CES Unveiled 2013 highlights

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Now your plants can talk to you.

Three different approaches to home automation and a sleek wearable video eyepiece and camera stood out from from the crowd tonight at CES Unveiled. More than 70 companies demonstrated new products at the annual pre-show press event. Mostly, it was headphones, speakers, big displays, mobile phone cases and various other accessories.

The new OLPC XO 4 tablet/computer was a delight, more about that here.

The other standouts were…

  • Vuzix Smart Glasses. Think of a big Bluetooth earpiece with a boom that extends out past your nose, put a small video eyepiece and camera on the end of the boom, and you have the Vuzix product. Pictures of the prototypes have been floating around the Internet for months, but now they have a working model. It's a definite follow up item for when the show floor opens later in the week.
  • Lowes showed their do-it-yourself Iris home automation platform. It's another one I'll be looking at more closely in coming days. Technical details were lacking tonight, so it's hard to say exactly how they're doing it. But what they're doing is packaging a home automation hub (suspiciously similar to the MiOS Vera unit) into installation kits and certifying third party products – light switches, thermostats, locks, you name it – as compatible and supported. They might just be able to build a consumer-friendly ecosystem around it.
  • Allure Energy is doing one cool thing now, and setting up for aggregating more products and functionality later. Their EverSense thermostat talks to a smart phone app and figures out where you are – in the house, far away or on your way home – and adjusts the temperature accordingly. The kicker is that the thermostat is also a hub. Once people get used to using it, Allure has an opening to add more devices and then piece by piece build a more comprehensive home automation solution.
  • I'm not exactly sure what to make of Parrot's Flower Power plant monitor. It's a sensor you stick in the dirt next to your favorite plant and then it connects to your smart phone via Bluetooth. It lets you know how the plant is doing, stuff like whether it needs watering. In one sense, it's a one trick pony. But the idea of using your phone as the hub and connecting via Bluetooth on an every-so-often basis could have some interesting applications.

No ground-shifting product announcements tonight, but there's always tomorrow. That's when the big press conferences happen.

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