If you had the chance to attend the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January, or the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March, or any number of other technology trade shows this year, you were able to see firsthand some of the most innovative smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices on the market. Indeed, based on the heavy presence of wearables and smart products for home showcased at these events, describing 2015 as “The Year of the Consumer IoT Device” would hardly be a stretch.
But even if you were able to jet set around the world to many of the premier technology events—and especially if you couldn’t—you likely missed at least a few of the coolest new consumer IoT products available today. As low-cost, low-power-consumption LTE chipsets become widely available, device makers are able to keep manufacturing costs down and, as a result, are expanding their consumer IoT offerings. The Apple Watch has grabbed most of the recent headlines, but here are a few other products that are pretty darn cool as well:
Smart Gardening Devices
A “green thumb” is always an advantage in gardening, but using your thumb to simply push a button and control a sprinkler system or monitor soil moisture is even better for ensuring healthy vegetation. A host of IoT gardening devices are now available to the horticulturally inclined, offering planters the ability to monitor and control their plots from anywhere. Some of these devices can also program sprinkler systems based on weather patterns and forecasts to protect against overwatering or overly dry soil. Some of the products scheduled to begin shipping this year can actually go as far as recommending which plants to grow based on all available agricultural data.
When the idea of smart cups was first floated, some dismissed it as an impractical concept. But these products can serve functional purposes. For instance, one of the primary obstacles for individuals attempting to lose weight is a lack of awareness about the nutritional content of what they drink. Many weight loss strategies revolve around food consumption but don’t focus on beverage intake. The problem is significant enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make a point of creating and distributing educational material on this topic. Smart cups can identify the beverage they hold and display its nutritional content (i.e., number of calories, sugar, carbohydrates) within seconds. In other words, they are a portable way for people to measure the dietary components of what they are drinking and use that information to improve their health.
Smart Hearing Aids
Anybody who has a family member or friend who wears a hearing aid knows that these devices are fantastic in smaller rooms and with smaller groups of people but can falter when they begin to pick up too many voices or are in rooms with high ceilings or other acoustic challenges. In the past, when users had trouble with their hearing aids, they were forced to fiddle with the settings themselves to try to fix the problem, often to no avail. Intelligent hearing aids, however, can make those adjustments automatically to augment sound at large parties or in restaurants—even while the user is operating a vehicle. These highly adaptable products offer significant quality-of-life improvements for the hearing-impaired.
The Fun Is Just Beginning!
These are just three of the cool consumer IoT devices that are already impacting people’s lives. But some other smart products, still in their infancy, are beginning to make headlines as well—such as smart garments (i.e. T-shirts that monitor vital signs and connect to mobile devices.) Only 0.01 million smart garment units were shipped in 2014; by 2016 that number will explode to 26 million, according to recent research from Gartner.
As newer-model LTE chipsets continue to lower price points and extend battery life, manufacturers will continue to dream up new wearable and home consumer devices that would have seemed like science fiction even five years ago. One thing is clear – amazing possibilities lay ahead.
(Are you curious about what life in your home city might look like a few decades from now? Check out this blog post.)