Just before the Consumer Electronics Show gets formally started each year press and analysts get a sneak peek at what’s appearing on the show floor at the several events: The CES Unveiled showcase, the Digital Experience showcase and at a number of press conferences.
The year, the early consensus seems to be that CES 2014 is the year of wearables. That’s hardly surprising following the splash made by Google Glass and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch over the last year (as well as all of the “will they or won’t they” speculation on whether Apple will join into the wearable space). But, as always, there are other things coming down the technology pipeline, and many of them are going to tie into your all-pervasive smartphone-wielding lifestyle.
Here are a few early things that have come down the pipe.
The Pebble smartwatch has had a fair bit of success since its launch at last year’s show, and this year Pebble ups the ante with a new stainless steel version (with additional leather band), an e-ink face protected by Gorilla Glass, water resistance to five atmospheres, and compatibility with existing Pebble apps for your Bluetooth-connected Android device. The new version is available in both steel and matte black, and is expected to sell for $249.
Samsung’s line of Android tablets and phablets have already eaten up a big chunk of the market, and now the company is introducing the NotePRO (which comes with S-Pen style) and the TabPRO (which doesn’t) for those looking for a device that better straddles the line between professional use and consumer use. That’s accomplished by bumping up the specs on the display and hardware, as well as by adding new features.
The new lineup comes in screen sizes up to 12.2 inches, which is large enough to accommodate a full-size virtual keyboard, and the display comes with WQXGA resolution (that’s 2560×1600 pixels for those who don’t speak in tech jargon acronyms). The new high-res screen is paired with the new Magazine UX interface, which replaces the usual Android 4.4 look and feel with something that brings all of your content streams together (like on, say, the Amazon Kindle Fire or the Kobo Arc, but more Samsungy).
You can also open up to four apps on the same screen at the same time with the Multi Window feature, with the open apps segmented into subsections of the main display. (Though admittedly when you get more than two apps up, the smaller size of the app windows starts to negate the real benefits of the larger display by cramming them into a small box).
For the business users, the new devices have been optimized for use with WebEx, but also come with an E-Meeting feature to allow up to 20 tablets to network in the same meeting room over a WiFi connection. A Remote PC feature will also create a connection back to another desktop machine, allowing you to view and copy files over; for connections to business machines, of course, this will almost certain require a special understanding with the IT department.
If you don’t want the full 12.2-inch screen, the new TabPRO models also come in 8.4 and 10.1-inch models, but with the same screen resolution and processor speed (2.3GHz quad core, by the way).
Recently I got a chance to look at some of Belkin’s WiFi-connect WeMo products, which allow you to switch devices on and off with a tap of an app. In addition to switchable outlets and hardwired light switches, the WeMo lineup will now include LED lights and…uh, a slow cooker!
The $130 WeMo LED Lighting Starter set will include two 60W-equivalent dimmable LED bulbs that connect back to the included WeMo Link control module, which you plug into a regular outlet. Additional bulbs are $40, and the link can handle up to 50 of the connected LED bulbs. Once you have the bulbs in place, you can control them all from your Android app, and you can even set up a “vacation mode”, which will turn your overhead lights on and off to make it look like there’s actually someone in the house…even when you’re on a beach halfway around the world.
The Crock-pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker ($100) is pretty much what you’d think it was based on the name. This new gadget (a partnership between Belkin and Jarden), allows you to control the temperature on the slow cooker through your Android smartphone…so you can dial the temperature down a bit if you’re not going to get home from work as quickly as you thought. This is the first of a bunch of future partner products designed to bring home automation to a more mainstream audience, so keep an eye out for WeMo coffeemakers, heaters and more. (I’m looking forward to 2015’s WeMo-controlled automatic turntable, so I can have Led Zeppelin spinning before I even walk in the door.)
No doubt, there will be more Android-friendly goodies coming out of CES. I’ll round up a few more, shortly.