CNET's new show The Fix debuts!Sharon Vaknin, Donald Bell, and Eric Franklin cover the latest tech DIYs, insider secrets, and how-tos.
-Hello and welcome to CNET's The Fix. -The show about DIY tech and how tos. I'm Donald Bell. -And I'm Sharon Vaknin. This week, it's all about the smarthome. Wireless connections that allow us to control our appliances, lights, and other comforts of home from just about anywhere. -It offers a lot of convenience and there's also some pretty cool tech involved. We're gonna start off with the DIY trick on how to control things around your home using your smartphone. Let's check it out. -This DIY is all about taking an otherwise boring piece of furniture and making it a whole lot smarter. We're making a smart night stand with built-in power, wireless charging, and NFC. And that NFC or Near-Field Communication will allow me to tap my phone to the night stand and automatically turn on my Philips Hue light bulbs. So, I chose this night stand because it's super affordable. I think I paid like 30 bucks for it. And it's just the right size and build for this project. But one thing I did modify was the tabletop. It had a metal top and I swapped in a wooden top, but the first thing we wanna do is install this built-in power. So, I've got this power strip, which is awesome because it's got your regular plugs, but also two USB ports. Since the drawer is made of metal, the easiest way to adhere this thing is with magnets. And this should set in about 10 minutes and we should be good to go. Now, we wanna add wireless charging. What I've got here is a Nokia wireless charger and the Nexus 5. So, what I wanna do is mount this charger right underneath the surface. And because this tabletop is so thin, it's still going to be able to charge the phone. The indicator light should turn on and then, boom, our phone is charging. Okay, now let's get to the brains of this night stand. We're adding NFC. So, I've got this NFC tag and what we're going to do is adhere it to the bottom underneath the tabletop so that when I tap this tag, it turns on, my Philips Hue light bulbs. Now, the Philips Hue app on its on can't do this. So, I've downloaded a third-party app called Lampshade. IO. And what that lets me do is write a tag that completes that action. So, a launch lampshade, NFC. Turn on our light bulbs. Then I'll hold the tag to the back of the phone. It detects it. Hit right the tag. And our tag is safe. So, this will go right underneath the tabletop. Oki doc. So, our smart night stand is complete. Let's put this guy in place and take it for a spin. So, we will tap our NFC tag. Lights turn on. And then set it over our wireless charger and get this thing juiced up. And our smart night stand is complete. Now, this thing really works because of these Philips Hue light bulbs. They're smart WiFi connected bulbs. So, when you tap that NFC tag, it pings the WiFi network and tells them to turn on. In that app that we used, we've even got options for random. So, hit the random button and you never know what color you're gonna get. These lights are awesome. You can even program those NFC tags to automatically launch an alarm clock, a music playlist. There are so many customization options there. -That sounds like it's a worthwhile investment. Some NFC tags. -Sure is. All right, we're going to a quick break, but then we're talking about new tech gadgets that will alert you about what's going on at your house even when you're not there. -That's right. I'm gonna show you how to use sensors around your home to monitor light, motion, sound, and all that's gonna communicate directly with your smartphone. That's coming up next. -Welcome back. We've been talking about the connected home. And in this next how-to, we're turning your ordinary appliances into smart appliances with high tech sensors that are also affordable. -You think of the home of the future and you think of the fully automated home of the Jetsons. No, we're not there yet, but we can make our home a little smarter with some inexpensive sensors. Right here, I've got the Quirky Spotter, a 50-dollar sensor. And a little more expensive over here, the Twine, a little geekier too. But both of these are essentially doing the same thing. They're going to measure light, sound, vibration, and temperature and communicate that information to your phone. So, first step, we're gonna show you how to use the Quirky spotter to accomplish one of the most lonesome and common things in your home, the laundry. Now, the first thing we're gonna do is program our spotter. It sounds like it's complicated, but they've made it pretty easy. There's an app in it to install called the Wink app. Open that thing up. You're gonna tell it your WiFi log in and password and then this little bit of magic happens where it communicates that password information to the spotter by blinking on the device itself. Let's do a countdown. Start the countdown. I'm gonna hold the screen over the spotter. There it goes. Hey, successfully connected. That's what we wanted. Success. All right, the next screen we see here is the screen that shows off the four different sensors that are built into the spotter. Temperature, light, sound, and motion. Now, for being able to detect when the dryer's done, I'm gonna make use of its motion detector. I'm gonna setup a new trigger. I'm gonna say that when it detects that movement, it stopped. It's going to send me a notification. Now hit done. Save. It says give the spotter a double tap. Okay. Put that back in the dryer. Let's give it a test. Fill this thing up with some laundry. All right. Everything is rumbling around, drying my towels. Now, hopefully if everything is working right, it's going to text me when everything's done. And there I go. It says that the motion has stopped. My laundry is done. Oh, towels. Life just got a little smarter. All right. For something with a little added flexibility, little geek out capability, we've got the Twine. Now, Twine is more expensive. It's $125 instead of $50 for the spotter. But with that, you get a lot of add-ons you can do. In this case, I purchased the add-on moisture sensor. I'm here in a basement so what I'm gonna do is gonna have this program so that it can detect water in my basement before the whole thing floods. Now to set that up, I'm gonna go to the Twine website and create a rule set to tell this thing that whenever it detects water, to e-mail me right away. All right. So, setting up a rule is pretty basic here. We're gonna setup. So, when it detects moisture in my basement, then I'm gonna have it e-mail me and here I can make my message. I can customize that. I can customize the subject line. Messages, your basement is-- I'm not gonna even fill the automatic condition of it being wet or dry and it'll let me know. Hit save to Twine. It's gonna ask me to turn it over. Here it goes. So now, the information is being transmitted over to the Twine and then we'll get to test it out. All right. All done. Now, let's go to test. Now, all you need to do is dip this down into the water. I can even see from the sensor itself here that it is getting a message. It's probably gonna turn itself into an e-mail. Let's check that out. Checking for mail. E-mail message from my Twine saying your basement is wet. I now have an automatic sensor looking out for my basement moisture. So there you go. Those are two ways to add relatively inexpensive sensors to your home to get you a little closer to that smarthome Jetsons future. You know what else is cool about the Twine? -It can Tweet. -What? -Yeah. -Who would have thought? Well, we've shown you some innovative and inspiring ways to integrate technology into your home. -But up next, we're gonna get really techy. We're gonna show you the ins and outs of what really makes this stuff tick. -Hey everyone, welcome to the Breakdown. I'm Eric Franklin. And this is where we explain the details behind your technology. Now, you may have seen the letters NFC in some of your electronics devices and maybe you know what that is and maybe you don't. But today, I'm gonna explain it all to you. NFC is Near-Field Communication. It's the communication standard for transmitting data to compatible devices. It starts when device one creates an electromagnetic field in order to communicate with device number two. However, in order to make that connection, the two devices have to be very close to each other. They have to be within a few centimeters or very near. The reason behind that is because NFC uses very short radio waves to make the connection. And by using short radio waves instead of long radio waves used by both Bluetooth and WiFi, NFC requires much less power to make a connection. So now you know whether or not you have NFC, but what's it gonna do for you? What are the practical applications of the technology? -Well, there are three that you should know about. The first one is peer-to-peer. Now, this of course means you have two power devices, both with NFC. You wanna share data between them. Let's say a photo. So, I have a nice photo of tech shop right here. I wanna get this phone close to the phone with the photo. Make the connection. Tap the send. And now it's sending. Now, this is using android beam, which uses NFC to establish the initial connection then it switches to Bluetooth in order to make the actual transfer and now it's received. There's the photo that I just sent. Pretty cool stuff. The second is one-way communication used by advertisers a lot. The NFC tag is programmed with the data the manufacturer wants to share. Now, the really cool thing about that is that the NFC tag doesn't run on its own power. It simply waits for NFC device to get close to it. That device creates an electromagnetic field, which powers the NFC tag with enough juice to share the data. It's really crazy, but really cool. And finally, mobile payments. For instance, Google Wallet allows you to use your smartphone instead of your credit card to make purchases at a store. You simply tap and pay and the appropriate amount is deducted from whichever credit card you have setup. Right now, only a few retailers are using this technology, but hopefully we'll see more soon. -That's it for this week's show. -Thanks so much for watching. If you have any ideas for us or any feedback, you can reach us online. I'm @Donald on Twitter. -And I'm @SharonVak. Hit us up. We'll see you next time. -On CNET The Fix.