Apps, de­vices and photo books are tai­lor-made for modern fam­i­lies

Grand Magazine - - TECH - Alex Kin­sella

In our home, dis­cus­sions about decor and style are more wish­ful think­ing than ac­tual plan­ning. That beau­ti­ful suede sec­tional could be the key com­po­nent in our liv­ing room de­sign. We could get ac­cent pil­lows to match the newly in­stalled Cal­i­for­nia shut­ters. There are a few pieces at the Art District Gallery in St. Ja­cobs that we’ve been eye­ing with a view to ad­ding them to our col­lec­tion.

But who are we kid­ding? We share our home with three girls un­der the age of nine and they seem to rel­ish de­stroy­ing things. Peel­ing paint off walls, draw­ing on any and ev­ery sur­face, some­how tak­ing doors off their hinges. (I still can­not fig­ure that one out.)

I now un­der­stand why my par­ents were so happy when my brother and I moved out. They could fi­nally dec­o­rate the way they wanted with­out fear.

While my kids are get­ting older, there has been a re­cent baby boom in my group of friends. In the spirit of new and up­com­ing bun­dles of joy – and de­struc­tion – here are some home-tech sug­ges­tions for par­ents. CRE­AT­ING A HEALTH­IER EN­VI­RON­MENT

As an overly cau­tious first-time dad, I found my­self con­stantly check­ing to see if my new­born daugh­ter was breath­ing. What I did not think to check was what she was breath­ing. The air qual­ity in our homes can vary for a num­ber of rea­sons. The chang­ing of the sea­sons to the fre­quency of fur­nace clean­ings all have an im­pact.

But how can you tell what is in the air? This is where the Ne­tatmo Healthy Home Coach comes in. Like any re­spectable smart home de­vice, it is loaded with sen­sors. Ne­tatmo tracks the hu­mid­ity, air qual­ity, tem­per­a­ture and even the deci­bels in the room in which it’s placed.

The Ne­tatmo app – avail­able for iPhone and An­droid smart­phones – pro­vides real-time air qual­ity in­for­ma­tion. For nurs­eries, the Healthy Home Coach can pro­vide tips for mak­ing ad­just­ments to help your lit­tle one get a bet­ter nap. Bet­ter naps equal hap­pier par­ents.

Beyond the nurs­ery, you can con­nect sev­eral Healthy Home Coach de­vices to mon­i­tor all your rooms in one app. This al­lows you to have a whole-home view and get the most of the time you spend in­doors. The Ne­tatmo can be pur­chased from your favourite on­line re­tailer for $119.99 or from their site­ MAKE YOUR OWN COF­FEE TA­BLE BOOKS Whether it is my iPhone or my Canon Rebel T3i, I al­ways have a cam­era with me. I am the of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher for fam­ily re­unions, birth­days and pretty much any oc­ca­sion where there’s a mem­ory to be cap­tured.

The down­side to this is the thou­sands of photos spread across iCloud photo stor­age, ex­ter­nal hard drives and mem­ory cards. Print­ing them at the photo sta­tion of a big-box store can take up an entire week­end. An al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion is to cre­ate photo books of all your spe­cial events.

The most cus­tom­iz­a­ble op­tion is by us­ing Blurb. My first Blurb book was our wed­ding al­bum. In­stead of get­ting a tra­di­tional al­bum, we used Blurb to cre­ate one vol­ume con­tain­ing both our of­fi­cial photos and ta­ble cam­era pic­tures.

It is tough to beat the choices this com­pany of­fers. Blurb lets you cus­tom­ize the cover type (hardcover, soft­cover or dust­jacket), size (from 7x7 inches to 13x11 inches) and the paper type.

You do not have to be a pro­fes­sional type­set­ter to cre­ate a Blurb book. As a first­timer, you can cre­ate a book right in your browser. Do you or a fam­ily mem­ber use an iPad as your pri­mary de­vice? Blurb of­fers an app for iPhone or iPad to cre­ate sim­ple photo books right from your cam­era roll.

If you are com­fort­able down­load­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion, they of­fer their own in-house

tool, Book­wright, for both Mac and Win­dows-based com­put­ers. There is even a plug-in for the pro­fes­sional de­sign soft­ware Adobe InDe­sign. Blurb books and tools can be down­loaded from

While Blurb is a great tool, the process of get­ting to a fi­nal book is not al­ways easy. The va­ri­ety of op­tions in paper type and de­sign can put you in a state of choice over­load. Chat­books has de­signed a ser­vice to break through this wall.

Chat­books is an app for your iOS or An­droid smart­phone that au­to­mat­i­cally cre­ates, or­ders and ships you a book of your photos. There is no need to se­lect which photos to in­clude or to pick a page lay­out.

With Chat­books, you sim­ply choose a book style and then start tak­ing photos. A photo book is cre­ated for you ev­ery time you post 60 photos to In­sta­gram or Face­book. You can also set Chat­books to cre­ate a book when you like 60 photos in your smart­phone’s cam­era roll.

Chat­books sends you an alert when your book is ready for review. Once you ap­prove the book, Chat­books prints and ships it to your door. You can learn more at https:// chat­ I highly rec­om­mend you watch their ex­plainer video at their site. MAKE OUT­SIDE NEW AGAIN

The air is bet­ter in your home. The cof­fee ta­ble in your liv­ing room is piled with beau­ti­ful photo books. Now is a good time to get the kids to play out­side, but they are not in­ter­ested. Van­cou­ver-based Biba is tack­ling the prob­lem of get­ting your kids off their iPads and back into the play­ground.

Biba is a se­lec­tion of apps for iOS and An­droid smart­phones that al­low you to cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive games us­ing your lo­cal play­ground. To give Biba a try, I down­loaded Biba But­ter­fly Bounty to my iPhone. I then rounded up two of my kids and my niece and headed to the play­ground.

Biba is not an aug­mented re­al­ity app where your child runs around the swings with your phone. The par­ent se­lects what equip­ment is avail­able. Our play­ground has a twisty slide, straight slide, mon­key bars and swings. Biba But­ter­fly Bounty takes those se­lec­tions and cre­ates a game where your kids have to use the play­ground to ad­vance in the game while you are in con­trol of the smart­phone.

It took a few tries to get used to the game play, but within 10 min­utes the kids were run­ning back and forth between the play­ground and me to mark their progress. Each game lets you se­lect the avail­able play­ground equip­ment and of­fers dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. There is even one that is like a ju­nior ver­sion of In­di­ana Jones. Biba works with any lo­cal play­ground and can also be used with your own back­yard play set.

Whether it is the in­doors or the out­doors, these are just some of the in­no­va­tive tech so­lu­tions for get­ting the most from your space.

Alex Kin­sella has been part of Water­loo Re­gion’s tech com­mu­nity since 2004 and is al­ways look­ing for the next great gad­get (or tacos, if it’s Tues­day). Find him on Twit­ter at @alexkin­sella

Use your smart­phone to track Ne­tatmo air-qual­ity, tem­per­a­ture and noise data in your home.

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