CES 2014: Cases, cars and connected homes
Here are some of the highlights and duds from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
By Debra Borchardt
As technology becomes so ingrained in all of our daily habits, the show tends to cover just about every aspect of our lives. Here are the highlights from the 2014 show:
First there are cases, cases and more case vendors. There are wooden cases, rubber cases and cases to appeal to those seeking a natural look. Am I the only one that sees the irony of a recycled brown paper-looking case for an expensive piece of technology?
There are yoga inspired cases and rugged manly cases. Seriously, everywhere you look at CES, there is a case vendor begging to clad your phone or tablet.
Apparently, we, as consumers, truly desire to take our smart phones deep sea diving. Waterproof products seem to be very popular. There are waterproof bags, screens and pouches. Most people I know that have dropped their phones in water were never thinking it was something to prepare for. However, maybe a pouch is necessary before you take your phone into the bathroom.
Cars and tech is a theme that's becoming bigger every year. Many of the major automakers attended, including Ford (F), Audi and Toyota (TM). Their products at CES tended to focus on the ability to stay connected from home to car and beyond.
Mercedes Benz showed how from inside your home you could ask for directions from your Google (GOOG) Glass, and, when you get out to the car, the information you need would transfer to your vehicle. The car also connects to Nest. So, if you are driving away and realize that you forgot to turn out the lights at home, you can talk to the car and tell it to turn them out. Mercedes Benz said it hasn't always been at CES, but will probably be coming every year now.
Mini speakers were also well represented at CES. Clearly, everyone wants to be the next Dr. Dre Beats. They all claim to have great sound, but it was pretty hard to tell because CES is like walking around inside a boom box. It's loud, loud, loud.
Most of these speakers sounded like, well . . . like tiny speakers. They are all Bluetooth-enabled and swear the signal will be great. I would like to test drive them at my house because, trust me, no wireless signal ever works well at my home. Either way, there were probably a hundred different speaker vendors.
Drones from Parrot got a lot of attention. I don't think many people knew what they would do with them, but they are very cool to watch. Plus, drones -- doesn't that sound cool?
There were quite a few wearable devices, like smart watches, but they seemed very gimmicky. Like tiny phones attached to your wrist. One device just told you if you missed a call, but don't most people just keep their phones close by? Do you really need a wristband to vibrate to say you missed a call? Most CES attendees didn't seem that impressed with these products. They were big and clunky and didn't seem to fit any real need. Crowds were moving along quickly after checking them out.
The connected home tried to make a splash at CES, but it was more of a drip. These "intelligent" home systems are expensive, and if you have an older home, pretty hard to retrofit. At the end of the day, they mostly help you turn out lights and try to give your home more security.
You can already program your thermostat to save more on heating and cooling your house. It will cost you more to install these systems than you'll save by not leaving a light on in your house all day, and it will not prevent a break-in. It's interesting, but, again, CES-goers seemed to keep on walking.
Ultimately, CES 2014 doesn't break any new ground, but it does demonstrate how deeply electronics has invaded every waking and sleeping moment of our lives.
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