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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Broadcasting a very special edition of The Money Pit Radio Show; coming to you today from the floor of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and, man, are we having a great time.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) And walking and walking and walking.

    TOM: And really, we didn’t need to go to the gym; you know we’re just really piling on the miles here walking the square footage of this amazing show. It’s like 1.7 million square feet and we’re here and it’s our very first visit to this show. We’re here to showcase some of the technology that you’re going to be seeing in your home. We’re talking about the DVDs, the VCR, the HDTV; all well-known household products today; were all unveiled at a past consumer electronics show. So there’s some exciting things happening here.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you know this is where thousands of exhibitors come to showcase the newest and the best and just, I really have to say, the coolest products that their companies have to offer.

    TOM: Yeah, and this hour we’re going to hear about some of these products first; plus we’ll talk about the latest trends in home improvement and in the high-tech home.

    LESLIE: Now I know when you guys hear high-tech you start thinking high price tag – KA-CHING! But many of these gadgets that we’re going to tell you about on today’s show are actually going to save you money; something that we know more and more of you – including us – are very concerned about. So first up, how about a way to make free phone calls? We all love talking to family members who are spread out across the country and we really want to look into saving some money when we do so. So are you ready to cut the cord with your local phone company?

    TOM: Well, in today’s connected world, it’s the one last vestige of the terrestrial world. For whatever reason, you may think that you need a land line. Well, now you can have the benefits of a land line without the bill. It’s a system called Ooma Telo and the company’s marketing director is here to talk about it. Please welcome Richard Buchanan.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. How are you today?

    TOM: Now, I’ve got to tell you the whole idea of cutting costs in this economy is absolutely attractive to so many of our listeners. With Ooma, you really will never have a phone bill again; so talk to us about how this works.

    RICHARD: Well, we’ve applied a lot of the technology that’s been developed over the last several years in the VoIP space and we have developed a small box that hooks up to your broadband connection in your home and then, literally, your phone calls – domestically in the United States – are free for life.

    LESLIE: Excellent. What about international calls? Nominal fees?

    RICHARD: Very low fees; typically two to four cents, depending on what country you’re calling. So if you’re familiar with SkypeOut or some other low-cost credit card methods, just use your home phone and away you go. Ooma is designed to deliver low-cost or no-cost phone service.

    LESLIE: Now since we’re going into our broadband connection – obviously you need the internet and you need electricity going for you – what do you do if there’s a power outage?

    RICHARD: Unfortunately, there’s a lot of problems if there’s a power outage. Your router is not going to work. Your broadband is not going to work. But in most homes today, neither is that wireless phone that you’ve got hooked up to your phone now.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Good point.

    LESLIE: True.

    TOM: Yeah, in my house I have one old-fashioned phone standing by for when my power goes out. It’s a ketchup phone.

    RICHARD: Yep. Yep.

    TOM: (chuckling) One of those novelty phones.

    Now when it comes to the wired telephone circuit, we’ve come to appreciate things like caller ID, call waiting, things of that nature. Are those types of technologies and those services available with Ooma?

    RICHARD: Well, we think that’s basic telephone service and even though most phone companies actually charge you for those services, we give them to you free. So caller ID, call waiting, basic voice-mail; all included in the one $250 purchase price of this technology.

    LESLIE: And you know what I think is really cool, Richard – and I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about it – is how do you sort of merge the technologies between your home phone and your cell phone? You know I can’t tell you how many times I need a phone number from my cell phone so I have to look at that and then I use the home phone to make the call or I’m pulling into the driveway with the cell phone and I’ve got to call that person back. Have you sort of brought these two partners into one?

    RICHARD: Yes. One of the things that we envision is that, really, you have a communications platform in your home. The ability to tie the cell phone and your home phone together we think is very important; in fact, we offer a service that allows you to set up a system that when your home phone rings your cell phone will ring simultaneously …

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: … and whichever phone you pick up is where the call will get connected.

    TOM: Wow. That’s cool. Now what about multiple phone lines in multiple rooms in the house. How does that work?

    RICHARD: Well, we’ve got a unique set of hardware that allows you to assign different phone numbers to different phones in your home without running multiple sets of wires around the house. So if you have a son or a daughter that you want to get their own private number for or you have a home office that you want only that phone to ring, it’s very, very easy just to pick up a second phone number from us. You can have up to eight phone numbers attached to this device …

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: … and assign it to a phone in another room. And so only that phone will ring when that number is called.

    LESLIE: How does it sound?

    RICHARD: Crystal clear.

    LESLIE: Really?

    RICHARD: We’re as close to a normal, plain old phone as you can possibly get. We’ve spent a lot of time developing a special set of algorithms that allow the quality of voice to be one of the features that you see and experience real-time with the Ooma (inaudible at 0:05:46.1).

    TOM: Well, that is fantastic, Richard Buchanan, and most importantly, it’s free. Never, ever pay so much as a nickel for a phone call again (Leslie chuckles) once you buy the Ooma system and it’s a system that absolutely sells itself. Thank you so much for being here and telling us all about it.

    RICHARD: Thanks, Tom. Thanks, Leslie. Appreciate the time.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Richard. Oh, our pleasure.

    You are listening to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online, always, at MoneyPit.com and we are coming to you direct from the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    TOM: Still to come this hour, we’re going to talk to the folks who make this show happen every year – the Consumer Electronics Association – about why technology is becoming an integral part of everyday living at home; plus some insight on the hottest consumer products you’ll see in the coming year. All of that coming to you, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Coming to you from the floor of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    LESLIE: Alright, now the Consumer Electronic Show, this is a super-exciting place and it is full of high-tech gadgets. Let me tell you, Tom’s eyes are like bugging out of his head every time we pass something. (Tom chuckles) And all of these gadgets that we’re seeing are bound to make your life easier and save you some money.

    TOM: And technology is becoming more enmeshed in our everyday lives; especially when it comes to our homes. And according to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average American household has 24 electronic products. Here to talk more about that is Jim Barry, the spokesperson for the Consumer Electronics Association.

    Hi, Jim.

    JIM: Hey, guys. Nice to be with you.

    LESLIE: Hey.

    TOM: You’re the hardest working guy here at this show.

    JIM: Well, I’m one of them but this is a terrific show; and you’re right, the typical household has two dozen consumer electronics products. If you’ve got teenagers, actually, that number goes up to about 40 or so. Yeah. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    TOM: (overlapping voices) A little more, right?

    JIM: But – and at this show, every year the industry really renews itself. There’ll be about 20,000 new products introduced at the show. You know this show is a little different this year because of the economy and we’re not immune to the economic downturn …

    TOM: Right.

    JIM: … but we’ll still have about 125, 130,000 people from 140 countries here. There’s over 30 football fields worth of exhibit space; 2,700 exhibitors. So this is really a bright spot in this difficult economy.

    TOM: It really is. Now talk to me about some of the trends. What are some of the hottest trends that you’re seeing this year?

    JIM: Well, there’s a couple of things. One is everything in Las Vegas seems to be getting thinner except me. (Tom and Leslie laugh) Television sets are thin, thin, thin and we’ve seen, last year, SONY previewed this OLED – organic light-emitting diode – which is not measured in inches how thick or thin it is but measured in millimeters.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    JIM: Three millimeters. And you know, the next generation – they’re actually previewing one in the booth there – the next generation of these thin screens are ones that are flexible. Roll them up or fold them up …

    TOM: Wow.

    JIM: … put them in your pocket. But there are other OLEDs this year including – like Kodak has one that’s in one of those digital picture frames.

    TOM: Right.

    JIM: It’s been a really hot gift item the last couple of years. Also LCD – liquid crystal display; the more traditional – and plasma displays are getting thinner and thinner. Some of these less than an inch thick.

    TOM: Did I see SONY had one they were advertising that was as thick as three credit cards?

    LESLIE: Ooh.

    JIM: Yeah, that’s the OLED. Exactly.

    TOM: It’s the OLED. Yeah.

    JIM: It’s three millimeters. So that’s really – and there’s more of those coming here, too.

    TOM: Amazing.

    JIM: So that’s one thing. Another thing is wireless technology; whether it’s wireless to take the pictures from your camera to the printer or to your computer and you can do that either built in to the camera itself or these little SD, the postage stamp-size memory cards.

    TOM: Right.

    JIM: Those now come with WIFI built in and a couple of gigabytes of memory, which would give you a couple of hundred pictures, and then you wirelessly send them to your printer or to your computer.

    TOM: And this truly is the birthplace for all of this technology. This is where these folks are rolling it out.

    JIM: It really is. This is the place – a touch before my time. I’ve been coming here for 31 years …

    LESLIE: Wow.

    JIM: … but in 1972 the VCR was introduced; showed up in the stores four years later. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    LESLIE: And no one could figure out how to program it.

    JIM: I know. Well, they still haven’t. The good news is they don’t have to anymore.

    TOM: Right. (chuckles)

    JIM: It’s come and gone. In 1978, the first show here in Las Vegas – been here since 1978 – the CD was introduced and then showed up in the stores in 1982. High-definition TV started in 1996 here; was in the stores by 1999.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    JIM: So that’s the really cool thing. We see stuff that’s going to be on store shelves later this year but even a little more forward-looking.

    TOM: Fantastic. Jim Barry, from the Consumer Electronics Association, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    JIM: Thanks, guys.

    TOM: And you’re a hardworking guy. I know you have a lot of places to go. Thanks for having us here today.

    JIM: Have a great show.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: Alright, well one way technology has changed the home is with parenting. For at least a generation now, moms and dads everywhere have relied on a monitor to help them feel closer to their sleeping babies and it is a great invention that I now know I could not live without. But one thing that really makes me super mad is sometimes you pick up interference from a neighbor’s phone call or if I’ve got my cell phone it starts to beep and then it wakes the munchkin up.

    TOM: Yeah, well now even baby monitors are going high-tech with ways to avoid interference and more. Joining us with details about one such monitor – it’s called the Lavana (ph) Baby View 20 – is Raj Jain, the president of SVAT.

    Hi, Raj.

    RAJ: Hi, Tom. How’s it going?

    TOM: Now you guys have a history in the surveillance business.

    RAJ: Yeah, that’s right. Our company, SVAT Electronics, has been in the video surveillance industry for our seventh year now and we have a product called the Baby 20, which is a digital, wireless video baby monitor and this is our fourth generation of the product and it’s just a superb product.

    TOM: Well, as any parent can tell you, there’s nothing that you want to protect more than your children and it’s great that you have this tremendous history in surveillance to be able to now come up with a product that’s going to help us keep an eye on our kids.

    RAJ: For sure. Exactly.

    LESLIE: Well, Raj, what I really like are some of the features. Now I know it’s kind of got like almost night-vision goggles because, obviously, it’s night-time; everybody’s sleeping, the lights are out. How does it sort of work where you can see what’s going on in the dark without interfering with baby’s sleep?

    RAJ: Sure, I’ll give you a quick little overview on the product. Basically what the product is, it’s a digital, wireless product. So you have a two-and-a-half-inch LCD monitor with a camera. They’re both wireless. They’ll go up to about 100 feet away. They’ll go through walls – brick walls, steel walls and that kind of thing. And to your question on the night vision, you’ll place a camera in the baby’s room – on the crib; it’s got a convenient crib mount – and it has night-vision LEDs in it which allow you to see in the dark perfectly. So you can have the monitor at your bedside table and you can see what your child is doing in the dark and there’s a plethora of other features available on this product as well. But you get a crystal-clear picture at nighttime so you can see when your baby wakes up and you know exactly what he or she is doing.

    TOM: Now how far away can you get from the receiver to the transmitter?

    RAJ: Approximately about 100 feet.

    TOM: That’s great.

    RAJ: And that’s 100 feet through walls …

    TOM: Wow.

    RAJ: … through everything.

    TOM: That is really amazing.

    LESLIE: And I have to tell you, Raj, it’s the craziest thing. When we filmed an episode of While You Were Out, our monitors – you know, our filming monitors to see what we were shooting – were picking up a video monitor in the baby’s room in a house next door and it was like the creepiest thing. (Tom chuckles) So I love that you’ve completely knocked out all this interference. It is just not going to happen.

    RAJ: What you’re talking about is analog monitors. So ours is a digital monitor, which means that it’s like a digital telephone. It won’t pick up other signals around you. It’s not an issue any longer.

    TOM: Yeah, and what I love about it is not only does it allow you to keep an eye on the kids but let’s say you notice that the baby is starting to get a little cranky or crying; you can actually remotely start a lullaby.

    RAJ: Exactly. That’s right. And it soothes the child so you don’t have to attend to them right away if that’s not what you want to do. (Tom chuckles)

    LESLIE: That’s great. And it sort of has like a remote sensor so you don’t have to have it on all the time; it sort of kicks on if there’s movement.

    RAJ: That’s right. There’s a voice-activation trigger and it’s available very widely through Amazon.com …

    TOM: Fantastic.

    RAJ: … and organizations (ph) like that.

    TOM: Raj Jain, President of SVAT, thanks so much for stopping by and talking to us about Baby View 20.

    RAJ: (overlapping voices) Thank you very much. Thank you very much for having me. Thanks, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    TOM: You’re listening to The Money Pit coming to you from the floor of the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and when you have kids, you also realize how much clutter – especially paperwork (Leslie chuckles) – can accumulate in the home. It’s easy for those papers to get lost in the shuffle. But there are some really super-cool gadgets out there to help you save paper, save space and give you the sense of safety and security you’re looking for with your important docs.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And here to tell us about the Personal Pocket Safe, we’ve got John Tate and he is the president of Black Box Innovations.

    Welcome, John.

    TOM: So John, talk to us about Personal Pocket Safe. How do you actually capture all of those documents that are lying around our house and get it into the safe?

    JOHN: Well, it’s normally a mess. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) I have file cabinets and I label the files and I still can’t find what I’m looking for.

    LESLIE: Well, and I never know how far to keep items from. Like do I keep things from ten years ago or do I pitch them?

    JOHN: And we’re living in the information age and we’re getting more and more statements electronically; we have more and more passwords to try to remember. So we’ve come up with the Personal Pocket Safe. I liken it to a walking vault for your home …

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: … but it’s actually the size of a pack of gum.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s amazing.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    JOHN: And it’s actually more secure. You can drill into a vault with diamond-plated drills but you actually can’t get at the information in a Pocket Safe.

    TOM: So how do you get the documents there? You scan them?

    JOHN: You scan documents. You can attach them within the software in the Pocket Safe. It makes it very easy to be organized.

    TOM: Just like saving to any hard drive.

    JOHN: Except it has preformatted categories and fields …

    TOM: Oh, great.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    JOHN: … for all of the most important, vital information from your financial accounts to your insurance records, passports, kids’ information, pet information. It’s all in one place and very easy to find.

    TOM: But what happens if you lose it?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    JOHN: If you lose it you can be sure that nobody can get at your information.

    TOM: Fantastic.

    JOHN: It’s got encryption; if you try to physically break into it, it will destroy the memory chip; and it’s a got a PIN protection on the device itself so you can give it your own three to ten-digit PIN.

    TOM: Passcode.

    JOHN: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: Now if you do lose it, is there a way that the information is all backed up somewhere so that you’re not just completely up the creek without a paddle?

    JOHN: Absolutely. There is an optional backup and with the click of a button, once you’re inside your Pocket Safe you could back it up to our secure servers and you’ll have the option, if you lose your Pocket Safe, you can order another one in an encrypted format and have it sent to you.

    TOM: Now have you had any success stories of folks that have maybe lost some documents and were really glad that they had them on the Personal Pocket Safe?

    JOHN: It happens all the time where you’re always looking for information and even in the event of a fire …

    TOM: Mm-hmm, sure.

    JOHN: … and you have to get out of your house. You can’t take your file cabinets …

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: … but you can grab your Personal Pocket Safe and it saves all of that information; those vital, critical records that you need.

    TOM: Where do we go for more information?

    JOHN: You can go to TakeAnyWare.com and it’s available on Amazon.

    TOM: John Tate, Black Box Innovations.

    LESLIE: Thanks, John.

    TOM: Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    JOHN: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Well you know, the only problem, Leslie, with going high-tech, newer technology makes tech junkies like me want to replace my gadgets very, very often.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but what do you do when your outdated version is sort of ready to go in the trash? Well, you recycle them and you might even be able to get some cash in the process. We’ll tell you how one company is making that possible, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and we are broadcasting a very special Money Pit show today from the Las Vegas Convention Center, site of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show. And it’s the first time that Team Money Pit has ever been to this amazing showcase of technology.

    TOM: And it has been quite an experience. This is the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show. You know, HDTV, for example – which is common in many households – was first unveiled here several years ago. So chances are pretty good that we’ve already seen the next big thing in consumer electronics.

    LESLIE: Now when you’re a tech junkie, like Tom over here (Tom chuckles), you are constantly updating your gadgets. So what could be better than a way to recycle your old ones and do your part to save the planet? Hey, why not get some cash back while you’re doing that and maybe get your new things?

    TOM: Well, here to tell us about a program that does just that is Jamie Breneman from N.E.W. – New Customer Service Companies, N.E.W.

    Hi, Jamie.

    JAMIE: Hi, there.

    TOM: So you’ve got a really cool system that allows us to kind of cash in on all our old gadgets and make room for the new ones. Talk to us about it.

    JAMIE: Absolutely. It is a phenomenal program. Because we all have just rooms full of outdated products. And ecoNEW is an eco-friendly way to dispose of those products and actually get some cash for doing so.

    TOM: How does it work?

    JAMIE: It couldn’t be simpler. It’s an online interface. The customer just goes out to the website, ecoNEWonline.com, or they can go through the participating retailers. They plug in some general information about their product. We’re going to spit them back a value. They fill in their personal information. We send them a prepaid shipping label. Print it out, send us the product and we’re going to send you a retail-branded gift card.

    TOM: Wow. Now what happens with the products that you get back?

    JAMIE: There’s a couple of things. The best thing that we can do is refurbish that product and put it back into the market hole. That’s the highest form of recycling. If we can’t do that, we’re going to strip the product down into parts; that way we could use them and get it into the service channel. And if those aren’t an option, we’re going to strip it down to raw material parts and recycle it.

    TOM: So you’ve got a big disassembly operation going on.

    JAMIE: We absolutely do.

    LESLIE: Now what can we send in, Jamie; like cell phones, laptops, everything?

    JAMIE: You know, it’s a variety of small to medium-sized products like digital cameras, MP3 players, laptops, even LCD TVs.

    TOM: Wow. So big stuff, too.

    JAMIE: Big stuff, too.

    TOM: Now how does the shipping work?

    JAMIE: Well, we send you a prepaid shipping label. You will have to package …

    TOM: Box it up?

    JAMIE: Yep, package the product and take it to your local UPS store.

    LESLIE: And what about – I’m asking this for my own personal benefit; I’ve got a laptop sitting in the closet (Tom chuckles) that I’ve just never been able to get rid of. What about information that perhaps is still sitting on it? Do we need to be really concerned in sending things back to you; that everything is wiped out off of there or do you guys make us feel confident that we don’t have to really?

    JAMIE: You really don’t because we know data is a serious concern for all parties and it’s something we take very strongly. And what we do is follow the ISO 14001 standard and high levels of data security that is a standard adopted by the Department of Defense. We’re going to wipe your data.

    TOM: So as soon as the data comes in you’re going to wipe it once and for all?

    JAMIE: Yep, yep.

    TOM: Of course, if your machine is still working it’s always a good idea to delete it yourself.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    JAMIE: Or take the hard drive out.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. That’s a good point. It doesn’t actually detract from the value if you take the hard drive out.

    JAMIE: Right. Yep.

    TOM: Wow.

    JAMIE: So it’s an easy solution.

    LESLIE: And what’s sort of the average amount of money that we can expect to get back in sending items to you?

    JAMIE: Well, it really depends on the age of the product and what the product is. You know, older-generation iPods might get $10 to $20; newer-generation ones might get 70 or 80.

    TOM: Fantastic. Well, Jamie Breneman from N.E.W. Customer Service Companies, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and filling us in on how we can make some cold, hard cash on all those old appliances.

    JAMIE: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Jamie.

    Alright, well the home theatre is probably one of the biggest trends right now in home improvement so up next we’re going to tell you about something that will make your home theatre truly amazing; a curved projection screen.

    TOM: So grab your popcorn. We’ll have more from the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show, right after this.

    (theme song)

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    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We’re broadcasting from the floor of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is the granddaddy of the consumer electronics show backed by the Consumer Electronics Association whose members last year sold – and check this number out, Leslie – $140 billion – that’s billion with a ‘b’ – worth of electronics.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) I’m like that’s an economic bailout right there. (chuckles)

    TOM: I know, right? (chuckles)

    LESLIE: You know, it really is an amazing show and this truly is where new trends get launched. And one of the trends that we’re still seeing is big in popularity is the home theatre trend and I think it’s sort of staying popular because a lot of people aren’t taking vacations; more and more of us are spending more time at home – you know, trying to save some dollars. And I think as broadcast signals – you know, we’re all getting ready to switch from analog to digital, so people are thinking about revamping that home theatre. And there are some really cool ways to immerse yourself in your own home theatrical experience.

    TOM: Well, here to tell us about just that is Kevin Baisley. He’s the vice president of sales and marketing for Vutec.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hey, Tom. How are you?

    TOM: We are excellent. And tell us about this very cool, curved projection screen you guys came out with.

    KEVIN: Well, Vutec just came out with this product. It’s a very unique curved screen design for a dedicated theatre. It’s the latest in the curved screen technology arena because it has something unique also beyond the curve but a patented fabric that we call SilverStar.

    TOM: SilverStar. Now how is that different than what’s been out in the past?

    KEVIN: Well, SilverStar is something that Vutec developed several years ago which offers up a better visual and viewing experience when you’re now working with the higher-end [tinted EP] (ph) projectors.

    TOM: Right, right. And everything is getting so high-def today. Right.

    KEVIN: Absolutely. And this is a true high-definition screen.

    TOM: That’s why Leslie and I are on radio. (Leslie and Kevin chuckle) High-definition radio.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s why Tom is. (Tom laughs) You know, Kevin, my husband insisted on getting the most giant LCD TV I’ve ever seen in my entire life and when it’s not on I’m staring at this behemoth in the living room. And I understand you guys came out with a way to sort of make it more visually interesting when we’re not watching it.

    KEVIN: Yeah, absolutely. We came out with a product several years ago called ArtScreen and we’ve been improving on this family of products ever since. ArtScreen basically transforms an LC or plasma display into a work of art. We have a way of being able to make it for any size plasma or display. Every one of them is customizable. We have galleries and galleries of art work as well as frames and the choices are just endless in what you can do with ArtScreen.

    TOM: Yeah, Kevin showed this to me yesterday and I’ve got to tell you it’s just gorgeous. It looks like you can have like a Rembrandt hanging in your living room. You push a button and the picture like just, like a curtain, rises up into the frame and there’s your television right behind it.

    KEVIN: Right, and even further than that, you can actually have your own family portraits actually put on the canvases as well.

    TOM: Oh, so you can have photographs as well as any kind of art work.

    KEVIN: Absolutely. So your favorite house, your favorite boat …

    TOM: Your kid’s art project. (laughs)

    KEVIN: … your kid’s art project.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    KEVIN: Anything is possible.

    LESLIE: Anything is better than a large, gray nothingness.

    KEVIN: (overlapping voices) That’s correct.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) That’s fantastic. Kevin, where can we get more information?

    KEVIN: You can go to our website, www.Vutec.com.

    TOM: That’s V-u-t-e-c.com.

    Kevin Baisley, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks, Tom, for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright, well choosing to stay in because you have a cool home theatre system to enjoy is one thing. But there are millions of Americans out there who are home-bound because they’re disabled or they’re elderly. And you know, all of their loved ones; everybody’s got their own busy lives and it’s kind of hard for everybody to check in on one another as often as we should.

    TOM: Well, that’s where GrandCare Systems comes in. This is a very cutting-edge sort of smart home sensor technology that allows independence and piece of mind. Here to tell us what it is and how it works is Charles Hillman, CEO and Founder of GrandCare Systems.

    Hi, Charles.

    CHARLES: Hello, Tom.

    TOM: Now this is really quite an advanced monitoring system. Talk to us about how it works.

    CHARLES: Well, yes it is. This is a chance for using – it’s a fully-featured, high-tech system that allows seniors to stay in their homes longer, happier, healthier and with some connectivity to the rest of society.

    TOM: But it’s not just a communications. I mean you are actually monitoring things like blood pressure, glucose, weight. You can really monitor wellness remotely with this if you have a parent, for example, that lives by themselves; you want to keep an eye on their health.

    CHARLES: That’s right. For example, if someone – something as simple as a scale.

    TOM: Right.

    CHARLES: If someone would gain weight at a – you know, eight pounds in three days – that’s a good sign of congestive heart failure. So instead of having to depend on 911 and the emergency room maybe we can fend off that potential problem.

    LESLIE: Charles, how tech-savvy does your loved one have to be to be able to utilize all of these things that are available to them?

    CHARLES: The loved ones themselves need to know almost nothing about technology. It’s a box, a set-top box, that sits in their home and it plays a variety of content – pictures from home, messages, things like that; their calendar events – on their television set. There is a touch screen for a senior with higher cognition levels and the caregiver, whether it be a family or professional caregiver, needs to just know how to use the internet.

    LESLIE: Wow, that is great. So they can almost have – you know, it’s like an at-home doctor visit without the expense of going to the doctor or getting the doctor there. That’s great.

    CHARLES: And I think that’s the whole idea. I mean we need to do something about our healthcare system and being more proactive is certainly a good start.

    TOM: Well, and I guess you could do it a little bit surreptitiously, too, because I know that when I’m always asking my parents about their health they always say, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ You know? And they’re always fine until they get sick, you know?

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    CHARLES: That’s right.

    TOM: But this gives you a little sort of early warning without being so intrusive once they accept the monitoring.

    CHARLES: That’s right. And then we’ve found, actually, very little problem with the seniors accepting this. It’s more the caregiver that has a problem.

    TOM: Can you set any kinds of alerts if one number goes too far in one direction?

    CHARLES: Certainly, certainly. To tell a health expert is very easy to do but we also have a wide range of activity monitors. Someone goes out of their house in the middle of the night, does not access their refrigerator, is not eating well, bathroom visits, things like that.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: I mean which is great because so many elderly relatives have dementia or Alzheimer’s in some form and I can remember my great-uncle Joey, who’s now passed; but he was 94 years old and would wander out of his apartment in Astoria and would walk to wherever and, thankfully, the neighborhood folks knew him and when the livery taxi guy would find him a couple blocks away he’d give him a ride home. But this would give us such piece of mind; knowing that everybody’s safe and sound.

    CHARLES: Right. In this case you would set up some sort of rule that says should that happen text me, e-mail me, call me on my cell phone for a synthesized voice message. So then maybe you could call the neighbor and get your uncle back in.

    TOM: (chuckles) That’s fantastic.

    So Charles, where can we get more information about GrandCare Systems?

    CHARLES: Well, you can find us on the net at www.GrandCare.com.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. It’s a great product and it’s really going to help a lot of people.

    CHARLES: Thank you, Tom.

    LESLIE: Alright, well we are noticing plenty of trends coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, including an emphasis on environmental responsibility.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. So coming up next, we’re going to tell you about a battery that is so incredibly safe. It has no toxic chemicals, needs no special disposal and it works fantastically. All of that’s coming up, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’re broadcasting a special edition of The Money Pit today from the Las Vegas Convention Center, the site of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show. If you love gadgets, this is the place to be. There’s big names in technology here. They gather every year to unveil their latest products for you, the consumer.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And one trend that we are definitely seeing here is green; whether it’s recycling electronics or making new electronics from recycled materials. It is a huge topic of conversation onsite here at the Consumer Electronics Show. And among these lines that we want to tell you about is a battery from Fuji that we found. It’s called EnviroMAX. And what’s unique about this is that it’s landfill-safe, nontoxic and needs no special disposal. So joining us we’ve got Jeff Kreidenweis from Fuji. He’s going to tell us a bunch more about these batteries.


    JEFF: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Tom, Leslie.

    LESLIE: You know, Jeff, I have to tell you I feel terribly guilty because I have an infant at home and every, single thing that this child uses and loves requires like a gajillion D batteries (Tom chuckles) and I feel terribly guilty about this.

    JEFF: Yes, we appreciate everybody for helping us with that. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    LESLIE: So what can I do? I mean I know I have to recycle my batteries and I do so and I love the fact that these batteries are safe, if you will. How is that possible?

    JEFF: Well, it’s a two-part answer. First of all, the Fuji Corporation has been doing sustainable manufacturing for a couple of decades before we were even using the word here. So the cradle part, it’s made in a plant that has nothing that goes to landfill itself; nothing incinerated; fair trade; makes its trading partners be fair trade and sustainable as well. So they’re a real world leader in that kind of thinking and they’ve devoted themselves to products that are top in their class performance-wise and top in their class environmentally. So the end result is a plant that’s able to cost-effectively put out a battery that is the cleanest version of an alkaline battery. So twice the amount of recycled paper in it. Really important to us is there’s no PVC plastic in the package or in the battery wrapper. We use PET and that biodegrades or recycles perfectly well where PVC, as it degrades, is quite toxic.

    TOM: So as a result of this, when the battery is used up you can literally throw this right in the trash. It’s going to degrade normally with no toxicity to the environment?

    JEFF: Correct. It goes back to bioneutral.

    TOM: Wow.

    JEFF: Yeah, we’re thrilled.

    TOM: Now, do you give up anything by this? Do you give up any longevity in life? Does it affect shelf life; anything of that nature?

    JEFF: Actually, before we came out with the branding element we have, EnviroMAX, it really has been out for two years as a performance. It’s the top performer in its class by third-party testing, so it delivers all or more volts than the competition; it has a life that is as long or longer than the competition. So it really is a performance product that’s been made the cleanest possible way.

    LESLIE: Now are these even more effective than, say, a rechargeable battery?

    JEFF: Well, different than a rechargeable. They’re going to deliver more power at the point of need, immediately, and when you throw them away there’s no toxicity. You’re going to throw more of them away than you would a rechargeable but rechargeables have some disposal issues.

    LESLIE: And how readily available are these? I mean you’ve got me. (Tom chuckles) I’m ready to run out and get these because my little guy, Henry, everything he loves literally requires four to 1,000 D batteries and I’ve got a box next to my trash that just fills up on a weekly basis as I replace all of them.

    JEFF: Well, we start hitting retailers in February. There’s been a lot of buy-in for Earth Day and you can always go to www.GreenFuji.com and we’ll sell them to you right off the website until they get to your store.

    TOM: It’s a great product. It’s a great solution to help keep us all green and clean.

    Jeff Kreidenweis from Fuji EnviroMAX, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    JEFF: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show coming to you from the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We’re having a great time here.

    If you want more tips, more advice on any of the products we’ve talked about, head on over to MoneyPit.com. We will hook you up there with all the information that you need.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2009 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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