At the electronics mecca that is CES, it’s easy to get caught up in all the big ideas–things like Ultra HD, connected cars and natural input–that aim to transform the world. But sometimes, the neatest gadgets can be found on the fringes of the show floor, where the goal is simply to make life a little easier.
Here are a few of my favorite small-scale, clever ideas from CES 2013:
Wi-Fi-Connected Light Bulbs (pictured above)
Greenwave Reality has gotten rid off all the electrical work required to remotely control your house’s lighting, and instead just stuck Wi-Fi chips in its light bulbs. That allows users to turn lights on or off–either by room or individual bulb–through a free smartphone and tablet app, or with an included remote control. Users can also set lighting profiles, such as “Work” or “Away,” and program daily lighting routines.
The up-front price is a bit steep, at roughly $200 for a starter kit with four bulbs, a wireless gateway and a remote control, and each additional bulb costs $20. But GreenWave claims that a well-configured home would save $150 per year on energy costs. Greenwave is working with distribution partners instead of selling the bulbs directly, and hopes to have them on the U.S. market within 60 days.
You like listening to music before bed. Your spouse does not. A company called AcousticSheep has the solution: SleepPhones is a headband with two small speakers located around the ears, so it’s more comfortable to wear in bed than earbuds or headphones. The headband can double as an eye mask and custom phone cases as well.
Although the wired version of SleepPhones has been around for years, AcousticSheep is just getting around to releasing a Bluetooth version in April, so you won’t have to worry about strangling yourself with an audio cable. It’ll also have a built-in button that controls volume and playback, and should last between 5-7 hours per charge when listening to music. The company’s hoping to hit a price of $80.
Tethercell allows an iPhone or Android phone to serve as a remote control for battery-powered devices. Just stick a AAA battery inside Tethercell’s AA-sized enclosure, and pop it into one of the battery slots on your device. The Tethercell connects to the phone via Bluetooth, and uses an app to provide or kill power to each device.
The makers of Tethercell are trying to get funded on the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo, and are selling Tethercell units for $35 each. Next, they’ll work on a version for 9V batteries.
Alcatel One Touch Link W800
Why do we have to choose between a wireless hotspot or a laptop USB stick for our mobile broadband needs? Alcatel has combined the hotspot and USB stick into one modular device. When the stick is plugged into the battery pack, it offers 8 hours of LTE connectivity for up to 10 devices. It also comes with connectors for wall outlets and car cigarette lighters.
Of course, it’ll be up to wireless service providers such as AT&T to offer the device on their networks. Alcatel won’t give details, but says the One Touch Link will hit the United States in the third quarter of this year.
Breffo Stick Stand
U.K.-based Breffo has come up with what might be the most minimal phone and tablet stands around. The Stick Stand is a small, bendable strip, covered in the same grippy material found in the company’s excellent Spiderpodiums (of which I own the tablet version). Just form the strip into a ridge, and it’ll keep a phone or tablet propped up for movie viewing or remote control gaming. It’s basically the stand for people who don’t want to carry any more bulky hardware around..
As with the Spiderpodium, there will be phone and tablet versions–the former running the length of an iPhone, the latter running the length of an iPad–and they should be available in about three weeks. Stick Stand for phones will cost about $15, but I’m not sure about tablet stand pricing yet.