With more and more devices becoming connected, it can be hard to get excited about consumer IoT. From toothbrushes to thermometers, kettles, and shoes, adding sensors and app and other functionalities to your products is the norm and no longer the novelty. Voice activation is augmenting app-enabled functionalities and it’s likely with we’ll see an increase in voice and haptic tech in 2019. Here are some of the products that caught my attention in 2018:
The Kids’ Product That you Really Want for Yourself: Hive Explorer
I wasn’t surprised to find that the product comes out of Hax, who really have their finger on the pulse when it comes to great hardware. Hive Explorer is a smart insect home that empowers you to recycle your food waste into fertilizer and proteins with the superpower of mealworms. All while learning how you can help create a healthy planet.
Basically, the smart insect home consists of several compartments that house the entire lifecycle of mealworms (egg > mealworm worm > mealworm cocoon > mealworm beetle).
You can either have your mealworms grow infinitely through multiple generations or harvest them every now and then. You will be able to harvest between 10–20g every week while still keeping the system running. And yes, you can eat them!
The Product That you Might not use as the Makers Originally Intended: Smart Indoor Garden
If you’re horrified by the idea of growing and eating your own mealworms, this might be the product for you. When I went to IFA (Germany’s answer to CES) this year, I was intrigued to see smart garden makers Plantui, partnering with Bosch’s smart home offerings. Hydroponic smart indoor gardens are nothing new really, but Plantui provides the chance for everyone to say they’re into gardening without doing much at all. The garden needs attending every couple of weeks but the planter has a built-in computer that adjusts the water and lighting to be optimal for the growth and to make sure you get the best out of your greens.
There are two reasons I can see this kind of things expanding. Firstly the sale of pods of seeds is part of a come-again subscribing model that retailers have been trying desperately to court (remember the Juicero debacle of 2017)? I can see a future where the devices themselves are free (with albeit plenty to tempt you to purchase a second planter) with the pods themselves being the biggest money makers over an extended period of time. Secondly, the growing legalization of pot means that people are become connoisseurs, right at a time when supply is being outstripped by demand. Further, late last month Congress just reached an agreement on proposed legislation that could make hemp legal to grow in the United States. People might cut their teeth on basil and lettuce leaves but we’re more likely to see an increase in hemp seed offerings in the future.
The Product you Want for your Furry, Whiskered Family Member: Footloose
Few could doubt the popularity of pet tech. From location trackers to interactive cameras and connected toys, it’s a sector that is growing with the increase of childfree pet parents.
I wasn’t surprised to find a smart cat litter box was the most funded pet product on Kickstarter. When you own a cat, cleaning litter boxes is a necessary evil. In comes Footloose, a spaceship looking kitty little tray that is part robot. It includes 3 weight sensors, 4 position gauges, a 360° millimeter-wave transceiver, 2 infrared sensors, and 2 computing cores. It can recognize each critter in multi-cat households, distinguish litter from cats, detect its perimeter and monitor waste level. It’s a nice design, including a step for older and very young kitties and once the cat is in the litter, it appears taller, reducing the risk of a second cat intruding.
After they use the litter, it starts an 8-min countdown and then initiates a cleaning cycle that funnels all wastes into a tightly-sealed receptacle. You can also operate it remotely via an app (of course). All you’ve to do is to discard the waste bag once in a while.
More importantly, Footloose any works as a health monitor — cats are notoriously good at hiding ill health. It tracks your cat’s weight, the frequency of visits, duration and amount eliminated — all super helpful information to share with your vet.
The Product Seduces You With its Promises but You’re Not Sure It’ll Deliver: Point Smart Home Alarm V2
With home security devices as one of the most popular smart home devices, it’s not often you see something that stands out. Point is a home security device that monitors using sensors, not a camera, for smoke, humidity, mold, motion, glass break, temperature, noise levels, and more. On first consideration, it might sound odd, but hear me out.
It’s a security device for those who value their privacy and don’t want surveillance. It’s effectively a smart house that can monitor your home when you’re not there — without a camera. This would be great for Airbnb owners who would love to monitor their home by camera but know that’s seriously dodgy. With Point, they can still determine if a guest brings 30 people into their home for a wild party. Further, the device processes all sound right on the device, ensuring that no audio is uploaded to the cloud. Instead, the device simply listens for unusual things and sends out a notification, not the actual data.
Open-source code is available for hardware developers and it integrates with IFTTT and HomeKit with Google and Alexa integrations in the works.
The problem is that Point V1 got some pretty scathing reviews. According to Rose Thibodeaux, the firmware maintenance was hardly hands-free as advertised, and some of the functionalities didn’t work well. It seemed a lot of functions were still in development. But it looks like Minut has worked hard on their second version, hopefully, it’s improved as much as promised.
A lot of us have some form of hearing loss, but you’re yet to get around to getting medical treatment. Perhaps, you struggle with background noise, hearing people clearly in group conversations or in a meeting. What if you could get both active noise cancellation and the ability to approve your hearing through a set of ear pods?
Australian startup Nuheara has created IQBuds, wearable ear pods that allow you to hear what you want to hear in the world around you. They’re a smart version of Apple Ipods in that you can control and augment world volume to blend ambient sound and enhance speech. They include high fidelity audio, tap touch controls, hands-free calls, and best-in-class battery life.
The latest version of their product includes a connected app, Ear IQ, a clinically backed audiometric hearing assessment that calibrates the IQbuds to your unique hearing profile. I tried them out this year at IFA in Berlin and while it’s odd hearing yourself with the buds in — a bit like hearing yourself through a microphone -the team assured me that it’s something you get quickly used to.
What was your favorite tech of 2018? Anything that you tried and loved? What failed to meet its expectations? Let me know in the comments below.