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January 23, 2015

2015 International Consumer Electronics Show

Las Vegas. Consumer Electronics Show (CES). 3,400 exhibitors. 170,000 attendees. 2.2 million square feet of exhibition space. And us. WOW! Here’s a bit of what caught our attention:

Smart Watches: This wearable technology was everywhere–-and available from a vast number of vendors. Some are plain like the PulseOn (www.amazon.com, $199), which provides continuous monitoring and displays heart rate using sensors built into the back of the watch. Some are highly functional, such as the Garmin Forerunner 220 ($299), with built-in GPS, pedometer, heart rate display, and message and call alerts. There’s also a stand-alone wrist-wearable smart phone (www.goldkey.com, $399.95 with security plan), the Secure Communicator. Or, you can choose from the hundreds of other smart watches sporting fashionable designs in an amazing array of colors, styles, sizes and shapes. Everything from the glamour and glitz of the Swarovski Shine (www.misfit.com) to styles to match your mood, purse or even your shoes.

Fitness Bands were also in abundance. The number and capabilities of bands such as the original Fitbit’s latest models and offerings from LG, Mio, Microsoft and more are impressive. Most require an app on your smart phone for optimal results in planning and tracking your training program and goals. A useful feature found in some bands, such as the Garmin Vivo Smar’(www.garmin.com, $189.99), tracks your time of inactivity; if you’ve been inactive too long, the band gives you a vibration alert to remind you to get up and move. Perfect for the couch (or computer) potato.

Ultra HD (4K) TVs from several manufacturers offer four times the resolution of standard HDTV. Compared side-by-side with standard HD TVs, UHD TVs display a superior picture, demonstrating sharper images and brighter colors. Viewed separately, the difference seems to us less striking, but add to the 4K UHD the OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology as LG has done in their new TV sets, and we didn’t need the side to side comparison to appreciate the difference. WOW! We want one of those for Christmas. The relatively new OLED technology, however, comes at a price, so prepare to dig deep. The 65" LG set costs $11,999.99. Sharp has pushed the limits of resolution even further in their new offering, “Beyond 4K UHD,” an 80" Aquos Smart TV. By splitting the pixels in a 4K UHD display, they obtain an effective resolution of 8K.

And, consumer hand held 4K UHD video cameras were introduced by both Sony (www.Amazon.com, $1,798.00) and Panasonic (www.Amazon.com, $999.00), so you can now record video in 4K UHD and then enjoy it on your 4K UHD television.

Sports Video Cameras were very popular and included a new offering from Sony, with their 4K Action Cam (www.sony.com, $499.00) and the HERO 3 and 4 series 4K GoPro (www.gopro.com, $130 - $500). Sports video cameras are small, rugged cameras that are designed to attach to whatever you want and go where the action is: skiing, roller boarding, motocross, wake boarding, and just about anything that moves. The point of view they provide is exciting and can be used for family and fun or for teaching and training.

Drones were in evidence, indoors and out, ranging from a tiny palm-sized ProtoX Quadcopter (www.amazon.com, $29.95) to larger professional offerings. Drones are remarkable for their maneuverability and some exciting control features. For example, the AirDog (www.airdog.com, $1,295) carries a gyroscopically stabilized gimble-mounted GoPro sports camera and can automatically follow any moving object, such as a skier, surf boarder, dirt biker and others. The photo target wears a wrist controller/target that the AirDog is programmed to follow. You can set the angles at which the videos or photos are taken and the distance from the target, all the while keeping the target centered in the frame. When the batteries run low, the AirDog automatically returns to the starting point. Other drones can be programmed to take a series of GPS guided photos or videos that can be used for surveying, mapping and the like. Using manual control, a drone with video camera can be used to examine residential, commercial or industrial structures for a wide variety of purposes.

Home Automation offerings have increased dramatically since last year at CES. Most of these are DIY basic kits with multiple optional add-ons. LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and even Kodak Brand displayed setups that are monitored and controlled via Smart Phone apps, with alerts directed to you rather than a third party monitoring company. In addition to the appeal of no monitoring fee, they all promise easy install. Starter kits vary but commonly contain a camera, door sensor, smart wall plug or switch for light control and a motion sensor. Optional add-ons might include a smart thermostat for H/AC control, basement flood detector, garage door control/monitor, swimming pool water monitor, appliance controls, door locks and many others. Wireless technology makes installation easy, but the use of different formats may preclude mixing modules from different manufacturers. Sage by Hughes (www.sagebyhughes.com) solves this problem by incorporating all popular signal formats in its controller, allowing you to control and schedule from anywhere using your smart TV or mobile device.

Eye Tracking Technology was on display from several start-up companies. Mostly for gaming but also available for reading books, taking photos, home automation control and more. This could be an accessibility boon or convenience–-or both. And talk about smart devices in the home: the Parrot Flower Power (www.amazon.com, $60) measures moisture and fertilizer in your favorite flower pot and sends an alert as needed to your smart phone. The app includes requirements for many common plants.

CES was a fun and exciting look at the now and future of technology and promises of more to come. Stay tuned.