CES 2015 Gadgets: Great Or Silly? - InformationWeek

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1/7/2015
09:35 AM
Ellis Booker
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CES 2015 Gadgets: Great Or Silly?

Will connected dog collars, WiFi-enabled coffee makers, and similar gadgets enhance your life, or just deplete your bank balance?

CES 2015 Preview: 8 Hot Trends
CES 2015 Preview: 8 Hot Trends
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Watching the news streaming out of CES 2015, it's hard not to be a little jealous that I'm not in Vegas this week. (An anticipated -35 degree wind chill in Chicago may have something to do with this.)

Social media is abuzz with all the shiny gadgets being unveiled in Vegas, where, incidentally, the average daytime temperature will be a pleasant 65 degrees this week. I bet it's even warmer inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where the likes of Samsung, LG, and Panasonic are showing off their latest electronics to eager crowds, none of whom will be wearing parkas and cursing under their frozen breath.

Perched in my icy office here in the Midwest gives me a perspective about the CES product introductions in sunny Nevada. Let's face it, not every one of the 20,000 new products shown at CES will light a flame in the hearts of consumers. Other gadget ideas -- the ones below -- tell me that some product managers don't sit around worrying their groaning furnace is about to conk out and their pipes are going to freeze -- again.

[Connected devices sound great until you consider the privacy implications. See CES 2015: Internet Of Things Not All Shiny.]

So crank up your space heater and consider these gizmos:

The Motorola Scout 5000. Track your pet with this collar-mounted device, which sports a GPS, WiFi networking, and wide-angle camera for 720p live video streaming. But why stop there? With the Scout 5000, you can talk to your pet remotely when it starts barking at a squirrel spotted through the patio window. The Scout 5000, the latest pet product produced by Binatone under the Motorola brand, will be available this June for $200.

(Source: Edyn website)
(Source: Edyn website)

The $99 Garden Sensor from Edyn gathers and analyzes weather and soil conditions, then wirelessly connects to your phone with alerts and advice. Pair it with the $59 Edyn Water Valve, which relies on input from the Garden Sensor to... well, you can probably guess. Both items will start shipping this spring.

Smarter, maker of the WiFi Kettle, announced the WiFi Coffee Machine. Like WiFi Kettle, there's an associated iOS and Android app to alert you when your beverage is hot and ready. The coffee machine, which includes a bean grinder, is slated for a March release and will retail for around $150.

The SleepIQ Kids Bed from Sleep Number will programmatically adjust to the needs of growing bodies and spines, according to the company. The $1,000 bed will also monitor breathing, heart rate and movement, scoring these measures in its associated app. The bed will also notify parents when the child gets out of bed in the middle of the night.

The Alert Band from Impecca attaches to a driver's head and "monitors and analyzes brainwaves, sending real-time notifications and alarms to the driver's smartphone, family, and friends, as well as social networks, 3-5 minutes before the driver begins to doze off and fall asleep," according to the company. The Alert Band will be available in May for $250.

Peeple hopes to improve on the ordinary door peephole with a system that takes a picture of visitors and sends it to a smartphone before the door is opened. Peeple's founders hope to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon.

Have a favorite off-kilter product announcement from CES 2015? Tell us in the comments below.

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Ellis Booker has held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including UBM's InternetWeek, Mecklermedia's Web Week, and IDG's Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the web and was ... View Full Bio
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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/9/2015 | 8:42:44 AM
Re: Devices that make sense
LeeB, 

I over-water my plants, too. :( I don't have a garden, only indoor plants; the garden sensor would be better if it would work for indoor plants as well.

-Susan 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/9/2015 | 8:29:16 AM
Re: pet tracker
Daniel, 

"These might be 'must-have' devices for certain demographics, which I think is the entire point here."

Obviously, these devices are not something that anyone can find useful, but for those with the specific need they can be valuable. I can't care less for a pet tracker, for instance, because I don't have or plan to have a pet. However, when I read about it I immediately thought it will be great for many people I know who own pets. The same with all the rest. The only one that would be useful for me is the WiFi kettle with the iOS app for my tea. The garden thing sounds interesting, but I live in an apartment. And so on. :)

I would have liked to find one in the selection really useful for me, though. 

Devices don't have to be conceived for everybody. :D

-Susan 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/8/2015 | 10:17:24 AM
Re: Devices that make sense
The frightening thing about most of these devices is that they seemed to be designed for people who don't feel like ever leaving the couch. You can't look out your own peephole ot see who it is? You can't go over to your pet to tell it to shutup?

Soon we're all going to be a bunch of angy shutins if our devices have their way. 

If your "pain point" is that you can't get up off the couch, that's a problem. Unless of course you literally can't get off the couch. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/8/2015 | 10:15:13 AM
Re: Devices that make sense
@ellis- I think you're right. We have app overload. One questions why, with the sophisticaiton of browsers on mobile phones and tablets why we still need so many apps. And you're right about a little bit of intelligence, too. 

But unfortunately, the consumer is trained now to this. If it doesn't have its own app it can't be good, right? Sometime soon I expect to see an app wrangler app that allows you to control all your apps with a single app. And eventually that will morph into some sort of platform or OS or something. And it will look shockingly like Windows did in the 90's except designed for a mobile phone. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 11:58:07 AM
Re: text alert programs
@soozyg That kind of system miscommunication is also in their photo service. I uploaded pictures to be printed out at my local CVS weeks ago. They claimed that they were going to be mailed rather than printed on the premise to account for a week's delay on the usual 48 hour turnaround. Then I was told that they were ready, but no one could find them. The system alert remains in place, so that each time I make a purchase, the cashier tells me I have pictues. And each time I have to tell them, that people have tried to find them twice and could not.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 11:11:35 AM
Re: text alert programs
@soozyg that's likely because CVS is inherently disorganized. We get the automated calls for prescriptions. They sometimes come only after we've picked up the refill. And on one occasion I got the call and then was told that the refill was not available. The problem was a clash of two different systems. Without my knowing it, as the doctor has the prescriptions go straight to the pharmacy and not through me, the mail order was put through. CVS's system picked up on that and so blocked the pick up. But somehow it failed to communicate that to the system that calls the patient's household.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 11:05:17 AM
Scout's the winner
The Scout pet tracker is the one item on this list that's more great than silly. The others are fun and interesting, but not necessary enough to spend good money on. The Scout 5000 would be very useful if your dog is restless and you have to leave him/her alone for long stretches. But it would probably be overkill for a calm, well-behaved dog.
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