“Smarten up, kid.”

That’s been my dad’s favorite directive to me ever since I was old enough to realize what the expression meant. The words were normally uttered moments before I was fixing to try or say something that would more than likely land me in some sort of predicament. His words mixed with a wry glare carried lots of weight when I was a boy, but there was a time or two that I didn’t heed his warning, tried the stupid thing and then paid the consequences.

I got older, a bit wiser, and then went to work with my dad in his concrete foundation and floors construction business. Whenever I veered off course, you know, not waiting for the building inspector, trying to forklift 10 too many 8-foot concrete forms when loading a truck, shortcutting proper scaffolding requirements (this list goes on and on), my dad would holler out his favorite warning, “Smarten up before you hurt yourself or someone else!”

Ah, those were the days. I’m talking about the days when my dad owned one of the very first mobile phones—it stashed away in about an 8-pound briefcase—so that he could make jobsite phone calls to the concrete plant, the payroll department, architect’s office, etc.

Technology Marches On

To be honest, things haven’t changed much between the two of us. I’ll still occasionally get behind a transit and shoot lines for batter boards or help pull up a concrete patio or sidewalk when there’s a side job my dad has going. What has changed dramatically, though, is the smartphone that’s never more than an arm’s length away. Dad despises smartphones—he’s real old school, I tell you—and he’s not shy about letting me know. “Smarten up, kid. You rely too much on that interweb thing and all of that digital technology. It’s making all of you people stupid!”

Well, maybe my dad is right about my overreliance on Googlely type things on some level, but I’ll bet my smartphone right here, right now, that once he gets a look at me working with RYOBI’s new Phone Works products, he’s going to, well, smarten up, big time!

Top Tech Tools

RYOBI Phone Works combines quality, easy-to-use measuring tools with smartphone technology to bring users a better way to manage their DIY projects. Say goodbye to those often bulky, single-function hand tools (think 2-pound stud finder) when you say hello to the RYOBI Phone Works mobile apps and affordable devices. Simply download the free app and get more than just a read-out from a traditional, expensive electronic tool. The system allows users to email, share, file, add voice notes and even geo-tag for the smartest, most efficient way to tackle home improvement projects. Here’s an up-to-date spotlight on what’s currently available along with prices from homedepot.com.

Laser Distance Measurer


Transform your phone into a smart laser measurer. This cutting-edge Phone Works system uses your smartphone to do everything a traditional laser measurer does, but does it better. The laser measurer plugs into your headphone jack to take length, area, volume, indirect, and continuous measurements with 1/16-inch accuracy at 90 feet. The device also features a range finder to alert you when a preset distance is reached. The free app turns your phone screen into a versatile management system, displaying your project with digital measurement read-outs. You can also capture high-definition images and videos, share measurements through email and social networks, and create files of each project for future reference. ($69.97)

Infrared Thermometer


We’re all always looking to save on heating and cooling bills. Want to know which parts of your home need attention? Here’s a slick device that allows you to measure and record surface temperatures around your home. Download the free app, plug in the device and your phone will be equipped to take measurements between -22°F and 662°F in real time, set temperature ranges with alert function, and switch easily between Celsius/Fahrenheit readings. All functions are controlled from your phone screen where the app displays an image of your test surface and digital temperature read-outs. The app also allows you to capture high-def images and videos, share readings through email and social networks, and file temperature data for future reference. ($39.97)

Inspection Scope


Uses abound with this handy, homeowner must-have that will allow you to see behind walls, inside pipes and other hidden structures. The app in conjunction with the $89.97 Inspection Scope device transforms your smartphone into a wireless inspection scope. This unique device creates a dedicated wireless network that connects to your smartphone, and the free mobile app turns your phone screen into a high-quality display of your inspection site. Mount your phone to the device, or use remotely up to 10 feet away. The unit sports a 3-foot-long submersible, flexible cable and an adjustable LED light for visibility in all kinds of environments. The mobile app allows you to capture images and videos and add voice notes. Like most of the other RYOBI Phone Works tools, users can easily share data through email and social networks.

Stud Finder


Stop banging drywall to find center! Lose that bulky, old stud finder that runs off of a 9-volt that is always dead when you need it. This $19.97 stud-scanning device attaches to your phone’s audio port and sends an image to your phone screen to let you locate studs behind drywall up to 3/4 inches thick. The free mobile app displays the image and notifies you when the center stud is reached within 1/8 of an inch. Simply press the one-handed, no-mess marker on the device to discreetly note the spot you need to nail or screw.

Noise-Suppressing Earphones With Microphone


Silence truly is golden, especially when you’re working with noisy power tools, a construction crew that likes to jabber all day long, or if you spend much time on commuter railcars. Get smart about protecting your hearing. With these sturdy earphones you can eliminate noise and protect your hearing with more functionality than ever before. The app paired with RYOBI’s Noise Suppression Earphones gives users the protection of OSHA-compliant jobsite earplugs plus the convenience and functionality of noise-cancelling headphones. The earphones connect to your smartphone where sounds are measured and can be recorded. The app allows you to selectively block noises up to 82 decibels and amplify sounds you need to hear, such as conversations and alerts. The set includes a microphone, so you can make phone calls and record sound even in noisy environments. All of these functions are controlled from your smartphone screen for easy, adjustable control over noise. The price is utterly awesome—$19.97. Dad will love that!

Laser Level


I’m no finish carpenter, but I like to dabble. “Honey, those [fill in the blank] are not lining up!” I’m done hearing that one. The RYOBI Laser Level ($39.97) device uses your headphone jack to project a crosshair laser line, and the free app transforms your phone’s screen into a digital display of your project. The high-def display shows measurement data and allows you to match and customize angles like a real pro. When you have the data you need, the app lets you capture, store and send data/images. I’ll be doing plenty of sending and sharing to my know-it-all brother-in-law to show him how smart I’ve become.

Moisture Meter


Basement or mold problems in your home (or maybe a home you might be looking at buying)? Now you can monitor and track moisture content in wood, drywall, cement and other building materials using the $39.97 Moisture Meter. Turn your smartphone into a pinned moisture meter that reads moisture content and displays the results on your phone screen. Using the free app, you’re able to track a wide range of moisture content between 6 to 44 percent and compare your results to acceptable humidity ranges based on your geographic location. The app lets you capture high-quality images, share results through email and social networks, and includes a data-charting feature that measures and plots your readings over time.

Laser Pointer/Transfer Level


Transferring lines from one side of a room to the other just got a whole lot easier. The handy Laser Pointer/Transfer Level device attaches to your smartphone’s headphone jack and projects a dot based on your phone’s position. The free app allows you to set a timer, and offers an SOS projection feature. ($14.97)

Ready To Smarten Up?

Now that you have all the goodies, smarten up a bit more by protecting your high-tech investments. Look into the 5-Tool Storage Case ($19.95). It will store and protect up to five Phone Works tools or 1 Inspection Scope.

Well, Dad, I hope that you took the time to read this short magazine review. I know how you feel about clicking around the world wide interweb. If you do decide to go online to find out more, do so at ryobitools.com. Or, you can use that flip-phone of yours to call 800-525-2579.

This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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