants vs. Zombies

There is thrill in playing game on an iPhone. But, I’ve not been as thrilled as I was when I first played Plants vs. Zombies on an iPhone 4S. I’ve always played the game on my laptop computer and it’s always fun.

The truth is that everyone hates zombies, which justifies the reason you want to kill them. Install this game on your iPhone 4s and unleash your fury on these virtual zombies. But you have to be cautious when you start seeing the Michael Jackson Thriller dancers coming after you.

2. iTunes Movie Trailer

iTunes Movie Trailer allows you to watch trailers of movies in HD. You don’t want to miss any new movie and want to remain up to date about latest films. This app has an interestingly slick interface. You can also see popular trailers from various categories.

3. Starbucks

Isn’t it fun? You can now get all the information about Starbucks from your iPhone, directly through this application. You don’t need to start looking up the internet for useful information on Starbucks again.

Among the features of this application are store locator, food and beverage information and it also makes it easy for you to send gifts from Starbucks to your friend.

It also has amazing features like mobile pay. You can load your virtual Starbucks card with funds and can also have your personal barcode scanned at the register.

4. iMovie

Edit your movies on iPhone 4S with iMovie. iMovie allows you to make good movies in minutes by allowing you to add pictures, clips and music to help you bring out masterpiece movies.

iMovie is the one of the best tools for video editing. You can customize your video to your taste and likening. I think this is one of the most interesting apps for multimedia Apple has made for the iPhone.

 5. iCloud

Back up your important files on the cloud with iCloud for iPhone. Once you have iCloud on your iPhone 4S, you don’t have to worry about losing your files. It has also helped me with my weight watchers discounts and edits coupon blog.

It also makes it possible for you to have multiple backups for your special files. You can use you Mac, iPad and iPhone to backup the same file at a time, all secure and safe.

6. Angry Birds

Angry bird is a very popular puzzle game. Take revenge for the birds by attacking the green pigs busy stealing their eggs. The birds are who you fight for, and they are your weapons, too.

Angry birds looks perfect on iPhone 4S for the advanced player and is also challenging and along the line interesting for the new players.

7. Skype

You love to make video calls, who doesn’t? Skype is arguably the best video calling application you’ll have around. Make video calls directly from your iPhone 4S with Skype installed on it. Calling from Skype is also cheap.

You probably have tried it on your previous iPhone series? Well, it’s going to be more fun with iPhone 4S since the new iPhone model has a better and higher camera power.

Try out these apps on your iPhone 4S and come share your experience with us. You’ve tried them already? That’s great. Please share what you think about them with us.