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Connected Future

Published: 05/02/2014 - Filed under: Home » Archive » February 2014 » Special Reports »

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CES 2014 is the place to be if you want to find out what’s new and upcoming in electronic gadgetry. The annual Las Vegas megashow attracted some 150,000 attendees this year and did not disappoint. Wanderers through hall after dizzying hall of gizmos were treated to some pretty hefty eye candy: self-driving, hydrogen-fuel propelled vehicles, 3D printers in action, HD televisions that bend, wearable devices that do everything your phone can do plus keep track of your body rhythms and your life, and cameras that make sure your focus is always on view – somewhere. 

C-Suite power was also in full form at the show this year. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer came on stage with Katie Couric to unveil a new Yahoo look and feel, which will include a 24-hour news channel and a tech channel fed by the latest in curated and original content. 

MakerBot’s Bre Pettis produced 3D printers that will be available to the masses in the very near future, and in desktop sizes for a measly $1,375.  

Panasonic’s president Rance Poehler confirmed the end of the plasma era for television screens and presented 4K HDTVs with impressively detailed resolution. The company also showcased the latest airline seat technology with displays of Singapore Airline’s first class consoles; they feature 24-inch monitors and complete syncing of passenger preferences seamlessly delivered from their loyalty profile to cabin staff. 

Toyota’s senior VP, Bob Carter, introduced a “reasonably priced” hydrogen fuel-cell electric car due out in 2015. The emission-less vehicle will deliver a 300-mile range on a charge and 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 10 seconds. Meanwhile Audi was busy letting VIPs test its self-piloting prototype with an all-digital instrument cluster for a dashboard and a “aircraft cabin” style interior feel to match, making the whole driving experience like something off an aerospace design platform.

High-tech driving solutions need a network to run them, and Audi is one of several deals that AT&T announced with automakers at the show. Audi plans to be the first car company to offer a mobile share plan, and announced a partnership with AT&T to deliver in-vehicle LTE to Audi’s 2015 A3 sedans.

Ahead of the show, General Motors announced that most of its 2015 Chevrolet models will have 4G LTE cellular connections built-in to provide WiFi to people inside and nearby. The company is set to have the new, optional feature on the first 10 models in mid-2014.

AT&T also inked a multi-year deal with Tesla to provide connectivity for the automaker’s in-car 17-inch touchscreen.

So big is the concept of integrating automobiles into the Internet of Everything that AT&T unveiled a new modular connected car platform that they’re calling the AT&T Drive. The company says AT&T Drive is a telematics platform for cars that will enable a full range of connectivity options, including analytics and infotainment. Among the possibilities from Drive are global SIM and global billing solutions, voice enablement, secure firmware updates and application store capabilities.

With the new auto partnerships, AT&T also announced its connected car center, the Drive Studio. Located near the company’s Atlanta Foundry innovation center, the Drive Studio will be a showroom for connected car developments, as well as a working lab for AT&T Drive solutions.

What to Wear? 

AT&T’s presence at the show was a reminder of what is behind much of the wizardry that helps these technologies connect users to other people and other gadgets – from wearables that allow watches to talk to phones to medical devices that allow patients in one location to be read by medical technicians in another. Chris Penrose, head of the emerging devices group at AT&T, spoke to reporters about AT&T’s leadership in 4G connectivity in the US and global solutions through portable SIM chip technology. 

The “wearable tech” revolution was ushered in this year by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. He presented a stand-alone earpiece called Jarvis, which acts like a Siri-style personal assistant. Intel is also working on a model of wearable interactivity that allows parents to connect to an infant’s “onesy” outfit to monitor whether the baby is too warm or cold, asleep or awake. 

While Apple, which does its own show, was not present at CES, rumors of the company taking the “wearable” element of smart to the next level was certainly in conversation as other companies, such as Sony (with its just announced Core and Smartband), Epson (introducing a more affordable version of Google Glass – Moverio BT-200, which is expected to retail at $700), and a variety of “smartwatch” makers.

Of the smart watches to watch, Pebble introduced a stylish model made with stainless steel and costing $250. Buzz at the show had it that many wearable gadgets, while functional, have yet to prove comfortable and fashionable. Battery power is also in question; the LCD display that shows sharp images and videos is also a juice hog. 

Brands bringing out the goods to wear also included Magellan, which is adding some function to the fitness watches launched in 2012. These Echo watches are now positioned as the first “sports smart watch” for their rugged strength and water-resistance. They work with compatible fitness apps and show such features as elapsed time, distance, pace, running speed (and former speeds), distance to a golf green. The GPS location element, however, is not built in but is taken from the Smartphone. These sell at outfitters for $149-$199.

Most watches presented, such as Ezio, E Fun, Neptune and Martian, all help wearers manage calls, scroll e-mail and social media, manage alerts, sync with calendars, connect with phones for phone calls, and stream music – allowing wearers to listen through high-quality Bluetooth earbuds or muffs.

Turned On, Tuned In

Chargers were also very much in evidence, in all shapes and sizes: wall units, magnetic, conduction, solar. The message is clear: if we’re going to be living in a gadget-filled universe we are going to have to keep our gadgets alive and connected no matter what the environment. 

Of note, EnerPlex provides all manner of charging options, especially for cell phones and smartphones that need to be charged in places where wall plugs can only be dreamed. Whether hiking, rock climbing or on safari in Africa, the company offers lightweight flat panels that can put a full charge into a phone or tablet with only the sun as a source. 

Other companies, such as Trident and Kraken, offered rugged casings for phone and tablet and camera/phone mounts for such accessories as bike handles or helmets. Otter Box offered answers to keeping a cell phone dry and a company called Bheestie demo’d gadget systems that can revive a phone that has been drenched in water. 

WiFi? Well that might be a different problem.

CES attendees were caught in the conundrum that plagues CES year after year – very slow wireless connectivity. A recent Consumer Electronics Association study found most consumers access Internet and e-mail from smartphone devices and, even with 4G, Pew Research notes that 77 percent of mobile Internet users experience slow download speeds. While the 4G infrastructure in the US is still in the early stages of deployment, WiFi signal boosters offered portable and structural tricks for getting the most out of whatever Internet one can get. 

Most signal extenders and boosters to be found at the show were run of the mill technologies that weigh too much for travelers, but certainly do the trick creating a boosted hot spot environment. One company, however, builds the signal boost into the case so that the added jump is always available. Absolute Technology offers the LinkBook, a stylish answer for the iPad mini. It protects the device and offers different viewing/typing positions and at the same time pulls in signals through an electromagnetic wave element installed in the active position. It sells for about $65. 

All Things Big and Small 

Throughout the aisles of connected home designs, uber-earpieces, computers that morph into tablets, body monitoring devices, 3D and 4D TVs and sound boxes in every shape and color. Perhaps GoDaddy CEO, Blake Irving, said it best during an interview at the show: “CES is all about things big and small,” and sometimes it is the small things that can be most surprising. To that end, a new start-up called Aero-Tray may present the least amount of technology but offer the most utility to those who rely on their tech toys, especially if they fly a lot.

The item is simple in concept – although it took more than four years to get right – offering a solution to the frequent traveler’s lack of working space on a plane. The foldable flat design fits into a carryon and serves as an adjustable workstation that provides ample smart space, accommodates a variety of technology and can be used in a variety of settings to improve travel comfort and ergonomic ease, whether the user is working or watching entertainment, in tight spaces. It runs $59 and is currently available at 

Many of the items rolled out at CES never come to fruition (what ever happened to those Lady Gaga sunglasses by Polaroid that were supposed to record images of whatever you are seeing?). Other never actually get manufactured and distributed in the three month window most companies allege. But it’s still the place to see what’s coming down the pike, even if it means five years from now. What we know is: there will be gadgets, they will be connected, they will serve a function, and they will need fuel. 

Beyond that, we wait for the next CES. 


CES: Top 10 Travel Gadgets for Road Warriors 

 1) Aero-Tray

Easy carry pop-up workspace trays for airline travelers – because there will always be flights you have to take in economy class. 

$59. Visit

2) HP Dash Cam

Records everything in front of the car and has motion sensors to photograph thieves when you leave the car. Alerts for lights and traffic cams; gives digital read outs of where you’ve been. Records meteor attacks and police trouble wherever you may find it. 

$99-$199. Available at

3) Ooma Call-in Service


The VOIP company that has taken over the residence phone world now lets you to take your personal number on the road. The service allows you to make calls out and receive calls for a fraction of a penny per minute no matter where you are. Callers call your local number (no hidden long distance charges from forwarding to a different country) and those called see your local number when you call them. Voicemail included. Call-in service debuts this spring. 




4) HyperJuice


HyperJuice offers a line-up of attractive gadget chargers. It remains the only company offering an outboard charger (nicely compact, although somewhat weighty) that can keep a Mac computer juiced for hours beyond its battery limits. Priced from $49.95. 



5) Mophie Space Pack

The company that brought you the first protective iPhone case that could hold an entire backup phone charge wrapped around the phone, now takes that concept to the next level: memory. Watch for new Mophies that offer an extra 16 to 32 megabytes of space to your iPhone. Perfect for carrying music collections, photos, even image-heavy presentations without slowing the phone. 

Starting at $149.95 from

6) Sony Flip PC

Sony Flip PC is the device the Japanese firm is counting on to win the space in Windows portable convertible laptops. Priced at $799 the new Vaio Fit 11A Flip PC is lighter, smaller and easier to hold than previous iterations and comes with a quad-core Intel Pentium CPU, 128GB of solid-state storage. The item weighs in at less then three pounds, folds into tablet mode or swivels on its hinge into laptop mode. And the Flip PC comes with a digital pen that complements the pre-installed Adobe software. 


7) GreenSmart Carrying Cases


These stylish carriers are made from recycled plastic bottles. Lightweight, durable, kind to the earth. 


Starting at $39.95. 



8) Sony Smartband


Sony also showcased a variety of devices with a “one-touch” syncing function so users can seamlessly sync photos from their cell phones, music to their Bluetooth earbuds, documents to their computers, tablets and so on. The company also announced entry into the activity tracking space with the Core and Smartband. The sleek wrist band tracks motions like any other activity monitor, but also logs such things as music listened to and where the wearer has been via the Lifelog Android app. Its chip is said to be the tiniest gadget Sony has ever made. The Lifelog journal can serve the wearer for a number of yet undiscovered uses. It’s expected to run at a price point of around $150. 



9) SoloMatrix, Inc.

There was odd buzz at CES 2014 around gadgets that offer “Blackberry” style typing functionality for iPhones. One such company, launched by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, is now in legal disputes over the design with Blackberry. But another company called Spike by SoloMatrix, Inc., offers a plastic keyboard that pops from the back of the iPhone case to the screen of the iPhone and sends a tactile signal with each letter to the corresponding letter beneath on the iPhone Screen keyboard. Perfect for hardwired Blackberry fans who want to transition. 

$59.95 from

10) Panasonic

Finally, in the portable boom box field that is rife with small, candy-colored speakers – all wireless with Bluetooth capability and no bigger than a donut – we choose the Panasonic SC-NT10 Portable Outdoor Speaker. The item can withstand extremes in climate, dust, shock, splash and short drops, and it syncs, streams and charges Smartphones while letting out monster sound through XBS Master technology. Good for beach and boardroom, offering some eight hours of play. 

Prices range from $117 to $219. Visit





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