Well, another CES is in the books. We all got together with 165,00 of our closest friends in Vegas to check out the latest in tech, walking millions of millions of miles over more than 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space. It can be a challenge to find the shining star smart devices amidst the noise and lights, especially as the lowlights tend to show themselves pretty easily.
But here’s just a pinch of some of the hits and misses of CES smart devices this year:
Whirlpool ZERA Food Recycler
With 20% of the average home’s food ending up in the bin, composting is a great way to ensure that uneaten leftovers give something back. The Zera system comes from WLabs of Whirlpool Corporation.
It’s the first indoor recycler in the US that converts a week’s worth of food waste into ready-to-use homemade fertilizer within 24 hours by using a combination of oxygen, moisture, heat and mixing to expedite the decomposition process. Unlike traditional composting methods like worm farms and Bokashi bins, families can use the Zera system year-round regardless of the weather and can remotely operate the appliance through an app that monitors the fertilizing process.
That said, the app seems somewhat superfluous given that each composting cycle takes only 24 hours, surely it’d be better-served monitoring the fridge’s contents to reduce overall food waste in addition to operating the compost bin? The price of $899 makes it rather prohibitive to all but the most ardent green folk. It’s progressing well on Indiegogo and it’s one of those products likely to have lower priced imitators in the future.
The GeniCan is a smart device that clips onto your existing garbage can or recycle bin allowing you to add items to your grocery list automatically as you dispose of them. It also matches coupons to products, and optionally delivers items to your doorstep. It also translates barcodes and spoken word into a customized grocery list stored on the GeniCan app. People who order early can get it for $119 with the company’s Indiegogo campaign.
I’m undecided on this one. Most of my food waste is not bar coded –such as veggie scraps and coffee grounds — and I’d be required to verbally tell the bin each time I was disposing of each these items, not to mention those ready cooked leftovers. In the future will it be able to talk to my smart refrigerator and compost bin to ensure that I don’t get the same product purchased in multiples by each device? What if one requires an Alexa and another a Google Home? What if they join forces and decide not to order me more chocolate? Things could get messy here.
Verdict: You decide. Is it a hit or a miss?
Wair anti-pollution scarf
Air quality may seem like someone else’s problem unless you’re trying to go for a run or ride a bike in Beijing, London or Warsaw. IoT already enables citizens to use sensor tech to measure and monitor urban air quality around the world. French start-up Wair has created a connected pollution scarf which incorporates a filter mask which stops 99% of pollen, gas and bacterial microparticles up to PM0.1μm. A corresponding app tracks daily pollution in your locations and advises you when the filter needs changing. It retails at $68 and includes an additional filter. This is the kind of product that you wish was superfluous but evidence suggests otherwise.
Kérastase Hair Coach Powered by Withings
Have you ever thought you might be brushing your hair too hard? Rest assured; help is at hand with the smart hairbrush. The Kérastase Hair Coach is equipped with a range of rather sophisticated analytics: a microphone that listens to the sound of hair brushing to identify patterns, providing insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage; 3-axis load cells that measure the force applied to the hair and the scalp when brushing; an accelerometer and a gyroscope which help further analyze brushing patterns and count brush strokes, with haptic feedback signaling if brushing is too vigorous; and conductivity sensors to determine if the brush is being used on dry or wet hair in order to provide an accurate hair measurement.
These sensors feed data automatically via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a dedicated mobile app, which then takes into account weather factors like humidity, temperature, UV and wind. By tracking the way a person brushes and factoring in aspects of daily life, the smart brush app provides valuable information including a hair quality score, data on the effectiveness of brushing habits, personalized tips and Kérastase product recommendations.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the tech per se, it’s pretty innovative, but I can’t help wishing the efforts were used to solve a bigger problem than hair brushing. I’m also not sure how many people would purchase it over a traditional hairbrush. It retails for $200 which is apparently pretty affordable for a specialist hairbrush.
Oticon Opn hearing aid
Opn is the world’s first connected hearing aid. Before you shout that it’s another example of “IoT for IoT’s sake,” hear me out. Firstly it’s powered by the Velox platform which according to makers, enables it to overcome a challenge that even the most advanced solutions of today can’t solve — the ability to handle noisy environments with multiple speakers.
Through the use of precise sound analysis performed over 100 times a second, important sound such as speech can be located from any direction, with background noise de-emphasised for optimum clarity. Research suggests that wearers’ can enjoy 30 percent better speech understanding, 20 percent less listening effort, and up to 20 percent more recall of what was said.
It also uses IFTTT to alert the wearer when the doorbell rings, the smoke detector goes off or a baby monitor is chiming (or other functions of the owner’s choosing). For an aging population which may suffer from declining hearing, this is good tech.
Do you drink a lot of tea? Apparently, you might be making it incorrectly. 42tea (IoTea-get it?!) is a connected cube and accompanying app that guides users through each of the steps of tea preparation (quantity, temperature and brewing time) based on the type of tea. The app analyzes the user’s tea consumption to create a palate profile of sorts to recommend new varieties to drink.
Sure, it’s a rather harmless product in the great scheme of things, and I can imagine it ending up in Christmas stockings next year as it retails for $65. But I can’t help wondering if the kind of people who would buy this should be trusted with a kettle of boiling water and what the tea makers of China, India and Japan would think of this.