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Sunday, 11 January 2015

The best (and worst) smart home tech at CES 2015 so far

Smart Home at CES 2015: What's smart and what's not?


Our pick of the best (and worst) smart home tech at CES 2015

We've barely started CES 2015 and we've already seen lots of smart tech and smart home gadgets aiming to convince people to part with their cash.

We'll be updating this page with the best and worst examples throughout the show, as clearly the 'Internet of Things' is a bandwagon many a tech firm wants to jump aboard, albeit with mixed results.

TempTraq – A smart thermometer for infants

Temp Traq
What is it?
A prototype for a temperature tracking patch that you place on an infants underarm. It's billed as a safe and non-intrusive way to track an infant's temperature when it's ill. A built-in flexible battery lasts 24 hours. The idea is you only use this during a period of illness, so you don't have to wake or disturb them to take a temperature. The data is tracked in an app that allows you to make notes of when medication was taken and so forth, so you can verify the effect.

How smart is it?It's smart, that much is for certain, but no one at TrustedReviews can agree whether it's a good thing. There's a slight sense that this panders to obsessive parenting and could lead to parents overreacting to small changes, or ignoring medical advice based on misleading data.

How much is it?No price is available yet

When can I buy it?Not any time soon as it's pending FDA approval.

VerdictAn interesting idea, but one with some potentially troubling implications.

Smarter Coffee – A smart coffee machine that knows what you need


What is it?A bean-to-cup coffee machine with a difference. It's app-controlled, but it's a lot more than that. The app lets you set schedules, such as to make you coffee in the morning. It will also let you control the strength, warn you when the coffee or water is empty and keep your coffee warm while you slowly awaken from your deep slumber.

How smart is it?Pretty smart and potentially even smarter thanks to integration with IFTTT, smart wearables and Apple's Home Kit. Integration with select fitness trackers allows the Smarter Coffee to suggest a stronger brew after a bad night's sleep, and the 'Welcome Home' feature will ask if you want a cup when you get home.

How much is it?Just £129.99, so it's about the same price as other bean-to-cup machines on the market.

When can I buy it?We don't have a date yet, but it should be in the first half of this year.

VerdictA neat little prospect provided the coffee quality is up to muster

Read More : Gaming at CES 2015

Parrot Pot – The smart, self watering plant pot

Parrot Pot
What is it?A Bluetooth enabled plant pot that measures soil moisture, fertilisation, ambient temperature and light exposure. It feeds this information to an app, but the smart bit comes with the built-in water reservoir. This lets the Parrot Pot automatically water your plant based on the data. It has enough water to keep going for a month, so it's perfect if you go away for long periods often.

How smart is it? Very, we think. It's a luxury item, obviously, but if you go away often and have house plants that need regular upkeep then this could be a godsend. If you'd rather use your own pot, meanwhile, the Parrot H20 does the same job and attaches to a standard plastic bottle.

How much is it?There's no price at present.

When I buy it?Sometime this year, that's all we know.

VerdictA clever solution for the lazy, the forgetful and the absent.

Velvetwire Powerslayer Blu – The smart phone charger

smart phoe charger
What is it?The second generation of 'smart phone charger' that adds Bluetooth connectivity. The original automatically stopped charging your device when it was fully charged, which in theory should prolong the life of the battery as it won't 'over charge'. This new Bluetooth version adds app connectivity. It will notify you when your phone is fully charged and tell you how long it will take to charge. You can also set the amount you need it to be charged, and it will tell you how long that will take.

How smart is it?We really like this. It's simply but useful. It's the kind of thing we expect phone makers to implement in future, but we only say that now we've seen it. Velvetwire also claims the charger is faster than stock ones, though this is hard to verify.

How much is it?In the region of $80, but that isn't confirmed yet. It's only available in the US, though it is importable.

When can I buy it?It will go on sale on Velvetwire's website this month.

VerdictSmart in a simple way. Might be a tad expensive, but we can excuse that if it works properly.

Read More : 10 Best Tech Innovations at CES 2015

Ring Video Doorbell – The ultimate doorbell

What is it?
It's in the name, it's a video doorbell. It's basically an IP camera that's activated when someone presses the doorbell. You then get a notification that opens the app and a video feed with the option to accept or deny whomever has come knocking. It has two-way audio, night vision, motion detection and can be run off a built-in battery that lasts a year or off a mains wire.

How smart is it?Very smart, we like this one. It does a lot of small useful things, including some security benefits. It lets you pretend to be at home and means you can instruct couriers to deliver items to specific neighbours or leave them in a specific location. It's useful in loads of different ways.

How much is it?It's $199, so not cheap, but then you could pay as much for a top-end IP security cam. It's worth it.

When I can buy it?It's already on sale on the company's website. It ships from the US, but there's no barrier to importing.

VerdictIt's a winner.

Brio Smart Power Outlet – The safe and smart wall socket

What is it?

An Internet-connected wall socket that gives you control using an app, but its party trick is a clever safety system. It can detect when a genuine socket needing power is attached, which means anyone who inserts a foreign metal object won't get zapped. It's billed as the perfect solution for protecting kids, and the firm plans a range of complementary devices.

How smart is it?
Pretty smart, we'd say, though that doesn't mean we'd go out and buy one straight away. Each socket costs $49.99, so fitting out your home with them would prove costly, and the safety aspect is the smartest element here. Still, it's done something neat and innovative, and the idea of controlling wall sockets remotely could add some benefits.

How much is it? $49.99 for a single socket. It's only available in the US at the moment.

When can I buy it?
It's already available in the US after a successful Kickstarter campaign

We're not 100% sold yet, but it's not a total waste of time.

Read More : The most awesome drones and quadcopters we've seen at CES 2015

Netatmo Welcome – A face recognising security cam

What is it?

The Netatmo Welcome is a IP security camera with a few extra tricks and a rather neat, eye-catching design. Its main talent is face recognition. Leave it by the front door and it'll recognise the people coming in and out, sending you notifications when they do.

This means you can use it to let you know when your kids arrive home, for example. Better still, it supports IFTTT (If This, Then That), which means you can set up actions that occur when it sees someone it recognises. Netatmo will also provide door sensors that communicate with the camera to tell it when doors have been left open.

How smart is it?
Support for IFTTT certainly helps here, as there are some potentially helpful uses for the creatively minded. We like the door sensor idea, too, though it's one we've seen other companies use before. A great deal rides on how reliable the face recognition element is.

How much is it?
Pricing to be confirmed, but we were told £200 (~$300) is a decent estimate.

When can I buy it? We're told Q2, which means in the April to June period.

Verdict It has potential.

LilyPad Smart Pool Thermometer and UV Sensor

What is it?

A plastic disc that floats in your swimming pool and measures the temperature and the outdoor UV light. The 'smart' bit comes from an app that recommends what type of sun cream you should use based on your skin type and the current UV light intensity.

How much is it? It's priced at £78, €99 and $99 respectively

How smart is it?
Ugh, not very. Measuring UV light and making recommendations sounds smart, but it's also totally unnecessary. It's an expensive way to complicate something very simple. We really don't need tech like this as a substitute for common sense and vigilance.

When can I buy it?
It's already on sale in the UK and Europe and available for pre-order in the US right now.

Verdict A solution in search of a problem.

Stay tuned for more updates, including a temperature-tracking patch for infants and a smart coffee machine

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