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Ron Callari

October 16, 2016

Cutting Corners With Outdated Technology

Before you throw away those old smartphones, webcams, and routers, here are some ideas on how you can re-purpose them to something useful again.

Since technology is moving at such a fast clip these days, users of various devices are motivated to acquire ‘the new’ — more so due to FOMO (fear of missing out) — versus budget cutting.

So, it’s easy to understand why Apple, Google and even Samsung keep developing new iterations of their mobile devices, quicker than you can move your contact list from one cellphone to another.

Everybody has older tech apparatus sitting around our homes and offices, and have often debated whether to keep or discard them. Today, we’ll discuss how to dust off and recycle that outdated tech and convert it into something more useful.

Webcams can become security cams

Who doesn’t want to feel safe in their home or work offices? Since most of today’s computers come with built-in cameras, you might want to consider using your stand-alone webcam for security purposes.

To start, by using the standard USB cords these units came with, all you have to do to make them operational again is reconnect them to your computers

Then acquire software which can record the feed from your webcam either continuously — or when motion is detected. The free application iSpy Connectcan do the trick nicely. Its feature-rich surveillance software includes: unlimited cameras and microphones (including IP and USB cameras), motion detection, motion processing, recording, scheduling, audio, remote access, network audio broadcasting, password protection and desktop recording.

Routers can become a ‘smart home’ system

A ‘smart home’ automation system wouldn’t be very smart without a Wi-Fi network. So think about using your old router for that purpose, instead of investing in the very costly smart home products that are currently in the market. Old routers have an embedded AP (Access Point) in addition to its function as a basic router. APs broadcast Wi-Fi signals that wireless clients, such as smartphones, tablets and other smart devices can connect to.

To start, take your old router and connect it to your new router. The objective here is to make old router (or Router B) to function as an external AP for Router A. Then follow the step-by-step process outlined here for MACs and desktops to allow the two routers working together to automate all your smart devices.

PCs fans can become mini-wind turbines

If you still own an old desktop PC, before retiring it, here’s an inventive repurposing that can convert it into a mini-wind-powered turbine.

Here are step-by-step instructions as to how to recycle those CPU tower cooling fans into a little wind-powered motors that can generate around 1.5 – 2V in an 8 mph wind.

Old smartphones can be re-purposed into a variety of useful items

If you’re like me, you’ve most likely lived through a decade of smartphone iterations. From the very first iPhone (which today could probably be considered an official antique) to iPhone6 Plus, the number of phones you’ve acquired in between was dependent on your pocketbook and FOMO (fear of missing out) on the latest thing.

So, are any of those old devices now stored in your dresser drawer still relevant or have they seen they’re better days? After all, some of those early models don’t even move the needle on eBay.

However, before you think about discarding your outdated smartphones or turning them into a paperweight, you might want to consider the life that’s still left in them— and how they can be repurposed.

Here are a few ideas to get that proverbial ball rolling.

Home or office music system

Just because you can’t use that phone to place calls anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from its sound system capabilities. In fact, you can easily transition that device into becoming a control center for that system. All you have to do is connect it to a set of speakers where you can stream music from either a micro SD card or through a streaming music service likeSpotify or Pandora.

For all the music you’ve already stored on your iPhone or Android, you can also use it as a defacto iPod. Podcast apps, and DJing apps can easily be obtained as well from respective app stores. So consider downloading a few and taking them out for a test run. And if radio listening is more to your liking, check out the number of apps that will stream any time of music genre you prefer.

HUD system for your car

You might ask: What’s a HUD, and if I don’t know what it is, why do I need it?

A HUD is a ‘head-up display’ that enables drivers to see pertinent datawithout being distracted. This is great tool particularly for folks like myself whose vehicle may not be equipped with this technology. Drivers receive read-outs such as speed, warning signals and indicator arrows for navigation, without looking down to the instrument cluster or a secondary display. All you have to do is check out the free HUD apps available for either Androids or iPhones (Navier HUD Navigation Free app, and Car HUD at Google Play and Awesome HUD and aSmart HYD+ for iOS users.) After installing and firing up the app of your choice, simply place your smartphone on the car’s dash, and its reflection on the window will serve as a distraction-free means for navigation.

Are Outdated Smartphones Dinosaurs or Relevant Tools?

Light meter

Want to approximate what professional photographers use to light a scene. With an ingenious add-on called Luxi, you no longer have to experience those under-over exposed photos. This device allows you to repurpose your iPhone as a light meter. Luxi fits nicely over the front facing camera of your iPhone 4 or 5 and provides you accurate light readings of the surrounding area. The app is available at iTunes and the Luxi dome accessory, and can be purchased at for approximately $30.

Are Outdated Smartphones Dinosaurs or Relevant Tools?

VoIP phone

Just because your old cellphone is no longer connected to an active cellular service anymore doesn’t mean you can’t use them to communicate in today’s world. An old smartphone can very easily become an Internet/VoIP phone.

The easiest way to accomplish this is with an app, such as that which Telzio provides. All you need is a WiFi connection (see Router repurposing above). If you already have a VoIP phone, this approach will allow you to use your old smartphone as an additional VoIP phone for yourself or others.

Consider connecting your iPhone4 or iPhone5 to WiFi and download the Telzio Mobile App to make business calls. It provides a secondary business line along with a full VoIP system, without having to buy an IP phone. The mobile app offers the same features that are available on desk phones, such as caller ID, call recording, call transferring and conference calling.

Related: VoIP Softphones vs IP Phones

While the dinosaurs may have become extinct, there’s no need to believe your outdated smartphones have followed suit. Their functionality can live on another day, in a whole new set of repurposed ways. So pull them out, dust them off and see if your old handset can’t complement your everyday life.