Backed Or Whacked: Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Laziness

Editor’s note: Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and blogs at Techspressive. Each column will look at crowdfunded products that have either met or missed their funding goals. Follow him on Twitter @rossrubin.

Last week’s Backed or Whacked covered light-related products that could be controlled by a smartphone. Beyond making their way in the dark, though, modern humans have many other basic needs — maintaining well-being, feeling secure, and enforcing as much control over their domain as possible while exerting as little effort as necessary. The ability to achieve them with the aid of a smartphone, though, has arrived relatively recently, and the ability to crowdfund them via Indiegogo as per all of this week’s projects, even more recently.

BW-amiigoBacked: Amiigo. Amiigo, which is Spanish for “friend in good shape who spells poorly,” is a chevron-shaped shoe clip that monitors movement, enabling you to know precisely how many calories you’ve expended repeatedly lifting the Boston Creme donut until it has been reduced to sugary crumbs. Amiigo enters the increasingly crowded contest for survival of the fittest begun by early entrants such as Nike+ and Fitbit. However, the trendy joint between the hand and forearm is where all the wriststers hang out these days. These include the Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone UP, and other forthcoming entrants such as CES debutante Fitbit Flex and the HAPIwatch from HAPI Labs. To enter that club, the Amiigo shoe clip neatly docks into a wrist strap.

What the Salt Lake City-based team is counting on to set Amiigo apart from these rivals is more intelligence regarding the specific type of activity you’re doing. The idea of diving deeper into the nature of your exertion has been previously espoused by the developers of the $199 Basis, which employs fancy sensors to monitor the body’s reaction to exercise beyond motion detection. Amiigo, which has more than tripled its $90,000 funding goal with about 25 days left in its campaign, dispenses with the extra hardware and is due to ship to Indiegogo backers in June for about $99.

BW-ismart1Backed: iSmartAlarm. ADT has run a legitimate business securing people’s homes and businesses. Recently, however, bigger bosses like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have told their capos that they want into the protection racket, see? Extracting a monthly fee for peace of mind, though, has heretofore taken place mostly within the customer base of those in multi-room dwellings. There have been a few alternative approaches, though, like the apartment-friendly but nonetheless professionally monitored SimpleSafe system.

For those who are comfortable handling alarms — false and otherwise — themselves, though, Raymond Meng’s team proposes iSmartAlarm, which includes a base station/siren reminiscent of the old Power Mac G4 Cube. iSmartAlarm, set to ship in April and starting with a basic package of only $79 with no monthly fees, has big plans for expansion. The company eventually seeks to include features such as sprinkler controls and GPS pet trackers.

For now, though, it is starting off with the basics — window/door-open sensors, motion sensors and, most importantly, that inert sign that scares away the bad guys. Should brazen intruders disregard the latter, the system can initiate taking successive photos of the perp and will send alerts to the smartphone owned by you or the vigilante of your choosing. iSmartAlarm’s campaign has been plodding along with over $30,000 raised of its $50,000 target with about 20 days to go.

BW-tethercellBacked: Tethercell. Now that the crowdfunding world has provided the gear to convince you of your health and safety, it’s time to take it easy. Perhaps you want to turn on that FM radio on the porch a few feet away, but the thought of leaning forward displeases you. Debuting at CES along with the ultra-thin, time-telling bangle CST-01 that a future Backed or Whacked will discuss in more depth, the Tethercell may be your only hope.

Designed by aerospace engineers, the cylindrical device stuffs a Bluetooth radio into a AA battery shell, leaving enough room in the cavity to insert a AAA battery. You give up some device stamina, but gain the ability to remotely enable and disable all kinds of products either manually or according to a schedule. Tethercell can also alert you when the AA batteries in a device are running low.

Adding Bluetooth to products never intended to be controlled by a smartphone creates a wonderful twist on backward compatibility. While a shrinking number of devices that you might want to activate remotely take standard cells these days, the campaign’s Indiegogo page depicts small lamps, radios and baby monitors as examples. As Tethercell also works with some videogame controllers and many toys, the non-confrontational parent wishing for their kids to turn that damn thing off and pick up a book already can still pick one up for only $35 (although pairs are also proving popular). Recently charged above 47 percent of its $59,000 goal capacity, the Tethercell campaign has about 20 days’ worth of juice left.