A thermostat that talks to your washing machine? A baby bottle that talks to your smartphone and tells you how much and how fast your baby is feeding? A belt that adjusts itself depending on your activities for the day?
The Consumer Electronics Show 2015 having just wrapped up in Los Angeles showed us what we can look forward to in smart appliances in the next few years. Some of them are very likely to go mainstream in smart homes of the near future. Others, like that smart belt may leave you scratching your head!
Taking up from where the CES left off – and it really only has just begun with the Internet of Things – Here’s a look at some cool and unusual gadgets to come out of innovators mostly through Kickstarter campaigns.
This gadget has taken off even before it’s been manufactured, and it already has the stamp of approval from investors like SparkLabs Global Ventures, Grishin Robotics and others. Leaving on holiday? You don’t have to worry about feeding the pet anymore! Simply pick up your smartphone (or laptop or tablet) and tell your feeder back home to feed your pooch or kitty its daily bowl of kibble. The pet feeder system will let you schedule feeding times; manage portion sizes and how fast the food is dispensed.
The main purpose behind the Smart Feeder is to take the guesswork out of how much you should feed your pet. It will certainly help keep your pet on a regimen and avoid overfeeding. The app that goes with it will send you notifications about the food inventory and how many calories etc.
This is not the first “smart” pet feeder – we already have the Gatefeeder which uses smart ID collars to figure out when cat food should be released, and other similar gadgets. But Petnet goes a little further and gives owners a system to keep track of food running low, pet feeding schedules etc. The demand for the feeder is huge, and at the end of January 2015, there were already more than 10,000 pre-orders for the $199 SmartFeeder from owners who want peace of mind about their pets’ health. Maybe a strict regimen is exactly what we pet owners need too, to stop us from slipping Bruno scraps from the table.
More information: http://www.petnet.io
The Roost Smart Battery
Here’s a gadget that we wish had been out earlier! If you hate the chirps that your smoke alarm makes when it’s running out of battery (especially annoying in the middle of the night), then the Smart Battery will make you sit up. It’s a battery to simply replace the existing (and if you’re like many of us, dead) batteries in your smoke alarm. What does it do? This 9V battery connects to your smartphone and home Wi-Fi. It sends you alerts on your phone when it’s running out of juice. You’ll get notifications when something goes wrong, even when you’re away from home. The battery will also send notifications to emergency numbers (that you’ve pre-programmed into it) if the alarm goes off. It integrates with your existing home alarm system, and you can say goodbye to dead smoke alarm batteries forever. This little cool gadget, for all its “intelligence” also comes at the cool price of less than $35. What’s not to love?
The Roost Smart Battery was a Kickstarter- project that had more takers than was needed to meet the goal and the Roost team managed to raise nearly twice the hoped-for amount. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait awhile for it to actually become available in the market. Until then, maybe you should check your smoke alarm battery?
More information: http://www.smartroost.net/
Here’s another attempt at trying to connect everything in your home with your smartphone. The Smart Powerstrip by Roger Yiu is a Kickstarter project that will let you turn off and on any appliances that are plugged in, even when you’re away from home. The strip will also tell you how much energy each appliance is consuming when it’s plugged in (in real time). It will also let you set timers for the appliances, all via the app that goes along with the Powerstrip.
This means no more wondering if you left the light on in the bathroom or if the kids are watching TV during finals week, while you’re away from home!
The great news for overseas watchers of this product is that the team will also make International plus available according to EU, AU and UK standards. That still alienates the rest of the world where the Internet of Things is emerging, but we’re hoping that when the powerstrip finally takes off, it will spread to people in other countries that also want in on smart homes.
Invergo – The Smart Coffee Brewer
Do you enjoy your java but have a hard time getting the perfect cup in your home espresso machine? Do you often curse the fact that the machine never gets the water just hot enough or turns the coffee too bitter or too acidic?
The Invergo team tells us just why it’s so hard to get coffee right. The coffee extraction methods in your standard drip machine make weak and watery coffee. Manual machines are better but produce a brew leaning towards a strong and bitter flavor. Keurig machines make weak and bitter java. Getting enough coffee solids dissolved in your coffee is important. The Invergo machine uses a special rotating spout of water to saturate all of the coffee grounds with water, while drip coffee machines usually have a single spout of water hitting the center of the grounds. The temperature of the water is also just maintained at the perfect level using a computerized system, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America standards. This is one innovative engineering that you can get for $150 and a set of ceramic mug, carafe and cone for another $60.
More information: http://invergocoffee.com/
A single stylish remote for all your devices? Just rotate and touch to control all your household appliances from the comfort of your couch with the SPIN remote. The idea behind the SPIN remote is to simplify your household. Surely we all need to get rid of the hundred or so buttons that control our entertainment systems? The SPIN remote doesn’t have any buttons at all. It uses infrared signals and intelligent touch sensors to control even your old devices that are not Bluetooth connected. You can control everything from lighting to your Apple TV by setting up the functions against the touch and motion configurations through the app.
Of course it’s not really as simple as it sounds. You still have to use your smartphone to set the presets and set the touchpad at the bottom. But at the end of it, it’s certainly a cool device to own. The project managed to meet its €100,000 on Kickstarter, and you can get the dome-shaped design in a number of attractive shells – brass, aluminum and an exclusive Kickstarter shell with art by M.C. Escher.
More information: http://www.spinremote.com/
Stethee – The Smart Wireless Stethoscope
Don’t we all need a stethoscope to monitor our heartbeat at home? The Stethee claims to be a smart wireless stethoscope that lets you listen to your heartbeat, your lungs and other body sounds via your Bluetooth headset or your phone. It claims to be more accurate than all the wristbands that we have strapped onto us, since it measures heart rate directly from the heart’s contraction rather than the pulse in an artery. It can be paired with a smartphone app that stores all the data the device collects.
Whether or not cardiologists will scoff at the device, it was developed with a reasonable intention. Developer Dr. Nayyar Hussain wanted to update the stethoscope (which, he says, hasn’t evolved in more than 200 years) to help doctors work more easily with patients suffering from infectious diseases. He also wanted it to become a part of home first aid kits. Unfortunately, the project was canceled on Kickstarter before it reached its fundraising goal of AUD$700,000. We’ll have to wait and see if it gets made sometime in the future, given Dr. Hussain’s belief in his vision.
More information: http://www.stethee.com/
Here’s another device for pet lovers. The CleverPet is designed to keep your pooch entertained even when you’re not there to play with it. The smart device is Wi-Fi enabled, and has touch pads that light up, wait for your dog to respond with its paws or nose, signaling the device to give the dog a treat for its cleverness. It has built-in sounds, a voice recorder to store your voice and it adapts the game to your dog’s growing abilities. It also shows you in real time (again through an app) how your dog’s doing with its schooling.
This Kickstarter project managed to reach its goal of $100,000, which means the CleverPet will be reaching backers around May 2015 when shipping begins. For other pet-owners who failed to back it, there might be a wait before the CleverPet reaches mainstream market. Until then, it’s back to “Heel, Fido!”
More information: http://getcleverpet.com/
This brilliant indoor home garden design by Jack Abbott lets you grow your own food in a self-contained system in your home. It has all the LED lights, dirt-free growing pods, hydroponic watering systems, smart remote control etc. to grow the herbs and fresh veggies that you want. Why the remote control? You can add seeds, water and liquid plant food into the system, plug it in and set the system to begin growing with the remote control. No more asking neighbors to come and water your plants while you’re on holiday. The system will keep taking care of itself and the remote control can be used to control the watering and lights.
What’s not to love about growing your own fresh veggies to feed your family, and reduce your carbon footprint? The Kickstarter project reached nearly twice its goal of $75,000 in January, 2014. This means the sleek-looking, handy little automatic dirt-free table-top garden could be in your home in a little while.
More information: http://countercrop.com/
Smart Herb Garden
Continuing in the same eco-friendly vein, the Smart Herb Garden by Click & Grow is yet another Kickstarter project to grow fresh herbs and spices at home. Like the CounterCrop, it can be plugged in and watered to set off a self-contained growing cycle. Buyers can get the device with cartridges for thyme, basil, lemon balm. You can also buy refills for peppermint, chili pepper, several kinds of lettuce, salad rocket and mini tomatoes. The mini garden comes with LED lights, a compact and portable box available in several colors and a weight of less than 1 kilogram. The Kickstarter project that it began with raised a whopping $625,851 against its $75,000 goal in April 2013. Each unit is priced at $99.95 and ships to the EU and US. You can find it on Amazon.com and it comes with a 12-month warranty.
Since this is a project that has had time to be tested, let’s take a look at the response. There have been some disappointed funders who were expecting a smart device with microchips and fancy technology, but it’s really a very simple device. The Smart Herb Garden is a self-watering system with a timer, and it works exactly as it’s expected to, because it’s plain and simple physics! Overall, a very nifty, inexpensive and compact device for those who want a labor-free home or office herb garden to flavor their turkey dinners and pasta.
Neurio Home Intelligence
This little bundle consisting of sensors and apps claims to be not just a simple Home Automation System but rather a complete Home Intelligence Suite. Many of us would love to know how much energy each of our appliances is using. The Kickstarter project called Neurio by Energy Aware Technology Inc. is an innovative device that’s exactly what we need. It uses the home’s Wi-Fi and the Internet to monitor the electricity in the house. It also monitors all the appliances that are running without needing individual sensors for each. It tells you how much power you are using, when you forgot to turn off an appliance, your usage patterns etc. It can also track the power that your solar panels generate. There are plenty of other things you can do with it, if you are a developer.
When you interact with your appliances and receive such valuable data, you can begin to closely watch how you use energy. This will slowly lead to more careful use, and that means hundreds of dollars saved on your utility bill! Neurio was a very successful Kickstarter project that raised over $200,000 of the $95,000 goal. You can get it now for $249, shipped anywhere across the world.
More information: https://www.neur.io/