CES 2019 Walk-About | Part 1

By Douglas Weinstein
Published on: January 18, 2019

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For the first time in over a decade, I actually spent a week in Vegas for CES and covered every bloody square inch of the thing. And I have to say, in all honesty, there wasn’t one single new invention that caught my attention. Lots of innovation, but really nothing ‘new’. VR goggles have made leaps and bounds in the past year. Facial recognition software and hardware is about as creepy as creepy gets. Just forget about your privacy. It no longer exists. With machine learning, even your toilet will know when to raise the lid and what temperature you want the A/C to blow up your wazoo. (note to self – develop new company that deals with personal privacy. Sell to Alphabet so they can sit on the technology and make sure it never sees the light of day. Make billions!)

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, on with the show. The header image was just another random encounter at Eureka Park, the start-up sector in the Sands Convention Center. A couple of guys from Denmark or Finland – one of those Swedish countries – were displaying a one-off all carbon fiber e-Motorscooter from their company, Novus. Beautiful piece of hardware. No pricing, no real info on whether there would even be a second one made. We could only suppose they were at CES looking for an angel.

Really great ideas and true innovation.

Perhaps the greatest thing I saw came from a little start-up called POW Audio, out of Lowell, MA. powaudio.com | Founder and product designer Glen Walter has created a collapsible speaker. At a high level, speakers need ‘air’ – or an enclosure – to produce good bass response. POW Audios makes a nifty pop-out speaker for your mobile device, but debuted some larger applications at CES. Obviously, lugging around large speakers, even bookshelf speakers, is difficult if you want to go camping or to the beach. So Glen has ‘invented’ a collapsible speaker. Imagine a speaker the diameter of a large pizza and that is about 4 inches thick. You get to the beach and pop out the back (think a Jiffy Pop kind of experience) and you now have a bookshelf-size speaker enclosure that delivers great bass. Done listening? Pop it closed and carry it home. Keep an eye on this company – they could rocket up the charts in 2019.

GoalZero, out of Bluffdale, UT, goalzero.com | This company makes an array of portable energy management solutions. Small portable solar panels to power your portable smart devices. What caught my eye was a unique charging generator (about the size, again, of a bookshelf speaker) that powers lead acid batteries (via AC or solar). Lead acid batteries, say four of them in parallel, can provide hours and hours of power back-up. Even in a residential setting. Think of it as a mini RoseWater Energy Hub. It is designed for portable and residential use, and the cost is incredibly affordable. As you all know, unlike lithium-ion batteries, lead acid batteries are virtually 100% recyclable.

Kwikbit, out of Milton, GA, kwikbit.com | For those who go to major conventions, you all know how mobile phone reception sucks when you’re in one of the big halls. Kwikbit has developed an affordable solution in the way of beam-forming technology (60 GHz distribution network). I won’t get into the tech – but 4 of their little units (total mass about a loaf of bread) mounted on the ceiling of the Central Hall (ganged together N-S-E-W so they broadcast 360 degrees) would provide a perfect mobile signal to everyone in the hall. CES might want to borrow a few next year, just sayin’.

 

Safe Zone, out of Melbourne, FL, SafeZoneTech.com | This is the new gunfire detection system from TIG contributor Mike Anderson and his team at Safe Zone. The have small detection devices that are mounted in various locations. The system can ID gun fire and give location information to the authorities at any given active shooter scene – think schools, movie theaters, etc. They got tons of press at the show. Here is a technology that can actually do good in the world!

Viaroom Home, out of France, viaroom.com | I spent a good half hour chatting up CEO Alexandre Ioachim about his machine learning AI interface. It’s voice agnostic and network agnostic and control system agnostic. Their little box ($129 MSRP projected) just gathers user information and suggests changes to your daily scenes – as in, it looks at what lights are on and when and the brightness, etc. and learns your habits. It can make suggestions to environmental control (‘would you like to turn down the HVAC in that guest bedroom no one has been into for days?’) or music you stream, etc. Machine learning smart speakers (like Josh.ai) are commonplace and I found this product unique because all they’ve done is remove the smart speaker portion – use whatever you want and/or whatever you already own and are comfortable with. The challenge for Viaroom is to integrate with vast amount of companies that supply voice, automation, etc. That’s their big hurdle in order to become mainstream.

 

That’s enough for today. Next week I’ll cover some other products and companies, including the amazing mosquito trap. And the boldest seller of a new product in a crowded market I think I’ve ever seen at CES.

Douglas Weinstein

Douglas Weinstein

Doug is the Editor and co-founder of the Technology Insider Group and Technology Designer Magazine. Previously, he was the Executive Director and co-founder of the Elf Foundation, a non-profit organization that created Room of Magic entertainment theaters in children's hospitals across North America.

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