Over the winter holidays, a company introduced us to a new home-security system, Ajax.

It was mildly to moderately interesting. We liked the flexibility of the offering. You can pick and choose from a wide range of sensors—from basic door, window, smoke, movement, and glass-break detectors to more esoteric safeguards, such as a sensor to set up a narrow, ultra-sensitive “curtain” around valuables, like a painting or display case.

Whichever elements of the system you choose, you can funnel their warnings wirelessly through a central hub, which in turn would warn you by phone of intrusions or incidents, set off sirens or lights, and so on.

We also liked that all the components of the system, apart from the hub, were battery-powered, so you could make an entire home or office secure with no wiring and dependence on central power.

However, when a kit from Ajax arrived for us to try, one feature was not hugely confidence-inspiring: the Ajax system turned out to be designed and manufactured in, of all countries, Ukraine. Previously, the only Ukrainian technology we had ever heard of were the missiles and rockets they used to make for the Soviet space program and armed forces. So the boxes stayed unopened on a shelf.

Well, what a difference a few months make. A country once largely regarded as a Ruritanian backwater is now considered not only the bravest nation on earth, for so powerfully and effectively resisting the Putin Fascists, but also as one of the smartest, most resourceful, and technologically superior, lethally bamboozling the invaders with hacking, drones, and other technologies.

Suddenly, the idea of a Ukrainian home-security-system-in-a-box went from too fringe to take seriously to truly compelling.

We went ahead and installed a basic entry-level system. Ajax prefers buyers to use professionals, but self-installing was easy and oddly enjoyable. Every device has a QR code you scan into the app, whereupon it’s added to the system.

After a couple of hours, we had it up and running. Hub, touch pad, motion detector with camera and light, siren, door sensor, window sensor, smoke alarm, and flood sensor.

The build quality and finish were impeccable, the instructions and app first-rate, and the attention to detail flawless.

For example, the hub has three ways to contact the outside world: Wi-Fi, SIM, and a second, backup SIM. It also has a backup battery for power outages. The door sensors have an accelerometer to detect not only unauthorized opening but thudding or attempted opening.

And the radio protocol for the devices to communicate with the hub, which in a less sophisticated system would be Bluetooth, is Ajax’s own security-alarm-specific system, Jeweller, which the company claims is virtually unhackable and even clever enough to know if any sensors in the system are malfunctioning.

By the time the Russians began their war on Ukraine, Ajax had close to 2,000 employees, mostly in Kyiv and Kharkiv. Their response to the war, by a company representative’s account, was what we would now characterize as typically Ukrainian.

On day two of the invasion, they just moved the entire outfit in roughly 1,800 trucks to the safer, western regions of the country, and are now back in production—as well as building and opening a manufacturing plant in Turkey.

Ajax started shipping to the U.S. in recent months, as products needed to be adapted to American tech standards. And the company’s retailer-and-installer network is developing day by day.

Short of staging a burglary to test it, we couldn’t have felt more confident that this is a serious product. Plus, having a home or office security system from the hero nation—as well as effectively supporting that country—is quite the win-win.

Ab fab: a new technology-enhanced gym machine tones core muscles as users struggle to “fly” through the air. (Icaros Home; $3,400, including shipping to the U.S.; icaros.com)


It was the well-known Superman quote—“It’s a bird … It’s a plane … It’s Superman!”—that sprang to mind when we recently tried an unusual technology-enhanced gym machine from a German start-up, Icaros.

The Icaros range has the user splayed out almost flat on his or her front in near-superhero configuration, struggling to “fly” through a virtual environment, generated visually by either a tablet or, ideally, a virtual-reality headset.

The super-sensitive platform slides around bewilderingly in a variety of directions and is reminiscent of an astronaut-training machine. It is a more complex version of the plank routines typically used for core-strength development.

Your challenge as an Icaros user is to control its movements and swoop through the skies not unlike a bird, or a plane, or, most likely, a person wanting to improve his or her core muscles.

This gamified exercise looks easy and relatively relaxed, but it’s tough and exhausting to avoid plunging out of control, even if it’s also fun. The sensation of controlling your swooping by flexing the mysterious core muscles you barely knew you had is akin to discovering a new color.

Icaros cites studies that show that people can burn 30 percent more calories with its system than with regular plank exercises.

The Icaros range of gym machines, with its emphasis on balance, is wide, and not all appear like something from a comic book. But for a private, superhero-style sensation, the Icaros Home version is recommended, along with a V.R. headset, which is sold separately. Icaros recommends the $1,000-plus HTC Vive, which is used in combination with your own computer, but has suggestions for cheaper devices.

Turns out there really may be a superhero in all of us.

Follow the heard, thanks to an app that points users to restaurants with more dinner than din. (SoundPrint, free on the App Store and Google Play)


It’s not only older people who find noisy restaurants, cafés, and bars a challenge. Younger people also complain about them—especially if they are trying to have a serious work discussion over lunch.

Naturally, one person’s noisy restaurant is another’s lively place. While a quiet, intimate establishment to me may be your idea of a morgue.

But if you often find yourself cupping your hand behind one ear to catch even so much as the drift of what your dining companion is saying—or if you’re simply looking for a place where it’s quiet enough to eat and drink while having a good conversation—the SoundPrint app could be your new best friend.

SoundPrint came about when Gregory Scott, a single New Yorker with hearing loss, realized he was finding it difficult to hear his dates over dinner. He had the idea of developing a crowd-sourced app for people to take decibel readings from their table and share them with what is now a global community of quiet-seekers.

The fashion for hard floors in restaurants has, as we have all experienced, increased noise levels in recent decades, but Scott also points to a phenomenon first described in the early 1900s by Étienne Lombard, a French otolaryngologist.

The Lombard effect is the thing we all experience in which people get louder in environments which are not necessarily too noisy to begin with—maybe an espresso machine here, a little background music there. It’s the mechanism by which moderately loud breeds impossibly loud.

SoundPrint’s ever growing database shows San Francisco to have the noisiest restaurants, while London is emerging as having the second loudest. The app allows users to measure and submit sound levels from their table, to search for nearby venues that are reliably quiet, and also to consult curated city-by-city lists of more-muted venues.

We put SoundPrint to the test in and around London’s Chinatown and found that, even though it was originally a U.S. app, it has clearly been in operation long enough to be genuinely useful outside the States. It identified two quiet restaurants within a moment’s walk, which, when we entered, were indeed quiet (but not deserted) during a busy lunchtime in peak tourist season.

At the same time, it warned that two pubs were “Very Loud,” which in SoundPrint’s view is with an ambient decibel level above 80. And, indeed, they were.

Garden leave? Not if this new wireless, indoor-outdoor speaker from a venerable Swedish audio firm is in action. (Audio Pro A15, $400, audiopro.com)


Stockholm hi-fi-maker Audio Pro has been producing quality consumer audio with the inevitable Scandinavian design flair for more than 40 years.

We spotted this new, exceptionally sweet-sounding—and Thor-loud—wireless speaker of theirs at a London garden party recently.

When it started raining—who can imagine such a thing in England?—we assumed it would be rushed under cover for fear of its smart fabric exterior being damaged.

Far from it, the Audio Pro A15 kept singing in the rain. It is that rare beast, a music player that can swap from indoor central-powered use to outdoor, battery-powered, water-resistant mode without missing a beat, literally.

When the A15 is used inside the home, it can be daisy-chained with other Audio Pro speakers—or, indeed, any AirPlay 2 or Google Cast–compatible speakers—to form a multi-room audio system. And if your Wi-Fi covers your outside space, the yard can be deemed one of the spaces in your multi-room setup.

The A15’s battery is able enough for 11 hours of quality sound at lower volume level or, for loud parties, around eight hours at full volume.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology