The best smart leak detector

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Water sensors are small devices that can alert you whenever water is present around the refrigerator, the washing machine, sinks, and toilets—even in the basement. If you’ve got a leaky basement or appliances of a certain age, a smart water sensor makes for a strategic addition to your home.

Some smart water sensors work alone via Wi-Fi, and others connect to a smart-home hub; when wetness occurs, both can send a message to your phone so you can respond with a towel or a plumber. The units we’re talking about here can’t actually shut off the water; they simply alert you to the danger so you can respond quickly.

Though you can get a leak sensor that will set off an eardrum-piercing tone for as little as $10, if you want to get alerts and remote access, be prepared to pay a bit more: Our recommendations hover around the $60 mark.

How we picked

The best smart leak detector

We tested a variety of smart water sensors, including Wi-Fi models and those that work with Z-Wave smart-home hubs. Photo: Rachel Cericola

We compiled a list of smart water sensors by doing a Google search for reviews and roundups; once we had a list, we looked for feedback on Amazon and Google. Although we found a million different leak sensors, when you factor in the smart aspects, the list of what’s out there is much smaller. We narrowed that list further using features, availability, and price. The average cost for a smart water sensor that fit our criteria is about $60; you really shouldn’t pay more than that. That narrowed our list down to seven products to submit to our water-torture tests—each product is easy to set up, works with an app, and can be used almost anywhere you expect water to make an appearance.

How we tested

The best smart leak detector

We used a spray bottle to determine how little water would trigger an alert. Photo: Rachel Cericola

For each of our tests, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Most of the devices used either the SmartThings or Wink hub, so we used the applicable app; when the device connected via Wi-Fi, we used that device’s specific app.

When dousing each smart water sensor, we used four different amounts of water to see if it would react and how quickly. We used measuring cups to douse each sensor with one-quarter cup of water, as well as a full cup. We also measured sensitivity using a spray bottle and, finally, by completely submerging each unit in a bowl of water.

The main purpose of these devices is to alert you to water, whether you’re at home or away, so we made sure each detector delivered those alerts to a mobile device from afar. Anything beyond their basic features was considered a bonus—for instance, quite a few of the devices on our list allowed you to check on room temperature and even battery life.

Our pick

The best smart leak detector

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor is a reliable smart water sensor that’s also affordable. It’s actually the least expensive option we tested—not coincidentally, it’s also one of the few models that doesn’t need a smart-home hub. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi to deliver water alerts through the mydlink Home app (available for iOS and Android devices) and integrate with other smart devices in the home. It’s also the only model on our list that relies on power from the wall rather than a battery.

The D-Link device performed well throughout our testing, sending out alerts about six to 10 seconds after the sensors first touched water. It also features an audible alarm that you can hear from about 35 feet away, though that sound doesn’t travel as well through floors.

The app associated with the D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor—mydlink Home—is pretty basic. Other than a record of when water was present, it offers options to change the device’s name, add in a personal photo, and create rules. For instance, we set the device to send both push notifications as well as an email whenever water was present; texting is not an option here.

For a stand-alone device, it does offer a few integration options as well. If you search the D-Link Water Sensor channel on IFTTT, there are ways to get phone calls, post to Slack, trigger the Nest thermostat, and more. It also works with other D-Link Connected Home devices, which you can control and set up integrations for from the same app.

A pick for smart-hub users

The best smart leak detector

If you don’t have access to an electrical outlet, and don’t mind using a Z-Wave hub, the Fibaro Flood Sensor is a great choice. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Fibaro Flood Sensor features an audible alarm that also triggers when someone tilts or tampers with the device in any way. It has a temperature sensor and a visual “drop” display that can change color based on if there’s water, weird temperatures, or bad network connections. As an added bonus, this little circular device can actually float—which can end up being a huge bonus if a leak turns into a flood. However, unlike the D-Link, it requires a smart hub, a requirement that kept it from being our top pick.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

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Google search cards help you choose a college

Search for a college or university with Google and you’ll soon see a new results card. These small, mobile-friendly summaries include graduation and acceptance rates, the average post-grad salary and the normal fees for undergraduate tuition. All of the stats are being pulled from the US Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” site, meaning they’re reliable and easy to compare. Of course, you’ve always been able to find this information yourself — it just took a little longer rooting around the web. Now, it’s easier to retrieve some quick, top-level information.

So whatever you value the most — be it projected earnings, or cheaper fees — you can surface this information almost immediately. Which sounds pretty useful, whether you’re just starting to think about your options, or narrowing down some colleges you’ve been deliberating for months.

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US renews five-year gaming education grant for Becker College

To maintain its interest in gaming education, the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration renewed a five-year grant this week with Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Becker College is the home of MassDigi, an academic program that focuses on the entrepreneurial side of game development, including a 12-week summer program where attendees take a concept to a market ready title. The Economic Development Administration’s grant is for the amount of $583,000.

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China now streams some court trials on the internet

Those court proceedings that are available for streaming can be accessed via a dedicated website. Users simply log on to see a list of cases currently airing across the country. Topics range from drug trafficking to trademark disputes, divorce and murder cases and some of the proceedings can be streamed live as they happen.

Back in August, a New Zealand court announced that it would livestream court proceedings for the first time. Kim Dotcom’s lawyers successfully argued that due to “public interest” in the case, the Megaupload founder’s extradition hearings should be broadcast to YouTube. The two sides eventually settled on a 20-minute delay to allow for the removal of any suppressed evidence.

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The Engadget Podcast Ep 8: He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot

The Flame Wars Leaderboard



Winning %

Chris Velazco 3 1 .750
Christopher Trout 2 1 .666
Dana Wollman 4 2 .666
Devindra Hardawar 7 6 .538
Cherlynn Low 6 7 .461
Nathan Ingraham 4 6 .400
Michael Gorman 1 2 .333

Relevant links:

You can check out every episode on The Engadget Podcast page in audio, video and text form for the hearing impaired.

Watch on YouTube

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The Avantree PowerHouse Charging Dock is now 30 percent off

The PowerHouse boasts a speedy 4.5/22.5W output that will power up your devices in no time, and it utilizes smartport technology to tailor each device’s charge—that means you’ll never risk overheating and damaging your device battery. Since the Avantree auto-adapts to any iOS and Android devices, including iPad and iPhone, all of your devices are covered.

What truly distinguishes the PowerHouse is its compact, intuitive design. It’s small enough to fit on any desk, and features a velcro system that lets you organize and hide your cables. The PowerHouse’s understated, modern accents ensure it will fit in with the decor of any office space.

Don’t miss this limited time offer—get the Avantree PowerHouse today for 30 percent off—just $35.99 plus free shipping, the lowest price online.

Check out the latest offers at GDGT Deals:

Engadget is teaming up with StackCommerce to bring you deals on the latest gadgets, tech toys, apps, and tutorials. This post does not constitute editorial endorsement, and we earn a portion of all sales. If you have any questions about the products you see here or previous purchases, please contact StackCommerce support here.

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ICYMI: Channel your Wall-E future with self-driving tech

Meanwhile, Elon Musk inspired and frustrated with his new plan to get folks to Mars on the largest rocket ever constructed, which he’s calling the Interplanetary Transport System. The announcement was made with few details, but he’s the original Tony Stark so we’re willing to give him some room on it.

The Komatsu autonomous dump truck video is here, but if you need a break from all this technology, bliss out to a coral timelapse video that will make you appreciate them anew. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.

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Hands-free ‘Ok Google’ commands come to Google Maps

Hands-free 'Ok Google' commands come to Google Maps

Existing Google Maps voice commands like “What’s my ETA?” work too, plus new addition like the ability to turn traffic display on or off. You can control whether or not the phrase works on your phone via settings in the Google Search app (make sure you have the latest version for that and Maps first), to turn on “Ok Google” everywhere, or just in Maps, if you’d prefer it that way. You can find a list of commands here, or just give it a try and see what works.

Whether or not you use the voice commands, it’s another example that while the Google Now / Now on Tap branding may be taking a backseat, the features are actually spreading further throughout the OS. Google’s new Assistant AI helper is built around conversational responses to any “Ok Google” query, and we’re expecting to hear more about it during the October 4th “Made by Google” event.

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Cybersecurity firm offers $1.5 million for iPhone exploits

Apple launched its own bounty program back in August, promising to reward researchers with up to $200,000 in cash. That’s far from the $1.5 million Zerodium offers, but as Ars Technica notes, the firm has more demands than a corporation-run program. It will only pay that much for an exploit that’s guaranteed to give attackers complete control over the device they’re targeting. The programs are also after different types of vulnerabilities.

As for why Zerodium decided to triple its bounty, company founder Chaouki Bekrar told Ars that it’s merely a response to how secure the latest versions of mobile platforms like iOS and Android are. And the reward for iOS exploits is a whole lot more than the $200,000 it’s offering for Android hacks either because it’s harder to crack iOS 10 than Android 7 or because the demand is higher. “The reality is a mix of both,” he said.

As you can imagine, companies like Zerodium are highly controversial. When it announced its million-dollar reward last year, Lance Cottrell, chief scientist of security firm Ntrepid, told us that whatever it snaps up is “almost certainly going to be used against people’s best interests.” The government could use it to monitor people other than terrorists and criminals. Companies could use it to keep an eye on their competitors. Bekrar argued, however, that the government and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI need these exploits for the sake of national security.

For the record, @Zerodium iOS bounty does NOT compete with @Apple as we focus on browsers+kernel while they focus on secure boot and enclave

— Chaouki Bekrar (@cBekrar) September 29, 2016

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California approves unmanned self-driving car trials

Rather than applying throughout the Golden State, the bill is specific to a pilot project headed by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. At San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch business park, EasyMile’s 12-seater shuttles will ferry workers around the site, which will include travelling on some public roads. The approval also covers GoMentum Station: A ghost town within the Concord Naval Weapons Station where Honda has been testing its driverless car technologies. Recently, Uber-owned Otto also signed up to test self-driving trucks on the site.

Google and Apple have also expressed interest in the naval base testbed, according to the transport authority. Apple’s autonomous plans are still the subject of much speculation, but in the immediate future, Google seems like a natural partner. Manual controls including a steering wheel and pedals are not required in test vehicles under the new bill (since there won’t be anyone on hand to use them), but for safety’s sake cars must not exceed 35MPH during trials.

Google has been testing versions of its cute little driverless pods without any form of manual controls for some time now, as it’s of the opinion that humans are simply not a “reliable backup” to its self-driving smarts.

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